SearchArchives for June 2012
22 June, 2012
Rights more equal
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) is to be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency as part of new laws promoting gender equality in Australian workplaces.
at women’s agency
Director, Helen Conway, said legislation had passed the House of Representatives to allow the name change as well as work to promote equal remuneration between women and men.
Ms Conway said the changes would also encourage organisations to allow men, as well as women, to work flexibly to meet family and caring responsibilities.
“We need to lift the participation rate of women in the workforce by removing existing disincentives,” Ms Conway said.
“Our national productivity and competitiveness depends on it.
“In our workplaces, it is time we stopped paying lip service to gender equality and actually did something about it.”
She said the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 was the result of an extensive review and consultation process with stakeholders including employers, business groups, employee organisations and women’s groups.
“The Agency looks forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to achieve better gender equality outcomes for women and men,” Ms Conway said.
She said the Bill must now be passed by the Senate before becoming law.
22 June, 2012
Audit goes distance
An audit of a national partnership to improve the delivery of services to remote Indigenous communities has found that the necessary administrative arrangements have been effectively established but planning and assessment were lacking.
on remote services
In his report National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said a government presence had been set up in the communities by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Service and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery (NPARSD).
“The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) identified that the lack of access to services, and the poor coordination of services and infrastructure in remote Indigenous communities, were key drivers of disadvantage,” Mr McPhee said.
“Most of the elements of the NPARSD are joint projects between the Australian Government and the respective States/Territory.”
He said the key aspects FaHCSIA was responsible for included negotiating bilateral plans with the States/Territories; baseline mapping; developing Local Implementation Plans; and delivering community support measures.
“FaHCSIA has not developed structured arrangements to assess whether, as a result of the activities implemented through the NPARSD, government services have increased in number, are of a higher standard, or are better coordinated and simpler to access,” Mr McPhee said.
He said overall, FaHCSIA was effective, particularly in establishing Boards of Management in each participating State/Territory.
“Baseline mapping, as a fundamental input to the development of Local Implementation Plans, was however not implemented in the timeframes envisaged by COAG,” he said.
“Other supporting measures that FaHCSIA was responsible for delivering, such as cultural awareness training, community governance and leadership development and the national interpreter framework, have not yet been implemented,” he said.
“As the NPARSD currently stands, the objectives and outcomes of the agreement will be challenging to meet.”
Mr McPhee said any further expansion of the program would benefit from greater consideration of how the more aspirational objectives could be more directly addressed, or alternatively, whether there was a case for some revision to the program objectives.
The Auditor-General made one recommendation aimed at improving the monitoring of changes in service provision.
The full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Peter Towns, Gillian Meek, Donna Penny, Adrian Harris and Dr Andrew Pope.
22 June, 2012
Warm results from
Participants at the Antarctic Treaty Consultation Meeting (ATCM) in Hobart this week have agreed to develop a multi-year strategic work plan to guide their future activities protecting and preserving Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.
A Communiqué was issued setting out the outcomes of the meeting including measures to further reduce the risk posed by non-native species; further develop the Antarctic protected areas system; promote repair of past environmental damage; enhance understanding of global climate change scientific research; and introduce measures on the safe and environmentally sensitive conduct of tourism activities.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr said Australia had pursued outcomes at the meeting that were focused on ensuring the ATCM was a more effective institution, responsive to the priorities of Antarctic Treaty Parties and capable of tackling the challenges faced by Antarctica in the 21st Century.
“I am proud that Australia, as a leading Antarctic nation, drove outcomes at the Meeting which will have a lasting legacy for Antarctica,” Senator Carr said.
“Parties agreed to develop a Multi-Year Strategic Work Plan which will reflect the shared priorities of Antarctic Treaty Parties and guide the future work,” he said.
“The initiatives delivered at this meeting – spanning law, policy and the environment – reinforce the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting as the premier international forum on Antarctica committed to protecting and preserving the continent for future generations.”
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke welcomed the positive outcomes from the meeting.
“Antarctica is one of the world’s great wildernesses and Australia is a world leader in ensuring that we protect this unique continent for the future,” Mr Burke said.
“Importantly, we will continue to work to build the number of parties to the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty.”
He said Australia had signed three new international arrangements covering science, logistics and environmental management to deepen bilateral collaboration and cooperation on-the-ground in Antarctica.
The ATCM communiqué can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 June, 2012
Commission plugs in
The Australian Human Rights Commission has launched a national campaign to encourage young people to support their friends targeted by cyberbullying.
The BackMeUp campaign is built around a pledge from a number of teenagers and celebrity ambassadors to help prevent other people from going through the trauma they experienced.
It is based on research that found the vast majority of bullying incidents occurred in front of bystanders, the majority of which either felt powerless to act or actually encouraged the bullying.
The campaign’s central focus is a video competition through facebook where teenagers are encouraged to make a video about how they can help someone being cyberbullied.
Ten winners and their parents/guardians will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Sydney to spend a week at NIDA creating a professional short film.
Students can also win JB HiFi vouchers weekly.
Spokesperson for the Commission and Australian’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Helen Szoke said the BackMeUp campaign was about witnesses taking positive action when they saw somebody being cyberbullied.
“Bystanders are crucial to dealing with cyberbullying,” Dr Szoke said.
“Taking positive action to support those who are being bullied leads to less social and mental health problems as well as an increased sense of safety at schools.”
More information on the campaign and competition is available from this PS News link.
22 June, 2012
A new project linking indigenous expertise and modern technology to improve the way the environment is managed globally has been announced.
blazes global trail
Australia has joined Brazil, Norway and New Zealand to form the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land and Sea Managers Network.
The project will share ancient environmental traditions with communities across the globe to create an internationally-focused network of indigenous land and sea managers.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the project would draw on existing networks, such as Australia’s Working on Country program, which funded almost 700 Indigenous rangers using traditional knowledge, as well as cutting-edge science to manage over 1.5 million square kilometres of land and sea country.
Minister for the Environment and Sustainability, Tony Burke said it took Australia a long time to recognise Indigenous rangers were often the best placed people in Australia to provide environmental management to the land and sea country.
“Over the past few years through Working on Country, the number of Indigenous rangers has now built up to around 700,” Mr Burke said.
“That’s 700 additional people engaged in environmental management with all the benefits of traditional knowledge.
“It’s some of the best work our Environment Department is involved with and it’s a credit to every ranger that this sort of expertise is now being recognised internationally.”
He said every day there were Indigenous rangers conducting surveys, eliminating pests and caring for country in some of the most remote parts of the continent
He said Australia would formally kick-start the development of the new Network through an international conference in Darwin in May 2013 to bring Indigenous peoples and local communities together from around the world to build the Network.
More information on the Network can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 June, 2012
SMOS fired up over
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray has reacted to claims by the ACT Government that the Commonwealth wasn’t paying its full share for emergency services protecting Federal properties in Canberra.
fire brigade bill
The ACT Government had presented the Commonwealth with a bill for $10 million to cover the costs but the Federal Government has offered just $4 million.
“Suggestions that the Australian Government will pay only $4 million for fire emergency services in 2011-12, after receiving an invoice for $10 million, ignore the fact that negotiations are continuing,” Mr Gray said.
“These negotiations are necessary because fire emergency arrangements between the ACT and Commonwealth expired on 30 June 2011.”
He said all property owners in the ACT should pay their fair share towards fire services, including the ANU and Canberra Airport, which currently did not contribute.
“Nor should the Commonwealth pay for fire services for premises it leased, because this commitment was met through lease agreements.”
He said the Commonwealth was introducing a fair and equitable funding arrangement across all jurisdictions from 1 July 2012 and was arranging transition payments for the current financial year.
“The new arrangements are the result of several months of discussions between Commonwealth, State and Territory officials,” Mr Gray said.
“Since November 2011, Commonwealth and ACT officials have had three face-to-face meetings to discuss the reviewed arrangements as well as significant email and other correspondence.”
He the ACT had not been able to differentiate the services provided by the ACT Fire Brigade in comparison with other jurisdictions throughout the negotiation process.
“The fact is that the proportion of Commonwealth-owned buildings in Canberra has significantly fallen in recent years, while the proportion of privately-owned buildings in Canberra has grown,” he said.
Mr Gray said it was fair that the ACT should receive 26 per cent of the funding of the ACT Emergency services since 26 per cent of the value of Commonwealth buildings was located in Canberra.
22 June, 2012
Report chews over
A new report has found a number of challenges facing the agrifood industry including attracting new workers and building skill levels across the sector.
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Sid Sidebottom released the report at the official launch the AgriFoodSkills Australia 2012 Environmental Scan.
“This is an important contribution to our understanding of the skills and training needs across the agrifood and fibre sector,” Mr Sidebottom said.
“As the report makes clear, there are real workforce challenges across agriculture that require co-ordinated action across industry, government and the education/skills and training sector.”
He said the AgriFood Skills 2012 Environmental Scan – Disruption or evolution: The challenge facing agrifood’s employers in a time of structural adjustment – was the fifth annual report into the skills and training needs of the agrifood sector.
He said it identified four areas for priority action: the attraction of new workers; increasing skills levels across the workforce; sharing widely the benefits of research, innovation and new technology; and improving the retention and skills use of the existing workforce.
“Clearly we need a cultural shift in the way we go about promoting the industry, attracting and retaining a workforce and providing relevant training and skills,” Mr Sidebottom said.
“I think there is now broad recognition and a growing urgency that the agrifood and fibre industry has to develop a coherent approach to tackling these priorities.”
He said the outlook for agriculture was strong, with the growing middle-class across the Asian region providing particular opportunities for Australia’s high quality produce.
“The task for us is to show just how rewarding and varied the career opportunities at all levels in agriculture are, to ensure we continue to attract the best and brightest into the industry and deliver them the skills and training they’ll need to succeed,” he said.
The annual report can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 June, 2012
Volunteer videos to
The Office for the Not-for-Profit-Sector has launched a video competition for young people on the subject of volunteering.
focus on service
The Volunteering Video Competition for Young People invites participants to create a video that explores ways for young people to be involved in their community.
Videos 30 to 60 seconds in length and which capture the fun and benefits of volunteering along the theme ‘Your Passion, Our Nation. Volunteer Now’ are being sought in two age categories: 15 to under 18 (category A) and 18 to under 25 years. (category B).
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing and for Social Inclusion, Mark Butler said for many Australians, the simple act of volunteering for a few hours each week was one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to give back to the community.
“Volunteers are the backbone of our community organisations and are front and centre in supporting everything from the arts to providing assistance during natural disasters,” Mr Butler said.
“More than 6 million adult Australians volunteer each year, about 36 per cent of the adult population.
“This number has grown significantly in the last decade and I hope we can raise it again this year.”
He hoped the competition could boost the number of young people volunteering in communities Australia-wide.
“Young people can bring energy, tech savvy and a fresh outlook to community organisations,” he said.
“If you’re between the ages of 15 and 25, you can help spread the word by entering the Volunteering Video Competition for Young People.
“All you need to do is create an ad which shows what you think about volunteering and what it means to you to help others and give something back to your community.”
More information is available from this PS News link and entries close 22 July.
22 June, 2012
And in other news...
Health survives audit
An audit of the Department of Health and Ageing’s (DoHA) administration of the Health and Hospitals Fund (HHF) has found it to be effective.
The HHF was set up to invest in major infrastructure programs that would make significant progress towards achieving the Commonwealth’s health reform targets.
The audit found DoHA had generally established effective administrative processes to support the development of infrastructure funded from the HHF and its administrative and support arrangements had improved over time.
Phone taps allowed
Legislation to allow the Victorian and South Australian Governments to engage in telecommunications interception has been passed by Parliament.
Other States such as New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have already established anti-corruption Commissions which can access interception powers.
Human rights breached
The Australian Human Rights Commission has found the Commonwealth arbitrarily deprived an Indian national of his liberty for 509 days after he came to Australia in July 2003 to undertake a Master of Computer Studies degree.
The Commission found the Commonwealth had breached the man’s human right not to be subject to arbitrary detention in article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and recommended the Government pay $697,000 in financial compensation.
It also found the Department of Immigration and Citizenship breached the human rights a New Zealand citizen because of its failure to place the woman in community detention or other less restrictive form of detention after her visa was cancelled.
The Commission found the Department’s actions were also inconsistent with the ICCPR and recommended it pay $450,000 in compensation and provide a formal written apology.
Rules for audit reports
Draft regulations specifying the contents of annual transparency reports for auditors have been released for public comment.
Submissions close 29 June and the exposure draft can be accessed at this PS News link.
Airwaves auction for 2013
An auction of radio frequency spectrum to deliver the ‘digital dividend’ is to take place in April 2013.
The auction will include spectrum in the 700 MHz band as well as the 2.5 GHz band as a result of the switch to digital-only television broadcasting by the end of 2013.
Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said the sale of the spectrum was a unique opportunity “to pave the way for next generation mobile broadband services in Australia, such as 4G mobile services”.
Adult games classified
Legislation to create an R18+ category for computer games has been passed by Parliament.
The reforms bring the classification categories for computer games into line with existing categories used to classify films.
The States and Territories will pass their own complementary legislation to ensure that R 18+ computer games are appropriately regulated, after which the national scheme will commence on 1 January next year.
Previously this week... Commonwealth gets Charter
An international Ministerial Task Force has agreed on a draft Charter of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The Task Force also agreed on measures to strengthen and reform the Commonwealth.
The draft Charter and package of recommendations will now go to a meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers in New York in September, and thereafter to leaders for endorsement.
Bully box for information
An anonymous ‘dropbox’ to collect information on workplace bullying in the APS has been set up by anti-bullying activist Steve Davies.
Mr Davies said the information collected in the dropbox would be collated into a report to be presented to the House of Representatives Committee Inquiry into workplace bullying.
He said the dropbox would be safe for people to disclose information as it was encrypted and the IP addresses of the sender was not recorded.
The dropbox is at this PS News link.
Medicare drops late-night service
Medicare service centres will no longer open for evening trading from 1 July, 2012.
While the extra hours on Thursday or Friday evenings are ceasing, service centres with Saturday morning trading will open as usual from 9am to 12.30pm in addition to regular weekday business hours.
Hank Jongen from the Department of Human Services said demand for night trading had been decreasing due to more convenient options available, including electronic and online claims.
Health report unhealthy
The third annual report on the National Healthcare Agreement has shown that health outcomes are not equal for all Australians.
Released by the COAG Reform Council, the report found more than a quarter of Australians were not seeing a dentist due to cost.
The figures were even worse for disadvantaged areas where one third of people did not see a dentist due to cost.
ACT diverts water management
The ACT Government is to resume management control of the capital territory’s water and sewage systems.
The government had outsourced management to a private company in 2000.
Telstra hosts zombie army
Tests on Telstra’s network have indicated that potentially half a million Telstra customers could be infected by malware designed to enlist their computers into a global zombie army.
The trial looked at a million Telstra customer IP addresses which were known to have a lower rate of botnet infection and found about 54,000 (5.4 per cent) of those million were infected.
The trial organisers said further tests were needed to confirm the extent of infection.
Migrant test lowered
The pass mark for points-tested skilled migrants is to be lowered from 65 points to 60.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the change to the pass mark would come into effect from 1 July in an effort to encourage a broader range of people with the skills and attributes needed in Australia to register their interest in migration.
New radio network for PNG
A new police radio communications network has been officially switched on in Papua New Guinea.
The $2.5 million network connects local police throughout PNG with the new National Operations Centre at Police Headquarters in Konedobu and was an initiative of the PNG-Australia Policing Partnership.
It will allow police to communicate with each other throughout PNG during the upcoming National General Elections.
Energy grants announced
More than $42 million in grants has been announced to improve energy efficiency across community buildings and facilities.
The 63 successful round one recipients of the Community Energy Efficiency Program are to co-fund projects to improve energy efficiency in community buildings such as museums, indoor sports and aquatic centres, art galleries and libraries.
The 298 applications received were assessed by an independent committee to determine the round one funding and an announcement on round two will be made later this year.
19 June, 2012
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has published its 2011 APS Remuneration Report.
right the money
The Report provides remuneration information about Australian Public Service (APS) employees including Base Salary and other remuneration-related benefits and payments in the 2011 calendar year.
The Commission says its report is an annual snapshot of remuneration across the APS as at 31 December each year and provides information by classification level as well as changes compared to the previous year.
The Report says between 2001 and 2010, the annual APS Remuneration Survey was undertaken by an external consultant.
“From 2010 it was mandated that all APS agencies participate,” the Report says.
“In 2011 the Report was produced by the Australian Public Service Commission.
“With the APSC undertaking the 2011 APS Remuneration Report, there are some differences in how data has been treated compared with previous surveys.”
It says in 2011, 105 agencies made up the APS and provided data for 2,695 Senior Executive Service (SES) employees and 154,277 non-SES employees.
“The 2011 calendar year saw the expiration of the majority of APS enterprise agreements, with most reaching their nominal expiry date on 30 June 2011,” it says.
“Employees of 15 agencies, representing 16 per cent of the APS workforce, did not receive a general pay rise in 2011.
“This may contribute to a slightly lower median Base Salary increase than what would have normally occurred.”
The Report also found the overall median Base Salary movement for all APS employees from 2010 to 2011 was 2.5 per cent and the use of performance bonuses had gone down.
“From 2010 to 2011 the median Base Salary for non-SES classifications increased by 2.4 per cent while the median Base Salary for SES classifications increased by 4.1 per cent,” it says.
“Women’s median Base Salary, as a proportion of men’s Base Salary is at or over 100 per cent across all classification levels with the exception of the SES 1 (99.9 per cent).”
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
Resources jobs board
A new Resources Sector Jobs Board has been officially launched to help Australians make the most of employment opportunities in the mining boom.
a boom for workers
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the Jobs Board was part of the Australian JobSearch website and would allow people to apply for resource sector jobs, including those covered by Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs).
Mr Shorten said the free service provided practical assistance for job seekers and employers including workforce and recruitment advice; information on government services available; the ability to track applications online; and a registration function allowing job seekers to record their qualifications and skills that could be searched by employers through the site.
“We are committed to putting Australian jobs first,” Mr Shorten said.
“The EMA program provides for overseas workers to fill skills shortages on mega resource projects, and the Jobs Board will be an important part of identifying those shortages.
“Companies and contractors recruiting overseas workers through EMAs will be required to use the Jobs Board to demonstrate that suitably qualified Australians are given the first opportunity to apply for available jobs.”
He said the relevant Government Departments would take into account the use of the Jobs Board when assessing EMA applications, including the number and skills of Australian job seekers registered with the Board.
“This Government understands resources companies’ concerns that they may not be able to meet demand on all projects without using some temporary overseas workers,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Roy Hill project, the first EMA holder, will be required to use the Jobs Board to recruit workers when they commence construction of the mine.
“We don’t want to miss out on these mega projects and the new jobs they create, but we are also determined to spread the benefits of the mining boom.”
The Resources Sector Jobs Board can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
‘Big Society’ is big
A new report from the Centre for Policy Development (CPD) has found alarming parallels between ‘Big Society’ policies introduced by the British Government and similar trends in Australia.
trouble for PS
The report, Big Society and Australia by the CPD’s James Whelan found the British approach to PS reform had gutted the public and community sectors, transferring responsibility and resources to corporations.
Dr Whelan said his report analysed recent UK initiatives and the potential impacts if Australia were to follow suit.
He said it found support for a ‘Big Society’ approach among conservative politicians in Australia but a closer look at the initiatives revealed a disconnect between their “pro-community rhetoric and small government reality”.
He said the approach was “a new sales pitch for unpopular ideas like privatisation and cuts to public services, wrapped up in language that has widespread appeal”.
“The negative impacts of what’s happening in the UK can teach us a lot about parallel trends in Australia,” Dr Whelan said, “like the widespread obsession with budget surpluses, and the habit of outsourcing public services without safeguarding the public interest.
“While ‘Big Society’ promised to empower a diverse range of community groups to take over public services, in reality large corporations have dominated the outsourcing process.
“A parallel trend has been observed in Australia, where large for-profit and some large non-profit providers are dominating the tendering process.”
He said since May 2010, the UK had reduced public sector spending by over £80 billion or $124.25 billion Australian.
“Its public sector has shed 240,000 workers, and will lose almost half a million more over the next five years,” he said.
Dr Whelan said his report demonstrated that shrinking the public sector did not strengthen either the community or corporate sectors.
“It argues instead for an approach that recognises the inherent strengths and weaknesses of each sector, acknowledging that some work is best done by government while some is delivered better by the community and private sectors,” he said.
Dr Whelan’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
ANU plugs into new
The Australian National University (ANU) has signed an agreement with electronics company Fujitsu to build and install a new supercomputer at the University.
The new installation will provide the ANU with the most powerful computer in Australia and one of the largest in the world, capable of performing 170,000 calculations per second for each of the seven billion people on the planet.
Vice-Chancellor of the ANU, Professor Ian Young said the new 1.2 Petaflop supercomputer would have the computing power, memory and storage of about 30,000 dual-processor computers working in tandem.
“The new supercomputer will provide Australia with a much-needed capability to meet national challenges, particularly in areas of research where deeper insights rely upon higher performance computation,” Professor Young said.
“ANU is pleased to be playing its national leadership role by building research infrastructure shaped to meet future challenges, and by fostering the intellectual capital upon which this much-needed capability rests.
“The development is particularly pleasing in that it extends the University’s 25-year commitment to this national role.”
Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Megan Clark said the new computer would take Australia’s research capacity to a new level.
“This is a truly Australian partnership, aiming to boost Australian research and to tackle the big questions,” Dr Clark said.
“The supercomputer will revolutionise Australia’s research capability through advanced technology and apply that to areas of critical national priority.”
Chair of the ANU’s National Computational Infrastructure which will house the computer, Professor Mark Wainwright said the development was a significant outcome of the Commonwealth, national agencies and the ANU working together to create vital infrastructure for Australia’s researchers.
“We cannot hope to meet our national challenges without access to an international-class facility of the kind being developed, and Australia cannot hope to create such a facility without the cooperative efforts and advances that ANU, CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Research Council and six leading research intensive universities have made in reaching this agreement,” Professor Wainwright said.
19 June, 2012
Practices probed at
A review of legislative practices and processes within the Attorney-General’s Department has been completed.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said she ordered the review, which was undertaken by former Victorian Government Solicitor John Cain, after oversights by the Department in 2006 and 2009 came to light where important Proclamations relating to the Family Law Act were not made.
“It was important to complete this review to ensure the Department has all the appropriate legislative practices and processes in place,” Ms Roxon said.
“Mr Cain has found that the current legislative practices and processes used in the Department are adequate and that well-developed systems exist within its internal divisions.
“However, Mr Cain did find that there is no consistent Departmental-wide approach to managing the whole legislative process from policy initiative through to commencement and ongoing maintenance.”
She said the review’s “valuable advice” would now be used by the Department as it implemented all the recommendations.”
“The report recommends Departmental-wide system enhancements, in particular the development of an enhanced knowledge management information system for legislation; the introduction of a project management approach; and template for legislative projects,” Ms Roxon said.
The full report of the review can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
An audit of a national agreement to improve literacy and numeracy standards among students in schools across Australia has found that despite committing $540 million to the task since 2008, there is yet to be a statistically significant improvement in any State.
doesn’t add up
In his report National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said it could take several years before a reliable assessment of the Partnership could be made.
“The National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy aims to apply the collective resources and efforts of the Australian Government, State and Territory governments and education sectors, to put in place the infrastructure and practices that will deliver sustained improvement in literacy and numeracy outcomes for all students,” Mr McPhee said.
“The audit objective was to assess the effectiveness of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ (DEEWR) administration of the National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy (LNNP).”
He said the LNNP was introduced after a decade-long drop in Australia’s ranking for literacy and numeracy with students from low socio economic status and Indigenous backgrounds remaining behind the rest of the population.
“The LNNP was one of first National Partnerships to include reward payments to States for achievement of reform targets,” the Auditor-General said.
He said education authorities and schools had implemented a range of initiatives through the LNNP.
“However Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) analysis of National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) data from 2008 to 2011 indicates that the LNNP is yet to make a statistically significant improvement, in any State.”
Mr McPhee said national literacy and numeracy achievement had mostly been stable since the LNNP was introduced, including for low-performing and Indigenous students.
He also examined the administration of the scheme by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations (DEEWR).
“Overall, the effectiveness of DEEWR’s administration of the LNNP has been mixed,” he said.
“DEEWR did not progress the ‘Evidence Base’ of effective literacy and numeracy strategies as promptly as envisaged by the LNNP.”
Mr McPhee made two recommendations designed to strengthen program and payment design for future National Partnerships.
The audit team was Jess Scully and Stuart Turnbull and the Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
Commissioner plea on
The Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan has used last week’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Week 2012 to encourage people to protect their personal information.
Professor McMillan said everyone should take the time to take the necessary steps to protect their information.
“Check the privacy settings on your mobile and social networking sites to make sure your personal information is protected and to reduce the likelihood that someone might take advantage of it,” Professor McMillan said.
He said online privacy breaches could occur through ‘hacking’, viruses or more simply from a lost or stolen laptop or portable device.
“Create strong passwords, change them regularly and think about what personal information you are storing on your mobile or computer,” he said.
“Be careful about what you post online because once your privacy has been breached it is almost impossible to get back.”
Professor McMillan said with data breaches on the rise, businesses also had a responsibility to protect the personal information they held about their customers or they risked having their reputation tarnished.
“Every business should invest in the best security systems and privacy enhancing technologies available to protect customer privacy,” he said.
“When collecting personal information in your business, ask yourself whether the collection is necessary and carefully consider how the information is stored and for how long.”
He said the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s revised publication Data breach notification: A guide to handling personal information security breaches outlined preventative measures that should be taken as part of a comprehensive information security plan which include best practice responses to follow in the case of a data breach.
The Commissioner’s guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
Films a hit with
New research released by Screen Australia has revealed that 57 per cent of online viewers now watch more feature films, television drama and documentaries than ever before.
Chief Executive of Screen Australia, Ruth Harley said the findings were encouraging because they showed that long-form narrative was not a lost art in the online space and online viewing is not limited to the world’s funniest bloopers.
“In fact, 8.5 million Australians over 14 years old have watched films, drama and documentary online in the last year, with over a third highly engaged on a monthly basis,” Dr Harley said.
She said What to Watch? Audience motivation in a multi-screen world was the first comprehensive report undertaken on Australians’ motivations for watching feature films, television drama and documentaries.
“The report shows that while online viewers are rapidly growing as a proportion of the audience, most still use the web as a complementary content source not as a replacement for traditional platforms, providing a new lease of life to television and cinema,” she said.
“Alongside this sharp and sustained growth, online viewers are displaying more discerning behaviour when choosing what to watch.”
Dr Harley said seven out of 10 online viewers said they typically searched for a specific title, rather than browsed.
“For online viewers the variety of content is almost unlimited,” she said.
“With such a wide selection available, browsing becomes more difficult and in this environment content awareness has never been more important.
“This report demonstrates that our audience is motivated by many things and these motivations can vary dramatically in choosing different content types across different platforms.”
She said social media had revolutionised the speed and scale of word of mouth.
“While the platforms will continue to work together in building awareness for selected content, connections across sites such as Facebook and Twitter are circumventing traditional marketing campaigns and release territories,” Dr Harley said.
“In the case of online viewers, almost a third are often reading social media posts before choosing what to watch and around half are posting back once they have viewed.”
Screen Australia’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
Governments agree on
Amendments to the bilateral agreement for environmental assessments between Queensland and the Commonwealth have been agreed to and signed off.
The agreement was signed by the Minister for Environment, Tony Burke, Deputy Premier of Queensland, Jeff Seeney and Queensland Minister for Environment, Andrew Powell.
Mr Burke said the agreement clarifies the respective roles of the Queensland and the Commonwealth Government.
“It was clear during the dispute over the Alpha Coal project that the new Queensland Government had fundamentally different expectations of the agreement compared to the Commonwealth,” Mr Burke said.
“These amendments clarify these roles and should make sure that the dispute we saw in recent weeks is not repeated.”
He said the amendments would ensure terms of reference were agreed by both governments and the Commonwealth would be able to make its requirements clear at different points in the process.
“This should create a situation where the Queensland Government is able to fulfil all the requirements of Commonwealth environmental law for the assessment process,” he said.
“If at any point the Queensland Government believes that the agreed requirements cannot be met then early written notification will be provided, seeking that the Commonwealth complete the work.
“This will give the Commonwealth a chance to get moving on any additional work rather than being forced to commence it at the very end of the process as happened with the Alpha project.”
Mr Burke said he had also accepted an offer from the Queensland Government to have a Commonwealth officer out-posted within the Queensland process to make sure that any Commonwealth concerns could be made known immediately.
19 June, 2012
Time running out to
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has warned computer owners that time was running out for them to disinfect their equipment affected by the malicious software DNSCchanger.
beat computer virus
ACMA said computers that remained infected after 9 July 2012 would have severely crippled internet access.
“In November 2011 the United States FBI worked with the Internet Systems Consortium to set up a temporary solution for those infected with DNSChanger, enabling them to continue to access internet services,” ACMA said.
“This solution will be switched off on 9 July 2012.
“It’s also time to check that your computer’s settings for accessing the internet are not the ‘rogue’ settings installed by DNSChanger.”
It said even if DNSChanger malware had been removed it was possible that a computer was still using the rogue settings, which would also severely cripple internet access after 9 July.
It estimated that between 7,000 and 7,500 Australian internet users were either infected with DNSChanger or were continuing to use the rogue settings.
“The DNSChanger threat is a timely reminder for Australian internet users to protect themselves from malware and adopt safe internet practices,” ACMA said.
It said a diagnosis website was available to check computers for possible infections.
“If the website detects that you are infected by DNSChanger or using the rogue settings, you will see a red banner warning stating ‘You appear to be affected by DNSChanger’,” it said.
You will then be able to access remediation tools and advice on the steps you can take to return your computer to normal operation and restore correct settings for accessing the internet.”
“Simply visit the dns-ok.gov.au website,” ACMA said.
The program will deliver an instant diagnosis.
19 June, 2012
Council stands up for
People with disability are still facing barriers to employment according to the third annual report on the National Disability Agreement.
The report, released by the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) Reform Council, shows Australia still has a long way to go before it breaks down barriers for people with disability.
Chairman of the Reform Council, Paul McClintock said the report showed Australians with disability faced major challenges to participating fully in employment and society.
“It would have been good to report some solid gains between 2003 and 2009, but in the area of workforce participation, there was very little improvement for people with disability and that was despite an improving labour market,” Mr McClintock said.
“The report shows that in 2009, Australians with disability had employment to population rates of 50 per cent compared to around 79 per cent for people without disability.
“The labour force participation rate was also significantly lower at 54 per cent compared to 83 per cent.”
He said the ACT, Western Australia and the Northern Territory all performed better than the nation as a whole with higher labour force participation and employment rates for people with disability.
He said however people with profound and severe disability were finding it even tougher with one in four reporting that their disability was the main reason they did not leave their home as often as they would like.
“Our report also found that one in three people with disability said they needed more formal assistance than they were receiving,” Mr McClintock said.
“And almost 20 per cent of those who took action to get that assistance in the previous 12 months said they still needed more.”
He said the report also looked at outcomes for carers and while there was some improvement in the workforce participation rates for carers, the figures were still significantly lower than those for non-carers.
The COAG Reform Council’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 June, 2012
Pilot program to
Eight schools around Australia are to benefit from a new pilot program to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students stay at school to graduate into rewarding careers in their local communities.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the first round of schools to take part in the $4.1 million Indigenous Rangers Cadetship (IRC) pilot had been announced.
Mr Garrett said the pilot program was part of the Building Australia’s Future Workforce strategy, providing up to $250,000 to each of the schools which had been identified as having demonstrated a commitment to quality teaching and learning.
“I’ve been very keen to see this happen, as Indigenous Ranger Cadetships are about giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote communities the skills they need to become rangers in their local area,” Mr Garrett said.
“This heralds an exciting new era in providing students with the opportunity to work on country, as rangers and in associated roles in natural resource management.
“I have seen firsthand the good work being done by Indigenous Rangers across their land and sea country, in bush regeneration and control of feral animals.”
He said not only did the program offer students a career path, it ensured they stayed at school and received a great education with the training in natural resource management and cultural studies to be provided throughout the schooling years.
“I’m positive that the pilot will be enthusiastically supported and I’m really pleased we can get these cadetships underway,” he said.
“Students will undertake a nationally recognised qualification, which will give them the skills for jobs on local land management projects.”
Mr Garrett said the first eight pilot schools would begin the program in Term 3 of 2012, with further schools to commence in the 2013 school year.
He said the schools chosen to take part in the pilot were Vincentia High School (NSW); Tagai State College (QLD); Western Cape College (QLD); Kununurra District High School (WA); Broome Senior High School (WA); Yirrkala School (NT); Shepherdson College (NT); and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College (NT).
15 June, 2012
Report on Regulations
The first annual report on national regulation reform has been released jointly by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong and the Minister Assisting for Deregulation, David Bradbury.
to become regular
The inaugural report Streamlined, Effective, Productive: an Annual Update on the Australian Government Deregulation Agenda looks at the broad range of regulatory review and reform measures achieved in 2011 and 2012 designed to improve the quality of Regulations for business, the community, consumers and the environment.
Senator Wong said the report outlined a “very comprehensive and ambitious agenda of regulatory reform”.
“Regulatory reform is all about improving productivity, increasing competitiveness and boosting economic growth,” Senator Wong said.
Mr Bradbury said that 17 reforms had been implemented to date including a national regime for consumer credit regulation, standard business reporting, a personal property securities register and a business names register.
“The Productivity Commission recently estimated that progressing 17 of the 27 regulatory reform priorities could reduce business costs by $4 billion per year and increase GDP by over $6 billion annually, or around $250 for each Australian,” Mr Bradbury said.
The report itself says good quality regulation is key to achieving the Government’s objectives of improved productivity, increased competitiveness, economic growth and equity.
It says the Federal Government was currently managing the largest and most comprehensive exercise ever undertaken to remove redundant Commonwealth legislative instruments.
“Regulatory reform is an ongoing task and the Australian Government will continue to pursue its deregulation agenda vigorously,” the report says.
“Economy-wide, pro-competitive and sustained regulatory reform will assist structural adjustment our economy is facing, encourage entrepreneurship and increase market openness.
“This will lead to ongoing improvements in productivity and deliver economic benefits for all Australians.”
The report can be accessed in full at this PS News link.
15 June, 2012
Reserve bank banks
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has put Australian banks on notice that they will soon have to process payments faster.
on faster payments
Releasing its conclusions from a Strategic Review of Innovation in the Payments System, the RBA told banks the market had failed on real-time payments so it had set out a timetable for them to follow to speed up their transactions.
The Bank has been reviewing payments systems since May 2010 in an effort to identify areas in which innovation could lead to improvements.
It said it has taken a medium-term perspective, looking at trends and developments overseas in payment systems and at possible gaps in the Australian payments system that might need to be filled in five to 10 years.
The Board concluded that removing some of the barriers to cooperative innovation had the potential to deliver significant public benefits over time.
It said its initial strategic objectives included same-day settlement of all direct entry payments by the end of 2013; the ability to make real-time retail payments by the end of 2016; making and receiving real-time payments and crediting card payment receipts by the end of 2016; and the ability to address payments in a simple manner by the end 2017.
According to the Bank, a key objective of the review was the establishment of a system that would provide real-time retail payments, with real-time funds availability.
The Board proposed two broad approaches to improving cooperative outcomes the first of which acknowledged that the Payments System Board of the Reserve Bank would occasionally set out strategic objectives for the payments system that took into account the interests of all stakeholders.
“These will identify services or attributes that the Board believes the payments system should be able to provide by a specified time,” the RBA said.
“In general, the industry would be expected to determine how those objectives could be met most efficiently.”
The second approach it proposed was the establishment of a more direct dialogue between the Payments System Board and the industry.
Full details of the RBA’s conclusions from its review ca be accessed at this PS News link.
15 June, 2012
Auditor shows interest
An audit of the Australian Taxation Office’s advice and assistance program for taxpayers self-managing their superannuation funds has found it to be effective but too slow.
in super fund advice
In his report Interpretative Assistance for Self Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSF), Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the ATO had implemented sound processes for the development of its SMSF assistance ‘products’ but it required “a stronger focus” on the timeliness of delivery.”
“Fewer than half of the SMSF public rulings and determinations have been delivered within the ATO’s standard timeframe since 2008,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the ATO considered interpretative assistance to be a core part of the Commissioner’s role as the regulator of SMSFs and had been providing interpretative assistance in its current form since 2009.
“Interpretative assistance provides the Commissioner’s opinion on the application of taxation and superannuation law,” he said.
“The provision of interpretative assistance is a cornerstone of the ATO’s self-assessment and compliance regime.”
Mr McPhee said the ATO also effectively engaged industry groups (representing professionals supporting the SMSF market) in the process of developing interpretative assistance.
“The ATO provides access to a wide range of information and interpretative assistance products to the SMSF market,” he said.
“Most of these products are posted on the ATO website, which is an essential gateway.
“Navigating through this information, however, is difficult, which may impact on the useability of the information, especially by non-professionals.”
He made two recommendations following the audit.
“These recommendations concern the ATO assessing the extent to which interpretative assistance products meet the expectations of the SMSF market, and improving access to SMSF information and interpretative assistance products,” Mr McPhee said.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Isabelle Favre, Danielle Wickman, Jae Choi, Kate Cummings, David Lacy, Therese McCormick and Mark Harradine.
15 June, 2012
Manure to carbon plan
Dairy producers could soon be earning carbon credits by capturing and destroying the harmful greenhouse gases released by cow manure.
not to be poo-pooed
Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus said the initiative was outlined in a new carbon farming methodology which had been released for public comment.
“This methodology offers a new way for dairy farmers to earn tradeable carbon credits and also provides an opportunity to cut power bills by turning gas into a source of electricity or heat,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“The system involves putting a cover over manure ponds, which are commonly used by dairy farmers to manage liquid dairy manure produced in running their operation.”
He said methane and other harmful greenhouse gases emitted by the effluent as it decomposed were trapped under the covers.
“These gases are then either destroyed by burning them off, or via internal combustion engines and gas boilers which generate electricity and heat,” he said.
Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean said the methodology had the potential to deliver both economic and environmental benefits to regional communities.
“Pricing carbon under the Government’s Clean Energy Future Plan creates a market that rewards good behaviour – and regional communities can be big winners,” Mr Crean said.
“Regional communities have determined ‘what’ needs to be done to reduce their carbon footprint, and our programs are helping them with the ‘how’.
“In Tasmania, for example, where the dairy industry is vital to the local economy, this methodology has the potential to deliver an economic return in addition to the milk produced.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Sid Sidebottom encouraged dairy farmers to participate in the consultation process.
“Farmers are very aware of the risk a warmer, more unstable climate poses to Australian agriculture and food production and this is an important economic and environmental opportunity for dairy farmers,” Mr Sidebottom said.
“The methodology, if approved, will reward dairy farmers who take steps to capture methane and generate renewable energy,” he said.
15 June, 2012
Railways see future
A new ‘roadmap’ has been published to help Australia’s rail manufacturers become stronger and more competitive.
in a roadmap
Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet said the Rail Manufacturing Roadmap – On Track to 2040 had been developed jointly by ANU Edge with the Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing and Strategic Connections Group.
He said the project was funded by the Commonwealth, Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland Governments with the Australasian Railway Association.
Mr Combet congratulated industry stakeholders, State governments and academia for their contribution to the document saying the project was an example of how the rail industry could successfully collaborate to identify opportunities and challenges facing the sector.
“More than 210 representatives from 110 organisations contributed to the development of the Roadmap, to deliver a vision for the Australian rail manufacturing sector’s future,” Mr Combet said.
“Finalisation of the project is an excellent achievement.”
Mr Combet particularly thanked Bruce Griffiths, the Rail Supplier Advocate, for his work with the rail industry to bring the project to fruition.
“I encourage the industry to embrace the findings in this Roadmap, and harness the opportunities to innovate and grow Australia’s rail manufacturing industry.”
Mr Griffiths welcomed the rail industry’s support and engagement during the Roadmap’s preparation and encouraged the rail transport sector to innovate and expand the industry.
“This project is symbolic of the industry’s determination to achieve a consensus on a vision,” Mr Griffiths said.
“It outlines directions for future opportunities and pathways.
“Importantly, it sets out necessary short-term decisions that will lay the foundations for long-term sustainability.”
The Roadmap can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 June, 2012
AFP hangs out
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is reminding the members of the community that they need to remain vigilant when it comes to online safety.
The warning is part of National Cyber Security Awareness Week this week which aims to educate individuals and small business owners about the simple steps they should take to safeguard their personal and financial information online.
National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations at the AFP, Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said education and awareness were the keys to staying safe.
“People need to be aware of cyber risks and should take the time to educate themselves about online dangers and how to avoid them,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.
“Without implementing suitable cyber safety and security measures, anyone can be a target of cyber crime.
“I urge the public to always protect their pin and online passwords, check statements, safeguard bank and telephone contacts and ensure their financial institutions are kept informed of travel plans.”
He said the AFP strongly encouraged members of the public to implement a few key cyber security tips including installing and updating security software and setting it to scan regularly.
He said they should also turn on automatic updates on all software; use strong passwords and different passwords for different uses; stop and “think before you click”; take care when transacting online; and only download “apps” from reputable publishers.
“Regularly check your privacy settings on social networking sites,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.
“Stop and think before you post any photos or financial information online.”
He said it was also important that parents talked with their children about staying safe online.
15 June, 2012
Boat comes in for
The world’s largest network of marine reserves is to be created around Australia to protect ocean environments.
The Coral Sea Region, the South-West Marine Region, the Temperate East Marine Region, the North Marine Region and the North-west Marine Region are among the areas included in the reserves.
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke released the final network of marine reserves which - once proclaimed under national environmental law - will increase the number from 27 to 60 producing a national network that will cover more than a third of Commonwealth waters.
“For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks,” Mr Burke said.
“Our oceans contain unique marine life which needs protection too.”
He said the maps he had released were the most comprehensive network of marine protected areas in the world and represented the largest addition to the conservation estate in Australia’s history.
“This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia’s diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations,” he said.
“The new marine reserves take the overall size of the Commonwealth marine reserves network to 3.1 million square kilometres, by far the largest representative network of marine protected areas in the world.”
Mr Burke said that over the coming months, the fishing industry and fisheries management agencies would be consulted on the design and implementation of a fisheries adjustment assistance package.
“It is expected that the final marine reserves will be declared before the end of the 2012,” he said.
15 June, 2012
Science handouts for
Hands-on local science activities across the country have received a boost from a grants program aimed at developing greater interest in science.
Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans said many of the 63 successful projects to be funded under the Unlocking Australia’s Potential program might have missed out on the opportunity to engage with science before.
“We’re rolling out a diverse range of local projects set to inspire and engage Australians in science,” Senator Evans said.
“People will have the chance to become part of nation-wide research projects, such as helping to build up complete pictures of our marine life, whales’ migration paths and the paths and landing places of meteors.
“These community-based science projects will build a more complete picture for our scientists and researchers and help the community feel part of science in the making.”
He said the grant recipients, which included museums, universities and Indigenous organisations, would use their knowledge and skills to put science firmly on Australia’s agenda and inspire Australians to take up science at school and university.
He said among the projects were robotic workshops for future young engineers in rural Queensland; development of a free Apple/Android app to help people identify native creatures; and a two-day camp for young refugee migrants to inspire them to pursue science at school.
Senator Evans said he recognised the importance of science to the country’s economic prosperity.
“Science is central to driving innovation and lifting Australia’s productivity, competitiveness and wealth,” he said.
“The grants are part of the $21 million Inspiring Australia initiative.”
A complete list of the successful projects can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 June, 2012
Plane sailing for new
Small aviation organisations are to be given access to a new simplified and streamlined process for managing drug and alcohol usage.
airline drugs policy
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has introduced the simplified processes for organisations with seven or fewer employees engaged in safety sensitive activities.
The new processes do not apply to aviation organisations providing services to regular public transport operations.
Director of Aviation Safety at CASA, John McCormick said the organisations eligible to use the new management processes would use a standard drug and alcohol management plan provided by CASA.
“Organisations will also use a CASA e-learning package to educate and train their employees in drug and alcohol responsibilities,” Mr McCormick said.
“We are making life easier for small aviation organisations by streamlining the process of drug and alcohol management while maintaining high safety standards.”
He said the changes would mean small aviation organisations would no longer have to develop their own drug and alcohol management plans.
“By using CASA’s new drug and alcohol management plan and new on-line training, small aviation organisations will save time and resources and still be confident they are meeting all the regulatory requirements,” he said.
“CASA has listened to the concerns of the aviation industry about the impact of drug and alcohol management plans on small organisations and found a solution that is simpler and protects safety.”
Mr McCormick said small aviation organisations using the new processes would still be required to report to CASA every six months on their drug and alcohol management performance and CASA would continue to check on compliance.
15 June, 2012
And in other news...
CPSU calls for FWA intervention
The Community and Public Sector Union has asked Fair Work Australia to intervene in moves to transfer about 1,200 staff from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
The union said the staff transferred would miss out on salary increases worth between $2,330 and $12,036 a year.
Deputy National President of the CPSU, Alistair Waters described the loss of pay and conditions as “shocking” and said they were imposed without promised consultation with staff or union representatives.
Cybersafety summit opened
The 2012 Cybersafety Summit has been officially opened as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Week 2012.
The summit promoted the importance of cyber security and safety and brought together young people, parents and teachers, as well as industry and government representatives to discuss how to keep young Australians safe online.
New partners for online taskforce
The Australian Federal Police have welcomed the commitment of four new partners to its Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT).
The VGT is committing to the fight against technology-facilitated crimes against children and has set up partnerships to share best practices and explore new technologies to support innovative thinking.
The latest organisations to join the VGT are World Vision Australia, the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, Research In Motion and the Code Of Conduct For The Protection Of Children From Sexual Exploitation In Travel And Tourism.
Charity report released
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Taskforce has released its Implementation Report.
The Report outlines key areas to underpin the ACNC’s work as the NFP sector’s Commonwealth regulator.
It can be accessed at this PS News link.
ASIC cuts red tape
Obtaining a licence to become a financial adviser is much easier following the introduction of new streamlined application arrangements by the Australian Investments and Securities Commission (ASIC).
Revisions to ASIC’s regulatory guidance to applicants for Australian Financial Services licences (AFS) removes the requirement to submit paper versions of documents lodged online.
Previously this week...
Defence lets childcare contract
A new contract to operate Defence Child Care Centres has been signed with Mission Australia Early Learning Services.
The not-for-profit company has been contracted to manage Defence’s 21 Child Care Centres from 1 July 2012, following an open tender process.
Mission Australia is a national organisation with a proven record for the provision of child care services.
Olympic stamp unveiled
Australia Post has released the first of its three Olympic-themed stamp issues - The Road to London.
The 60 cent stamp features several iconic London landmarks and the official logo of the Australian Olympic Team.
Workplace codes for comment
Six draft model Codes of Practice and two guides have been released by Safe Work Australia for public comment.
The documents will provide workers, industry and businesses with practical guidance on achieving the requirements of the model work health and safety (WHS) laws.
The codes released for comment relate to Managing Risks in Forestry Operations; Industrial lift trucks; Cranes; Amusement devices; Managing Risks of Plant used in Rural Workplaces, and Managing Security Risks in the Cash-in-transit Industry.
The draft guides relate to managing risks in cable logging and tunnelling.
The material can be accessed at this PS News link and comments close 24 August 2012.
Farmers’ input wanted
Researchers are seeking input from farmers for their ongoing investigations into insecticide resistance in broadacre agricultural pests.
Entomologist at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Queensland, Dr Melina Miles is part of a team searching for locations where growers have experienced chemical control difficulties or failures when dealing with insect pests, particularly mites and aphids.
The research is being led by science-based company Cesar and the University of Melbourne.
Reports can be made directly to Dr Miles on (07) 4688 1369 or by email at meli...@daff.qld.gov.au
Gooda backs Title reforms
Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice, Mick Gooda has welcomed the announcement of new native title reforms.
Reported in PS News last week, the package of reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 are designed to ensure a sustainable and fair native title system is maintained 20 years after the historic Mabo decision was passed down.
The full story can be accessed at this PS News link.
Forces to defend PNG elections
Personnel from the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces are to be sent to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to support the safe, free and fair national election later this month.
Approximately 250 Australian and New Zealand personnel will support the PNG authorities during the election period.
Nominations for super reforms
Nominations are being sought for appointments to the SuperStream Advisory Council.
SuperStream is a package of reforms to improve the operation of the superannuation system.
Nominations close 22 June and should be directed to StrongerSuperSuperStream@treasury.gov.au
12 June, 2012
Weather Bureau faces
An independent review of the Bureau of Meteorology’s capacity to respond to future extreme weather and natural disaster events has recommended improvements to its flood monitoring, forecasting and warning systems across Australia.
Conducted by former senior Victorian Public Servant, Chloe Munro, the review found the Bureau to be highly respected across the community but faced some significant challenges ahead.
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell announced the review last year in light of the increase of extreme weather events across the country.
Senator Farrell said the review’s findings had identified a number of options to improve the Bureau’s ongoing sustainability.
“It also identified an increasing demand and desire for enhanced products and services,” Senator Farrell said.
“As part of the 2012-13 Budget, the Government has made an initial response to the highest priority recommendations by announcing it would strengthen the Bureau’s frontline capacity by up to 40 staff, acknowledging the vital services these staff provide.”
He said the review also highlighted a need for the Bureau to commence a one year trial to host advertising on its website, a recommendation that would be implemented.
“The review made recommendations involving the need to improve the arrangements for flood monitoring, forecasting and warning across Australia,” he said.
“It also identified opportunities to extend the Bureau’s services, such as improved seasonal forecasting capability.
“As acknowledged by the review, responding to these broader strategic issues will take some time and will require the support, either individually or collectively, of Commonwealth, State and local governments.”
Senator Farrell said over the coming months, the review’s findings would be considered in detail to determine the most appropriate way forward.
“This will ensure proper consideration of the review’s suite of recommendations and will assist the Government to take into account the Bureau’s long-term needs and requirements,” he said.
The report of the independent review can be accessed at this PS News link.
12 June, 2012
Queen honours PS
Members of the Public Service featured prominently in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list this year, marking Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee after 60 years on the throne.
in Birthday list
The honours include the Public Service Medal (PSM) and among the many to be recognised in the Order of Australia for long, dedicated and exemplary service were:
OFFICER ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AO)
Dr Tom CALMA AO
Health and Ageing,
For distinguished service to the Indigenous community as an advocate for human rights and social justice, through contributions to government policy and reform, and to cross cultural understanding.
Dr Calma was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission until 2010. He is now the inaugural National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking with the Department of Health and Ageing.
Stephen SEDGWICK AO
Public Service Commission
For distinguished service to the community through leadership roles in the administration and implementation of innovative economic and social policy reform, and to public sector ethics and accountability.
Mr Sedgwick has been the Australian Public Service Commissioner since 2009.
Professor Ian YOUNG AO
Australian National University
For distinguished service to tertiary education through leadership, strategic management, research and academic roles, as an author, and to international education collaboration.
Professor Young has been Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University since March last year.
MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AM)
Brian David CASSIDY PSM AM
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
For service to public administration, particularly in the areas of competition policy, trade practices and consumer protection regulation.
Mr Cassidy has been Chief Executive of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission since 2000.
Tony D'ALOISIO AM
Formerly Australian Securities and Investments Commission
For service to business and commerce, particularly through leadership roles in the securities and investments regulatory sector, to Australia-Asia relations, and to charitable organisations.
Mr D’Aloisio was Chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) until 2011. He was a Commissioner from 2006.
Professor Graham Paul DURANT AM
For service to science education as the Director of Questacon: The National Science and Technology Centre, to the museums sector, and through scientific advisory roles.
Professor Durant has been the Director of Questacon, he National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra since 2003.
Dr Michael Graeme GARNER AM
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
For service to veterinary science, particularly in the field of epidemiology, and through the development and promotion of Australia’s animal health.
Dr Garner is the Principal Research Scientist and Director of the Epidemiology Program in the Animal Division of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. His skills in veterinary epidemiology and disease management are internationally recognised.
Professor Alan John HAYES AM
Australian Institute of Family Studies
For service to the social sciences through the Australian Institute of Family Studies, as a contributor to policy research, and as an academic and author.
Professor Hayes has been the Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), since 2004.
Tony HYAMS AM
Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation
For service to the superannuation industry through leadership and executive roles, to the financial services sector, to the Parliament of Victoria, and to the community.
Mr Hyams has been Chairman of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation since July 2011.
John LAWLER APM AM
Australian Crime Commission
For service to public administration in the area of crime investigation and prevention through executive roles, and to national and international law enforcement.
Mr Lawler has been Chief Executive of the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) since 2009.
PUBLIC SERVICE MEDAL
Gillian Elizabeth BIRD PSM
Foreign Affairs and Trade
For outstanding public service in the field of international relations, particularly for major contributions to the provision of consular services and to Australia’s engagement with the South East Asian region.
Ms Bird is a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has contributed significantly to advancing Government priorities in international relations and the delivery of consular services.
Ms Bird is an exemplar of the best traditions of the Australian public service and has delivered outcomes of long-lasting importance for Australia.
Lee CALE PSM
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
For outstanding public service in working in partnership with industries to assist them to import and export animals safely.
Ms Cale has demonstrated outstanding leadership within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and with industry, making a major contribution to Australia’s agricultural productivity and export trade through consistently outstanding service in the provision of quarantine and export services.
She has demonstrated outstanding leadership and consistently performed a demanding job to the highest standards.
Tony CORCORAN PSM
For outstanding public service in managing the Freedom of Information function for Defence.
Mr Corcoran is the Assistant Secretary, Freedom of Information and Information Management within the Department of Defence, achieving outstanding results and providing excellent service in the use of Australian Government information and promoting greater openness and transparency.
Through Mr Corcoran's management of the Freedom of Information (FOI) function Defence is now 100 per cent FOI compliant
Simon COTTERELL PSM
Health and Ageing
For outstanding public service in developing and implementing tobacco reforms and in leading programs which resulted in Australia’s reduction in smoking rates.
Mr Cotterell has worked tirelessly to put together the world first Tobacco Plain Packaging legislation with updated graphic health warnings, a sophisticated regulatory regime and new community-based smoking cessation programs focused on reducing smoking and chronic disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
His advice and leadership are regularly sought internationally and he has fostered strong co-operative relationships overseas while representing the Australian Government’s interests.
Ian Rodney MANNIX PSM
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
For outstanding public service in establishing and managing the delivery of ABC’s emergency broadcasting services.
Mr Mannix is ABC’s Emergency Broadcasting and Community Development Manager and has demonstrated outstanding commitment, leadership and innovation in delivering emergency broadcasting services Australia-wide.
His determination and vision has placed ABC Local Radio on the front-foot to respond quickly in a time of crisis.
Mark William PITT PSM
For outstanding public service in leadership of, and contribution to, the development of Australia’s countermeasures development and validation capability.
Mr Pitt is the Head of Electro Optic Countermeasures Group which has contributed to the development of Australia’s Countermeasures Development and Validation capability that protects aircraft against attack by enemy missiles.
It has directly led to the saving of Australian lives and those of coalition allies. In Afghanistan over the past 10 years
Kate POPE PSM
Immigration and Citizenship
For outstanding public service in delivering the Government’s commitments in relation to expanding community detention arrangements for asylum seekers.
Ms Pope has worked in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) for 25 years making major contributions to policy development in the areas of citizenship, settlement, multicultural affairs and children’s policy as well as service delivery in Australia and overseas.
She has achieved success through her leadership, strategic direction, determination, negotiating and operational skills and strong commitment to implementing the policy.
Linda Patricia RICHARDSON PSM
Australian Government Solicitor
For outstanding public service in undertaking significant commercial law work and as leader of AGS Commercial.
Ms Richardson has, provided high quality commercial legal services to the Commonwealth for more than 20 years.
She is a legal expert on Defence acquisition projects and has advised on high profile Defence projects to acquire major capital equipment.
She has recently been involved in negotiations in relation to NBN Co.
Rocío María TRÁPAGA-SAUL PSM
Immigration and Citizenship
For outstanding public service in the operational delivery of compliance and case resolution services for all relevant Department of Immigration and Citizenship clients in the east and north of the country.
Ms Trápaga-Saul manages case resolution services for many clients of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), both in the community and in detention.
She has been instrumental in building up a case management approach to immigration status resolution and in managing many DIAC operational roles which are often complex and difficult.
Paul Gerard WHITE PSM
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
For outstanding public service through contributing to social policy reform, particularly on education and school funding policy development.
Mr White has played a crucial role in the development and delivery of high-profile public sector reforms for almost 30 years.
Most recently he led the research and analysis for the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling as Director of Research for the Review of Funding for Schooling Secretariat.
AUSTRALIAN POLICE MEDAL (APM)
Federal Agent Christopher Noel DOUGLAS APM
Federal Agent Douglas is one of the Australian Federal Police’s leading educators in economic crime investigations.
Over the past few years he has played a leading role in reinforcing the AFP's reputation with regional law enforcement partners by delivering training courses throughout South East Asia.
Detective Superintendent Noel Donald SCOBELL APM
Detective Superintendent Scobell has extensive experience in complex investigations, including the infamous 'Bottom of the Harbour' tax evasion schemes of the 1980s.
He has served overseas in Washington and the Solomon Islands and the National Crime Authority in Sydney.
Assistant Commissioner Julian James SLATER APM OAM
Assistant Commissioner Slater has worked extensively in forensic operations as well as general duties policing, human resource management, business analysis and dignitary protection.
He has been involved in forensic duties following the Bali bombings, the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta and the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2005.
12 June, 2012
Union fears over
The Community and Public Sector Union has warned of operational shortcomings in the Custom and Border Protection Service following job cuts in a number of District Offices.
Customs job cuts
The warning comes after a decision to cut 37 out of 153 positions from Customs Offices including Port Hedland, Cairns, Broome and Dampier was made public.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said it was a bad decision and the union opposed it.
“It’s a slap in the face for the hard-working men and women in the Customs workforce who have some of the most dangerous and challenging jobs in the Public Service,” Ms Flood said.
“Despite management assurances that the cuts will be managed by targeting back office functions and areas with less high risk activity, staff are deeply concerned that operational capacity will be reduced.
“These ports may be low risk but that doesn’t mean they’re no risk.”
She said the Thursday Island office was losing six of its 14 positions and the Dampier team of 24 was being reduced to 18.
“How can that not affect operational capacity?” she asked.
“These officers perform crucial work keeping Australia’s ports secure.
“Their duties include checking cargo on the docks, performing surveillance and searching for illegal items such as guns and drugs.”
Ms Flood said the job losses confirmed it was not possible to slash billions of dollars from the public sector without reducing essential services and jobs.
She also warned that public sector Budget cuts were hitting regional areas hard pointing out that two thirds of Commonwealth Public Servants were located outside Canberra.
“It is vitally important that every effort is made to maintain public sector employment in regional areas where good jobs are hard to find,” she said.
“The public sector is not an inexhaustible source of savings for Governments.
“In many departments there is little or no fat left to cut, all that is left are the staff that run vital programs.”
12 June, 2012
A new collaboration to help consumers with food allergies make safer food choices is being led by Food Standards Australia New Zealand with the support of government, consumer and industry representatives.
not to be sneezed at
The initiative will help improve how food allergen risks are managed.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King said the Allergen Collaboration was contributing to a shared approach among sectors with an interest in allergen management.
“The collaboration was established by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) after a review of the regulatory management of allergens,” Ms King said.
“The review aimed to determine whether existing regulation could be improved to assist food choices for allergic consumers without compromising their safety.
“The collaboration will address some of the recommendations of the review.”
She said one of the main tasks of the collaboration to date was the role it played in developing consistent and accurate key messages for various sectors, with a view to promoting them among stakeholders.
“There is no cure for food allergy; avoidance of the allergen is critical,” Ms King said.
“Every sector represented in this collaboration has a vital role to play in food allergy management.
“For example the catering and manufacturing sector is responsible for helping to identify allergens in foods for allergic consumers; and groups such as Anaphylaxis Australia and Allergy New Zealand help to educate and inform consumers.”
Ms King said all the groups were working together to develop consistent and accurate messages, which in turn would help to keep consumers with food allergy safe.
12 June, 2012
A new Public Interest Disclosure Bill has been introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly to provide greater protection to ACT Public Service whistleblowers.
pucker-up in ACT
Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher said the new Bill would replace the excising Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 and adopted a best practice framework for managing public interest disclosures (PIDs).
Ms Gallagher said the Bill provided more avenues for disclosures to be made; set out clear oversight responsibilities; and allowed whistleblowers to seek compensation if they suffered as a result of bringing wrongdoing to light.
“The Bill respects the strength of character required by people to make PIDs,” ms Gallagher said.
“(It) acknowledges the resources that should be devoted to investigating and responding to PIDs, and grants all those associated with the investigation the procedural fairness they deserve.
“An exposure draft of the Bill was released late in 2011 for public comment, with all submissions received indicating support for improving the Territory’s public interest disclosure laws.
“The Bill has certainly been enhanced by the comments received during the public consultation stage, particularly those provided by Professor A. J. Brown from the Whistling While You Work project team.”
Ms Gallagher said the new legislation drew heavily on the findings of the Whistling While They Work project, which had been called ‘the most comprehensive study of whistle blowing ever conducted’.
“The principles that underpin the new framework include the encouragement of genuine public interest disclosures; protection from reprisal for individuals who make a genuine disclosure; the need to keep individuals informed during any subsequent investigations; and for findings to be made public where possible,” she said.
12 June, 2012
Legal agencies put
A review of the small and medium agencies in the Attorney-General’s portfolio could see their corporate services combined and centralised as well as a range of administrative efficiencies introduced into Courts, legal drafting services, mediation and other activities.
case for reforms
Conducted by the Department of Finance and Deregulation, the Report of the Strategic Review of Small and Medium Agencies in the Attorney-General’s portfolio was led by the former Secretary of AGs, Stephen Skehill.
Releasing the report, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said action was already being taken to implement its recommendations in several areas, including in the courts, native title and legislative drafting.
“Taxpayers reasonably expect the Australian Government to use their money wisely,” Ms Roxon said, and this report is part of our ongoing efforts to improve efficiency in the public sector.
“The Government has agreed to a range of recommendations to optimise the efficiency and effectiveness of federal courts’ administration.
“We want to encourage administrative collaboration between the courts to ensure that court resources are directed where they should be, delivering justice for everyday Australians.”
She said Mr Skehill’s recommendation to strengthen and streamline the native title system by transferring mediation functions on native title claims from the National Native Title Tribunal to the Federal Court of Australia would also be implemented but a recommendation for the establishment of an Administrative Review Tribunal would not be.
However she welcomed the recommendation that the major Commonwealth merits review tribunals formally cooperate to identify further efficiencies between them.
“The functions of the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing will be transferred to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel,” Ms Roxon said.
“In response to the report, the Attorney-General’s Department will also form a taskforce to analyse the cost of the portfolio agencies’ corporate services, such as recruitment and payroll.
“The Taskforce will price a package of corporate services to the agencies that could be provided by the Attorney-General’s Department or another large agency.”
12 June, 2012
Energy agency walks
The Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) program has been recognised as a ‘leading-edge’ energy management program by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
off with recognition
The EEO program is part of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) and features alongside industrial energy management programs in Denmark, Sweden and Ireland in the IEA’s Energy Management Programs for Industry: Gaining through saving report.
The report cites RET’s EEO as ‘a model for improving energy efficiency outcomes and addressing information failures’ while also noting that opportunities to improve energy efficiency are still under-exploited in the industrial sector, which accounts for one third of global energy demand and more than 40 per cent in countries such as Australia and developing economies like China.
Executive Director of IEA, Maria van der Hoeven said the EEO Program was a successful example of how government could work with industry to reduce energy use.
“The IEA considers energy efficiency as the most cost effective option in the short to medium term to reduce global emissions,” Ms van der Hoeven said.
“Australia’s EEO Program provides a leading-edge example of how best to reduce energy use and improve energy management systems.”
She said the IEA report found EEO’s assessment framework, support mechanisms for participants and public reporting requirements had been successful in reducing energy use, improving energy management systems and changing the way in which energy efficiency was viewed within participating organisations.
“The program’s industry support strategies were also highlighted as key elements in the program’s success,” she said.
“Industry Support Officers, annual workshops and development of case studies and guidance material has ensured companies have a clear understanding of program requirements with best practice approaches and learnings shared among participating companies,” Ms van der Hoeven said.
12 June, 2012
Plain flying for new
A new approach to air traffic management has produced encouraging results with an average reduction of five minutes in flight time for airline services between Melbourne and Sydney.
air traffic scheme
According to Airservices Australia, the reduction equates to roughly 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, or taking 10,000 cars off the road.
Executive General Manger of Air Traffic Control at Airservices, Jason Harfield said Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) allowed Airservices, airlines and airports to share data to maximise the use of available airspace and airport capacity, reduce fuel burn and environmental emissions, and enhance safety.
Mr Harfield said the new approach had seen aircraft held on the ground at a departure airport rather than in the air en route at times when the capacity of the destination airport was exceeded by demand for landing slots.
He said software developed by US-based Metron Aviation was behind the new approach and while Sydney and Perth airport operations had been the first to join the program in mid-March, Brisbane and Melbourne airports would be added to the program soon.
“Metron Traffic Flow gives our National Operations Centre in Canberra and industry, an advanced tool for strategic planning, as well as pre-tactical and tactical management of the air traffic flow within the available airspace and runway capacity,” Mr Harfield said.
“Metron Traffic Flow provides airlines with CDM features that enable them to manage their fleets to ensure optimum use of available capacity within and across multiple airports to achieve their business goals and improve operational efficiency.
“The project is a key enabler for Airservices as it works towards its vision of ‘connecting the Australian aviation industry to deliver world class industry performance’ for airlines, airports and the travelling public.”
President and Chief Executive of Metron Aviation, David Ellison said Airservices was a world leader in harmonising and improving the performance of air traffic management systems.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to achieve this successful operational milestone and support the Airservices gate-to-gate CDM vision,” Mr Ellison said.
12 June, 2012
Photographs shine in
A collection of glass-plate photographs portraying Australia’s first contacts with the culture of Papua has been listed on the UNESCO Asia/Pacific Memory of the World Register.
The photographs are the fifth set of records from the National Archives of Australia’s collection to be identified by UNESCO as unique, irreplaceable and influential.
Director-General of the Archives, David Fricker said other items on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register included Australia’s constitutional documents, the Griffin design drawings for Canberra, records of displaced Europeans who migrated to Australia and records of the High Court.
“We’re very proud that yet another collection of items from the National Archives of Australia has been included on the Memory of the World Register,” Mr Fricker said.
“The FE Williams collection of photographs, taken by Australian government anthropologist Francis Edgar Williams, was chosen for its outstanding historical value as a record of Australia’s relationship with Papua in the 1920s and 1930s.
“It is one of the most extensive records of the inhabitants of Australia’s former colony, capturing some of the first interactions between Papuan culture and the western world.”
He said the photographs recorded the first contacts with a civilisation hardly known to the west and were recognised for their beauty and significance.
“Williams had strong respect for the role of traditional customary life in ensuring the well-being of the Papuan people,” Mr Fricker said.
“Historically, these photographs give unrivalled insight into an important time in the relationship between Australia and Papua.”
He said the collection of almost 2,000 glass plate photographs and negatives was taken during Mr Williams’ time as government anthropologist in the Australian Territory of Papua from 1922 until his death in 1943.
“Most are held by the National Archives of Australia and the National Archives of Papua New Guinea, with some in the South Australian Museum - all of whom are jointly awarded the place on the Register,” the Director-General said.
12 June, 2012
Solar energy program
An audit of a program for installing solar energy systems in schools has found that while there were some shortcomings in design and data collection, the scheme was of assistance to the schools.
runs hot and cold
In his report Management of the National Solar Schools Program, Auditor General, Ian McPhee found the scheme led to the schools generating their own electricity and aided in the growth of the solar energy industry.
Mr McPhee said the National Solar Schools Program (NSSP) offered primary and secondary schools the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $50,000 to install solar and other renewable power systems, solar hot water systems, rainwater tanks and a range of energy efficiency measures.
“The May 2011 Budget announced a number of changes to the program, including that the NSSP would finish two years earlier than originally planned,” Mr McPhee said.
“The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the design and management of the NSSP, including demonstrated progress towards achieving the program’s objectives.”
He said overall, while early indications showed the NSSP had assisted schools to improve their energy efficiency and funding rounds were well designed and effectively implemented, the energy abatement achieved had come at a considerable cost.
“Certain aspects of the design and implementation of the NSSP could have been improved,” he said.
“While guidelines applying to the competitive application rounds have been developed, updated and published in a timely manner, there were some shortcomings in their content.
Mr McPhee said the more significant issue identified by the audit related to the interrelationship between the scoring of individual applications and the framework in which decisions were then made about which applications would receive funding.
He made two recommendations.
“The first relates to ensuring the program guidelines cover all the important aspects of the application assessment process,” he said.
“The second relates to the establishment of clear links between the assessment of individual applications against the published criteria.”
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Michael Shiel, Amanda Ronald, Ryan Wilson, Steven Favell and Brian Boyd.
12 June, 2012
Dog handlers get
Three new detector dog handlers have joined Customs and Border Protection after successfully completing an intensive three month training course.
new leash on life
The new recruits are the first handlers to pass the training course in the agency’s new state-of-the art National Detector Dog Program Facility in Melbourne, which was officially launched in March of this year.
Director of the Detector Dog Program, Glenn Scutts said that from the beginning of their training, handlers were paired with a trainee detector dog (purpose bred Labradors) which was then gradually taught to detect specific narcotic odours.
Mr Scutts said that as the course progressed the detector dogs were introduced to more challenging and realistic operational scenarios.
“Our handlers are taught not only how to deploy their dog, but most importantly we teach them how to provide ongoing training to maintain the dog’s proficiency,” Mr Scutts said.
“In this new world class facility, we are now able to breed and train more dogs and train more handlers as well as conduct targeted training courses in environments that closely mimic our operational environments.”
He said two of the graduates would remain based in Victoria and one would be based in Western Australia.
“These handlers have graduated from a rigorous training program with the skills necessary to successfully help find threats and risks at our airports, ports and mail centres,” he said.
“Since the first Customs and Border Protection Detector Dog Training Centre was opened in 1984, 280 handlers have been trained,” Mr Scutts said.
12 June, 2012
A survey of health professionals conducted by the Department of Human Services (DHS) has found they consider the actions of DHS compliance officers to be constructive and professional.
in health survey
The surveys were completed by health workers who had their Medicare claiming audited. The results of the surveys revealed 93 per cent felt they had been treated in a professional manner.
General Manager of DHS, Hank Jongen said confidence in the Department’s conduct of audit programs had steadily increased since the surveys first began in 2010.
Mr Jongen said the results showed the Department’s compliance programs were being conducted in a way that respected the privacy of health professionals and provided them the opportunity to respond to any concerns raised.
“This survey is a great example of the Department’s commitment to deliver quality services and ensures health professionals can actively contribute and participate in the process,” Mr Jongen said.
“Feedback has already been taken on board on how we can make outcomes of compliance audit processes clearer.”
He said one of DHS’s most visible compliance programs was the Practitioner Review Program, which aimed to provide advice to practitioners whose claiming patterns for services under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) or their prescribing of medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme differed from that of the majority of their peers.
“A key component of the review process is an interview with the practitioner by a departmental medical adviser to discuss the Department’s concerns,” he said.
“A practitioner may also be asked to provide a written submission as the review progresses.
“The Practitioner Review Program isn’t about catching doctors out – it’s about educating practitioners and keeping them on the right track with their Medicare billing,” Mr Jongen said.
12 June, 2012
New credit paper
A new consultation paper about credit advertising which aims to promote good practice throughout the industry has been released by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
Commissioner for ASIC, Peter Kell said Consultation Paper 178 Advertising credit products and credit services: Additional good practice guidance (CP 178) reflected ASIC’s strong focus on ensuring advertising did not mislead financial consumers and investors because it would help industry comply with its legal obligations when advertising credit products and services.
“ASIC recognises the important role that advertising can play in helping investors make financial decisions and a focus on ads is part of ASIC’s drive to promote confident and informed consumers,” Mr Kell said.
“Ads should give balanced information to ensure the overall effect creates realistic expectations about a credit product or service.”
He said promoters of credit products and services along with the publishers of such advertising needed to remember that ASIC would be regularly reviewing ads.
He said the Commission had recently taken action against some banks for misleading advertising about credit card limit increases and home loan discounts.
“ASIC wants to help industry understand their obligations,” Mr Kell said.
“However, we will also take action against financial institutions who engage in misleading marketing.
“We have a greater range of penalties that we can seek in such cases compared to the past.”
He said banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers and other players in the credit industry had clear legal responsibilities when it came to advertising which they needed to take seriously.
“We hope this consultation process will help to build clear expectations among industry and better outcomes for consumers,” he said.
The consultation paper can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 6 August.
12 June, 2012
App users warned to
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has reminded users of mobile computer applications to be aware of providers offering unregistered advice and false guarantees of a migration outcome.
A spokesperson for DIAC said Tablet PC and smartphone apps were another avenue scammers and unscrupulous operators had explored to take advantage of vulnerable people, in a similar manner to unsolicited phone calls and hoax emails.
“These applications should be ignored and deleted,” the spokesperson said.
They said only registered migration agents were qualified under Australian law to provide advice regarding migration or visa applications.
“We are aware of a number of mobile applications that offer guides to the unwary about applying for a visa where the applicant might not have sufficient evidence; or tips about how to speed up visa applications,” the spokesperson said.
“Not only would the information provided be potentially false or misleading, but may also jeopardise a genuine application.”
The spokesperson said it was important to remember that the risks were high for those who sought to defraud the system.
“The unlawful provision of immigration assistance by unregistered people can adversely affect the lives of our clients and challenges the very integrity of Australia’s migration and visa programs.
“The Department encourages members of the public to report unregistered people offering migration advice to DIAC’s dob-in line (1800 009 623) or through the website (www.immi.gov.au/contacts/forms/services/services-form.htm) so appropriate action can be taken to protect consumers.
“In addition, information on registered migration agents, including contact details, can be found online at www.mara.gov.au or by telephone: 1300 226 272.”
8 June, 2012
Annual awards for
The Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) were the big winners in the 2010-11 Annual Report Awards presented by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) in Canberra this week.
The Bureau took out the gold award for its hard copy report and the ATO the gold for online.
Also honoured with gold awards were the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Comcare for their reports in the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies division for agencies governed under the CAC Act.
According to the IPAA, the Awards aimed to encourage excellence and good governance in public administration and put annual reports through a rigorous assessment process that review the content, the presentation, the tone and the overall effectiveness of the document.
The Bureau of Meteorology received the gold award for its “highly accessible, well presented and interesting” report and the ATO top honours were for its online annual report judged “a high quality online version of a high quality report”.
CSIRO received its award for the “crisp, cohesive narrative” style of its report and Comcare for the “interesting display and accessibility features” of its online report.
Acting President of the IPAA’s ACT Division, Carmel McGregor said annual reports were a key component of transparency and accountability to the Parliament and the public but they could also be used as a marketing tool to showcase agencies.
“We had a strong field this year with entries form a diverse range of departments and agencies,” Ms McGregor said.
“Our assessors and judges were impressed with the quality of the reports submitted for assessment.
“A noteworthy feature this year was an increase in reports submitted by Commonwealth Authorities and Companies.”
Other agencies honoured for their Annual Reports were the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and AusAID who took silver and bronze in the FMA hard copy category and Indigenous Business Australia (silver) and the Australian Law Reform Commission and Indigenous Land Corporation who tied for bronze in the CAC category.
Online reports to be recognised included those from the Australian Electoral Commission and Department of the Senate in the FMA section and the Grains Research & Development Corporation and Australian Institute of Health & Welfare in CAC
A full list of winners and highly commended reports can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 June, 2012
The Australian Capital Territory Government has accepted the challenge of reforming its taxation system with Treasurer Andrew Barr announcing a range of changes in his first Territory Budget handed down this week.
to target tax
According to Mr Barr, the need for tax reform has been accepted for some time and the five-year plan for reform he announced would make them fairer, simpler and more efficient.
“Tax bases around Australia – including in the ACT – are unsustainable,” Mr Barr said.
“The cost of some essential services, notably health care, is rising faster than the rate of economic growth and the GST based is eroding.
“Our taxes are inequitable, volatile and inefficient.”
He said the reforms to apply in the ACT would make taxes fairer because they reduced payments for people on low incomes, simpler because he was removing some taxes and reforming others and more efficient because they reduced distortions on household spending and business activity.
“This plan is revenue neutral,” Mr Barr said.
“The reforms are not about raising the overall amount of tax the Government receives, many taxes will reduce, some will rise and several will be abolished.”
As part of the tax reform process, Mr Barr announced the abolition of all taxes on insurance premiums over the next five years; a longer-term plan to abolish stamp duty on property conveyancing; cuts to land tax paid by landlords renting low and medium priced properties; and reductions in payroll taxes to assist businesses.
“The guiding principle has been that households who can least afford it should pay less and those who can most afford it should pay more,” Mr Barr said.
In broader Budget measures, the ACT Government is to cut 180 Public Service jobs while running up a $318 million deficit and adding almost $1,000 a year in Government fees and charges to be paid by the average ACT household next year.
8 June, 2012
Reforms to spearhead
A package of reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 have been announced, 20 years after the historic Mabo decision was passed down.
native title changes
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the reforms aimed to ensure that a sustainable and fair native title system was maintained to create economic and social opportunities for Indigenous Australians.
Ms Roxon said the changes would improve the flexibility and scope of Indigenous Land Use Agreements; create clear requirements for good faith in negotiations; and allow parties to form agreements about historical extinguishment of native title in parks and reserves.
“Importantly, we will clarify that income tax and capital gains tax will not apply to payments from a native title agreement,” Ms Roxon said.
“I want to emphasise today that the Government will consult extensively on the terms of legislative change.”
Meanwhile, the Minister for Families, Communities and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin announced the terms of reference for a review of native title organisations, saying they would ensure the system was delivering for Indigenous people and communities.
“Today, the native title system is made up not only of people claiming native title under the Native Title Act, but a growing number of already determined native title holders,” Ms Macklin said.
“As the native title system has matured, the role of native title organisations has changed.
“Now is an appropriate time to review how they can best work for people in the future.”
She said the review would not only examine Native Title Representative Bodies and Native Title Service Providers, but it would also consider the role and impact of other service providers to native title groups.
8 June, 2012
Export website breaks
Austrade has launched a new online service to help small and medium-sized businesses plan to start exporting.
The International Readiness Indicator helps firms assess their capacity to tackle global markets and forms a key component of Austrade’s plan to enhance its online services.
Executive Director of Australian Operations at Austrade, Tim Beresford said the Indicator was designed to help people better understand the demands exporting could place on their business.
“Austrade’s aim is to help firms realise their export potential, and the Indicator is designed for people who are new to export,” Mr Beresford said.
“The Indicator will give them a sense of how they are tracking at the moment, and what they can do to improve their approach.”
He said that after registering to use the free service, users would be prompted to complete a five-minute survey consisting of 12 yes-or-no questions.
He said based on their responses, the Indicator would generate a report card on their readiness to export.
“Businesses assessed as ready will be invited to register online for Austrade services, including those provided by its extensive overseas network,” Mr Beresford said.
“Those assessed as not being ready will be offered advice and referrals to other services which can help them make the necessary preparations.”
He said the report card included detailed responses for each of the questions to which the user had answered “no”, including links to information elsewhere on the Austrade website and contacts for other service providers.
“The Readiness Indicator is not intended to replace personal contact with our Trade Advisers, who can still be reached on the Austrade Direct hotline, 13 28 78,” Mr Beresford said.
“It is just another convenient way for Austrade to provide businesses with the services they need quickly and conveniently.”
The International Readiness Indicator can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 June, 2012
An audit of the administration of the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) has found weaknesses in program governance that have had an adverse impact on its overall effectiveness.
delivers a spray
In his report, Administration of the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program in New South Wales, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the $650 million PIIO program was developed by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) in response to predicted water scarcity in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“This initiative contains a suite of urban and rural policies and programs, including funding for water purchasing, irrigation modernisation, desalination, recycling and storm water capture,” Mr McPhee said.
“PIIOP is managed within a section in DSEWPaC’s Water Group, with additional oversight provided by the department’s Water Group Outcome Board.”
He said the audit was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the program and found that as one of its first water infrastructure programs, PIIOP had presented implementation challenges for DSEWPaC.
“Shortcomings were evident in DSEWPaC’s design of the program, the assessment of applications and the development of measures to inform an assessment of whether the program is achieving its objectives,” he said.
“DSEWPaC did not have in place an endorsed project plan or associated risk management plan in the first two years of PIIOP.
“Early consideration should have been given to the potential taxation treatment of the large-scale grants.”
Mr McPhee said although the program had originally been developed to provide a single round of funding, resources had not been exhausted in the initial round so a second one been established.
“The Department’s assessment of PIIOP applications in both rounds proved challenging,” he said.
“This was primarily because the applications did not contain sufficient detail to facilitate a thorough assessment.
“A major contributing factor to this situation was the lack of sufficient guidance in the program guidelines.”
He said in terms of whether PIIOP was meeting its objective, DSEWPaC was yet to develop key performance indicators or collect the data necessary to measure and report on PIIOP’s performance.
The audit team was Grant Caine, Melanie Hall, Andrew Byrnes and Mark Simpson and the Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 June, 2012
Australia Post puts
Australia Post and Telstra are to collaborate to develop an Australia Post Digital MailBox product.
stamp on project
Acting like a digital vault for documents, the MailBox app is to feature ‘bank-level security’ to ensure customers wanting to pay bills, store files (i.e. passports or tax records) and receive emails can do so safely.
According to the two organisations, the service would help users find documents and set reminders for bill payments, while the agreement between the two entities would see Australia Post offer Telstra customers access to the company’s communication documents such as account statements and bills in the MailBox.
Chief Executive of Australia Post, Ahmed Fahour said the development of the product aimed to increase Australia Post’s market share.
“If you go back a generation, Australia Post had a true monopoly on written communication,” Mr Fahour said.
“Today, we have less than 1 per cent market share.
“We know that we need to offer a digital communication channel, simply because that is how citizens increasingly prefer to communicate.”
He said it was important not to confuse the new product as an email service; and it was more like a digital mail service that acted as a personal assistant.
He said it would mean people wouldn’t need to remember 30 passwords to see and pay bills.
“What it is, essentially, is a platform like Facebook, as an example, or some kind of site that you go into,” Mr Fahour said.
“You will have a user name and a password which you type in (and) your dashboard will come up.
“This is completely and totally different to email.”
8 June, 2012
Tourism campaign is
The next stage of the global tourism campaign, There’s nothing like Australia, has been officially launched by Tourism Australia in Shanghai, China.
showboat to China
First launched in 2010, the campaign has appeared in 25 countries including Australia and translated into 17 languages.
Executive General Manager of Consumer Marketing at Tourism Australia, Nick Baker said the latest phase of the campaign had a strong focus on using digital channels, social networking and advocacy to showcase Australia to the world.
“When There’s nothing like Australia launched in 2010 it was created to be a longstanding, flexible campaign that would evolve to stay relevant to global consumers in today’s highly competitive global tourism environment,” Mr Baker said.
“The first phase established the line “There’s nothing like Australia” and created the platform to firmly put the campaign into the markets.
“The job now is to prove that line, and show our domestic and international audiences what really differentiates us from the rest of the world.”
He said as part of its commitment to utilising new technology to tell Australia’s story, Tourism Australia had created an interactive tablet application which was unique in both concept and content.
“With digital, we are able to quickly go from inspiration to information, and the new tablet and web hub do that, taking the story a little further, a little deeper in the online medium where travel decisions today are overwhelmingly made, and travel stories most told,” Mr Baker said.
“We really want people to feel why there is nothing like Australia, so our approach was to harness the drama of our unique cities and landscape.
“A delicate balance has been struck between these inspiring places and the people within it, so that neither is more dominant than the other.”
More information on the campaign can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 June, 2012
Tropical data hub
A new Tropical Data Hub has been launched at James Cook University in Townsville to provide data on critical issues confronting the Australian tropics.
Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans said the hub formed part of $72.5 million worth of new funding for the Australian National Data Service.
Senator Evans said it would allow Australian researchers to access comprehensive information collections to inform their work on a range of issues.
“This hub will help our researchers to better access, store and exchange complex data, and tackle global issues like environmental sustainability,” Senator Evans said.
“The Townsville region faces some of the most challenging issues of our time, including environmental change and rapid population growth.
“Building up our information store on coral bleaching and global warming could help us protect the Great Barrier Reef, a natural treasure which generates about $5 billion each year in tourism income to boost Australia’s economy.”
He said research data available at the hub would assist in predicting the flow of oil spills off the coast of Australia and better inform salvage and clean-up work.
“The data hub is a great example of how national collaborative research infrastructure can help solve some of the complex challenges faced today for the benefit of industry, the community and individuals,” he said.
“James Cook University is working with the Australian National Data Service, the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation and other project partners on the initiative.”
Senator Evans said the Commonwealth had committed more than $5 billion to transforming Australia’s tertiary education, research and training infrastructure since 2007.
8 June, 2012
And in other news...
Union dues up
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has announced new union fees from 1 July.
The fees increase by 3.1 per cent on that date, an amount equal to the Consumer Price Index for the 2011 calendar year.
Further details of the fees payable can be accessed at PS News link.
TV switched off
The Digital Switchover from analog to digital-only TV has come into effect across the ACT and areas of Southern and Central NSW.
Analog signals have been switched off in the areas, bringing the number of households officially switched over to 1.6 million.
Support is still available for people having reception issues from this PS News link or by calling 1800 20 10 13.
Film show at archive
The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) is exhibiting original photographs from The Shadowcatchers, as part of a record of Australian film.
The exhibition, The Shadowcatchers: a history of cinematography in Australia by Martha Ansara opened on 31 May in Sydney and focuses on the works of Australian cinematographers from 1901 to the present day.
Detention centre renewed
The immigration detention centre at Scherger RAAF base in Far North Queensland is to remain in use for another two years.
The Department of Defence has confirmed the site would not be required for operational purposes during that period.
Reef protection announced
New funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the coral eating crown-of-thorns starfish has been announced.
The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators will be engaged to remove the starfish under a new $1.43 million project, which will implemented in close cooperation with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
Previously this week... Wages up for lowest paid
The National Minimum Wage is to be increased following a decision by Fair Work Australia’s specialist Minimum Wage Panel.
The decision by the independent panel lifts the National Minimum Wage by $17.10 per week, a 2.9 per cent rise since the last increase in 2011.
Information about the new pay rates for each modern award will be posted on this PS News link or can be obtained by calling the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.
NBN rolls out new plan
NBN Co has delivered its updated corporate plan for rolling out the National Broadband Network.
The new plan updates the projections published in NBN Co’s inaugural corporate plan and will be subject to detailed government consideration before being publicly released.
Students getting better
The lowest performing schools and students are improving according to a new report by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council.
The results of the final report on COAG’s $540 million five-year Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership show governments have met or made good progress on 104 of the 126 targets under the agreement.
The National Partnership Agreement on Improving Teacher Quality: Performance report for 2011 can be accessed at this PS News link.
Australia’s oldest public building is to be restored to permanently house the Whitlam Institute and Margaret Whitlam art galleries.
A $7 million grant has been provided to restore the historic Female Orphan School building at the University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta campus.
The Whitlam Institute was established by the University of Western Sydney in 2000.
Quake shakes mail timetable
Mail to and from regions in northern Italy may experience extended delivery delays due to an earthquake in Emilia Romagna.
Poste Italiane has advised Australia Post that areas with zip codes from 41034 to 41038 have been heavily impacted.
School in UN finals
The Gold Creek Environment Centre has been named as a finalist in this year’s United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Awards.
The Centre, in Canberra, was built as part of the Building the Education Revolution program.
The World Environment Day Awards are held as part of the United Nations’ World Environment Day (5 June) which this year celebrates the International Year for Sustainable Energy.
The winner will be announced on Friday (8 June).
Falls going up
The number of older Australians hospitalised after a fall is rising, according to a new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Hospitalisations due to falls in older people, Australia 2008-09, shows that there were 78,600 hospitalised injury cases due to falls in people aged 65 and over in 2008-09; 4,000 more than in 2007–08.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 June, 2012
Price not right in
Retired staff from the Australian Public Service have taken issue with a costing report on the PSS and CSS superannuation schemes reported in PS News last week.
Federal President of the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association, (SCOA) John Coleman has questioned the assumptions made in the consultants’ report that found the Government’s estimated unfunded liability for superannuation pensions had increased considerably due to a number of factors.
“Most of (the assumptions) seem reasonable at first glance,” Mr Coleman said.
“One exception is that there doesn’t seem to be any recognition by the actuaries that a good number of PSS retirees, mostly younger than their CSS counterparts, will have housing mortgages to discharge on retirement and so they will need to use their lump sum to do so, thereby reducing the amount of indexed pension that they would otherwise receive.”
He described as a “mystery” the actuaries’ use of an estimated earnings rate of 6 per cent for the Future Fund which has been set up to meet the Government’s unfunded liabilities when the Government itself set the expected earnings rate at 7.2 per cent.
“Independent expert actuarial advice SCOA has received says that use of the lower 6% assumed earnings rate exaggerates the unfunded liability estimate by approximately 20%,” Mr Coleman said.
“This cost exaggeration of course suits the Government of the day because it uses unfunded superannuation liability estimates as one of its arguments to deny Commonwealth superannuants fair pension indexation.”
He said instead of a fair scheme, APS retirees suffered under an unfair indexation methodology based on the CPI that did not maintain the purchasing power of pensions.
He said it was because the system was unfair that the Government rejected it in favour of wages- based indexing for the Age Pension and most other Government pensions in 1998.
“What is seldom mentioned whenever these rather large estimates are reported is that they are 45 year cumulative estimates of the superannuation payments the Government is expected to make over that 45 year period,” Mr Coleman said.
“So of course they will be very large numbers.
“If similar unfunded liability estimates were produced for items like the Age Pension, Medicare etc, they would dwarf the unfunded liability estimates for Commonwealth superannuation.”
He called for the SCOA claims to be considered reasonably compared to others.
“Let’s get things in perspective,” he said.
5 June, 2012
The name of the Federal Magistrates Court and title of Federal Magistrates is to change to better reflect their role in the judicial system.
to get new name
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon confirmed the move, saying she would consult with the Court as to what the change should be before bringing forward legislation in the Spring sittings of the Parliament.
“Since the Federal Magistrates Court (FMC) was first established in 2000, the number and complexity of cases coming before it have increased,” Ms Roxon said.
“The Court’s jurisdiction has expanded to include matters as diverse as family law, migration and consumer protection law.”
She said in 2010-11 alone, the Court finalised over 74,000 cases inside six months, with another 9,200 finalised within 12 months.
“The Court is also the only federal court with a program of regular regional circuits, bringing judicial and dispute resolution services to 33 rural and regional communities last year,” she said.
“I also consider that the title of ‘Magistrate’ no longer adequately reflects the expanded role and responsibilities of an FMC judicial officer working in a Chapter III Federal Court.”
Ms Roxon said the proposed changes would merge with the court reform agenda to provide greater certainty around the role of each of the Federal Curts and establish a new court, the Military Court of Australia.
“Plans to change the name of the Federal Magistrates Court and the title of Federal Magistrates form part of the Government’s wider court reform package aimed at improved judicial transparency, accessibility, and timely resolution of disputes,” she said.
“Clarifying the Court’s identity with a new name will clarify for the community what the court does and how it can help resolve disputes.
“Likewise, changing the title of Federal Magistrates will recognise their status as Federal judicial officers and avoid confusion with State and Territory Magistrates.”
5 June, 2012
Do not Call register
The Do Not Call Register marked its fifth anniversary last week (31 May).
rings up five years
The Register is a free service where telephone subscribers list their private numbers (mobiles, landlines, faxes and VoIP) to opt out of receiving the majority of unsolicited telemarketing calls or marketing faxes.
Exemptions allow some public interest organisations (such as charities, political parties and educational institutions) to still contact the numbers on the register.
Numbers may also be contacted where there is consent from the consumer.
Chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Chris Chapman said the register contained more than 7.5 million numbers, including half of Australia’s fixed line home numbers and over three million mobile numbers.
“Many Australians are opting out of receiving unsolicited telemarketing and fax marketing,” Mr Chapman said.
“7.6 million registrations since 2007 is a ringing endorsement of the effectiveness of the Register.”
He said ACMA had also implemented the recent decision by the Government to extend the registration period to six years.
“In 2011, more than 1.6 million new numbers were registered, a 15 per cent increase on the numbers registered in 2010,” he said.
“The new online service that allows government bodies to register high volumes of numbers at a time has also proved successful, with over 147,000 numbers registered to date.”
Mr Chapman said according to ACMA research in 2011, 88 per cent of people on the register reported a significant reduction in unsolicited telemarketing calls.
“People on the register who are still getting calls can make a complaint,” he said.
More information, including how to register a number, is available from this PS News link.
5 June, 2012
Complaints noted in
An audit of complaint handling procedures in the Child Support Program (CSP) has found them effective and well-managed but hampered by shortcomings in recordkeeping and classification.
child support audit
In his report, The Child Support Programs Management of Feedback, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said complaints could be a good indicator of the effectiveness of service delivery and customer confidence in an agency and the CSP received more than 17,000 in 2010-11.
“The Child Support Scheme provides an administrative avenue to determine and enforce the transfer of child support payments between separated parents, without the involvement of courts,” Mr McPhee said.
“CSP can assist separated parents with the calculation, collection and transfer of child support, or can calculate the amount of child support payable and leave it to separated parents.
“During 2010-11, the total amount of child support transferred between separated parents was $3.1 billion for 1.2 million children.”
He said while CSP received compliments and suggestions, complaints represented the majority of its feedback and it managed to resolve 77 per cent of them within a 14 day target period.
“This result continued the trend of declining complaint numbers since 2008–09,” the Auditor-General said.said.
“In recent years, the issues that have generated the highest numbers of complaints are allegations that CSP staff failed to action cases; customer concerns with CSP’s decision making process; staff behaviour perceived as being unprofessional; and disagreements about the fairness or affordability of a child support assessment.”
Mr McPhee said CSP classified all complaints according to a graduated three-step model which had some factors which limited the conclusions that could be drawn about the number and nature of complaints at each of the steps.
He said the system could be improved by more consistent recording of initial (step 1) complaints; classifying complaints based on their complexity or sensitivity; and understanding the number and nature of complaints that left clients dissatisfied after each step.
“This could assist to identify staff training requirements and improvements to the complaints management system,” he said.
Mr McPhee made five recommendations directed at supporting CSP’s capture, management, and use of feedback on the child support services.
The audit team was Nathan Williamson, Kylie Jackson and Alexandra McElwee and the full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 June, 2012
Workplace awards for
Finalists in the 2012 Comcare Work Health and Safety Awards have been announced.
health and safety
The awards recognise and reward excellence in workplace health and safety, rehabilitation and return to work achieved by individuals and organisations covered under the Comcare scheme
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said he was delighted at the standard of entries in all categories this year.
“The safety at work message is such an important one and by the standard of entries this year, it is clear to me that many people are really getting the health and safety message,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Everyone who took part deserves the highest commendation in the significant part they are playing in maintaining health and safety in the workforce.”
He announced that among the finalists in 2012 was the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Health and Wellbeing Program in the ‘Best Workplace Health and Wellbeing Program’ category and the Royal Australian Mint’s Converting a culture initiative in the ‘Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System’ section.
The Mint was also recognised in the ‘Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue’ category for its A Sticky Situation initiative, along with the Department of Defence for HMAS STUART’s Personnel – Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat Radiation Hazard Prevention & Management and the Bureau of Meteorology’s Hydrogen Hazard Management strategy.
Among best individual contributions to health and safety recognised this year were Defence’s Able Seaman Electronics Technician, Lisa Pickstone and Captain Shane Sarlin; Daphne Paris from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School; Dr Angelica Vecchio-Sadus from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); and Megan Evans from the Department of Human Services.
Finalists for Health and Safety Representative of the Year were named as David Byrne from the Department of Health and Ageing and Jo Coleman of Human Services with Debra Kelly, also of Human Services excelling in the Rehabilitation and Return to Work Award and Natalie Heffernan of Comcare reaching the finals for Claims Manager of the Year.
The winners will be announced on 20 September 2012.
5 June, 2012
An interim report into the operation of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) has been released by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) for public comment.
backs a winner
In the first review of the Act since 2004, the Department recommended a number of changes to the IGA including the introduction of a national standard for harm minimisation and consumer protection.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the report recommended that enforcement and deterrence measures against overseas unlicensed online gambling providers be strengthened and that awareness among consumers about the risks of using unlicensed gambling providers be increased.
Senator Conroy said it also identified reasons to establish a trial of online tournament poker in Australia (subject to a strict regulatory framework and a requirement that participating providers cease providing higher risk gambling services to Australians like online slot machines).
He said other recommendations in the report included the prohibition of micro-betting (such as ball-by-ball bets in cricket or point-by-point bets in tennis) across all platforms and the requirement that any form of ‘in-the-run’ wagering, on any platform, be approved by the relevant state regulator and the national sports governing body.
“This is an interim report only,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Government has made no decisions about possible changes to the IGA and will not do so until we have had further public consultation with interested parties.”
He said in preparing the interim report, the Department had engaged closely with community and counselling organisations, States and Territories, sporting organisations, gambling organisations, financial institutions, broadcasters and gambling researchers.
“They have also considered submissions from the general public,” he said.
“I encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to carefully consider the Department’s interim report and provide their feedback.”
The interim report can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 25 June.
5 June, 2012
States kept in over
A new report on teacher quality has warned that governments need to improve reporting milestones if there is to be a clear picture of progress.
Releasing the report, Deputy Chairman of the COAG Reform Council, Professor Greg Craven said findings showed current milestones weren’t strong enough to assess achievement.
Professor Craven said this was a matter of great concern to the Council.
“We found that the milestones varied widely between States and Territories in both quality and ambition which means we cannot properly evaluate progress in teacher quality reforms over the past two years,” Professor Craven said.
“This is an important National Partnership which is aimed at driving reforms to improve not only the quality of teaching but the quality of leadership in our schools and is tied to $550 million in funding,” he said.
“It is in everybody’s interests, especially Australian students, to get this right.”
He said the Council had recommended to COAG that it develop more coherent milestones and set fewer of them overall.
He said the recently released Literacy and Numeracy report showed that Governments were prepared to take on board the Council’s recommendation to improve targets for literacy and numeracy.
“The collaboration between governments to implement better methods for setting targets resulted in more reasonable and ambitious targets,” Professor Craven said.
“We hope that the same collaboration will be evident ahead of our next report on teacher quality.”
The National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy: Performance report for 2011 can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 June, 2012
Finance laws to
New legislation to strengthen financial accountability for employer groups and unions has been introduced into Parliament.
strike at unions
Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said all registered employer associations and unions would be subject to tougher obligations under the new laws.
Mr Shorten said the laws would also provide Fair Work Australia with enhanced investigation powers and triple the maximum civil penalties for breaches of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act by organisations to $33,000.
He said the Bill would require the rules of all registered organisations to provide for policies about financial expenditure and accountability within the organisation; to deal with disclosure of remuneration paid to the highest five paid officials in the organisation; and deal with the disclosure of other pecuniary interests including Board fees obtained by an official.
Mr Shorten said the changes would also require the rules to deal with the disclosure of information about transactions with related parties and require officials to undertake training about their governance and accounting obligations.
“The amendments will also enhance the investigative powers available to Fair Work Australia under the Registered Organisations Act and require all investigations to be concluded as soon as practicable,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the vast majority of unions, employer groups and other registered organisations did a great job for their members and already had measures in place to properly and accountably manage their members’ finances.
“However recent allegations about conduct within certain parts of the Health Services Union (HSU) are doing serious damage to the good work done by other registered organisations,” he said.
“These reforms are designed to ensure that everyone involved in running these organisations knows what’s expected of them, and that their members can be confident the organisation they belong to and fund is working in their interests,” the Minister said.
5 June, 2012
New water strategy
New funding has been announced to support the adoption of a new strategy to aid water planning and management across Australia.
awash with funds
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said the adoption of the eWater Cooperative Research Centre’s Source water modelling system would formalise a 2008 agreement at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to develop a state-of-the-art national strategy to help ensure that future water planning and management represented best practice.
“Source links science, policy and management to help policy makers and operators consider future scenarios and alternative water management options for catchments, urban environments and river systems across the nation,” Senator Farrell said.
“It will provide national consistency in water resource planning across jurisdictions, by integrating the economic and environmental uses of water to better assist how we plan and deliver water for cities, irrigation, industry, mining, wetlands and waterways.”
He said the Commonwealth would provide $4 million to support the system, matched by a combined contribution from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory.
“The Australian Government places great importance on the need for consistency in river and water resource planning and operations nation-wide, particularly where rivers cross State borders,” Senator Farrell said.
“The development and adoption of Source represents a significant step in delivering on this aim.”
He said Source was the culmination of more than 20 years of research, development and significant collaboration with governments, national water authorities, private industry partners and Australia’s leading hydrologic and ecological scientists.
“Source and the National Hydrologic Modelling Platform support the National Water Initiative, Australia’s blueprint for water reform, by providing an integrated approach to managing surface, ground and environmental water in rural and urban catchments across Australia,” Senator Farrell said.
5 June, 2012
Young parents school
The trial of a program to help teenage parents complete their education was showing signs of success according to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten.
program comes of age
Mr Shorten said the Helping Young Parents trial had begun on 1 January 2012 and was already helping more than 600 participants.
“Many young parents have identified suitable education activities and are tapping into the benefits of early childhood education for their children, and family support services, such as playgroups and parenting classes,” Mr Shorten said.
“Parenting at a young age can be difficult, but the right support can make a big difference, to both parents and their children.”
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said early indications suggested young parents were welcoming the opportunities on offer through the trial to help them overcome barriers to finishing school and getting a good job.
“Some young parents who have signed a participation plan already have a year 12 or equivalent qualification and have decided to participate in the trial as volunteers, to receive additional support to better prepare them for the future,” Senator Carr said.
“Young parents involved in the trial can access an online community where they can talk with each other and find useful information.”
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said it was important for young parents to know what services were available to them.
“A new report by the Australian Catholic University (ACU) … found that the two main aspirations for young parents were providing a safe environment for their children, and finding a really good steady job,” Ms Macklin said.
“This trial is helping young parents in some of Australia’s most disadvantaged areas build a better future for themselves and their children.
“The Helping Young Parents trial will run for three and a half years and aims to assist around 4,000 teenage parents,” she said.
5 June, 2012
Hotter penalties for
Tougher penalties for tobacco smugglers have been announced by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon.
Ms Roxon said amendments to the Customs Act would create a specific new offence of smuggling tobacco, or conveying or possessing smuggled tobacco.
She said under the changes, tobacco smugglers would face imprisonment as well as fines.
“This new offence also strengthens the penalties applicable to the illegal importation of tobacco by adding a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment to the existing financial penalties,” Ms Roxon said.
“Currently smuggled tobacco is usually prosecuted under a general smuggling provision, with penalties ranging from two to five times the amount of duty evaded.”
She said Customs continued to successfully detect the relatively small number of consignments of illegally imported tobacco coming into the country but current penalties for illegal importation were very low compared to other serious instances of fraud against the Commonwealth.
“Penalties must provide a strong deterrent to criminals involved in this activity, as well as demonstrate the seriousness with which the Commonwealth treats such criminal acts,” she said.
“These new penalties will send a clear message to smugglers that they risk spending significant time in jail by bringing illegal tobacco into the country.”
Ms Roxon said she intended to introduce the legislation into the Parliament during the Spring sittings.
“To date tobacco smuggling has not represented a major threat in Australia and Australian Customs and Border Security have been successful in intercepting hauls of illicit tobacco heading for Australia,” she said.
“However we must remain vigilant.
“This measure is another step to ensure the tobacco consumed in Australia has all the health pricing and packaging requirements that are legislated.”
5 June, 2012
Chemical review could
Submissions have invited on a review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).
have the solution
Interested parties and individuals can now provide written submissions on the second phase of the review with the Discussion Paper on the Review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme outlining potential options for reforming the role of NICNAS within the broader institutional and regulatory framework for chemicals regulation.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King said input from stakeholders was being sought on implications and impacts of the possible reforms proposed in the discussion paper.
“The proposed options for reform seek to rebalance the NICNAS system to extend a lighter regulatory touch to low risk chemicals whilst strengthening the regulatory controls for higher risk chemicals,” Ms King said.
“The objective is to achieve appropriate levels of health and environmental protection faster.”
Assistant Minister for Deregulation, David Bradbury said the review would streamline regulatory settings to enhance both the competitiveness of the Australian chemical industry and public health and environmental outcomes.
“The reforms will seek to reduce costs to business and industry while improving the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the system,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The Discussion Paper has been prepared drawing on the issues raised by the Productivity Commission Research Report: Chemicals and Plastics Regulation (July 2008), relevant commitments made under the Council of Australian Governments’ Seamless National Economy National Partnership Agreement (2009), and from public submissions received in the first phase of the review in late 2011.
“Businesses, industry and community groups are invited to provide views on the implications of the proposals and the extent to which these reforms reduce unnecessary regulation,” he said.
The discussion paper can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 27 July.
1 June, 2012
Committee to hit at
A Parliamentary Committee is to examine bullying in the workplace.
Announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the aim of the review will be to look at the nature, causes and extent of workplace bullying and consider proposals to prevent bullying cultures from developing.
Ms Gillard said it would also look at ways to help individuals who had been affected by bullying to return to work.
“Workplace bullying can cause serious psychological injury and great distress to victims and their families,” Ms Gillard said.
“It also affects the broader community, causing lost work time, reducing productivity and contributing to increased workers’ compensation claims and associated costs.
“The Productivity Commission estimates the total cost of workplace bullying in Australia at between $6 billion and $36 billion annually.”
She said the review would be undertaken by the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment.
“It will consult extensively with the community and will report by 30 November 2012,” she said.
Ms Gillard said the terms of reference for the review would focus on the prevalence of workplace bullying; the experience of victims; the role of workplace cultures; the adequacy of existing education and support services; the scope to improve coordination between governments, regulators and other stakeholders; and whether there were regulatory, administrative or cross-jurisdictional and international legal and policy gaps.
She said the Committee would also address whether the existing regulatory frameworks were sufficient and what improvements could be made.
“The Australian Government is already working with State and Territory governments, as well as employer and employee representatives, to harmonise work health and safety laws in Australia,” she said.
“Safe Work Australia is working on a Code of Practice to provide guidance to workplaces on how to prevent bullying becoming a health and safety risk in the workplace.”
1 June, 2012
AGIMO is looking at expanding the number of telepresence sites across the country.
Rolled out across Australia in 2009 to Commonwealth and State Government offices as well as Parliament House, the real-time video conferencing system is now approaching its full capacity.
In evidence to Senate Estimates, the First Assistant Secretary at AGIMO (Australian Government Information Management Office), John Sheridan said since the telepresence capability had been established there had been around 1,800 meetings conducted over 3,343 hours of use.
Mr Sheridan said the system had saved government agencies $26 million in travel costs, more than double the $12 million estimate arrived at in October last year.
He said while the popularity of the system was a good thing, its high usage rate was also causing problems due to the limited number of Telepresence suites to go around.
Secretary of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, David Tune said the Government was about to hit “capacity constraint”.
“It is getting a lot of use and there are peaks, as you would expect,” Mr Tune said.
“Because it is used a lot by Commonwealth and State officials for meetings, that creates bottlenecks sometimes leading into a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting or some other big Ministerial meeting, for example.”
He said Finance had recently completed an analysis which suggested the system was starting to come up against some capacity constraints.
He said before it could be expanded however, AGIMO would need to make a business case for the expenditure.
“We have now exceeded the gains from that original business case,” Mr Tune said.
“We now need to go back and rethink and reassess, but, I think, we have come to the point where the next step is a reasonable size expansion of the service, given that it is so popular and cost-effective.”
1 June, 2012
Audit finds grants
An audit of the use of guidelines for Government grant programs has revealed a high level of non-compliance amongst agencies.
taken for granted
In his report Development and Approval of Grant Program Guidelines, Auditor-General Ian McPhee found the introduction of program guidelines for grants schemes was a “key part” of the Government’s response to past concerns that rules governing the allocation of grants had not been sufficiently clear.
“The transparency, accountability and probity with which grant decisions are made have been matters of longstanding Parliamentary and public interest,” Mr McPhee said.
“The introduction of a requirement for program guidelines to be developed and appropriately approved for all grant programs was a key part of the Government’s response to the concern that grant program planning and design had not been sufficiently robust
“This, and other measures taken, was a positive response by government to deficiencies in earlier arrangements for administering grants.”
He said the guidance provided to agencies provided a sound framework to support the development and publication of grant program guidelines.
“However a small number of agencies continue to administer a significant number of one-off or ad hoc grants,” he said.
“The quality of grant program guidelines remains quite variable.
“These are key matters to be addressed in any set of grant program guidelines in order to support transparent and accountable grants administration.”
Mr McPhee made four recommendations designed to limit the extent to which grants related to a common type of activity were administered without a set of program guidelines; enhancing the Department of Finance’s oversight of the program guidelines; and ensuring guidelines developed before the enhanced framework was introduced were consistent with the new requirements.
“The final, and most important, audit recommendation relates to greater efforts being made by agencies to establish, through the relevant program guidelines, transparent and accountable decision-making processes for the awarding of grants,” he said.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Alicia Hall, Heather Rae, Robert Pincini and Brian Boyd.
1 June, 2012
A number of government agencies are working together to bring innovation to life as part of Innovation Week 2012, which runs from 1 to 8 June.
to Innovation Week
According to the organisers, Innovation Week 2012 is about collaboration and creativity; sharing new ideas, solutions and ways of thinking in order to get better results and outcomes in the public sector.
They said it aimed to provide a chance for Public Servants to hear about some of the innovative things happening across the government sector while also focusing on some of the work being done outside the sector which could be incorporated into government business.
Public Servants are to be given the opportunity to participate in a range of hands-on projects and to think about innovation in the context of their own work.
The scheduled events for Innovation Week 2012 include GovHack - running from 1-3 June - which will bring people together from government, industry, academia and the general public to mashup, reuse, and remix government data.
Another event, GovCamp (5 June) will allow people from government and people interested in government to share knowledge, learn, develop skills, network and find new opportunities to collaborate.
The broad theme of GovCamp will be innovation, open government and Gov 2.0, focusing on next generation approaches to service design and delivery, public engagement and policy co-design.
Other events planned during the week include GovJam (6-7 June), an opportunity for Public Servants to develop new ideas and practical solutions to real issues with design mentors on hand to provide advice; an Innovation Network Event (7 June) with Professor Sandford Borins from the University of Toronto; and a presentation on the potential of the National Broadband Network (8 June).
More information but Innovation Week 2012 is available from this PS News link.
1 June, 2012
Electoral office has
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has launched a nationwide hunt for voters missing from the electoral roll.
According to the AEC’s current data, there were currently 1.5 million Australians not enrolled to vote.
Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn said the Count Me In campaign was aimed at prompting eligible Australians to enrol to vote and to keep their details current.
“It’s been compulsory to enrol to vote for 100 years and it’s part of our democratic fabric,” Mr Killesteyn said, “but the estimated number of missing voters is serious and comparable to a city the size of Perth or most of Brisbane disappearing off the map.
“That’s not good for the health of our democracy.”
He said the campaign would see the AEC send a postcard to every Australian household outlining three easy steps to enrol or update enrolment details.
He said a national online advertising campaign, stencil art on the footpaths of capital cities, community radio advertising and other media and public relations activities would support the campaign.
“The AEC is reaching out to all households because the 1.5 million missing voters is a very large group that is widely distributed throughout the community,” Mr Killesteyn said.
“While our data tells us that only one in two 18-19 year olds are on the electoral roll, the issue is not confined just to youth, but ranges across a wider 18-39 age group.
“Some Australians may not have enrolled to vote for one or two or more elections.”
He said another substantial category of missing voters was those who did not update their address details after moving house.
“This group includes Australians of all ages, and I encourage them to take the time now to check and ensure their enrolment is in order,” he said.
“At each election, some Australians miss out on their vote because they’ve left enrolment too late.
“This campaign is all about not waiting until an election is called.”
1 June, 2012
Australia and New Zealand are to share information for criminal history checks for a six month trial starting in July.
to cross borders
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the New Zealand Minister for Justice, Judith Collins, signifying the first step in better criminal information sharing between the two countries.
Mr Clare said the signing of the MOU followed the announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key in January this year that work would be done to improve the exchange of criminal history information.
“For the purposes of the six month trial, New Zealand will be able to seek criminal records from all Australian jurisdictions and Queensland will be able to seek criminal records from New Zealand,” Mr Clare said.
He said following the trial, consideration would be given to the possibility of expanding the arrangements to enable all Australian jurisdictions to make requests for criminal records from New Zealand.
“The release of criminal records will be in accordance with privacy and spent convictions requirements and will be subject to the consent of the individual,” Mr Clare said.
1 June, 2012
Stats raises odds on
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has launched a new initiative to identify the most essential statistical assets for decision making in Australia.
Deputy Statistician at the ABS, Peter Harper said a consultation paper and preliminary list had been released as part of the Bureau’s work in advancing Australia’s National Statistical Service.
“Essential Statistical Assets are a sub-set of official statistical assets that, due to their role and importance, should be given priority for ensuring their high quality and integrity,” Mr Harper said.
“The aim of the initiative is to separately identify a core subset of statistical assets from the broad range of important official statistics generated by government.”
He said the Essential Statistical Assets would have the broadest and most critical application and should be a priority for investment as they yielded the greatest benefit for Australia.
“This is even more crucial in the current environment of shrinking real resources available for governments,” he said.
“The ABS has developed a preliminary list to provide a springboard for consultation, debate and discussion.”
Mr Harper said the Bureau was seeking opinions from the public and from data users across the statistical community as well as agencies that had been identified on the preliminary list.
“The preliminary list is only a starting point - we want to hear what others have to say,” he said.
“Those statistics on the preliminary list were included because they are critical for public policy or service delivery; important to key national progress measurement; required to meet domestic or legislative requirements; or required for international reporting obligations.”
The consultation paper and preliminary can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 June, 2012
ASIC in business for
A new national online system to register, renew and search business names has been officially launched by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
The national Business Names Register replaces eight State and Territory systems, simplifying business registration in Australia by offering a single online service.
Under the new service, businesses only need to register their name once to have national effect and have the option of paying a $30 registration fee annually, or $70 for three years.
Commissioner of ASIC, Greg Tanzer said the national Business Names Register would provide genuine time and cost benefits for Australian business, particularly small business.
“Instead of trawling through several sites to check a business name, register and then maintain a registration, Australian business owners will be able to do all this business on one national site,” Mr Tanzer said.
He said the new service was all about making it easier to do business and together with the joint Australian Business Number /Business Name registration transaction (scheduled to be launched later this year) it was expected to deliver approximately $480 million in benefits to business, consumers and the Government over eight years.
“For the first time, businesses trading in more than one State or Territory will only need to register once nationally, removing the inconvenience caused by registration of business names under the law of more than one jurisdiction within Australia,” he said.
“Consumers can also obtain contact and ownership details of any business currently registered in Australia, resulting in greater transparency and accessibility.
“Under the new system, future business owners can also look up the availability of a business name through a real-time automated check.”
Mr Tanzer said further enhancements to the register would be delivered progressively.
Information on the new arrangements is available from this PS News link.
1 June, 2012
And in other news...
ICT spending report issued
The latest report on Australian Government ICT expenditure has been released.
Covering the three years to 2010-11 the report provides aggregate figures on ICT expenditure and use by agencies.
It shows that the Australian Government spends about $5 billion per year (about 5 per cent of the Australian ICT market), an amount spent that has not changed much over the three years.
The full report can be accessed at PS News link.
New names on wall
Six hundred new names have been unveiled on a migrant ‘Welcome Wall’ at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
The Museum’s Welcome Wall was built in tribute to Australia’s migrant forebears, family members and friends.
Among the new names are 61 former British child migrants from the Fairbridge Farm School who served in the Australian Defence Force.
More information is available from PS News link.
Leave parents better off
The Paid Parental Leave scheme is making a real difference for mothers, according to a new report.
A Baseline Mothers Survey of the views of more than 2,500 mothers across the country prior to the paid parental leave scheme found only about half of working women had access to paid maternity leave.
It found that now, 95 per cent of working women had access to paid parental leave – either from the Government, their employer or both.
Literary shortlists out
The shortlists for the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have been announced.
The awards recognise some of the strongest literary talent and history expertise in Australia and feature a range of authors and producers from award-winners to first-time novelists.
The full list of shortlisted titles can be accessed at PS News link.
Previously this week... 1,000 join Chaplains’ list
One thousand new chaplains and student welfare workers are due to start work in schools.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said 1,000 new schools would take part in the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.
He said of the 1,000 new schools taking part, 65 per cent would receive a chaplain and 35 per cent a student welfare worker.
Mr Garrett said 2,555 schools with existing chaplains or welfare workers would also continue accessing the program.
Study into children’s lawyers
A new research project into whether Independent Children’s Lawyers are effective when representing children in family law cases has been announced.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies aims to provide a better understanding of how Independent Children’s Lawyers can best help achieve positive results for children.
Tax amendments announced
Legislation outlining a range of improvements to Australia’s taxation laws has been introduced into Parliament.
Measures in Tax Laws Amendment (2012 measures no. 2) Bill 2012 and the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 measures no. 3) Bill 2012 include provisions to strengthen the director penalty regime and extend it to cover superannuation obligations as well as amendments to the taxation of financial arrangements and consolidation provisions.
Under the changes, concessions will be scaled back for large termination payments not linked to hardship, such as ‘golden handshakes’ typically received by senior executives as part of their overall remuneration.
NBN connects satellite
Some remote schools, health clinics, and local government facilities well soon be connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) through the Interim Satellite Service (ISS).
Approximately 250 schools, 800 health clinics and 200 local government facilities in the remotest parts of Australia will be able to access faster and more reliable broadband.
The Interim Satellite Service has been operating since 1 July 2011 and NBN Co’s long term satellite service will be pressed into service in 2015.
Remote ATMs to be free
Free transactions are to be provided at 76 ATMs across very remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.
The initiative is the result of a new commitment by the Australian banking industry and two major independent ATM companies to voluntarily provide the services and follows recommendations from a joint Treasury/Reserve Bank of Australia Taskforce that looked into ATM fees and the cost of ATM access in very remote Indigenous communities.