SearchArchives for June 2009
23 June, 2009
Smart policy paper
Policy makers in the APS are being challenged to think outside the Public Service box in a new publication issued by the Australian Public Service Commission.
pushes clever ideas
The paper: Smarter Policy: Choosing policy instruments and working with others to influence behaviour, looks at the demands on developing policy in an era of increasing complexity and interconnectedness.
According to Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs it is often easy for policy makers to “fall back on the same approaches” but the new paper encourages them to think more broadly on a number of fronts.
“At its heart, policy intervention is about influencing behavior,” Commissioner Briggs said, “of businesses, organisations and individuals.”
She said the paper challenges policymakers to consider the full range of policy instruments that could be used to achieve a goal; think laterally about other groups, organisations and individuals that that could be co-opted into the policy framework; and borrow from behavioural theory when trying to influence behaviours.
“This publication will encourage policy makers to reflect on these issues and assist them in designing smarter policy,” Commissioner Briggs said.
According to the paper, Governments around the world were grappling with very complex issues such as climate change, health challenges, security and so on.
“Making progress in these areas requires, among other things, looking for better and more innovative ways to perform our traditional public service role,” it says.
“We need to be able to design smarter policy.”
It says one of its aims is to encourage policymakers to avoid limiting themselves to the types of policy instruments and policy design used in the past.
“There can be significant advantages for policymakers in increasingly looking beyond the traditional model of Government as being solely responsible for devising and implementing policy frameworks.”
It says designing smarter regulation and policy interventions raises issues of capability for some APS agencies.
“There appears to be considerable scope… for agencies to foster more innovative and learning cultures in their workplaces.”
It says another major barrier to good policy is the expectation of government and industry that ‘quick fixes’ are possible.
“Knowing the ‘right’ policy solution upfront will often not be possible,” it says.
“Adopting innovative and learning approaches is likely to result in the need for policy adjustment and the occasional failure.”
The 19-page paper Smarter Policy: Choosing policy instruments and working with others to influence behaviour, can be accessed at the APSC website www.apsc.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Web 2.0 taskforce
A new taskforce has been launched to investigate how the Government can utilise new ‘Web 2.0’ approaches to improve engagement with citizens.
has the numbers
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Linsday Tanner said the independent taskforce would be chaired by the Chief Executive of Lateral Economics, Dr Nicholas Gruen and would be made up of experts and entrepreneurs from the private sphere, the Public Service and academia.
“Web 2.0 tools and strategies are creating new horizons for informing and engaging the public and indeed for citizens to directly collaborate in the activities of Government,” Mr Tanner said.
“Through online tools like blogs and wikis Governments can use the wisdom of the crowd to continuously improve their laws, policies and services.”
Under its terms of reference the Taskforce will investigate how to make Government information more accessible and usable to further establish a pro-disclosure culture around non-sensitive Public Service information.
The Taskforce is also expected to examine how to make Government more consultative and transparent; how to build a culture of online innovation within Government; and how to promote cross-Agency collaboration in online and information initiatives.
“Today's citizens are too informed, too smart, too able to access and use information to be simply directed by a centralised Government,” Mr Tanner said.
“Politicians and Public Servants have to realise that information that is not sensitive for the operations of Government or does not breach the privacy of individuals has to be shared.”
Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig said the taskforce would build on the Government’s Freedom of Information reforms by seeking to free up information and enhance accountability.
“It will also allow business and others to innovate with Government information so that it is more useful and compelling to others,” Senator Ludwig said.
The Government said the Taskforce would provide advice to Government and fund initiatives and incentives to demonstrate the value of Government 2.0 objectives.
Mr Tanner said the taskforce would consult widely, including via its blog: www.gov2.net.au
The Taskforce is expected to report to the Government by the end of 2009.
23 June, 2009
New Guide is statement
The Australian National Audit Office has published an updated Better Practice Guide to assist Departments and Agencies prepare financial statements.
on financial reports
The 169-page Preparation of Financial Statements by Public Sector Agencies updates a 2006 edition and outlines the PS financial reporting framework, explains the important factors in preparing individual agency and whole-of-Government financial statements and includes examples and checklists.
According to Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, APS agencies face ongoing challenges in preparing their financial statements and the Guide has been produced to provide practical assistance.
“The environment in which entities are required to prepare their annual financial statements continues to be a challenging one,” Mr McPhee said.
“Ongoing enhancements to accounting standards and changes to the Government’s financial framework are some of the issues faced by entities in preparing accurate and timely audited financial statements.”
He said while the new Guide included material on whole-of-Government reporting and Certificate of Compliance issues, it also offered advice on using the work of experts.
“This guidance is particularly relevant in the context of the requirement for a number of financial statement items to be measured at fair value,” he said.
Mr McPhee said the preparation and publication of annual audited financial statements were an important aspect of financial management and stewardship in the APS.
“The preparation of entities’ financial statements and the necessary systems, procedures, and practices that underpin them should be a high priority,” he said.
Mr McPhee said that as with many APS activities, there was no one ‘’right’ approach to preparing financial statements.
“While the accounting and auditing standards provide a common framework, no two entities are the same and their financial statement preparation processes are at different stages of maturity.”
He said as a result, the material in the Guide should be interpreted to suit individual agency needs.
According to the Better Practice Guide, there is global recognition of the need to improve financial management in both the public and private sectors.
It says Australia is at the forefront of financial management reforms, with recent changes including increasingly compressed timetables for preparing audited financial information and the adoption of Australian equivalents to international reporting standards.
“This Guide is therefore intended to provide guidance to entities to assist them in gaining additional assurance about the integrity of financial reporting and the efficiency of the preparation of financial statements,” it says.
The new Better Practice Guide can be downloaded from the Auditor-General’s website, www.anao.gov.au
23 June, 2009
More evidence needed
A paper on the challenges and rewards of evidence-based policy making prepared by the Chairman of the Productivity Commission, Gary Banks has formed the basis of a new publication issued by the Australian Public Service Commission.
for verdict on policy
In his paper, Mr Banks said every step of the policy making process must be informed by evidence and that Public Servants needed to provide “frank, fearless and robust” advice to the Government when informing it on policy initiatives.
“Collecting data, investing in research, ensuring that policy-makers have the appropriate skills to discriminate between evidence which is reliable and useful, and that which is not—all are essential tools in devising sound evidence-based policy,” he said.
His paper highlighted seven pre-requisites for successful evidence-based policy making.
These included selecting the correct methodology for the approach chosen; using high quality data, such as from the Australian Bureau of Statistics; and using evidence which was open to scrutiny by experts and the public.
Mr Banks said Public Servants needed to make better use of existing Government frameworks; utilise the new working group structure of COAG; recruit more social science and economics graduates to rebuild organisation capacities; improve cross-service evaluation; and make better use of external contractors.
“Instead of being seen as an extra or a luxury, data for policy evaluation needs to be recognised as a necessity—and a funding priority right now if we are serious about developing an evidence-based approach,” he said.
“The paper concludes that current practice in this area is continuing to fall short, and addressing this is now largely up to the Public Service.”
Mr Banks said the APS needed to “improve its capacity to deliver evidence-based policy advice” and “enhance political understanding of what that entails” to help the Government’s national reform agenda is to succeed.
Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs welcomed Mr Banks’s contribution saying the publication Challenges of evidence-based policy-making, formed part of the Commission’s Contemporary Government Challenges series.
A copy could be downloaded from www.apsc.gov.au
23 June, 2009
IMF puts money on
The International Monetary Fund has endorsed the Federal Government’s response to the global recession.
finance rescue plan
In a recent statement, the IMF said it welcomed the “quick implementation” of Australia’s temporary fiscal stimulus.
“The stimulus provides a sizeable boost to domestic demand in 2009 and 2010 that will cushion the impact of the global recession,” it said.
“The transfers to households had an immediate impact on activity that helped underpin confidence. The increase in public investment will continue to support activity in the near term, while addressing infrastructure shortfalls.”
The IMF attributed the milder nature of Australia’s downturn when compared to many other advanced economies, to “strong commodity exports, a flexible exchange rate, a healthy banking sector, and a timely and significant macro policy response.”
The IMF statement followed its Staff Mission to Australia from 12 to 23 June.
Treasurer, Wayne Swan welcomed the IMF statement saying it endorsed the Government and Reserve Bank’s actions to strengthen the financial sector.
“It notes that the Government’s bank guarantees have bolstered confidence in the financial system and allowed credit to continue to flow to the economy during the global financial crisis,” Mr Swan said.
“This has supported jobs and business activity at a very challenging time.”
He said the IMF projected Australia’s GDP would decline by 0.5 per cent in 2009, and rebound to about 1.5 per cent in 2010.
“This compares to the IMF’s April forecast for advanced economies of -3.8 per cent in 2009 and flat growth in 2010,” Mr Swan said.
“The IMF also notes that Commonwealth Government debt is projected to remain low compared with other advanced economies.”
He said the IMF and Government agreed there was a need for continued prudence.
The IMF Executive Board is expected to discuss another IMF staff report on Australia in August.
23 June, 2009
Combined effort to
The Australian Public Service Commission and the Australian Government Information Management Office have joined forces to implement some of the recommendations made in the Gershon Review.
switch on Gershon
The new cross-Agency team is to be responsible for implementing recommendations intended to improve the APS’s ICT skills base.
The 2008 Gershon Review aimed to determine whether the Government was achieving the greatest return from its investments in Information and Communication Technology.
It focused on the efficacy of Government recruitment, development and retention of ICT skills.
The APSC will take the lead in implementing two recommendations made in the review, referring to developing a whole-of-Government ICT career pathway and a whole-of-Government strategic ICT workforce plan to help Agencies better manage their ICT workforce.
The strategic workforce plan, to be released in early 2010, will examine the current capacity and capability of the APS ICT workforce and identify the anticipated movement of these factors in the short to medium term.
It will also outline the shifts in capability and capacity required to help Agencies effectively deliver Government priorities.
The plan will include ways to address capacity and capability gaps identified as a result of analysis, demand forecasting, and supply forecasting.
In a statement, the APSC said stakeholder inputs, including from Agencies and APS employees, would be an important source for strategy development.
“The workforce plan will also include whole-of-Government strategies for the improved recruitment, retention and engagement of ICT personnel,” the statement said.
The career pathway, to be released later this year, aims to support ICT employees in the Public Service with their career planning and capability development.
“The pathway will deliver a toolset, which will include: capability profiles; self assessment tools; career transition tools; and learning and development options,” the Commission said.
“The toolset will be available to all APS staff online.”
Further information is available from www.apsc.gov.au
23 June, 2009
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has found that a heavy reliance on a manual processing system was the main reason for difficulties being experienced in Australia Post’s mail redirection service and the likely reason it recorded 65,000 complaints in 2007.
The Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan in his role as Postal Industry Ombudsman, found that processing paper-based applications in a central location and then sending printed redirection stickers to postal outlets was behind the high level of complaints which most commonly related to the failure of redirection requests that had previously worked effectively
“The non-delivery of mail can have serious consequences for those affected,” Professor McMillan said, “including financial loss owing to late or non-payment of bills or mail falling into the wrong hands.”
He said people relied on the redirection service for many reasons: “to ensure that mail is not missed when they move house, go on holiday, temporarily relocate for work, or renovate a property.”
He said the problem with the manual system was that the “potential for human error is high.”
Professor McMillan said when the centrally-produced stickers were sent to the relevant Post Office, delivery staff were required to consult a folder to determine if mail to a certain address was subject to redirection and then apply the appropriate stickers manually.
“A further problem is that complaints to my office reveal repeated unsuccessful attempts by customers to resolve the underlying causes of mail redirection errors,” he said.
Following his investigation, the Ombudsman made a number of recommendations to improve the redirection service including introducing an online application system such as that used in other countries; allowing customers to verify their information before it was saved in the Australia Post computer system; reviewing the need to manually apply the redirection stickers; and more training for staff dealing with mail redirection complaints.
Professor McMillan welcomed Australia Post’s response to the report which was to work towards improving the accuracy of the mail redirection service and to deal with complaints more effectively.
The Ombudsman’s full report on the process can be accessed at his website www.ombudsman.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Committee votes for
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has tabled two reports in Parliament that propose to reform and modernise Australia’s electoral system.
In its first report, which examined the conduct of the 2007 Federal election, the Committee recommended the restoration of the seven-day close of rolls period for voters to enrol or update their enrolment details.
The report recommended the restoration of provisions that allowed electors to notify changes to enrolment details in writing; the removal of the requirement for provisional voters to prove their identity when voting; and the reinstatement of provisions to save votes from being ruled informal where clear preferences were expressed.
Chair of the Committee, Daryl Melham MP said a range of further recommendations aimed at improving the conduct of Federal elections and modernising enrolment and voting processes had been made to make sure they “met the expectations of the community both now and into the future.”
Mr Melham said these would involve simplifying the proof of identity requirements for enrolment; new provisions aimed at using electronic updates to enrolment information and the receipt of postal vote applications; and allowing information collected by trusted Agencies to be used to update the electoral roll where electors indicated their consent.
The second report examined a proposal by Greens Senator Bob Brown to change voting arrangements for Senate elections.
Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig welcomed the report saying the Government would consider the Committee’s recommendations.
“Our goal is to enact a fairer and more transparent electoral system,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said the Government was also in the process of considering responses to the first Electoral Reform Green Paper on donations, funding and expenditure, as well as drafting the second Electoral Reform Green Paper which looks at broader issues such as enrolment and voting.
The Committee’s report could be accessed at www.aph.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Cancer call for
Customs Officers who have worked at Customs House at Sydney International Airport and older facilities have been urged to take part in the investigation of a possible cancer cluster.
Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, Professor Tim Driscoll, is to lead the investigation.
Professor Driscoll, who has conducted similar investigations for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, will consult regularly with a reference group including representatives from Customs management and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).
The CPSU said on its website that Professor Driscoll would examine a wide variety of potential factors, including air quality and other equipment at CHSIA such as X-Ray machines.
“Professor Driscoll has also made clear that he wishes to examine the possibility of other potential factors at facilities other than Customs House,” the CPSU said.
“This will include an examination of known hazards such as AVGAS fumes, air quality, and any other chemicals or hazardous materials that Customs Officers may have come into contact with in the course of their duties at facilities other than Customs House.”
The union said the investigation could be relevant to Customs Officers who had performed duties at the International Terminal, Container Examination Faciltities, Clyde Post and Air Cargo.
“Professor Driscoll is also interested in any issues arising from older Customs facilities such as Blue Building, Link Road,” the Union said.
It said those who had information or concerns should speak to Professor Driscoll when he visited Customs areas over the coming weeks.
The CPSU said they could also contact their representative on the committee, Simon Bowering, at email@example.com
The reference group met for the first time on 23 June.
23 June, 2009
Mum’s the word on
A program to assist Defence families settle into new communities has been announced by the Minister for Defence Personnel
The Minister, Greg Combet said the program would cost over $900,000 and would help Defence family support groups utilise neighbourhood houses and community centres to undertake programs such as craft groups and playgroups.
Mr Combet said grants could also go towards assisting children with special needs and producing local newsletters.
“The Government recognises the important contribution and sacrifices made by families who support the men and women of the Australian Defence Force,” Mr Combet said.
“This can mean frequent postings around Australia and a significant amount of time away from their loved ones who are deployed on operations and exercises.”
Mr Combet said the Defence Family Support Funding Program provided grants for Defence family groups to enable them to undertake projects to connect families with their local communities, enhance their self-reliance and improve overall well-being.
He said 47 Defence family support groups in all States and Territories, as well as in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, would benefit from the grants this financial year.
“These important projects will help Defence families stay connected with their local communities and assist them to better deal with the challenges of a highly mobile Defence lifestyle,” Mr Combet said.
“Families are resilient and support each other through the friendships that develop from these projects.
“They share information and ideas that help them manage the uncertainty often associated with the demands of military service.”
23 June, 2009
Job finders sent
Seven Local Employment Coordinators have been appointed across Australia to identify employment opportunities for communities hit hard by the global financial crisis.
out to work
Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib said the Local Employment Coordinators would provide an invaluable resource for areas in most need of support.
“There is no doubt that some communities have been hit harder by the global recession than others and that is why these Local Employment Coordinators will work actively within these communities,” Senator Arbib said.
“Losing your job can cause extraordinary anxiety and distress for both the individual and their family.”
He said Local Employment Coordinators would play a vital role in identifying employment opportunities and providing support to workers who had lost their jobs.
Senator Arbib said the Coordinators’ role was “literally to knock on the doors of local businesses and to work closely with Local Councils, businesses, chambers of commerce, unions and community organisations to maximise employment and training opportunities for redundant workers.”
He said they would help develop apprenticeship opportunities and promote the future skills communities would need to maximise opportunities during the economic recovery.
The newly appointed Local Employment Coordinators include: Geoff Speers (Northern Tasmania); Jane Robinson (Illawarra); John McIlhone (South West Perth); Keith Pimblett (South Eastern Melbourne); Mark King (Canterbury-Bankstown and South Western Sydney); Pippa Webb (Northern and Western Adelaide); and Samantha Wilson (Ipswich-Logan).
“These are experienced and capable people with strong links to their local communities and are therefore very well-placed to work on-the-ground for people who have lost their jobs,” Senator Arbib said.
Local Employment Coordinators will also be sought for Richmond-Tweed, Clarence Valley and the Mid North coast of NSW.
Further information was available from www.deewr.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Long arm of the law
Australians travelling abroad will find it easier to enforce their legal rights following the tabling in Parliament of a convention making serving documents in foreign countries quicker and cheaper.
Attorney General, Robert McClelland said the Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters 1965 would help avoid confusion and delay by enabling documents to be provided to a designated Central Authority in participating countries.
Mr McClelland said it was often difficult for Australian litigants to determine how documents should be served in another country and to prove they had been properly served.
“Australia's accession to the Convention will particularly benefit the increasing number of Australian companies conducting business overseas by giving them greater certainty in being able to enforce their legal rights,” he said.
“Some of Australia's key trading partners are already parties to the Hague Service Convention, including the United States, China, the United Kingdom and a number of other European nations.”
Mr McClelland said the Government also tabled a National Interest Analysis proposing Australia become a party to the Convention.
“This represents the first step in the formal process for Australia's accession to the Convention and represents the culmination of considerable efforts by the Standing Committee of Attorneys General,” he said.
23 June, 2009
Online access is
Nominated people who conduct business with Centrelink on behalf of clients will now be able to access the Agency’s online services.
on right track
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said nominees were able to register to deal with Centrelink using Centrelink’s eServices.
Mr Bowen said carers, many of whom acted as a nominee for the person they cared for, would benefit from the changes.
“The Australian Government recognises that caring for someone can be a full-time job and a vital part of that role is dealing with Centrelink about payments and services,” Mr Bowen said.
“Carers often act as nominees for Centrelink customers who, for a variety of reasons, may not be able to conduct Centrelink business for themselves.”
Mr Bowen said over 2,000 nominees had registered to use the eService since it became available in March.
“These improvements mean nominees can now update contact details and view payment details online, without having to visit a Centrelink Customer Service Centre,” he said.
“eServices were previously unavailable to nominees, but feedback from the community has led to its development.”
Mr Bowen said having access to online services meant nominees could conduct business with Centrelink at a time that suited them.
Centrelink clients seeking more information can visit www.centrelink.gov.au or phone 13 27 17.
23 June, 2009
Stars come out for
Airservices Australia and aviation company Naverus have teamed up in an initiative to develop the world’s first nationwide performance-based navigation network.
Airservices and Naverus, a provider of global navigation solutions, said the network would result in significant reductions in aircraft emissions and noise, reduced flight miles and fuel savings.
The two organisations are to develop Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures for arrival and departure flight paths at up to 28 major airports around Australia over the next five years.
In a statement, the Chief Executive of Airservices, Greg Russell and the CEO of Naverus, Steve Forte said the initiative could create a reduction of 122 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions and save 39 million kilograms of fuel per year.
Mr Russell and Mr Forte said all airlines whose aircraft were appropriately equipped and certified would be able to take advantage of the new RNP procedures.
“This application of these procedures will allow us to deliver benefits to the aviation industry and the community through improvements in aviation safety and efficiency and environmental impact,” Mr Russell said.
Naverus designed similar RNP procedures for the 2007 Brisbane Green Trial, which was conducted by Airservices and Qantas.
These procedures have been credited with saving an average of 2.6 minutes of flying time, 125kg of fuel and 390kg of CO₂ per flight compared to standard approach procedures into Brisbane Airport.
Mr Forte said reducing the impact of aircraft on the environment was a priority worldwide for all elements of the aviation industry.
We’re looking forward to working with Airservices to roll out this technology and the benefits it can offer,” he said.
23 June, 2009
Plans to cut Court
Legislation aimed at reducing the cost of litigation and minimizing Court delays has been introduced into Parliament.
Attorney General, Robert McClelland said reforms contained in the Access to Justice (Civil Litigation Reforms) Amendment Bill 2009 would help more people resolve their disputes quickly, effectively and fairly.
“The Bill will make clear that the Court, litigants and their representatives are expected to conduct litigation efficiently,” Mr McClelland said.
“Cases like the Bell liquidation and C7 show the need for Courts to have strong powers to ensure that public resources are used responsibly and that justice is accessible to all Australians.”
He said key reforms included introducing an obligation to facilitate the just resolution of disputes as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible; providing powers to impose cost penalties on parties and their lawyers who fail to comply with this duty; and clarifying directions the Court can make to control the progress and conduct of legal proceedings.
The reforms also include streamlining appeals pathways to reduce confusion for litigants and ensure the Court’s resources are managed effectively and in the best manner.
“These reforms are essential in enabling Federal Courts to deliver a fair, effective and affordable service to litigants,” Mr McClelland said.
23 June, 2009
Centrelink has launched a new program to help young refugees.
made feel at home
The Social Inclusion Pathways for Refugee Youth (SIPRY) program has targeted students from the war-torn countries of Iraq, Sudan and Burma, and addresses previously unexplored areas of assistance and support.
National Manager of Centrelink’s Multicultural Services Branch, Sam Campisi said SIPRY had helped eight high school students from the Fairfield area in NSW and two local job seekers aged between 17 and 25.
Mr Campisi said the participants undertook an eight-week TAFE course designed to equip them with vocational, educational and practical employment skills to be competitive in the employment market.
“This pilot program is unique in that it looks at ways to address the issues of some refugee students and jobseekers remaining disconnected in existing mainstream educational programs and from other appropriate support services,” he said.
“It’s important to realise that many of these young people have extremely low levels of literacy, experience social isolation, have unresolved issues regarding torture and trauma and caring responsibilities for their families.”
Mr Campisi said the program provided Centrelink with an ongoing opportunity to work with the young refuges and with their families.
He said Centrelink and its partners in the SIPRY program would continue to develop further programs based on the outcomes of the pilot.
Principal of Fairfield High School, Robert Mulas praised the students and the success of the SIPRY program.
“The pilot program has been successful in many regards, including exposing some of our students to local support services and the different pathways in TAFE,” Mr Mulas said.
“We look forward to further collaboration in this program with Centrelink and our other key stakeholders.”
23 June, 2009
Stocktake clears laws
Thirty redundant regulations have been repealed by the Federal Government in its latest Statute Stocktake.
The removed laws included those that protected consumers from price exploitation during the GST changeover and obligations on digital data service providers to provide services which have been overtaken by technological advances.
The laws were deemed outdated and redundant by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner,
Australia post hits 200
Australia Post has turned 200, marking the day the country’s first Postmaster, Isaac Nichols, collected 36 letters from England.
Mr Nichols was a former convict who was appointed as Postmaster because letters and parcels were being stolen from ships arriving at Sydney.
Today, around one million customers are served in postal outlets every day, with mail delivered to 10.5 million addresses across Australia.
Further information on birthday celebrations is available from www.auspost.com.au
Tax hoax alert
The Australian Taxation Office has warned of a hoax email claiming to offer people a 30 per cent discount on their taxes.
Using an ATO logo, the email features the words ‘Cut Off Taxes Program (COTP) has been released – Join Now’ in the subject heading and asks people to click on a link which directs them to a bogus ATO website to register by supplying their tax file number.
The ATO advised anyone who received the email to delete it or to contact the ATO on 13 28 61 if they had already provided their details.
ABC re-signs with Optus
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has signed an eight-year, $100 million extension to its long-standing satellite transmission deal with Optus.
Optus will provide the national distribution of the ABC's digital television transmission; carriage of interchange signals between ABC studios in capital cities and regional centres; and support of the broadcast of analogue television and radio services direct-to-home in rural and remote Australia until 2017.
The ABC has worked with Optus since 1991, when Optus acquired Australia's Government-owned satellite provider AUSSAT.
New tribunal in place
The new national workplace relations tribunal, Fair Work Australia, commences work on 1 July 2009.
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) will continue to operate until 31 December this year and will complete award modernisation and other matters relating to the period before 1 July 2009 during the transitional phase.
More information about FWA was available from the new website: www.fwa.gov.au
CAPAM for Canberra
Public Servants from around the world have been invited to the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management’s 2009 Regional Conference in Canberra.
To be held from 26 to 28 October 2009, this year’s theme is Government - It's all about Citizens and Public Servants
Participants will discuss different engagement strategies, potential measurements to examine whether citizens are becoming more satisfied with services and how Governments must transform to improve working with citizens.
Further information was available from www.capam.org
Defence scheme amended
The Defence Home Ownership Assistance Act has been amended to ensure equity in the treatment of Defence personnel.
The Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme (DHOAS) was introduced by the Government in July 2008 to support home ownership among Defence personnel by providing eligible members with a subsidy on their home loan interest payments.
The Act had been amended to ensure the same treatment is provided to members who rejoined the ADF before and after 1 July 2008.
Further information was available from www.dhoas.gov.au
Institute measures 5
The National Measurement Institute celebrates its fifth birthday on 1 July 2009.
Integrating three long-standing measurement organisations into a single institute, the NMI is Australia’s “one-stop shop” for all disciplines of measurement, including analytical, biological, chemical, legal and physical.
NMI resulted from the collaboration of the the National Measurement Laboratory from CSIRO, the National Standards Commission and the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories in 2004.
Bilingual policy explored
A one-day symposium on Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory has been held by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra.
The forum looked at policy changes to reduce the amount of bilingual teaching by more than half in the Northern Territory in the 2010 school year.
Issues discussed included the historical role of bilingual education; the status of research into its efficacy and practice; implications of the policy change; and bilingualism and language rights.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, was among those who gave presentations.
Youth forum looks at Defence
The Australian Defence Force is hosting a forum for students to engage in debate on issues relevant to the ADF
The Defence 2020: Youth Challenge Forum focuses on the theme, ‘Are Australia’s Peacekeepers Responsible Citizens?’ andwill be held on 1 July in Canberra, with further events to be held across Australia at later dates.
Further information was available from www.defence2020.info
RAAF to get tanker
The Royal Australian Air Force is to receive a new multi-role tanker transport (KC-30 Tanker) following the conversion of a commercial Airbus A330-200.
The aircraft was acquired under Project Air 5402, which will see five air to air refuelling aircraft purchased from Spanish company EADS CASA (now known as Airbus Military).
Under the project commercial A330-200 Airbus will be converted into military air to air refuellers.
The most recent A330-200 Airbus will be converted by Qantas in Brisbane.
Drug Committee reports
The National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee has released a report calling for new efforts to improve Indigenous health and reduce Indigenous incarceration.
The report, Bridges and Barriers: Addressing Indigenous Incarceration and Health highlighted the link between poor health, substance abuse, and incarceration.
The report’s recommendations were welcomed by the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon.
23 June, 2009
Plan for secrecy laws
The public has been invited to comment on a Discussion Paper proposing reforms to Federal secrecy laws.
out in the open
Published by the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Discussion Paper follows a review of secrecy laws currently on the federal statute book to ensure a consistent Government approach to protecting Commonwealth information. The review was requested by the Attorney General, Robert McClelland.
In its report, Review of Secrecy Laws, the ALRC lists 65 proposals, although they are not the final recommendations of the Inquiry.
Commissioner of the ALRC, Professor Rosalind Croucher said secrecy laws affected Public Servants at all levels and several of the proposals focused on ways staff could be better educated on the handling of such information.
“The key focus of the ALRC’s proposed reforms is on achieving much greater clarity for the Public Servants and others who handle Commonwealth information,” Professor Croucher said.
“This involves creating a new general secrecy offence applicable to Commonwealth officers; substantially consolidating the scattered specific offences, based on a common set of principles; and imposing a rationalised penalty structure.”
She said the ALRC also proposed recasting the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct to clarify the duty owed by Officers.
In the Inquiry, the ALRC identified and considered 507 secrecy provisions across 175 pieces of legislation, including 358 distinct secrecy offences carrying a range of criminal penalties.
Professor Croucher said they had proposed a decrease in the use of criminal sanctions in an attempt to “shift the system towards a more open and pro-disclosure culture.”
She said the Commission would like to see prosecutions limited to unauthorised disclosures in which it was alleged harm had been caused, or was likely to be caused, to a compelling public interest such as national security, defence, law enforcement operations or the physical safety of a person.
However, Professor Croucher said it was important to fit in with related laws, including Freedom of Information, privacy and whistleblower protection, which were also currently under review.
Comments on the Paper will be received until 7 August 2009 with more information available from www.alrc.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Union pay deal to
The Community and Public Sector Union has opened discussions with the Government to reintroduce whole-of-Government wage and conditions agreements.
be real bargain
National Secretary of the CPSU, Stephen Jones, said the application of fairer industrial relations laws that come into force on 1 July had presented the union with the opportunity to pursue the reform.
“CPSU has commenced discussions with Government on a new Framework for Bargaining in the Australian Public Service,” Mr Jones said in a statement on the CPSU website.
“We believe the system inherited by the Rudd Government is riddled with unfairness and inflexibility and is in need of an overhaul.”
He said the union did not believe that APS staff members doing the same job at the same level of proficiency “can earn thousands of dollars less, depending on which Department they work in.”
Mr Jones said there were 100 separate APS pay agreements that wasted millions of dollars in administration costs, all made worse when Machinery of Government changes threw staff from different agencies together.
“It can take months – sometimes several years – to sort out disparate employment arrangements.”
He said Government policy required staff to adopt whole-of-Service cooperation for national programs and priorities and demanded Senior Executive Service staff apply a whole-of-Government approach to their work.
“If these are the values that underpin the (Government's) approach to the challenges of our future, they should be recognised in the pay and conditions that apply to APS workers as well,” Mr Jones said.
“We want a single agreement on pay and classifications for all APS employees.”
He said a recent campaign among CPSU members revealed widespread concern at wages disparity.
“In workplace meetings, online forums and public workshops around the country, CPSU members issued a clear call for Government to tackle the problem and start bridging the pay gaps between Agencies.”
Mr Jones said the union proposed a two-year reform process to restore the centralised system by July 2011.
“After a decade of fragmented bargaining it will take some time to make the transition to a new system,” he said.
“The classification system needs to be modernised to recognise the professional skills and experience that APS workers bring to their jobs.”
He said the union would continue to discuss its plans with the Government in the weeks ahead.
The full text of Mr Jones’s comments can be found on the CPSU website www.cpsu.org.au and members are invited to register their comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
23 June, 2009
Annual awards for
The Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation have taken out major prizes at the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s Annual Report Awards.
The IPAA said the Awards aimed to encourage Commonwealth and ACT Government Departments and Agencies to produce better annual reports by testing them for “accountability, transparency and quality.”
Three separate areas of Government were judged in the Awards: Government Departments and Public Service Agencies; Commonwealth Authorities and Companies; and ACT Government Agencies.
Judges said the Tax Office received one of the Gold Awards in the Government Department category for its efforts to promote information accessibility.
“The report celebrates achievements on the one hand but also is very clear about identifying areas where improvement is needed,” the Judges said.
“It does so in a document that is accessible and readable.”
The ATO also took out the Online Award for having its report available online in “an easily accessible and navigable format.”
While the DVA’s report was different from that of the ATO, Judges said it also deserved a Gold Award in the Government Department category for its readability, accountability and diversity.
“The report of DVA meets all the criteria that is required under the Financial Management Act and does more,” the Judges said.
“This report manages its own diverse character in also effectively covering the Repatriation Commission, Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission and the National Treatment Monitoring Committee.”
In the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies category, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation won the Gold Award for its “outstanding” report.
“It provides a clear picture of the role and operation of the Agency during 2007/08,” the Judges said.
“It provides a good strategic overview supported by detailed operational information on particular projects, linking those projects to the Agency’s overall mission and Government priorities.”
Winners of Silver Awards in all categories included the National Water Commission, Aboriginal Hostels Limited, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the National Museum of Australia and ACT Policing.
Bronze Awards went to the Australian Electoral Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the ACT Department of Education and Training, the ACT Department of Justice and Community Services and the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services.
23 June, 2009
Women may be under-represented in Australian boardrooms, but a report released by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency shows that once they are appointed as Directors, they are at least as influential as their male counterparts.
are maiden heaven
The report, entitled Pay, Power and Position: Beyond the 2008 EOWA Australian Census of Women in Leadership, examined the boards of Australia’s top 200 companies and found there were about 12 male board Directors to every woman board Director.
Of the 89 individual women with board seat positions, nearly half chaired at least one board committee, compared to one third of the 1,091 men.
However, female executive managers in the same companies held only seven per cent of key management personnel positions.
Acting Director of EOWA, Mairi Steele said the report added to the Agency’s understanding of why women were under-represented in senior leadership positions in the business world.
“Sadly, regardless of which way you look at the data, women are still disadvantaged and their skills are being underutilised,” Ms Steele said.
“The EOWA report shows that it’s not just about the absolute or relative numbers of women on boards, or at executive manager level, it’s also about the pay, power and position of women compared to their male colleagues.”
The research found female board Directors were more likely to have gender pay parity with their male counterparts.
The small number of women on ASX200 boards were slightly better paid than their male counterparts (7.6 per cent more on median earnings), regardless of the number of board seats held.
The EOWA said this could be because board remuneration was generally fixed, with additional amounts for chairing key committees.
There was an average pay gap of 28.3 per cent for women in key management roles, 11 per cent higher than the national average figure.
The report found female key management personnel in support roles earned 37.4 per cent less than their male equivalents and those in line management positions earned 10.4 per cent less.
Women in CEO and finance positions earned less than half that of their male equivalents.
23 June, 2009
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has criticised the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts for giving inadequate advice to Agencies concerning heritage matters.
not up to date
Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman, Ron Brent said Federal Agency delays in complying with legislative requirements for heritage strategies were largely due to the “unclear” information provided by DEWHA.
Mr Brent said as of November 2007, only 11 Federal Agencies had complied with legislation regarding heritage strategies for properties under Commonwealth ownership or control, despite the deadline being 1 January 2006.
“It would appear that only a small number of Australian Government Agencies received any information at all about their obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which is a significant problem in and of itself,” he said.
“Unfortunately, though, the information provided by the Environment Department was so unclear that a majority of Agencies that did receive the advice did not actually understand it.”
Mr Brent said the Ombudsman had released a report into the delays, which found most Agencies misinterpreted the requirement to complete a heritage strategy, believing it only applied to properties already included on the Commonwealth Heritage List.
“It was not clear to them that all Australian Government Agencies that own or control property are required to develop a strategy to identify its heritage value,” he said.
Another common misconception related to the timeframe the legislation allowed for development of heritage strategies, and that a lack of compliance mechanisms under the Act meant Agencies were unlikely to commit resources to the task or to make it a priority.
Mr Brent praised the 11 Agencies that met their obligations within the timeframe.
“I commend these Agencies for assigning responsibility for the development of their heritage strategies to dedicated officers who had access to their senior management teams and who were able to liaise regularly with the Environment Department,” he said.
The Ombudsman made six recommendations to DEWHA to help it improve its administration of the Act, by providing “clear, consistent advice on their heritage strategy obligations to all Australian Government Agencies.”
The report, Delays in the preparation of Heritage Strategies by Australian Government Agencies, was available at www.ombudsman.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Union banks on
The Community and Public Sector Union has overhauled its membership fee tier structure with the new scheme expected to add $1.20 to the average member’s fortnightly payment from 1 July.
The decision was made by the CPSU Governing Council at a recent meeting in Melbourne.
In at statement, the Union said the changes would secure its finances and ensure member fees were “equitable and transparent” and reflected actual pay rates and employment arrangements in its industries.
As part of the restructure, the current eight tiers will be reduced to six and the Your Rights at Work levywill cease from 1 July.
In the new financial year, workers earning between $10,000 and $24,999 will be in the bottom tier and will pay $8.15 a fortnight, while those earning $100,000 or more will be in the top tier and pay $28 a fortnight.
Previously, those earning between $10,000 and $21,999 were in the bottom tier and paid $5.95 a fortnight, while workers on a salary of $65,000 or more were in the top tier, paying $22.05 a fortnight.
The statement said members would automatically be moved to the closest relevant tier.
“For some members, fees will go up, for others they’ll go down,” the CPSU said.
The CPSU meeting also focused on delivering Agenda for Change, a five year plan to close pay gaps across different Agencies and the Public and Private Sectors and secure better funding for the APS.
Further information on the new pay tiers was available from www.cpsu.org.au
23 June, 2009
Auditor takes shot
The Australian National Audit Office has released an audit on the Department of Defence’s management of the Super Seasprite Project.
at Defence project
The Audit Report of the Super Seasprite Project identifies issues that contributed to the project’s cancellation and highlighted project management lessons for future Defence acquisitions.
The report found the decision to acquire the Super Seasprite helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy was approved in February 1996 but after a number of technical problems with the technology and ongoing difficulties, the Project was cancelled in March 2008.
The ANAO was generally critical of Defence’s management of the project, saying it spent over $1.4 billion dollars on the helicopters.
It said decision making over the Project had occurred in an environment of “significant tension between the objective of providing Navy with the required capability, the fundamental obligation to meet ADF airworthiness requirements, and the inherent difficulties in managing a complex aircraft acquisition.”
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said Defence had accepted all of the ANAO’s seven recommendations.
Mr Combet said Defence had implemented significant reforms to its project management practices since the Seasprite Project.
“We want to ensure that we deliver the capability the ADF needs - when they need it,” he said.
“The lessons learnt from the Seasprite project have already been incorporated in reforms which have enhanced Defence project management practices and are taken further in the implementation of the Mortimer Review as recently announced by Government."
Mr Combet said the Government was committed to improving defence procurement practices and ensuring taxpayers received value for money.
23 June, 2009
The role of the National Archives Advisory Council has been recognised with the publication of a book detailing its history.
brought to book
Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, Ross Gibbs said A Necessary Safeguard, written by historian Dr Hilary Golder, acknowledged the Council’s contribution to the development of the Archives as a key force in shaping Government recordkeeping.
“Growing numbers of people recognise that records held by the National Archives document Australia’s social, political, cultural and economic development,” Mr Gibbs said. “However, many aren’t so aware of the major role played by the Advisory Council in their behind-the-scenes work to support the interests of public researchers and ensure the integrity of the Archives as the key to ongoing government accountability.
He said the Council’s key achievements included questioning the practice of destroying name-identified Census documents; speaking up for the public on access to ASIO records; and planning for the challenges of preserving electronic records.
“Council members have always argued for greater access to the records, rather than less,” Mr Gibbs said.
The Council was first convened in December 1984 and since that time has had 61 members from public life and private enterprise.
Current membership includes Senator Kate Lundy and Professor Mick Dodson.
The recently appointed Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig launched the book at the National Archives of Australia to coincide with the Council’s 100th meeting.
23 June, 2009
Centrelink has reminded same-sex couples of reforms that could affect their entitlements.
same sex changes
General Manager, Hank Jongen said as of 1 July 2009, same-sex couples who are in de facto or registered relationships and are clients of Centrelink will need to advise the Agency.
Mr Jongen said the changes to legislation will mean same-sex couples will be assessed in the same way as heterosexual couples.
“The voluntary declaration period for customers to notify Centrelink of their same-sex relationship began on 30 March, and since then over 900 people have done so,” he said.
“For some, [the changes] may mean payments reduce from the single rate of a payment to the partnered rate, in line with the entitlements paid to all couples.
“For others, such as families, it may mean a change of payment is necessary, as the eligibility criteria for support such as Parenting Payment is assessed differently for singles and couples.”
Mr Jongen said some people in same-sex relationships may become eligible for Centrelink payments for the first time as a result of the reforms.
“Young people who are studying but whose parents have income above the allowable limit, may be eligible for Youth Allowance at an independent rate from 1 July if they have been living in a long-term same-sex relationship,” he said.
“People may also become eligible for concessions if their partner is on an eligible Centrelink payment and has a concession card.”
Mr Jongen said clients would have the option of having a concession card issued without their partner name displayed, if they preferred.
He assured clients that Centrelink took privacy concerns “extremely seriously” and staff had undergone special privacy and awareness training to understand how the reforms would impact on the gay and lesbian community.
“Throughout June, our offices will also feature posters, factsheets and other materials about the changes to Centrelink’s recognition of same-sex relationships from 1 July,” Mr Jongen said.
He said further information was available from www.centrelink.gov.au
23 June, 2009
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has invited public comment on a plan to release liability insurance data from the National Claims and Policies Database.
at a premium
Feedback on the discussion paper, Liability insurance - public access to policy and claim information is expected to inform APRA on what information should actually be released from the Database (NCPD).
The NCPD is a database of policy and claims information relating to public and products liability and professional indemnity insurance.
APRA Member, John Trowbridge said providing useful data from the NCPD was important in maintaining the original aims of the database.
“The aim of our consultation is to find a balance between the insurance industry’s preference to protect the confidentiality of their data and the wider public interest in the availability of useful information from the NCPD,” he said.
“For APRA to make an informed decision we need a thorough understanding of both perspectives.”
He said APRA had published high level aggregate reports (level 1 reports) from the NCPD for the last three years.
In a statement the Authority said it was consulting with stakeholders as part of its plans to publish more detailed information from the NCPD, known as level 2 reports.
In a previous consultation with insurers who are responsible for contributing data to the NCPD, APRA sought comment on three options of confidentiality protection for level 2 reports.
APRA is now seeking comments from other stakeholders on the possible uses for level 2 reports and the benefits under each of the three confidentiality options.
Submissions close on 12 August 2009, with a copy of the discussion paper available from www.apra.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Treasury has published its forward work program for consultations on the Government’s new tax measures.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, announced the program saying it was a key recommendation of the Tax Design Review Panel's report Better Tax Design and Implementation.
“The publication of a forward tax work program provides greater transparency in the tax design process for taxpayers and tax professionals,” Senator Sherry said, “as it allows for a more inclusive and meaningful consultation process.”
He said the Government had accepted, in principle, all the Panel's recommendations to help improve the development of tax measures.
He said the Government had committed to regularly publishing Forward Work Programs, with the first released in February this year.
He said key measures announced in the latest document included legislating guidelines to improve the integrity of prescribed private funds; standardising the various secrecy and disclosure provisions in the tax law into a framework in a single piece of legislation; and increasing the Research and Development Expenditure cap for the existing R&D tax offset.
Other measures included providing funding to make superannuation compliance easier for small business.
Senator Sherry said plans were also in hand to provide relief from capital gains tax for members and insured entities of friendly societies provided they met certain criteria
He said measures announced by the previous Government that had not been enacted would also be included in the Forward Work document while the Government decided whether to introduce them or not.
23 June, 2009
Institute delivers on
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has given children’s health a good report card but says there is still work to be done.
In its latest report, A picture of Australia's children 2009, theAIHW found child death rates were down, there was a decline in asthma hospitalisations, fewer teenage births and reduced smoking rates in older children.
However it said when compared to other OECD countries, Australia could do better on infant and under-five mortality rates, teenage birth rates and jobless families with children.
One of the report’s authors, Deanna Eldridge of the AIHW’s Children, Youth and Families Unit said overall Australian children were well looked after.
“Combined with favourable trends in some risk and protective factors, such as immunisation coverage, these factors suggest that overall Australian children are doing well,' she said.
However, other findings were not as positive, with “far too many” children spending more than the recommended time of two hours a day in front of a video or television screen, being overweight or obese, and not eating recommended amounts of vegetables.
The report also highlighted concerns about the health of Indigenous children, who are two to three times more likely than other Australian children to die young, be of low birthweight and have dental decay.
“Rising rates of severe disability, diabetes, and the disadvantages faced by Indigenous children and children who live in remote areas are also a concern,” Ms Eldridge said.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are far more likely to be disadvantaged across a broad range of health and socioeconomic indicators.”
Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin said while there were favourable trends in some risk and protective factors, on other fronts the picture was “sobering.”
“It is the right of every Australian child to have a safe, healthy and happy childhood,” Ms Macklin said.
“This is what drives the Australian Government's child-centred family policy. The best interests of children are a national priority - from the day they are born.”
The report is the fourth in a series of AIHW national statistical reports on children aged 0-14 years.
23 June, 2009
Football kicks goal
In an effort to promote social inclusion and cultural diversity, the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and the Essendon Football Club have teamed up for the second Unity Cup Family Day round robin competition, held last weekend.
for social inclusion
Events on the day included autograph signings by Essendon stars, a community barbeque, children’s Auskick clinics, women’s activities and children’s entertainment.
Office Manager of AFP Melbourne, Commander Alan Scott said the event was an opportunity for the public to see police are part of the communities in which they lived and worked.
“This event goes some way towards developing a greater understanding of the role of law enforcement officers,” Commander Scott said.
General Manager of Media and Community for the Essendon Football Club, Simon Matthews said he hoped Essendon and the AFP’s Community Liaison Team could develop the Unity Cup into a central event for the club and the community’s social calendars.
Mr Matthews said sport had the ability to communicate across cultures and break down language barriers, making it a powerful tool for supporting stronger, more resilient communities.
“When applied effectively, sports programs promote social inclusion and mutual understanding which helps to reduce tension and generate dialogue,” he said.
“The club believes the Unity Cup does exactly that and we are very excited to once again be involved.”
Essendon player and Multicultural Program Ambassador, Andrew Welsh said he had been impressed with the skills and ability of each of the four community teams last year and hoped to see more individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds playing Australian Football.
“Having guys like Bachar Houli and Michael Quinn playing at Essendon is important for the multicultural community as AFL players are role models for many young people,” Mr Welsh said.
“You can learn a lot about individuals and communities just by playing and participating in sport.”
Commander Scott said the event built on the work the AFP Community Liaison Team and the community had been doing over the past 12 months.
“This event is about fostering mutual understanding and respect and highlighting the positive ways in which Police and culturally diverse communities are working together,” he said.
23 June, 2009
Questacon has numbers
Questacon’s success at attracting tourists to Canberra has been recognised after receiving Best Tourist Attraction at the OutinCanberra and Australian Hotels Association 2009 Hospitality Awards.
for tourism award
The Award recognised the important role Questacon plays in promoting Canberra’s tourism, the activities it undertakes to attract visitors to the Territory and its collaborative relationship with the hotel and hospitality sector.
Director of Questacon, Professor Graham Durant said the award recognised the hard work the Centre’s enthusiastic and dedicated team had put in.
“The past 12 months have been successful and rewarding for Questacon with new exhibitions, new programs and a series of popular family events,” Professor Durant said.
“Visitors to Questacon explore scientific concepts in an accessible and entertaining way and discover the fascinating world of science through various interactive exhibitions, programs and science theatre.”
He thanked the Australian Institute of Sport and Cockington Green for partnering with Questacon to offer the public a ‘3 in fun’ ticket to visit the venues.
“This popular joint ticket continues to attract many interstate visitors to the ACT and is a successful packaging option for the ACT tourism and hotel Sectors,” Professor Durant said.
“Questacon continues to work collaboratively with regional tourism, hotel and hospitality bodies and contributes to the ACT tourism industry as a significant tourism destination alongside the other national institutions.”
He said last financial year, over 406,000 people visited Questacon in Canberra, including over 109,000 school children from across Australia.
The Awards, held at the National Convention Centre, recognised all sectors of the industry, including dining venues, bars, pubs, nightclubs, accommodation venues and the tourism sector.
23 June, 2009
The Government has published submissions made in response to a discussion paper on the future of Australia’s telecommunications.
hung out online
The paper, entitled National Broadband Network: Regulatory Reform for 21st Century Broadband, canvassed a range of options for reforming competition and consumer-protection arrangements for the telecommunications sector.
More than 120 submissions were received from individuals, industry and other stakeholders.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the response was strong and supported the Government’s conviction that regulatory reform was required to deliver better outcomes for consumers while the National Broadband Network was rolled out.
“The Government is giving careful consideration to the submissions put forward. We are determined to proceed with our reform agenda and we will be working hard to introduce legislation this year,” Senator Conroy said.
“The regulatory reforms we are now developing will improve competition and service during the transition to the National Broadband Network.”
He said the National Broadband Network would form the foundations for Australia's future broadband market and participation in the digital economy by delivering high-speed broadband to every home, workplace and school.
“The new investment is the biggest reform in telecommunications in two decades because it delivers separation between the infrastructure provider and retail service providers,” Senator Conroy said.
“This means better and fairer infrastructure access for service providers, greater retail competition, and better services for families and businesses.”
The submissions could be viewed at www.dbcde.gov.au
23 June, 2009
Sherry raises glass
The Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry has used the end of the financial year to remind tax payers about changes to key taxation measures.
to tax measures
Senator Sherry said Australian workers could look forward to tax cuts in the new financial year.
“The start of the new financial year sees delivery of the second round of income tax cuts promised during the 2007 election which will mean a $300 tax cut for the new financial year for someone on $60,000 annual income,” he said.
Senator Sherry said the cuts aimed to encourage more part-time workers and older Australians to participate in the workforce by increasing the effective tax free threshold.
He said the low income tax offset would increase from $1,200 to $1,350 which would see the effective tax free threshold for taxpayers eligible for the full low income tax offset increase from $14,000 to $15,000.
Senator Sherry said the 30 per cent marginal tax threshold would rise from $34,001 to $35,001 and the 40 per cent marginal tax rate would be reduced to 38 per cent.
He said the amount of income a senior Australian eligible for the senior Australians tax offset could earn before they would incur an income tax liability would increase to $29,867 for singles and to $25,680 for each member of a couple.
Senator Sherry also urged people to lodge their 2007-08 tax returns by June 30 to ensure they qualified for the Nation Building and Jobs Plan tax bonus.
He said the education tax refund, which allows eligible parents to claim on some education expenses on or after 1 July 2008 for children in primary or secondary school, could also be claimed.
He also said that from 1 July 2009, all couples and families are be treated the same way for tax purposes, regardless of gender.
23 June, 2009
New Channel for Christmas
The ABC has announced its new children’s channel will be on air before Christmas.
ABC3 will target 6 to 15-year-olds, and will broadcast daily between 6am and 9pm.
The Channel is to feature quality programming across a range of genres including drama, music, wildlife, quiz shows, comedies, Indigenous programs, news and sport.
Defence Homes stimulated
The first Defence homes to be built under the Nation-Building Economic Stimulus Plan have been completed ahead of schedule and on budget.
Under the Stimulus Plan, 802 Defence homes are being constructed across the country and $104 million is to be injected into Queensland’s construction industry to build Defence houses and support over 200 local construction jobs.
McCanns reappointed for ads
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner has announced the reappointment of Universal McCann as the Master Media Agency for the planning and placement of Campaign Advertising for the Australian Government.
Universal McCann has been awarded the new contract for an initial term of three years commencing 1 July 2009.
The announcement followed an open tender process by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
Postal union drops EBA
The union covering workers at Australia Post has rejected an enterprise bargaining agreement which it said would undermine job security, health, safety and take home pay.
The Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia (CEPU) said it would be consulting with its members before deciding on its next step.
Institute advises on allergies
The National Measurement Institute is sponsoring workshops for manufacturers and food laboratories to raise awareness of how to reduce the health and economic costs caused by food allergies.
It has been estimated that the economic impact of allergies on the Australian community is $7.8 billion.
The workshops and information sessions are aimed at educating businesses and helping them implement risk management measures.”
Further information is available at www.foodallergendetectionworkshops.com.au
Terrorist adviser welcomed
Government Ministers have met with the United Kingdom’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew, to discuss ongoing reform of counter-terrorism legislation.
Attorney General, Robert McClelland and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig heard about the how the United Kingdom responded to violent extremism, and discussed Australia’s plan to introduce a National Security Legislation Monitor.
The Monitor will review the operation of counter-terrorism legislation on an annual basis, and is in response to recommendations from reviews into counter-terrorism.
Enquiry into homelessness
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth is to hold an inquiry into homelessness legislation.
The announcement followed the Government's Homelessness White Paper, which noted the Commonwealth’s intention to introduce new legislation to replace the Supported Accommodation Assistance Act 1994.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that on any given night, there are 105,000 homeless people in Australia.
The Committee is expected to report by December 2009, with more information on submissions available from www.aph.gov.au
Whale project a first
Australia and New Zealand have established the first Antarctic whale research expedition as part of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership.
The Antarctic Whale Expedition will involve six weeks of research in early 2010 in the Antarctic waters to the south of Australia and New Zealand.
The research aims to improve the understanding of the population structure, abundance, trends, distribution, and ecological role of whales in the Southern Ocean.
Scientists will use non-lethal research techniques such as biopsy sampling, satellite tracking and acoustic and hydrographic surveys.
16 June, 2009
Sports Institute in
The Australian Institute of Sport has introduced special measures to combat swine flu.
race against flu
Director of the AIS, Professor Peter Fricker said while no cases of swine flu had been detected at the Institute, it was important to take precautions.
“The welfare of AIS athletes is paramount and we have taken steps to protect the athletes in our care, many who are school-aged and at higher risk,” Professor Fricker said.
“There are no cases of swine flu at the AIS however we need to remain vigilant as our closed community – where school-aged athletes are continuously in residence – is vulnerable to the virus.”
Professor Fricker said the AIS swine flu response was based on medical advice led by AIS Head of Sports Medicine, Associate Professor Kieran Fallon, and guided by health authorities.
Professor Fricker said the AIS would not be sending athletes to Victoria until further notice.
“Our aim is to prevent athletes having direct contact with people who have been in Victoria or overseas locations where swine flu has spread,” he said.
Coaches or other staff who have direct contact with AIS athletes have also been instructed to cease travelling to Victoria.
Professor Fricker said athletes, coaches or staff who visited Victoria could not have contact with AIS athletes for seven days after their return.
The procedures also applied to people exposed to swine flu regions overseas.
He said other measures included restricting visits to the AIS by groups from swine flu areas but AIS Tours would continue.
Professor Fricker said, except for Victorian school groups, camp bookings from swine flu areas were also being reviewed.
He said there was no change to the use of other public facilities, such as the AIS pool and gym.
“We ask anyone who has been in swine flu areas to refrain from direct contact with athletes and seek their cooperation by deferring any visits to the AIS until further notice,” Professor Fricker said.
16 June, 2009
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has joined forces with the National Library of Australia to record the history of migration to Australia in an oral history project.
migrates to Library
Retired Chief Migration Officers, who interviewed and assessed prospective migrants and refugees from the 1940s to the 1970s, will tell their stories.
A spokesperson for DIAC said the CMOs were posted to locations around the world, including the Middle East, Europe, South-East Asia, South America and the USA.
“They often worked with minimal resources and had to rely on their own wits, skills and training to get the job done,” the spokesperson said.
“The CMOs have fascinating stories to tell about their contribution to Australia’s history and how they were an integral part of forging the culturally diverse nation we have today.”
For the past 12 months, the NLA has recorded 80 hours of oral histories with the retired officers, while DIAC has also been conducting video interviews and collating the personal photographs and memorabilia from their extensive travels and experiences.
On completion, the stories of 20 senior migration officers will be available to the public.
The oral histories will include accounts from CMOs of their assistance to refugees in post-war Europe, the administration of the British child migration program in the 1950s and the complex decisions they had to make about people’s lives.
16 June, 2009
Forum logs on to
A public forum to explore the potential of technology for transforming how Government informs, consults and engages with its citizens is to be held on 22 June at Parliament House, Canberra.
Hosted by ACT Labor Senator, Kate Lundy, the forum is entitled Government 2.0: Policy and Practice for Australia and will be the second in her series of ‘Public Sphere’ events which can be attended on-line.
According to Senator Lundy, the forum will look at how ‘Government 2.0′ tools and practices can improve the effectiveness of government and deliver better outcomes for the community, particularly by opening up access to Government data and using web 2.0 tools to consult and collaborate with citizens on policy and directions.
Senator Lundy said she hoped the Public Sphere forum would encourage Government and politicians to start to think about new ways to engage with the community.
“This kind of engagement in public policy is a great way to represent different views and harness a broad range of expertise, particularly on topical issues of the day.”
She said the coming event would hear from leading thinkers on Government 2.0 and include an update from the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner on the Commonwealth’s approach to online engagement.
“The event is an opportunity for experts and citizens alike to help map out a strategy for how Government can make better use of the information, perspectives, insights and resources of citizens in responding to complex policy challenges through online technologies,” Senator Lundy said.
She said the forum would be free to attend and all Australians could participate online via a range of different technologies such as email, live blogging, Twitter and video streaming.
She said a public wiki had been established for participants to contribute to a briefing paper highlighting the major themes of the forum and when finalized, the briefing would be submitted to the appropriate channels in Government.
She said her first Public Sphere event was held last month and considered issues relating to high speed bandwidth, following which the outcomes were presented to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Registration for the event can be arranged by visiting http://publicsphere2.eventbrite.com and more information can be obtained from Senator Lundy’s website: www.katelundy.com.au
16 June, 2009
Treasury checks mate
A policy analyst with Treasury has become king of the chessboard, reaching the highest level in the game following a win at the NSW Open.
with chess title
David Smerdon of Treasury’s Canberra HQ was named Grandmaster by the World Chess Federation FIDE (Federation Internationale es Echecs) after the victory.
Mr Smerdon, 24, has been playing chess for most of his life, having started at the age of four. He is Australia’s fourth Grandmaster, but Canberra’s first.
“It’s a sense of personal achievement,” Mr Smerdon said on his return to work.
“For the last 10 years, I’ve been at the second highest level, International Master.”
“It’s taken a long time for me to jump to the top level.”
He has represented Australia in four chess Olympiads and nine world junior chess championships, as well as other international events.
Mr Smerdon, who has previously fulfilled the performance requirements for the title in various Australian and international tournaments, had six wins and a draw at the NSW Open, which improved his international rating and secured him the title.
Back at Treasury, Mr Smerdon joined the Corporations and Financial Services Division’s Market Integrity Unit last year as part of the graduate intake and loves the challenging work environment.
“Working at Treasury is similar to chess,” he said.
“It’s quite complex. I find it interesting.”
He said the Department had been very supportive of his exploits, allowing him time off to compete in events.
It’s not all chess and work for Mr Smerdon though. In his spare time he plays sport, is a keen debater and learns languages.
He hopes the publicity he gets from chess will encourage other young Australians to give it a go.
“It’s important. It’s part of a well-rounded education,” Mr Smerdon said. “People should try it at least once.”
Secretary of Treasury, Ken Henry congratulated Mr Smerdon on his achievement.
16 June, 2009
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has launched a website to help domestic and international travellers learn more about the security measures in place at Australian airports and to help them to comply with these rules.
shows way ahead
The new website, TravelSECURE, explains aviation security regulations and includes videos, graphics and other material.
There is information available on prohibited items such as liquids, aerosols and gels (international flights), as well as guidance on passenger and baggage screening
The site also provides advice for people travelling with children, laptops, medicines and sports equipment.
In a statement, the Department said travel agents could obtain information and ready-to-use text for e-ticket itineraries and boarding passes, frequently asked questions and fact sheets from the ‘information for travellers’ section of the site.
“With tens of millions of people flying into, out of, or across Australia each year, the better informed passengers are about the security measures in place to protect them, the easier it will be for them to plan ahead and enjoy their travel,” the Department said.
“TravelSECURE builds on the recommendations of the recent review of aviation security screening to put measures in place to ensure the safety and security of Australian and international passengers travelling through Australian airports.”
The new site complements existing resources such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trades Smartraveller website and could be accessed at www.travelsecure.infrastructure.gov.au
16 June, 2009
Opposition pays out
The Federal Opposition has demanded the Federal Government provide greater transparency for Commonwealth guaranteed borrowings.
on loan guarantees
The Coalition has sought an amendment to the Guarantee of State and Territory Borrowing Appropriation Bill.
Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey said under its amendment the Coalition would like to see a public registry established showing the beneficial holders of Commonwealth and State Government Securities that are Commonwealth Guaranteed.
“This will ensure that there is full transparency in respect to the issuance of Australian Government and State Government debt that is Commonwealth guaranteed,” Mr Hockey said.
“This Bill provides an appropriation enabling the Commonwealth to pay any claim made under the Commonwealth’s Guarantee of State and Territory Borrowing.”
Mr Hockey said the Bill gave the Federal Government the power to borrow money if there were insufficient funds in the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
He said if any of the States did not have the ability to repay their loans and the Commonwealth had no available funds, then the Australian Government could be forced to borrow more money to make up the shortfall.
Mr Hockey said this could mean the Australian Government would be driven further into debt.
16 June, 2009
Internet code is
A Code of Practice for internet service providers is to be developed by the Government in partnership with industry, as a result of a recommendation from the 2008 National E-Security Review.
key to security
The Code, to be developed by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the Australian Communications and Media Authority will aim for a consistent approach for internet service providers (ISPs) to inform, education and protect customers.
Minister for BCDE, Senator Stephen Conroy, said ISPs were “uniquely placed” to help create a security culture among Australian internet users by ensuring customers were aware of how to protect themselves online.
"Today marks an important first step for ISPs, meeting to start a wide consultative process to develop the ISP E-Security Code of Practice," he said.
Senator Conroy said participating ISPs would be required to provide generic plain language information to clients on e-security risks and simple steps they can take to help protect themselves online.
“ISPs will also be required to seek data from sources such as ACMA's Australian Internet Security Initiative to identify compromised computers and help computer owners to address problems,” Senator Conroy said.
Also during National E-Security Awareness Week, the Defence Signals Directorate He said led an executive breakfast briefing on emerging e-security challenges and their potential impacts on Australia’s critical infrastructure.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said e-security was crucial to protecting Australia’s critical infrastructure.
"The briefing was held as part of the Australian Government's Trusted Information Sharing Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection, which allows the Government to work with owners and operators of critical infrastructure to build a more resilient Australia," Mr McClelland said.
Mr McClelland said more information on the Trusted Information Sharing Network was available at www.tisn.gov.au and on e-security and National E-security Awareness Week available at www.staysmartonline.gov.au
16 June, 2009
Committee scales up
A Parliamentary Committee has issued a report calling for better designs for cities and suburbs and a greater focus on teaching the importance of healthy eating and exercise.
its report on obesity
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing’s report Weighing it up - Obesity in Australia made the recommendations to encourage people to be more active and for children and adults to understand how to grow, prepare and eat fresh fruit and vegetables as an alternative to high fat, high sugar and high salt foods.
Chair of the Committee, Labor MP for Hindmarsh, Steve Georganas said it made 20 recommendations to help counter the growing numbers of overweight and obese people in Australia, currently running at more than half the adult population.
“This has significant health and economic implications for the country,” Mr Georganas said.
“Evidence to the Committee suggests that obesity cost the Australian economy over $8 billion in 2008 (including) the costs to the health system as a result of rising rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the complications associated with surgery and other interventions.”
He said the Committee wanted to send a positive message to the community about dealing with the problem.
“There are terrific programs and projects, encouraging people to eat more nutritious food and to do more exercise,” he said. “Councils are putting in walking trails and facilities, school programs are making it easier for children to walk to school and community groups are setting up exercise sessions for all ages.”
He said other recommendations the Committee made included:
The report was welcomed by industry groups which had been concerned it could suggest restrictions on the advertising and marketing of food.
- Guidelines be developed jointly by industry and Government to reformulate food to contain lower sugar, salt and fat levels;
- Food labels contain consistent nutritional advice;
- Governments collect more detailed data on the weight of Australians and their levels of physical activity;
- Better public health campaigns be run to combat obesity and show the benefits of healthy lifestyles;
- The Federal Government’s Active After School Communities Program be supported;
- Tax incentives be considered to improve the affordability of fresh healthy food and access to physical activity;
- Weight loss products and programs be regulated better; and
- A registry of weight-loss surgery be set up.
16 June, 2009
Refugees find safety
Refugees from Africa and South-East Asia are to visit Rossmore Farm in Rossmore, NSW this week to get their hands dirty as part of a Centrelink program to assist employment opportunities for refugees in the agricultural industry.
at Centrelink farm
Up to 60 refugee students from Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Karen (Burma) will participate in the Pathways to Primary Industries program.
A joint venture between Centrelink and other Agencies, the program aims at assisting refugee communities in Western Sydney develop the skills necessary to enter employment in the Agriculture Industry.
The program consists of three main components including TAFE training in agriculture skills at Richmond College, establishing networks within rural industries to increase job opportunities, and offering employment opportunities.
Multicultural Service Officer and organiser of the Pathways to Primary Industry Program with Centrelink, Najah Kerbaj said the program was unique.
"The students have all arrived in Australia within the last few years and are keen to build a life for themselves," Ms Kerbaj said.
"These students and their families are building a life in Australia, and the Pathways to Primary Industries program exposes them to opportunities in a field they may never have considered before.”
Ms Kerbaj said through Pathways to Primary Industry Program, two refugees who completed the training in 2008 had been employed in the industry from the beginning of this year.
Ms Kerbaj said Centrelink continued to play a key role in helping refugees establish new lives in Australia.
"Through its six Refugee Servicing Units located in high refugee populated areas of NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, and specialist Multicultural Service Officers, Centrelink provides the support and understanding needed to assist refugees and humanitarian entrants engage with the community and new country they call home," she said.
16 June, 2009
The Safe Work Australia Council has used its inaugural meeting to focus on the development of model Occupational Health and Safety legislation.
playing it safe
High on the agenda was the proposed structure and content of the model OHS Act as agreed by the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council, which met the following day in Sydney.
The Council agreed to recommend a revised timeframe to WRMC in relation to the development of the model OHS Act and as a result, an exposure draft of the legislation is to be released in September with a view to submitting it to WRMC for agreement by the end of 2009.
The 15-member Safe Work Australia Council is chaired independently with nine members representing the Commonwealth, States and Territories, two representing the interests of workers, two representing the interests of employers and the Group Manager of Safe Work Australia.
Chair of the Council, Tom Phillips said he was pleased with the outcomes of the first meeting.
“It is exciting to be a part of the important task of harmonising Occupational Health and Safety laws and improving workers’ compensation arrangements across Australia,” Mr Phillips said.
“I am confident that the Council, through its partnership of Governments, employers and employees, can work together to achieve improved health and safety outcomes for all Australians.”
Also agreed to by the Council were specifications for the maintenance of the Australian Mesothelioma Register. Mr Phillips said this would improve the collection of data on the past exposure to asbestos of patients diagnosed with Mesothelioma and ensure the Register is a comprehensive source of information.
Mr Phillips announced Safe Work Australia Week would take place from 25 to 31 October 2009.
“I strongly encourage business leaders and organisations across Australia to put safety first and become Safety Ambassadors and Safety Partners this year,” Mr Phillips said.
“The simple philosophy of there being no excuse for any accident can only be upheld if everyone has a strong commitment to workplace safety.”
16 June, 2009
Drugs smoked out
The Australian Crime Commission has released a report into illicit drugs, revealing that joint efforts by Agencies are achieving results.
in joint exercises
Chief Executive Officer of the ACC, John Lawler said the report highlighted the work undertaken by a range of law enforcement and health Agencies to address illicit drugs.
Mr Lawler said the 2007-08 Illicit Drug Data Report found most border detections of illicit drugs occurred through scatter importations in parcel post.
“This report will inform decision-makers across the full spectrum of the illicit drug response—from law enforcement to health and education—in developing strategies to minimise harm and limit drug supply,” he said.
“Longer-term trends across illicit drug markets, like those provided in the report, provide a strong evidence base to inform comprehensive polices and collaborative responses to the illicit drug problem in Australia.”
The report found South-West Asia was increasingly becoming a source for Australia’s heroin supply, in keeping with increased opium production in the region.
“Although we are seeing changes in heroin sources, heroin seizures and arrests in 2007–08 are low when compared with the last decade,” Mr Lawler said.
It also identified an increase in cocaine use, along with the continued high use of cannabis.
“In 2007–08 the number of cocaine detections at the Australian border increased by 71 per cent, and the number of cocaine seizures was the highest on record,” Mr Lawler said.
The report drew on the combined resources, experience and expertise of Australia’s law enforcement community and forensic laboratories to provide a statistical overview of illicit drug arrests, seizures and border detections.
The report was available at www.crimecommission.gov.au
16 June, 2009
Aid Agency lines
Eight icons of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals have been posted along 20 metres of windows outside AusAID House in Canberra.
up to kick goals
Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan unveiled the icons, saying they highlighted the Government’s commitment to the Goals and their efforts to reduce global poverty by 2015.
Mr McMullan said the Goals were adopted in September 2000 at a meeting of world leaders at the UN Headquarters and included halving extreme hunger and poverty; getting all children into school; making women more equal; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; protecting the environment; and working in partnership to make poverty history.
“With the global economic recession forcing more people in developing countries into poverty, Australia is even more determined to stick to its commitment to achieving the United Nations MDGs,” Mr McMullan said.
“Developing countries in our region need help more than ever. These icons will remind passers-by of the daily efforts being made by Australia’s aid program to make life better for those living in relentless and grinding poverty not of their making.”
He said in the 2009-10 Budget, the Government underlined its ongoing commitment to increase Australia’s Official Development Assistance to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015-16.
16 June, 2009
Digital artists keep
A new strategy to protect the work of artists in the digital domain has been released by the Australia Council for the Arts.
fingers in pie
The Arts content for the digital era strategy was developed in response to the impact of digital technologies on the arts sector, now and in the future.
It examined how traditional art forms such as Indigenous music could use digital technology to enhance creativity, as well as the sorts of business capabilities that would be required to deal with technological advancements.
The strategy also looked at how digital infrastructure would affect how artists engaged with their audiences and built on work previously undertaken by the Australia Council through its arts funding and development programs.
The question of arts heritage - how it will be preserved digitally and can be made more accessible for future generations- was also addressed.
“In less than five years, most Australian households and businesses will be able to access data-rich content such as games, TV, enriched social networking and movies as a result of the Australian Government’s roll-out of the National Broadband Network,” the Australia Council for the Arts said in a statement.
“Most Australian households will also convert to digital television. As uptake of digital technologies increases, these platforms will play a more central role in the production, distribution and enjoyment of arts content.
“With the shift to online culture come new challenges, opportunities and questions.”
The strategy was available from www.australiacouncil.gov.au
16 June, 2009
Countries carve out
Australia and Papua New Guinea have joined forces to combat illegal logging.
The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding after months of negotiations.
Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke and PNG Minister for Forests, Belden Namah made the decision to develop the agreement after meeting in Port Moresby in August 2008.
Mr Burke said the agreement was another step forward in efforts to fight illegal logging and promote sustainability.
“Illegal logging can only be successfully tackled if the nations involved in the processing and manufacturing of timber products also participate in verification and certification,” he said.
“Every forestry worker in Australia knows that illegal logging is a direct threat to local jobs. That’s why we’re determined to get this right.”
As part of the agreement, the two countries indicated they would work more closely together on sustainable forest management, the certification of forests and in promoting improved trade, investment and sustainable development to improve verifying the legal origins of timber and timber products.
Other measures include identifying ways to support future growth in the forest industries of both countries and examining opportunities for closer collaboration on forest research.
Australia and PNG will cooperate through multilateral forums to promote sustainable forest management, certification, combat illegal logging and develop climate change mitigation approaches.
This is the second formal agreement on illegal logging between the Government and a key regional partner.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Indonesia in November 2008.
Discussions are also continuing with China on the traceability of forest products which have been processed and manufactured in China.
16 June, 2009
New car job to
The Australian and Victorian Governments have established a single point of contact for automotive component manufacturers seeking advice on their financial needs and assistance with industry programs.
The Supplier Assistance Coordinator position will be based with the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM).
Former Chairman of KPMG's Automotive Industry Focus Group, Stewart Leslie has been appointed to the position for 12 months.
Minister for Industry, Senator Kim Carr and Victorian Minister for Industry and Trade, Martin Pakula said a key task would be to help local automotive companies access the range of Government programs available to help them boost their productivity.
Programs under the Australian Government’s $6.2 billion New Car Plan for a Greener Future include the Automotive Transformation Scheme, the Automotive Supply Chain Development Program and the Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program. Victorian Government Programs include the Industry Transition Fund and the Automotive Manufacturing Action Plan.
The two Governments each provided $75,000 towards the new position.
Senator Carr said that the Australian automotive industry was the backbone of Australian manufacturing.
"This is an industry with the capacity to adapt and renew itself, an evolution that will be made easier by this new position,” he said.
Mr Pakula said that the Supplier Assistance Coordinator would provide independent, confidential advice and assistance.
“The coordinator will be a single point of contact with initial consultation services provided to both FAPM members and non-members free-of-charge,” Mr Pakula said.
Senator Carr urged all Australian automotive suppliers, especially those facing immediate challenges, to contact Mr Leslie at FAPM.
16 June, 2009
An agreement between the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments to return more water to the natural environment from the Murray River will also assist the State’s irrigation modernisation program.
goes to water
According to Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and Victorian Premier, John Brumby the reforms will allow the Federal Government to acquire 300 billion litres of water over the next five years from Victoria, on top of purchases already permitted under the State’s four per cent annual cap.
The Commonwealth was expected to acquire a total of 460 billion litres from willing sellers over that period.
Prime Minister Rudd and Premier Brumby said the agreement underlined the importance of securing water for rivers and wetlands while investing in sustainable, efficient and productive measures for irrigators and communities.
Mr Rudd and Mr Brumby said the agreement would ensure greater coordination of Government purchases with the Northern Victoria Irrigation Modernisation Project, a $2 billion program updating irrigation infrastructure in the State’s north.
Subject to a review of the modernisation project, Victoria will phase out the annual cap on permanent water trades from irrigation districts from July 2011, with plans to remove it entirely by 2014.
Mr Brumby said this would allow communities to adjust to large volumes of water being traded out of their region.
“This is a good deal for Victorian farmers, regional communities and the Murray River,” he said.
“Under this agreement, buybacks will be targeted at less productive areas while irrigation infrastructure is modernised and reconfigured to ensure Victorian farmers have a more productive and sustainable future.”
Mr Rudd said Australian was facing a “critical situation” in the Murray-Darling Basin as a result of over-allocation, long-term drought and the impacts of climate change.
“The Australian Government is determined to restore the Basin’s rivers and wetlands to health, and help irrigation communities adjust to a future with less water,” he said.
“Longer-term, Commonwealth environmental purchases across the Basin will help to smooth the transition for irrigation communities to new, lower, sustainable diversion limits that can be expected when the new Basin Plan takes effect.”
Under the agreement the Commonwealth reaffirmed an in-principle commitment to allocate up to $1 billion to Stage 2 of the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project, to help upgrade irrigation equipment.
Water trades associated with the Commonwealth's Small Block Irrigator Exit Grant Package in Victoria will be also allowed to proceed immediately, regardless of the four per cent cap.
16 June, 2009
PS pays in Tasmania
Public servants are to bear the brunt of the Tasmanian State Government’s budget cuts, with 800 expected to lose their jobs.
Tasmanian Treasurer, Michael Aird reportedly said expressions of interest for voluntary redundancies would commence in the second half of this year.
Mr Aird said jobs in the health, education and police services would not be affected.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported that in November 2008 one in 10 employed people worked as independent contractors.
According to the ABS there were 967,100 people working as independent contractors in their main job during the month and an additional 134,100 working as independent contractors in their second job.
The Bureau also found that 5% of people with jobs had found them through a
labour hire firm or employment agency with about 22 per cent being paid by the firm.
Radio program takes award
SBS Radio’s Alchemy program, which targets a youth audience, has won two New York Festival Radio Broadcasting Awards.
The Stolen Generation – Alchemy Special, which was broadcast during the national Apology, received a Silver Award as well as one from the United Nations Department of Information.
Director of Radio at SBS, Paula Masselos said it was a testament to the quality of programming being produced by SBS Radio.
“We are unique in the world for the breadth of content that we cover and the range of languages in which we broadcast,” she said.
Women’s year seeks ambassadors
Nominations are open for Ambassadors for the Year of Women in Local Government 2010.
Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA) was calling for suitable men and women to act as Ambassadors for the year.
National President of LGMA, Neil Hartley said the Ambassador program aimed to encourage and enlighten the Local Government sector on the benefits of a diverse workplace and the benefits that women can bring to leadership roles, and to inspire women to become more involved in Local Government.
Scientists go mobile
Mobile phones are proving to be useful to the advancement of science, with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation praising their uses.
The CSIRO says ‘citizen scientists’ have been using digital cameras, phones with inbuilt GPS and other devices to help researchers collect data.
The latest edition of the CSIRO magazine ECOS, features an article about how the public has helped the Organisation monitor whale shark movements and record calls from ephemeral swamps to help build a comprehensive picture of changes in the environment.
ECOS can be accessed at www.ecosmagazine.com
Free work for lawyers
Retired lawyers and those on a career break will be encouraged to undertake pro bono (or free) work to help the community.
The Government will allocate $40,000 to the National Pro Bono Resource Centre for the project.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said lawyers approaching retirement and those taking a break from their careers were a valuable and underutilised resource for providing pro bono assistance, particularly in regional and rural areas of Australia where there was a shortage of lawyers.
“This funding will create opportunities for lawyers' skills and experience to be utilised and to facilitate their involvement in pro bono activities,” Mr McClelland said.
More rangers for NT
Five new ranger positions are to be created in the Northern Territory to protect more than 300,000 hectares of the fragile Angas Downs.
The area, which belongs to its traditional owners the Anangu, is protected as Australia’s 29th Indigenous Protected Area.
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett said the way was open for new training and job opportunities.
“I am pleased that Australian Government funding has already created five-full-time Working on Country ranger jobs on Angas Downs,” Mr Garrett said.
“The Indigenous rangers are doing jobs they value and are important role models in their community.”
“By declaring their lands an IPA, the traditional owners open the way to further training and jobs in environment conservation and cultural protection - work which benefits all Australians.”
SBS in cyclone relief
Broadcaster, SBS and aid agency Austcare have raised almost $250,000 from the Cyclone Nargis Radiothon Appeal to assist recovery in Burma.
The fundraising effort was held from 1 to 13 June.
Director of SBS Radio, Paula Masselos said the result demonstrated the significant power of radio and the generosity of listeners, viewers and online community.
She said the funds would contribute to Austcare’s provision of emergency relief to the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been devastated by the cyclone, supplying food, temporary shelter, clothing and blankets and medical aid.
The aid agency has already initiated work in 107 villages and two temporary settlements, with a total population of 42,000 people. By the end of July they hope to reach 27,300 households, or 136,500 people.
Disability advocates funded
Thirteen disability advocacy providers are to receive additional funding as part of the National Disability Advocacy Program.
The Government will increase the providers’ funding to $100,000 to allow them to provide increased disability advocacy support for people with disability, their families and carers.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten said the Government had listened to calls from advocacy organisations for extra funding to meet the needs of people with disability in their community
"This funding will ensure these organisations can continue to meet demand for their important work," Mr Shorten said.
Education funding available
Higher education institutions have been invited to submit expressions of interest for project funding under the $11 billion Education Investment Fund.
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard and Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said institutions should outline strategic plans for infrastructure improvement to enhance teaching, learning, research and/or training capacity.
Expressions of interest close on 14 August 2008 and those short listed will be invited to submit full applications. Successful projects will be announced in July 2009.
APRA publishes levy paper
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has released a consultation paper in the lead up to the proposed financial sector levies for the 2009/10 financial year.
The paper looks at the potential impacts of the levies on each industry sector regulated by the Authority.
Interested parties are encouraged to comment on the paper, with more information on making a submission available from www.treasury.gov.au
Innovators get more
Applications for round two of the Federal Government’s Innovation Fund have opened following the announcement of successful projects under round one.
In order to receive funding projects should support jobs, work experience placements, training and mentoring opportunities through social enterprises and projects such as those that boost literacy, numeracy and language skills.
A list of successful round one projects and further information on the second round of funding was available from www.deewr.gov.au/Employment
9 June, 2009
PS flicks switch on
This week has been designated National E-security Awareness Week in a bid to alert computer and internet users of the dangers that lurk on the World Wide Web.
Over 30 organisations from the ICT industry, commercial business, State and Territory Government Agencies and the community have joined in the initiative.
A steering committee with representatives from Government and industry consulted with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to develop the week and a program of events has been developed to promote internet security, including ‘Change your Password Day’.
Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said even simple measures could help protect people from online dangers.
“No-one wants to lose their bank details to criminals or fall victim to an online scam and that’s why it’s important that people understand the simple steps they can take to stay smart online,” Senator Conroy said.
He said there were ways to improve internet security, such as improving and updating passwords; installing and updating security software; thinking before clicking on links or attachments from unknown sources; and taking precautions before giving away personal information online.
“I would like to encourage all Australians to take these simple steps to being more secure online, starting with updating their passwords,” Senator Conroy said.
The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Bankers’ Association made a joint announcement that they would participate in the event.
The ABA and AFP warned people to beware of hoax emails claiming to be from banks.
National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations at the AFP, Commander Neil Gaughan said consumers should be wary of emails asking for details such as PINs and logon details.
“It is no secret that criminals attempt to use payment systems to facilitate other serious criminal behaviour, including online child sex exploitation and drug trafficking,” Commander Gaughan said.
“We are seeing very sophisticated attacks from cybercriminals in a whole range of areas. Organised crime is using technology to enable their criminal enterprise and continue criminal activity.”
Chief Executive of the ABA, David Bell said smart and safe Internet use could minimise the chance of becoming victims of internet crime.
“There are steps people can take to make the criminal’s job harder,” he said.
He urged people to delete spam and scam emails, logon to internet banking by typing in their bank’s full web address and not to use public computers for internet banking.
He suggested people visit www.staysmartonline.gov.au for more information.
9 June, 2009
PS awards reward
Public Servants have featured prominently in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List with many members of the APS receiving recognition for excellence in service.,
The honours were announced by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
OFFICERS OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA - AO
David William BORTHWICK PSM AO
Former Secretary of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and
Deputy Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Allan Grantley GYNGELL AO
For service to international relations through contributions to the development of public and governmental debate on foreign and security policy.
Mr Gyngell has been appointed Director- General of the Office of National Assessments.
Steven James ROBINSON AO
For service to Australia's international interests through a significant and sustained contribution.
MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA- AM
Bruce Lawrence DAVIS PSM AM
For service to international relations through leadership of AusAID and the development and reform of Australia's overseas aid programs.
Mr Davis is Director-General of AusAID.
Malcolm John HAZELL CVO AM
For service to the community and to successive Australian Governments through senior positions in the Australian Public Service, and as Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia.
Professor David Murray HORNER AM
For service to higher education in the area of Australian military history and heritage as a researcher, author and academic.
Professor Horner is Professor of Australian Defence History, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, at the Australian National University.
Dr Roger Malcolm LOUGH AM
For service to national security and defence capability through leadership roles with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.
Dr Lough has been Chief Defence Scientist with DSTO since 2003.
Justice John Ronald MANSFIELD AM
For service to the law and to the judiciary, to a range of professional associations, and to the arts community of South Australia.
Justice Mansfield has been a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia since 1996.
Professor John Alan RICHARDS AM
For service to electrical engineering as an academic, through professional associations, and as a contributor to the development of space science.
Emeritus Professor Richards is with the Australian National University.
Professor James Stanislaus WILLIAMS AM
For service to the physical sciences and engineering through education, research and administrative roles, particularly in the area of semiconductor physics.
Professor Williams has been Director of the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering at the Australian National University since 2002.
Dr Colin Walter WRIGLEY AM
For service to primary industry, particularly to grain science as a researcher, and to the development of methods for improving wheat quality.
Dr Wrigley was Chief Research Scientist with the CSIRO and is an honorary research fellow.
MEDALS IN THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA – OAM
Stephen Roderick AHERN OAM
For service to radio broadcasting as an educator, media trainer and author.
Mr Ahern is Director of Radio at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.
Mark Stephen CRANFIELD OAM
For service to Australian folklore and to the recording of oral histories.
Mr Cranfield is an Oral Historian at the National Library of Australia.
Jeremy Phillip LONG OAM
For service to the Indigenous community, to the public sector, and to humanitarian groups.
Mr Long works on Indigenous issues with the Australia Council for the Arts.
Dr Peter SCHIFF OAM
For service to health in the field of haematology, and to the Jewish community.
Dr Schiff was Medical Director of the Bioplasma Division of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Ltd.
Dr Richard SCHODDE OAM
For service to science, particularly in the field of ornithology.
Dr Schodde has been an Honorary Research Fellow with the CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology (now known as Sustainable Ecosystems) since his retirement in 2000.
PUBLIC SERVICE MEDAL – PSM
Dr Ronald Francis CAMERON PSM
For outstanding public service in the field of nuclear science and safety.
Dr Cameron is a nuclear scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in a range of senior executive positions.
Ian CARRUTHERS PSM
For outstanding public service in expanding the scope for science to support decision making on environmental matters.
Mr Carruthers has played a key leadership role in climate change issues in Australia and internationally including the country’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.
Andrew Leigh (Drew) CLARKE PSM
For outstanding public service in driving significant reform of the energy market.
Mr Clarke is Deputy Secretary in the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and has demonstrated outstanding leadership and skills in driving the Council of Australian Government’s energy market reform agenda.
Ellen Erika DUNNE PSM
For outstanding public service in driving and leading innovation, change and improvement across Medicare Australia.
Ms Dunne is the General Manager, People and Values Division in Medicare Australia and has strategically driven innovation, change and improvement across the agency.
Marc INNES-BROWN PSM
For outstanding public service as Australian Ambassador to Iraq in advancing Australia's strategic, political and economic interests.
Mr Innes-Brown was Australian Ambassador to Iraq from August 2006 until August 2008 and made a major contribution to the evolution of Australia’s involvement and profile in Iraq.
Coral Lee McLEAN CSC PSM
For outstanding public service in the management of complex and sensitive human resource issues in the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Mrs McLean is Manager, Human Resource Programs and Coordination Section in DIISR and is widely respected for her contribution to the management and resolution of complex and sensitive issues.
Timothy Andrew O'NEILL PSM
For outstanding public service in the development of online border protection in the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
Mr O’Neill is Manager of the Online Targeting Team at the Australian Customs and Border Protection and has demonstrated significant vision and innovation in managing the internet targeting function.
Jeffrey Richard PREISS PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and field deployment of infrastructure to provide increased protection and survivability to Australian Defence Force aircraft and personnel during operational activities.
Mr Preiss retired from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in July 2008 but had led a team which developed Australia’s world class capability in airborne countermeasures testing, development and modification.
Meghan Elizabeth QUINN PSM
For outstanding public service in the development of climate change policy.
Ms Quinn is head of the Climate Change Modelling Unit at Treasury and has delivered groundbreaking analysis in relation to the development of the Australian Government’s climate change policy and the Garnaut Review of Climate Change.
Damien John ROBERTS PSM
For outstanding public service in the provision of advocacy services for members of the Australian Defence Force.
Mr Roberts is Business Manager for the Directorate of Defence Counsel Services in Defence and has excelled in the management of advocacy services for Australian Defence Force personnel and others.
Olivia Fiona SHEPHERD PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of Australia's electronic visa programs.
Mrs Shepherd is a leader in the Tasmanian Office of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship with responsibility for the development and implementation of three of Australia’s largest electronic visitor programs: the Working Holiday, eTourist and eVisitor programs.
Brian Paul STEWART PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of significant reforms to information and communications technology across the Australian Government.
Mr Stewart manages the development and implementation of information technology and communications technology policy for the Australian Government.
Michael Francis THOMPSON PSM
For outstanding public service in the management and handling of highly classified material for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Mr Thompson has provided exceptional service to DFAT in the management and handling of highly classified documents.
9 June, 2009
The laws governing equal opportunity for women in the workplace are to be reviewed to ensure they are keeping up with changing conditions.
to be reviewed
The review has been ordered by the Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, who said the effectiveness and efficiency of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) would be examined.
Ms Plibersek said the EOWA’s underlying legislation, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 would also be examined.
Acting Director of the EOWA, Mairi Steele welcomed the announcement.
“Despite gradual improvements, women continue to be under-represented at senior levels, are still paid less than men, face discrimination and generally do not have the same opportunities as men in the workplace,” Ms Steele said.
“The review will examine why progress has stalled and establish whether we need a new approach.”
She said the EOWA had worked with businesses over the past decade to improve the lives of thousands of working women and that the review was a “great opportunity to look at progressive measures to ensure women don’t continue to be disadvantaged.”
Ms Steele said the review would commence in June 2009 and would examine all aspects of the Agency’s activities, including coverage of legislation, reporting on equal opportunity programs, providing advice and assistance to employers and promoting equal opportunity for women through EOWA awards.
She said she hoped the Agency’s reporting organisations would participate in the review.
“However, while the review is underway, it will be ‘business as usual’ and organisations that are required to report to EOWA under the EOWW Act need to continue to do so,” she said.
The review, the first in over a decade, is expected to take several months to complete.
Ms Plibersek said the Government would issue a discussion paper as part of its community consultations with employers, employees, unions, women’s advocacy groups and members of the public.
“The review is timely,” she said.
“The EOWW legislation needs to keep pace with the economic, social and legislative changes that have occurred since the last inquiry in 1998.”
9 June, 2009
Auditor connects with
The Australian National Audit Office has published a Better Practice Guide that will assist Departments and Agencies continue to operate in the face of administrative, physical or potentially disastrous disruptions to their business.
Entitled Business Continuity Management: Building resilience in public sector entities, the 148-page Guide identifies seven elements required for a business continuity management program and includes case histories and a workbook.
According to the ANAO, business continuity management is an essential component of good public sector governance and integrating the elements to build resilience provides the “tactical, strategic and operational response” needed to deal effectively with a busines disruption.
“It is the capability that assists in preventing, preparing for, responding to, managing and recovering from the impacts of a disruptive event,” the Guide says.
According to the ANAO, disruptive events could be ‘acute’ - such as a fire - ‘creeping’ – such as a series of minor IT failures that lead to a large system collapse - or ‘sustained’ -such as a health pandemic.
“Business continuity management treats the negative consequences of an event and can create opportunities for benefit and gain,” it says.
“Entities that respond positively to a disruptive event can position themselves to recover quickly and improve their long-term business performance.”
The ANAO said the elements of a best-practice business continuity management program were:
The Better Practice Guide can be accessed from the Audit Office website at www.anao.gov.au
- Managing business continuity as an integrated program of work;
- Embedding business continuity management into an entity’s culture;
- Analysing the entity and its content;
- Designing the entity’s business continuity approach;
- Building entity resilience;
- Activating and deploying the plan in the event of a disruption; and
- Maintaining the program and plan by testing, exercising, updating and reviewing.
9 June, 2009
Super study to
A comprehensive examination and review of Australia’s superannuation system has been ordered by the former Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Senator Nick Sherry.
Senator Sherry announced the Review into the governance, efficiency, structure and operation of Australia’s superannuation system, as well as the membership of an Expert Panel to conduct the review and its Terms of Reference, prior to his elevation to Assistant Treasurer.
The announcement followed the release of an industry-wide Communique of Principles, which included a resolution to examine the structure, operation and efficiency of the superannuation system.
Senator Sherry said the Terms of Reference would cover four areas: governance, efficiency, structure and operation.
He said compulsory and voluntary aspects of superannuation would be examined, as would maximising the retirement incomes of Australians, improving regulation and reducing business costs.
Senator Sherry said after 20 years of compulsory superannuation, the Government and industry agreed a thorough examination of the system was due.
“This is a landmark process, supported by all parts of the superannuation industry, which for the first time ever, will examine the governance, efficiency, structure and operation of our $1.1 trillion superannuation system,” he said.
“Our system is strong and people should have confidence in it – but let’s work to make sure that we keep it that way and that we boost the retirement incomes of all Australians.”
The panel of experts appointed to head the review includes full-time Chair, Jeremy Cooper who will move from his current role as Deputy Chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Five part-time members – Sandy Grant, Brian Wilson, Kevin Casey, Greg Evans and Dr David Gruen – will also sit on the panel.
The panel will examine how the system is governed, focusing on its legal and regulatory framework, trustee knowledge, skills and training, and an assessment of risk surrounding the use of debt and leverage.
The system’s efficiency will also be reviewed, with the Terms of Reference listing the removal of unnecessary complexities as a priority, along with ensuring cost effectiveness.
Ways in which competition in the system can be encouraged will also be examined.
The panel is expected to begin the review in the new financial year and will call for public consultation before reporting back to the Government by 30 June 2010.
The review is to be supported by a secretariat, led by Treasury and with staff from ASIC, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority and the superannuation industry.
Senator Sherry said the Government would advertise the position of Deputy Chairman of ASIC shortly.
9 June, 2009
Union’s flu advice
The Community and Public Sector Union has issued advice to its members about the implications of Human Swine Flu in the workplace.
is good medicine
In an online statement, the CPSU said anyone who contracted the flu, Influenza H1N1, should take paid personal or sick leave consistent with their workplace agreement.
The union said leave entitlements such as carers’ leave would also be available to those who needed to care for affected family members, or due to situations such as the forced closure of a child’s school.
Employees should advise their Agency immediately if someone in their family had contracted or was suspected of contracting Swine Flu.
“Where there is a reasonable suspicion that you have also contracted Swine Flu, your Agency should take appropriate steps to minimise the risk of further infection,” the statement said.
The CPSU said if a Public Servant was exposed to Swine Flu in the course of doing their duties, their Agency should send them home pending test results to minimise the risk of spreading the influenza.
“Your Agency should also provide you with a referral to a doctor for appropriate medical tests,” the statement said.
“If you are directed to not attend work under these circumstances, the Agency should provide you with full pay or give you paid miscellaneous leave. This should not be deducted from your personal/sick leave credits.”
The CPSU said if Public Servants contracted Swine Flu during the course of their duties, they would be entitled to make a workers’ compensation claim.
In cases where a whole workplace is exposed to the influenza, an Agency may need to take action to minimise the risk of further infection, and affected employees and the Union should be consulted.
The union said further information was available from www.healthemergency.gov.au
9 June, 2009
CSA gets smack from
The Child Support Agency has been criticised by the Commonwealth Ombudsman for making mistakes when issuing orders to prevent its clients from leaving the country.
In his report, Child Support Agency, administration of Departure Prohibition Order powers, theOmbudsman, Professor John McMillan said a lack of “quality” in some CSA decision making processes regarding the Orders (DPOs) could lead to serious errors or result in their invalidation.
“Depriving a person of the freedom of movement is a serious act,” Professor McMillan said.
“The CSA must not make mistakes when exercising this power.”
He said the CSA was given the power to prevent clients with overdue child support debts from leaving Australia eight years ago, in 2001.
He said although his review found child support collection figures from 2005 to 2008 suggested DPOs were “an effective tool to assist the CSA to collect child support from a reluctant payer”, complaints about the CSA’s use of DPOs had grown since 2006.
Following an investigation of two complaints, the Ombudsman became concerned the Agency was “routinely” issuing DPOs in cases where the clients, who had strong ties to Australia, were intending to travel overseas for only short periods “and there was nothing to suggest that they would dispose of, or hide, assets overseas.”
As at 8 May 2009, the CSA had 1,004 DPOs in force.
The report raised concerns about the CSA’s compliance strategy for 2008–10, which included an increased emphasis on the use of DPOs as a means of collecting child support, with a target to issue an additional 4,500 DPOs by 2010.
“It is questionable whether it is appropriate for the CSA to have such targets for matters of this type,” Professor McMillan said.
“The immediate challenge is for the CSA to focus its attention on the quality of its DPO processes, including the provision of advice to recipients on their right to challenge an Order.”
Professor McMillan congratulated the Agency for acknowledging the report findings and said the Agency had advised that immediate steps had been undertaken to improve policies, procedures and the administration of DPOs.
A copy of the Ombudsman’s report was available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
9 June, 2009
DIAC goes green
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has unveiled its National Environment Policy.
Choosing World Environment Day on 5 June for the launch, the occasion was marked by Department Secretary, Andrew Metcalfe planting a tree outside DIAC’s national office in Canberra.
Mr Metcalfe said the Policy was part of the Department’s commitment to reduce the environmental impacts of its operational activities.
“The policy recognises that all activities, products and services can affect the environment,” he said.
“Through some very simple measures staff can reduce our environmental footprint – and at the same time lessen our operating costs.”
Mr Metcalfe said DIAC was consistently below the Government’s energy targets and had recorded a 1.5 per cent reduction in energy use in 2007-08.
“Turning off lights and unused electrical equipment – and making sure you are aware of how the after-hours air-conditioning system works – won’t affect your comfort or productivity, but can make a difference,” he said.
Mr Metcalfe said the Department had introduced a waste management system in 2001 that managed 52 tonnes of mixed recyclables, 85 tonnes of organic waste and 15 tonnes of cardboard annually.
World Environment Day was first held in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.
This year’s theme was Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change.
The tree planted by Mr Metcalfe, a Yellow Box, stands at the forecourt of DIAC’s national Canberra office.
9 June, 2009
Defence makes book
The Department of Defence has published a booklet setting out details of its 2030 Strategic Reform Program and how it expects to realise savings of around $20 billion.
on savings goals
The booklet, The Strategic Reform Program – Delivering Force 2030, follows the 2009 Defence White Paper and outlines reforms which could help Defence improve accountability, planning and productivity.
In a joint statement, Secretary of Defence, Nick Warner and the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said the money saved over a 10 year period would be reinvested in Defence.
Mr Warner and Air Chief Marshal Houston said the savings would be used to deliver stronger military capabilities, remediate areas where there had not been enough funding in the past and to modernise the Defence enterprise “backbone” to support the force.
“After support to current military operations, there is no higher priority for Defence than to deliver these reforms,” they said.
“Defence is committed to delivering the headline savings figure of $20 billion over the next 10 years.”
Mr Warner and Air Chief Marshal Houston said the evolving and long-term nature of the Program meant Defence needed to be flexible enough to modify steps and identify promising new areas for making savings and efficiencies as the Program developed.
For more information or a copy of the booklet visit www.defence.gov.au
9 June, 2009
ACMA joins NZ
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs to join forces in the fight against internet spam.
for spam wars
The two Agencies have agreed to establish channels of communication so they can move quickly to respond to challenges in what they say is an ever-changing spam environment.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said as 99 per cent of spam that reached Australia originated overseas, cooperation with foreign countries and regulators was vital.
Mr Chapman said the MOU allowed the Agencies to promote and foster the assistance and exchange of information relevant to their regulatory functions.
“It also reflects the historically strong working relationship and economic ties between the two countries,” he said.
“Spam is a global problem that requires coordinated global action.”
Deputy Secretary of NZ Internal Affairs, Keith Manch said the MOU was a “pragmatic document” that would support the anti-spam elements of their campaign against cyber crime.
Under the terms of the MOU, requests for information extend to confidential material, as well as assistance for compliance and enforcement matters, while taking into account the legal, policy and administrative limits on the powers of each Agency to exchange the information.
Australia has anti-spam agreements in place with over 30 countries.
9 June, 2009
Air navigation gear
Critically important air navigation equipment is being put through its paces this month as Airservices Australia’s Flight Inspection Service travels the country testing equipment at airports.
is shown the way
Brisbane-based Flight Inspection Staff (FIS) will undertake 42 separate routine or special flight inspections on equipment, many of which will focus on regional areas.
Staff will look at over 500 navigational aids installed and maintained by Airservices for flight safety at regional and major airports, aerodromes and airstrips on a three year rotational basis.
Equipment to be tested includes instrument landing systems, distance measuring equipment, non-directional beacons and wide area multilateration navigation aids, as well as surveillance radars.
Specialist air crew who operate a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air aircraft and equipment will conduct the testing while airborne.
The data will be assessed and analysed by Airservices maintenance and engineering staff to ensure each navigation aid is operating accurately.
Queensland inspections will occur at Brisbane, Cairns, Mackay, Maroochydore and Jacobs Well.
NSW inspections will take place in Sydney and Cowra, Tasmanian cities will include Hobart, Launceston, Nile and Tea Tree and in Victoria, Mangalore, Rockdale, Avalon and Moorabbin will be tested.
FIS will also examine Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory as well as Christmas Island.
9 June, 2009
Land rights lecture
A call to eliminate racism from Australia’s land rights system and for a treaty to be signed between white and black were the main messages delivered in the Mabo lecture this year.
is down to earth
Presented in Melbourne by the Chair of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, Les Malezer, the lecture is named in honour of Koiki Mabo whose land rights battle ended up in the High Court and led to the establishment of Aboriginal land rights in Australia.
“If Koiki Mabo were alive today he would be an angry man,” Mr Malezer said.
“The rights he won in the High Court have been eroded away by Government, Courts and socio-economic pressure.”
Mr Malezer criticised the current system, saying it had “constrained” debate and prevented the native title process from working.
“It is a process that has been proven to be racially discriminatory, removed from the principles of land rights which has totally replaced the land rights agenda of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” he said.
Mr Malezer said a treaty addressing Indigenous sovereignty was needed between Indigenous people and the Government, and also recommended a process similar to that of New Zealand’s Waitangi Tribunal, which gives the final decision to the Tribunal, rather than the Minister of the Crown.
“Australia has international human rights obligations to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights to land and sea are respected and recognised,” he said.
“The procedures for recognising Indigenous ownership of land must be revised, ensuring that outcomes are achieved without undue delay and that there is agreement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Government about how to proceed.”
The meeting was held at the 10th annual Native Title Conference which is hosted by the Wurundjeri people and convened jointly by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and Native Title Services Victoria.
Mr Malezer was the winner of the 2008 Human Rights Medal. A full copy of his speech is available from www.aiatsis.gov.au
9 June, 2009
ASIO HQ is
The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, ASIO, has unveiled plans for its new central office in Canberra, posting full details and designs on its corporate website.
The new building will accommodate increases in the number of ASIO staff following recommendations made in the 2005 Taylor Review that the Agency boost personnel numbers to 1,860 by 2010-11.
The new HQ is to be located in the Canberra suburb of Parkes, between Constitution Avenue and Parkes Way.
Work on the project is to commence in July this year with the building expected to be occupied from 2012.
On its website, ASIO said key criteria when selecting the site included the capacity to locate all staff at a single location; the capacity to meet security measures; future expansion; proximity to the Australian Intelligence Community and other partner Agencies; and value for money.
The building would also be designed with independence in mind to allow critical functions to continue should there be a failure in connectivity to external services.
Design principles are to be in keeping with the National Capital Plan and the Griffin Legacy.
“The concept design has been developed carefully to ensure the new building will take its place amongst Australia’s national institutions in Canberra,” the statement said.
The design has a 5 star energy rating and will utilise renewable energy sources and energy efficient fittings and finishings.
Bovis Lend Lease was awarded the construction contract in 2007.
The building is expected to cost over half a billion dollars, a 15 per cent increase on original projections.
Further details and an artist’s impression of the building were available at www.asio.gov.au
9 June, 2009
The national network of Landcare facilitators is to continue, with the Commonwealth agreeing to fund it for another four years.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke said the decision to keep the scheme was made after discussions with local Landcare groups and support from a number of Members of Parliament.
Mr Burke said Landcare was established in 1989 to help farmers adopt sustainable farming practices.
“Farmers have consistently told me this Landcare network is a social glue as well as an important sustainable farming initiative,” Mr Burke said.
He said it was estimated that approximately three-quarters of farmers were involved in or benefited from the knowledge shared through the network.
The Government has allocated $33.6 million over four years for initiatives such as the Caring for our Country fund, which will allow 56 Landcare coordinator positions to be filled nation-wide.
The coordinators assist producers with sustainable management of their farm businesses and promote sustainable farming practices.
Mr Burke said transitional funding will see current Landcare coordinators continue in their existing positions until the end of the year.
“Linked with important research we are funding into soil and livestock emissions and climate change adaptation, this network will help to make the agricultural sector even more resilient,” he said.
The coordinators will link and support Landcare and production groups involved in sustainable farming practices and on-farm natural resource management.
Mr Burke said from next year, the coordinator positions would be funded under an open, competitive process to ensure broad representation across different regions and agricultural industries.
9 June, 2009
ASIC creates demand
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has set up a new online service to help people caught up in the growing financial crisis.
for market service
Commissioner of ASIC, Michael Dwyer said the new portal had been designed specifically for shareholders, investors and others likely to be impacted by corporate insolvency.
Mr Dwyer said the current economic environment had lead to an increase in companies experiencing financial difficulty and becoming insolvent.
“When a company experiences financial distress or becomes insolvent, there are likely to be a wide range of people affected, including directors, creditors, employees, and often, shareholders and investors,” he said.
“ASIC now provides specific information on its website to give greater clarity and assistance to these stakeholders, including direction to further advice and information.”
The portal, which is available at www.asic.gov.au/insolvency, provides information specific to each stakeholder group about their rights and obligations and provides answers to frequently asked questions.
Advice about the technical jargon of insolvency and common forms of corporate insolvency administration is also available.
Mr Dwyer said ASIC wanted to ensure company directors knew they could not trade while insolvent, and had to take appropriate action at the first signs of difficulty.
“The consequences and impact of corporate insolvency, and flow-on effects to other stakeholder groups, can be mitigated or minimised if directors act early and responsibly,” he said.
“We encourage all company directors to familiarise themselves with this information and ensure they understand their responsibilities in relation to insolvent trading.”
Mr Dwyer said the website could also help company creditors and employees identify possible signs of insolvency in companies they were involved in.
New information has been added for shareholders and investors who own shares in or have invested through failed companies.
“Company insolvencies are getting more complex and each circumstance is different,” Mr Dwyer said.
“We recognise that the portal won’t be able to answer every question but we want to ensure people have easy access to clear and independent information about insolvency during these often stressful times.”
He encouraged insolvency practitioners and the bodies that represented various stakeholder groups to refer to the portal when liaising with clients.
9 June, 2009
Curtin upgrade more
The Australian Government is to spend $550,000 restoring, protecting and conserving former Prime Minister, John Curtin’s house in Cottesloe, Western Australia.
than window dressing
Minister for Heritage, Peter Garrett said the funding would help the Western Australian branch of the National Trust of Australia make the house accessible for community use.
Part of the funds was expected to go towards web-based education programs and on-site initiatives to allow visitors to learn about the history of the former Prime Minister.
Former Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner said Mr Curtin was one of Australia’s finest leaders and had “led this country through some of its darkest days.”
“His unstinting labours during World War II were the final stage of a lifetime of devotion to the Australian nation and the Australian people: to their security, their welfare, their opportunities,” Senator Faulkner said.
“This ordinary Australian home is part of an extraordinary Australian story. It tells us about the private life of a very public figure.”
Mr Garrett said the project, which had received funding under the Jobs Fund, would lead to employment opportunities in the local building industry.
“The Australian Government’s Jobs Fund is designed to support and create jobs and develop skills that build both community and social infrastructure,” he said.
The house is the third heritage project to receive funding under the Jobs Fund, with approximately $2 million for conservation works allocated to Old Government House in Parramatta and more than $360,000 for walking and bike trails at Budj Bim in Victoria.
9 June, 2009
Two new Departments have been set up and Government service delivery given greater prominence in administrative changes to the Ministry announced by the Prime Minister last week.
The new Departments are Early Childhood Education and Childcare (under Minister Kate Ellis) and Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery under Minister Warren Snowdon.
The Prime Minster also announced that the Parliamentary Secretary for Government Service Delivery, Mark Arbib, would become the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery.
Under other changes, Senator Joe Ludwig becomes Secretary to Cabinet and Special Minister of State and former Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen takes on a number of other responsibilities and enters Cabinet.
ACMA branches out
A new Digital Television Branch is to be established within the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The new branch will be placed within the Authorities Inputs to Industry Division and will provide the ACMA with a single point of contact and accountability for all television digitisation work.
The establishment of the new branch will help ACMA meet the challenges of switching from analogue to digital television.
TAX takes on Optus
The Australian Taxation Office has announced it is in the final stages of negotiating a contract with telecommunications carrier Optus to provide the first of its three outsourced ICT service bundles, Managed Network Services, or MNS.
The ATO’s David Butler said the MNS bundle included data and voice services, telephones, wide and local area network services, video conferencing, and its call centre infrastructure, and was currently costing the Office about $60.5 million a year. .
Mr Butler said while talks with Optus were in the final stages, failure to complete the process satisfactorily could see other potential suppliers brought back into the process.
He said two other bundles were still being actioned included End User Computing which was expected to be finalised by March 2010 and Centralised Computing by mid-2010.
Second channel at SBS
The Special Broadcasting Service has launched its second free-to-air digital channel ‘SBS Two.’
The new channel brings to 10 the total number of free digital TV channels now available across the networks.
According to SBS, the new channel will offer a mix of programs including sport, documentaries, films, news and current events as well as more ‘in-language’ programs.
Treaty for Singapore training
Australia and Singapore have signed a treaty to renew Singapore’s use of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
The treaty governs the conduct of ‘Exercise Wallaby’, one of Singapore’s largest military exercises, and was first signed in 1995.
It has been updated to further clarify responsibilities under local environment law.
Treadmill standards off
New mandatory safety standards for treadmills have been announced following concerns by consumer regulators of the dangers posed to young children.
In the past three years, treadmills have been linked to over 100 serious accidents, including the severe burning of children.
The new standards come into effect from 1 December 2009 and state all treadmills sold in Australia must include labels warning of dangers to children.
War cemetery being built
Construction of a war cemetery at Fromelles in France has commenced following the announcement of a builder by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Beton-Bouw Bentein BVBA is to build the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, the first new war cemetery in almost fifty years.
The remains of up to 400 Australian and British servicemen who died during the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916 are to be re-buried in the cemetery.
Report fuels better safety
The National Petroleum Safety Authority has launched its first annual Offshore Health and Safety Performance Report.
The report found while Australia had “reasonable” safety record, there was room for improvement.
It highlighted the challenges facing the Australian industry including the need to improve leadership, skills shortages, managing ageing facilities and minimising gas releases.
The report was available from www.nopsa.gov.au
Submarine system rescued
Royal Australian Navy emergency response times will be improved following the relocation of the LR5 submarine rescue system from the United States to Australia.
The move will allow the Navy to exercise its capability with Collins Class Submarines.
The Navy will resume its annual submarine escape and rescue exercise ‘Black Carillon’, which is planned for late this year.
Disability awards on
Nominations are open for the Australian Disability Enterprises Excellence Awards.
The Awards are run by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and honour significant contributions made by Australian Disability Enterprises to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
Finalists will receive their awards at the National Disability Services Conference in Sydney in September
Nominations close on 20 July, with further information available by phoning 1800 108 196 or visiting www.facsia.gov.au
2 June, 2009
New voice recognition
Centrelink has installed a new voice-recognition telephone system to enable clients to do more business over the phone.
scheme is sound idea
Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig said the new technology would enable Centrelink clients to carry out routine business over the phone without having to wait in a phone or office queue.
Senator Ludwig said the new system would give them access to services during the day and night, seven days a week.
“The Australian Government understands many families are too busy to go to an office and prefer doing business in other ways,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The voice-recognition service offers customers the flexibility to choose how and when they interact with us.”
Senator Ludwig said the system used voiceprints and pattern recognition software to verify the speaker’s identity after they had registered.
He said the service would free up Centrelink staff to take care of complex cases. Senator Ludwig said families and students were already using the new biometric voice verification system, which was currently operating out of Centrelink's Port Macquarie Call Centre.
“Initially, Centrelink is aiming to contact 60,000 customers identified as being suitable candidates, to ask them whether they want to sign up,” he said.
“Customers who agree to register have their voice pattern recorded and give answers to personalised security questions.”
Senator Ludwig said the system was built in partnership with Telstra and was developed over almost seven years at a cost of around $2 million.
“Centrelink is combining smart thinking and technology to save time for customers and make it easier and more convenient for them to get the assistance they need,” he said.
He said the automated self-service was available from 3am to midnight on Mondays, 4am to 1am from Tuesday to Friday, 4am to 8pm on Saturdays and 4am to 10pm on Sundays.
2 June, 2009
Allegations that Defence staff conducted a covert investigation and leaked personal information about the Minister for Defence are “entirely without foundation”, a Defence review has found.
blown out of water
The Secretary of Defence, Nick Warner said the allegations regarding Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon’s relationship with Chinese business woman Helen Liu, were very serious and, if proven correct, could have led to the laying of criminal charges.
“The Defence review was extremely thorough and comprehensive,” Mr Warner said.
“It found no evidence to support allegations that Defence officials had investigated either the Minister or Ms Liu.”
Mr Warner said the investigation confirmed no Defence investigative authority or intelligence agency was aware of Ms Liu before allegations arose in the media on 26 March this year.
He said it also found no evidence to support claims that Defence officials used the Defence Signals Directorate to improperly access the Minister's IT systems.
Mr Warner said all relevant areas of Defence were reviewed during the investigation, which involved more than 1,700 people from across the Department, over 1,300 statutory declarations and over 600 interviews.
“The investigation was conducted with complete professionalism,” he said.
“Independent best practice guidance on the investigative methodology was provided by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.”
“External security intelligence and law enforcement Agencies were consulted, and the Commonwealth Ombudsman was briefed.”
Mr Warner said the review had affirmed the integrity of the Defence organisation and its people.
“I am not surprised at this outcome,” he said.
“These allegations have attacked the integrity of the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force and had the potential to damage important institutions that defend Australia’s security.”
Mr Warner thanked all staff involved in the investigation for participating.
On 27 March, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Ian Carnell announced he would inquire into allegations that Defence Signals Directorate staff improperly accessed the Minister's IT equipment. This inquiry is continuing.
Mr Warner said Defence would continue to cooperate with Mr Carnell’s investigation and he looked forward to his findings.
2 June, 2009
Briggs sees need
Australian Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs has called for Government service delivery to be more “citizen centred”.
for clearer focus
In a speech at the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, Commissioner Briggs said while the Public Service had become “very good” at designing and delivering efficient programs, there needed to be a greater focus on the client.
She said Public Servants played a key role in improving the relationship between the Government and the public and that a “citizen centred” approach would “reduce the frustration and stress involved in accessing Government funded services”.
“We need to look at program effectiveness, not in terms of how easy is it for us to manage and deliver, but how well it addresses the needs of those to whom it is being delivered,” Commissioner Briggs said.
“We need to deconstruct our services, and then rebuild them back to front—to tailor them more to the needs of people and less to the structures of Government.”
Setting out her vision of “citizen centred” service delivery, Commissioner Briggs said the ultimate goal was to make the Government seem approachable.
She said ideally, services would be “easy to locate and understand” and the public would be able to choose from a range of service models based on their particular needs, without having to understand which Agencies delivered which services.
“Authentication and personal information would need to be provided only once in order to access Government services, and diverse transactions would be grouped and completed together,” Commissioner Briggs said.
The text of the Commissioner’s speech was available at www.apsc.gov.au
2 June, 2009
The Government is to establish a new Statutory Office of Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services.
to coordinate reforms
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said the Coordinator-General would implement reforms in housing, infrastructure and employment in remote Indigenous communities.
“Supported by the Council of Australian Governments, the establishment of this position will ensure Government commitments in remote Indigenous communities deliver real results,” Ms Macklin said.
“The position will be given the authority to coordinate across Agencies, to cut through bureaucratic blockages and red tape, and to make sure services are delivered effectively.”
Ms Macklin said the Coordinator-General would initially focus resources in priority remote locations across Australia but that new locations would be added over time after consultation with relevant States and Territories.
She said the position would involve close contact with Indigenous people, community groups, industry and Government organisations in an attempt to close national gap targets.
Ms Macklin said the Coordinator-General would report directly to her and would provide twice-yearly formal reports on the development and delivery of remote services and progress towards gap targets.
“The Coordinator-General is to provide information to Commonwealth, State and Territory Agencies on obstacles within their areas of responsibility and advise the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and COAG on necessary changes,” she said.
2 June, 2009
ACMA hooks up with
The Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman have signed a memorandum of understanding to formalise their close working relationship.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Deirdre O'Donnell said the document underlined the importance of the relationship between her office and ACMA.
“It's in everyone's interest that the TIO, ACMA and telecommunications service providers work together to ensure that consumer complaints are resolved in a fair and equitable way,” Ms O’Donnell said.
The memorandum covered issues dealing with exchanging information and advice about consumer complaint investigations; the application of legislative and alternative dispute resolution remedies; the exchange of information regarding telecommunications and internet industry service and complaint trends; and compliance and enforcement actions related to membership of the TIO scheme.
Ms O'Donnell signed the memorandum with ACMA Chair, Chris Chapman in Melbourne.
She said TIO also cooperated closely with other regulatory bodies including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and State Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs Agencies.
She said the TIO was a free and independent complaints handling body for people who had been unable to resolve a problem with their telecommunications service provider.
It was established in 1993 and is independent from the interests of industry, the Government and consumer organisations.
2 June, 2009
DIAC fences off
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has unveiled a new three-year strategic plan to set out its direction and focus.
Secretary of DIAC, Andrew Metcalfe said the DIAC Strategic Plan 2009-12 was a framework written for all people in the Department.
“It will guide the work we all do in our nation-building role, serving as a reminder that the work the Department does today will have ongoing economic and social benefits that will grow and develop over many years,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“The plan reinforces the importance of our DIAC values, ensuring that all staff act on these with colleagues, clients and stakeholders.”
Under the new plan, DIAC will report to Parliament against six performance outcomes instead of two.
Mr Metcalfe said this reflected the outcomes of Operation Sunlight, which was launched last year to reform the openness and transparency of Public Sector budgetary and financial management, and to promote good governance practices.
“DIAC’s six performance outcomes include border management, protecting refugees, contributing to international humanitarian policy, promoting the benefits of Australian citizenship, making fair and reasonable decisions about how people leave and enter Australia, and supporting migrants and refugees as they settle into communities and participate in Australian societies,” he said.
“This increase in key performance outcomes will ensure the Department remains focused on its accountability to the Government, the Parliament and the people of Australia.”
The DIAC Strategic Plan 2009-12 was available from www.immi.gov.au
2 June, 2009
Data centre plan is
Tenders have been called for interim data centre facilities and services.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said expressions of interest were being sought to ensure the ongoing continuation of services while a whole-of-Government data centre strategy was developed.
Mr Tanner said the Government was developing a “comprehensive strategy” to ensure data centre resources were fully utilised over the next 10 to 15 years.
“We have already had extensive interactions with industry and Agencies to inform this strategy and are considering all the options available to us,” he said.
Mr tanner said that in his review of Government ICT use, Sir Peter Gershon suggested some Agencies might need to access data centre resources while the strategy was being developed.
“This approach to market will meet the conditions set out in the ICT Review recommendations, and is consistent with the whole-of-Government directions,” Mr Tanner said.
He said te data centre strategy would be considered by the Government later in the year.
Further information on lodging an expression of interest was available from the Government’s tender site, www.tenders.gov.au
2 June, 2009
TV re-runs to be
Federal, State and Territory Governments are to examine options for the development of a national scheme to recycle computer and television waste.
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett made the announcement at the 18th meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) in Hobart.
Mr Garrett said his State and Territory colleagues had agreed to look at the costs and the regulatory impact of a national scheme.
“Given increasing community and industry concern about electronic waste, and cognisant of the length of time it has taken previous governments to make progress on this front, I am pleased that my colleagues agreed to take this major step forward by looking at the regulatory impacts of a recycling system,” he said.
“I expect to be able to make the results of this study available for public comment by July, before a final decision is made by the Council at its next meeting in November.”
Mr Garrett said the results of a modelling study for recycling of televisions and other electronic items showed consumers would be prepared to pay to have these goods disposed of in an environmentally sustainable manner.
“Choice modelling has only rarely, and only very recently, been applied to gauge people’s receptiveness to environmental policies,” he said.
It has never before been used in the context of waste or recycling.”
Mr Garrett said the study provided assurance that Australians were prepared to support a scheme to deal with e-waste.
At the meeting, Ministers also agreed to develop a ‘fluoro-cycle’ scheme for recycling lamps containing mercury and finalise product stewardship arrangements for used tyres.
Ministers renewed their support for a national waste policy by the end of 2009 and welcomed a decision by the Council of Australian Governments to give the EPHC a single decision making role on the environmental management of chemicals.
2 June, 2009
Immigration TV show
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has appealed to an international audience by creating its own YouTube news channel, ImmiTV to showcase its work.
settles on YouTube
National Communications Manager of DIAC, Sandi Logan said ImmiTV featured the work undertaken by staff and highlighted events celebrated around Australia such as Harmony Day, Refugee Week, Volunteers Week and more.
Mr Logan said ImmiTV, which was launched almost a year ago, has been offering audiences an “engaging insight” into DIAC’s programs and initiatives.
“We don’t expect our clips will necessarily attract millions and millions of viewers online, but we wouldn’t be opposed to them becoming so popular that they did,” he said.
“YouTube offers us an opportunity to highlight many of the varied programs and services the Department offers to the wider Australian community.”
Mr Logan said the Department’s work was shown by editing material shot for training, corporate videos and presentations into short TV-style clips before uploading it online.
“Featured clips include the Department’s role helping unite Congolese twins separated in a refugee camp, the recent visit to Melbourne by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and several successful migration stories.”
The ImmiTV channel is the sister site to the Department’s online newsroom which broadcasts audio, video and digital stills material.
ImmiTV could be accessed at www.youtube.com/ImmiTV
2 June, 2009
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has introduced a new passport.
sets new boundaries
Unveiled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, the new “N Series” passport includes state-of-the-art technology to help control identity fraud and passport misuse.
Mr Smith said the passport would be “very difficult” to falsify as it featured images of Australia printed throughout it, making every visa page unique.
He said the passport continued Australia’s reputation as a world leader in the development and production of secure travel documentation.
“The N Series passport is the culmination of a highly successful partnership between Government and business to continually improve Australia’s passport,” Mr Smith said.
The Passport was designed and manufactured by Note Printing Australia and used the same technologies developed for printing bank notes.
It features a laminate developed exclusively for Australian travel documents and incorporates new tamper-resistant technologies to help border control authorities distinguish it as a genuine document.
Mr Smith said the N Series also used Active Authentication technology on the Radio Frequency Identification chip to enable border inspectors to determine if the data was being read from a genuine chip and not a copy or clone.
“It also provides an additional level of confidence to passport holders that their personal details contained on the chip are secure,” he said.
He said the N Series passport was printed on carbon neutral, environmentally friendly paper.
2 June, 2009
Australia Post to
Australia Post is to upgrade its call centre system in an attempt to reduce call waiting times, improve information accuracy and increase efficiency.
push the envelope
The current system, which is over 10 years old, will be replaced with a nationally consistent system in a bid to provide improved services to Australia Post’s six million customers.
General Manager of Australia Post’s Commercial Division, Bill Mitchell said there would be no job losses or forced redundancies under the changes and that all call centre operations would remain in Australia.
Mr Mitchell said the upgrade would give staff the “tools needed to assist customers more quickly and accurately.”
“At the moment our call centres work independently making the transfer of information difficult,” he said.
“There is an inability to re-route calls between call centres or divert overflow calls across a national grid.”
Mr Mitchell said this impacted on Australia Post’s capacity to operate efficiently when combined with sharp increases in calls.
He said under the upgrade, six independent State-based call centres would be centralised into a national linked system from two locations, enabling them to share information.
He said consolidating the call centres into two existing Queensland and Victorian sites would bring Australia Post into line with industry best-practice.
“Call centre staff working in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will be offered the opportunity to be retrained and redeployed into other areas of Australia Post,” he said.
“Staff will be fully supported throughout the process and have access to a HR support team to help them with career choices and transitions within Australia Post.”
The upgrade is expected to take around 12 months to complete and will begin in August.
Mr Mitchell said customers calling Australia Post on 13 13 18 will not be affected during the transition.
2 June, 2009
Organ donor bodies
A new agreement has been signed between Government and health sector organisations to unify Australia's organ donation and transplantation policies and practices.
grind out agreement
Chief Executive of the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority, Karen Murphy announced that 46 organisations, including all eight State and Territory Governments, had signed a National Communications Charter to improve the health outlooks for Australians requiring an organ or tissue transplant.
Ms Murphy said the signatories all agreed to work together to improve the rate of organ donations across the country
"Australia leads the world in transplantation medicine,” Ms Murphy said, “but the number of donations is low by global standards.”
She said this was due to an historic fragmented approach.
"Although there are six million people listed on the Australian Organ Donor Register, on average there are 1,800 children, women and men on a waiting list for a transplant at any time,” she said.
“But in 2008 just one third of the demand was able to be met from 259 deceased donors.”
Ms Murphy said the new Charter would create a single, national team.
“After a great deal of negotiation and hard work I am very pleased the signatories have agreed.
“It's a symbolic vote of confidence by Ministers, State health departments, industry associations, community organisations and tissue banks to lift donor activity.”
Ms Murphy said the Charter united the sector under guiding principles to communicate clear and consistent messages and dispel some of the myths and misinformation in the public arena.
"Our key message to Australians is a simple one - talk today with your partner and family about your decision to become an organ or tissue donor because they are required to confirm your wish to donate life," Ms Murphy said.
2 June, 2009
Two Australian soldiers have received the highest recognition of honour in East Timor, the Medalha de Merito (Medal of Merit), for their service over the past 10 years.
with Timor medals
The President of East Timor, Dr Jose Ramos Horta presented the awards to Major General Mick Slater and Major Michael Stone.
President Horta said Major General Slater’s contribution to East Timor exemplified the values of the Australian Defence Force, noting his leadership of the International Stabilisation Force which was deployed in response to the break down in security in 2006.
Major-General Slater also received the Medalha Solidariedade de Timor-Leste (East Timor Solidarity Medal) during the presentation.
Major Stone was honoured for his role as a peacemaker in East Timor during the past decade.
President Horta said Major Stone’s understanding of Timorese culture and language had enabled him to promote peace and reconciliation throughout the country.
Both men accepted the medals at a ceremony attended by guests including the Commander of the East Timor Defence Force, Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak, Australian Ambassador to East Timor, Peter Heyward and the Commander of the International Stabilisation Force, Brigadier Bill Sowry.
Major-General Slater, now Commander of the Army’s 1st Division, led the Second Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment during the original Australian deployment into East Timor in 1999.
Major Stone was deployed to East Timor twice from 1999 and twice again as an advisor to the East Timor Defence Force.
2 June, 2009
Digital fans voting
Australians are increasingly making the switch to digital television, a new Government survey has found.
with their fingers
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the results of the Government’s first Digital Tracker Survey showed Australians were not only moving to digital television, but were enjoying the experience.
“Digital television means better picture quality and sound, new content and new channels such as the ONE 24 hour sports channel and the upcoming ABC children's channel,” Senator Conroy said.
“Switchover to digital television is our biggest national format change since the swap to decimal currency and it is important that Australia gets ready.”
Senator Conroy said the research found almost half (47 per cent) of Australian households had converted to free-to-air digital TV broadcasts, while 64 per cent knew how to convert to digital.
He said over two-thirds (69 per cent) of households reported benefits to switching to digital, such as better picture, more channels and improved reception.
Senator Conroy said the findings would help the Government ensure people understood how simple and inexpensive it was to “get ready for digital television.”
He said the additional funding of almost $140 million over three years that was announced in the Budget would go towards digital switchover activities in regional South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
Senator Conroy said the Government would begin information campaigns, would work with industry and provide practical in-home assistance for eligible households in those areas.
2 June, 2009
Artists in frame for
The Government has accepted a number of recommendations from the inquiry into the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008.
Minister for Arts, Peter Garrett said the resale royalty scheme would give artists the right to earn ongoing income from their work, long after the initial sale.
“Artists will receive five per cent of the sale price when their artworks are resold through the art market,” Mr Garrett said.
“This is an important right for artists as the value of their works can often increase - sometimes substantially - over time and it is only fair that they and their descendants should share in the growing appreciation of their work.”
He said in response to the inquiry, the Government would review the scheme within five years and would expand the definition of an artwork to include forms of fine art textiles, installations, jewellery, artist's books, carvings, and multimedia artworks.
“After considering the views of the Committee and many stakeholders the Government sought further legal advice relating to the prospective application of the scheme,” Mr Garrett said.
“The additional legal advice supports the Government's decision to continue with a prospective scheme.”
He said a retrospective scheme would be unfair to current artwork owners who bought works without knowing a royalty would be payable on resale, and that a prospective scheme would give the art market time to adjust to the introduction of the resale royalty.
Mr Garrett said the resale royalty right would be a welcome boost for Australia's visual artists, particularly those in the Indigenous arts sector.
The Bill, which has been tabled in Parliament, is expected to be debated in the House this sitting period.
Further information was available from www.aph.gov.au
2 June, 2009
The Department of Finance has revised its APS staffing level upwards by 500 from the Budget figure, taking the number of new FTE positions for 2009-10 to 1965.
According to The Canberra Times, a number of Agencies slated to lose staff in the coming year would not now be as seriously affected. Among those are the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Medicare Australia.
Event awards open
Entries are now open for the Australian Event Awards, which encourage excellence and reward innovation in the events industry.
The awards are open to all events, event managers and support service providers and will name winners in 22 categories, including Best Community Event.
Entries close on 27 July 2009, with further information available from www.eventawards.com.au
Stats on lifetimes
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released new life expectancy figures for Indigenous Australians.
The experimental figures found life expectancy at birth for Indigenous Australians was 67.2 years for men compared to 78.7 for non-Indigenous men and 72.9 years for women compared to 82.6 for non-Indigenous women in 2005–2007.
The ABS said the current estimates should not be compared with previous estimates owing to methodological changes.
Australian seat at Brussels
Australia is to join the next Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels in 2010, which encourages regional and global approaches to international problems.
The ASEM brings together 16 Asian nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat, the 27 European Union (EU) nations and the European Commission.
Australia's application to join the Asia-Europe meeting process was welcomed by Asian and European Foreign Ministers.
Joint sound flight
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the United States Air Force Research Laboratory have conducted a joint hypersonic flight trial at the Woomera Test Range.
The trial tested flight and mission control systems that could be used in future experiments and lead to air vehicles that could reduce inter-continental travel times.
Hypersonics is the study of flight exceeding approximately five times the speed of sound.
Disability parking on paper
The Government has launched a discussion paper and public consultations on the new Australian Disability Parking Scheme.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services, Bill Shorten said the Scheme would ensure there was a clear and fair set of eligibility criteria and national minimum standards for parking concessions.
One Australia-wide parking permit would be introduced to replace more than 100 different parking permit types currently issued across Australia.
Children’s program joined
Australia has joined a global effort to raise awareness of the plight of missing children.
Nine countries across four continents took part in launching International Missing Children’s Day on 25 May.
The countries were part of the Global Missing Children’s Network which is run by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).
Indigenous veterans have been honoured at Commemoration Ceremonies across the country part of national Reconciliation Week.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said Indigenous veterans had a proud history of serving Australia in all wars and continue to do so today.
“Indigenous men and women have served with great distinction in every conflict Australia has been involved in since Federation,” Mr Griffin said.
Defence awards launched
The Department of Defence has launched the 2009 Australian Defence Force Long Tan Leadership and Teamwork Awards, aimed at recognising secondary school students who demonstrate leadership and teamwork within their school and local community.
Almost 6,000 awards were handed out to students in years 10, 11 and 12 at over 2,300 schools in 2008.
Further information was available from www.defence.gov.au
Telescope a mapper
A new $13 million telescope has been launched at the Australian National University’s Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in NSW.
The ANU SkyMapper Telescope is a state-of-the-art, fully-automated survey telescope able to scan the night sky more quickly and deeply than ever before.
It is expected to give astronomers access to a digital chart of the entire southern night sky.
Indigenous art award
Yolgnu painter and rights campaigner, Gawirrin Gumana has received the prestigious career achievement prize in Indigenous arts at the Australia Council for the Arts’ 2009 National Indigenous Arts Awards.
The $50,000 Red Ochre Award recognised Mr Gumana’s contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts at home and abroad.
Couples to register
Same-sex couples who receive Government benefits must register their relationship with Centrelink.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig said couples needed to register before new Government reforms came into effect to ensure Centrelink could accurately assess their entitlements.
The reforms are effective from 1 July 2009, with further information available from www.centrelink.gov.au