SearchArchives for June 2010
29 June, 2010
Civilian Corps is
A new category of Commonwealth employee has been proposed to cover members of the Australian Civilian Corps which is being set up to respond to natural and other disasters overseas.
Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith said legislation had been introduced into Parliament to establish the Australian Civilian Corps to enable the rapid deployment of civilian specialists into countries experiencing or emerging from conflict or disaster.
Mr Smith said the specialists would have expertise in areas such as public administration and finance, law and justice, engineering, health administration and community development.
“They will assist countries in crisis to restore essential services and infrastructure and rebuild government institutions,” he said.
“By delivering specialist assistance quickly – alongside security operations where necessary – the prospects for stabilising and rebuilding the essential functions of Government will be greatly improved.”
Mr Smith said the Australian Civilian Corps Bill would create a legal framework for the employment and management of Australian Civilian Corps personnel and provide for employment arrangements specifically designed to suit the unique nature of the Corps.
He said Australian Civilian Corps personnel would be sought from all levels of Government and the broader Australian community, with a public recruitment round to be conducted in due course.
The Australian Civilian Corps is expected to be fully operational next year.
29 June, 2010
Price is right for
The Secretaries of Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation have developed guidelines for the costing of election commitments in readiness for the coming Federal election.
Secretary of Finance, David Tune and Acting Treasury Secretary, Richard Murray said the Costing Election Commitments 2010 Guidelines would apply during the caretaker period.
Mr Tune and Mr Murray said the Guidelines were created under provisions in the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 that allowed the Secretaries to jointly issue written guidelines recommending approaches or methods to be used to prepare policy costings.
The Secretaries said the Guidelines included the general methodology that is to be applied, what information needed to be supplied when requesting a policy costing, and what would be produced.
According to the Guidelines, they are not intended to give detailed indications about how individual policies are costed.
“Rather, they outline the principles and processes to be followed by the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation, with the aim of achieving consistent and transparent policy costings,” the Guidelines said.
The guidelines have four parts, the first of which looks at statutory provisions that would require Secretaries to cost their publicly announced policies.
The second part of the document, Costing Protocols and Methods, says the Secretaries must endeavour to provide their best estimate of the full cost of Government and Opposition policies in a timely and consistent manner.
The third part of the document, Requests for Costings and Processing, says requests must be made by either the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition through the Prime Minister.
The Secretaries are not obliged to take any action on requests unless these are received through the Prime Minister and are in writing.
The fourth section of the Guidelines, Reporting - Public Release of Policy Costings, says failure to produce a policy costing could only occur due to time constraints, the withdrawal of the request by the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition, insufficient information about the policy or insufficient data available to cost the policy reliably.
The guidelines could be accessed at www.finance.gov.au
29 June, 2010
Agency books look
Interim audits of the financial statements of 26 Agencies have found an overall improvement in Agencies’ financial and related controls.
OK on balance
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the results of the interim phase of his office’s 2009-10 financial statement audits showed a continued reduction over recent years of the number of significant and moderate risk audit findings.
Mr McPhee said this reflected the “general stability and maturity” of control regimes in the majority of Agencies and their actions to address the findings of prior audits.
“Agencies are continuing to give appropriate attention to meeting their financial legislative compliance responsibilities,” Mr McPhee said.
“Our audits do, however, continue to identify control weaknesses in a number of areas particularly relating to Agencies’ IT control environments, business continuity management and the management of assets.”
In his report, Interim Phase of the Audit of Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies, the Auditor-General said he audited Agencies that together represented around 95 per cent of total General Government Sector revenues and expenses.
He said his report was designed to ensure the systems, controls and processes that were in place in Government Agencies operated in a way that allowed the agencies to prepare financial statements giving a true and fair view of their financial performance.
Mr McPhee said Agencies were generally positive and timely in their response to audit findings and he praised those that had established financial statement sub-committees to help the audit committee oversee their financial statements.
“As part of our 2009–10 interim audits, the Australian National Audit Office undertook an analysis of audit committee arrangements, responsibilities and membership,” he said.
“Of particular note is the fact that all Agency committees include one or more independent members, with 50 per cent of committees having an independent chair.”
Mr McPhee said the Australian Auditing Standards had been revised and redrafted in ‘clarity format’ for reporting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2010.
“The ANAO’s financial statements audit methodology and associated policies are being updated to reflect the revised standards, and financial statement audit staff are being trained in the new requirements,” he said.
Mr McPhee said the ANAO would release a new guide entitledStrategic and Operational Management of Assets by Public Sector Entities shortly to help Agencies maintain the maturity of their internal control systems.
The report, Interim Phase of the Audit of Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies could be downloaded from www.anao.gov.au
29 June, 2010
Union pays out on
The Community and Public Sector Union has compiled a table of gaps in salary rates across the Australian Public Service as part of a growing campaign to rationalise the pay bargaining process.
In a statement, the CPSU said momentum was building in its Better Way to Bargain campaign following the release of research which showed “massive” pay gaps at every level of the APS, from APS1 to EL2.
“The gaps illustrate clearly the urgent need to find a better way to bargain for public sector pay and conditions,” the union said.
The table shows at the APS 1 level, a staffer at Geoscience Australia could earn a maximum of $35,932, compared to $48,566 at Parliamentary Services.
At the EL2 level, the gap ranges from a maximum of $101,831 for a staffer at Aboriginal Hostels Limited, to $131,145 at Treasury.
The Union said more than a decade of Agency-based bargaining across the APS had created a range of problems for APS staff, including the pay gaps.
“Staff in some Agencies are being paid thousands of dollars less than staff in others for performing virtually identical duties,” the union said.
It said other problems included bottle necks, with staff in higher paying Agencies having to compete against people from all over the Service for promotions, and silos, which made the APS inflexible and prevented employee mobility.
The union said the APS was increasingly complex, with more than 100 separate Agency agreements and 750 individual pay points.
“CPSU members believe it’s time for a new, unified approach to setting APS pay and conditions,” it said.
The CPSU said almost all APS agreements were due to expire on 30 June 2011 as was the current enterprise agreement.
“So with the clock ticking towards 30 June 2011, it’s vital that APS employees get organised and have their say about how APS bargaining will work in the future,” the Union said.
“Over the last month hundreds of CPSU activists and delegates have been meeting to develop our claim and build support for the campaign.”
The CPSU urged its members to get behind the campaign.
It said the Government had accepted the recommendations of the recent Moran Review, one of which was to streamline APS bargaining arrangements.
The pay gaps table was available on the CPSU website at www.cpsu.org.au/multiversions/18018/FileName/Pay-gaps.pdf
29 June, 2010
Green light for
A blueprint for further reform in closing the gender gap has been released by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.
Entitled Gender Equality Blueprint 2010, Ms Broderick said it was the next stage of reform stemming from her 2007 national listening tour.
Ms Broderick said in the wake of securing the paid parental leave scheme for Australia, there was a risk that gender equality would be considered “finished business”, making further reform unnecessary.
“Nine major national reviews have considered how best to improved gender equality in Australia and, if they tell us anything, it is that there remains a major gap in equality between women and men,” she said.
Ms Broderick said the Blueprint contained 15 recommendations in five priority areas identified during her national listening tour.
She said the recommendations focused on “practical, achievable changes” that could be made immediately and, in some areas, were already under way.
The Commissioner said three main areas of focus were childcare and out of school care, promoting women in leadership and preventing violence against women.
“We need a national childcare body, adequately empowered and resourced, that will oversee ongoing development towards a system of high quality, accessible, affordable universal childcare,” Ms Broderick said.
“We need the Australian Government to announce a minimum 40 per cent of each gender on all Federal Government Boards to be achieved within three years, with progress against this target reported annually.”
She said a major national prevention strategy was needed to help stop violence against women and to drive down the incidence of sexual harassment in workplaces.
“We need an independent body to monitor the implementation of the national plan to reduce violence against women,” Ms Broderick said.
The Commissioner urged the Government and political parties to adopt the Blueprint and encouraged the business sector to put innovative gender equality strategies in place.
The Gender Equality Blueprint 2010 was available fromwww.humanrights.gov.au
29 June, 2010
An audit of the Australian Taxation Office’s public tip-off program used to dob in suspected tax-evaders has found the ATO retains all information gathered on people accused of wrong-doing, even after they are cleared of any offence.
Prepared by the Auditor-General, the report Community Intelligence – Collecting and Processing Tip-offs, found ATO staff were at risk of contravening the first Information Privacy Principle when collecting information and also, that the tip-off system could be better managed,
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the ATO had a responsibility to “effectively and sensitively” manage the information it received from the public and to protect the privacy of people who gave information and those who were the subject of allegations.
“Risks to individual privacy may be posed in the way the Tax Office elicits and retains tax evasion information,” Mr McPhee said.
“Allegations—including unsubstantiated allegations—against individuals from as far back as 1998 can still be retrieved and referred for investigation.”
He said the Privacy Commissioner had advised Agencies not to keep personal information they no longer needed and were not required to retain.
He said ATO staff were also at risk of recording irrelevant information in conflict with Information Privacy Principle 1, which says organisations must not collect personal information unless it is necessary for its functions or activities.
“The Tax Office’s online tax evasion reporting form encourages informants to provide as much information as possible,” Mr McPhee said.
“This could encourage informants to include allegations of behaviour that is not related to tax evasion.”
He said the audit was conducted to assess the management of community intelligence by the ATO’s Tax Evasion Referral Centre (TERC).
Mr McPhee said the TERC was responsible for recording and referring tip-off information collected via its community intelligence hotline, emails, online forms, letters, faxes and from other Agencies.
He said the program handled almost 60,000 tip-offs in 2008-09 and helped provide a deterrent to abuse of the tax system.
“Nevertheless, the Tax Office could more effectively manage this program by evaluating the risks and benefits of accepting community intelligence,” Mr McPhee said.
“A clearer understanding of these risks and benefits would assist the Tax Office to allocate resources to manage and use community intelligence in a manner that best matches limited resources with appropriate outcomes.”
Mr McPhee made one recommendation, to which the ATO agreed.
The audit report was available from www.anao.gov.au and was compiled by an Audit Team consisting David Crossley, Belinda Dennis, Rhiannon Stanley and Danielle Wickman.
29 June, 2010
A survey of Government Business Managers working on the Northern Territory Emergency Response has shown a majority believe community support for income management schemes is improving.
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said nearly 60 per cent of the Government Business Managers (GBMs) reported that women seemed to be most in favour of the scheme.
Ms Macklin said the 2009 survey, conducted by TNS Social Research, measured the opinions of GBMs in 62 Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) communities and five prescribed town camps.
Ms Macklin said the research revealed GBMs believed 82 per cent of women with children were favourably disposed to the scheme, followed by other women (64 per cent), and men with children (27 per cent).
She said the survey found GBMs thought 49 per cent of people had a favourable attitude towards income management.
Ms Macklin said 63 per cent of GBMs reported food was available on a more regular basis, and 78 per cent reported a positive change to shopping patterns and budgets.
The Minister said the survey also revealed the majority of people believed the NTER had a positive impact on communities’ awareness of nutrition, health, child abuse, education and drug and alcohol related violence.
Ms Macklin said GBMs also consider the level of change in NTER communities since 2008.
She said the survey found 32 per cent believed the level of violence has decreased and 24 per cent believed there had been a decrease in petrol sniffing.
Ms Macklin said 65 per cent of GBMs had seen a positive impact in accessing health and nutrition programs, 55 per cent perceived a positive impact in accessing police and 52 per cent believed the NTER had a positive impact on providing training opportunities.
Ms Macklin said the Government’s legislation to deliver major welfare reforms had recently passed, introducing a new non-discriminatory income management scheme and restoring the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 in the Northern Territory.
29 June, 2010
National security Agencies may soon be able to second staff from each other, set up inter-Agency teams and cooperate more closely on key security issues if new laws proposed by the Attorney-General are passed in the Parliament.
for security staff
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the proposed legislation would enhance cooperation, assistance and information sharing between Australia’s security, intelligence and law enforcement Agencies.
“The measures continue the Government’s focus on effectively harnessing all our available resources to actively pursue our national security priorities and objectives,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 would remove potential legislative barriers to Agencies working closely with each other.
The Attorney-General said the Bill would also enhance the ability of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to provide telecommunications interception capabilities to Commonwealth, State and Territory law enforcement Agencies.
“The failed terrorist attack in the United States on Christmas Day last year demonstrated the need to ensure effective cooperation between our national security Agencies and remain vigilant to the ongoing threat of terrorism,” Mr McClelland said.
“These measures represent a significant enhancement of our combined efforts to respond to important ongoing and emerging national security matters and protect the safety and security of Australians.”
29 June, 2010
No love lost in child
An audit of the Child Support Agency has found improved communication with clients but limited progress on creating organisational change and client service.
In his audit report, Child Support Reforms: Building a Better Child Support Agency, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said a number of limitations had hindered the Build a Better CSA (BBCSA) program.
“These limitations included inadequate planning and project management arrangements (including risk management), undefined project scopes, incomplete project activities and insufficient ongoing monitoring and evaluation that could be used to identify and rectify issues,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the BBCSA was established in 2006 as one of three key Child Support Reforms initiatives.
He said it aimed to address community concerns about the adequacy of the Child Support Scheme (CSS), the CSA’s administration of the scheme and to manage “shortcomings in CSA’s culture, structure and capability.”
The Auditor-General said the BBCSA had three major objectives: to improve client services; develop a more client-focused organisational culture; and improve communication and stakeholder engagement.
“Based on an analysis of the performance indicators in CSA’s evaluation framework, greatest progress has been made in improving communication with customers and stakeholders; with limited progress being made in the two remaining areas,” Mr McPhee said.
He said client feedback had shown an increase in general satisfaction levels with communication and a greater level of knowledge of CSA, its role and the services it provides.
He said the CSA had made progress in areas of the other two objectives, such as improving customer perceptions of the CSA’s fairness, but that overall improvement had been limited.
“These results were, in part, a reflection on the limited effectiveness of some areas of CSA’s implementation of the program, particularly the planning and monitoring and review aspects,” he said.
Mr McPhee said CSA’s implementation of the program highlighted the importance of developing defined project scopes; determining achievable objectives; articulating and communicating a future vision to all staff; prioritising program initiatives; and monitoring appropriate performance measures.
The Auditor-General made six recommendations aimed at improving the outcomes delivered by some of the BBCSA projects and enhancing CSA’s ability to monitor the ongoing impact of the BBCSA
The Department of Human Services, of which the CSA forms part, agreed to all six recommendations.
Child Support Reforms: Building a Better Child Support Agencywas available for download from www.anao.gov.au and was compiled by an Audit Team consisting Kylie Jackson, Anna Crabb and Nathan Williamson.
29 June, 2010
Healthy donation from
The staff of Medicare Australia has raised $75,000 for leukaemia research in a fundraising effort warmly applauded by Chief Executive, Lynelle Briggs.
Ms Briggs said the team at Medicare Australia raised the money by participating in the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave.
“In total Medicare Australia raised $75,000 across Australia – the highest amount collected by any Government organisation and significantly more than our effort last year of $59,000,” Ms Briggs said.
She said Medicare staff also collected public donations, raising almost a third of the national total.
“We had about 35 staff across Australia shave their heads or colour their hair to raise donations and awareness for this worthy cause,” Ms Briggs said.
“This year’s partnership with the Leukaemia Foundation is part of Medicare Australia’s ongoing commitment to supporting health-related charities and causes to improve health outcomes in Australia.”
Chief Executive of the Leukaemia Foundation, Peter Cox thanked Medicare Australia for its ongoing commitment and support of the World’s Greatest Shave since 2005.
Mr Cox said the Leukaemia Foundation recognised Medicare for raising the seventh highest national amount of any organisation, individual or group at a ceremony at State Parliament House in Sydney.
“Medicare Australia has raised $140,000 to date, helping to fund research and free services to support families impacted by blood cancers and related blood disorders,” Mr Cox said.
The Leukaemia Foundation is the only national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the care and cure of patients and their families living with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and related blood disorders.
In total, the Foundation has raised about $14.5 million through the World’s Greatest Shave initiative.
29 June, 2010
Recorded voice announcements on Triple Zero emergency lines are to be introduced to impart information to callers unable to get through in times of widespread emergency.
have callers taped
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said tragedies such as last year’s bushfires in Victoria had shown the service capacity of Triple Zero could be quickly overwhelmed in the event of a significant emergency.
“To address this, the Government has agreed on a national protocol for the use of recorded voice announcements to provide valuable information to Triple Zero callers,” Mr McClelland said.
“The new protocol will ensure that callers to Triple Zero during major disasters or emergencies that don’t immediately go through to an operator will be provided with critical information and contacts.
“This may include, for example, options to link to a relevant information line or State hotline number.”
Mr McClelland said recent experience had shown that during large-scale emergencies, people often called Triple Zero seeking information rather than immediate emergency assistance.
He said an estimated 40 per cent of calls to the Triple Zero service could be directed elsewhere to free up lines for life threatening or critical calls for help.
“The new protocol will have a significant impact on call volumes during large-scale disasters and will provide a faster and more effective response when people need it most,” Mr McClelland said.
The Attorney-General said other recent reforms included a National Emergency Call Centre Surge Capability to supplement State and Territory emergency information lines when local capacity was overwhelmed.
29 June, 2010
Simplified ‘Product Disclosure Documents’ for superannuation, investment and other financial products have been introduced and limited to eight pages.
Previous PDRs could be over 100 pages.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said by reducing their length to just a few pages, Product Disclosure Statements (PDSs) would be more accessible to consumers and less costly for businesses to produce.
Mr Tanner said making it easier for businesses to use alternative methods such as the internet for disclosing large amounts of detailed product information would also reduce costs.
“This furthers the Government’s ongoing commitment to remove unnecessary or poorly designed regulation to reduce business costs and support Australia’s long-term productivity growth,” he said.
The new regulations apply to PDSs for margin loans, superannuation and simple managed investment schemes.
Mr Tanner said the reforms were part of the Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership between the Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen and himself in his capacity as Minister for Finance and Deregulation.
He said the partnership aimed to establish a coordinated approach to delivering regulatory reform across Government.
Mr Bowen said providing short and readable PDSs would make investors more likely to read the information and consequently make better investment decisions.
He said the reforms would ensure consumers were provided with the key information they needed to make an investment decisions, with provisions for additional information to be included so long as the prescribed length was not exceeded.
Mr Bowen said the PDS reform marked the conclusion of the second Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership.
The Financial Services Working Group is to cease operation this week, while Treasury and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission would continue work on simplifying disclosure documents.
The regulations and related explanatory material were available at www.comlaw.gov.au
29 June, 2010
Gender equity to
New legislation to strengthen gender equity laws has been introduced into Parliament by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
go both ways
Mr McClelland said amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 would provide increased and equal protection against the discrimination of men and women with family responsibilities.
Mr McClelland said under the changes, breastfeeding would be established as a separate ground of discrimination; protections from sex discrimination would be applied equally to men and women; and greater protection from sexual harassment would be provided for students and workers.
He said strengthening protections for workers with family responsibilities was an important step toward achieving economic equality between women and men.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick welcomed the proposed changes, saying they were based on recommendations made by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs into eliminating discrimination and promoting gender equality.
“Increasingly men have caring responsibilities for young children and they should be entitled to the same level of legal protection in employment as women,” Ms Broderick said.
She said electronic communications technology such as the internet and mobile phones had become a new frontier for sexual harassment and bullying.
“It is important that reforms are put in place that will provide greater protection for school students under the age of 16,” Ms Broderick said.
“It pleases me to see these reforms included in the legislation.”
The Commissioner also congratulated the Government for making breastfeeding an explicit ground of unlawful discrimination.
Mr McClelland said the Government will consider other recommendations made in the Senate Standing Committee’s Report in a bid to consolidate anti-discrimination legislation into a single comprehensive law.
29 June, 2010
Judges get call up
The Attorney-General has announced that Judges of the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrates Court may be offered dual commissions to the new Military Court of Australia which is now before Parliament.
to military court
The Military Court of Australia Bill 2010 was co-sponsored by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and the Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner.
Mr McClelland and Senator Faulkner said the Bill would establish the new Military Court of Australia and reshape the current Federal Court system.
They said it would be established as a separate Court under Chapter III of the Constitution and would have the same independence and constitutional protections as other Federal Courts.
Mr McClelland and Senator Faulkner said the new Court would replace the interim system of military justice put in place following the High Court’s decision last year to invalidate the former Australian Military Court.
Senator Faulkner said judicial officers of the new Court must have Australian Defence Force experience or knowledge, but could not be serving ADF members or reservists.
“The new Military Court of Australia will strengthen our system of military justice,” he said.
“The new Court meets the strict constitutional requirements for an independent Court, but also retains a clear military character.
“This is important to ensure the Court has the confidence of servicemen and women.”
Mr McClelland said the new Military Court of Australia would form part of a restructured Federal Court system to be implemented through the Access to Justice (Family Court Restructure and Other Measures) Bill 2010.
He said under the new structure the Family Court would deal with all family law matters and would comprise two Divisions - the Appellate and Superior Division, and the General Division.
Mr McClelland said the Federal Magistrates Court would continue to hear general federal law matters, while the Federal Court would continue to exercise its jurisdiction in its current form and would be responsible for the administration of the Military Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court.
“The proposed new structure will create efficiencies and facilitate a more streamlined approach in the delivery of justice to the Australian community, including members of the Australian Defence Force,” Mr McClelland said.
29 June, 2010
Defence has shot
A new statement of Defence’s policy on working with industry has been launched by the Minister for Defence Materiel and Science, Greg Combet.
at industry policy
Mr Combet said the statement, Building Defence Capability: A Policy For a Smarter and More Agile Defence Industry Base,outlined over $445 million of Government programs that industry could access to improve their competitiveness and capacity for innovation.
Mr Combet said the Policy would also help improve industry’s ability to enter export markets, provide more opportunities to win work locally and enhance the skills of the workforce.
“The Government needs a strong, successful and skilled Defence industry if it is to deliver the ADF that Australia needs for the future, which is why we have outlined this comprehensive suite of programs for the Australian defence industry,” Mr Combet said.
“The Government is committed to increasing the opportunities for Australian defence industry.
He said Building Defence Capability was closely aligned to the Government’s White paper and Strategic Reform Program.
Mr Combet said the policy was based on four key principles: setting clear investment priorities; establishing a stronger Defence-industry relationship; seeking opportunities for growth; and building skills, innovation and opportunity.
“These principles have dictated the Government’s strong and comprehensive suite of policies designed to build and improve the Australian defence industry,” he said.
The Minister said the statement provided a clear outline of information to help local firms plan their investment priorities.
He said the statement provided a more flexible approach to defence procurement and contracting, where varying kinds and levels of risk were managed through appropriate procurement and contractual vehicles.
Mr Combet said the Government would encourage a competitive industry base with growth opportunities that was supported by “forward-looking and flexible” Government policies.
He said the statement included new programs such as the $44.9 million Priority Industry Capability Innovation Program to encourage innovation and would see a Defence Industry Innovation Board established to better coordinate the innovation programs available to industry.
The Statement could be viewed at www.defence.gov.au
29 June, 2010
Red tape fades in
A number of initiatives which reduce bureaucratic red tape for businesses have been announced by the Minister for Financial Services and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen.
Mr Bowen said the initiatives were outlined in new legislation that was also aimed at improving Australia’s corporate reporting framework.
Mr Bowen said the initiatives would reduce the regulatory burden on companies limited by guarantee, streamline parent-entity reporting and provide greater flexibility for companies to pay dividends by replacing the profits test with a solvency-type test.
The Minister said other changes in theCorporations Amendment (Corporate Reporting Reform) Bill 2010 and accompanying Regulations included enabling companies to more easily change their year-end date to minimise the burden on them and their auditors during peak reporting periods.
He said the reforms would also refine the regulatory framework by improving disclosure of non-financial information in the directors’ report, the statement of compliance with International Financial Reporting Standards and clarifying the circumstances in which a company could cancel its share capital.
“The Bill makes life easier for businesses of all sizes - from the 11,000 companies limited by guarantee, most of which are not-for-profits, to large corporate groups, which can face unnecessarily duplication in their reporting requirements,” he said.
The Minister acknowledged the assistance of the Opposition and minor parties which unanimously agreed to pass the Bill through the Senate without amendment.
He said the main provisions of the Bill would come into effect for the financial year ending 30 June 2010, while Associated Regulations were scheduled to be considered at an Executive Council meeting today (29 June).
29 June, 2010
Traditional welcome for MPs
The opening of future Federal Parliaments will now include a ‘Welcome to Country’ by Traditional Indigenous Owners.
Announcing the move, Government spokespeople said it was important to incorporate the ancient cultural tradition into Australia’s democracy and the Welcome to Country ceremony, performed by the traditional owner of the land on which Parliament stood, would take place at the first meeting of each new Parliament after an election.
Telescope zeroes in
The Anglo-Australian Observatory in Coonabarabran (NSW) is to become a Division of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research on 1 July.
The observatory will also change its name to the Australian Astronomical Observatory.
Its 3.9 metre telescope is the largest optical telescope in Australia and the most productive 4-metre telescope in the world.
Ministers change hats
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has announced a few minor changes to the Federal Cabinet following her elevation to the position.
Former Minister for Trade, Simon Crean has been allocated Ms Gillard’s portfolios of education, workplace relations and social inclusion and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith will retain his portfolio while also taking on responsibility for trade.
Former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was not allocated a front bench role.
ABC producers online
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has employed 19 new online producers as part of the next phase of the ABC Open initiative.
The ABC Open project is aimed at building the capacity of regional and rural communities, developing digital media storytelling skills and encouraging active participation through ABC websites.
Each Open Producer is to develop a blog connected to their community that will seek feedback and ideas, provide workshops and offer video, audio and other content.
Legislation has passed through Parliament to reform Australia’s personal bankruptcy laws.
Key reforms include increasing the minimum amount for which a creditor can petition for bankruptcy from $2,000 to $5,000; increasing the stay period before a creditor can commence action to recover debts from seven to 21 days; and increasing the income, asset and debt thresholds.
Other reforms to the laws included creating a more efficient and transparent process for fixing and reviewing trustee remuneration; strengthening penalties for some offences; and enhancing powers for the Inspector-General in Bankruptcy.
Exports made easier
Red tape has been cut to make it easier for Australian businesses to export products duty-free across the Tasman.
Former Minister for Trade, Simon Crean and Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said amendments tabled in Parliament simplified the Rules of Origin under the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement.
The Ministers said the Rules of Origin established the local product content requirements businesses must meet in order for their goods to qualify for tariff-free entry into Australia and New Zealand.
East Timorese graduate
Twenty-four members of the Policia Nacional de Timor-Lestehave graduated from a training program conducted by the Australian Federal Police in Canberra.
It is the largest contingent of PNTL officers to visit Australia for specialised training.
National Manager of the AFP’s International Deployment Group, Frank Prendergast, said the course helped build the foundations for a more effective and accountable police service in Timor-Leste.
Airservices Australia has welcomed 17 aviation rescue fire fighters into service after they graduated from the Airservices Learning Academy in Melbourne.
The graduates are to be deployed to Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne and Rockhampton airports.
The new recruits undertook an intensive 10-week training course that included theoretical and practical training in aviation rescue and fire fighting techniques.
22 June, 2010
New beginning for
Induction materials for new members of the Australian Public Service are being updated.
The Australian Public Service Commission has commenced the task which is expected to be completed towards the end of this year.
In a statement, the Commission said a focus group would be consulted to help determine the future direction and content of the materials.
It said the induction program was developed in response to the Management Advisory Committee’s recommendations in Managing and Sustaining the APS Workforce (2005) and was aimed at ensuring new APS employees have a good understanding of the Australian Government and the roles and responsibilities of the APS.
“Effective induction training assists new starters to settle in quickly and happily, and contributes towards longer term retention of employees,” the Commission said.
It said induction covered more than technical and Agency-specific skills by providing new starters with information about the organisation’s mission, goals, values and philosophy.
It said the material aimed to educate newcomers to the APS about values and the Code of Conduct, the role of the APS as a whole, whole-of-Government work and what it meant to be a Public Servant.
The Commission described the program as a flexible e-learning package consisting of seven modules with links to additional resources, fact sheets and a guide for facilitators.
It said modules included an introduction to the APS, the Australian system of Government, working with others, career opportunities in the APS, workplace rights and conditions and ‘doing your job’.
It said Departmental staff could access the program by downloading and installing it on their Agency intranet by going to www.apsc.gov.au
Further information on the program, including a booklet, was available from the same address while anyone interested in participating in the focus group or becoming involved in discussions could email email@example.com
22 June, 2010
APSC up front with
Members of the new APS 200 and the Secretaries Board have been announced by the Australian Public Service Commission as part the reform program for the Australian Public Service.
Plans to establish the two leadership groups were outlined in Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran.
APS 200 comprises 200 staff at or above the Senior Executive Service Band 3 level (Deputy Secretaries and equivalent) employed under the Public Service Act and including staff from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Federal Police. They will have a standing role as leaders of the APS that is not restricted to within their own Agency.
The APS 200 members will support the Secretaries Board by undertaking strategic projects and initiatives as cross-portfolio teams.
“The APS 200 will be at the vanguard of cultural change to achieve the innovative, collaborative, open, agile, forward looking and streamlined Public Service envisioned in the Blueprint,” the Australian Public Service Commission said.
“The APS 200 will not include other Agencies with judicial, law enforcement or complaint handling functions except for the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office, or holders of diplomatic posts.”
It said the Secretaries Board would be accountable for achieving excellence across the APS and had replaced the Management Advisory Committee and the Portfolio Secretaries meeting as the forum for discussing APS issues.
The Board is to be chaired by Mr Moran and includes all Secretaries and APS Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick.
A list of members of the Secretaries Board and the APS 200 was available at www.apsc.gov.au/aps200/
22 June, 2010
The Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman has used the official opening of his new offices in Canberra to reinforce the community’s need for Ombudsmen.
tick to new office
According to the Acting Ombudsman, Ron Brent, Governments “inevitably” make mistakes and there were always victims of those mistakes.
“The Ombudsman exists for those people - be it as many as 95 per cent of the population or as few as five individuals - who need assistance from an objective third party to help them equitably resolve a problem with a Government Agency,” Mr Brent said.
“We are able to help people deal with a diverse range of Government issues, including social security payments, grant schemes, child support matters, tax complaints, visa problems, public housing, corrective services, compensation for poor administration and police actions.”
Cabinet Secretary, Senator Joe Ludwig who attended the launch, said he was sure the Commonwealth Ombudsman would continue to deliver fair and transparent administration for the Australian public.
Senator Ludwig said since the inception of the office in 1977, the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in ensuring Government accountability had remained relevant.
“The expansion of the Ombudsman’s roles and responsibilities is a testament to the Agency’s high-quality work and the confidence of successive Governments in the Ombudsman,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said consolidating the Commonwealth and ACT Ombudsmen’s offices would assist the Agencies deliver better services to the community.
Mr Brent said among the functions of the Ombudsman’s office were scrutinising the use of highly intrusive powers such as telephone tapping and electronic surveillance devices by law enforcement Agencies.
He said the Commonwealth Ombudsman also fulfilled the duties of ACT, defence force, immigration, law enforcement, postal industry and taxation ombudsman, and would soon take on the role for international students.
The Commonwealth and ACT Ombudsman’s new office is at 14 Childers Street, Canberra.
22 June, 2010
New cancer agency
A new, national cancer control Agency is to be established by the Federal Government to strengthen its Australia-wide focus on cancer control.
prepares for growth
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the move would amalgamate the national cancer Agency, Cancer Australia, with the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, both of which are Government Agencies.
Ms Roxon said the amalgamation would take place from early 2011-12 and would benefit people affected by cancer, their families and their carers by continuing the focus on cancer research, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
“At a time when Australia faces an increase in cancer incidence and unprecedented Commonwealth investment in tackling cancer, a strengthened Cancer Australia will help further focus our work in this important area,” Ms Roxon said.
“The proposed joint Agency will have a clear leadership mandate across all cancers, and capacity to better focus on Cancer Australia’s responsibilities under the Cancer Australia Act 2006.”
Ms Roxon said under the amalgamated Agency, time consuming separate reporting requirements would be removed to ensure maximum resources went to the front line of cancer programs and research.
She said cancer stakeholders would have one Government Agency to work with, regardless of cancer type, while the Government would have one coordinated source of expert advice on cancer care.
Ms Roxon said breast and ovarian cancer would remain a priority.
She said the proposed model had been successful internationally and would create a more strategic approach to fighting cancer.
“In order to confirm this strategic direction and to finalise the focus and shape of the newly amalgamated agency, stakeholders will be consulted over a four week period,” Ms Roxon said.
She said a working group, to be chaired by the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, would also be established immediately to oversee and advise on the proposed transition.
Dr Helen Zorbas has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Australia.
22 June, 2010
The Department of Defence needs to strengthen its contracting and procurement processes for recruiting personnel into the Australian Defence Force according to the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee.
in audit firing line
In an audit of how the Department managed the procurement process for a contractor to provide recruitment services and the difficulties with the successful tenderer, Mr McPhee said Defence generally followed appropriate guidance in planning the tender process.
However he said aspects of the data underpinning the process were inaccurate or incomplete when provided to tenderers.
The audit report, Contracting for Defence force Recruiting Services, looked at the breakdown of a contract entered into by the Defence Force Recruiting (DFR) Branch and successful tenderer, Chandler Macleod Group (CMG).
Mr McPhee said the contract, worth an estimated $405 million over five years, was signed on 2 July 2008, with CMG taking over the provision of ADF recruiting services from 1 February 2009 after a seven month transition period.
“However, Defence and CMG agreed in October 2009 after only nine months of operation, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, to the early termination of the contract,” he said.
The Auditor-General said the contract transferred a high level of risk to the contractor but that CMG had signed the contract with full knowledge of its terms.
“Each party could be expected to look after its own position,” Mr McPhee said.
“CMG informed the ANAO that it had not fully comprehended the risks it was assuming in signing the contract.”
Mr McPhee said during the transition period, CMG had raised a number of concerns with Defence relating to unanticipated costs and liabilities.
“CMG also claimed that weaknesses in the New DFR model itself limited its ability to achieve 10,500 enlistments in a year.”
He said during 2009, Defence reduced its recruitment targets which further affected CGM’s ability to meet the terms of the contract as the revenue available to the company relied heavily on the number of candidates to be recruited.
The Auditor-General said Defence could “strengthen future DFR contracting processes” by ensuring the contractor could be reasonably expected to mitigate the risks transferred to it and by introducing a due diligence period.
“Preparation for any future procurement should include making sure that data within material provided to tenderers is accurate and complete,” he said.
“Resolving differences in underlying data and information that become known after contract signature would be assisted by the introduction of a formal due diligence period.
Mr McPhee said from 1 February 2010, Defence’s former service provider, Manpower, had taken over the provision of ADF recruiting services under an interim contract to 2012.
He said in the interim contract, Defence “recognised the need to provide the contractor with some protection” in the face of reduced recruitment targets.
Mr McPhee made six recommendations, of which Defence agreed to five in full and one with qualification.
The report was available from www.anao.gov.au and was complied by an audit team consisting Wendy Michaels, Jillian Blow and Fran Holbert.
22 June, 2010
Fair response to
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has credited an emphasis on best practice and continual improvement in the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman for a dramatic fall in the number of complaints against it.
Fair Work policies
Acting Ombudsman, Ron Brent said complaints fell from 665 in 2007-08 to just 65 in 2008-09.
Mr Brent congratulated the Fair Work Ombudsman, saying policies and procedures for managing investigations were in line with the Administrative Review Council’s 20 best practice principles for the exercise of coercive information-gathering powers.
“The ARC’s principles - which are based on the administrative law values of fairness, lawfulness, rationality, transparency and efficiency—set the standards that all Agencies should strive to achieve,” Mr Brent said.
“This can be particularly challenging for large, geographically dispersed Agencies, but the Fair Work Ombudsman is providing a sound example for others to follow, even with its 800 staff spread across the country in 26 offices.”
Mr Brent said his Agency was interested in the impact of coercive powers on the rights of the public and the handling of private information and sensitive issues.
“The Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman is to be commended for seeking to achieve a complex remit of promoting harmonious, productive and cooperative workplace relations while ensuring compliance with relevant workplace laws,” the Acting Ombudsman said.
“Some of the ways in which the Agency demonstrates this include its effort to educate the public about what it does, processes for encouraging employers and employees to try to resolve claims informally, procedures for recording the rationale for decisions, and the regular conduct of internal audits and reviews of compliance functions.”
Mr Brent said while a proactive approach to identifying and addressing issues with work practices had been taken, there was always room for improvement.
He recommended the Fair Work Ombudsman improve notices issued to employers before an investigation; improve guidance regarding the type and volume of document requests; improve guidance for determining compliance timeframes; upgrade the type of information provided to interviewees; and strengthen internal service standards for liaising with employers who are the subject of a claim.
Mr Brent made the recommendations in his report, Fair Work Ombudsman: Exercise of coercive information-gathering powers, saying most of his suggestions were already being implemented.
The report was available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
22 June, 2010
Medicare Australia has set up a special taskforce to investigate the compliance level of dentists taking part in the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme.
An initial audit of 49 dentists found 11 who had incorrectly lodged claims under the scheme, totalling $7.5 million.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said the initial audits showed many dentists were failing to comply with all the requirements of the CDDS.
“Medicare Australia has had ongoing concerns about compliance with the scheme, as it has identified dentists claiming for work they have not provided and claiming when they did not meet the legal requirements of the scheme,” Mr Bowen said.
He said the scheme was “inefficient” but that Government plans to shut it down and replace it with the Commonwealth Dental Health Program had faced obstruction in the Senate.
“Until we can abolish this scheme, it is important that we work to make sure that money claimed incorrectly is paid back to the taxpayer,” Mr Bowen said.
The Minister said a further 250 dentists would be audited by the CDDS Taskforce on the basis of intelligence, tip-offs and irregularly high claiming patterns.
Mr Bowen said Medicare Australia had been working with the Australian Dental Association to educate and inform dentists about the correct use of the scheme, which gives eligible patients subsidies of up to $4,250 for dental treatment, and would be sending a letter to all dentists explaining laws in relation to the scheme and upcoming compliance activity.
“I understand that most dentists try to do the right thing and that the majority of incorrect claiming is accidental,” he said.
Mr Bowen urged anyone who suspected non-compliance or possible fraud against Medicare to contact 131 524.
He said dentists last year claimed more than $484 million under the scheme, despite projections it would cost $377 million over four years.
22 June, 2010
Big concerns over
Two reports released by Safe Work Australia have found there is insufficient information on the potential health and safety risks of nanomaterials in Material Safety Data Sheets and product labels produced by Australian industry.
Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said the findings would be used to launch a review of the model Codes of Practice for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals.
Mr Phillips said MSDSs guided workplaces on the safe management, labelling, storage and hazard identification of chemicals.
He said the two reports examined engineered nanomaterials and were published as part of the Nanotechnology Work Health and Safety Program which is managed by Safe Work Australia.
He said the first report, An Evaluation of MSDS and Labels associated with the Use of Engineered Nanomaterials evaluated 50 MSDSs and 15 labels for products containing engineered nanomaterials.
He said the report found most of the MSDSs evaluated did not provide sufficient information to inform a work health and safety risk assessment for the nanomaterials contained in the product.
All MSDSs evaluated for carbon nanotubes described them as hazardous substances however, but the majority described the hazards of carbon nanotubes to be equivalent to that of graphite, which Mr Phillips said did not align with other findings on their potential health effects.
Mr Phillips said product labels reflected the content presented in the MSDSs, including “inadequacies” in relation to hazard identification, and did not contain additional cautionary notes about the suspected hazards of nanomaterials.
He said the second report, Developing Workplace Detection and Measurement Techniques for Carbon Nanotubes, was conducted by the CSIRO and investigated possible approaches for detecting airborne particles formed as a result of emissions from carbon nanotubes.
“This research will aid Safe Work Australia’s development of the model work health and safety laws, including model work health and safety Regulations and model Codes of Practice, to be released later this year for public comment,” Mr Phillips said.
The two reports could be accessed at www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
22 June, 2010
DIAC in picture
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has enlisted the pages of YouTube to educate the friends and families of potential asylum seekers on the risks of using the services of people smugglers.
The YouTube channel, No to People Smuggling, is aimed at discouraging asylum seekers from coming to Australia by boat.
A spokesperson for DIAC said the new channel was an important tool in the Government’s efforts to highlight the realities of engaging with people smugglers.
The spokesperson said the channel aimed to educate communities within Australia about the dangers of using people smugglers and allow them to share the information with friends and relatives overseas who could be considering coming to Australia via a people smuggler.
“No to People Smuggling allows people to watch and hear detailed accounts taken from those who have risked their lives and those of their families to undertake the treacherous journey to Australia,” the spokesperson said.
“The stories detail the grave dangers faced on the open seas in small and often unseaworthy boats, with no guarantee of reaching Australia or being granted asylum.”
According to the spokesperson, the dangers of making the boat trip to Australia at the hands of people smugglers was highlighted by the death of five people at sea on an Australian-bound vessel last month.
They said the Government had recently suspended the processing of Sri Lankan claims for three months and Afghan claims for six months, saying changing circumstances in these countries meant it was likely that more asylum claims from them would be refused.
“Asylum seekers will only be granted the right to live in Australia if they are genuinely in need of protection – seeking a better life and more opportunities is not grounds to be granted asylum,” the spokesperson said.
DIAC has previously used YouTube to communicate with stakeholders through its ImmiTV channel which was launched two years ago.
To view DIAC’s latest YouTube campaign, visitwww.youtube.com/notopeoplesmuggling
22 June, 2010
Commission to study
The Terms of Reference have been released for an investigation by the Productivity Commission into the economic impacts and benefits of reforms introduced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
COAG reform guide
The Terms have been formulated in response to COAG’s agreement that the Commission could report on its reform agenda every two to three years.
In a joint statement, the Treasurer Wayne Swan and Assistant Treasurer Senator Nick Sherry said the Terms of Reference would provide direction to the Productivity Commission as it prepared a framework report outlining its proposed reporting approach and future assessments.
“These reports will assist the COAG Reform Council in its role of helping to enhance accountability and promote reform, and monitoring the progress of COAG’s reform agenda,” Mr Swan and Senator Sherry said.
“The framework report will outline the Productivity Commission’s proposed analytical frameworks for assessing the impacts and benefits of reform, to be drawn on in its future reports.”
Mr Swan and Senator Sherry said the reporting would cover realised and prospective economic impacts and benefits of the different reform streams including regulation, infrastructure and workforce productivity and participation.
“Each report to COAG will give priority to informing Governments of the nature of reform impacts and benefits and the time scale over which benefits are likely to accrue, given COAG’s reform framework and implementation plans,” they said.
“At the commencement of each reporting cycle, the Assistant Treasurer will provide directions concerning particular reporting priorities to be addressed within this broad framework.”
Mr Swan and Senator Sherry said COAG’s reform agenda aimed to boost productivity, increase workforce participation, improve social inclusion, close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and improve environmental sustainability.
The Productivity Commission is expected to provide the framework report to COAG by 31 December this year and the first full report on the impacts and benefits of the reform agenda by 31 December 2011.
The complete terms of reference were available from www.pc.gov.au
22 June, 2010
Military lines up
The most extensive health study of military personnel in Australian history has been officially launched by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Alan Griffin.
for health checks
The Military Health Outcomes Program (MilHOP) is a joint initiative between the Australian Defence Force and the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health (CMVH).
Mr Griffin said as part of the new Program, Defence had partnered with CMVH to conduct a number of studies to help it better understand the health and wellbeing of ADF members.
He said the $12 million studies would support the work of the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs to achieve better long-term health outcomes for Defence personnel through improved health services and policies.
“For the first time, the Government and Defence will have the information needed to support the development of evidence-based policy and targeted health programs designed to support Australian Defence Force members and their families cope with the impact of operational deployments,” Mr Griffin said.
The Minister said MilHOP consisted of three studies on the Middle East Area of Operations and one study in response to the 2009 Dunt Review to establish a baseline for mental health prevalence in the ADF.
The four studies are the Prospective Study, Census Study, the Health and Wellbeing Study and a Mortality and Cancer Incidence Study.
Mr Griffin said personnel deployed as part of operations in the Middle East during 2010 and 2011 would be invited to participate in the program, along with more than 25,000 veterans.
He said participation in the studies would not affect entitlements or benefits now or at any point in the future.
“Consistent with the recommendations to Defence from the 2009 Dunt Review, this study will also seek to establish the prevalence of mental health issues within the Australian Defence Force, and explore issues of stigma and barriers to seeking care,” Mr Griffin said.
MilHOP is a partnership between Defence, CMVH and a consortium of the University of Queensland, the University of Adelaide and Charles Darwin University. It is funded by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.
Mr Griffin said the study was expected to be completed by 30 June 2012.
22 June, 2010
Taxing time for
Reforms to the taxation law that reduce the powers of the Commissioner to amend a taxpayer’s assessment and take the nation a step closer to having a single modern income tax law have been passed by Parliament.
tax in crackdown
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the new law repealed over 100 provisions in the income tax laws that gave the Tax Commissioner an unlimited period to make an amendment to a taxpayer’s assessment.
Senator Sherry said repealing the unlimited amendment periods would provide more certainty to taxpayers in finalising their tax affairs.
“These provisions allowed the Commissioner of Taxation to make an amendment to a taxpayer’s assessment at any time in the future to penalise taxpayers for what may have been minor errors,” Senator Sherry said.
“This is clearly not acceptable where taxpayers are simply seeking to comply with the law and they are not seeking to evade tax.
“The repeal of these provisions will ensure taxpayers’ tax affairs for a particular year become final at the conclusion of the standard amendment period of two to four years - a much more acceptable outcome.”
Senator Sherry said the finite amendment period would apply unless there had been fraud or evasion.
He said providing a consistent, defined time frame achieved an appropriate balance between ensuring taxpayers paid the correct amount of tax and providing finality and certainty for those who complied with their taxation responsibilities.
The Senator said other changes under the Tax Laws Amendment (Transfer of Provisions) Bill 2010 included new modernised areas relating to collection and recovery of income tax; forgiveness of commercial debts; luxury car leases; the farm management deposit scheme and the taxation of general insurance companies.
He said the new legislation rewrote several significant areas of theIncome Tax Assessment Act 1936 into the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
Senator Sherry said the Government was committed to simplifying tax law to reduce complexity and compliance costs for taxpayers.
He said a Discussion paper, Review of Elections in the Income Tax Law, had been released as part of the tax reforms.
“This part of our progressive program of rewriting the tax law for a modern Australian economy removes 149 pages from the 1936 Act into the 1997 Act, and we’ve done it in just 101 pages, a reduction in length of a third,” Senator Sherry said.
Submissions on the Discussion Paper close on 16 August, with further information available from www.treasury.gov.au
22 June, 2010
CSIRO to star in
A Statement of Intent between CSIRO and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, ASTRON, has been signed for the joint development and testing of technology needed for the radio-telescope project, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
A joint bid by Australia and New Zealand to host the SKA in Western Australia is being considered by the world’s scientific community
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr welcomed the partnership, describing the SKA as the world’s most powerful radio-telescope and one of the most ambitious science projects ever undertaken.
“The SKA is a global project and this Statement of Intent between CSIRO and ASTRON is an example of the cooperation needed to bring such a monumental undertaking to fruition,” Senator Carr said.
“Science – and particularly astronomy – reaches across national boundaries and we are proud of the leading role that Australia plays in the international community.”
Senator Carr said Australia was working closely with other countries to develop the technology to allow the best astronomers from around the world to research the “evolution of the universe.”
He said CSIRO and ASTRON would be working on phased array feeds – receivers with many separate, simultaneous beams for detecting radio waves – which have the potential to give telescopes a much wider field-of-view.
Senator Carr said the technology would initially be used on the first six antennas of the Australian SKA Pathfinder radio-telescope, due to be completed in early 2011 at Murchison in Western Australia.
The SKA is an international project involving 20 countries, with an estimated construction cost of $2.1 billion and a total whole-of-life operating cost of $12.7 billion.
Australia and New Zealand’s joint bid to host the SKA has been shortlisted, as has a site in Southern Africa.
22 June, 2010
Travelling exhibitions of art and museum pieces held in Australia’s major national institutions have received a $1 million boost announced by the Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett.
to draw crowds
Mr Garrett said the funding would help the nation’s leading institutions develop and tour exhibitions in regional and rural Australia.
He said institutions to receive funding under the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach (NCITO) program included the National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of Australia, Australian National Maritime Museum, National Film and Sound Archive and the Bundanon Trust.
Mr Garrett said the funding would go towards 15 exhibitions.
“Our national collecting institutions are home to outstanding collections of contemporary and classical art, and fascinating museum pieces,” he said.
“With this funding the national collecting institutions have put together exhibitions from their collections that will tour to cities and towns across Australia that often don’t have the opportunity to host exhibitions of this calibre.”
The Minister said every Australian deserved the opportunity to view and enjoy national cultural collections.
“The NCITO program is taking them around Australia, from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to Gunnedah, New South Wales,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the exhibitions that would go on tour ranged from the photographic works of Anton Bruehl from the National Gallery of Australia to the National Museum of Australia’s From little things big things grow exhibition, which traces the fight for Indigenous civil rights in Australia.
Mr Garrett said other exhibitions funded in 2010-11 included the Portrait Gallery’s National Photographic Portrait Prize 2010, the Maritime Museum’s On their own - Britain’s child migrants, and the National Film and Sound Archive’s Touring the Sounds of Australia.
Further information on exhibitions and their funding allocations was available from www.environment.gov.au
22 June, 2010
Higher penalties for
Tougher penalties for aviation-related crimes such as bomb hoaxes and endangering an aircraft in flight have been proposed by the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor.
Mr O’Connor said changes to the Crimes (Aviation) Act 1991would involve increasing the maximum penalty for hoax offences from two to 10 years in prison, in line with similar offences.
“The measures I’m putting forward mean aviation-related crimes, including air rage against flight crew, threats against airports and endangering an aircraft, will carry more severe penalties,” Mr O’Connor said.
“These measures will boost Australia’s already high standard of aviation security and make our skies a safer place for airlines, their staff and the travelling public.”
The Minister said hoax crimes caused great distress and inconvenience and imposed unnecessary costs on the aviation industry.
He said the crimes could also compromise public safety as threats and hoaxes could lead to flights being diverted or airports being evacuated.
Mr O’Connor said under the proposal, aviation-related crimes would fall within four categories carrying sentences of 10, 14 and 20 years or life in prison.
He said penalties for hoax offences would rise from two to 10 years in prison and the maximum jail term for offences against aircraft or aviation environments would increase from 10 to 14 years.
Those who are responsible for serious offences that pose danger or cause harm to groups or people, such as assaulting a pilot or endangering an aircraft while in flight, would face up to 20 years in jail, up from the current maximums of seven, 14 or 15 years.
Mr O’Connor said life in jail would continue to apply to offences such as hijacking or destroying an aircraft and being reckless as to causing death.
He said the penalty increases were consistent with other criminal legislation.
The Minister also announced three new offences, including assault of an aircraft crew member, reckless endangerment of an aircraft and having dangerous goods onboard an aircraft, where there is a risk of serious harm or death.
“Australian aviation security agencies face tough challenges and must be supported with up-to-date laws and penalties that reflect the seriousness of these crimes,” Mr O’Connor said.
22 June, 2010
New laws positioning Australia to become an international centre for resolving international commercial disputes have been passed by Parliament.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said amendments to theInternational Arbitration Act would create a more comprehensive and clear framework for international arbitration in Australia by promoting greater efficiency through the adoption of international ‘best practice’ in arbitration law.
“Arbitration is increasingly being used as the preferred option for resolving business and commercial disputes because it is quicker, less expensive and less formal than litigation,” Mr McClelland said.
He said States and Territories had recently agreed to adopt uniform national laws on domestic arbitration based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.
He said the reforms meant Australia would now have a harmonised system for both domestic and international arbitration.
“This represents the most significant reform to international commercial arbitration in more than 20 years and will help make Australia a significant player in the booming international commercial dispute resolution market,” Mr McClelland said.
The Attorney-General said the Australian International Disputes Centre – to be established in Sydney later this year – would complement the new laws.
He said the centre would feature world class communication, audiovisual and video conferencing facilities, tribunal facilities, conference rooms and access to translation and transcription services.
22 June, 2010
Parents get leave
Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme has been passed by Parliament.
Under the government-funded scheme, based on recommendations by the Productivity Commission, parents will receive up to 18 weeks’ parental leave paid at the National Minimum Wage (currently $570 per week).
To be eligible for the scheme, the parents’ child must be born or adopted on or after 1 January 2011.
Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet has given an update on the Government’s Home Insulation Safety Plan.
Mr Combet said the Safety Plan was progressing well but there was still a lot to do.
He said around 61,000 houses that had foil and non-foil insulation installed had been inspected and that 98 applications for industry assistance and payments worth $6.1 million had been approved.
Mr Combet said approximately 12 million in claims had been paid out but that 31,000 had not yet been processed and 25,000 were being withheld for further investigation.
Numbers’ up for faxes
The Do Not Call Register has been expanded to allow fax numbers and numbers used by emergency services and Government bodies to be registered.
The changes took effect on 30 May this year, with registrations now lasting five years.
Chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, Chris Chapman said the changes would ensure vital community service numbers were not tied up by telemarketing calls.
For more information, go to www.donotcall.gov.au or call 1300 792 958.
Telstra joins NBN Co.
The company created to build and operate the National Broadband Network, NBN Co has reached a non-binding Financial Heads of Agreement with Telstra to enable it to access Telstra facilities.
Under the $9 billion Agreement, Telstra traffic would progressively migrate onto the NBN, subject to regulatory approval.
The Agreement, which represents over nine months of negotiations also provides for
NBN Co’s use of Telstra’s existing fit-for-use infrastructure such as ducts, pits and conduit and a right to acquire Telstra backhaul services and space in Telstra exchanges.
Refugee week now on
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has announced the beginning of Refugee Week which runs to 26 June.
The event, which this year has the theme ‘freedom from fear’, celebrates Australia’s humanitarian commitment and the contribution refugees make to the nation.
A range of Refugee Week events will be held across Australia, with further information on events available from www.immi.gov.au
Yacht collision report
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its final investigation report into the collision between teenage sailor Jessica Watson’s yacht Ella’s Pink Lady and the bulk carrier the Silver Yang in Queensland on 9 September 2009.
The ATSB found Ms Watson and the ship’s watch keepers were not keeping a proper lookout and were not appropriately using navigational aids.
The report also revealed that following the collision, the ship’s watch keeper did not offer to assist Ms Watson, a problem that has been highlighted by previous ATSB investigations.
The Bureau’s report was available from www.atsb.gov.au
Dispute resolution urged
Legislation that wouldrequire people to take genuine steps to resolve their legal disputes before going to Court has been introduced by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
Mr McClelland said ‘genuine steps’ could include exchanging information between parties to more clearly identify the issues in a dispute or considering mediation or conciliation.
He said other options could involve sending a notice of dispute outlining the issues and referencing relevant information or agreeing to participate in negotiations when initiating legal proceedings.
15 June, 2010
New security policies
A new policy framework for protective security in the Australian Public Service has been launched by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
locked into framework
Mr McClelland said the new policy streamlined practices to achieve better security outcomes, reduce red tape, increase efficiency, eliminate duplication and cut costs.
He said the Protective Security Policy Framework covered the physical, personnel, information and procedural measures in place to safeguard Australia’s national security interests.
“The current framework was developed when the business of Government wasn’t as diverse as it is currently,” Mr McClelland said.
“In today’s security climate, Government and private sector partnership is essential and we need a system that can be tailored to the nature of the task, the identity of the parties and the relevant security issues considered.”
The Attorney-General said the new framework would better address challenges posed by the increased use of ICT and introduced centralised and automated security clearances for all personnel security vetting.
“By eliminating the intensive paper-based clearance system, security verifications will be conducted in a more rigorous, reliable and consistent manner with less unnecessary duplication and complexity,” he said.
Mr McClelland said the current Protective Security Manual was over 250 pages long and contained more than 400 different mandatory requirements.
“The new framework contains just 33 with a tiered framework consisting of a range of core standards, policies and guidelines – some to apply across the board, and others to be developed by and apply to specific Agencies, taking into account their individual work and function,” he said.
Mr McClelland said the Government was making “significant changes” to the Protective Security Manual to better address issues such as the uptake of desktop computing.
“Previous efforts to reform protective security policy have been piecemeal and hampered by the inability of individual agencies to agree on reforms,” he said.
Mr McClelland said the entire framework would be published online, with some parts publicly available for the first time to ensure greater transparency.
He launched the Framework while opening the 22nd Security in Government Conference.
Further information on the Framework was available fromwww.ag.gov.au
15 June, 2010
PS chimes in with
Public Servants have featured prominently in the Queens Birthday Honours List with two receiving the highest honour of Companion in the Order of Australia (AC), four being made Officers of the Order of Australia (AO), eight becoming Members of the Order (AM), one receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia and 17 receiving Public Service Medals (PSM).
gongs from Queen
The honours were announced by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
COMPANION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AC)
Dr Allan HAWKE AC
For eminent service to public administration, particularly through the formulation and implementation of policy in the areas of transport, defence and education, and to the strengthening of bilateral relations with New Zealand.
In a long and distinguished PS career, Dr Hawke has been Secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Services, Defence, Veterans' Affairs and President of the Repatriation Commission.
Graeme SAMUEL AC,
For eminent service to public administration through contributions in the area of economic reform and competition law, and to the community through leadership roles with sporting and cultural organisations.
Mr Samuel is Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
OFFICER OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AO)
Justice Geoffrey GIUDICE AO
For distinguished service to the judiciary and to industrial relations, particularly through the development and implementation of policies and through the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
Justice Guidice is President of Fair Work Australia.
Judge Michael ROZENES AO,
For distinguished service to the judiciary, particularly as Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and through contributions to law reform and legal education.
Peter VARGHESE AO
For distinguished service to public administration, particularly in leading reform in the Australian intelligence community and as an adviser in the areas of foreign policy and international security.
Mr Varghese is Australian High Commissioner to India
John VON DOUSSA AO
For distinguished service to the law, particularly as President of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, as a Judge through contributions to Federal and International Courts, and to higher education.
MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AM)
Dr Robert Stewart BELL AM
For service to contemporary craft and design as a curator and advocate, and to the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the National Gallery of Australia.
Ian CARNELL AM
For service to public administration through contributions to the development and implementation of policy in the areas of national security and counter-terrorism.
Mr Carnell is the former Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
Professor Peter COLLIGNON AM
For service to medicine, particularly as a practitioner and educator in the fields of clinical microbiology, infectious diseases and infection control.
Professor Collignon is Director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Canberra Hospital
Justice Linda Marion DESSAU AM
For service to the judiciary, particularly through contributions in the area of family law policy and practice, and to the community.
Justice Dessau is a Judge of the Family Court of Australia
Denis McDERMOTT AM APM
For service to community policing, particularly through leadership roles in the Pacific region, and to the community through a range of charitable and humanitarian assistance organisations.
Commander McDermott is an Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.
Warren PEARSON AM
For service to the community through leadership roles with the National Australia Day Council, to the promotion of the celebration of the Australian identity and citizenship, and to reconciliation.
Mr Pearson is Chief Executive of the National Australia Day Council.
Dr James ROBERTSON AM PSM
For service to forensic science and education, particularly in the formation of the National Centre for Forensic Studies, through the development of research, teaching and training programs within the Australian Federal Police, as an academic, and to professional organisations.
Dr Robertson is National Manager, Forensic and Data Centres with the Australian Federal Police.
Andrew SAYERS AM
For service to arts administration, particularly as the Director of the National Portrait Gallery, and to the promotion of Australian portraiture.
Mr Sayers was the inaugural Director of the National Portrait Gallery.
MEDAL OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (OAM)
Dr Don EDGAR OAM
For service to education as a researcher and teacher, and through the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Regina Lillian PERTON OAM
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
For service to administrative law and to the community, particularly in the areas of equal opportunity and multiculturalism.
PUBLIC SERVICE MEDAL
Glenys Ann BEAUCHAMP PSM
Prime Minister and Cabinet
For outstanding public service in coordinating the Australian Government's response to the 2009 Victorian bushfires.
Ms Beauchamp was responsible for coordinating a whole-of-Government response, in partnership with the Victorian Government, to the Victorian bushfire tragedy.
She chaired the Commonwealth Victorian Bushfire Inter-Departmental Committee and provided high-level advice in relation to policy development, programs, payments and service delivery to the Prime Minister and relevant ministers on a daily basis.
She demonstrated extraordinary stakeholder management and great resilience and dedication to ensure productive outcomes for bushfire victims. All of this work was undertaken in addition to her already heavy load of policy and program administration across a range of areas including families, women and children.
The strategic leadership demonstrated by Ms Beauchamp was critical to the speed and breadth of the bushfire recovery efforts and helped many members of the community at their most vulnerable time
Barbara May CAUSON PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of improved and innovative service delivery for Indigenous Australians and as a role model for Indigenous staff.
Ms Causon is Centrelink’s Area Manager for North Australia and is widely recognised as an outstanding leader and role model for Indigenous staff in Centrelink and across the Australian Public Service.
She has a unique rapport with Indigenous Australians and has excelled in her ability to design and implement service options that meet their needs, particularly women and children living in remote communities.
Ms Causon led the development of income management frameworks, and her innovation and insights have been instrumental in changing the way Centrelink supports individuals and communities in challenging environments across Australia.
Ms Causon’s dedication and commitment have inspired staff to play a greater role in improving the quality of Centrelink’s service delivery and, as a result of her efforts, Area North Australia is the highest performing and best service delivery area in the country.
William Stanley CRAGO PSM
Foreign Affairs and Trade
For outstanding public service as a Consular Officer at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in responding to a number of very challenging and complex consular cases.
Between 2007 and 2009, Mr Crago was a Consular Officer at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and he was closely involved in a number of very challenging and difficult consular cases.
At all times, he demonstrated levels of dedication, professionalism and commitment that went well beyond normal requirements. These qualities also enabled him to develop strong and enduring relationships with key Indonesian Government officials, including the police whose co-operation and assistance were essential to the Embassy’s effective consular response in helping Australians.
One of Mr Crago’s most difficult assignments was his key role in the Australian Embassy’s response to the bombings in Jakarta in July 2009 and in taking responsibility for accounting for the missing Australians.
He was stationed at the police morgue to assist with victim identification and, despite the distressing and confronting environment, he provided the highest standards of consular services and information to victims and their families.
Philippa Margaret GODWIN PSM
Immigration and Citizenship
For outstanding public service in leading major organisational and cultural change in a range of departments and agencies.
Ms Godwin is widely regarded as an outstanding public sector leader with a strong record of achievement in a number of departments and agencies.
As a senior executive officer, she worked with enormous dedication and commitment in managing a range of sensitive and complex areas including the detention of irregular immigrants and compliance with immigration law and refugee settlement.
Many of the foundations for the improved standards, approaches and capabilities that the department is now exhibiting in managing asylum seekers were laid by Ms Godwin.
Most recently, she has demonstrated exceptional leadership as Acting Chief Executive Officer of Medicare Australia and Deputy Secretary, Child Support in the Child Support Agency.
As a result of her personal drive and dedication, significant improvements have been made in Medicare Australia’s service delivery and operations, financial performance and its ability to play a more innovative and proactive role in meeting and advancing the Government’s agenda.
Malisa de Lourdes GOLIGHTLY PSM
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
For outstanding public service in leading the successful implementation of Job Services Australia.
Ms Golightly was a Deputy Secretary in DEEWR until December 2009 and she led one of the largest and most complex tender processes for human services in Australia.
She played a pivotal role and demonstrated exceptional leadership in the successful reform and implementation of new employment services, Job Services Australia (JSA), for the Australian labour market from 1 July 2009.
Some of her key achievements include the successful on time delivery of a highly complex international Request for Tender process, design and delivery of supporting program and information technology systems, leadership in extensive stakeholder consultations and rigorous policy development to ensure that individual unemployed Australians could be smoothly transitioned into the new employment services.
The new JSA arrangements delivered by Ms Golightly represent significant micro-economic reform that has had a very positive impact on the lives of millions of Australian job seekers.
Dr Paul Francis GRIMES PSM
Finance and Deregulation
For outstanding public service in the development of the Australian Government's response to the global financial crisis.
Dr Grimes was General Manager of the Budget Group in Finance from early 2007 until August 2009. During this time, he played a key leadership role in the Australian Government’s response to the global financial crisis (GFC), including the formulation of the 2009-2010 Budget against a very uncertain outlook.
Dr Grimes brought outstanding leadership, intellectual skills and drive to Finance’s involvement in this policy response and budget process, and the advice he provided was of the highest quality, produced under difficult circumstances and to a very tight timeframe.
The Budget Group which he led contributed to 788 measures, more than ever before, and Dr Grimes’ involvement was critical in the consideration of the majority of the measures, particularly those with major impacts.
His excellent advice and dedicated leadership ensured that Finance successfully contributed to the Australian Government’s response to the GFC.
Peter John LAHY PSM
Australian Government Solicitor
For outstanding public service in the provision of high quality legal advice to Australian Government departments and agencies.
Mr Lahy is Special Counsel in AGS and has advised the Commonwealth on an extensive range of public law matters, including complex constitutional and statutory interpretation issues.
His work has had a particular focus on government administration and decision making, and he is considered an expert in the area of machinery of government legal matters. Mr Lahy has developed an extraordinary depth of knowledge and understanding of the responsibilities and workings of government and used this to provide outstanding legal advice services, including in the areas of migration, defence, communications and financial accountability and the new wheat export arrangements.
Through this work, he has greatly facilitated the efficient and lawful operation of the Australian Government and achievement of its policies and programs.
Shireane Kay McKINNIE PSM
Defence Materiel Organisation
For outstanding public service in the field of engineering and defence equipment acquisition.
From 2000 until 2009, Ms McKinnie was Head of the Electronic Systems and Electronic and Weapons Systems Divisions in DMO with responsibility for 900 Australian Public Service and Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and a budget of around $1 billion.
She led complex negotiations with foreign governments and large multinational and Australian defence sector companies in relation to core equipment and technology systems for the ADF and was resolute in her determination to deliver positive outcomes for Defence. Her leadership and commitment directly contributed to improvements in the war fighting capability of the ADF, including major acquisitions such as satellites and ground-based communications equipment as well as behind-the-scenes technology that underpins the command and control systems that are vital to the conduct of military operations.
Ms McKinnie was the leading engineer in the DMO and she made a significant personal contribution to promoting and developing the engineering discipline in Defence.
Michael Brian MANTHORPE PSM
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
For outstanding public service in contributing to the Australian Government's response to the collapse of ABC Learning Centres Ltd in 2008.
Mr Manthorpe played a critical national leadership role in assisting the Australian Government to manage the potential impact arising from the collapse of ABC Learning in November 2008.
His personal drive, decisive leadership, strategic approach to planning and strong relationship building skills focused efforts on protecting people, families, jobs and the childcare industry.
In a pressured, emotive, complex and challenging environment he led the Child Care Industry Taskforce as it worked in partnership with the receivers and other stakeholders to develop innovative solutions that would provide stability for, and minimise the impact on, parents, children and employees.
Throughout this process many unique and challenging public policy and commercial issues arose and it was Mr Manthorpe’s leadership and enormous personal commitment that delivered an outstanding result in terms of ongoing access to child care and a sound policy outcome.
Stephen John MERCHANT PSM
For outstanding public service in the fields of Defence strategic and international policy and intelligence collection and analysis.
Mr Merchant is currently Deputy Secretary in Defence and has performed to the highest standard in a wide variety of policy and intelligence roles.
`From 2003 to 2007 he was Director of the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and made an outstanding contribution to Australia’s foreign intelligence effort.
Under his strong and innovative leadership, DSD greatly expanded its capabilities to meet a wide range of rapidly changing customer demands by strengthening its technical and analytical capacity and its ability to work closely and co-operatively across the breadth of the intelligence, law enforcement and policy communities.
Mr Merchant was the driving force behind the better collection and coordination of intelligence activity to achieve practical outcomes on a whole-of-government basis, not only in terms of protecting the lives of Australian service men and women on deployment overseas, but also in fighting terrorism, people smuggling and other threats to Australia’s national interests.
In his current role, he has driven major improvements to the security vetting process and in the development and management of Australia’s international defence and intelligence relationships.
Michael Anthony MUGLISTON PSM
Foreign Affairs and Trade
For outstanding public service as Australia's lead negotiator for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.
Mr Mugliston was Australia’s lead negotiator for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).
In undertaking this role, he coordinated a whole-of-government approach to the agreement and built a coherent, effective and balanced negotiating strategy, taking into account the myriad of Australian stakeholder interests in the economic relationship, as well as the political context in ASEAN countries. The AANZFTA took over four years to negotiate, with 16 rounds of meetings, and Mr Mugliston led the negotiations throughout and was instrumental in bringing them to a successful conclusion.
He demonstrated outstanding leadership, excellent strategic judgment and strong communication and negotiation skills in pursuing the mandate he received from ministers with measured tenacity, while advocating innovative solutions to possible ‘road blocks’ on sensitive issues.
Mr Mugliston’s personal efforts have advanced Australia’s political, strategic and economic interests and provided a framework for significant trade and investment liberalisation over the coming years.
James Gerard O'CALLAGHAN PSM
Immigration and Citizenship
For outstanding public service in driving significant improvements in Australia's policy and operational responses to the irregular movement of people, managed migration and humanitarian protection in the South-East Asia region.
Mr O’Callaghan is DIAC’s Regional Director in South-East Asia, and has been leading highly sensitive work that promotes managed migration into the region and humanitarian protection for those in need while seeking to combat people smuggling activities and the irregular movement of persons.
In undertaking this role, Mr O’Callaghan has shown exceptional skill and leadership in developing and maintaining close relations with regional governments, particularly Indonesia, and international agencies working locally.
He has also shown great dedication and commitment in working with those parties to respond to challenges involving humanitarian protection responses and the irregular movement of people.
As a result of Mr O’Callaghan’s personal efforts, a number of important agreements have been secured that have very materially assisted Australia’s efforts to promote international, regional and bilateral co-operation against people smuggling.
Robert Gordon PATCH PSM
For outstanding public service in developing the legal framework for a new national personal property securities system.
Mr Patch is a Principal Legal Officer in AGD and has demonstrated outstanding leadership in developing the legal framework for a new national personal property securities system.
In undertaking this work, he created innovative solutions to seemingly intractable legal and commercial problems and conducted the policy development process in an open and consultative manner which ensured that the Australian business community and other key stakeholders were actively involved in developing the new legal regime.
As a result of Mr Patch’s personal dedication and commitment, the new system will enhance the international competitiveness of Australia’s financial sector and make it easier for small businesses to use personal property to raise finance to grow their businesses.
Peter Craig RYAN PSM
For outstanding public service in the application of signals intelligence in the field of counter-terrorism.
Barry Keith STERLAND PSM
Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
For outstanding public service in driving climate change policy in Australia and internationally.
Mr Sterland has driven the development of one of the most comprehensive, far-reaching and complex pieces of Australian public policy through leading the design of an Australian emissions trading scheme - the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) - as well as the supporting legislation.
He made an important contribution to the early design of policy through the Prime Minister’s Task Group on Emissions Trading in 2007. He is now recognised as a leading expert and creative thinker in this field, both in Australia and internationally.
In developing the CPRS, Mr Sterland led an extensive process of stakeholder consultations, hosting regular round table discussions and several hundred individual meetings that informed the development and release of the CPRS Green Paper in July 2008 and the White Paper in December 2008.
In an uncertain and often highly emotive environment, Mr Sterland demonstrated outstanding professionalism, leadership and vision and his personal contribution was critical to the cogency and strength of the Australian Government’s climate change policy.
Dennis Wayne STIDSTON PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and delivery of innovative commemorative activities for the Department of Veterans' Affairs in South Australia.
Mr Stidston is a member of the South Australian office of DVA and has displayed initiative and creativity in a range of roles. Some of his key achievements include developing a Remembrance Day competition for primary schools that has been running annually since 2002 and which receives in excess of 200 individual entries each year.
He also devised and implemented the Adelaide Memorial Walk, a tour that focuses on 11 major memorials in the central business district, and developed an associated student educational and teachers’ resource package that was sent to every primary and secondary school in South Australia.
Prior to the introduction of a formal military history course being delivered to DVA staff nationally, Mr Stidston personally developed and presented a similar course for the South Australian office which was very well received and attended.
He is a wonderful ambassador who has made a major contribution to DVA’s commemorative activities in South Australia.
Grant Ian TIDSWELL PSM
Mr Tidswell was one of the first Commonwealth officers on the ground following the February 2009 Victorian bushfires with responsibility for the development and deployment of Centrelink staff into fire affected areas to collect applications from victims and make immediate disaster payments.
For outstanding public service in leading Centrelink's response to the 2009 Victorian bushfires.
Under his leadership, Centrelink was able to deploy teams to each of the disaster and recovery centres within 24 hours of the disaster declaration and, over time, this built up to over 200 staff on the ground in 30 locations.
Mr Tidswell was instrumental in the coordination of arrangements to support Centrelink’s dedicated phone line services, development and implementation of an innovative combined Commonwealth/State case management system for bushfire victims and in providing accurate and timely advice to government.
Throughout the response, Mr Tidswell demonstrated inspirational leadership, service excellence to the Australian public and significant innovation in project development and service delivery.
15 June, 2010
Guide points way
A Better Practice Guide to help Senior Executives plan and approve projects has been released by the Australian National Audit Office.
to better projects
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the Guide focused on key issues to help Senior Executives implement and manage the most common types of projects – those aimed at program delivery and internal business operations.
Mr McPhee said the Guide, Planning and Approving Projects – an Executive Perspective, was presented in four main sections, each covering a different part of project management.
The first section, putting projects in context, addresses the importance of projects; the role of Executives in project planning and approval; typical elements of the project lifecycle; and sets out the concepts and terminology used throughout the Guide.
The second area, entity arrangements, describes better practices in the overall arrangements of an entity for the planning and approval of projects.
“These include aspects of strategic planning, people and culture, and governance,” the Guide says.
“These better practices will usually be the responsibility of Executives with entity wide roles for corporate planning, ICT and business strategy, human resources strategy, and governance.”
The third segment of the Guide, individual project proposals, discusses better practices for Senior Executives in the planning and approval of individual projects.
“The important role of Executives in planning and approving projects encompasses setting directions, reviewing and confirming important aspects of the proposal, applying their strategic perspective and leveraging their relationships with stakeholders,” the Guide says.
The final section, overview of project implementation, provides a summary of implementation issues for projects.
“This chapter indicates how elements of the business case – such as the outcomes, requirements, communications strategy and governance arrangements – are applied during implementation to help achieve the planned business outcomes,” the Guide says.
Mr McPhee said his office prepared the Guide to help Senior Executives and supporting staff meet their project responsibilities.
“The Guide provides insights and better practices that are supplemented by check lists and examples that we encourage Senior Executives to use when they oversight projects that are underpinned by a significant ICT component,” he said.
The Guide could be downloaded from www.anao.gov.au
15 June, 2010
The Australian Electoral Commission and the National Blood Authority have each been awarded a United Nations Public Service Award for 2010.
wins UN vote
Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig said the AEC won its award for improving the delivery of public services (Asia and the Pacific region) through its work on the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections program (BRIDGE).
The BRIDGE program was developed by the AEC, the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance and the United Nations Election Assistance Division and is implemented across the world.
It is a comprehensive professional development course aimed at improving the skills, knowledge and confidence of election professionals and stakeholders.
Senator Ludwig said the National Blood Authority (NBA) won the Advancing Knowledge and Management in Government (Asia and the Pacific region) award for its ‘Knowledge Network’.
The NBA instigated an international network to share information on plasma supply and planning and took a proactive approach to engaging with stock analysts to gain a fuller understanding of international product trends and pricing.
Senator Ludwig said he was “delighted to recognise” the work of the AEC and NBA and congratulated them on their international success.
The UN Public Service Awards reward the creative achievements and contributions public service institutions make to developing more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide.
The Awards aim to promote the role, professionalism and visibility of public service.
They are open to all Agencies, private/public partnerships and organisations undertaking outsourced work that improve transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the Public Service; improve service delivery; and foster participation in policy-making decisions.
Awards will be presented on the United Nations Public Service Day on 23 June in a ceremony at Barcelona, Spain.
15 June, 2010
Four new Bills have been introduced into Parliament to ensure electoral reforms continue to move forward.
have the numbers
Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig said the bills would remove a range of barriers that made it difficult for citizens to “exercise their democratic right to vote” and provide for improved privacy for blind and low vision voters.
Senator Ludwig said the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (How-to-Vote Cards and Other Measures) Bill 2010 included provisions aimed at ensuring electors knew on whose behalf a how-to-vote card was being distributed.
He said the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2010 included changes to modernise enrolment arrangements and reduce the age of enrolment from 17 to 16 years.
Senator Ludwig said the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2010 was introduced to restore the seven day close of rolls period during which people could enrol and remove provisional voting proof of identity requirements.
The Senator said the fourth Bill, Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Pre-poll Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2010, would allow voters already on the roll to electronically update their enrolment.
He said the final Bill also provided the legal framework for blind and low vision people to cast a secret and independent vote in the future.
15 June, 2010
Comment sought on
Members of the public have been encouraged to comment on a plan to simplify and streamline Australia’s visa system.
vision for visas
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans said a discussion paper, Creating a Simpler Framework for Temporary and Permanent Entry to Australia, had been released for public comment.
Senator Evans said reforms were needed as the current visa system was “highly complex” with 90 visa classes and 149 subclasses.
“Fewer temporary visa subclasses, simpler assessment criteria and a more streamlined and consistent application process will result in an overall simpler system,” Senator Evans said.
The Minister said that under the reforms, the number of temporary work visas would be halved by 2012 and the Government would aim to reduce the total number of visa subclasses by 50 per cent by 2015.
“Improvements to Australia’s complex visa system will be implemented while ensuring the system remains responsive and supportive of Government policy and client needs,” he said.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the initiative would be undertaken as a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership.
“Better Regulation Ministerial Partnerships form a key part of the Government’s deregulation agenda and ensure a disciplined and coordinated approach to delivering regulatory reform across Government,” Mr Tanner said.
“This partnership provides the opportunity to make Australia’s visa system more client-focused, reduce administrative and compliance costs for business and improve the efficiency of the overall visa system.”
Mr Tanner said the immigration system was an “important source of skilled labour” that contributed to productivity and economic growth.
Public consultation on the reforms will be open until 16 July. The discussion paper is available from www.immi.gov.au
15 June, 2010
Users line up for
An advisory group made up of teachers and parents is to be established to provide the Government with advice on cyber-safety issues.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the Teachers and Parents Advisory Group on Cyber-Safety would help inform cyber-safety policies and programs to keep families safe online.
The new advisory group was announced at the 2010 Cyber-Safety and Youth Advisory Group (YAG) Summit which was held in Canberra.
Fifty primary and secondary students and their parents and teachers attended the summit from around Australia to provide their views on Government cyber-safety programs and initiatives.
Senator Conroy said the YAG Summit was held to coincide with National Cyber Security Awareness Week last week and provided the Government with a great opportunity to consult with parents, teachers and young people on how to keep young Australians safe online.
“This is the second year of the YAG and I look forward to the contribution these young people will make to improving cyber-safety,” he said.
“The Government’s recent expansion of cyber-safety education, awareness-raising and counselling services was informed by feedback and advice provided by YAG members in 2009.”
During the event Senator Conroy also launched a new Cyber-safety Help Button to provide internet users, particularly children and their parents, with easy access to cyber‑safety information and assistance.
“The YAG members will be testing the new Help Button and providing feedback to Government before the final version is released,” he said.
The Senator said the summit participants discussed their views on the Australian Federal Police’s Thinkuknow program and the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s Click and connect research and resources.
Senator Conroy said key findings from all consultations would be presented to the Consultative Working Group on Cyber-safety by representatives of the Youth Advisory Group.
Comcare packs wallop
Government-owned company, Aboriginal Hostels Ltd has been ordered to improve its work safety practices after the Federal safety regulator Comcare completed its investigation of injury to an AHL employee while using a goods lift in 2007.
after hostel breach
The Comcare investigation found AHL had not protected the health and safety of its employees by failing to conduct risk assessments, inspections or maintenance of the service lift, or implement adequate work systems for the lift’s operation.
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said the investigation also found AHL failed to provide information, instruction, training and supervision to employees at the Iris Clay Hostel in Townsville on how to use the lift safely.
Mr O’Connor said the investigation resulted in a Court-enforceable undertaking between Aboriginal Hostels Ltd and Comcare.
He said the enforceable undertaking was an important example to all Federal employers that providing safe equipment and adequate training was a fundamental responsibility of an employer to a worker.
“Safety incidents caused by lack of training and information are one hundred percent avoidable,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Employers must ensure that plant and machinery is safe and used only by trained employees.”
Mr O’Connor said AHL had agreed to implement a new safety and maintenance regime and to improving the training and supervision of workers.
Comcare is to monitor AHL to ensure it complies with the undertaking.
Mr O’Connor said a copy of the undertaking was available at www.comcare.gov.au
15 June, 2010
New direction for
An investigation into passports that get lost in the mail has found it would be “invaluable” for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to include advice about postal services when educating the public about passport security.
Acting Commonwealth and Postal Industry Ombudsman, Ron Brent said improving data collection and analysis would also help explain the losses and create a stronger passport system.
In his report, Australia Post and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Passports lost in the mail, Mr Brent said several hundred Australian passports sent through the mail went missing each year.
He said while the majority arrived at their intended destination, the security and financial implications related to the loss of any passport were serious.
“It is the risk of identity theft, and the costs involved in replacing a passport and rearranging travel plans rather than the number that go missing, that demand we take the issue seriously,” Mr Brent said.
The Acting Ombudsman said he examined policies and procedures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australia Post.
He said while DFAT recorded how many Australian passports were reported as lost or stolen each year, it did not distinguish between different types of loss (except for those sent through the post).
“I accept DFAT’s view that individual passport security is ultimately a matter for the passport holder, just as the choice of postal services used by foreign diplomatic missions issuing visas to Australian passport holders is a matter for the Government concerned,” he said.
“However, it would be invaluable if DFAT extended its role in educating the public about general passport security to include advice about postal services.
“For example, in DFAT’s experience, significantly fewer passports are lost in the post when sent by registered mail.”
Mr Brent said his investigation found Australia Post did not treat lost passport complaints separately from complaints about other lost items, which were primarily grouped by postcode.
“In not tracking lost items by content as well as postcode, Australia Post is missing an opportunity to identify spikes in passport-related complaints that could provide police with investigative leads,” he said.
Mr Brent recommended Australia Post employ a consistent definition of ‘passport’ in all of its documents to avoid confusion and prevent inconsistent outcomes; redraft in plain English all information about how to send passports through the post; and ensure sufficient information about different postal services was publicly available.
The Acting Ombudsman welcomed commitments from both Agencies to act on his recommendations.
The Ombudsman’s report was available fromwww.ombudsman.gov.au
15 June, 2010
Youngsters old hands
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has adopted the view “you’re never too young to start learning” by launching a fun new cyber-security resource for five to nine-year-olds.
in cybersafe program
As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Week which ended last Friday, ACMA released a new cyber-security themed episode of its award-winning online cyber-safety resource for kids – Hector’s World – which follows Hector the dolphin and his ocean friends as they learn how to use technology safely.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the episode made its premiere on an interactive whiteboard before a third-grade class at Birchgrove Public School in Sydney.
“This new Hector’s World episode provides important security lessons for young people when they are using computers online” Mr Chapman said.
“The lesson plan also highlights the importance of students turning to a trusted adult or carer for help.”
He said the episode introduced the foundations of computer security skills such as keeping an eye out for viruses and the importance of using strong and secure passwords.
In launching the episode, the Executive Director of NetSafe New Zealand (the parent company of Hector’s World Limited), Martin Cocker said helping children understand computer safety was an important step towards teaching them to be “confident and responsible digital citizens.”
Hector’s World was awarded the .au Domain Administration and Internet NZ Internet Best Practice Award for Best Security Initiative last week.
All episodes of Hector’s World and supporting materials were available from ACMA’s Cybersmart website www.cybersmart.gov.au
15 June, 2010
Applications for the age pension are being streamlined to cut unnecessary paperwork for Centrelink clients transferring to the pension.
put out to pasture
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen announced the move saying that streamlining Centrelink’s Age Pension transfer form would make it easier for more than 50,000 Centrelink clients to switch from an income support payment to Age Pension each year.
“The new form is expected to take less than half the time of the previous form to complete as it makes better use of information already held by Centrelink,” Mr Bowen said.
He said clients receiving Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension and Newstart Allowance would not need to provide full descriptions of their income and assets to Centrelink again if they were already receiving a payment when they reach Age Pension age.
Mr Bowen said Centrelink would now only need to assess the impact of superannuation, accommodation and confirm residency requirements for existing clients.
He said the ‘tell us once’ approach would simplify the process for transferring across to the age pension.
Mr Bowen said the new forms were automatically being sent to eligible clients.
He said clients were still required to advise of any changes to their income and assets to avoid the risk of being overpaid.
Further information and details on how to alert Centrelink to changes in circumstances were available from www.centrelink.gov.au
15 June, 2010
A national strategy to increasethe use of technology in the road freight industry could help improve road safety and reduce costs and emissions according to a draft released by the National Transport Commission.
truck safety effort
In the Draft National In-Vehicle Telematics Strategy: The Road Freight Sector, the National Transport Commission (NTC) outlines the potential of a partnership approach to using technology.
Chief Executive of NTC, Nick Dimopoulos said there was a “great opportunity” to harness the potential of “real time” information by encouraging wider uptake of technology.
“Industry is already investing in technologies to improve truck fleet efficiencies, such as tracking deliveries in real time so the warehouse is ready to unload the truck as it arrives,” Mr Dimopoulos said.
“By 2030 we’d like to see 90 per cent of the road freight sector voluntarily using in-vehicle technologies, with information routinely shared between supply chain parties to drive efficiencies and proactively manage fatigue, speed and overloading risks.”
He said a national strategy would provide a clear and consistent policy for technology use and give industry the confidence they needed to invest.
Mr Dimopoulos said an over-arching set of national principles would help to better align and guide in-vehicle telematics initiatives – such as standards and regulations – with national transport policy objectives.
He said in-vehicle telematics encompassed the electronic monitoring and management of vehicles, their devices and their loads.
Mr Dimopoulos said the draft strategy, which was developed in consultation with Governments, industry and unions, and a supporting discussion paper would be open for comment until 21 July.
It could be downloaded from www.ntc.gov.au
15 June, 2010
Stars come out for
A new campaign urging young people to enrol to vote has been launched by the Australian Electoral Commission with help from a group of famous Australians.
The “cheeky” campaign is supported by celebrities and sports stars such as Dave Hughes and Eamon Sullivan who are delivering the message “famous people vote too.”
In a bid to reach out to people aged 18 to 39 who make up around 70 per cent of the 1.4 million Australians missing from the electoral roll, the AEC has invited youths to upload photos or video clips of people in their community saying why it was important to be enrolled.
Entrants have the opportunity to win weekly prizes and receive free campaign items such as t-shirts and posters.
Spokesperson for the AEC, Phil Diak said 1.4 million missing voters could potentially change the course of an election.
“Even if you think you’re enrolled, if you’ve moved house in the past three years, you may not be,” Mr Diak said.
“You’ve got to update your address on the electoral roll every time you move to avoid the risk of losing your vote.
Comedian and campaign ambassador, Dave Hughes said everyone was equal when it came to voting.
“Nothing gets me going more than people whinging about Governments or politicians when they won’t even vote,” Mr Hughes said.
“If you want to have a say, do something about it and get on the roll – because your vote is worth just as much as James Packer’s or Nicole Kidman’s!”
Ambassadors to the campaign include MTV VJ Ruby Rose;Neighbours starMatthew Werkmeister; swim star Eamon Sullivan;City Homicide’s Aaron Pedersen; models Tahnee Atkinsonand Laura Dundovic; andyoungfootballers Tom Scullyand Jack Watts.
The campaign website, www.famouspeoplevotetoo.com, includes videos of ambassadors urging people to vote and is supported by a social media strategy that will see ambassadors ‘tweeting’ their followers and urging them to enrol and vote.
15 June, 2010
New SMS tool
A new tool to makeit easier for members of the public to report spam SMS messages sent to their mobiles has been launched by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
has txt appeal
Chairman of the Authority, Chris Chapman said people who received spam messages on their mobile phones could now report it using the Spam SMS tool.
Mr Chapman said all that mobile users had to do was forward any spam messages received to 0429 999 888.
“As active mobile phone users, young people are increasingly exposed to targeted SMS marketing messages but may be reluctant or indifferent to reporting spam,” Mr Chapman said.
“We can actually do a lot to help in this space, but we have to know about it.
“Spam SMS is a simple and convenient way to tell us about spam. All you need to do is forward the message to 0429 999 888 as soon as you receive it.”
He said the information received by Spam SMS would help ACMA investigate breaches of the Spam Act.
Mr Chapman launched Spam SMS at the Phoenix Youth Centre in Footscray as part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Week.
Further information about SMS and ACMA’s recent enforcement outcomes in relation to spam sent via text messaging was available from www.spam.acma.gov.au
15 June, 2010
The site for Australia’s first commercial-scale smart electricity grid has been announced by the Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water, Senator Penny Wong.
irons out issues
Senator Wong said Newcastle would host a $100 million Smart Grid Smart City demonstration project with a view to helping Australians save energy, connect renewable energy to the grid and tackle climate change.
Senator Wong said the project was set to commence in mid 2010 and would be constructed by the winning bidder on the project, a consortium led by EnergyAustralia.
She said the main demonstration site would be the city of Newcastle, with other parts of the trial to be conducted in Scone, Homebush, Ku-ring-gai and the Sydney CBD.
Senator Wong said Smart Grids would give Australian households and businesses the tools to reduce their energy use and energy bills into the future.
“Smart grids are critical in the fight against climate change, as they have enormous potential to improve the efficiency of our electricity sector and transform the way we use energy in our homes and businesses,” she said.
“Smart Grids give households the ability to manage their own energy use, as they give consumers information about how much energy they are using and the costs at any time.”
Senator Wong said adopting smart grid applications around Australia could see carbon emissions reduced by around 3.5 megatonnes per annum.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the EnergyAustralia consortium would test smart grid technologies and ensure they were suitable for Australian conditions.
“This demonstration project will provide information on the costs and benefits of smart grid technologies and applications that industry needs to make the right decisions in implementing this technology,’’ Mr Ferguson said..
“A smart grid can identify and resolve faults on the electricity grid, manage voltage and identify infrastructure that requires maintenance.”
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the initiative would explore synergies between smart grid technologies and the National Broadband Network.
“This project is an important starting point as we move to ensure Australia gains maximum value from our broadband investments,” Senator Conroy said.
The EnergyAustralia consortium includes IBM Australia, AGL, GE Energy, TransGrid, Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government.
15 June, 2010
Veterans at ease
Veteran’s Health Week is to be held from 19 to 25 of July to encourage the Veteran community to learn more about healthy eating and polish up their cooking skills.
for health week
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said the theme of the week was ‘nutrition’ and would see veterans, war widows and their friends and families taking part in cooking competitions, healthy cooking demonstrations, sessions on how to plant a kitchen garden and ‘bush food’ walks.
“Last year, 96 events were held during Veterans’ Health Week around Australia and some 5,000 people attended the activities,” Mr Griffin said.
“This year there will be more than 130 events, so there will be plenty of opportunity to get involved,”
He encouraged the veteran community to get involved in the activities on offer during Veterans’ Health Week.
“Learning more about growing your own food and cooking can be a lot of fun,” Mr Griffin said.
“Another bonus of eating well is that a healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of illness and disease.”
He said Veterans’ Health Week aimed to support and educate older veterans and the entire veteran community.
For further information about the awareness week or to organise an event, visit www.dva.gov.au or phone 133 254.
15 June, 2010
November opening for Info Office
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is to open its doors on 1 November 2010 and will be led by Australia’s first Information Commissioner, former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan.
The Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 will also commence on 1 November.
The OAIC brings together the functions of information policy, privacy protection and freedom of information in the same Agency for the first time.
Army recruits online
The Australian Army has unveiled a new online advertising campaign to expose some of the myths about the military and support recruitment efforts.
The campaign, Under a Rising Sun, gives an up-close and personal look into the lives and backgrounds of five serving Army personnel and their families.
The major component of the campaign is the websitewww.defencejobs.gov.au/risingsun, but will include four weeks of television advertising which launched on 6 June.
CPSU fees up
The Community and Public Sector Union has increased its membership fees in line with changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Fees depend on a member’s salary and range from $8.35 a fortnight for people earning between $10,000 and $24,999 to $28.65 a fortnight for those earning $100,000 or more.
A table of payments was available from www.cpsu.org.au
APRA shows super growing
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has released its March 2010 quarterly superannuation statistics which show total estimated assets grew by 2.6 per cent to a total of $1.26 trillion.
APRA’s Quarterly Superannuation Performance publication showed public sector funds grew by 2.7 per cent, or $4.7 million to $177.4 billion.
Public sector funds received 29.4 per cent ($5.2bn) of total contributions while the combined rate of return was 1.6 per cent for all funds and 1.9 per cent for public sector funds.
Copies of the report could be accessed at www.apra.gov.au
Child care grants
Special grants of $20,000 are to be awarded to around 190 child care centres in disadvantaged areas across Australia to help upgrade their facilities and improve the quality of their centres.
The funding can be used for a range of operational purposes including capital improvements or purchasing new equipment and toys.
More information is available at www.deewr.gov.au
Survey results out
The Federal export credit Agency,Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, or EFIC, has launched the results of its annual global readiness index which surveyed over 900 Australian businesses to identify export drivers, destinations and barriers.
The survey found most companies were focused on overseas expansion, with 78 per cent having an offshore operations plan. Eighty-six per cent of companies surveyed said their reason for expanding off shore was ‘increasing revenue/market share’.
Traditional export markets – North America (30 per cent) and Europe (26 per cent) ranked equally with emerging markets – South East Asia (30 per cent), New Zealand and Pacific (28 per cent) and China (27 per cent).
DIAC pushes Refugee Week
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has encouraged members of the public to come together from 20 to 26 June to celebrate Refugee Week and Australia’s commitment to humanitarian issues.
The theme for 2010, ‘freedom from fear’ recognises the strength and courage of refugees who have overcome hardships to start new lives in Australia.
DIAC is supporting a range of events during Refugee Week such as the Freedom from Fear 2010 event at Cabramatta Town Centre on 18 June and My Voice! on 20 June in Marrickville in Sydney.
Further information on events was available from www.immi.gov.au
A new $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund is to be established to invest in projects with potential partner funding from States, private investors and/or Local Governments.
The Fund comprises $5.6 billion of revenue from the Resources Super Profits Tax commencing in 2012-13, with an additional $400 million allocated in the Budget for the fund between 2010-11 and 2013-14.
Infrastructure Australia is to be consulted on projects which will be selected based on their ability to develop mining communities; benefit Australia’s economic development and export capacity; and address potential restraints arising from export production and resource projects.
Separated men get help
The Child Support Agency has partnered with beyondblue: the national depression initiative to help support men affected by separation.
Chief Operating Officer at CSA, Geoff Mutton said International Men’s Health Week which ends on 20 June was an ideal time to highlight the support services available for men affected by separation.
Mr Mutton encourage men going through a separation to visit their local GP, find a good counsellor and call the CSA on 131 272or visitwww.csa.gov.au to find out about support services.
Art scam warning
The Australia Council for the Arts is warning the public of a scam involving callers claiming to be from the organisation.
The Council said callers told people they were eligible to be reimbursed for overcharged bank fees and quoted the ABN of the Australia Council.
The Council said it was “not in the business of reimbursing bank fees” or phoning people to offer refunds and urged all scam calls to be reported to the Police and the Australia Council on (02) 9215 9000.
8 June, 2010
Reform Council blows
The Council of Australian Governments Reform Council has issued its first reports assessing the performance of all nine Australian Governments against national agreements in healthcare, housing, Indigenous reform and disability.
whistle on Governments
Chairman of the Reform Council, Paul McClintock said some of the findings in the four reports were “stark”, particularly those to do with Indigenous disadvantage.
“The overwhelming disadvantage of Indigenous Australians is an alarming theme that runs through all of the National Agreement reports,” Mr McClintock said.
“While Australians have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, for Indigenous Australians the rate is the same now as it was for other Australians in the 1950s.”
Mr McClintock raised concerns over the lack of quality data available to measure progress against performance indicators, calling for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), to address the gaps to allow the Council to properly report on progress in the future.
He said there were significant limitations in the availability of data across all four reports, with information either outdated or not available.
“We’ve urged COAG to address these gaps so that we can accurately compare and assess year-on-year changes,” Mr McClintock said.
“Despite these data limitations, the reports are significant because they are a comprehensive snapshot of the performance of each Government in these areas.
He said the reports found in 2007–08 that two million people went to hospital emergency departments with illnesses or injuries that could have been treated by GPs and that smaller jurisdictions on average had longer waiting times for elective surgery.
The ACT had the longest waiting time (73 days), followed by the Northern Territory and South Australia (43 and 42 days respectively), while Queensland had the lowest (27 days).
The report into housing found that in 2007–08, at least 60 per cent of home sales in each State and Territory were unaffordable to moderate income households, with Perth and Brisbane the least affordable of the capital cities, and Melbourne the most affordable.
Indigenous Australians were more likely to live in unacceptable conditions, with almost 26,000 Indigenous households across Australia overcrowded in 2008.
The four reports:
could be downloaded from www.coag.gov.au
- National Healthcare Agreement: Report on Performance 2008–09;
- National Affordable Housing Agreement: Report on Performance 2008-09;
- National Indigenous Reform Agreement: Report on Performance 2008-09; and
- National Disability Agreement: Report on Performance 2008-09
8 June, 2010
Contract guide worth
A new guide to help consumers deal with unfair contracts has been published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and State and Territory consumer protection Agencies.
paper it’s written on
The publication, titled A guide to the unfair contract terms law, aims to help businesses, consumers and their advisors understand their rights and obligations under new unfair contract terms (UCT) law which is due to commence on 1 July.
Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Peter Kell said many industries – including telecommunications, health and fitness, travel, utilities and building – used standard form contracts.
Mr Kell said it was common for consumers to be offered the same or a similar ‘standard form’ contract that was generally not subject to negotiation.
“The UCT law is designed to address the detriment that can arise in circumstances where consumers are offered contracts on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis and those contracts contain terms that are unfair,” Mr Kell said.
“The ACCC will seek suppliers’ cooperation to remove terms that may be unfair from consumer contracts.
“Ultimately the ACCC cannot endorse or ‘OK’ a term in a standard consumer contract, but this guide will help businesses to understand the operation of the new law.”
He said the ACCC would take further steps where necessary, including enforcement action, if faced with a contract term it believed was unfair to consumers.
Mr Kell said the changes, which are part of the Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Act (No.1) 2010, would apply to all standard form consumer contracts entered into or renewed after 1 July.
He said under the new laws, a term in a standard form consumer contract would be considered to be unfair if it caused significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations arising under the contract, and was not reasonably necessary.
Mr Kell said any terms declared by a Court to be unfair would be void but the contract would continue to apply without the term.
He said the ACCC would seek compliance with the UCT provisions and would review standard form consumer contracts where consumer harm was evident.
The new guide was available from www.accc.gov.au
8 June, 2010
Security week unlocks
Members of the public are being urged to protect themselves online during National Cyber Security Awareness Week which runs to Friday 11 June.
Launched by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy and Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, National Cyber Security Awareness Week aims to inform Australians about the importance of cyber security.
Senator Conroy said that during the week, programs and activities would highlight simple steps that could be taken to protect personal and financial information online.
“The Awareness Week aims to educate and empower people with the information, confidence and practical tools they need to protect themselves online,” Senator Conroy said.
He said the theme for the week, ‘Protect Yourself Online’, focused on a range of devices used to access the internet.
“These days it is not just computers that go online,” the Senator said.
“Phones, game consoles, TVs and even fridges and photo frames can be connected to the internet.”
Senator Conroy said the week promoted six steps that could improve online security:
As part of the Awareness Week, Attorney-General Robert McClelland launched a new booklet, Protecting Yourself Online – What Everyone Needs to Know.
- installing security software;
- turning on automatic updates;
- having a strong password and changing it twice a year;
- thinking before clicking on links or attachments;
- thinking before sharing personal or financial information; and
- parents knowing what their kids were doing online.
He said the booklet was a comprehensive collection of cyber security and safety information and provided advice on the basic steps to take to stay secure online.
“It also contains valuable advice for consumers on how they can secure their computer, be smart with their online finances and identities, and keep themselves and their family safe online,” Mr McClelland said.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is running a number of events as part of the week, with Senator Conroy launching the Agency’s Cybersmart Hero program, an online anti-cyberbullying activity for Year Six students aimed at helping them manage cyberbullying and telling them where to go for help.
Other ACMA initiatives include a Cyber-Security Roundtable for People with Disabilities; a new spam reporting tool – Spam SMS; a Pre-Service teacher program on cybersafety; and a new episode of Hector’s World – an online resource for young children.
Senator Conroy also launched an Internet Service Provider (ISP) Code of Practice on Cyber Security.
The cybersafety booklet and further information on the Awareness Week were available from www.staysmartonline.gov.au
8 June, 2010
The Commonwealth is to bring its financial strength to bear to improve the planning and development of major cities across the country.
its luck in big city
Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran told a meeting of Capital City Lord Mayors recently that Australia needed a new national approach to preparing cities for future challenges and the Council of Australian Governments had an agenda to bring this about.
Mr Moran said under COAG’s vision, infrastructure, transport, land-use and planning would be coordinated between all three levels of Government to ensure projects were streamlined and that they complemented each other.
“We will no longer be in the situation where transport projects do not support the city strategic plan and vice versa,” Mr Moran said.
He said under COAG’s national agenda, its Reform Council (CRC) would be asked to review planning systems in the major cities to establish whether they were consistent with its criteria.
Mr Moran said an expert advisory panel would be established to help the CRC with the review and there were four matters “of particular significance” needing to be emphasised from a Commonwealth perspective.
Firstly, he said Commonwealth funding would become conditional on city strategic plans meeting the COAG national criteria.
“Secondly, the focus of the new arrangements is on integration – across different levels of Government, across different Government Departments and Agencies, and across different topic areas and disciplinary perspectives,” Mr Moran said.
Thirdly, he said, the criteria and CRC review process would focus on successful implementation of strategic plans.
Making his final point, Mr Moran said the COAG criteria recognised the importance of Local Governments and that working partnerships between the three tiers of Government would be essential for functional planning.
“The challenges of rapid population growth, an ageing population and demographic change, as laid out in the Intergenerational Report, underscore the need for national leadership in planning the future of our cities,” he said.
“Leadership does not mean taking over State responsibilities for land planning...it means providing national coordination and support, and some sense of strategic direction.”
Mr Moran said as part of other COAG reforms directed towards producing liveable and sustainable cities, the Productivity Commission would soon be examining planning and zoning systems and their impacts on the overall efficiency of functioning cities.
“To improve on the nation’s wellbeing, we need to improve the productivity of cities,” he said.
Mr Moran’s speech to the Capital City Mayors entitled City Strategic Planning, could be accessed at www.dpmc.gov.au
8 June, 2010
Workforce fired up
A special ‘anti-tobacco workforce’ is to be established to combat the high levels of smoking in Indigenous communities.
to stamp out smoking
Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, made the announcement on World No Tobacco Day, saying the anti-tobacco workforce would soon be rolled-out in the first 20 of 57 regions across the country.
Mr Snowdon said each region would receive a regional tobacco coordinator and tobacco action worker, in addition to two new ‘healthy lifestyle’ workers to help improve nutrition and physical activity in Indigenous communities.
“Overall, around one in six Australians smoke, but the rate is almost one in two among Indigenous Australians,” Mr Snowdon said.
“One in five deaths among Indigenous Australians is caused by smoking and that’s unacceptable.”
He said the new anti-tobacco workforce would have a total of 82 positions from July, with 20 regional tobacco coordinators, 21 tobacco action workers and 41 healthy lifestyle workers.
Mr Snowdon said the workforce would reach Indigenous people by running local smoking prevention and quit campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking and supporting individuals to quit.
He said the workforce was part of the Government’s $100.6 million Tackling Smoking measure, a COAG partnership with the States and Territories.
The Minister said the anti-tobacco workforce would be complemented by the new healthy lifestyle workers, part of a $37.5 million initiative to help people get more physically active and improve their eating habits.
Former Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma is the national coordinator for the anti-tobacco campaign.
Mr Calma said the workforce would focus on preventative measures to stop people from taking up the habit and would connect people with services to help them quit.
“A community-level approach to tackling the high rates of smoking among Indigenous people will help ensure the most appropriate methods are used to educate communities about the dangers that smoking poses to their health,” Me Calma said.
Staff in the anti-tobacco workforce will be employed by Aboriginal community controlled health organisations such as Aboriginal Medical Services, where possible.
8 June, 2010
Minimum wage with
Fair Work Australia’s Minimum Wages Panel has lifted the minimum wage to $569.90 per week, a $26 or 1.2 per cent rise since the last increase in 2008.
Minister for Employment, Julia Gillard said the decision was “considered and fair”, and would help ease the cost of living pressure on working families.
“The Government believes that the approach to Minimum Wage setting taken by the panel in the 2010 Review is both economically responsible and fair,” Ms Gillard said.
“The decision will benefit the more than 1.45 million Australians who rely on awards to set their pay and will ensure that they get a fairer share of the benefits of Australia’s economic recovery.”
Ms Gillard said the additional pay would be delivered to workers from 1 July.
She said the decision also increased classification and adult minimum wages in modern awards by $26 per week, or $0.69 per hour.
Ms Gillard said in a submission to the panel the Government called for a considered increase above inflation since the last minimum wage rise in 2008.
The Minister said the extra $26 a week – around $6 a week over inflation - would help Australia’s lowest paid workers pay their living costs such as the mortgage, rent and food.
She said no increase was awarded during 2009 due to the difficult economic environment.
In making its decision, the Panel said the Australian economy had performed much better than expected since March 2008, with increased productivity, prices and real earnings, but not wages.
“There is a strong case for a rise in minimum wages to provide a fair and relevant safety net, protect the relative living standards of award-reliant employees and assist the low paid to meet their needs,” the Panel said.
“The forecasts for 2010–11 give strong grounds to conclude that such an increase could be awarded without threatening business viability, employment growth or adding to inflation.
“We have concluded that a significant increase in minimum wages is warranted.”
The new independent Minimum Wage Panel within Fair Work Australia replaced the Australian Fair Pay Commission as the specialist body responsible for reviewing and setting minimum wages in Australia.
8 June, 2010
Bureau has date
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has published its 2009-10Year Book Australia and Governor-General, Quentin Bryce has launched it.
with Year Book
According to Her Excellency, the 2009-10 Year Book Australiawas a comprehensive account of the nation.
“It’s an important account of Australian life, the economy and our culture, documented in a single reference source,” Ms Bryce said.
Australian Statistician, Brian Pink said each Year Book illustrated Australia’s position at the time of publication.
“It is an historic record of relevance now and to future generations,” Mr Pink said.
“This issue features topics Australians find important, to themselves and the nation, such as biodiversity, immigration and Indigenous Australians.”
Mr Pink said the 2009-10 edition reflected on the International Years of Biodiversity and Cultural Rapprochement and paid tribute to the Australian Year of the Girl Guide.
According to this edition of the Year Book, Australia is the most isolated inhabited continent in the world and is one of the most biologically unique and diverse countries.
The Year Book also shows how Australia benefits from its biodiversity, with estimates that tourism, recreational fishing and commercial fishing in the GreatBarrier Reef Marine Park contributed $5.4 billion to the economy in 2006-07.
It said the national economic value generated by 15 of Australia’s other World Heritage Areas was about $7.25 billion annually.
Other figures in the book show the rivers, wetlands and flood plains of the Murray-Darling Basin are thought to provide $187 billion in ecosystem services annually, and terrestrial ecosystems up to $325 billion per year.
The Year Book says biodiversity related industries contribute significantly to the Australian economy, with commercial fisheries worth $2.2 billion and kangaroo harvesting worth $245 million.
The publication also documents the contribution of Girl Guides to Australia over the last 100 years, particularly through their involvement with a number of events including International Women’s Day, Clean Up Australia Day and National Tree Planting Day.
The 2009-10 Year Book Australia could be downloaded fromwww.abs.gov.au
8 June, 2010
New rights committee
A new Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights is to be established to ensure that all new national laws comply with Australia’s international human rights obligations.
is right for the job
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 would establish the new Committee which would examine and report to Parliament on the compatibility of legislation with international human rights obligations.
Mr McClelland said the Committee would include representatives from both Houses of Parliament and have the power to initiate inquiries into Bills, existing Acts and delegated legislation, as well as conduct broader human rights inquiries.
He said it could conduct public hearings when it believed it would benefit from submissions from the public or particular expertise.
“This will be the first Parliamentary Committee, at a Federal level, dedicated to human rights scrutiny,” Mr McClelland said.
Under the reforms, each new Bill introduced into Parliament will be required to have a Statement of Compatibility with Australia’s international human rights obligations.
“The Statements will assist in explaining the purpose and intent of legislation, to contextualise human rights considerations, and where appropriate, justify restrictions or limitations on rights in the interests of other individuals or society more generally,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the Bill also introduced amendments to appoint the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission as an ex officio member of the Administrative Review Council to ensure the business of Government regarded how legislation impacted on the rights of ordinary citizens.
The Attorney-General said the Bill was a key part of Australia’s Human Rights Framework which aims to enhance the understanding of, and respect for, human rights in Australia.
Mr McClelland said Australia had obligations under seven core international human rights treaties:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- International Covenant On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
- Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
- Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women;
- Convention against Torture and Cruel and Inhumane and Unusual Punishment;
- Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
8 June, 2010
The Special Minister of State has approved an exemption to the guidelines on Government advertising campaigns to launch a campaign on the new mining industry tax.
to sell tax policy
The Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig said despite the exemption, Treasury officials would still be required to comply with obligations under the Financial Management Accountability Act, the APS Code of Conduct and other aspects of the advertising framework.
Senator Ludwig said the usual procurement process would also apply.
“This decision does not in any way affect the size or nature of the campaign being conducted by the Treasury in relation to tax reform,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The cost of this communications campaign was clearly and publicly announced in the Budget papers.”
He said in granting the exemption, he directed Treasury to adhere to the intent of the Guidelines, with a particular focus on ensuring campaign materials were objective and not directed at promoting party political interests.
He said the Campaign Advertising Guidelines allowed the Cabinet Secretary to exempt campaigns in times of extreme urgency or other compelling reasons.
“I have accepted the Treasurer’s advice that there is an active campaign of misinformation about the proposed changes to our tax system, and that Australians are concerned about how these changes will affect them,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The community has expressed a very clear desire to know more about the reforms to our tax system and it’s important to provide that information.
“I have also accepted the Treasurer’s advice that, as the tax reforms involve changes to the value of some capital assets, they impact on financial markets.”
8 June, 2010
AFP curries favour
A contingent of visiting Indian police officers has been welcomed to Australia for a two-week study tour in Australia, supported by the Australian Federal Police.
with Indian police
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the officers would learn about how Australian policing services were achieving success and would share their experiences with AFP officers.
“It’s great to see initiatives such as this helping to improve policing across the globe but also strengthening the relationship between Australia and India,” Mr O’Connor said.
“This is an exciting chance for the AFP to engage with the Indian Police Service and it’s an example of our two great nations working together for mutual benefit.”
The Minister said the study tour was part of the Indian Police Service Mid-Career Training program which was run by the Indian National Police Academy.
Mr O’Connor said the program was an Indian Ministry of Home Affairs initiative and was being delivered by Charles Sturt University in conjunction with the United Kingdom National Police Improvement Agency and the Indian School of Business.
He said around 116 superintendents from the Indian Police Service were taking part in the tour.
Mr O’Connor said the Indian Police Service provided a substantial contribution to international policing, especially with the United Nations, making it well-suited as a partner Agency for the AFP.
AFP officers have been assisting as mentors during the full eight-week training program, sharing policing experiences and facilitating presentations on topics such as cyber-crime, forensics, human source handling, security and community policing.
“I wish these officers all the best in delivering justice to their communities and I thank the Australian Federal Police in once again taking a leading role in policing in our region,” Mr O’Connor said.
8 June, 2010
Rubber stamp for
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has decided not to object to a proposal from Australia Post to increase the basic letter postage rate from 55 to 60 cents.
Chair of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel said the Commission had assessed the need for a price rise and come to the conclusion there was significant pressure on Australia Post’s reserved service revenue streams.
Mr Samuel said the Commission had objected to Australia Post’s proposed price increases last year due to concerns its costs were not falling in response to declining volumes.
He said while Australia Post had now started to implement cost reduction strategies, the ACCC believed these could be larger.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC assessed the need for a price rise based on Australia Post achieving an efficient level of cost reduction higher than it had forecast.
He said even with the proposed price increases and an efficient reduction in operating costs, the ACCC believed Australia Post would still face a loss on its reserved services.
“Based on the current forecasts of letter volumes and costs, the ACCC considers that no changes to the basic postal rate should be required for the next two years beyond those proposed for June 2010,” Mr Samuel said.
He said in the longer term a continuing decline in demand was expected to raise more questions about how to approach the pricing of Australia Post’s reserved letter services.
Executive General Manager of Postal Services at Australia Post, Jim Marshall said the new 60 cent stamp price was only the third price rise in 18 years would come into effect on 28 June.
Mr Marshall said the increase would apply to small, large and presorted letters and that even at 60 cents, Australia would have the third lowest basic price rate among countries in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.
“While we understand no-one likes a price rise, we’ve worked hard to keep price rises to minimum,” Mr Marshall said.
The ACCC has a role in assessing proposed price increases for declared services as Australia Post has a statutory monopoly under the prices surveillance provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
8 June, 2010
Legal services form
New requirements on Departments and Agencies to report their expenditure on legal services in a standard form has cut the rate of growth from 25 per cent in 2007-08 to nine per cent in 2008-09.
puts case for savings
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said before the requirements were put in place there was “massive” under-reporting of legal expenditure and comparable data wasn’t available.
Mr McClelland said Agencies were now required to report their legal data in a standard form in a bid to improve the transparency and consistency of information.
He said another reform aimed at controlling legal service expenditure saw the implementation of common tender arrangements for Agencies seeking to purchase legal services.
Mr McClelland said competition was also being encouraged by allowing a broader range of firms to work on behalf of the Commonwealth, along with the use of cheaper alternative dispute resolution in place of Courts.
“These reforms, in place for the first time during the previous financial year, have seen the growth in legal expenditure decline,” he said.
“When the previously unreported in-house expenditure is deducted from the increase, total expenditure rose by only 1.3 per cent, a dramatic turnaround.”
Mr McClelland said an independent review had found the current system of Agencies individually tendering for legal services was costly for the Commonwealth and external service providers.
He said the Government would consider the report’s recommendations in view of implementing further reforms to improve efficiency and increase value for money.
8 June, 2010
Native title lands
A discussion paper on the need for stronger governance regimes in Indigenous native title corporations is due to be released soon by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.
The Ministers said the discussion paper would outline a package of reforms to promote leading practice in native title agreements and the governance of native payments.
Ms Macklin said the mining industry would continue to generate huge financial flows to native title holders which would be administered by native title corporations.
“As we all know, the existing regulatory rules applying to native title corporations are underdeveloped,” Ms Macklin said.
“This risks impairing their capacity to deliver financial security and independence for their communities.
“We want to expand policy discussion on governance regimes to achieve better outcomes in the use of native title payments.”
Ms Macklin said the Government would consider a range of governance complementary measures to streamline the future acts regime.
She said these include incorporating, under the Corporations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act or the Corporations Act, native title organisations which are in receipt of native title payments to provide oversight of agreements, with the focus on development-related or ‘future act’ agreements.
Ms Macklin said the Government would also progress work to clarify the meaning of ‘in good faith’ under the right to negotiate provisions.
Mr McClelland said the Government had used the discussion paper to detail its response to the recent Governance Workshop convened by the Joint Working Group on Indigenous Land Settlements.
He said the discussion paper would build on the work done by the Native Title Payments Working Group which developed suggestions for the Government about how to better utilise native title payments.
“The Governance Workshop was held in April this year and involved a range of experts across the native title system,” Mr McClelland said.
“Participants discussed leading practice on strengthening governance structures to support the management and implementation of benefits in native title agreements.”
A complementary discussion paper aimed at reforming tax arrangements in relation to native title agreements was released last month.
8 June, 2010
Charity homes in
Senior Public Service managers are being encouraged to take part in the Vinnies Sleepout on Thursday 17 June.
The event challenges leaders to experience homelessness first-hand for one night in an attempt to gain insight into what life is like for the estimated 100,000 homeless people in Australia.
Sleepouts will be held across the country in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Brisbane.
Ambassador for the Vinnies Sleepout and President of the Australian Population Institute, Jane Nathan said housing was a basic right.
“Everybody deserves to feel a sense of belonging, and secure housing is a tangible and important part of this,” Ms Nathan said.
“We need to make a difference.
She said to do this, she was asking senior managers to join her in what will be a “profound, confronting and enlightening experience.”
President of the Victorian branch of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Tony Tome said the event would raise much needed funds for those in need.
“Fifty four per cent of Australian homeless people in need of supported accommodation are turned away and in a time of rising unemployment and economic uncertainty, the emerging face of homelessness is families – young families, two-parent families and families with no history of domestic violence,” Mr Tome said.
“We want to raise awareness of homelessness by giving our community’s influential leaders the chance to experience a glimpse of life on the streets.
“We don’t just want to serve the homeless, we want to bring an end to homelessness all together – and it’s a task that’s up to all of us.”
Those who take part in the Sleepout are encouraged to seek sponsorship from colleagues, friends and family.
Further information on participating was available fromwww.ceosleepout.org.au
8 June, 2010
Medical groups the
A new system of representation to ensure doctors, nurses and allied health professionals have a strong say in the running of the National Health and Hospitals Network has been announced jointly by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon.
Lead Clinicians Groups are to be established at the local and national levels to give health professionals a permanent and influential voice in the new network.
Mr Rudd and Ms Roxon said the Lead Clinicians Groups would give medical professionals the resources to develop innovative clinical solutions to improve the running of their hospitals.
They said the Groups were being established after the recent health reform consultation process showed clinicians felt locked out of the operation of public hospitals, a sentiment that led to poor staff morale, increased turnover and disruption to patient care.
In a joint statement, Mr Rudd and Ms Roxon said the Lead Clinicians Groups would ensure local health professionals had a say on how to improve quality and safety in hospitals; planning the efficient allocation of services within Local Hospital Networks; developing innovative solutions to address the needs of local communities; and translating national best practice into local delivery of services.
Mr Rudd and Ms Roxon said specialist National Lead Clinicians would support the Lead Clinicians Groups by developing and disseminating clinical guidelines and driving safety and high quality hospital services.
They said the Government would work with States and Territories to implement the plan.
Funding for the Lead Clinicians Groups was contained in the 2010-11 Budget.
The National Health and Hospitals Network is expected to make the Federal Government the majority funder of hospitals and the dominant funder of primary care and aged care.
8 June, 2010
Imitation policy on
An innovation strategy publishedby the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has drawn heavily on the Australian experience in its efforts to help other countries improve their economic outlook.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” said Australian Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr.
Senator Carr said Australia had worked closely with the OECD on the strategy.
He said the OECD’s strong support for the Government’s innovation agenda, Powering Ideas, showed Australia was on the right track by focusing on innovation as a driver of long-term economic growth.
Senator Carr said that like Powering Ideas, the OECD strategy focused on encouraging innovation through education and training.
The OECD Innovation Strategy creates new regulatory and policy frameworks, including in the area of taxation; encourages entrepreneurship by helping businesses embrace innovation; and enhances public research systems.
“It is great to see confirmation of our groundbreaking innovation agenda by the world’s foremost economic organisation,” Senator Carr said.
“The OECD strategy sees innovation as a way to help countries boost economic growth and address global challenges like climate change, health and food security.”
Senator Carr said Powering Ideas and innovation were a key part of the Government’s nation-building agenda.
“Our Education Investment Fund supports major investments in higher education and research, we are developing a new R&D Tax Credit, and we are helping businesses take their ideas to market through Commercialisation Australia,” he said.
8 June, 2010
Action against whaling
Legal action against Japanese ‘scientific’ whaling in the Southern Ocean is to be launched according to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, the Minister for Environment, Peter Garrett and Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
Mr Smith said the Government was committed to ending Japan’s program of so-called ‘scientific’ whaling program.
“The Government has always been firm in our resolve that if we could not find a diplomatic resolution to our differences over this issue, we would pursue legal action,” Mr Smith said.
Navy doctrine unveiled
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane, has unveiled the blueprint for Navy’s future, the Australian Maritime Doctrine.
The document outlines the philosophical and strategic concepts needed to meet the future challenges to Australia’s maritime security.
First released in 2000, the new edition of Australian Maritime Doctrine provides a guide to current naval thinking and formalises a strengthening partnership across Navy and the ADF.
The Australian Maritime Doctrine was available fromwww.navy.gov.au
Puppy people sought
One hundred dog lovers in Melbourne are being sought to raise a puppy as part of the Customs and Border Protection Puppy Foster Carer Scheme.
The scheme trains Labradors for use by Customs and Border Protection, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, the Army, the Air Force and Australian correctional services.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the expense of raising the puppy would be covered by Customs and Border Protection, with households required to host the pup from the age of eight weeks to about 12 months.
For more information call 1800 664 106.
More wanted for card game
The Minister for Community Services and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities have called on organisations to join the National Companion Card scheme to make entertainment, sport and recreational activities more accessible to people with disability.
Jenny Macklin and Bill Shorten said under the scheme, people with a severe disability received two tickets to an event for the price of one to allow them to bring along a carer for free.
Ms Macklin and Mr Shorten urged organisations to join the existing 26 affiliate organisations to broaden to the reach of the Companion Card.
Driving campaign hits ACT
A driver education program that provides a free driving lesson to learner drivers and their parents has expanded into the Australian Capital Territory.
The national initiative, Keys2drive provides learner drivers and a parent or mentor with one free professional driving lesson from an accredited instructor, along with instructional material and practical guidance on how supervise and train to a learner driver.
The program has already been introduced in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.
PS innovation is
A report commissioned by the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) has found the potential for the Australian Public Service to be innovative is much greater than currently realised.
new way ahead
The report, Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service, sets out how Agencies could knock down barriers to innovation to promote a culture of creativity in the APS.
It says a perceived lack of opportunity for innovation among staff and an ad hoc approach to innovation were hindering the APS’s potential.
“There has been no systemic approach to recording and evaluating innovative methods,” the report says.
It says despite Government support for innovation, barriers such as political risk and public scrutiny slowed the process.
“Governments and Ministers are judged on their success and, in seeking to avoid criticism or failure, they can be conservative or resistant to innovative approaches,” the report says.
“It can be easier to avoid criticism by not taking risks.”
The report says barriers to innovation include risk aversion; failure of leadership; resource constraints; lack of direction and measurement; policy conflicts; hierarchical attitudes; legislative limitations; accountability concerns; and resistance to change.
“Innovation competes for attention with many other organisational priorities, such as accountability and efficiency,” it says.
“There is no panacea. Finding ways to overcome such barriers will take creativity and determination.”
The report makes 12 recommendations designed to support and drive an innovative culture within the APS and includes a toolkit to help Agencies and individual staff increase their efforts at innovation.
It recommends incorporating innovation into strategic thinking, increased information sharing, consultation with Ministers to overcome political risks, quality leadership, identifying systemic barriers to innovation and the adoption of relevant technology.
The report also recommends a team of SES officers drawn from the Australian Public Service Commission and the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Innovation, Industry, Science and Research be established to report to the MAC on areas for action in creating an innovative APS.
Chair of the MAC, Terry Moran said a culture of innovation in the PS was essential to ensure services could be delivered with the available resources.
“Without innovation, the public sector is destined to disappoint,” Mr Moran said.
He said “tailored solutions” and changes to the APS were needed to ensure staff never assumed the current policies, processes and services were the best or only solution.
“The red tape and siloed thinking of the past have no place in the high performing APS our citizens expect and deserve,” Mr Moran said.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr welcomed the report, saying it would encourage increased cooperation with industry, the public and researchers.
“A more innovative public sector will ultimately give us a more productive and competitive economy and a fairer and more inclusive society,” Senator Carr said.
“It is also critical to delivering improved government services and doing it cost-effectively.
The report could be accessed at www.apsc.gov.au
New IT principles
A set of ‘principles’ to develop stronger relationships between the Commonwealth and Australia’s Information and Communication Technology industry have been released by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner said The Government and Industry Principles of Engagement on ICT were part of a plan to improve the Government’s engagement with the ICT industry.
“The Australian Government relies on the ICT industry to provide the high quality products and services we need to deliver services to Australians,” Mr Tanner said.
“As the Government increasingly looks towards ICT solutions to meet emerging challenges, engagement with the ICT industry becomes vital.
He said the five principles were accessibility, governance, problem resolution, collaboration and application and represented five key areas for strengthening the Government and ICT industry’s work together.
Mr Tanner said the principles outlined the expected standards and behaviours for all members of the Australian Government’s value chain, including Government Agencies/bodies and suppliers.
He said by applying the principles, parties should have clear expectations of what was required of them when working together.
He said the principle of accessibility would enable equitable participation by all small, medium and large enterprises, and ensure that information requests were fair and assessed in good time and collaboration aimed at building and maintain an effective, cooperative relationship and facilitating the sharing of knowledge.
He said governance demonstrated leadership that was outcome-oriented and ensured activities were aligned to whole-of-Government priorities and the principle of dispute resolution would see issues resolved through timely, effective and equitable mechanisms and processes.
The application principle would lead activities towards stated outcomes.
Mr Tanner said that although the principles were not mandatory for suppliers seeking Government business, their adoption was encouraged.
He said adoption of the principles followed a recommendation from Sir Peter Gershon in his review of the Australian Government’s Use of Information and Communication Technology to develop client and supplier codes of conduct.
He said the Australian Information Industry Association and the Australian Industry Group had been consulted in the development of the principles.
Bureau has numbers
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is to test-run its procedures and practices for the 2011 Census in three small areas over the next two months.
for Census trial
Describing the test as a “dress rehearsal’’, Australian Statistician Brian Pink said it would be critical to ensuring next year’s Census ran smoothly.
Mr Pink said the test – to be conducted between until 2 July - would include a sample of 20,000 dwellings, and several remote and Indigenous communities.
“The Census is the largest statistical operation undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and one of the biggest peace time operations in Australia,” Mr Pink said.
“This year’s dress rehearsal, in a small number of areas in three states…will provide the ABS with valuable knowledge and experience to help ensure procedures are right for the Census in 2011.
“I urge people living or staying in Census test areas to participate so we can get the most accurate count of the nation when the Census is conducted on 9 August 2011.”
Mr Pink said people could fill out their form online using the Bureau’s eCensus option, which is fast and secure.
He said the Census was important because the information collected affects everyone in Australia, from Government and business, to major cities and the smallest communities.
“Policy makers use Census data to understand the needs of different communities and neighbourhoods, while community organisations, private organisations and all levels of government use it to plan local services like health, education, retail and transport,” Mr Pink said.
“The Census is the only way we can get detailed population figures at a local level to help identify such things as future demand for schools and hospitals, areas of high unemployment, and where services for the elderly and young people are needed.”
2011 Census rehearsal areas and dates are New South Wales – 15 June 2010 (covering Marrickville, Blacktown, Kingsford and Dubbo); South Australia – 15 June 2010 (covering Port Augusta and Salisbury); and remote and Indigenous communities in Western Australia and South Australia – until 2 July 2010.
Small Agencies big
Small Agencies are less likely to implement fraud prevention arrangements than larger ones according to an audit report released by the Australian National Audit Office.
in fraud concerns
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said a survey of 173 APS Agencies (of which 160 replied) undertaken by the ANAO last year found those with less than 249 employees comprised the largest percentage of Agencies not meeting mandatory fraud reporting requirements.
Mr McPhee said the survey and his audit report, Fraud control in Australian Government Agencies, found small Agencies were also less likely to have fraud prevention oversight arrangements in place.
“While exposure to internal and external fraud risks will vary according to Agency size, the mandatory requirements as outlined in the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, should be adopted so that specific fraud risks are addressed,” the Auditor-General said.
He said the Guidelines were developed in 2002 and were currently being reviewed by the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), which had the task of providing advice to the Government about fraud control arrangements.
He said under the Guidelines, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) was required to undertake an annual fraud survey of Agencies.
“The prevention, detection and management of fraud are matters of ongoing importance for the Public Sector,” Mr McPhee said.
“Accordingly, Agencies need to consider program integrity and fraud control measures as an integral part of program design and operation.”
Mr McPhee said to gauge the level of compliance with the Guidelines, the ANAO had undertaken two fraud-surveys, the first in 2002 and the second in 2009.
“Since the ANAO’s 2002 survey, the reported level of compliance with the Guidelines has improved,” he said.
Overall, Agencies reported they had established governance structures and allocated staff with responsibilities for fraud control; created fraud control policies; undertaken fraud risk assessments; developed fraud control plans; and increased fraud awareness through staff training.
“A key area of fraud management requiring greater attention by Agencies is the evaluation of specific fraud control strategies,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the definition of fraud used in the Guidelines and by Agencies differed and that a common definition would improve reporting on fraud trends by the AIC.
The Auditor-General made two recommendations: that the AGD consult with the AIC while undertaking its Guidelines review; and that it consider providing fraud control advice to Federal Agencies, in particular the smaller ones.
As part of his second recommendation, Mr McPhee suggested Agencies reassess their fraud risks and existing fraud control strategies when undergoing structural, functional or role changes.
The team that worked on the audit report included Adam Thomas and Steven Lack and it was available from www.anao.gov.au
Projects speed up
Forty-four new IT projects have been announced across the Australian Public Service as part of a $500 million efficiency drive.
for efficiency drive
Twenty Government Agencies are to share in the funding from the ICT Business-As-Usual Reinvestment Fund, established following theReview of the Australian Government’s Use of Information and Communication Technology conducted by Sir Peter Gershon in 2008.
Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner said the Government’s program aimed to tackle inefficiencies in everyday IT activities undertaken by Agencies which contribute to the overall operational costs of running Government.
“As part of this program, the Government achieved more than $1 billion in savings over four years, half of which was used to set up the Reinvestment Fund to support new IT projects that further improve government agencies’ operational efficiency and effectiveness,” Mr Tanner said.
He said to date, more than $230 million from the ICT Business-As-Usual Reinvestment Fund has been allocated to 44 new projects.
These included $2 million for a Bureau of Meteorology initiative to improve the distribution of aviation, marine and general weather forecasts and warnings in regional offices, and $2.2 million for the Department of Human Services for a trial of automated outbound dialling technology which aims to make the collection of outstanding child support payments more efficient.
“The efficiency gains from these 44 projects will generate further savings of an estimated $78.9 million over four years and $23.9 million annually beyond the forward estimates,” Mr Tanner said.
He said a further $271.1 million would be available to Agencies for new ICT efficiency enhancing projects over the next three years through the reinvestment fund.
Other Agencies to receive funding include the Attorney-General’s Department for a data integration project; Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for a number of projects; and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for the implementation of new data centres.
High value placed
Agencies entering contractual agreements with third party service providers should consider including industry codes of conduct in the agreements instead of core APS values according to the Auditor General, Ian McPhee.
on industry values
In an audit report entitled Application of the Core APS Values and Code of Conduct to Australian Government Service Providers, Mr McPhee said it was important for private and non-profit organisations to adhere to values and correct conduct when delivering Government services.
“The adoption of a set of values is one way to provide assurance that services will be appropriately delivered to clients,” Mr McPhee said.
“The greater role of non-Government service providers in delivering services on behalf of Governments has required Agencies to address the inclusion of values statements and codes of conduct in their contractual requirements with service providers.”
The Auditor-General said the four Agencies he audited had “substantially addressed” the role of values statements and codes of conduct in contracts, but with little consistency.
He said the most common approaches were using standard clauses in Agency-wide agreements and quality assurance arrangements, but that it was inappropriate to automatically require service providers to adhere to the entire set of APS Values and the Code of Conduct.
“While the APS Values and Code of Conduct provide the benchmark for the delivery of services by the Australian Government, Agencies should look to applying appropriate elements of recognised industry codes where these codes provide equivalent service standards,” Mr McPhee said.
He also suggested a set of core service delivery values be created that could be applied irrespective of which Agency managed the program or which service provider delivered it.
Mr McPhee said all eight programs examined by the ANAO had elements of a complaints handling framework in place, but that better practice principles outlined by the Commonwealth Ombudsman had only been partially addressed.
“Given the importance of complaints systems in supporting quality service delivery and the fair treatment of clients, there are benefits in Agencies monitoring their service providers’ implementation of complaints systems to provide assurance that they systems and working effectively,” the Auditor-General said.
He said only two programs had performance monitoring and reporting arrangements in place as part of their enabling contract.
The Auditor made one recommendation, that Agencies consider incorporating the better practice principles outlined in his report when applying values and codes of conduct to Government service providers.
The four Agencies audited were the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; and Health and Ageing.
The audit report was available from www.anao.gov.au and was produced by the team of Steven Lack, Claire Kelly and Bronwen Jaggers.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has invited leading employer and industry groups to join him in educating small businesses about changes to the industrial awards system.
puts bosses to work
The Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson has written to about 40 peak national bodies to encourage them to come up with ideas for new guidance materials to help raise employer awareness.
The groups he contacted included the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Retailers Association, the Master Grocers Association and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
Mr Wilson said grants of up to $104,000 were available under a $2.7 million Shared Industry Assistance Projects scheme for initiatives to be delivered between July and December this year.
He said he was keen to work collaboratively with industry and employer groups to deliver practical assistance to employers on the transition to modern awards.
“The industries we have identified are those we think are most in need of targeted information,” he said.
“Improving community awareness about workplace relations is a job we take seriously and our aim is to provide direct and immediate access to information and resources that is practical, helpful and accurate.”
Mr Wilson said industries targeted included retail; accommodation, cafes, restaurants and clubs; construction; hairdressing and beauty services; manufacturing; administrative and clerical support services; professional, scientific and technical services; public administration and safety; and agriculture, forestry and fishing.
He said employers could also access a range of tools and resources online to help them understand changes to workplace relations, including the National Employment Standards and Modern Awards.
Free template employment documentation was also available to help small to medium-sized businesses without human resources staff.
For more information, contact 13 13 94 or go towww.fairwork.gov.au
A whole-of-Government approach to developing non-legally binding cross-Agency agreements would improve consistency and reduce duplication across the APS, according to the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee.
at the crossroads
In his audit report, Effective Cross-Agency Agreements, Mr McPhee said while many well-structured agreements existed across Agencies, improved management and a single set of guidelines would increase efficiency and effectiveness.
“Individually, a few Agencies have developed their own systems, policies and templates to streamline the development and management of agreements,” Mr McPhee said.
“While these steps have been beneficial for producing agreements that are fit-for-purpose, current and explicable, inconsistency exists in the overall clarity, quality and completeness of agreements.”
The Auditor-General said the differences indicated the diversity of Agencies, but also reflected the “limited availability of guidance” for developing non-legally binding agreements such as Memoranda of Understanding.
“While there are benefits in Agencies having an internal policy and processes for cross‐Agency agreements, a more overarching whole-of-Government policy or guide for the development and management of cross-Agency agreements would also be beneficial,” he said.
“This would assist Agencies in implementing consistent policies and processes, and realise some degree of unison and efficiency by reducing duplication of effort across the Agencies.”
Mr McPhee said each Agency should also develop easily accessible guidance material tailored to their needs.
He said the Australian National Audit Office had created a list of better practice principles to help Agencies improve staff development and understanding of cross-Agency agreements.
The principles were outlined in the audit report and included providing direction to staff, promoting consistency, incorporating key provisions and establishing effective monitoring processes.
The audit examined 200 agreements from 21 Agencies to determine if they were “generally fit-for-purpose” and consistent with sound administrative practices.
Mr McPhee concluded a “culture of collaboration” had become a growing characteristic of the Public Service and that the skill demonstrated by Agencies in negotiating arrangements was “substantial.”
He said there were around 1,800 current cross-Agency agreements within the 21 Agencies audited (19 Portfolio Departments, Centrelink and the Australian Tax Office).
Effective Cross-Agency Agreements could be accessed at www.anao.gov.au and the audit team that produced the report included Alex Geue, Barbara Das and Steven Lack.
A list of 21 sites across Australia have been identified for joint Centrelink/Medicare offices.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said the sites would offer Centrelink and Medicare services side-by-side by the end of the year as part of the service delivery reform plan.
“Service delivery reform is about simplifying people’s dealings with Government and the co-location of 21 Centrelink-Medicare offices by the end of 2010 is a great example of service delivery reform in action,” Mr Bowen said.
“This initiative will give the community better access to a more comprehensive range of services from the one location.”
Trials of the integrated services will be held by the Centrelink office in Tuggeranong, ACT and the Medicare office in Burwood, NSW, with staff to help Centrelink and Medicare Australia customers alike.
Mr Bowen said over the next two months, Medicare Australia staff would begin to offer services from Centrelink Customer Service Centres in Campsie and Mt Druitt in NSW; Elizabeth, SA; Frankston, VIC; and Ipswich, QLD. He said by September this year, face-to-face Centrelink services would be added to Medicare offices in Altona Gate, Ballarat and Mildura in Victoria; Hobart, TAS; Newcastle; NSW; West Lakes and Mount Gambier, SA; and Smithfield, QLD.
Existing Centrelink and Medicare offices would be physically co-located to provide full services under one roof at Ballina, Bathurst, Goulburn, Moree, Toronto and Ulladulla, NSW.
“By the end of this year, 60 remote and rural communities will have access to Medicare Australia facilities at Centrelink sites, where members of the public can make phone-based claims and receive electronic funds transfer payments of their Medicare rebates,” Mr Bowen said.
“Work has also begun on the Batemans Bay (NSW) Community Hub, which will house Australian Government services, including Centrelink, Medicare Australia, CRS Australia, the Child Support Agency and an Australian Hearing visiting service, under one roof for the first time in Australia.”
Mr Bowen said the 21 sites were selected based on population, demand, distance to other services and existing capacity.
Centrelink and Medicare Australia are already co-located in 15 sites.
Medal pins hopes on
A plan to introduce a National Police Service Medal (NPSM) has reached the stage where it can be recommended for the Queen’s approval.
Cabinet Secretary, Senator Joe Ludwig said the medal recognised the ethical service, significant commitment and unique contribution of sworn members of Australian police services to the nation.
Senator Ludwig said police officers serving on or after 30 October 2008, who have completed at least 15 years police service, will be eligible for the medal.
Commissioners will also be able to recommend awards for officers who have served less than 15 years, if their period of service was terminated by death, injury or disability caused by their service.
Senator Ludwig said the NPSM would be awarded irrespective of any entitlement to other awards, and that the National Medal would continue to recognise the long service of Australian police officers.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, said the medal was another way for Australians to express appreciation for the dedication and sacrifice of the nation’s long-serving police officers.
Chief Executive of the Police Federation of Australia, Mark Burgess welcomed the announcement.
“We’re very pleased that the National Police Service Medal is about to become a reality for the hard working men and women of Australia’s police forces,” Mr Burgess said.
“This medal will recognise the invaluable service Australia’s police officers give communities across our country 24 hours a day seven days a week.”
The Government announced its plan to establish the NPSM in December 2008, with consultations with police representatives commencing the following year to determine the eligibility criteria and medal design.
Senator Ludwig said the views of Federal, State and Territory police commissioners and policing organisations were also considered.
The Government will now seek the Queen’s agreement to the criteria, along with the design and placement in the Order of Wearing. It is expected that issuing of the NPSM will commence later in the year.
Price not right for
Open access to company share registers is to be restricted under plans to clamp down on unsolicited share purchase scams.
Minister for Financial Services and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen said the draft laws were necessary because previous investor protection measures, such as mandatory disclosure of a company’s current share price, had failed to stop share offer scams.
“Unscrupulous operators have continued to prey on vulnerable investors, duping them into handing over their shares for well-below market prices,” Mr Bowen said.
“The Government is now acting to put these charlatans out of business.”
The reforms will allow companies to refuse to hand over copies of their member registers where that information is not being sought for a proper purpose.
At present, a company must provide a copy of its member register to anyone who requests it and pays a small fee.
Mr Bowen said associated draft regulations specified a non-exhaustive list of improper purposes, including accessing a register for the purpose of making an off-market offer to purchase securities in a listed company. Genuine takeover bids will be exempted from this regime.
“This legislation is designed to balance the needs of those seeking legitimate access to registers with the rights of those whose personal information is contained in the register,” Mr Bowen said.
The legislation will require those seeking a copy of a company’s register of members to state the purpose for which they will use it.
Mr Bowen said it would be an offence to make a false or misleading application for access to a register; use information obtained from a register for an improper purpose; or disclose information obtained from the register, knowing it was likely to be used for an improper purpose.
He said compliance costs for companies would be reduced by allowing for a register maintained on a computer to be inspected on a computer; prescribing the formats in which a copy of the register can be provided; and establishing a tiered fee structure for those seeking access to the register.
New file opened
A new data storage centre for CrimTrac has been applauded by the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor for using the latest in clean green technology.
on data centre
Mr O’Connor said the new hub within the Canberra Data Centre would provide Police with information on DNA, fingerprint records, the Australian National Child Offender Register and other databases.
“It’s so important that the nation’s police have easy and reliable access to the information they need,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Getting that data means solving cases quickly and stopping new offences from happening.”
He said the storage centre provided a secure hub for CrimTrac’s databases as the Agency continued to develop information sharing solutions for law enforcement.
“Having secure and reliable data is a crucial part of delivering that justice and making our communities safer,” Mr O’Connor said.
The Minister said the hub would reduce CrimTrac’s carbon footprint, heighten its disaster recovery capability and guarantee continuity of information.
He said the hub’s power consumption would be halved, there would be significant water savings and higher density computing meant half as much space would be needed.
“The performance, security and reliability of the data centre means CrimTrac’s customers can have great confidence in its ability to consistently deliver the data that’s needed,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said CrimTrac had two separate computing facilities - primary and secondary data centres – that would back each other up should one experience problems or require maintenance.
He said the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) would carry out an annual audit and random checks to ensure standards at the Canberra Data Centre were maintained.
Data management takes
Airservices Australia is to modernise its procedures for capturing, storing, managing and using the aeronautical data it collects which is critical to the safe operation of the aviation industry.
off at Airservices
General Manager of Air Traffic Control at Airservices, Jason Harfield said the changes would cover information on aerodromes, runways, instrument approach and departure procedures, geographical and route information, and aeronautical maps.
Mr Harfield, said the ‘Mercury’ Project would increase assurances over the quality and integrity of aeronautical information.
“The $16 million project aims to establish a world-class aeronautical information management capability with a focus on improving the management and distribution of aeronautical reference data to key stakeholders,” Mr Harfield said.
“As well as improved aeronautical data quality and service delivery, the system will see cost savings as a result of removing manual data re-processing and through the rationalisation of databases and system interfaces.”
The current Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) system relies on an aging Aeronautical Database Management System, which is more than 15 years old.
Mr Harfield said over time, these systems - used to automate the production of the Enroute Supplement Australia and Aeronautical Information Publication pilot charts - were becoming increasingly complicated and expensive to maintain, while their capacity to satisfy operational requirements was diminishing.
Airservices initiated the Project to ensure compliance against Civil Aviation Safety Authority and International Civil Aviation Organisation standards.
Contracts for the project were formally exchanged between the CEO of Airservices, Greg Russell and President of Ingegneria dei sistemi S.p.A, Giovanni Bardelli.
Finance scores a
A ‘scorecard’ summarisingthe work of reforming Government operations undertaken by the Department of Finance and Deregulation portfolio over the past two-and-a-half years has been released by the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner.
Mr Tanner said the Reform of Government Scorecard outlined a number of initiatives between November 2007 and May 2010 that were introduced to create better value for money, improved regulation, more transparency and better governance.
Under a section on creating better value for money, the Scorecard includes a list of key achievements such as revising the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines, introducing coordinated procurement contracts, issuing new Commonwealth Property Management Guidelines, developing the ICT workforce and reducing spending on advertising.
The scorecard says an increased one-off efficiency dividend had been used to reduce administrative waste in the 2008-09 Budget but had been reduced in 2009-10.
It says a 2008 review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of Australia’s processes for making regulation was conducted with a view to improving regulation.
According to the Scorecard, improved transparency was pursued throughout the past two-and-a-half years through Operation Sunlight, tighter rules surrounding grants administration, adopting a pro-disclosure attitude and moves towards Government 2.0.
It says better governance was achieved by changes to the Future Fund and Medibank Private and improved superannuation administration.
The Scorecard also outlined the next steps in the Department’s agenda such as phase II of Operation Sunlight and reforms to service delivery arrangements. It also highlighted further improvements to regulation and whole-of-Government procurement that are expected over the next few years.
The Reform of Government Scorecard could be downloaded fromwww.financeminister.gov.au
Tax debt accounts
Revision of the Australian Taxation Office’s ‘running balance account’ system has been ordered to improve the Office’s flexibility in managing taxation debts and to provide a better service for affected taxpayers.
called to account
The running balance accounts apply to taxpayers paying off a debt to the Tax Office.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the changes were part of the Government’s aim of having a single running balance account system that was easier to understand and simpler to use.
“The rewriting process is part of the Rudd Government’s commitment to slashing red-tape and reducing complexity,” Senator Sherry said.
He said the system, enacted in 1999, was originally intended to provide taxpayers with a single tax account statement that covered all their tax debts, like a credit card statement.
However, the current system had not achieved its original goal, partly due to limitations in the running balance account provisions, including the fact that the system prevents certain debts such as general interest charge being brought into the running balance system.
“Rewriting the running balance account provisions to increase flexibility in establishing and managing the accounts is an important measure that will help taxpayers through a simpler tax system,” Senator Sherry said.
He said the proposal would also provide for all debts and entitlements arising in relation to tax laws the ATO administers to be accounted for through the running balance account, and greater flexibility in how running balance accounts are managed.
Senator Sherry said the changes would help the Tax Office to amalgamate a taxpayer’s tax position into a single running balance account or dissect it into several accounts according to circumstances, which could include a consideration of the taxpayer’s preferences.
There would also be greater certainty about the extent of the Tax Office’s ability to amend, adjust or reconstruct accounts.
Senator Sherry invited interested parties to comment on a discussion paper about the proposed changes which could be found at www.treasury.gov.au
The consultation period closes on 8 August.
Ageing paper smoothes
The Productivity Commission has invited public comment on an Issues Paper it has produced in preparation for its inquiry into the aged care system.
out inquiry wrinkles
Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot said the Caring for Older Australians inquiry would set out structural reforms for Australia’s aged care system and future workforce requirements, including the development of options to ensure the sector has access to a sufficient and appropriately trained workforce.
Mrs Elliot said the inquiry would also examine regulatory arrangements, the interests of special needs groups and the path for transitioning from current arrangements to a new system without an interruption to care.
“The Productivity Commission’s inquiry will develop detailed options for redesigning Australia’s aged care system, building on the Government’s commitment to take full policy and funding responsibility for aged care,” Mrs Elliot said.
“Australia has an ageing population and by 2050 nearly one-quarter of the population will be aged 65 years or older so it is important that we make sure that we have a system of care in place to meet this increasing demand.
“Australia’s aged care system provides targeted, affordable and high quality care and it is important to ensure that it is equipped to meet care needs into the future,” she said.
The issues paper identifies several challenges facing the aged care sector, including the fact that Australia’s population is ageing and, on average, living longer – which means many more older Australians.
The Commission said it would examine the social, clinical and institutional aspects of aged care in Australia, building on past reviews of the sector, and develop options for reforming the funding and regulatory arrangements across residential and community aged care.
It would also look into the interests of special needs groups, including people living in rural and remote locations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and veterans.
Mrs Elliot urged older Australians to contribute to the inquiry, along with carers and families, aged care service providers, staff, as well as consumer and training organisations.
Initial submissions to the Commission are due by 30 July 2010. The Commission is to release its draft report in December and provide a final report to the Government in April next year.
For more information visit www.pc.gov.au
1 June, 2010
The contributions being made by Australian peacekeepers around the world were recognised on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers last weekend.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Alan Griffin said the day, held on 29 May, was important for recognising peacekeepers, who often risked their lives to help people in some of the most dangerous environments in the world.
“Currently there are more than 480 Australian Defence Force personnel on peacekeeping missions in locations including the Solomon Islands and East Timor,” Mr Griffin said.
“Australian peacekeepers, comprising Australian Defence Force personnel, police officers and civilians, have served in unstable countries, helping to restore order and protect the innocent victims of conflict.”
He said 29 May marked the 62nd anniversary of the first United Nations-approved peacekeeping operation to supervise the truce following the first Arab-Israeli War in 1948.
Australia’s first operation took place in 1947 when four military observers were sent to the Netherlands East Indies (present-day Indonesia), with the task of observing a cease-fire between Dutch colonial forces and Indonesians seeking independence.
Since then Australia has participated in more than 50 peacekeeping operations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific, with roles including the provision of a military presence, leadership, observation, enforcement, weapons destruction, de-mining training, democratic election support and disaster relief.
Mr Griffin said the University of Melbourne was conducting a study funded by his Department into the long-term effects on mental health and the quality of life of Australian Defence Force peacekeepers.
He said some 1,770 veterans would be randomly selected from deployments to Namibia, Western Sahara, Cambodia, Rwanda, Somalia and East Timor between the 1990s and 2002. The recruitment of study participants is expected to begin in July.
“This research will help us to better understand and respond to the future health needs of peacekeepers and peacemakers, now and into the future,” Mr Griffin said.
1 June, 2010
CHOGM for Perth
The Prime Minister has announced that the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Perth, Western Australia from 28 to 30 October next year.
CHOGM, which is held every two years, is the highest consultative and policy making mechanism of the Commonwealth.
It will be the third time Australia has hosted the event, with the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre to be the principal venue for the meeting.
Payrise for ACT PS
Staff of the Australian Capital Territory Public Service have been offered an increased pay deal including a 2.5 per cent pay rise from 1 July and a $650 signing-on bonus for eligible employees.
The Community and Public Sector Union welcomed the one year agreement, saying it was an increase over the ACT Government’s previous offer of 4.75 per cent over two years.
The $650 bonus would be in lieu of back pay from April.
War Galleries closed
The Australian War Memorial has temporarily closed its Second World War Galleries to undertake a half-life refurbishment.
Director of the Memorial, Steve Gower said some of the exhibition infrastructure was starting to show wear and tear, while a number of displays should be upgraded.
After the refurbishment, visitors would be able to see a number of objects that have not previously been on display, including an Australian armoured vehicle, the Dingo scout car, and a captured German Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun, still in its original desert camouflage.
The Galleries will be closed until 31 July 2010 while the $1.5 million upgrade was completed.
Water takes on mines
The National Water Commission has called for mining activities to be incorporated into water access and planning frameworks.
CEO of the Commission, Ken Matthews said the Commission took the view that mining activities should operate under the same rules as other water users.
‘Including mining and related industries in water access and planning regimes will help Governments, mining companies and other water users to better understand and manage the local and cumulative effects of mining activities on our precious water resources,” Mr Matthews said.
Saudi education deal
Australia and Saudi Arabia have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in Higher Education.
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard said the MoU would encourage research cooperation and the exchange of academic staff, researchers and students between the two nations.
Ms Gillard said it would boost educational cooperation through the support of international scholarships and student mobility, and also encourage the translation of each nation’s distinguished research to allow the sharing of expertise.
The export credit agency, Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) has announced an agreement with Travelex that will provide eligible exporters with higher foreign exchange trading limits.
EFIC’s foreign exchange facility guarantee will provide the potential for Travelex customers to further increase their foreign exchange trading limits, allowing them to expand their hedging programs protecting their profits.
National Manager of SMEs with Travelex, Simon Glendenning said the partnership aimed to help exporters who were unable to fully hedge their sales because they had reached the limit of their existing foreign exchange facilities.