SearchArchives for June 2011
28 June, 2011
New Agency to police
A new Government Agency is to be established to hold telecommunications giant Telstra to its agreement with the Government to maintain ‘universal service obligations (USOs) during the roll out of the National Broadband Network, NBN.
NBN rollout deal
The Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) is to be established to police the obligations, which will take effect on 1 July 2012.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the measures would see super fast broadband delivered sooner to Australians with less disruption and less cost.
Senator Conroy said the TUSMA would ensure all Australians had reasonable access to a standard telephone service (the Universal Service Obligation for voice telephony services); payphones (the Universal Service Obligation for payphones); and the Emergency Call Service (calls to Triple Zero ‘000’ and ‘112’).
He said the TUSMA would also ensure the ongoing delivery of the National Relay Service; that appropriate safety net arrangements were in place to assist the migration of voice-only customers to an NBN fibre service as Telstra’s copper network was decommissioned; and technological solutions developed to support continuity of public interest services (i.e. public alarm systems and traffic lights).
“These measures are vital to ensure continuity of basic services to consumers throughout Australia given the significant changes that will occur to the structure of the telecommunications industry from the rollout of the NBN, including the progressive decommissioning of Telstra’s copper customer access network,” Senator Conroy said.
He said Telstra and NBN Co would enter into other agreements on the rollout of the National Broadband Network including an interim agreement that providing NBN Co with immediate access to Telstra infrastructure – such as pits and pipes – to support the rollout of the second release sites on the mainland.
For information on the universal service obligations visit this PS News link.
28 June, 2011
UN rewards excellence
United Nations Public Service Day was celebrated last week with PS organisations around the world recognised for excellence and innovation.
on Public Service day
Since 2002 the United Nations General Assembly has designated 23 June as United Nations Public Service Day.
Member States of the UN are encouraged to organise special events on the Day each year to highlight the contribution of public service in the world’s development process.
The annual day allows the public to pay tribute to their Public Servants everywhere who have improved the lives of others in their communities.
The UN holds a Public Service Awards ceremony each year and rewards the creative achievements and contributions of PS institutions worldwide.
The event promotes the role, professionalism and visibility of public service.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs facilitates the search for innovations in governance and public administration through the Public Service Awards Program.
The UN recognised 36 PS organisations with its most prestigious awards for excellence in public service.
It presented the awards under five categories which included Preventing and combating corruption in public service; Improving the delivery of public services; Fostering participation in policy-making decisions through innovative mechanisms; Advancing knowledge management in government; and Promoting gender-responsive delivery of public services.
The winners were from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, India, Mexico, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Thailand.
Second placings went to programs from Dominica, Egypt, the Netherlands, Oman, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The full list of winners is on the UN Public Administration and Development Management website at this PS News link.
28 June, 2011
Moran praises wage
The Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has announced that Fair Work Australia had approved his Department’s new Enterprise Agreement.
DPMC Secretary, Terry Moran, said he had received strong support from Departmental staff for the new EA.
Mr Moran said the Department recently asked staff to vote on the new EA which provided the terms and conditions for all its non-SES employees.
“The proposed Enterprise Agreement received very strong support from employees with 87.6 per cent of those employees who voted supporting the agreement” Mr Moran said.
“The key components were a salary increase which consisted of a 9 per cent salary increase over three years, distributed as 4 per cent in the first year and 2.5 per cent in each of the remaining years as well as some enhancements to specific terms and conditions, including Indigenous provisions, studies assistance and improved provisions for employees with carer responsibilities.”
Mr Moran said the new agreement successfully aligned the Department with the Government’s broad objective of promoting greater commonality between Agencies and reinforcing the aim for “one APS”.
He said DPMC had joined a growing list of APS agencies whose staff had voted in favour of a new enterprise agreement.
Mr Moran said staff in 13 APS agencies had so far reached agreement on wages and conditions deals for the next three years.
He said it was the professionalism, hard work and commitment of all parties involved in the negotiations that enabled the Department to develop its comprehensive agreement.
“I would like to thank the representatives from the Community and Public Sector Union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, our employee bargaining representatives and the management team for their hard work and dedication in delivering a solid agreement that staff strongly supported,” Mr Moran said.
28 June, 2011
Defence in position to
The Department of Defence is to conduct a “Force Posture Review” to assess whether the Australian Defence Force was geographically positioned properly to meet current and future strategic and security challenges.
review its ‘posture’
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, said an expert panel made up of national security specialists, and former Secretaries of Defence, Allan Hawke and Ric Smith would oversee the Review.
The Minister said the results of the Review and the views of the expert panel would help provide a strategic context for the next scheduled Defence White Paper in the first quarter of 2014.
He said the Review would address the range of present and emerging global, regional and national strategic and security factors which required careful consideration for the future, including the rise of the Asia-Pacific as a region of global strategic significance; the rise of the Indian Ocean rim as a region of global strategic significance; and the growth of military power projection capabilities of countries in the Asia Pacific.
Stephen Smith said the Review would also address the growing need for the provision of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief following extreme events in the Asia Pacific region and energy security and other issues associated with expanding offshore resource exploitation in Australia’s North West and Northern approaches.
“It is essential that into the future Defence and the Australian Defence Force is appropriately positioned to respond in a timely way to Australia’s strategic and security demands.”
He said the Review would build on the strategic and capability judgements contained in the Defence White Paper 2009 Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, and consider the implications for Force Posture from the array of emerging strategic and security influences.
He said the Review would be informed by the work currently underway in relation to base consolidation, through which Defence was assessing base requirements and developing options for changes to its estate over the next 25 years.
The Minister said the panel would provide a progress report before the end of 2011, with its final Report to Government presented during the first quarter of 2012.
The Terms of Reference and other matters relating to the Review can be found at this PS News link.
28 June, 2011
Audit summary finds
An overview of audits conducted by the Australian National Audit Office over the past year has revealed a slight improvement in the number receiving negative comments.
In his report Interim Phase of the Audit of Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2011, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the audits carried out by his Office related to financial reporting responsibilities and included examinations of internal controls, including information technology systems.
Mr McPhee said the assessments made by the ANAO reflected the reliance that could be placed on the Agencies’ internal controls to produce complete and accurate information for financial reporting purposes.
“Audit Committees, in particular, continue to have a positive influence on the effectiveness of Agencies’ control environment particularly in the areas of risk assessment, legislative compliance and financial system controls,” Mr McPhee said.
He said an understanding of an Agency’s risk assessment process was an essential element of financial statement audits and Agencies were expected to manage the key risks specific to their environment
“The ANAO found that the majority of Agencies have a well-established risk assessment process, overseen by audit committees or other committees with specific risk management responsibilities,” Mr McPhee said.
He said important elements of the risk assessment process common to all agencies were business continuity and fraud control management and his audits had identified a general improvement in the level of awareness and maintenance, however a number of Agencies did not test their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) as part of normal business practice.
Mr McPhee said all Agencies had fraud control plans prepared but a small number needed to improve mechanisms for assessing their effectiveness.
He said he noted improvements in elements of Agencies’ IT control environments during 2010–11, particularly in respect of incident and problem management controls.
“Management of user access, particularly the logging and monitoring of user activities for privileged users, remained an area requiring further attention,” Mr McPhee said.
He said results of the 2010–11 interim audits indicated that, overall, control activities relating to financial and accounting processes had been maintained at an effective level with the total number of significant and moderate audit findings had decreased.
“A total of 158 Category A, B and C findings were identified from our 2010–11 interim audits, a significant reduction compared with the 188 findings identified in 2009–10,” the Auditor-General said.
He said the audits did, however, continue to identify control weaknesses in a number of areas including management of inventory and assets; controls relating to business systems; the management of user access to key financial systems; and business continuity management.
He said generally, Agencies had been positive and timely in their response to his Office’s audit findings.
28 June, 2011
A new Ministerial Advisory Council is to be established to advise the Minister for Regional Australia on issues affecting country communities.
to go the distance
The Minister, Simon Crean said the new Council would give regional communities even stronger backing at the highest level of government.
Mr Crean said $4.3 billion was budgeted for key investments in regional communities including health and hospitals, skills, higher education and infrastructure.
He said the Government had strengthened the role of the nation’s 55 Regional Development Australia Committees and was driving a new place-based approach to help deliver local solutions to local issues.
“We are determined to make sure regional communities can meet the challenge of an economy in transition and reach their full potential,” Mr Crean said.
He said 11 Australians had been appointed to the new Ministerial Advisory Council on Regional Australia.
“Each member of the Council has been chosen because of their longstanding commitment to regional Australia,” Mr Crean said.
“Together, they have a shared interest in the wellbeing of regional communities and the part Australia’s regions play in the growth of the nation.”
He said new Council would be chaired by former unionist Bill Kelty and provide independent advice on emerging regional priorities and how best to grow regional economies.
Other members of the Council would be Professor Ian Chubb; Lindsay Fox; Professor Sandra Harding; Collene Longmore; Rob Kerin; Elizabeth McGregor; Mal Peters; Ian Sinclair; Professor Jonathan West; and Christian Zahra.
“I am delighted to be working with such a committed group of people who will help to shape and inform our response to issues affecting regional Australia,” Mr Crean said.
28 June, 2011
Students look to PS
The Smith Family is calling for volunteers from the Public Service with particularly valuable skills to join it in giving young students a good start in life by acting as mentors in its Learning for Life program.
for study mentors
The charity has places available for mentors in Canberra and a number of nearby towns and cities in NSW.
Volunteer Relationship Coordinator for Southern NSW and the ACT with The Smith Family, Michael Ormsby said the Learning for Life program supported tertiary education by providing students with a scholarship of up to $2,400 per year towards textbooks and other education expenses, and the opportunity to be matched with a mentor for support and guidance.
Mr Ormsby said The Smith Family was looking for professional mentors in the ACT and nearby with backgrounds and experience in areas such as Business Administration, International Relations, Graphic Design, Medical Science and Law (mainly Commercial or Business).
He said the Tertiary Mentoring Program involved matching students with mentors who had worked or studied in the industry they were hoping to work in.
Mr Ormsby said students and mentors would meet in person four times or more per year (typically twice per semester) for around an hour each time, and maintain contact via email or phone every four to six weeks.
He said the mentor relationship was designed to last for the duration of the student’s course, with a minimum commitment of 12 months.
He said The Smith Family was taking expressions of interest from interested mentors between June and August 2011 and would begin matching students with a potential mentors starting in September.
More information was available from Mr Ormsby on (02) 9085 7116 or email
28 June, 2011
Nuclear staff shine
Staff of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) were called in to check a shipment of cars from Japan for radiation after it arrived in Australia from the port of Yokohama in Japan.
in radiation tests
ARPANSA had already been monitoring the nuclear situation in Japan following the 11 March earthquake and tsunami and was assessing the potential exposure to radiation of people and goods travelling from Japan to Australia.
In a statement the Agency said the Maritime Union of Australia and others had expressed concerns that vessels containing vehicles being shipped from Japan to Australia might have been contaminated with radioactive material arising from the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The Agency said the concerns had risen after the discovery of low levels of radioactivity in cars shipped from Yokohama to other countries.
Its officials carried out a radiation measurement exercise on the shipment of cars when it docked at Port Kembla, on route from the Japanese port of Yokohama.
ARPANSA said it checked the external and internal surfaces of a total of 102 cars, including 53 used cars, which were part of a consignment of 800, by using portable handheld radiation (gamma-ray) dose rate monitors and (beta/gamma) contamination monitors.
It said the radiation dose rates it measured were within the normal range of background radiation and the contamination monitor count rates did not exceed the background count rate of the monitor.
The officials briefed the stevedore crew and the local union representative on the monitoring results, which amounted to no contamination being detected.
ARPANSA had already announced that at this point in time it was not considered necessary to introduce any radiation screening measures for mail, sea or air cargo, or aircraft arriving from Japan.
It said this was consistent with the approach being taken in a number of other countries, such as the UK, Canada and New Zealand.
28 June, 2011
The Australian Federal Police has announced that its Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) website has been redesigned.
According to the police, the refurbished site is now more visually stimulating, accessible and easy to use.
The AFP said in a statement that the new website, which was launched on 22 June, would continue to provide a range of advice and information to protect users in the online environment.
It said it would also streamline the Report Abuse function, which allowed any person anywhere in the world to report suspected online child abuse by directly linking the visitor to the relevant VGT member agency’s web page or email address.
The website utilises new capabilities which make maintenance of the website easier and increase its access globally through a number of language translations.
The AFP said that in addition to content that was already translated and published on the site, the new website was the first to be built by the AFP to use computer-generated translations.
It said its Google translations tool allowed visitors to select their preferred language and have the website content translated, allowing for more languages to be added as needed.
It also announced that the website had been built on a more stable Web Content Management System which simplified and enhanced the process of publishing content to it.
The VGT was established in 2003 to combat the increasingly prevalent crime of online child sexual abuse, and since mid-2008, more than 300 adults and children had reported suspicious online child sex abuse activity to the VGT via the website, contributing to a number of arrests.
The AFP said the website announcement was one of the key objectives it committed to when assuming the role of VGT Chair and Secretariat in 2009.
It said it was confident it could continue to showcase the international collaboration and ongoing collective impact the VGT was having globally in combating the online sexual exploitation of children.
The new website can be accessed at this PS News link.
28 June, 2011
CSIRO imaging scheme
An imaging system developed by the CSIRO has been judged among the top 100 most marketable products in the world.
CSIRO scientist Chris Ryan said the Maia X-ray Microprobe Element Imaging System was created for use at the Australian Synchrotron by CSIRO and Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.
Dr Ryan said the annual R&D 100 Awards, convened by the US-based R&D Magazine recognise the 100 most technologically significant products from around the world introduced into the marketplace in the past year.
He said the Maia system was a high-throughput X-ray fluorescence detector system which – when combined with a focused X-ray source such as a synchrotron X-ray microprobe beamline – was able to produce high-definition, quantitative elemental images with microscopic or nanoscopic detail in real-time.
“The Maia system allows samples to be scanned up to 1,000 times faster and in much greater detail than previous methods using its large detector array and real-time processing capacity to map trace elements very rapidly at micron resolution and over centimetre scales,” Dr Ryan said.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the success of the collaborative effort was an outstanding example of how Australia could build transformational capabilities through global partnerships.
“Our ability to innovate through research and development is vital for future prosperity,” Senator Carr said.
“Government and industry must continue to work in partnership to foster a culture of innovation.”
Dr Ryan said development of the Maia detector was commissioned by the Australian Synchrotron in 2008 and since its delivery in March 2010 had been providing high-definition elemental images of complex natural samples
He said the detector was now used to aid research in the biological, geological, materials and environmental sciences as well as in medicine and cultural heritage uses.
Gold exploration expert with CSIRO, Rob Hough said the Maia detector had revolutionised the way researchers mapped trace elements in a range of mineral exploration and ore samples.
“The Maia detector has for the first time allowed us to actually see the distribution of trace gold in our samples,” Dr Hough said.
“Being able to map large areas quickly enables us to look for the hidden gold across the sample and it’s turning up in places we would have never looked at before.”
28 June, 2011
Cold hard laws to
New laws that give the cashflow watchdog AUSTRAC more powers to intercept money paid to people smugglers have been passed by Parliament.
seize cold hard cash
Minister for Justice Brendan O’Connor said the new laws would help stem the flow of money for people smuggling ventures, as well as other serious crimes.
“People smugglers need money to launch their dangerous ventures and we’re committed to stopping them from getting the funds they need to conduct their criminal trade,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Law enforcement agencies are concerned about the role the remittance sector can inadvertently play in facilitating people smuggling.”
He said AUSTRAC and the Government were dedicated to doing all they could to stop the trade in human life.
Mr O’Connor said the new Combatting the Financing of People Smuggling and Other Measures Act introduced amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 to strengthen regulation of the remittance sector.
He said remittance dealers accepted payment in one location and arranged an equivalent payment to someone in another location overseas.
He said remittance dealers ranged from global money transfer businesses to small entities that operated out of grocery stores.
Mr O’Connor said the Bill would provide tougher and more effective regulation of the sector by introducing a more comprehensive registration scheme requiring remitters to provide information about their suitability for accreditation.
He said the Bill would also give the Chief executive of AUSTRAC the power to refuse, suspend, cancel or impose conditions on registration; enable him or her to issue infringement notices and penalties for non-compliance; and require remittance networks to comply with some reporting rules on behalf of their agents.
“These measures will help reduce the risk of remittance dealers facilitating people smuggling, as well as money laundering, terrorism financing and other serious crimes,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the new laws complemented legislation passed last year that imposed penalties of 10 years jail and fines of up to $110,000 on people who provided material support to people smugglers.
28 June, 2011
Centrelink warns on
Consumers have been warned to beware a new bank transfer scam asking people to send money to someone claiming to be a Centrelink employee.
scammer in the works
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said several recent reports had been received of Centrelink clients being asked to transfer several hundred dollars to an account in India in order to facilitate a substantial return payment.
“We have received several reports of people making phone calls claiming customers will receive a large Centrelink payment when they transfer several hundred dollars to a designated bank account,” Ms Plibersek said.
“People should be aware that claims made by callers of large sums of money being available in exchange for payments are a scam and they should not cooperate.”
“Centrelink never asks its customers to transfer funds and I urge people not to send money to anyone they don’t know.”
Ms Plibersek said in recent months reports of people being targeted by scammers purporting to be Centrelink workers had emerged in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland.
She said the most recent report of the scam occurred in WA where a man was asked to transfer $300 to India in return for $3,000.
Ms Plibersek said in another recent call an elderly Queensland resident was asked to send $800 through Western Union in return for $3,000.
She said the scam was similar to the so-called “Nigerian 419 scam” where people were contacted by email or letter and asked to transfer money to assist in the release of funds for a substantial “reward.”
“Unscrupulous people who perpetrate scams often target the most vulnerable in the community such as the elderly and people from non-English speaking backgrounds,” Ms Plibersek said.
“I urge anyone who suspects they have received a scam phone call to make a note of the details including the time and date of the call, the gender and accent of the caller and what the caller said.”
Ms Plibersek said people who received such calls should report them to the Australian Government’s fraud tip-off line on 13 15 24.
She said information about scams could also be found at this PS News link.
28 June, 2011
New funding for
Funding to protect 36 Indigenous heritage projects has been announced by the Minister for Heritage, Tony Burke.
Mr Burke said the funding would be used to help identify, protect and share Australia’s Indigenous heritage.
He said more than $2.7 million had been allocated for the Indigenous heritage projects that would help community groups and individuals conserve and promote the heritage values of places important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Indigenous history and heritage occupies a special place in our country’s identity, and it is important that we protect these cultural sites for future generations,” Mr Burke said.
He said projects that had received funding included the Sacred Sea Places of the Groote Archipelago project (NT) to identify and record sacred sites relating to four dreaming track stories and nine totemic figures.
Other projects to receive funding include the Baiame’s Ngunnhu Heritage Project (NSW) to install bilingual interpretive signage and implement a Conservation Heritage Management Plan for the National Heritage Listed fish traps at Brewarrina and the Apara Springs Fencing Project (SA) to construct a fence to protect the Apara Springs in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands from damage by feral animals.
Mr Burke said the Wongatha Keeping Place (WA) would also receive funding to enable Wongatha elders to establish a keeping place for sacred objects at Morapoi Station in the Goldfields Region of WA.
“This funding is an important step to help us protect, preserve and promote Indigenous heritage,” Mr Burke said.
24 June, 2011
Super overhaul to
New laws overhauling the Commonwealth’s Public Service and military superannuation schemes have been passed by Parliament.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong welcomed the new laws saying they would bring significant benefits to the super fund members through improved governance arrangements.
“The establishment of Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) as the consolidated trustee will help secure increased superannuation benefits for thousands of military and civilian scheme members,” Senator Wong said.
She said three Bills that would consolidate the trusteeship of the Commonwealth’s main civilian and military superannuation schemes, and modernise the governance of administration of these arrangements, had passed the Senate.
Minister Assisting on Public Sector Superannuation, Senator Nick Sherry, said the changes would combine the funds of more than 680,000 members and pensioners, with total assets totalling more than $21 billion.
“Consolidation of the funds will produce a more efficient trustee operation and better services for all members,” Senator Sherry said.
He said scheme members, particularly serving and former Defence Force personnel, would benefit from an increase in investment scale, including better investment returns and lower fees.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon said the legislation was a great win for former, current and future serving members.
Mr Snowdon said the changes would enable the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme to produce better financial returns.
He said modelling suggested members of the Australian Defence Force could receive up to a $95,000 increase in their superannuation benefit if net investment returns were improved by 0.5%.
“These reforms will deliver financial benefits for more than 90 per cent of current serving members in the ADF,” he said.
Mr Snowdon said ex-service organisations and other military stakeholders had been consulted to ensure that CSC’s governance arrangements would take into account the unique nature of military service, and provide appropriate representation of military interests.
He said the reforms did not alter the superannuation entitlements of civilian and military superannuation scheme members which were governed by separate legislation.
The new governance arrangements will commence on 1 July 2011.
24 June, 2011
Climate change grants
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is to fund 13 new projects demonstrating practical approaches to dealing with the impact of climate change on community infrastructure and critical assets.
to weather the storm
Announced by the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, the projects were selected from 38 which applied under the $4.5 million Coastal Adaptation Decisions Pathways scheme.
Mr Combet said most of the projects had at least a dollar for dollar co-investment from the project proponents.
He said the successful projects spanned all States and included an adaptation strategy for Townsville to manage future development in areas subject to coastal inundation from rising sea levels; planning for secure water infrastructure in Sydney; and preparing an economic analysis of adaptation options in the Peron Naturaliste region of Western Australia.
“These projects will show how coastal communities can start planning now for the unavoidable impacts of climate change,” Mr Combet said.
“These projects will provide lessons which will be relevant around the country.”
He said the funding would support local decision-makers to move beyond initial climate change risk assessments to identifying what was required in practical terms to protect a community and assets from climate change risks over time.
He said other projects approved under the Coastal Adaption Decision Pathways scheme included Rising to the challenge – developing flexible coastal adaptation pathways for local communities (Local Government Association of Tasmania); Climate Change Adaptation Tool for the Water Industry (Water Services Association of Australia); and Choosing a preferred pathway for Port Phillip Bay (Municipal Association of Victoria).
More information about the projects can be found on the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency website this PS News link.
24 June, 2011
Audit opens door on
An audit of the Australian Taxation Office’s shopfronts has found them to be in decline as taxpayers move their interaction with the ATO to the internet.
Tax Office shopfronts
In his report Administration of Tax Office Shopfronts, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the shift had been most noticeable over the past 10 years.
“Over the last decade... the provision of face-to-face or on-site services has been overtaken by developments in service delivery capabilities and approaches,” Mr McPhee said.
“The availability of telephone advice and on-line and web-based services has meant that taxpayers have convenient access to a broad range of ATO services at times of their choosing.”
He said in 2009-10 the ATO employed 125 staff in its shopfront operations with an operating budget of $9.4 million.
He said the ATO had established three alternative service delivery channels which had overtaken on-site access at shopfronts including on-line; on-call (providing local call 1300 numbers for access); and on-paper (through correspondence by letters and fax) and the objective of his audit was to assess the effectiveness of the services delivered.
The Auditor-General found that that ATO shopfronts provided a more personal environment; enabled members of the community to speak to ATO staff face-to-face; collect a range of ATO publications and brochures; and use self-help options to access ATO information and services.
He said since 2005–06, shopfront interactions had been declining but the ATO had been surveying its shopfront clients to find out why they continued to prefer the service.
He said the results identified the shopfront clients as people who were not comfortable with other forms of communication with the ATO, or who believed they were required to visit in person to obtain assistance.
He said migrants from a non-English speaking background and older Australians were highly represented among the shopfront visitors but they were only a small proportion of ATO clientele.
He said in its efforts to provide on-site services at a more reasonable cost, the ATO was conducting three trial programs of alternative delivery methods.
These included a shared services arrangement at some Centrelink and Medicare Customer Service Centres; using co-located sites with Centrelink and other service providers; and offering services through Australia Post outlets.
Mr McPhee said the ATO intended to close some shopfronts, where it was practical to do so at the end of their leases but accepted that the alternative delivery options might not provide the same level of services.
He recommended that research be conducted to identify key shopfront client groupings and the reasons for their engagement in order to properly develop alternate delivery methods. The ATO accepted the recommendation
The full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Belinda Dennis, Danielle Sheehan, David Crossley and Jane Whyte.
24 June, 2011
Expert panel to rate
An expert panel is to be set up to guide a move to have Australia’s Local Government sector recognised in the Constitution.
To be chaired by former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, Jim Spigelman, the panel is to look into the level of support for recognition of Local Government in the Constitution and identify possible forms it could take.
Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean said the new panel would be made up of members with a range of expertise and skills who would consult with stakeholder groups and the community on options for recognising Local Government in the Constitution.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said Justice Spigelman was a god choice to chair the Panel and would bring considerable experience to the position.
“Changes to our Constitution have, and always will be, the prerogative of the Australian people which is why consultation on possible options is an important step,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Expert Panel will consult widely and the outcomes will help shape any proposal to put to a referendum.”
President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Genia McCaffery said achieving constitutional recognition would reaffirm local Government’s position as the third level of Government in the federation.
“ALGA has been engaged in a process aimed at Constitutional recognition since 2007, including commissioning social research on community attitudes and understanding of local Government and the Constitution,” Cr McCaffery said.
“Local Government plays a vitally important role in the day-to-day lives of the Australian people, but what many Australians do not realise is that local Government is the only level of Government not recognised in the Australian Constitution.”
Other members of the panel will be announced in due course and it is expected to report back to the Government by the end of the year.
Its Terms of Reference can be inspected at this PS News link.
24 June, 2011
New cybercrime laws
New laws that crack down on cybercrime and pave the way for Australia to join international efforts have been announced by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
to cast a wide net
Mr McClelland said the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 sets out the legislative framework to enable Australia’s accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime – the world’s only binding international treaty on cybercrime.
“Australia must have appropriate arrangements domestically and internationally to be in the best possible position to fight cybercrime and cyber security threats,” Mr McClelland said.
“This Bill will facilitate Australia’s accession to the Convention and improve our ability to cooperate internationally.”
Mr McClelland said as people exchanged more information online, Cybercrime was becoming a growing threat to individuals, businesses and Governments.
“In the last six months alone, Australia’s Computer Emergency Response Team has alerted Australian business to more than a quarter of a million pieces of stolen information such as passwords and account details, allowing them to rectify and protect against potential attacks,” he said.
“While Australian law substantially complies with the obligations in the Convention, the Government believes there is more we can do to ensure Australia is in the best position to tackle cyber threats that confront us, both domestically and internationally.”
Mr McClelland said over 40 nations had either signed or become a party to the Convention and over 100 nations were using the Convention as the basis to strengthen their legislation to combat the threat of cybercrime.
He said the new Bill would make three key changes to current laws against cybercrime. It would focus on:
Mr McClelland said the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 amended the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987; the Criminal Code Act 1995; the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979; and the Telecommunications Act 1997.
- preservation - enabling agencies to request the preservation of communications by a carrier they intended to seek a warrant over;
- international cooperation – allowing greater access to information stored overseas; and
- Cybercrime offences – extending the scope of existing Commonwealth computer offences to fully meet the requirements for such offences under the Convention.
24 June, 2011
Justice unjust for
A new report into the over-representation of young Aboriginal people in the justice system has identified a lack of Government coordination and engagement as contributing factors.
Published by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the report entitled Doing Time-Time For Doing: Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system found the incidence of Indigenous young people coming into contact with the justice system to have worsened over the past 20 years.
Social Justice Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Mick Gooda said the over-representation of young Indigenous people in the justice system was one of the most neglected but urgent issues to be addressed in efforts to overcome Indigenous disadvantage.
Mr Gooda said the Committee’s report looked holistically at the range of issues impacting on over-representation, including health, education, employment and substance abuse.
“Importantly, this report recognises that many of these issues are made worse by a lack of Government coordination and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Mr Gooda said.
He said while the Council of Australian Government’s Closing the Gap initiatives in areas such as health, education and employment were welcome and would have a long-term positive effect on reducing imprisonment, targets addressing the current over-representation of young Indigenous people were crucial.
“We must act now before we lose another generation to the criminal justice system,” Mr Gooda said.
In its report, the seven-member Committee said it was concerned to find that overrepresentation of Indigenous juveniles and young adults was currently worse than when the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report was published 20 years ago.
It said there was evidence it was an escalating problem which had reached a crisis point. The Committee made 40 recommendations to government including a National Partnership Agreement with specific justice targets.
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
24 June, 2011
New funding for research into space exploration and science is expected to lead to improvements in the way satellites move in orbit, more accurate weather predictions and new pathways to space education for science and engineering students according to the Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr.
is heaven sent
Senator Carr said $6.1 million has been allocated to three new space research and education projects under Round 4 of the Australian Space Research Program (ASPR).
“Australia’s space and engineering research is among the best in the world,” Senator Carr said, “and our space-related industries are growing.”
“Excellence in Research for Australia showed 85 per cent or more of the units assessed in the space sciences and related areas of engineering are world standard or above.”
He said through the ASRP, the Government was bringing the nation’s best research and industry minds together to make discoveries that would improve lives and secure Australia’s place as a world-leader in space science.
Senator Carr said the Australian National University was among the recipients of the funding and would receive $3.1 million to help build a space simulation facility.
“The Australian National University will partner with national and international industry bodies to develop a better propulsion system for satellites and deep-space missions,” the Minister said.
“The facility will be a research hub for space scientists, astronomers and industry bodies looking to develop space equipment.”
He said in support of the next generation of researchers, the University of New South Wales would also partner with national and international space industry bodies and use its $675,000 grant to formulate and deliver a two-year Masters degree program in satellite systems engineering.
He said it would also address the current education gap and help prepare graduates with industry experience for Australia’s developing space industry.
More information about the Australian Space Research Program is available from this PS News link.
24 June, 2011
New mint contracts
The Royal Australian Mint has launched a new era of minting coins for other countries by entering a major contract from Samoa.
right on the money
Following an upgrade of facilities and technology in 2009, the Canberra-based Mint can now take on international work.
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten said the partnership with Samoa would also strengthening Australia’s relationships in the Pacific.
“It is fitting that one of the Mint’s first large-scale international jobs is with our neighbouring country, Samoa,” Mr Shorten said.
“This kind of partnership reinvigorates our engagement with our Pacific island neighbours.”
He said the new contract was also an important sign for the future of the Mint in the international minting community.
“This engagement is a reflection of the Mint’s status as a world leading minting facility and will assist in its economic viability,” he said.
“It now has the capacity to accept contracts from other countries without encroaching significantly into its normal, day-to-day functions.”
Chief Executive of the Mint, Ross MacDiarmid said working on the new Samoan contract would have long-term benefits for the Mint.
“This has been a great opportunity for staff to further develop their skills as the coins differ in metal and even shape from the Australian coins, the most interesting being a scalloped coin,” said Mr MacDiarmid.
He said the Central Bank of Samoa announced in April that the country would be making major changes to its currency.
“The Royal Australian Mint has designed and produced coins that are low in cost and reflect a more modern Samoa,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“The Mint has also produced a limited mintage silver proof collection which is available today for pre-ordering from the Mint’s Call Centre and online on the Mint eShop,” he said.
24 June, 2011
Fair Work Australia has granted the 900 staff of the Department of Parliamentary Services in Canberra approval to vote on protected industrial action in pursuit of a pay claim.
The Community and Public Sector Union says the action is in response to a 3% payrise offer which “doesn't keep pace with the cost of living”.
The Union said staff at other Departments had also won the right to vote on taking action, including the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Immigration and Citizenship and the Customs and Border Protection Service.
Governor-General, Quentin Bryce has awarded the 2011 Australian Antarctic Medal to a marine biologist and the Master of the RSV Aurora Australis and the MV Oceanic Viking.
Dr Stephen Nicol and Captain Murray Patrick Doyle received their medals in recognition of outstanding service in support of Australian Antarctic expeditions.
Dr Nicol is the world's most eminent krill scientist and Program Leader at the Australian Antarctic Division and Captain Doyle has supported the Australian Antarctic Program for 14 of the last 16 seasons as well as acting against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the Southern Ocean.
The first Director of the Antarctic Division, Dr Phillip Law, who died last year aged 97, has had his ashes interred on the icy continent along with his wife who pre-deceased him.
Dr Law was laid to rest near Mawson Station in Antarctica.
Dr Law was the first Director of the Antarctic Division in 1949 and founded Australia’s three stations on the continent. He also established Australia’s National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) - the forerunner to today’s Australian Antarctic program.
In 1995 he was given Australia’s highest honour, Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) and his wife Nel, was the first Australian woman to set foot in Antarctica in 1961.
Roadmap for rail
Australia’s rail manufacturers would become stronger and more competitive following the launch of a Rail Manufacturing Technology Roadmap.
The Roadmap is a partnership between industry; the Australian, Victorian, Queensland and New South Wales Governments.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the Roadmap would match the rail industry’s capabilities to domestic and international opportunities and build a vision for the future.
Call penalty awarded
The first penalty awarded against a telemarketer by a Court under the Do Not Call Register laws has been imposed.
FHT Travel Pty Limited was found to have breached the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 by making more than 12,000 marketing calls to people who had placed their telephone numbers on the Register.
FHT Travel has been ordered to pay a penalty of $120,000.
Disability awards open
Nominations for the 2011 National Disability Awards have been extended by a month.
The Awards recognise outstanding individuals and organisations that have contributed to the lives of people with disability.
There are seven Award categories including the Minister’s Lifelong Achievement Award; Young Disability Challenge Award; Business Award; Local Government Award; Social Inclusion Award; Inclusive and Accessible Communities Award; and Health and Wellbeing Award.
Nominations now close 29 July 2011.
To nominate visit this PS News link or call 1800 440 385.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Sydney office has moved from its CBD location to Sydney’s Pyrmont/Ultimo media and communications hub.
The new location is Level 5, 65 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont 2009.
All phone numbers, email addresses, and the ACMA’s Sydney P.O. Box address will remain the same.
A new prize is to be awarded to recognise excellence amongst Indigenous students who are undertaking law studies.
The Indigenous Law Student of the Year Prize will acknowledge the achievements and contributions of Indigenous legal students to Australia’s justice system.
he recipient will receive $2,500 to further their legal studies and nominations are open until 4 July 2011.
Trial for children’s needs
A new tool to assess the health, wellbeing and needs of vulnerable children is to be trialled in four locations across Australia.
Organisations to take part in the trial project are Northern Connections in Elizabeth (SA); Interrelate Family Centre in Lismore (NSW); Gippsland Lakes Community Health in Gippsland (VIC); and the Rockingham Kwinana Division of General Practice in Kwinana (WA).
The tool will make it make it easier for practitioners to identify and respond early to the needs of families and children.
The trial is being conducted as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.
SME management program
Small and medium-sized manufacturers have been invited to join a new program to improve their management and green-up their production.
The Enterprise Connect Making Better Managers program will include development courses, workshops and seminars, coaching and networking support, strategic business reviews and market intelligence.
The program is part of the Future of Manufacturing strategy, which is helping Australian manufacturers reduce pollution, increase innovation and create sustainable high-wage, high-skill jobs for Australians.
For more information visit this PS News link or phone 131 791.
Oil supervisors project
A new Safe Supervisor Competency Project will foster greater safety among supervisors in the offshore oil and gas industry.
The project offers essential basic skills training for supervisors to ensure the safety of teams and individuals, and builds on the success of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s Common Safety Training Program.
21 June, 2011
A report from the Australian Institute of Criminology has confirmed Centrelink to be among the world leaders in combatting welfare fraud.
world fraud title
Minister for Justice Brendan O’Connor said the report Detecting and Preventing Welfare Fraud showed sophisticated data-matching techniques and dob-ins by the public were helping to crack down on cheats.
Mr O’Connor said the report examined the suite of anti-fraud measures used by Centrelink including data analysis, tip offs, investigations and recovery actions.
He said the anti-fraud methods were compared with the strategies employed by other similar nations.
“The study found that Centrelink reflects international best practice in stopping welfare fraud against the taxpayer,” Mr O’Connor said.
“That’s good news for Australian taxpayers.”
He said fraud against the Commonwealth was a significant concern and welfare payments were an area of vulnerability.
“It is disappointing that a minority of people seek to exploit a system that is designed to support people when they are having a tough time.
“But it does happen and we must be constantly vigilant to ensure that taxpayers’ money is not wasted or inadvertently provided to people who are not entitled to payments.”
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said Centrelink’s successful anti-fraud measures involved public education campaigns about reporting rules, combined with prosecution and recovery of debts.
“While most Centrelink customers are honest and are in genuine need of assistance, unfortunately some people attempt to take advantage of the system,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said the first step in preventing fraud was ensuring people were aware of their entitlements and obligations – as well as the seriousness of breaching the rules.
She said data matching was introduced in 1991 and continues to be highly effective in detecting inconsistencies in the information people provide to the government.
“Cross-checking ensures income provided by Centrelink is reflected in Australian Tax Office records and other sources,” Ms Plibersek said.
The report Detecting and Preventing Welfare Fraud is available at this PS News link.
21 June, 2011
Doping Agency has
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) has announced a world-first counselling service to support athletes facing a doping ban from their sport.
high hopes for plan
Chief Executive of ASADA, Aurora Andruska said the initiative would provide every athlete notified of a possible anti-doping rule violation, with free access to independent and confidential counselling with qualified professionals.
“ASADA recognises that athletes who are confronting a possible anti-doping rule violation face serious consequences to their career and reputation, and that it can be a very difficult time for them,” Ms Andruska said.
“It is important that ASADA provides access to confidential counselling to help ensure the welfare of the athlete and to try and avoid some of the tragic incidents that have occurred overseas involving athletes serving an anti-doping rule violation.”
She said she believed it was first time this type of service had been offered by an anti-doping organisation anywhere in the world.
She said the counselling would be provided independently by an organisation that provides wellbeing and performance services to organisations across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.
Ms Andruska said the aim of the initiative was to provide short-term counselling and strategies to help individuals deal with very stressful and potentially life-changing circumstances.
“Many sports already have support structures in place for athletes but this is being implemented as an additional safeguard,” Ms Andruska said.
She said as part of the initiative ASADA staff involved in an athlete’s results management process would receive training to increase their knowledge of warning signs related to anxiety, stress and depression.
21 June, 2011
Climate right for
A public information campaign to educate the community on the Government’s climate change policies has been announced by the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet.
Mr Combet said the campaign would provide information about plans to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution which included the introduction of a carbon price.
He said it would also showcase the work already being done by everyday Australians to achieve a clean energy future.
Mr Combet said national television and print advertising would be part of the campaign.
“Climate change is a significant economic and environmental challenge that affects all Australians,” Mr Combet said.
“The Government has a responsibility to provide the Australian community with clear information on climate change and to explain the context and objectives of its climate policy.”
He said the Government was committing $12 million to the campaign, in addition to its decision in the 2011-12 Budget to fund a community-based public engagement campaign.
He said a final decision on proceeding with advertising would depend on the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee discussions and on the campaign meeting the requirements of the Guidelines on Campaign Advertising.
Mr Combet said the $12 million committed to the campaign compared to $118.7 million spent advertising the GST policy and $121 million advertising WorkChoices.
He said to help the public understand the challenges of climate change and the opportunities for a clean energy future, a $3 million grant program would also be launched on 30 June 2011.
He said this would provide grants of up to $250,000 for organisations to engage with the public on the opportunities of a clean energy future.
“Many people are working hard to build a clean energy future for Australia,” Mr Combet said.
“We think they deserve the opportunity to be heard.”
He said the grant program guidelines and application process would be made available on the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency website from 30 June.
21 June, 2011
A report into access and equity among organisations receiving Government funding has revealed improving levels of compliance with the official strategy.
is open to all
Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy said the Access and Equity in Government Services Report 2008-10 acknowledged the work being undertaken by organisations across the country to respond to the needs of Australia’s diverse communities.
Senator Lundy said the access and equity strategy and framework applied to all services funded by the Government, irrespective of whether they were delivered by Government Agencies, non-Government organisations or the private sector.
“It is clear there is a growing awareness among organisations about the importance of developing cultural skills and tailoring services to respond to the needs of all Australians,” Senator Lundy said.
“Our access and equity strategy is about acknowledging diversity, rather than ignoring people’s differences.”
She said Government services required awareness, flexibility and innovation in their design and delivery “to ensure they meet the needs of Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”
Senator Lundy said the report featured real examples of how agencies on a national, State and local level were responding to the needs of Australia’s diverse communities.
She said the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, through its Translating and Interpreting Service, had also developed and funded a priority fee-free telephone service that assisted doctors in private practice to effectively communicate with their non-English speaking patients at no additional cost.
“Access and equity is a fundamental part of a strong multicultural Australia,” Senator Lundy said.
“It enhances respect and support for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, acknowledges the benefits and potential that diversity brings and imparts the message that all Australians are entitled to equitable access to government services and programs.”
The Access and Equity in Government Services Report 2008-10 is available at this PS News link.
21 June, 2011
Recycling laws to
New laws that encourage less waste, more recycling and better management of the environmental, health and safety impacts of consumer products has been unanimously passed by the Australian Senate.
stamp on waste
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell, said passage of the laws was a major milestone in the delivery of Australia’s long-term National Waste Policy.
“This groundbreaking legislation provides the framework for a flexible and practical approach to product stewardship, recognising that each product, material and industry is unique,” Senator Farrell said.
“When people recycle packaging and products, or when companies re-design their product to reduce hazardous substances in products, they are all being good product stewards.”
“This legislation will encourage these steps.”
He said the new product stewardship legislation would reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, increase recycling rates, recover valuable resources and prevent hazardous substances entering the environment.
“It will provide industry, communities and governments with a consistent, national approach to these issues.”
Senator Farrell said the Product Stewardship Bill had strong support from a range of sectors, including the manufacturers and importers of televisions and computers, which would be the first products to be covered under the legislation.
“The Bill’s passage through the Senate paves the way for a national, industry-led television and computer recycling scheme, to be phased in from the end of the year,” Senator Farrell said.
“This scheme aims to increase television and computer recycling rates from the current 10 per cent to 80 per cent by 2020-21.”
He said a list would be published each year of products being considered for coverage by the legislation.
Senator Farrell said products currently on the National Waste Policy implementation plan for product stewardship action included televisions and computers, packaging, tyres and lights containing mercury.
He said proposals for future action would need to be evidence based, taking into account both the costs and benefits
He said a Regulatory Impact Statement was currently being prepared on a range of measures to address packaging waste and litter, including container deposit, with public consultation expected to begin later this year.
21 June, 2011
Website connects with
A new website and a national ‘Find and Connect’ service have been announced as part of a program to support the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants to reconnect with their families.
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said more than $3 million was being provided for the first phase of the national Find and Connect service to help Forgotten Australians access professional counselling services, trace their personal and family histories and reunite with family members where possible.
Ms Macklin said the Find and Connect service was part of a commitment made at the 2009 National Apology to the more than 500,000 Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants - many of whom suffered abuse and neglect while in out-of-home care last century.
She said the funding would support a national Find and Connect website and database of records to help care leavers find records held by past care provider organisations and Government Agencies, including counselling support.
Ms Macklin said her Department would work with community agencies, and the States and Territories, to encourage timely access and the supported release of historical records to care leavers.
She said it would also include care leavers, State and Territory Governments and other stakeholders in the next implementation phase of national find and connect services from November 2011.
“We know that for many Forgotten Australians and child migrants who grew up in institutional and foster care, the feelings of loss and abandonment have remained with them throughout their lives,” Ms Macklin said.
“Providing services to help them reconnect with their identity and with their families where this is possible is one way the Government can help heal the legacy of the trauma and loneliness of lost childhoods,” she said.
21 June, 2011
War Memorial takes
The Australian War Memorial in Canberra has won the Australian Defence Force Reserves Employer of the Year Award.
Army reserve prize
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney, announced the honour when congratulated 16 Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and South East New South Wales (SE NSW) employers for their support of Australian Defence Force (ADF) Reserves.
Senator Feeney said the Employer Support Awards were designed to formally recognise employers of Reservists who had been nominated by their Reservist employee for being particularly supportive of Reserve service.
He said the Australian War Memorial won the Employer of the Year Award for the Public Sector, while Wollongong-based BlueScope Steel was awarded the Employer of the Year Award for Private Sector (Large), and Goulburn-based training company Recognition First Employer of the Year Award for Private Sector (SME).
Senator Feeney said three Reservists also received the Prince of Wales Awards.
“I was proud to present awards to some of the region’s most supportive employers of Australian Reservists,” Senator Feeney said.
“In particular, it was an honour to award the Employer of the Year Award for the Public Sector to the Australian War Memorial.”
Senator Feeney said Australian Reservists contributed across the entire spectrum of ADF capability.
“This is made possible by the ongoing support of employers, such as those represented at the Awards,” Senator Feeney said.
“The outstanding cooperation and support between the DRSC, Employers, Reservists and the ADF is the foundation of a successful partnership which supports ADF capability, and ultimately the safety and security of our community and country.”
21 June, 2011
A new website that commemorates the experiences of Australian Prisoners of War at Thailand’s Hellfire Pass during the Second World War has been announced by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
to be a cracker
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon said Hellfire Pass in Thailand on the Thai-Burma Railway, had become synonymous with the Australian POW experience in Asia.
Mr Snowdon said the experience of Australian prisoners at Hellfire Pass and at other locations on the railway was “horrendous”.
“More than 13,000 Australian prisoners of war were forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said work commenced in April 1943, with prisoners working 18-hour shifts, day after day, removing large amounts of earth from the Hellfire Pass cutting.
“They were forced to live in terrible conditions, often starving, with no medical supplies resulting in a very high death rate with more than 2,800 Australians perishing,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said working in partnership with the Australian National University, the Department would develop a new, innovative and unique website to take visitors on a ‘virtual tour’ through Hellfire Pass today and as it was during the Second World War.
“The website will give all Australians the opportunity to explore and learn about the Australian experience at Hellfire Pass,” Mr Snowdon said.
“It will allow them to compare what it is like today to how the prisoners experienced it almost 70 years ago.”
He said the website would use modern footage as well as historical photographs and GPS referencing to form a ‘virtual tour’ that would include the current walking trail and old camp sites located within the vicinity of the Pass.
ANU historian, Professor Joan Beaumont said the website would provide a wealth of information about the prisoners who lived and died on the pass, with oral histories, eye witness accounts and personal profiles including that of renowned doctor Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop.
Mr Snowdon said the website would become the first in a series of websites highlighting significant places for Australians along the Thai-Burma Railway.
The website is due to be completed in April 2013, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Australians commencing work at Hellfire Pass.
21 June, 2011
Aged care audit is
An audit of compliance arrangements in place in residential aged care homes has found the activities of both the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency to be generally effective and appropriate.
In his audit Monitoring and Compliance Arrangements Supporting Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Homes the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said Australians expected high standards of care in aged care services.
Mr McPhee said Australia’s aged care sector currently provided care to over a million older Australians which was over a third of all older people and about 4.6 per cent of the Australian population.
He said an effective monitoring and compliance framework, focused on improving the quality of aged care services through compliance with minimum standards, was an important means for maintaining confidence in the capacity of the sector to provide quality care and services to residents.
“The Accreditation Agency and DoHA have adopted a range of strategies to educate Approved Providers about their obligations, monitor compliance with the framework at the level of individual homes, enable them to work with Approved Providers to address non-compliance, and share information to inform their decision-making,” Mr McPhee said.
He said in 2009-10 the Accreditation Agency conducted an average of 2.2 visits to each accredited home, or a total of 6,119 visits, to assess and monitor the homes against the Accreditation Standards.
“While recognising the benefits in maintaining a focus on the pre-identified issues, there are also potential benefits in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness in allowing assessors some latitude to examine other risks to service delivery that they identify during visits,” Mr McPhee said.
He said DoHA had also established a network of regional compliance officers, with responsibility for monitoring compliance, issuing Notices of Non-Compliance to Approved Providers, and, where the non-compliance was not addressed, imposing sanctions.
He said both the framework and the majority of strategies adopted by DoHA and the Accreditation Agency were focused on promoting quality in individual accredited homes.
He said further developing the existing home-focused monitoring and compliance strategy to take account of sector-wide risks would be beneficial.
The full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team consisted of Claire Kelly, John Wickerson, Isabelle MacGregor, Steven Lack and Tom Ioannou.
21 June, 2011
Parents in line for
Centrelink is urging parents needing information about their family assistance payments before the end of the financial year to go online.
General Manager, Hank Jongen said around 1.5 million clients who receive Family Tax Benefit and around 700,000 Child Care Rebate clients had recently been sent letters which may require them to provide information to Centrelink.
“Family Tax Benefit instalment customers have been invited to provide a new income estimate for payments across the 2011-12 financial year,” Mr Jongen said, “while those receiving Child Care Rebate have been asked to choose whether they want to receive their rebate fortnightly from July.
“Some parents may not need to respond to these letters, but if they do they can use their unique One Time Access Code that appears in their letter to go online and provide their information.”
He said clients didn’t need to be registered for Centrelink Online Services to use the code, and they could usually complete their business in just minutes.
“Using the One Time Access Code in the letter has real benefits for families who may only need to contact Centrelink once or twice a year,” Mr Jongen said.
“It’s a quick and easy way for parents to keep in touch.”
He said doing simple Centrelink business online also assisted call centre staff to concentrate on helping clients with more complex queries.
Mr Jongen said time was running out for clients needing to respond to the letters.
He said those who received the income estimate letter but chose not to provide a new estimate by 14 June would find their income automatically increased in line with indexation as outlined in their letter.
He said parents receiving the Child Care Rebate would keep their current payment option unless they contacted Centrelink.
Mr Jongen said clients already registered with Centrelink’s online services could use their login details to enter their preferences, or use the phone self-service option by calling 13 51 60 and following the voice prompts.
21 June, 2011
Leave campaign goes
The latest stage in the national TV campaign No Leave No Life calls on hard working Australians to nominate themselves or a friend for an all expenses paid holiday.
for a holiday
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said the move was part of Tourism Australia “ramping up” the campaign.
“The amount of leave owed to Australians is enormous,” Mr Ferguson said, “123 million days of accumulated annual leave worth $33 billion in wages.
“Australians have a reputation for being hard working and whilst they know the value of taking time off this is becoming more difficult as they juggle busy schedules and cluttered lifestyles.”
Mr Ferguson said more than a million Australians were directly and indirectly employed in the tourism industry and many of them worked in rural and regional areas.
He said their jobs depended on customers - both from within Australia and from overseas.
“The $34 billion Australian tourism industry needs to aggressively compete for the discretionary dollar to encourage more Australians to holiday at home by offering quality tourism experiences,” he said.
“Tourism Australia is working with the industry to assist it to compete through its long term investment in the popular No Leave, No Life and Nothing Like Australia tourism marketing campaigns as well as the introduction of the TQUAL mark – an accreditation symbol to mark quality tourism products and services.”
Mr Ferguson said the new No Leave No Life reality TV series was open to nominations from the general public for the first time.
He said people could nominate themselves or someone they think deserved a well-earned break.
“The No Leave No Life campaign sends a clear message to employers about the importance of reducing the leave on their books by encouraging workers to take a break,” Mr Ferguson said.
“And we all know there’s nothing like Australia for a well earned holiday.”
Mr Ferguson said the second No Leave No Life reality TV series had a reach of 6.38 million with an average 912,000 Australians tuning in each week.
He said it was the number two program in its timeslot.
Nominations for the free holiday are open until 29 June 2011 at this PS News link.
21 June, 2011
An annual student essay competition conducted by the Australian Academy of Science and National Museum of Australia has been won by students from the Australian National University in Canberra.
Secretary for Education and Public Awareness at the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Jenny Graves said Australian monsoons, coal industry slavery and early Australian agriculture were the winning topics this year for the national science history prize.
Professor Graves said the winning essay A brief history of the monsoon, was submitted by Christian O’Brien, a PhD student at the ANU’s School of History.
Second prize was awarded to Sonya Duus, a PhD student at ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, for her essay Buried sunshine, sacrificial lands and industrial slaves: an environmental history of coal in Australia.
PhD student Cameron Muir was highly commended for his essay, Wheat for a white world: social and ecological relationships on the agricultural frontier in the early 20th century.
Professor Graves said the prize was awarded for an essay based on original unpublished research undertaken whilst enrolled as a tertiary student.
She said the winners were chosen by the Academy’s National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science and the Academy was proud to encourage a broader understanding of the history of Australian science.
“Science education and a public awareness of Australian science is vital to a healthy and informed Australian society,” Professor Graves said.
“The Academy is proud to be a part of this initiative to award fascinating original research into the history of Australian science and the environment.”
21 June, 2011
Super paper for
A consultation paper on the Government’s superannuation contribution for low-income earners has been released for public comment.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Superannuation, Bill Shorten, said millions of workers earning up to $37,000 a year would get a tax refund to boost their superannuation savings, under changes contained in a discussion paper.
Mr Shorten said currently, around 3.5 million Australians received no tax benefit from contributing to superannuation, due to the 15 per cent super contribution tax being at or below their income tax rate.
“Australian workers, whatever their income, deserve just rewards and financial security in retirement,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the superannuation payment of up to $500 annually would be made for eligible low-income earners, paid into a superannuation account to directly boost the individual’s retirement savings.
Mr Shorten said the measure would ensure superannuation tax concessions were distributed more equitably.
He said there would be no age criteria and individuals would not need to apply for the payment.
“We are particularly keen to see this tax refund implemented because it will significantly increase the superannuation savings for those working families and households across the country that most need some extra help with setting aside savings for their retirement,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the new payment was in addition to the existing co-contribution scheme where a contribution of up to $1,000 is made to match eligible non-concessional contributions made by lower income individuals.
The consultation paper can be accessed from this PS News link and submissions closed Friday 15 July 2011.
17 June, 2011
Chinese tourism plan
A 10-year strategic plan to capitalise on Chinese tourism has been released by the Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson.
takes slow boat
Mr Ferguson said the China 2020 Strategic Plan was aimed at ensuring Australian tourism remained competitive in the fast growing market for outbound travel from China.
He said the plan was developed by Tourism Australia in consultation with industry and Government stakeholders.
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy said over the past decade Australia had experienced faster arrivals growth from China than any other tourism market.
“Since becoming the first western destination to be granted Approved Destination Status (ADS) for group leisure travel in 1999, Australia has seen tourism from China grow from strength to strength,” Mr McEvoy said.
“In 2010, China was Australia’s fourth largest source of visitor arrivals but also became the largest market in terms of economic value, worth $3.3 billion.”
He said Tourism Australia had identified key areas to achieving China’s tourism potential and winning market share by 2020 including building customer focus and knowledge; a geographic strategy to ensure effective use of resources; industry development; ease of access to ensure sustainable air services; and strong partnerships to ensure strategic alignment across all levels of Government and industry.
Mr McEvoy said that while the outlook for travel from China to Australia continued to be positive, steps needed to be taken to meet the evolving and complex needs of the market.
“Australia has had a good head start but still needs a robust plan for the future that focuses on the trade, consumers, aviation access, partnerships and shifts in market opportunity,” he said.
“We will be concentrating our efforts on understanding the Chinese consumer as their needs continue to change and the market matures,” Mr McEvoy said.
17 June, 2011
Climate right for
Updated factsheets summarising research into the possible impacts of climate change in each of Australia’s States and Territories have been released by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet said the updated fact sheets would inform the Public about the latest scientific advice on climate change so people could understand its risks and challenges.
“The potential impacts around the States and Territories range from an increase in the proportion of tropical cyclones which fall into the more intense categories in Queensland to adverse impacts on Tasmania’s aquaculture industries from warmer ocean temperatures,” Mr Combet said.
“In New South Wales climate change is expected to contribute to an increase in the number of extreme bushfire days in parts of the State, while in Victoria there are likely to be serious impacts on water resources in the southern Murray Darling Basin.”
He said Western Australia would potentially experience an 80 per cent increase in the incidence of drought by 2070 with Perth the most severely affected city in Australia by climate change-induced water scarcity.
He said the updated fact sheet for South Australia summarised research showing reduced rainfall and water availability which, coupled with warmer temperatures, could have a major impact on the State’s wine-growing regions and industry.
“We can avoid the worst of these impacts if we take action now to tackle climate change,” Mr Combet said.
“For the impacts which scientists advise are unavoidable, it is important to start considering ways of managing and adapting to these changes.”
The updated Climate Change Potential Impacts and Costs fact sheets for each State and Territory can be found at this PS News link.
17 June, 2011
Men gear up with
New toolboxes to help men deal with their health on a DIY basis have been sent to men’s sheds around the country.
Announcing the move as part of Men’s Health Week, the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, and patron of the Australian Men’s Shed Association, Tim Mathieson said the new toolboxes contained a combination of health promotion materials directed at resources suitable to a shed environment.
“We know that men don’t always feel comfortable picking up a brochure in public,” Mr Snowdon said, “so these promotion materials such as carpenter’s pencils, tape measures, and magnetic clips will be more subtle and hopefully infiltrate sheds with positive health-related messages.”
He said the new initiative coincided with the launch of a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) suggesting that many males remained at risk of poor health.
“These toolboxes are a timely reminder for men to address some of the very serious issues raised in AIHW’s The Health of Australian Males report,” Mr Snowdon said.
“This report shows some disturbing data, including that less than five per cent of males eat sufficient fruit and vegetables and two-thirds of adult males are overweight or obese.”
Mr Snowdon said the report found nearly one-third of men had a chronic health condition such as cancer or diabetes; Australian men make fewer GP visits than women; and only 40% of men discuss healthy lifestyle issues with health professionals.
He said men needed to make a difference to their own health by taking immediate positive health action.
“Eat more fruit and vegetables, lose weight, exercise more, think about your mental health and see your GP regularly,” he said.
“This is the call to action for Australian men as part of this year’s Men’s Health Week,” he said.
17 June, 2011
Annual reports take
The Annual Reports of many Public Sector Agencies were prominent among those recognised for excellence at the 2011 Australasian Reporting Awards (ARA) presented in Melbourne recently.
Now in their 61st year, the Awards are primarily a benchmarking activity - not a competition – with Reports judged against criteria to receive a Gold, Silver or Bronze Award.
Chairman of the ARA, Tim Sheehy said the 2011 Awards were highlighted by very high standards of reporting despite the difficult economic times experience by many organisations during the reporting period.
“The record number of Gold Awards shows that many organisations in Australia and New Zealand are very concerned about improving the quality of their annual reports, and further, that the quality of the best reports entered in these Awards is very high by world standards,” Mr Sheehy said.
“It also indicates the ARA and its strong supporters, which include the professional associations CPA Australia and Chartered Secretaries Australia, have been very effective in both promoting the need for high quality reporting, and in helping organisations improve their performance.”
He said the ARA also presented Special Awards for reporting in areas critical to the performance and accountability of an organisation; including awards for best reporting on Governance, Sustainability, and Occupational Health and Safety; and for Communication and Online Reporting.
Among the Gold Award winners for 2011 were Aboriginal Hostels Limited; Australia Post; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; Australian Hearing; the Department of Health and Ageing; the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation; and the National Museum of Australia.
The Silver Award Winners included the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; the Australian Taxation Office; the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade); Civil Aviation Safety Authority; CSIRO; Defence Housing Australia; the Department of Defence; the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; Indigenous Business Australia; the Murray-Darling Basin Authority; the National Film and Sound Archive; the National Health and Medical Research Council; and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
Bronze Award winners included the Australian Crime Commission; the Australian Fisheries Management Authority; the Attorney-General’s Department (for its printed and online reports); the Bureau of Meteorology; CrimTrac; the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; the Department of Immigration and Citizenship; the Fair Work Ombudsman; and IPAA Queensland.
The National Film and Sound Archive was a finalist in the “Best First Time Entry” and the Grains Research and Development Corporation and Indigenous Business Australia were finalists for the “Online Reporting Award”.
17 June, 2011
Taxman offers hand to
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has released a ‘Practice Statement’ summarising its assistance to businesses affected by recent natural disasters.
According to Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten, the ATO has helped over 500,000 businesses caught up in disasters such as Cyclone Yasi and the floods that hit Queensland and other parts of the country earlier this year.
“In recent years many Australians have been affected by natural disasters and the ATO has consistently and publicly stated its intention to provide assistance to taxpayers affected,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the Practice Statement explained how the ATO helped taxpayers reconstruct records; re-start their businesses; track invoices and receipts; and make reasonable estimates for lodging tax documents and returns.
He said the first recipient of assistance from the ATO was a business owner from Marysville, Victoria, following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
Mr Shorten said the ATO’s assistance included help with prior year lodgements and relied on records held by the taxpayer, third party intermediaries and some of its own information to assist in the process.
“The ATO helped the business owner in Marysville reconstruct her records that allowed her to apply for a loan to help her quickly get the business up and running again, budget for the future and lodge her business activity statement,” Mr Shorten said.
He said in that case the ATO provided copies of the previous three years’ income tax returns and business activity statements which were used, along with bank statements, to make a reasonable estimate of the taxpayer’s income and expenses.
“This is a practical example of the beneficial use of the Tax Commissioner’s discretion and understanding in dealing sensitively and helpfully with those affected by disasters,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Practice Statement will help entrench this approach across in the ATO,” he said.
The Practice Statement (PS LA 2011/25) can be accessed at the ATO website this PS News link.
17 June, 2011
Pilots’ booklet takes
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has published a booklet reminding agricultural pilots of the dangers of flying near powerlines and wires.
off for Bureau
The booklet, released in association with the Aerial Agriculture Association of Australia, highlighted recent wirestrike accidents that occurred while pilots were conducting spraying activities.
Manager of Research Investigations at the ATSB, Dr Stuart Godley said that in the majority of wirestrike accidents, pilots had known of the powerlines before they struck them.
“Typically, pilots have been working around the same wires in the hours before a wirestrike accident,” Dr Godley said.
“Due to a change of spraying plans or a clean-up run once a paddock has been sprayed, the pilot’s focus is temporarily shifted away from the task of identifying the location of wires.”
He said the booklet provided methods for pilots to minimise the risk of striking wires while conducting aerial operations.
He said these included setting client expectations so that they are clear that safety comes first; conducting an aerial reconnaissance before spraying and extra aerial reconnaissance before the cleanup run; reassessing the risks when plans change; as well as avoiding unnecessary distractions and refocussing when distracted.
Dr Godley said it was also important to keep vigilance limitations in mind; actively look for wires; manage operational pressures; not accept tasks that are beyond a pilot’s personal minimums; and ensure there is a systematic approach to safely managing wires in place.
He said the report also highlighted the role of landholders and utility owners in contributing to safety including installing markers on wires, particularly where regular low-level flying takes place.
The booklet, Wirestrikes involving known wires: A manageable aerial agriculture hazard, is available at this PS News link.
17 June, 2011
Ministers kick goals
The States and Territories have agreed to join the Commonwealth in a national approach to combat match-fixing in sport.
with sports policy
Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib said the National Policy on Match-Fixing in Sport would provide the foundation for all Australian Governments to work with sports and betting companies to deter and deal with corruption in sport.
Senator Arbib said key features of the policy were an agreement to pursue nationally consistent legislative arrangements; legal arrangements and integrity agreements between sports and betting companies; the adoption of codes of conduct by sports; the establishment of a National Integrity of Sport Unit to oversee the national arrangements and provide support for smaller sports; and that Government funding would be contingent on sports implementing appropriate anti-match-fixing and anti-corruption policies and practices.
He said it would deliver an outstanding result for sport.
“I am pleased that all Australia’s governments are presenting a united front against the scourge of match-fixing,” Senator Arbib said.
“The only way we can deal with this threat is by working together to ensure we have a national policy underpinned by legislation, codes of conduct and industry standards.”
Senator Arbib said the Australian Crime Commission gave Sports Ministers a detailed briefing about the impact of organised crime internationally and the potential impact on the Australian economy and our sports.
“The Crime Commission advised that currently in Australia its concern was for individual athletes and sports, rather than the sports industry as a whole,” he said.
“But as betting volumes increase, sport is vulnerable to organised crime, to launder money and conceal illegal activity.”
In bringing forward the proposal, Senator Arbib said he acknowledged the essential input of Australia’s leading sports and betting companies.
“I want to thank all of the sports which have contributed to this policy and had input into its formation, particularly the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) through Malcolm Speed and the Australian Olympic Committee through John Coates,” Senator Arbib said.
“I also received great cooperation from the betting companies which acknowledge the impact corruption could have on sport,” he said.
17 June, 2011
Tourism app to be
Tourism Australia has launched a new Facebook application to drum up support for two Australian finalists in an international competition to find the new 7 Wonders of Nature.
ticket to success
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy said he believed the international exposure gained by making the new application available to the organisation’s 1.6 million Facebook fans would help generate votes for Australia’s two New7Wonders of Nature finalists – Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.
“We are asking our Facebook fans to share their stories and images about Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef with their friends to encourage them to cast their vote for our finalists in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign,” Mr McEvoy said.
“Tourism Australia has already witnessed the value of social media, advocacy and word of mouth endorsement in turning people on to Australia, through the launch and roll out of our successful There’s Nothing Like Australia global campaign.”
He said the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru were included on a shortlist of 28 natural wonders from around the globe which were all vying to be named a New7Wonder of Nature.
He encouraged people to visit the SeeAustralia Facebook page and ‘like’ the new Australia’s New7Wonders application to cast their vote and spread the word to family and friends.
Mr McEvoy said Australian supporters could also text their vote for the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru by sending an SMS “GBR” or “Reef”, and “Uluru” or “Ayers Rock” to 197 88 555.
He said public voting would continue until midnight, 10 November 2011 and the final seven New7Wonders of Nature would be announced on 11 November 2011.
17 June, 2011
Terror chemicals listed
A list of chemicals of concern to security authorities has been publishedto help stop them falling into the wrong hands.
Attorney General, Robert McClelland said publishing the list would help industry and the wider community be vigilant.
“The message for industry and the community is: if you notice suspicious activities surrounding these chemicals - such as the purchase of large quantities or someone asking suspicious questions – report it to the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400,” Mr McClelland said.
The list Chemicals of Security Concern could be accessed at www.chemicalsecurity.gov.au
Defence defends itself
The Department of Defence has defended itself against media claims that it had no serviceable submarines to use in an emergency.
Responding to an article in The Australian, entitled ‘Not a single submarine seaworthy’ the Department said the writer had misunderstood how the Navy and Defence maintainedand operated the submarine fleet to meet operational requirements.
In a statement the Department said regular ongoing management of the fleet meant all submarines were in various stages of their docking, maintenance and operational cycles including two that were currently in their operational cycle.
Leprosy case confirmed
Health authorities have acted to allay fears of a leprosy outbreak following an inmate of the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre being diagnosed with the disease.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and NSW Health said medical care was being provided to the detainee following confirmation of the case but the person concerned posed little to no risk to other detainees or staff.
DIAC said they had been advised that the disease was easily treated with antibiotics, but as a precaution anyone who had contact with the affected person would have access to assessment and, where necessary, further management.
Recycling figures out
New data shows waste management services in Australia recovered or reprocessed a total of 13.2 million tonnes of material from waste in 2009-10.
The figures, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, represent a national rate of waste diversion from landfill of 42.6%.
It found that almost 10.4 million tonnes of material was recovered at waste facilities other than landfill including 2.2 million tonnes of metal, 1.7 million tonnes of paper and cardboard, and 1.7 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste.
The detailed figures can be accessed at www.abs.gov.au
Disability conference next month
The Australian Public Service Commission’s Disability Directions Conference 2011 is to be held on 27 July 2011.
The conference will include keynote speakers from Westpac and IBM, a presentation from 360 HR about their Paralympian program, and a panel discussion addressing retention issues.
For more information and how to register visit this PS News link.
Super report out
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has released its March 2011 report Quarterly Superannuation Performance.
The report shows that over the March quarter, the assets of public sector funds increased by 3.0 per cent ($5.5 billion) to $191.9 billion and 30.1 per cent ($5.7 billion) of total contributions made.
The rate of return for the March quarter was 2.7 per cent compared with the national average of 2.3 per cent.
Disability funding boost
Additional funding for the Australian Human Rights Commission is to ensure people with disability play a key role in international discussions on disability issues.
Funding of $300,000 over three years will enable disability peak bodies and individuals to attend prominent or key international meetings and conferences.
The initiative is part of the National Disability Strategy that sets a ten-year reform plan that will help to ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians.
Water flows to Murray
More than 150 gigalitres of water is to be released for the Murrumbidgee wetlands.
The environmental water release will include more than 100 gigalitres of Commonwealth water and is the largest use of Commonwealth environment water to date.
Flows will fill hundreds of small wetlands located along the Murrumbidgee River from Gundagai through to the Murray River.
The flow will be delivered through releases from Burrinjuck and Blowering Dams over approximately 10 days commencing on 14 June with assistance from the NSW State Water Corporation and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
Green awards open
Nominations are now open for the 2011 Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year Award and the Environment Minister’s Young Environmentalist of the Year Award.
Both awards are part of the Banksia environmental awards which reward businesses, community groups and individuals for their commitment to creating a more sustainable Australia.
For more information visit this PS News link.
New game for Play School
Two new presenters are to join Play School to celebrate the show’s 45th Birthday.
Rachael Coopes (McLeod’s Daughters) and Jonny Pasvolsky (Offspring) are the two latest cast members in the popular children’s show that celebrates 45 years on air in July.
The month-long celebrations will see 20 new episodes air over four weeks, a new logo, and vibrant new opening titles.
Play School debuted on 18 July 1966 and airs weekdays on ABC 4 Kids ABC2 and ABC1.
An updated Play School website at this PS News link will also be launched in July.
Fuels facility open
Australia’s first synthetic fuels facility, the Synfuel and Catalysis Research Facility (SynCat), has been launched in Perth.
The public private partnership is housed at the Australian Resources Research Centre in Western Australia’s Technology Park.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the facility was part of the Government’s commitment to enhance Australia’s energy security.
“For the first time, Australia has a fully-automated, around-the-clock, synthetic fuels research facility,” Mr Ferguson said.
The SynCat facility is part of the CSIRO’s Gas Processing and Conversion research program.
Arts paper open
Submissions have been invited on a discussion paper to identify barriers to private sector support for the arts.
The Review of Private Sector Support for the Arts will be vital for both the growth and sustainability of the arts and cultural sector.
The discussion paper encourages and assists people to participate in the review.
The terms of reference for the review and the discussion paper are available at the Office for the Arts website this PS News link.
Submissions close on 8 July 2011.
It is expected the review will be completed by the end of October 2011.
14 June, 2011
The Australian Capital Territory Ombudsman (who is also the Commonwealth Ombudsman) has called on Government Agencies in the ACT to take more notice of the substance of community complaints against them than the advice of costly consultants.
about complaint data
The Ombudsman, Allan Asher, said this would be a better way of improving services to the community.
Mr Asher said most Government Agencies spent significant sums of money contracting consultants to review their business performance and recommend improvements, when the Agencies had much to learn by simply turning their attention to complaints received from the community about their policies and the services they provided.
He said his office provided a complaint-handling service that was free of charge and worked to provide practical recommendations to the Agencies based on lessons learnt through the investigation of complaints.
“By shining a light on the cause of a complaint, we assist Agencies to recognise administrative problems and implement changes in their policies and procedures where they fall short of best practice,” Mr Asher said.
“Our priority is to understand the nature of the complaint, the causes, opportunities for remedy, and importantly to work with Agencies on improving policies and services to the community.”
Mr Asher said his investigations did not always result in a remedy that satisfied the complainant, but lessons learnt could help Agencies to do better.
He said as an impartial integrity Agency, the Ombudsman did not advocate, but rather worked with Agencies to find fair and reasonable solutions to complaints and opportunities to improve services.
“I encourage Government Agencies to always look to complaints for the valuable insight they provide into problems with Government services or policies experienced by individuals, that often can’t be learnt through engaging costly business consultants,” Mr Asher said.
14 June, 2011
Queen pins honours
Public sector staff appeared prominently in the 2011 Queens’ Birthday Honours list with the following personnel singled out for awards for excellence, commitment and ability.
on starring staff
The new awards are:
COMPANION IN THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AC)
Justice Susan Mary KIEFEL AC
High Court of Australia
For eminent service to the law and to the judiciary, to law reform and to legal education in the areas of ethics, justice and governance.
Justice Keifel has been a Judge of the High Court of Australia since 2007.
OFFICER IN THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AO)
Marie Yvonne COLEMAN PSM AO
Former First Assistant Secretary, Department of Health and Community Services
For distinguished service to the advancement of women, particularly through the National Foundation for Australian Women and the Australian Women’s Archives project.
Michael Joseph KEELTY APM AO
Former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police
For distinguished service to national and international law enforcement, particularly through the establishment of bilateral agreements with corresponding overseas agencies and the integration of intelligence and law enforcement efforts within Australia.
Lisa Marian PAUL PSM AO
Secretary, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
For distinguished service to public sector leadership in key policy and program implementation, particularly through driving reform in education, employment and workplace relations.
Mark Walter SCOTT AO
Managing Director, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
For distinguished service to media and communications, and to the community through advisory and governance roles with a range of social justice and educational bodies.
Nicholas Peter (Nick) WARNER PSM AO
Director-General, Australian Secret Intelligence Service
For distinguished service to public sector leadership through the development of policy, administration and reform in the areas of intelligence, defence and international relations.
MEMBER IN THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AM)
Richard Curtis KENZIE AM
Defence Force Advocate
For service to the law, particularly as the Defence Force Advocate, and through the provision of advice on military industrial matters.
John Erik SCANLON AM
For service to environmental law nationally and internationally, particularly with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the United Nations Environment Programme, and to the advancement of biodiversity conservation.
John Ernest WALSH AM
Associate Commissioner, Productivity Commission
For service to the community, particularly in the areas of disability and health policy, to people with a spinal cord injury, and to the actuarial profession.
PUBLIC SERVICE MEDAL (PSM)
Elizabeth ASTONE PSM
For outstanding public service in the delivery of innovative Centrelink services to vulnerable young people in detention centres in Western Australia.
Mrs Astone is Centrelink’s Community Engagement Officer – Youth Servicing for Western Australia and she has demonstrated outstanding commitment, leadership and innovation in delivering services to vulnerable youth in detention centres in the Perth metropolitan region.
Liza CARROLL PSM
For outstanding public service in delivering Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration.
Ms Carroll led a cross-agency project team hat supported the Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration. Her strong leadership and innovation was integral to delivering an ambitious, comprehensive and integrated package of reforms that should make the Australian Public Service more citizen-focused, strategic, efficient and effective.
Hae-Kyong HOLDAWAY PSM
For outstanding public service in strengthening the Australia-Korea bilateral relationship, particularly through major contributions to the successful outcome of the G-20 in Korea in 2010.
Ms Holdaway was Treasury representative working with the Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance to assist Korea host the G-20 in 2010. She excelled in this role and was able to build a high level of trust and confidence throughout the Korean Government.
Erin Kathleen HOLLAND PSM
For outstanding public service in significantly improving revenue and service delivery outcomes for the Australian Taxation Office.
Brian Alan HUDDLESTON PSM
For outstanding public service in planning the introduction into service of the MRH90 troop lift helicopter.
Since 2007, Mr Huddleston has been the project manager for Plan Pegasus - a document that details strategies for acceptance into operational service for the MRH90 troop lift helicopter.
His analysis of the fundamental inputs to capability was exemplary and his ability to turn this analysis into a comprehensive plan has been of the highest order.
Kathryn Michelle KENNEDY PSM
New South Wales
For outstanding public service in providing high level intelligence research and analysis in relation to serious criminal activities within the Sydney Airport precinct.
Miss Kennedy represented the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs) on the Sydney-based Joint Airport Intelligence Group. She played a pivotal role in identifying and focusing the Group towards previously unidentified serious criminal activities within the Sydney Airport precinct.
John Anton KOVACIC PSM
For outstanding public service in leading the development and implementation of new workplace relations laws and policies and award modernisation.
Mr Kovacic has been responsible for delivering two important microeconomic reform initiatives: the introduction of new workplace relations laws and policies as part of the Government’s Forward With Fairness package, and award modernisation.
Robert John (Bob) NASH PSM
For outstanding public service in driving significant improvements in Australia’s passport system.
For the past eight years, Mr Nash has been the leader of the Australian Passport Office, becoming an internationally recognised expert in global best practice regarding identity security and passport production.
Adam James RODGERS PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s suite of on-line tools to assist employers and employees in the transition to modern awards.
Mr Rodgers led the development and implementation of a suite of on-line tools to assist employers and employees in understanding their rights and obligations under the new modern awards system.
May TANGLEE PSM
Tourism Australia, Shanghai, China
For outstanding public service in advancing Australia’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China, particularly in the area of tourism.
Mrs Tanglee is the Chief Representative for Tourism Australia (TA) in the People’s Republic of China (China) and is responsible for developing tourism from China to Australia.
Stuart Robert THORN PSM
For outstanding public service in protecting Australia’s national security interests.
Andrew Keith TONGUE PSM
For outstanding public service in the development of public policy, particularly in the areas of aviation security, Indigenous affairs and social housing.
Mr Tongue led the modernisation of Australia’s counter-terrorism preparedness at both the policy and operational level in relation to transport security, and progressed Australia’s interests nationally and internationally. He worked across all levels of government and the private sector.
John William WADESON PSM
For outstanding public service in driving and leading significant reform of information communications technology in the Human Services portfolio.
Mr Wadeson is a leading figure in government information communications technology. He worked tirelessly and with great expertise to deliver complex systems to allow the Human Services portfolio to deliver services anywhere and at any time, particularly in the provision of emergency support.
Phyllis Dedja WILLIAMS PSM
For outstanding public service in driving significant reforms to communications and service delivery in the National Archives of Australia, particularly in relation to Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory.
Ms Williams is the Director of the Northern Territory Office of the National Archives of Australia (NAA). She has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to excellence in driving significant improvements in the organisation’s ability to communicate with, and provide services to, Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory (NT).
AUSTRALIAN POLICE MEDAL (APM)
Superintendent Barry Roy CORRIGAN APM,
One of the longest serving members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Superintendent Corrigan is widely regarded as a subject matter expert in the field of foreign diplomacy, Vienna Conventions and the Protection Intelligence role.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Anthony GAUGHAN APM
Assistant Commissioner Gaughan joined the Australian Federal Police in 1984 and joined the National Internal Investigation area in 1998.
Commander Richard Charles (Dick) MOSES APM
14 June, 2011
Commander Moses joined the Australian Federal Police in 1979 and served with the (former) Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the (former) National Crime Authority. He is a highly respected member of the AFP’s Senior Executive Service.
A new report commissioned by Commonwealth, State and Territory consumer protection agencies has found that Australian consumers spend more than $14 billion a year trying to resolve consumer complaints.
up on complaints
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury said the Australian Consumer Survey, conducted by a consultant, involved more than 5,000 consumers and 1,200 businesses.
“This is the first national snapshot of consumer and business understanding of consumer rights and business obligations and it’s encouraging that most consumers not only know that consumer protection laws exist, but that they are confident that most businesses act fairly,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Many consumers have issues with the goods and services they buy and this costs them time and money.”
He said the Survey estimated that these costs totalled around $14.2 billion a year for consumers, while businesses spent about $6.6 billion a year resolving them as well, not including repair and replacement costs.
“While the Survey found that a relatively small proportion of consumers and businesses could recall the specific names of consumer protection laws, 90 per cent of consumer respondents and 98 per cent of business respondents were aware that consumer protection regulations existed,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The Survey also shows that 74 per cent of consumer respondents who had experienced a consumer problem took some action, usually directly with the business, with just over half saying they were satisfied with the response.”
Mr Bradbury said the survey found that while most consumers were confident that businesses did the right thing, there were some vulnerable consumers who encountered more difficulties in dealing with consumer issues, particularly those from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
“Following the commencement of Australia’s first national consumer law, the Australian Consumer Law, on 1 January 2011, this Survey gives us a great tool to target our efforts to build consumer awareness and business compliance,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The Australian Consumer Law represents the most significant overhaul of consumer law since 1974.”
He said the single law replaced 900 provisions in more than 20 Commonwealth, State and Territory consumer laws, updated and simplified the law and introduced robust new investigation and enforcement powers.
14 June, 2011
Resources tax plan
An exposure draft on the proposed Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) has been released by the Treasury for public comment.
for public comment
The preliminary exposure draft legislation is based on the recommendations of the Policy Transition Group and establishes the framework for the operation of the MRRT.
Treasury says the draft is not exhaustive and is intended to provide stakeholders with an early overview of the legislation.
A second and final exposure draft is intended to be released for public consultation later in the year.
Treasury encouraged stakeholders to make submissions on the preliminary draft.
It said it valued the constructive consultation it had with the mining industry and tax professionals, and that their submissions would play an important role in informing the detailed design of the new resource tax arrangements.
Treasury thanked the Resource Tax Implementation Group (RTIG), which comprised representatives of industry and the tax profession as well as government officials, for their substantial input to date on the draft Bill.
It said consultation with the Group identified some technical issues in the legislation that the Treasury and RTIG would continue to work on and cover in the second exposure draft release.
The MRRT will come into operation on 1 July 2012.
Treasury is to release an exposure draft of legislation relating to amendments to the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) in the near future.
It said both the MRRT and amended PRRT would ensure Australians received a better return from their non-renewable resources and would help strengthen the economy through increased superannuation, new and better infrastructure, and business tax cuts.
It said the initiatives were crucial to maximise the opportunities presented by Mining Boom Mark II, and would ensure all Australians received a fair return from the nation’s resources.
Copies of the MRRT draft and supporting materials were available from this PS News link and consultation on the preliminary draft closes 14 July.
14 June, 2011
Radiation database a
The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism has launched a new database to track the radiation dose histories of employees in the uranium mining and milling industries.
To be managed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the centralised database will allow workers to move across jobs and across jurisdictions and have their exposure histories follow them.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, said around 6,000 Australians employed in the uranium industry would benefit from the new Australian National Radiation Dose Register.
“The health and safety of workers is always our first priority,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The national dose register is integral to ensuring we have a world class regulatory regime in place for uranium mining in Australia.”
He said under the new scheme, data on radiation doses would be sent to the central register and workers could then access their personal records collected over a lifetime.
The new service would be provided free of charge.
OHS Consultant and editor of SafetyAtWorkBlog, Kevin Jones said the initiative announced did not improve safety for uranium workers, but instead collated evidence of harm in preparation for compensation.
“It is a common criticism of modern corporations that communications follow the “silo” structures of the companies rather than using more thematic pathways, such as safety,” Mr Jones said.
“The silos of human resources and safety management continue to exist.”
“But in government there are silos within silos where Government Departments and Authorities do not talk with each other as much as is necessary to progress.”
14 June, 2011
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has launched a new blog to explain and promote its skilled migration policy.
migrates to blog
A Departmental spokesman said the blog would highlight existing skilled migration policy, flag potential program changes and be a vehicle for engagement with the community to increase awareness about skilled migration in Australia.
The spokesman said the programs included the temporary 457 visa program, the permanent employer-sponsored programs and the permanent general skilled migration program.
He said the first blog post focussed on enterprise migration agreements (EMAs), a policy response to the tight labour market in the resources sector.
“We want communication to occur across a number of channels, not just in print media,” the spokesman said.
“The Department is committed to communicating effectively with the Australian public.”
The spokesman said the blog would assist the Department to connect with a vast range of clients, stakeholders and interested people.
“We hope that a host of different visitors are drawn to the blog – clients, peak bodies, journalists, academics, Government Agencies and the general public, to further engage in a discussion about skilled migration and the role it plays in the labour market and the economy as a whole.”
He said the skilled migration blog was supported and hosted by the GovSpace initiative that enables online engagement for Government Departments.
This initiative is a product of the Government 2.0 taskforce of 2009-10, chaired by Nicholas Gruen.
GovSpace is driven by the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the skilled migration blog is now one of more than 60 spaces, hosting around 2,000 articles.
Visitors to the skilled migration blog at this PS News link will be able to explore different aspects to skilled migration over the coming months.
The spokesman said the Department would update the blog regularly.
14 June, 2011
Carbon report in
The Productivity Commission has produced a report on the carbon emission policies being adopted in some of the world’s key economies.
black and white
Treasurer Wayne Swan said the Commission examined action taken in seven of Australia’s top 10 trading partners – China, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“Including Australia, the Commission identified over 1,000 policy measures to reduce pollution,” Mr Swan said.
He said the report was a snapshot in time.
Chairman of the Productivity Commission Gary Banks said the report provided a stocktake of the large number of policy measures in the electricity generation and road transport sectors of the countries studied.
Mr Banks said in conducting the study, the Commission consulted with Government Agencies responsible for emissions-reduction policies in the countries surveyed as well as Australia.
He said the Commission also received information and data from expert international bodies including the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan.
“The timeframes and the nature of the exercise precluded the wide community involvement typical of the Commission’s public inquiries,” Mr Banks said.
He said the study was prepared by a research team from the Commission’s Melbourne office, headed by Paul Belin.
In its report the Productivity Commission said the carbon policy measures identified, ranged from (limited) emissions trading schemes to policies supporting particular types of abatement technology.
He said the policies were particularly targeted at electricity generation and road transport emissions.
The Commission’s report said that as a proportion of GDP, Germany allocated more resources than other countries to abatement policies in the electricity generation sector, followed by the UK, with Australia, China and the US in the mid-range.
The Commission also found that emissions trading schemes were relatively cost effective, while policies encouraging small-scale renewable generation and biofuels generated little abatement for substantially higher cost. It said the relative cost effectiveness of a price-based approach was illustrated for Australia by modelling that suggested abatement from existing policies for electricity could have been achieved at a fraction of the cost.
The report said estimates could not be used to determine the appropriate starting price of a broadly based carbon-pricing scheme.
Copies of the report can be accessed at the Commission’s website at this PS News link.
14 June, 2011
Breast scam fears
Australian women have been warned not to rely on unproven commercial breast imaging technologies to detect breast cancer.
nipped in bud
The warning has been issued by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and follows reports of women being misled into thinking commercial tests are as effective as mammography for the early detection of cancer.
Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel said the commercial technologies included devices using various processes including Electrical Impedance, Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging, Thermal Radiometry, and Computerised/Mechanical Breast Imaging.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC was continuing to assess whether individual businesses offering these services had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct under the Competition and Consumer Act.
He said if the ACCC found evidence that companies were misleading health consumers about the effectiveness of unproven breast screening technologies, it would not hesitate to take enforcement action.
“With the increasing promotion of commercial breast imaging technologies, there is a significant risk that women could be misled into believing these technologies offer an equivalent, or alternative, screening method to mammography,” Mr Samuel said.
“The ACCC understands the only evidence-based screening technology for breast cancer is mammography, as used by the BreastScreen Australia Program.”
Mr Samuel said there was a real danger that using unproven commercial breast imaging technologies instead of mammography may delay diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
President of the Cancer Council of Western Australia, Professor Christobel Saunders, said breast cancer mortality rates in Australia had declined in recent years as a result of evidence-based strategies, including mammography screening.
“Mammography is the gold standard for detecting breast cancer early in women without symptoms, particularly those aged 50 to 69,” Professor Saunders said.
Mr Samuel said the Therapeutic Goods Administration is working with the ACCC to ensure that the sponsors of the devices used in commercial technologies only make appropriate claims about their clinical value.
The TGA has removed a number of devices from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods because sponsors were unable to substantiate claims made about their value in diagnosing breast cancer.
14 June, 2011
Sharper focus for
Funding support for future Australian feature films will depend on the films being modified to ensure access by hearing and visually impaired cinema-goers.
Announced by funding agency Screen Australia, the new requirements will mean the films are both captioned and audio described. It is already a requirement that they be captioned.
Chief executive of Screen Australia, Ruth Harley said the initiative followed recommendations from the Federal Government’s Media Access Review and would provide some 600,000 blind or visually impaired Australians access to an audio described feature film experience.
“Better and more equitable audience access to Australian films at a reasonable cost is a benefit for the industry and community as a whole,” Dr Harley said.
She said the Australian Government was funding a national upgrade of cinemas to be caption and audio description compliant by 2013 and the new requirement for Screen Australia–funded feature films would mean films were available in time for the completion of the upgrade.
“For some Australians it will mean being able to take their children to the cinema and share the experience of the film with them for the first time,” Dr Harley said.
“For someone who has recently lost their sight it will mean they will not have to miss experiencing Australian films at the cinema.”
She said the estimated average cost of providing both captioning and audio description for films would be $6,000 to $8,000 per film.
She said captioning currently cost producers between $3,000 and $5,000.
Dr Harley said the new requirement was in keeping with other countries such as the UK and US that already had strict requirements for both captioning and audio description in their respective markets.
She said both captioning and audio description would be required on all feature films applying for Screen Australia investment after 1 July 2011.
She said Screen Australia would update the fact sheets and other information on its website to provide a reference for producers about the cost and processes of audio description as well as captioning.
14 June, 2011
Gap closing on
State and Territory Governments have been warned they are falling behind in their efforts to close the gap on Indigenous literacy and numeracy.
The Council of Australian Government’s COAG Reform Council issued the warning saying that in just the second year of a 10-year program, all but three of the States and Territories were already off the pace.
Chairman of the Reform Council, Paul McClintock said the Council was concerned with the progress the governments had made so far in important areas of the target.
“It’s worrying to see that early on in this 10-year agreement governments are not on track, in some key areas, to meet their target of halving the gap for Indigenous students in literacy and numeracy,” Mr McClintock said.
“We are particularly concerned to find that five governments are falling behind in Year 9 Reading—with only Victoria, South Australia and the ACT on track against their progress points in this area.”
He said for Year 9 Reading, the 2010 results for NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania were significantly below their 2008 results.
He said however the Council was pleased to report good progress against the target in most areas.
Mr McClintock said there were significant improvements in Year 3 Reading nationally, with the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students decreasing by more than 20 per cent.
“Progress under this target is vital to ensure that all Australian children are equipped with the necessary skills to enter the workforce and participate in society,” Mr McClintock said.
He said the second year performance report on the National Indigenous Reform Agreement found there were significant improvements in the Northern Territory in Year 3 Reading and in South Australia in Year 7 Reading.
The report also found there were no significant improvements in numeracy in any jurisdictions.
The report can be downloaded from this PS News link.
14 June, 2011
Audit finds leaks in
An audit to assess the effectiveness of CSIRO’s development and administration of selected National Research Flagships has found there are opportunities to improve the overarching governance, direction-setting and internal coordination of the program.
In his report The Development and Administration of National Research Flagships, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said there were also opportunities to improve the administration of the program, particularly around performance management arrangements and reporting on budget performance.
“While there is evidence that the research of the selected Flagships has contributed to policy and investment decisions by government, CSIRO does not have a systematic process for measuring the impact of Flagship research,” Mr McPhee said.
“Instead, CSIRO has relied on external consultants to estimate the impact of research through a series of individual studies”
He said CSIRO established the Flagship Program to address major national challenges through large-scale multi-disciplinary research partnerships and its approach to administering the Program had evolved as it matured.
“CSIRO has adopted a continuous improvement approach to administering the Flagship Program and has actively refined and modified change initiatives,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the program comprised 10 individual National Research Flagships and over $2 billion had been spent on research projects under their umbrella.
He said CSIRO had developed an internal reporting framework and the implementation of its arrangements was yet to provide a stable reporting regime, making the comparison of performance across research streams within the Flagship Program difficult.
He said achieving an appropriate balance in the level of executive oversight of the Flagship Program had presented some challenges to CSIRO.
Mr McPhee made two recommendations aimed at enhancing both the financial reporting arrangements and the use of the insights captured through review activities. CSIRO agreed with both.
One recommendation was that CSIRO review and amend, as required, internal and external budget preparation and reporting arrangements for the Flagship Program to improve the consistency and accuracy of financial reporting.
The other was that it implement arrangements to better capture and consolidate the findings of internal and external reviews, internal audits and stakeholder input to inform the ongoing management and administration of the Flagship Program.
The full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Greg Little, Dorian Serrier and Nathan Williamson.
14 June, 2011
Indigenous plan to
A new action plan to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education has been launched by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan would help schools accelerate the achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Mr Garrett said by providing for specific targets across all governments, the Plan provided a direct pathway to closing the gap for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the early childhood and school education sectors.
He said under the Plan, governments agreed to use available resources to contribute to halving the gap in English literacy and numeracy and the attainment of Year 12 or equivalent.
Mr Garrett said the Action Plan targeted approximately 900 “focus schools” and outlined 55 actions at national, systemic and local levels, across six key areas including Readiness for school; Engagement and connections; Attendance; Literacy and numeracy; Leadership, quality teaching and workforce development; and Pathways to real post-school options.
“We want to make sure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are able to access a great education,” Mr Garrett said.
The MP for Batman in Victoria, Martin Ferguson reaffirmed his support for the Action Plan and the benefits it would provide to local communities.
“There is nothing more important than access to a good education for all children in our communities and closing the gap is an absolute priority,” Mr Ferguson said.
“This plan will make a real difference on the ground here in Batman where we have the highest concentration of Indigenous Australians of any electorate in metropolitan Melbourne.”
The action plan is available on the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs website at this PS News link.
14 June, 2011
ACMA hung up
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has alerted consumers to a scam email warning that mobile phone numbers are about to be made public and they will soon be charged when receiving telemarketing calls.
on phone scam
ACMA said that although the message referred to the Australian Do Not Call Register, the email appears to have originated from North America and started circulating around Australia in 2009.
It said the reference to being charged for receiving calls arose from a different charging regime in the USA where mobile phone users are often charged for calls they receive.
The Do Not Call Register provides Australians with the ability to opt out of receiving most unsolicited telemarketing calls and marketing faxes.
ACMA said Australians could register their telephone or fax numbers on the Do Not Call Register at this PS News link or by ringing 1300 792 958.
It said the Australian Do Not Call Register had strong mechanisms to protect the privacy of registrants.
Telemarketers and Fax marketers are only able to check whether a telephone number they wish to call or fax is registered or not with registered numbers never directly provided to the enquirer.
ACMA said that telemarketers and fax marketers who made calls or sent faxes to numbers on the Do Not Call Register faced significant financial penalties.
10 June, 2011
APS Bulletin to have
The Australian Public Service Commission has released a six-month update of tables in its annual APS Statistical Bulletin summarising PS employment data to December 2010.
The new update, billed as snAPShots, is sourced from the APS Employment Database (APSED), which contains data extracted from agencies’ HR systems, and is the first of regular reports to be published every six months.
The snAPShot tables reveal information on changes to administrative arrangements (July to December 2010); and details on all staff including location by classification and employment category, as well as analysis of Agencies by employment category and classification.
They also focus on employment specifics of ongoing staff including engagements (Agency by classification); separations (Agency by type of separation and classification); and promotions (Agency by classification and classification promoted from and to by sex).
Overall the tables show that at 31 December 2010 there were 163,778 staff in the APS which included 151,328 ongoing staff (up by 0.8 per cent from December 2009); and 12,450 non-ongoing staff (up by 7.9 per cent).
They also reveal that during last year 11,184 ongoing staff were engaged by the APS and 10,006 separated.
The snAPShot tables can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
New guidelines for the management and oversight of Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) have been released by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong.
for Gov’t businesses
Issued as an exposure draft, the revised guidelines - which have been in place since 1997 – are aimed at reflecting best practice in corporate governance among the GBEs.
Senator Wong said they would help ensure that the Government, as shareholder, was receiving value for money as well as achieving policy outcomes from its enterprises.
She said they would also put into practice the Government’s commitment to increase the representation of women on boards and the release of the exposure draft would enable interested parties to consider and comment on the proposed changes.
“The arrangements that guide interactions between Government and GBEs need to be best practice in corporate governance,” Senator Wong said.
“This is a great opportunity to refresh the guidelines so they factor in the changing nature of GBE business, and developments in contemporary corporate governance practices.”
She said the exposure draft proposed a number of reforms in addition to increasing female participation including reviews of GBE mandates; ethical standards; board appointment processes and performance monitoring; financial governance; and reporting requirements.
She said the revised guidelines would also provide greater clarity and certainty to GBEs in discharging their obligations to the Commonwealth as their owner.
“I encourage contributions from interested parties so we can reflect best practice and keep pace with the changing activity of GBEs,” Senator Wong said.
The exposure draft is available on the Department of Finance and Deregulation website at this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
The Australian Federation is out of balance because the Commonwealth is too strong and the States too weak according to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran.
and stating a case
Speaking in Brisbane, Mr Moran told the Eidos Institute that this imbalance meant the nation could not maximise the welfare of its citizens.
“On the whole, the Federation works well,” Mr Moran said.
“The challenge we face is to make it work better.”
He said research had shown that every Australian was about $4,500 better off because of the Federal structure but that same research revealed they would be $4,000 even better off if the States were stronger.
“Australians deserve a stronger Federation,” Mr Moran said.
“A stronger Federation requires a genuine balance in roles, responsibilities between the Commonwealth and States, based on a culture of cooperation and collaboration.
“This will be a challenge for all”
He said for its part, the Commonwealth needed to “restrain its tendency” to control an excessive number of inputs on specific purpose payments to the States; it should allow for localised approaches to reform; and it should move towards strategic partnerships with the States where it made sense to share accountability for outcomes.
He said for their parts, the States should continue to work with the Commonwealth to ensure the national Intergovernmental Agreement achieves its goal of focused, incentive-based program delivery; they should engage seriously with the recently announced review of GST allocations between the States; and they should deliver on their promises to reform their own tax bases in return for the GST.
He said while these requirements combined to pose a challenge to both the Commonwealth and the States, “It’s a challenge that’s well worth the effort”.
“We should cherish our Federal system,” Mr Moran said,
“Our system is demonstrably better than those of many other nations.”
He said among its strengths, the Australian Federation was comparatively efficient, it protected citizens’ rights, provided a healthy mix of competition and cooperation, encouraged creativity and diversity in policymaking, was adaptable to changed circumstances and was popular with the people.
“Australians care deeply about the sense of identity that their nation provides,” Mr Moran said.
“But we need to make the Federation better and build on its strengths to address the weaknesses.”
The full text of Mr Moran’s speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
Australia responds to
Australia has responded to United Nations criticism of its human rights record by accepting 90 per cent of the recommendations made in a “Periodic review”.
human rights concerns
Taken to task by the UN in its first Universal Period Review (UPR) in January, Australia, through Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Attorney-General Robert McClelland, responded to comments from other countries on its stance on the rights of women, the rights of Indigenous peoples, its international obligations as well as refugees and asylum seekers.
Mr McClelland said the UN’s UPR program examined the human rights record of all 192 Member States every four years, and was designed to encourage countries to comply with their international human rights obligations.
“Australia received recommendations from other countries on a wide range of human rights issues,” Mr McClelland said.
“Australia accepted in full or in part more than 90 per cent of the recommendations made to it as part of the UPR.”
Mr McClelland said Australia had appeared at the Human Rights Council in January for its first UPR which allowed the country to display human rights strategies as well as be examined.
“We have also been able to showcase new developments that have occurred since January, including the endorsement of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, as well as the launch of Voices of Australia - the new multiculturalism strategy celebrating and strengthening Australia’s diversity.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd said the Government would continue to work with the international community to promote and protect fundamental human rights at home and around the world.
“Australia has a strong human rights record and this was acknowledged by many countries on the Human Rights Council,” Mr Rudd said.
“The Universal Periodic Review is a good opportunity to demonstrate that when it comes to human rights, equality and opportunity, we can always achieve more.”
Australia’s response to the review can be accesses at this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
Transport review of
The first five year statutory review of accessibility standards for people with disability using public transport has found significant changes during the period but recommended more for the future.
Commissioned by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport and conducted by a consulting firm, the report included 15 recommendations to improve accessibility of public transport and addressed issues such as mobility aids; school buses; taxis; air travel; transport in rural and regional areas; and the collection and analysis of data.
Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese said the report examined an important area in the Government’s commitment to removing barriers to equal participation and improving the lives of people living with disability.
“The Transport Standards specify levels of service, measures and actions that public transport operators and providers must undertake to meet their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992,” Mr Albanese said.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said efforts to improve the lives of people living with a disability were crucial.
“I am pleased to see that the Standards are helping to facilitate the progressive removal of discrimination experienced by people with disability,” Mr McClelland said, “which is after all why they are in place.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas said the review also found that the Transport Standards had been effective in encouraging investment in accessible infrastructure and transport.
“While progress has been made on accessibility of public transport, the Australian Government will continue to work with State and Territory governments, public and private transport operators and providers, along with the disability community, to ensure improvements are made “ Senator McLucas said.
The full report and Government response can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
Water traders want
The National Water Commission has called for improvements to Australia’s water trading markets to improve transparency and performance.
In a new report issued by National Water Commissioner, Laurie Arthur, the Commission calls on governments to do more to open up access to trading and improve market performance.
Mr Arthur said the report, Strengthening Australia’s Water Markets, highlighted Australia’s water trade as a centrepiece of national water reform having become a multi-billion dollar market since the first reported trades in the 1980s.
“The ability to trade water, largely in the Murray-Darling Basin, has delivered real benefits to irrigators, regional communities and the environment,” Mr Arthur said.
“It has provided individual water users and water dependent industries with much needed flexibility to adjust to commodity pressures and climatic variability.”
He said there were opportunities to deliver further benefits, especially in areas where markets were developing or were yet to be developed.
“‘Improved transparency and information are needed to reduce complexity and speed up trade approvals,” Mr Arthur said.
“Faster trades are critical for many producers, as it enables them to get water when they need it most.”
He said initiatives such as better information about prices would encourage market participation and deliver more efficient transactions.
“There is also scope to develop new water markets outside the Murray-Darling Basin and to encourage the developing trade in groundwater”, Mr Arthur said.
“More needs to be done to identify where and how groundwater trade can work, and ensure these areas are prioritised for reform.”
He said the Commission has also released a companion report, Australian Water Markets: trends and drivers, 2007-08 to 2009-10, which analysed market trends as well as the drivers influencing market outcomes.
He said strong leadership and the support of the Council of Australian Governments would be needed in order to drive reforms.
The new report can be accessed at
this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
New consumer sign
A new point-of-sale sign alerting consumers to their rights under the new Australian Consumer Law (ACL) has been produced for use by retailers across the country.
for point of sale
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury said the new sign would give consumers clear information about their rights to refunds and replacements.
“The new national Point-of-Sale sign will be available to all retailers in Australia and clearly identifies consumers’ rights to refunds and returns at the location they are most likely to be thinking about them – the cash register,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The new sign is part of the range of information materials that have been developed by Australian Governments and regulators to raise awareness of consumers’ rights and obligations under the new Australian Consumer Law (ACL).”
He said a consumer’s right to a repair, replacement or refund was often the source of many disputes between consumers and traders.
“Under the ACL, which came into effect on 1 January this year, new consumer guarantees mean that businesses dealing with defective goods must provide a repair, replacement or refund, and if there is a major failure with an item, the consumer has the right to choose the remedy, including requesting a refund,” he said.
“The new Point-of-Sale sign clearly outlines what a consumer’s rights are, making it easier for consumers and businesses to deal with defective goods and services.”
Mr Bradbury said if consumers encountered any problems when dealing with goods and services supplied by a business they should contact their State or Territory’s fair trading office, or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on 1300 302 502.
He said the new sign could be inspected at this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
Indigenous kids win
A new strategy to provide access to early childhood education service for Indigenous Australians has been released by the Minister for Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Universal Access Strategy has been endorsed by all State and Territory early childhood Ministers.
Mr Garrett said the strategy highlighted work that was already happening in every State and Territory and identified where to focus future efforts.
“The strategy is an important element of the Council of Australian Governments’ commitment to provide access to a quality early childhood education program for all children by 2013,” Mr Garrett said.
“The strategy will increase Indigenous children’s access to early childhood education and support the Government’s commitment to Closing the Gap by improving access to a preschool program for all four year old Indigenous children in remote communities within five years.”
He said four key areas were identified for future effort including increasing access to early childhood education; positive community awareness and engagement; quality early childhood programs and activities; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness of teachers and support staff.
He said the Government had allocated $970 million over five years to ensure that by 2013 all children would have access to a preschool program for 15 hours a week, for 40 weeks a year, in the year before starting school.
“Around 64 per cent of Indigenous children are enrolled in early childhood education programs in the year before schooling, compared with 70 per cent of all Australian children,” Mr Garrett said.
“These rates need to increase significantly if we are going to achieve universal access in 2013.
“The strategy provides greater support for governments as we work together to ensure Indigenous kids have the best start in life, preparing them for school and beyond.”
Access to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Universal Access Strategy is available at this PS News link.
10 June, 2011
Improvements have been announced for the next round of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative.
from research test
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, announced the changes saying the Australian Research Council (ARC) would use a refined ‘journal quality indicator’ for 2012 to determine the appropriateness of journals used as publication outlets for research.
Senator Carr said any regional or applied focus of the disciplinary unit concerned would be taken into account.
“For this purpose, evaluation committees would be presented with profiles of the journals or other relevant publications used most frequently by the unit under evaluation,” Senator Carr said.
Chief executive of the ARC, Professor Margaret Sheil said the change would empower committee members to use their expert judgement to take account of nuances in publishing behaviour.
“This approach will allow experts to make judgements about the quality of journals in the context of each discipline,” Professor Sheil said.
“It is clear from the ERA 2010 evaluation and subsequent feedback that journal quality is an important indicator of research quality.”
Professor Sheil said the change enabled journal quality to remain an indicator for ERA 2012, while ensuring that assessments of journal quality did not assume an importance beyond this role.
Senator Carr said as a consequence of the change, journals will no longer be assigned a prescriptive rank.
He said however, the ARC would continue to maintain a list of eligible journals and their relevant classification codes to support benchmark metrics and ERA 2012 would better capture multidisciplinary research.
“Articles with significant content from a discipline will be able to be assigned to that discipline regardless of where the article is published,” Senator Carr said.
Professor Sheil said the ARC would release the draft submission guidelines for ERA 2012 at a later date, and provide opportunity to comment on the proposed changes.
10 June, 2011
Exports stopped in tracks
Live cattle exports to Indonesia have been suspended until new safeguards are established for the trade.
Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig said the complete suspension of all livestock exports to Indonesia for the purposes of slaughter would be in place until the Government established sufficient safeguards to ensure there is verifiable and transparent supply chain assurance up to and including the point of slaughter for every consignment that leaves Australia.
Senator Ludwig said an independent reviewer would be appointed to undertake a complete supply chain review of the live export trade for all markets.
Farm survey launched
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has launched its five-yearly Agricultural Census.
The Agricultural Census, the ABS’s second biggest statistical collection, provides a detailed picture of what is happening in every region of Australia, and in all types of agriculture.
From mid June 2011, Agricultural Census forms will be delivered to approximately 170,000 agricultural businesses.
Forms will be rounded up in mid July 2011, in time for the earliest preliminary data release ever, due in November this year.
This year’s census will see agricultural businesses able to complete their forms online for the first time.
Schools link for cyber safety
The latest stage of the ThinkUKnow cyber safety initiative has been launched.
Connected Classrooms uses Internet video conferencing and smart board technology to simultaneously deliver presentations to parents, carers and teachers.
Minister for Justice, Brendan O’Connor said the launch was part of National Cyber Safety Awareness Week.
“Connected Classroom sessions are designed to ensure that parents, carers and teachers across New South Wales can receive cyber safety education on how to ensure children have fun online, stay in control and report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable,” Mr O’Connor said.
Land returned to owners
One of the largest parcels of Aboriginal land in the history has been returned to traditional owners.
Deeds to four areas of land were handed back to traditional owners in a ceremony in Alice Springs after an agreement was reached which would see the land leased back to the Northern Territory for 99 years for use as a National Park.
Finke Gorge National Park and Simpson Desert stage 4 were the two largest areas of land handed back with two smaller grants of land in the vicinity of Hermannsburg making up the package.
Pay talks stall
The Community and Public Sector Union remains concerned at progress negotiating a new bargaining agreement with talks stalled at 12 Agencies.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood would not rule out industrial action if a number of outstanding matters were not resolved.
She said the issues still to be agreed included superannuation, personal leave, annual leave, maternity leave, working hours, pay increases, pay equity, back pay, redeployment, redundancy, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, recognition of union delegates and dispute resolution.
ANSTO wins Comcare review
A Comcare Review Panel has cleared the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation of breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act, overturning an earlier finding.
An ANTSO spokesperson welcomed the judgement and urged Comcare to make it public.
Family laws amended
Amendments to the Family Law that redefine family violence and child abuse have been passed by the House of Representatives
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the changes would make the family law system safer and support domestic violence victims better.
The Bill is now before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and is expected to be face the Senate later this month.
Water report in
The Government is considering a report from the Standing Committee on Regional Australia into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The Chairman of the Standing Committee and Independent MP Tony Windsor said the report would help inform the development of the Government’s overall water reform agenda for the Murray Darling Basin.
The committee released the report after completing an eight-month inquiry into the impact of a Draft Basin Plan released by the Murray Darling Basin Authority.
Park report on climate
The impacts of climate change on Kakadu national park have been identified in a new report by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
Kakadu – Vulnerability to Climate Change Impacts models the effects of sea level rise on Kakadu’s South Alligator River system for 2030 and 2070.
Insolvency paper out
An options paper setting out regulatory reforms to Australia’s insolvency industry is open for public comment.
Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury, said the reforms were aimed at improving the value for money offered to recipients of insolvency services and addressed concerns about misconduct within the profession.
Entitled A Modernisation and Harmonisation of the Regulatory Framework Applying to Insolvency Practitioners in Australia, the paper can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until 29 July.
Navy celebrates 100th
The Royal Australian Navy is to celebrate its 100 years anniversary on Sunday 12 June with free family and community “fun day” at the National Maritime Museum at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
The day is part of the Navy’s Centenary celebrations, which commemorate King George V’s approval in 1911 of the ‘Royal’ title, changing the organisation’s name from Commonwealth Naval Forces to the Royal Australian Navy.
7 June, 2011
White paper to add
An Australian-first Cyber White Paper is to be developed to help the average Australian connect to the internet with confidence.
colour to IT plans
Announced jointly by the Attorney- General, Minister for Defence and Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the paper is to be released in the first half of 2012.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) is to be lead Agency in the project and Secretary Terry Moran said a public consultation process would be launched later this year, including the release of a discussion paper.
Mr Moran said the position of Cyber Policy Coordinator had been created within DPMC to provide greater coordination and strategic leadership of government cyber policy.
“Given the mandate of the Office of the Cyber Policy Coordinator, it is appropriate that a cross-agency team, led by the Cyber Policy Coordinator, is responsible for developing this inaugural Cyber White Paper,” Mr Moran said.
“The cyber environment allows for Australians to experience increased economic prosperity and the ability to build important social relationships across geographic distances.”
He said he expected a strong focus on Australian citizens and industry within the White Paper, which would - for the first time - bring together and describe the important relationships in the cyber environment between Australia’s social well-being, economic prosperity and broader national interests.
“It will consider how Australians are engaged in cyberspace and provide a long-term strategy to ensure our ongoing enjoyment and productive utilisation of the digital age,” Mr Moran said.
“Cyberspace is now all-pervasive and demands a holistic approach to ensure Australia could capitalise on the opportunities and successfully mitigate risks associated with cyberspace.”
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the White Paper would cover a broad range of areas including consumer protection and cyber safety, crime, security and defence.
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the development of the paper recognised the increasingly significant role the online environment was playing in the lives of Australians.
The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith added that the risk of cyber threat was real.
He saw the White Paper as complementing Australia’s work with the United States and the United Kingdom “to promote a secure, resilient and trusted cyberspace”.
7 June, 2011
Library adds eGov
The National Library of Australia’s Trove search engine has taken out the highest honour in the 2011 Excellence in eGovernment Awards.
prize to collection
Trove, which links readers and researchers to millions of resources online in Australian libraries, cultural institution and research collections, received a second award for being the best in the service delivery category.
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray commended the Library on its Trove service, which received three million visits in 2010 and now boasts an average of 25,000 unique visits a day.
“Trove allows users to discover the contents of unique cultural collections and interact, adding comments, pictures and tags and collaborating to improve the Library’s collection,” Mr Gray said.
Director-General of the National Library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, said she was “delighted” with the awards, and paid tribute to the Library’s Trove staff.
“We believe that a free discovery service like Trove, which allows its users to access millions of items in one go, has to be a winner,” Ms Schwirtlich said.
“It is a vital service both for Australia and Australians and as an exemplar for the national digital economy.”
The Department of Defence was also mentioned in dispatches with a team from its J6 Branch of Defence Headquarters’ Joint Operations Command taking out the ICT Professional of the Year Award.
Mr Gray praised the Branch for its “superior leadership” in delivering ICT support for Australian Defence Force operations in Afghanistan.
“Under extremely tight time lines, as well as ongoing complex and operational pressures, the team was instrumental in supporting the Australian Defence Forces’ mentoring efforts with the Afghan people, making a substantial contribution to national and international goals,” he said.
Another winner was the Queensland Police Service, which took both the Government 2.0 and the inaugural Gov 2.0 Innovator Awards.
The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment was recognised for excellence in the Geospatial category while the WorkCover Corporation in South Australia took out the Project Management category.
The NSW Department of Education and Training won the Applications Development category.
7 June, 2011
New Secretaries have been appointed to the Departments of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR), and Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DEWSPaC).
in top line line-up
Former adviser to Prime Minister Paul Keating, Don Russell, is to replace the departing Secretary of DIISR, Mark Paterson, who is to take up the position of Director-General of the NSW Department of Trade and Investment.
Dr Russell served as a senior executive in the Treasury in the 1980s and is presently Chairman of the NSW State Super SAS Trustee Corporation.
He was also Australia’s Ambassador to the United States.
At DEWSPaC, the Secretary Robyn Kruk has resigned to set up the National Mental Health Commission.
Ms Kruk will move into her new job following early detection and successful treatment of cancer.
She oversaw various reforms to mental health services in one of her previous roles as Director-General of the NSW Department of Health.
Ms Kruk will be replaced at DEWSPaC by Paul Grimes, who has been acting in the position since September 2010.
Dr Grimes’s has served as Associate Secretary of the Domestic Policy Group in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and has held senior positions in the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Treasury.
His development of the Government’s response to the global financial crisis earned Dr Grimes a 2010 Public Service Medal for outstanding service.
Former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry is to take up a new part time role as Special Adviser to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
7 June, 2011
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has been forced to juggle his resources to meet the costs of an expanded role dealing with asylum seeker cases.
The Ombudsman, Allan Asher, confirmed the evidence he gave to Senate Estimates that the rising number of asylum seekers being held in immigration detention was putting a strain on his office resources.
He said an extra $400,000 for 2010-11 and 2011-12 announced by the Government for the work needed to be found from internal sources.
“Growing numbers of people in immigration detention mean a greater case review workload for my office and a need to conduct substantial and comprehensive enquiries into the consequences of incidents such as the March riots on Christmas Island,’ Mr Asher said.
He said to demonstrate the increased resource demands, only about 100 Irregular Maritime Arrivals a year were expected when his office took oversight of the Refugee Status Assessment process in 2008.
Now, with more than 6,000 people in immigration detention, Mr Asher said inspections of facilities - especially Christmas Island - had highlighted areas requiring further investigation and oversight by his office.
He said issues such as the seemingly high incidence of self-harm and apparent suicides were “of critical importance, and must be a priority for my office”.
Mr Asher said this meant setting aside other work and making tough decisions about what the Ombudsman’s Office could realistically do within existing funding.
While he considered it pleasing many detainees had recently been moved off Christmas Island, Mr Asher said this was creating other challenges for his office because several detention facilities were located in remote areas on the Australian mainland.
“In some cases, I expect that we will start to see the kinds of problems that made the situation unsustainable on Christmas Island occurring elsewhere,” he said.
“It is vital, therefore, that my office is able to continue to provide an appropriate and adequate level of oversight.”
7 June, 2011
Annual awards for
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GDRDC) and National Water Commission (NWC) have triumphed at the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) ACT Division Annual Report Awards.
The GDRC won the gold award for both the online and hard copy versions of its annual report in the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies (CAC) category.
Its annual report won the plaudits of the judging panel for conveying a lot of information in a clear and comprehensive manner.
“A highlight of this entry was the adjunct GDRC growers report which is a reader friendly summary of how the GDRC operates, its financial profile, and highlights of research investments,” a judging panel spokesperson said.
The NWC was also a double award winner.
Its online annual report won gold in the Financial Management and Accountability (FMA) category while the hard copy version won the NWC its third silver medal.
Chief executive of the NWC, James Cameron, said the awards proved his small agency’s ability to handle rigorous reporting requirements and communicate effectively.
The IPAA’s panel of judges agreed, and described the NWC’s online report as “an innovative submission which provided easy access to a high quality report”.
Other award winners included the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, which won gold in the FMA hard copy category, and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, which shared the silver award with the NWC.
The silver medal winner in the online FMA category was the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry won bronze for its online and hard copy entries, sharing the latter with Medicare Australia.
In the CAC Agency category, Comcare and CSIRO were silver medallists in the online and hard copy categories respectively.
The Australian Law Reform Commission won bronze in the CAC online category while the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Maritime Safety Authority won joint bronze for their hard copy reports.
Other Agencies producing highly commended annual reports were AusAID, the Australian Sports and Anti-Doping Authority and the National Film and Sound Archive.
7 June, 2011
ACMA rings changes
A draft plan to improve customer service in Australia’s telecommunication companies has been issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
for phone companies
Releasing the plan entitled Reconnecting the Customer, the Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman, said consumers could look forward to safeguards against ‘bill shock’, more understandable contracts and plans and the more timely resolution of complaints.
“This is all about the consumer,” Mr Chapman said, “better customer care, better service and a new approach from the industry.”
He said under the draft plan, more than a thousand Australian telecommunication companies (telcos) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would need to deliver on six major consumer protection measures.
They have until 15 July to respond to the proposed measures, which include improved advertising practices, better product disclosure information and the introduction of transparent customer care performance reporting.
Improvements to the Telecommunications Ombudsman Scheme’s governance arrangements and systemic issues reporting are also included in the draft report’s recommendations.
Mr Chapman said that if the key points in the draft plan were adopted the telecommunications industry would “come under greater regulatory scrutiny to make sure they follow through”.
He said as the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code was currently under industry review, the release of the draft plan gave key telecommunications players the opportunity to “respond to the challenge” of improving customer service.
“The way the telecommunications industry in Australia has dealt with its customers must change,” Mr Chapman said.
“The industry response will certainly give an early indication of its readiness to effect the clearly needed step change - all in the interest of yielding materially improved consumer outcomes.”
Mr Chapman said imposing industry standards and service provider determinations was ACMA’s preferred approach for several of the proposals.
“During our comprehensive review it also became clear the telcos understand the need for that change, and this plan provides both the specific action points and the incentives to implement them.’
The draft plan can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 June, 2011
Tax Office learns
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is to amend its tax assessments for some Austudy and Abstudy recipients who may be eligible to claim education costs as tax deductions following a recent High Court decision.
The High Court ruling favoured a former teaching student who claimed $920 in educational expenses while working part-time and receiving the youth allowance.
The ATO argued that the allowance was not paid to the student as a reward for studying and should not be seen as earned income. The High Court found instead that youth allowance payments were “ordinary income” and that the student’s expenses were incurred in earning that income.
Following the decision, the Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D’Ascenzo, said the ATO would send letters to eligible taxpayers offering to amend their assessments and include a deduction of $550 for each income year in which they were eligible to receive it.
“Where we can, we want to make it simple and convenient for people to receive their entitlement and we also recognise that many eligible taxpayers may not have kept records of their expenses,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
He said the offer covered tax returns lodged in the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 income years and the $550 deduction amount was based on information published by academic institutions of the average amounts of study expenses.
“This does not mean you will receive a refund of $550 for each year you are eligible,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“Tax deductions reduce the amount of income you have to pay tax on, so if you are entitled to a $550 deduction, this means the income you pay tax on will be reduced by $550.”
Mr D’Ascenzo said eligible Youth Allowance recipients had already received letters and amended assessments would be issued by 30 June to those who accepted the ATO’s offer.
He said Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy recipients who incurred study expenses this year could claim a deduction when lodging their tax returns if they could provide evidence to support their claims.
7 June, 2011
Police sign up for
The Australian Federal Police have signed a ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding with the ACT Government to employ mental health specialists in the AFP operations centre.
ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher said the joint initiative aimed to promote greater mental health awareness and acceptance within the ACT Community and address increasing pressures on the policing system.
She said two mental health clinicians from the ACT Health Directorate would be embedded within the Police Operations Centre from Thursdays through to Sundays as a dedicated resource available to police.
“These clinicians will work closely with both agencies, and in differing capacities in times of peak demand,” Ms Gallagher said.
“They will be able to provide information relevant to varying situations and for different individual circumstances, and advise police on appropriate mental health interventions.”
ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Simon Corbell said police were required to operate in a dynamic and ever-changing environment and there would be times when they would be dealing with members of the community with varying degrees of mental health issues.
“Providing police officers with increased support in this area will only build on the level of service they provide to the ACT community, and will help raise awareness of mental health issues within ACT Policing,” Mr Corbell said.
He said the initiative would include a four-day training program to be delivered once a month to ACT Policing with lecturers including interstate experts as well as those drawn from Mental Health ACT, ACT Policing and the community sector.
Present at the signing of the agreement were Ms Gallagher, who is also the ACT Minister for Health, Mr Corbell, Chief Police Officer for the ACT, Roman Quaedvlieg and ACT Health Directorate representative Katrina Bracher.
7 June, 2011
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has launched a new cyber security education resource for teenagers.
for cyber security
Aimed at students aged between 12 and 15, NetBasics is a series of 11 short animated episodes that follow the online experiences of the Jones family.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman, said NetBasics reinforced the foundations of online security, covering topics such as online shopping and banking, cyber trickery and the importance of installing and updating security software.
“Employing basic security precautions is crucial to minimise the risk of falling prey to cyber criminals,” Mr Chapman said.
“NetBasics will help equip teenagers with the skills and knowledge they need to ensure their online experiences are safe, secure and rewarding.”
Mr Chapman said NetBasics contained a wealth of resources, tips, activities and practical advice to help children, teenagers, teens, parents, teachers and librarians keep safe online.
It was launched during National Cyber Security Awareness Week, which saw the Australian Government joining forces with State and Territory Governments and more than 500 organisations to promote cyber security.
Participants included the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Electoral Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Taxation Office and the Departments of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; Immigration and Citizenship; Prime Minister and Cabinet; Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Australian Government had made cyber security a top national security priority.
“Advances in the technologies we use, and the reasons we use it, are accompanied by developments in the number and type of cyber threats we face,” Mr McClelland said.
“Cyber security is a shared responsibility and Awareness Week demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together towards helping Australians be safe and secure online.”
NetBasics episodes and support materials can be found at this PS News link.
7 June, 2011
Visa audit finds
An audit of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s student visa program has found the Department has been unable to keep up with demand.
loss of vision
In his report Management of Student Visas, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the visa program had successfully supported over a million and a half overseas students access high quality education in Australia but that the growth in skilled migration was “unsustainable” and compromised the visa program’s integrity.
“DIAC’s key administrative structures and processes were not sufficiently robust to effectively meet the challenges,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the student visa program presented more processing challenges for DIAC than any other temporary visa class due to its rapid growth, and placed significant pressure on the Department’s compliance functions.
Mr McPhee’s report noted that the international education and training sector was Australia’s third largest export industry after coal and iron ore, and was worth an estimated $18.6 billion in 2009.
He said with more than 400,000 overseas students living in Australia in 2009-10, DIAC’s integrity and compliance units were under pressure and were hampered by the Department’s failure to update its national compliance priorities in 2008.
The Auditor-General said there were also “significant problems” with the effectiveness of DIAC’s visa cancellation procedures and difficulties in enforcing mandatory visa conditions.
He said there was scope for DIAC to improve on the initiatives it had taken to meet challenges associated with the program and manage a growing workload, and made six recommendations that the Department agreed with.
One was for DIAC to review its process for determining country and education sector assessment levels for student visa applications, and to better align student visa requirements and immigration risk.
He also recommended that DIAC evaluate its eVisa lodgement facility to ensure it was meeting its objectives, maintain a program of audits and evaluation of registered eVisa agents in high risk countries, review its student visa cancellation regime and better manage the flow of non-compliance notices to ease pressure on compliance units.
Mr McPhee also recommended that DIAC and DEEWR develop an agreed strategic approach to the management of the student visa program and establish priorities for cooperative activity between the departments.
7 June, 2011
Women’s sport to
A new program to encourage more media coverage of women’s sport has been announced jointly by the Minister for Sport, Senator Mark Arbib and the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.
The two Ministers said the Women in Sport Media Grants were part of a strategy to increase the exposure and reach of women’s sport.
Ms Ellis said the new grants would build on support provided through the Sports Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women program and the Women in Sport Leadership Register.
“This funding will see the Government stepping in to directly assist with production costs, marketing and promotion of national and international level Australian women’s leagues, competitions, teams and athletes,” Ms Ellis said.
She saw the funding as “a critical step in breaking the vicious cycle that has previously prevented women’s sport gaining the prominence it deserves.
“For too long a lack of media attention has meant less sponsorship and advertising dollars, which has in turn caused a devaluation of women’s sport - reaffirming the media’s lack of coverage,” Ms Ellis said.
Senator Arbib said that while women’s sport received less than nine per cent of sports editorial coverage, it was “an excellent time to support women’s sport in developing an attractive package for media.
“With the advent of digital television and an increase in demand for content, there is no better time to help women’s sports attract the media coverage that will open the door to long term revenues from sponsorship and broadcast rights,” Senator Arbib said.
He said Australia’s sportswomen and teams were “incredibly professional and successful”.
“Australia’s female athletes won 56 per cent of Australia’s medals at the Beijing Olympic Games and Australian women claimed 18 world championships and world titles across a range of sports in 2010,” he said.
Ms Ellis praised Netball Australia for blazing a trail in developing a strong media product and viewership.
“Netball’s 2010 Trans Tasman Championship season attracted 9.2 million television viewers and more than two million people tuned in to watch the Commonwealth Games final between Australia and New Zealand.”
More information about the Women in Sport Media Grants can be found at this PS News link.
7 June, 2011
ACCC wraps up
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has backed an Australia Post proposal to increase postage prices across some of its monopoly business mail letter services.
The increases include PreSort services which provide discounts to wholesale bulk mail customers who sort and barcode mail prior to lodgement and do not include the 60 cent basic postage rate or the price of other Ordinary letters.
Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel, said Australia Post expected to incur losses on its monopoly services.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC had considered the benefits of a revised proposal put forward by Australia Post that included proposed changes to its Off Peak PreSort letter services to make them more attractive to bulk mail customers.
“This will be achieved with a reduction in the current delivery window of four business days to two business days,” Mr Samuel said.
“The increased gap between Off Peak and Peak prices could further encourage more efficient use of the postal network.”
Mr Samuel said Australia Post had also revised its initial plan to include smaller increases in Off Peak business mail services than the original - in some cases, less an half as much.
“Beyond this price notification, the current approach to assessing prices, including the allocation of costs, needs to be re-examined given the environment of declining demand for traditional letter services,” Mr Samuel said.
“The ACCC and Australia Post have agreed to re-examine the current approach before any future major price notifications.”
Australia Post has a statutory monopoly over the delivery of letters weighing less than 250g that cost no more than $2.40 to send.
Mr Samuel said that under the prices surveillance provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, the ACCC had a role in assessing proposed price increases for Australia Post’s monopoly letter services.
The ACCC can decide to object or to not object to the proposed price increases and interested parties have until 14 June to comment on its preliminary view, which is available at this PS News link.
3 June, 2011
DAFF springs to
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has launched an inquiry into the treatment of Australian animals exported to Indonesia following a television report claiming the animals were being mistreated.
Secretary of the Department, Conall O’Connell said he was shocked by the television images.
“We share the concern of the community and are working closely with animal welfare groups and the live animal export industry,” Dr O’Connell said.
“As directed by the Minister, we are investigating all legislative and regulatory options available to the Minister to improve animal welfare in the trade.”
He said the Department had been in contact with the Animals Australia, the RSPCA, and the ABC, whose Four Corners program aired the footage showing what he termed “gross mistreatment” of Australian animals.
The Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, said he had asked that orders be prepared to enforce the complete suspension of live animal exports to the abattoirs identified in the Four Corners program.
“I have decided to halt the trade of live animals to the facilities identified by the footage,” Senator Ludwig said.
“Further, I will appoint an independent reviewer to investigate the complete supply chain for live exports up to and including the point of slaughter.”
He said he was investigating what legislative and regulatory responses were available to the Department in response to evidence of animal mistreatment, including the banning of trade to specific facilities or destinations.
“I reserve the right to add further facilities to the banned list, if required,” he said.
Senator Ludwig said that he had also requested that an independent, scientific assessment of some export practices shown in the footage to be undertaken by the Chief Veterinary Officer.
3 June, 2011
PS prominent in
Government Departments and Agencies are well-represented on the short list for recognition in the 2011 Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) Awards.
Announcing the finalists, Chairperson of the SRCC, Peter Henneken said although previous entries had been of the highest calibre, this year had surpassed all expectations.
“It’s delightful to be part of Safety Awards that people have taken to heart,” Mr Henneken said.
“They want to be a part of getting the safety at work message to every workplace.
He said it was “so hard” to split the entries this year and looked forward to announcing the winners in September.
Among the agencies representing the public sector in the twelfth year of the Awards were the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Defence in the the Leadership Award for Injury or Disease Prevention and Management category; CSL Limited and the Department of Defence in the Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System category; and Centrelink and the Department of Defence in the Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue category.
Individual contributions have been acknowledged with the finalists including Tracey Bell from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Leading Seaman Natalie Irvine and Lieutenant Commander Andrew Rohrsheim from the Department of Defence shortlisted for the Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety Award.
PS staff are also recognised in the category of Rehabilitation and Return to Work with Debbie Maher from ACT Shared Services and Julie Sharples from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs announced as finalists for the individual sub-category; and the Department of Defence in the sub-category for organisations.
Mr Henneken said the announcement of the winners would take place at a special dinner in Melbourne on Tuesday 13 September.
3 June, 2011
The National Archives of Australia has unveiled an online public discussion forum for users of its online database RecordSearch.
The database holds 7.7 million records created by 9,000 Australian Government agencies since 1901 and the new the forum will allows users to raise issues relating to use of the database and is intended for experienced researchers and first time users alike.
According to one of the members of the reference projects team at the Archives, Tonia Vincent, forum members would be invited to raise issues, ask questions and provide feedback relating to RecordSearch.
“Sharing the 7.7 million records that we hold with the public is a key priority for the Archives,” Ms Vincent said.
“Our aim is to gather people’s suggestions and tips through the forum so we can create a more streamlined and easy-to-use product.”
She said joining the forum would also allow users to share their own tips and strategies for how to make the best use of RecordSearch.
She said it would also provide the Archives with a mechanism for communicating intended changes to RecordSearch to users and for providing advice on using the database.
In cases where information from other areas of the Archives is needed to answer a query, staff will advise the member who made the post that their query would be passed to the appropriate area within Archives for a response offline.
Ms Vincent said she was thrilled to launch the RecordSearch online forum which was available at this PS News link.
3 June, 2011
Bus tickets now in
Staff of the ACT Public Service are to be eligible to ‘salary package’ bus travel on the local network in a new arrangement announced by the ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher.
From 1 June 2011 the ACT Government will provide ACT Public Service employees access to salary packaging for bus fares on the ACT Internal Omnibus Network (ACTION).
“I am very pleased to announce this important initiative which will see ACT Public Service employees save up to between $300 and $400 a year on the cost of public transport for travel between home and work,” Ms Gallagher said.
“As the second biggest employer in Canberra with a workforce of nearly 20,000 this is a significant commitment to our employees and the community.”
The Chief Minister said the initiative aimed to provide savings to ACT Public Servants and their families as well as see a greater patronage on buses, which would in turn diminish the carbon footprint of the Territory.
“A commitment to initiate arrangements was made in the ACTPS 2010-2011 enterprise bargaining agreements to introduce salary packaging of public transport costs for ACT Government employees,” she said.
“The benefit applies to all Public Service employees including part-time workers, and also applies to family members for their travel between home and work or school on ACTION buses under a private ruling obtained from the Australian Taxation Office.”
3 June, 2011
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has reported that the number of rural and regional students receiving income support to attend university had increased by 20 per cent in the 12 months to March this year.
making trip to uni
The Department’s analysis reveals the number of students in “inner regional” areas had risen by 4,250.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said reforms to the student income support system had resulted in more rural and regional students receiving income support to attend university.
“The Government remains committed to removing regional eligibility distinctions for Youth Allowance from 1 January next year and continuing to support regional students,” Senator Evans said.
He said that this year, as a result of the reforms, regional university students who were receiving Youth Allowance were also paid a Start-up Scholarship, worth $2,194.
He said dependent students who had moved away from home to study were now typically receiving more than $6,000 during a three year degree to assist with relocation costs.
Senator Evans said the reform had allowed the Government to target assistance to those most in need and increase the number of people who were eligible to receive payments.
“As a result of our reforms, more country students are receiving more money to either study at regional universities or to live away from home while studying in our cities.”
He said the decline in regional university enrolments had been reversed with record spending on regional universities.
3 June, 2011
Audit drives change
An audit into the Australian Taxation Office’s management of the Luxury Car Tax (LCT) has found the scheme could be managed better.
on car tax scheme
In his report Administration of the Luxury Car Tax, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said
the 11-year-old tax was mature, well understood, relatively concentrated in a small number of taxpayers and contributed less than one per cent of taxation revenue each year.
“There is scope to improve the co-ordination of governance arrangements,” the Auditor-General said.
“No compliance strategy has been developed or implemented.”
He said the Tax Office relied on specific intelligence about individual entities being reported to it, and revenue analysis provided an indicator that actual amounts of LCT revenue collected were within acceptable margins of budget forecasts and estimates.
“Overall, the tax has low visibility for planning, reporting and compliance purposes across all areas in the ITX business line, and other business lines that manage elements of the tax,” the Auditor General said.
“There is still scope to better target and coordinate the Tax Office’s administrative arrangements for planning, operational, reporting and compliance purposes.”
He said this could be achieved through process review and the Tax Office had advised it was planning several changes to its future administrative arrangements supporting the LCT.
He said the proposed changes included transferring responsibility for managing LCT risks; enhanced documentation of LCT discussion at the GST Product Committee; additional analysis of LCT revenue performance; and reviewing aspects of the arrangements with Customs.
“The ANAO has made one recommendation aimed at improving the planning and reporting of the LCT,” the Auditor-General said.
“To support a more co-ordinated approach to administering the LCT, the ANAO recommends that the Tax Office enhances its planning and internal reporting processes for the tax.”
He said the Tax Office had agreed to his recommendation.
The full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Jane Whyte, Rhiannon Stanley, Danielle Sheehan and David Crossley.
3 June, 2011
NT police presence
The Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) had led to police being stationed in 18 remote Aboriginal communities that didn’t have them, according to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.
Ms Macklin said the stronger police presence was helping improve the wellbeing and safety of Indigenous people in the communities.
She said the latest Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory Monitoring Report demonstrated that Government spending on programs and services to communities under the NTER was helping to change lives for the better.
“Initially the NTER led to increases in incidents reported to authorities as more police were available on the ground to address any issues; however, recorded incidents have now started to decline, highlighting the ongoing benefit of a stronger police presence,” Ms Macklin said.
“Since 2007, 62 additional police have been deployed to NTER communities and police are now located in 18 communities that did not have a presence prior to the NTER.”
She said the work of the police was also supported by 80 active night patrol services and 22 operational safe places providing a safe haven and services for clients and delivering jobs for around 430 local Indigenous people.
“Between July and December 2010, night patrol services assisted people to a safe place on almost 50,000 occasions, including safe places funded by the Australian Government,” she said.
Ms Macklin said ensuring the safety and wellbeing of communities was a key priority for the Government under the NTER especially with regard to women and children.
She said a mobile child protection team established in 2008 had investigated and provided follow-up services on almost 1,400 matters including 492 matters between July and December 2010.
She said across the same six month period, sexual assault mobile outreach service teams made 189 visits to 80 communities and town camps providing 347 case-related services to children and their families and 726 non-case related services to service providers and community members.
“Since 2007 we have delivered on our target of nine new crèches and upgrades to 13 existing crèches in NTER communities,” Ms Macklin said.
“The Government recognises that ending the disadvantage caused by decades of underinvestment will take time and a sustained effort is required.”
3 June, 2011
A report from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research has revealed a 5.4 per cent increase in enrolments in vocational education and training courses (VET) across Australia since 2009.
Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills, Senator Chris Evans said the report, entitled Australian Vocational Education and Training Statistics: Students and Courses 2010 - Preliminary Data, showed investments in education and training were delivering positive results.
Senator Evans said an extra $4 billion had been allocated to Vocational Education and Training in the three years to 2010 than in the previous three years.
“This snapshot report shows we are getting results with the numbers of students signing up for quality vocational education and training increasing in every jurisdiction,” Senator Evans said.
He said the report revealed that between 2009 and 2010, Tasmania recorded the largest rate of increase in VET students at 14.6 per cent, while in New South Wales an additional 33,300 VET students enrolled in courses.
He said Victoria also recorded a high number of additional VET students, with 25,700 more students in VET studies in 2010.
“This is the third consecutive year that VET student numbers have increased,” Senator Evans said.
“We know more reform is needed to ensure all Australians are given the opportunity to get the trades and the skills they need to get the high skilled, high paying jobs of the future.”
The full report is available at this PS News link.
3 June, 2011
NBN plugged into
The National Broadband Network (NBN) had the potential to transform Australia’s digital economy into a world leader according the Minster for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
Launching the National Digital Economy Strategy at a conference in Sydney, Senator Conroy said the vision of the strategy would contribute to Australia’s productivity, maintain global competitiveness and bring about tangible social wellbeing improvements, no matter where people lived in Australia.
“Building the NBN is a key step towards that vision,” Senator Conroy said, “which has as one of its goals Australia being among the top five Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) countries by 2020 when it comes to the percentage of households connected to broadband at home.
He said that vision was only one of eight goals identified by the National Digital Economy Strategy to help measure progress.
Other goals for 2020 included a majority of Australian households, businesses and other organisations having access to smart technology to manage their energy use; 90 per cent of high priority consumers such as older Australians, mothers and babies and those with chronic diseases, able to access individual electronic health records; and education institutions having the connectivity to develop and collaborate on innovative educational services that extend the opportunities for online learning.
Senator Conroy said the idea that Australia could double its level of teleworking to at least 12 per cent of Australian employees working outside the traditional workplace and four in five Australians choosing to engage with the Government through online services were also paramount to the vision for 2020.
“By connecting to high-speed broadband, households will benefit through savings generated from time-saving activities such as telecommuting for remote work and study and improved access to business and job opportunities, health, education, social and Government services,” he said.
“Maximising the benefit of the digital economy requires action by all levels of government, industry and the community as a whole.”
The National Digital Economy Strategy can be downloaded from PS News link.
3 June, 2011
ASIC launches money apps
New mobile phone apps linked to the MoneySmart financial management program have been announced by Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury.
Mr Bradbury said the new apps, which can be downloaded for free onto iPhones or Android handsets, had been developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as part of the MoneySmart.gov.au website.
He said the new s apps would expand the ways people can use the tools and resources available on the MoneySmart website which had been visited by more than a quarter of a million people since March.
Telstra split looms
Draft Regulatory Instruments required to restructure Telstra to allow NBN access to its network have been released for public discussion.
The draft instrument can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until 15 June 2011.
Bureau sees off La Niña
The Bureau of Meteorology has announced the end for the climate phenomenon known as La Niña.
La Niña has played a spectacular and at times devastating role in shaping Australia’s climate since mid-last year, but rapid changes in Pacific climate patterns over the past few weeks have finally brought the event to a close.
La Niña typically brings wetter conditions for Australia with cooler days, warmer nights and increased tropical cyclone activity, and the 2010-11 La Niña brought all this and more, breaking rainfall records and delivering devastating floods and cyclones.
MoneySmart attracts a crowd
More than a quarter of a million people have logged on to the Government’s new MoneySmart financial literacy website since it was launched in March.
Developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commissions (ASIC), MoneySmart.gov.au is an online tool for Australians looking for free, unbiased information about finances.
In just over two months, the visitors have spent a collective 28,000 hours accessing the free tools on the MoneySmart website, including the budgeting tool, the retirement planner and superannuation calculator.
Ombudsman issues law report
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has released its most recent six-monthly report on law enforcement compliance under the Surveillance Devices Act.
Law enforcement agencies are given considerable covert information gathering powers under legislation and it is the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman to ensure that such powers are used lawfully.
The Ombudsman, Allan Asher said there was generally a high level of compliance, particularly by the Australian Crime Commission, and that the Australian Federal Police had improved its procedures for applying for an extension to an existing warrant.
Uni laws open doors
New legislation will open up the opportunities of a university education to a broader range of Australian students.
The Higher Education Support Amendment (Demand Driven Funding System and Other Measures) Bill 2011 recently introduced into Parliament, is central to reforms that ensure all Australians have the opportunity to gain a university education.
This reform underpins the Government’s response to the Bradley Review of Higher Education, and is accompanied by improvements to student income support to attend university.
Energy from rubbish
The energy requirements for future troop deployments could be powered by rubbish.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and a Melbourne-based company are developing a deployable Waste To Energy (WTE) concept capable of utilising a range of solid wastes or rubbish to produce electricity.
One of the biggest fuel usages in a deployed environment is power generation for headquarters, field hospitals, and humanitarian relief sites.
The aim of the Waste To Energy system is to recover the embodied energy of the rubbish and generate power for the base, reducing the need for diesel.
DSTO and the company believe they will be able to process up to 5,000 kg of solid waste per day.
Call to find missing kids
The Minister for Justice, Brendan O’Connor has called on Australians to help find the 20,000 children that are reported missing each year.
At the launch of International Missing Children’s Day, Mr O’Connor said in Australia, two children go missing every hour of every day.
He said for most families all ends well, with 95 per cent of children that are reported missing in Australia being returned.
All Australians are urged to visit this PS News link and read about children who are missing in Australia right now.
He said if anyone had information about a missing child they should contact the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre on 1800 000 634 or email email@example.com
Do Not Call revisited
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released a second discussion paper as part of its review of the Telecommunications (Do Not Call Register) (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2007 (the Standard).
The proposed changes include a reduction in the period during which telemarketers can contact consumers on weekends; and more stringent obligations on telemarketers around the provision of information to people, including how the telemarketer obtained their number.
ACMA is inviting comments about the proposed revisions until 11 July 2011.
Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tax stats score 100
‘100 People’, an innovative online presentation that represents all the individual taxpayers in Australia as though they were one hundred people, has been launched by the Australian Taxation Office.
The presentation draws on information from Taxation statistics 2008-09, which was a summary of tax returns, and other tax data for that financial year.
The aim of the ‘100 People’ concept is to provide an easy to understand and entertaining insight into taxation system statistics by breaking down the tax community as just one hundred people.
‘100 People’ can be viewed at this PS News link.