SearchArchives for March 2006
28 March, 2006
Board Restructure Not Easy at ABC
A Government decision to restructure the board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been condemned by the ABC staff union which will lose its elected representation.
Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan announced the new-look Board last week, saying it was being restructured to improve corporate governance.
But the changes have angered staff.
According to Graeme Thompson of the Community and Public Sector Union (CSPU) the staff-elected director was the only person on the Board with day-to-day knowledge of how television and radio programs were made.
"While the staff-elected position is selected by a different means to other directors, once selected they are subject to exactly the same rule of corporate governance as any other director," Mr Thompson said.
He said for 23 years the staff position had ensured real knowledge and understanding of program making and journalism received a hearing at the Board table.
"This decision is all about the federal government's cultural war.
He accused the Government of stacking the Board with political hacks and supporters because they want the ABC silenced.
Mr Thompson expected the government to introduce legislation to abolish the position as soon as possible, noting that the other national broadcaster, SBS, did not have a staff-elected director.
Senator Coonan defended the change saying the staff representative an anomaly among Australian government agency boards and had given rise to concerns about conflicts of interest and effective functioning, including confidentiality of board deliberations.
“As the staff-elected director has been elected by staff rather than appointed, there have been claims that the position creates uncertainty about accountability," Senator Coonan said.
“However, there is a clear legal requirement on the staff-elected director that means he or she has the same rights, duties and obligations as the other directors, including to act in the interests of the ABC as a whole.”
The Government believed there should be no question about which constituency ABC directors were accountable to, she said.
"This change is in line with modern principles of corporate governance and will also provide more consistency in governance arrangements for Australian Government agencies," she said.
The term of staff-elected ABC director Ramona Koval expires on 14 June this year and the ABC has already begun arrangements with the Australian Electoral Commission to elect a new director.
Speedy passage of legislation will ensure the change comes into force before the next staff-elected director joins the Board. However, the process will continue until legislation is passed.
ABC chair Donald McDonald said he had worked with three staff-elected directors and each had sought to make a contribution to the ABC Board.
"Inevitably there has been a tension between the expectations placed by others on their role and their established duties as directors of a corporation," Mr McDonald said.
Staff issues would not be neglected in the absence of a staff-elected director, he said.
"The interests of staff and our audiences will continue to be among the main concerns of the ABC Board," he said.
Staff have called for union meetings coincide with the ABC Board meeting. Meanwhile, the Government is considering candidates to fill the two existing vacancies on the Board.
28 March, 2006
All Hands to Pump in Cyclone
A massive coordinated recovery effort by Government agencies was assisting the people of far north Queensland despite extensive damage and widespread flooding in the region, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said.
Mr Ruddock said torrential rain had restricted but not curtailed efforts to deliver vital provisions to the cyclone-ravaged townships of Innisfail and Babinda as well as surrounding areas. A landing craft moved large items into the region, including tarpaulins, ropes, water purifiers and plastic sheeting.
He said under the Commonwealth Disaster Response Plan, requests for assistance by Queensland Government authorities were being actioned as quickly as possible, enabling delivery of food and water, tarpaulins, showers and sanitation facilities, generators, satellite imagery and even milking machines.
Australian Government assistance to disaster response and recovery aid was being coordinated by Emergency Management Australia (EMA) through the National Emergency Management Coordination Centre (NEMCC) in Canberra.
This ensured a direct line of communication between Canberra and emergency personnel in Far North Queensland.
Agencies assisting in the recovery include the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Coastwatch, Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Defence Force, Department of Transport and Regional Services, Department of Health and Ageing, Department of Family and Community Services, along with emergency services agencies from other states and territories.
Centrelink has a special role to play in assisting residents in the wake of Cyclone Larry. Although their Innisfail office was damaged, they reopened it as soon as possible, said area manager Peter Searston.
People in Innisfail, Cairns, Atherton and Mareeba who were due to lodge forms were able to do so by telephone. Local staff were available at the Innisfail Community Recovery Centre, being set up at the Innisfail Courthouse.
"They'll be able to provide details on available assistance including the ex-gratia payment, announced by the Prime Minister," Mr Searston said.
Centrelink also has social workers, with up to a dozen flying in to the affected region.
28 March, 2006
Asbestos in the Air at Army Base
An unknown number of public servants, soldiers and other people may have been exposed to asbestos at the Urban Search and Rescue facility at Holsworthy Barracks, in Sydney.
A report in Army News says the Department of Defence and other agencies were treating the matter with the utmost seriousness, placing the health and safety of all personnel as of paramount concern.
Director of Occupational Health and Safety with the Army, Colonel Steve Rudzki, visited Holsworthy Barracks to update soldiers on the situation and provided an update on the current situation and outlined the action to be taken when possible exposure to asbestos occurs.
Affected staff were urged to seek medical assistance, complete an asbestos exposure questionnaire and register with the Defence Asbestos Information Hotline.
Former staff and public servants were advised to contact the Asbestos Hotline directly to register their possible exposure and receive information about their future management.
According to the Army current evidence suggested that the level of risk attached to exposure to asbestos in the incident at Holsworthy was low. Detailed testing was being undertaken to determine the level of risk.
Defence was tracking down staff who may have been involved in training or observation at the site and will contact them in the future.
The NSW Fire Brigade, in cooperation with the Department of Defence, is working to fix the site which will remain closed until certified safe.
The Defence Asbestos Information Hotline was 1800 000 655 or 1800 000 677.
28 March, 2006
DIMA Apologises Over
New Detention Failure
The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has strongly reaffirmed its commitment to reforms following the release of a Commonwealth Ombudsman report that found yet another Australian citizen was badly treated by the department.
The Ombudsman’s report found that the pseudonomously-named Mr T was an Australian citizen originally from Vietnam, who suffered from severe mental illness but who was detained by the Department whose officers suspected him of being an unlawful non-citizen.
Mr T was detained on three separate occasions between 19 and 2003, on one occasion, for a period of eight months.
The Department has publicly apologised for the detention of Mr Tan.
“This is a sad case for all concerned,” DIMA Secretary Andrew Metcalfe said. “It highlights the difficulties the department, law enforcement agencies and others face dealing with people who have a serious mental illness.”
Mr Metcalfe said reforms and improvements already underway addressed issues raised by the Ombudsman over compliance and identity procedures, training and health care.
The Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone recently presented a comprehensive update of the department’s progress in implementing these changes. She said the Government had committed over $230 million to achieve improvements in the department’s operations.
Among other reforms, major changes being introduced in DIMA included:
• Revised guidelines for staff establishing identity which involve referring claims of Australian citizenship to senior staff and reviewing all claims within 24 hours.
• A case management framework that ensured vulnerable detainees were thoroughly assessed and a case management plan put in place to meet their individual needs.
• A 24-hour, seven day a week Immigration Status checking service for police.
• Detention review managers to regularly review and monitor whether detention continued to be appropriate.
In addition, the department had introduced new procedures for compliance staff to ensure people were interviewed as soon as possible after they are detained.
“These significant and meaningful changes show the department’s recognition of its responsibilities and its commitment to meeting those responsibilities,” Mr Metcalfe said.
28 March, 2006
Push For Ads on ABC Could Be Buying Time
The prospect of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation carrying paid advertising has been floated again with the Government saying the national broadcaster could be selling ads by 2009.
ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries who is the secretary of the Government’s backbench communications committee, said he would support such a move and agreed 2009 would be a suitable starting date.
“The SBS experience is that you can have advertising without intruding into the quality of viewing,” Senator Humphries said. “(And) without compromising the journalistic standards of the broadcaster and in a way that is quite tasteful and compatible with the charter of the ABC.”
He said however that the advertising policy must ensure suitable limits were in place and that the ABC could “exclude certain sorts of advertising.”
Senator Humphries’s views were not shared by the Prime Minister however, John Howard indicating he was not in favour of the idea, as did Labor communications spokesman Steven Conroy who said there was no need for ads on the ABC.
Advertising experts said the ABC drew 15 to 20 per cent of the television audience in Australia, which could translate into sizeable earnings if commercials were allowed.
While many commentators and ABC supporters say the ABC already carries advertising promoting its own products, they also warn they would reject an overly-commercialised channel. Advertising spots would have to be kept to a minimum, they said.
28 March, 2006
Payrise Boost for Army High Flyers
Army aircrew (other ranks) are to receive a 15 per cent increase in the qualification and skill element of their Flying Allowance, following a decision by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal (DFRT). The February 20 decision also adds a sixth tier at the 10-year mark for these ranks, said Army News.
As well as the increase in qualification and skill payments, the DFRT has increased the disability element of Flying Allowance for all members below the rank of Colonel by 5.7 per cent. RAAF Crew Attendants and qualified Navy CSO Fighter Controllers will now also receive Flying Allowance.
Some changes were made to Flying Allowance for officers below the rank of Brigadier. The sunset period for these ranks is now three years, the same as the sunset period for other ranks and Brigadier. A transition arrangement over the next six years will ensure current members are not disadvantaged.
Flying Allowance is now aligned with other qualification and skills allowances such as Special Forces or Submarine Allowance. The Qualification and Skill element of Flying Allowance can be rolled into core pay for officers and WO1 (E) later this year as part of the Remuneration Reform Project.
Changes came into effect on February 20. There will be a delay as pay systems are updated, but pay will be backdated (including the effect of the March 9 pay increase).
28 March, 2006
Korean Ship Goes Down
in Titanic Attack
The impounded drug-running ship the Pong Su, which was seized by the Australian Federal Police during a major narcotic operation in 2003, has been blown to bits on the high seas in a joint AFP and RAAF exercise.
Used as a Defence training exercise, RAAF F-111s bombed the vessel while a Navy AP-3C Orion performed a range clearance and safety role during the exercise.
The 4000-tonne vessel was sunk approximately 140km off the NSW South Coast of Jervis Bay under powers given the Government of under the Customs Act.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock noted provisions of the Customs Act 1901 allow for the forfeiture of any conveyance used in the transportation of illicit drugs.
“The law is very clear on this matter,” Mr Ruddock said. “The convictions of four people for drug smuggling, including one crew member, have established the Pong Su was used by a North Korean drug syndicate to land heroin on the Australian shoreline.
Mr Ruddock said the vessel’s fate was the subject of discussions between officials of all relevant departments and agencies with preferred option emerging for the vessel to be sunk at sea.
“The Pong Su was used in an attempt to bring heroin to Australia and it will never be put to that use again,’’ Mr Ruddock said.
“I’m sure all Australians will consider this an appropriate fate for such a vessel particularly as it has provided a limited but valuable training opportunity for RAAF pilots as part of an Australian Defence Force training exercise.”
He said disposal of the ship sent a clear message the AFP was committed to protecting Australia’s borders.
Operation Sorbet was an extensive AFP investigation which resulted in the seizure of 150kg of heroin which was Victoria’s biggest known attempted heroin importation.
AFP Commander Frank Prendergast said federal police were committed to working with other agencies to disrupt organised importation of drugs and protect the community.
“This operation, including preparation for destruction of the vessel, was a collaborative effort between numerous government departments and law enforcement agencies,’’ Federal Agent Prendergast said.
“This effort stopped heroin with an approximated street value of more than $100 million, reaching Australia’s streets.”
28 March, 2006
Army Gear Complaints Hit Target
A enquiry is to be held into the procurement practices for the Australian Defence Force’s clothing and personal equipment..
After weeks of media coverage, including suggestions the Army;s clothinfg and equipment was not up to scratch, Defence Miinister Brendan Nelson has appointed a review team to conduct the inquiry.
Accoring to Army News, the inquiry will look into the Defence Materiel Organisation’s procurement practices for clothing and personal equipment for members of the ADF.
“The Government is committed to ensuring that the system which supports the provision of clothing and equipment to Australian soldiers is world class,’’ Dr Nelson said.
“The inquiry will ensure that practices comply with Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and will provide suggestions for improvements.”
Dr Nelson said the inquiry review team would comprise Air Vice Marshall Bob Treloar, Mike Harding and Dr Alan Kallir.
“AVM Treloar was the Commander Australian Theatre, commanding all ADF operational activity. His experience and background in the field of military operations are highly relevant to a review of this nature,” he said.
“Mr Harding has extensive experience in the private sector. He is a Non-Executive Director and member of the Audit Committee of Santos; Non-Executive Director, Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the Remuneration Committee of ARC Energy; and Chairman of the Project Governance Board — Land Systems Division (Army), for the Department of Defence.
“Dr Kallir has advised senior management in service and manufacturing industries around the globe for more than a decade. He has extensive and significant experience working with boards, CEOs and senior management on issues of strategy, organisation, growth and profit management.”
The review team is expected to report back to Dr Nelson by the end of May 2006.
28 March, 2006
Happy Days Predicted for Weather Bureau
The Bureau of Meteorology has moved into its new high-technology headquarters at Melbourne’s Docklands on the day the rest of us celebrated World Meteorological Day.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Bureau of Meteorology, Greg Hunt, who opened the new building, said its high-tech contents would ensure Australia remained at the forefront of meteorological science and natural disaster mitigation.
“The Australian government has invested heavily to ensure Australia maintains its place in meteorological forecasting and the new centre includes computing facilities worth around $60 million,’’ Mr Hunt said.
“$22 million of this (was) invested in a world class ‘super computer’ that uses power equivalent to 1500 homes.”
He said the new building included the National Meteorological Library, a training centre and several scientific laboratories.
The new centre is only the third head office address in the Bureau’s history, it’s first was at the Colonial townhouse ‘Frosterley’ in Carlton from 1908 to 1972, and the most recent in offices at 150 Lonsdale St, Melbourne.
“I am pleased to formally commission the new tenancy, in this 100th anniversary year of the Act of Parliament that brought into being the Bureau of Meteorology,” Mr Hunt said.
He said the Bureau played a vital role in advising the community on natural hazards that threaten life and property.
“The Australian Government’s investment in the Bureau's science and technology infrastructure indicates the Government's recognition of the Bureau’s significant role in providing meteorological services to the Australian community, and advice to the Government on weather and climate-related issues,” Mr Hunt said.
28 March, 2006
CSI Australia: Crime Scenes Fewer in Recent Years
A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology has revealed a drop-off in major crimes in Australia over the past three years.
Director of the AIC, Dr Toni Makkai, released the report Australian Crime: Facts and Figures 2005, saying it provided a national picture of crime and justice throughout Australia for the period 16 to 2004.
“Overall the figures show that there has been a reduction in the number of almost all the major crimes recorded at a national level in Australia,’’ Dr Makkai said. “The crimes of homicide, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft and other theft have been in decline over the past three years.”
This reduction was supported by results from the Australian component of the International Victimisation Survey carried out in 2004 which showed that crime victimisation in the preceding 12 months had dropped by seven per cent when compared with survey results in 2000.
The homicide rate was 1.9 per 100,000 people in 16 and was at its highest in 19 at 2.0. In 2004 it dropped to 1.5 per 100,000 persons.
The rate for robbery peaked at 137 per 100,000 of the population in 2001, the highest recorded since 16. Since 2001 rates have declined by 40 per cent to 82 per 100,000 of the population in 2004.
The rate of motor vehicle theft declined by 35 per cent between 16 and 2004, from 671 to 437 per 100,000 population. In 2004 there were 87,916 recorded victims of motor vehicle theft.
Based on the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia program, between 19 and 2004 the percentage of police detainees testing positive to any drug or to cannabis has remained steady.
The report showed that heroin use decreased markedly between 2000 and 2001 and had remained at this lower level since. Methylamphetamine use increased until 2001 and has since levelled off.
From 19-2000 to 2003-2004 in those jurisdictions which published data on the gender and aged of alleged offenders, there had been a decline in the total number of alleged offenders but the majority continued to be male and aged between 15 and 19 years of age.
Between 1984 and 2004, the overall imprisonment rate increased from 88 to 158 per 100,000 adult population. The overall incarceration rate for juveniles declined 60 percent from 65 to 26 per 100,000 between 1981 and 2004.
Since 18- expenditure on criminal justice increased by an average of 4 percent each year. Police services accounted for approximately 72 percent of the total criminal justice-related expenditure.
Dr Makkai said that the criminal justice data reported in Facts and Figures came from a variety of sources: administrative such as criminal justice agency records and incident records kept by police, and surveys such as the crime victimisation survey.
Statistics from the AIC as well as data holdings at the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other government agencies were also used in the report.
28 March, 2006
Navy Brass Shines For Annual Display
The Royal Australian Navy drew crowds all day to its annual Navy Day display on the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin on March 20.
Locals had the chance to experience the traditions and activities of the Navy on the Canberra Day holiday and many hundreds took the opportunity to do so.
Prominent among the staff on show were sailors from Canberra’s own naval base, HMAS Harman whose Commanding Officer, Commander Nick Youseman said highlighted the base’s dedication to the Canberra community.
"Navy Day gives us the chance to showcase our people and provide a great day out for everyone," Commander Youseman said.
The day began with the spectacular landing of a Navy Seahawk helicopter and finished with the traditional Beat to Quarters and Ceremonial Sunset featuring the RAN Band and Navy element of the Australian Federation Guard.
Other activities included displays by the Seahawk from 816 Squadron, the Australian Hydrographic Service RAN, Naval Cadets drill, Defence Force Recruiting, RAN Reserve Diving Team as well as ship safety and firefighting exhibitions by the RAN School of Survivability and the Submarine Force Element Group.
There was also a sailing regatta and dragon boat racing on Lake Burley Griffin and children’s entertainment.
HMAS Harman has been on watch in Canberra since 1943.
28 March, 2006
Green the Colour of Choice for Government Buildings
The latest and best advice on how to construct an environmentally sustainable Government building has been released by the Department of Environment and Heritage.
The second edition of the Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) Design Guide for Australian Government Buildings is now available to help architects, engineers, designers and construction companies create buildings which would impact more considerately on the environment.
Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell the guide would help ensure that construction projects for offices and public buildings were better for the environment, saved money, conserved resources and improved productivity.
The first edition had proved very popular and had been updated to include case studies of leading Australian green buildings and related interviews which could inform and inspire those working in the construction industry.
“Australia is producing landmark green buildings, including the CH2 building in Melbourne, and I am pleased to see that industry leaders are willing to share experiences from their projects for the benefit of the environment,” Senator Campbell said.
“How we design and construct our buildings is a crucial part of ecologically sustainable development in our cities and towns."
He said the built environment consumed 12 per cent of the world’s fresh water, up to 40 per cent of the world’s energy, produced 40 per cent of the waste going to landfill and 40 per cent of emissions to air.
“We must be able to improve on these statistics and governments can contribute significantly to this change by striving for high environmentally sustainable standards in their buildings,” he said.
28 March, 2006
No Genes the Policy for Life Insurers
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has renewed the ban on life insurance companies subjecting customers to gene testing for another five years by reauthorised an agreement between life insurers.
The Investment and Financial Services Association, which included most life insurers in Australia, sought reauthorisation of part of its Genetic Testing Policy which they had been operating under since November 2000.
"The ACCC continues to accept that there is a public benefit in life insurers not coercing individuals to undergo genetic testing," said the Chair of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel.
"The ACCC is also of the view that there is a public benefit in maintaining the status quo with regard to the use of genetic testing by insurers to allow time for the newly established Human Genetics Advisory Committee to consider the use of genetic information in insurance".
The Human Genetics Advisory Committee is part of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and was established in response to recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Australian Health Ethics Committee. The Human Genetics Advisory Committee started work early this year and may look at genetic testing in insurance in the future.
Meanwhile, the NHMRC has undertaken to keep the ACCC informed of the committee's consideration of genetic testing in the insurance industry where appropriate. The ACCC may conduct an early review should it be warranted by recommendations of the committee and/or subsequent changes in government policy regarding genetic testing insurance.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC considered that the agreement between life insurers not to initiate genetic tests was likely to result in some anti-competitive detriment as it prevented life insurers from offering differentiated premiums to consumers.
"While the ACCC is concerned that the arrangement may have a detrimental effect on competition, it has concluded that the arrangement is likely to result in a net public benefit," Mr Samuel said.
28 March, 2006
Air Navigation System Takes Off in Philippines
Airservices Australia has embarked on a multi-million dollar contract to install an air navigation system for the new Bacolod airport in Silay City, in the Philippines.
Chief Executive Officer of Airservices Australia, Greg Russell said Airservices was undertaking the contract in association with a number of Japanese companies, including electronics giant, Toshiba.
“We will project manage the navigation system installation including engineering, procurement, commissioning of the radio navigation aids, air traffic control and telecommunications and meteorological system," Mr Russell said.
Toshiba will deliver the airport’s aeronautical ground lighting.
Mr Russell said Airservices had already opened a site office at Silay employing six Filipino engineers and administrative staff supported by Airservices aviation systems engineers. He said the project was the first off-shore airport construction project to be delivered by the Corporation.
The $106 million airport, funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Philippines Government, is planned to open in January next year.
It is designed to handle more than one million passengers and some 17,000 tonnes of cargo a year, to cater for tourism and business growth in the central Philippines Negros and Cebu Islands region.
28 March, 2006
Plane Sailing for New Customs Vessel
The Australian Customs Service has unveiled its latest weapon in the battle to protect Australia's borders in Victoria - a Tactical Response Vessel (TRV), capable of more than 30 knots.
The new boat joined a fleet of Customs marine vessels in Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games, including the 38-metre Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) Botany Bay and a seven metre jet-powered pursuit tender that recently saw action on a Customs patrol of the Southern Ocean.
Support for the vessels included crew from the Customs National Marine Unit, armed Customs boarding parties and officers involved in operational patrols of the waterfront environment.
In past weeks, the three vessels have been involved in patrols and boarding of vessels in the Yarra River, the Port of Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay and outside the heads.
Customs’ Victorian Regional Director Jaclyne Fisher said the new TRV would strengthen Customs’ role in delivering effective border protection in the region. Ms Fisher said the vessel was the first of four of a new class of boat obtained by Customs to support its existing national fleet of harbour-based TRVs and sea-going ACVs.
"The new TRVs are surveyed to operate in both harbour and coastal waters and can carry up to eight armed officers with associated equipment for boarding and searching vessels," she said.
The vessel will remain in Victoria while others will be deployed in Sydney, Fremantle and Dampier to improve Customs ability to patrol international ports and their approaches.
28 March, 2006
Outsourcing Lessons Put on Paper
Banks and insurance companies are the targets for a discussion paper on outsourcing standards released for consultation by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
The discussion paper, accompanied by draft prudential standards and a prudential practice guide, looks at ways to manage risks from outsourcing. The standards apply a harmonised approach to authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs), general insurers and life insurers, but could contain lessons for the broader community.
The discussion paper outlines a principles-based approach detailing APRA's minimum requirements for managing risks from outsourcing while leaving the way open for institutions to develop their own outsourcing policy that meets the principles.
The draft prudential standards are largely based on requirements in place for ADIs however they introduce greater flexibility in the approach to intra‑group outsourcing and deal explicitly with outsourcing to an offshore party.
The insurance industry has been consulted extensively about the proposed standards but the round of consultations will obtain simultaneous views from all three industries since the new standards will be applied across all APRA-regulated institutions in the industries.
APRA chair John Laker said the risks arising from outsourcing arrangements are common across the industries regulated by APRA and are best addressed through a harmonised approach.
"Well-run institutions already apply many of the proposed policies as part of their operational risk management systems," Dr Laker said.
"These proposals will ensure a consistent framework across our industries and bring APRA’s approach into conformity with international regulatory principles," he said.
The draft prudential standards and prudential practice guide will be finalised in the second quarter of 2006 and will take effect on 1 October 2006. Further details and a copy of the discussion paper are available from www.apra.gov.au.
28 March, 2006
Cyclone tax relief
Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo has assured those affected by the far north Queensland cyclone not to worry about their tax matters at this time.
“This is a very difficult time for residents of far north Queensland, especially those who have suffered damage to homes and businesses,” Mr D’Ascenzo said. “We realise people have other priorities to sort out now and it may be some time before they are able to focus on tax matters.”
Taxpayers in the cyclone affected area experiencing any difficulties meeting tax obligations could call the Tax Office on 13 11 42 (option 3) during business hours.
28 March, 2006
Canadians know where the bloody hell we’re coming from
Canadian broadcasting authorities have rejected as incorrect media reports that Australia’s new international tourism campaign was banned in Canada according to the Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison.
Mr Morrison said the Canadian approval authorities had already approved the tagline “So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” saying it was a “friendly, inviting and non-hostile” invitation.
The authorities would not let an uncut version of the commercial run on the two programs it characterised as “family” programming.
28 March, 2006
Population passes 20.4 million
Australia’s population reached 20.4 million in September 2005 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
In the year to September the nation’s population increased by 238,800, representing an annual growth rate of 1.2 per cent, consistent with levels recorded in recent years.
Natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) was 129,100 people, contributing to more than half (54 per cent) the total population growth, the remainder due to net overseas migration (109,800 people).
28 March, 2006
Award taskforce deadline extended
The reporting deadline for the Award Review Taskforce has been extended following a request from Taskforce chairman Matthew O’Callaghan.
The Government established the Taskforce last year to report to Government on its recommended strategies for the rationalisation of federal awards and the rationalisation of wages and classification structures.
The Taskforce was due to issue an interim report by the end of March but the deadline has been extended to the end of April to enable further consultations and research to be undertaken.
28 March, 2006
Pension boost for war widows and veterans
Members of the veteran community who received service pensions, the war widow’s pension and disability payments, are to receive an increase in Government support.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Billson announced that as from 20 March 2006, service pensions and the war widow’s pension would increase by up to $10.80 per fortnight and disability payments would rise by up to $15.90. The increases would raise the maximum rate of the single service pension to $4.70 per fortnight, and the maximum rate for couples will rise to $417.20 each.
The fortnightly pension paid to war widows would also increase by $10.80 to $524.70, while the ceiling rate of the income support supplement, paid to some 81,000 war widows, would rise to $148.80.
28 March, 2006
ACCC telecommunications plan
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has finalised the broad approach it intends to take to developing procedural rules for matters under the telecommunications access regime.
Following recent changes to the Trade Practices Act, the ACCC can now make written rules setting out procedures to apply in connection with telecommunications access.
The ACCC must undertake a public consultation process prior to making any procedural rules and aims to have a draft of its first ones available for public comment in May.
March 21, 2006
Yates is new face at Portrait Gallery
Businessman Peter Yates has been appointed to the Board of the National Portrait Gallery Board.
Minister for the Arts, Senator Rod Kemp said Mr Yates’s expertise in business, finance and corporate management would be valuable to the Board as it oversees the construction of the National Portrait Gallery building.
Mr Yates is Managing Director of Allco Equity Partners Limited and Chief Executive Officer of Allco Equity Partners Management Pty Limited. He is Chairman of the Australian Science Media Centre, Deputy Chair of Asialink, a member of the Board of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation in Victoria.
He also co-chairs the Financial Management Association of Australia Ltd and is a member of the Australian Graduate School of Management Advisory Council.
March 21, 2006
Ombudsman Sets His Sights on FOI
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has lashed out at Australian government agencies he found were slow in responding to freedom of information (FOI) requests and has called for an FOI Commissioner.
Ombudsman, John McMillan found there was an uneven culture of support for FOI among government agencies.
"Some agencies are displaying a clear commitment to FOI, and are supportive of the Act’s objective of extending as far as possible the right of the Australian community to access information in the government’s possession," Professor McMillan said. "Other agencies do not as firmly demonstrate such a commitment."
Professor McMillan investigated the administration of the FOI Act 1982 in government departments and agencies. It highlighted good practice as well as areas requiring improvement, looking at timeliness, consistency and quality of decision making.
Professor McMillan said deficiencies included excessive delays in the processing of some requests, lack of consistency in acknowledging requests in a timely manner, delays in notifying charges and inconsistencies in their application and variable quality in the standard of decision letters, particularly regarding the explanation of exemptions imposed.
His report recommends agency heads issue a clear statement to staff expressing a commitment to sound FOI practice and the goals of the FOI Act, with regard to the kinds of good and bad practice identified in the report.
"The investigation supports the view that the FOI Act works well in facilitating public access to personal information, but not so well in providing access to policy-related information," Professor McMillan said.
Similar findings had been revealed in previous reports from the Australian Law Reform Commission, Administrative Review Council, Commonwealth Ombudsman and Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, he said.
"At present, there is no single or authoritative source of advocacy for good FOI
"There is now consensus among the ALRC, ARC, Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee that many of the shortcomings in the current operation and effectiveness of the Act could be addressed with the establishment of a constant, independent monitor.
"A statutory FOI Commissioner would publicise the legislation’s existence, monitor compliance with its provisions and promote its effective operation," Professor McMillan said.
The report noted that during 2001–02, 2002–03 and 2003–04, the total number of requests determined by all Australian government agencies was, respectively: 35,108, 38,370 and 39,774. The great majority of those requests were for personal information—in 2003-04, 92 per cent of requests received by agencies were in that category.
Three Australian government agencies, between them, determined 89 per cent of the
total number of requests received by all Australian government agencies during 2003–04.
They were the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (14,200), Centrelink (10,755) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (10,638). The great majority of those requests were for personal information.
March 21, 2006
ABC Thumbs Up to Digital Direction
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has welcomed the Government’s plans for media reform.
Managing director of the ABC, Russell Balding said the Government’s discussion paper Meeting the Digital Challenge: Reforming Australia's Media in the Digital Age affirmed the ABC’s key role in driving the switch to digital television by providing attractive new digital content.
Mr Balding said that through the corporation’s digital-only ABC2 television channel, the network was providing an additional service to its audience who purchased a set top box, or who received the digital channel via a pay-TV platform.
"However the current restrictions on what we can show on ABC2 seriously limit the attractiveness of the channel," he said.
Mr Balding said it was very encouraging that Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan had indicated she would remove genre restrictions, allowing ABC2 to show a much broader range of programming, including national news, current affairs and archival material.
"The ABC welcomes this commitment and in our detailed response to the discussion paper, we will continue to argue that the most effective option in terms of encouraging consumers to switch to digital TV would be to remove the genre restrictions altogether," he said.
The role of the ABC in guaranteeing diversity in the Australian media landscape would also become a critical factor if the restrictions on cross media and foreign ownership are removed as the discussion paper recommends, he said.
"The ABC has shown, through initiatives such as ABC2, our broadband content initiatives and our successful podcasting service, that we are at the forefront of the digital media changes," Mr Balding said.
March 21, 2006
Ageing Minister Lays Down Challenge to Carers
The Minister for Ageing. Senator Santo Santoro, has challenged the leaders of the aged-care industry to adopt a “zero-tolerance” approach to allegations of abuse of the elderly.
Opening the Aged Care Queensland state conference on the Gold Coast, Senator Santoro said while governments had a role to play in ensuring the safety of frail aged people in care, the industry itself must also accept responsibility for preventing any abuse of the elderly.
“During the past three weeks I, as the new Minister, and we as the Government, have had to deal in a very urgent and dramatic fashion with the issue of alleged and real sexual abuse of a small number of our elderly citizens within our aged-care facilities,” Senator Santoro said.
“However, the Minister and the Government alone simply cannot achieve this objective without the assistance of everybody concerned in the industry, including and in particular the operators of aged-care facilities and the carers who run the facilities on a day-to-day basis.”
Senator Santoro said he was recently briefed on a case where the manager of an aged care facility stated that she did not believe that it was her job to report allegations of sexual abuse and that it took one month for that abuse to eventually be reported to the police.
The Minister said he had been very encouraged by support at the special meeting of the Ministerial Aged Care Advisory Committee for a range of proposals aimed at addressing abuse of the elderly in care facilities. He would now consult with the States and prepare a submission for Cabinet covering a number of proposals, including police checks for aged-care workers, an increase in unannounced spot checks of aged-care facilities, a review of the existing complaints resolution scheme and enhanced training for staff.
Senator Santoro reaffirmed his belief that the overwhelming majority of Australians in aged care had access to high-quality care from dedicated staff who viewed their responsibilities to their patients as sacrosanct. But he said it was up to the entire industry “to bring about the improvements that we all know are necessary in order to provide the levels of security and protection elderly Australians and their families both deserve and expect.”
He said the owners and managers of aged-care facilities must be on the alert for possible abuse within their centres, and vigilant in reporting such suspicions.
“Unless the owners of facilities and the managers of facilities have a zero-tolerance attitude about these things, we cannot expect subordinates to be just as vigilant and dogmatic about their role - their essential role - in identifying and stamping out abuse,” he said.
March 21, 2006
Terror Times the Way of the Future
Terrorism was a complex and serious threat to Australia that would be around for some time, the Head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Paul O'Sullivan has told a Parliamentary Committee.
"It exists today and is going to exist well into the future," Mr O'Sullivan told the security legislation review committee.
"That means that the work of intelligence and law enforcement agencies in connection with counter-terrorism will remain central to the work of the government and important to the people of Australia.
"That work needs to continue within the context of a relevant and appropriate legislative framework," he said.
ASIO's assessment of the level of threat to Australia and Australians from terrorism has changed over time, Mr O'Sullivan said. "It is something that remains under continuous review."
"If we look back to a time before the events of September 2001, our assessment was that Australia was generally at the lower end of the threat spectrum."
There had been terrorist attacks in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s, including the 1978 Hilton hotel bombing in Sydney, 1980 assassination of the Turkish Consul-General in Sydney, 1982 bombing of the Israeli Consulate-General and Hakoah club in Sydney and 1986 bombing at the Turkish Consulate in Melbourne.
But while these attacks occurred in Australia, they were perceived to be directed against foreign interests - not specifically against Australians even though there were some Australian victims.
"At that time, our assessment remained that while terrorist attacks in Australia were possible, such attacks were unlikely," Mr O'Sullivan said.
"However, the September 2001 attacks in the United States demonstrated all too clearly that it is possible for capable and committed terrorists to operate undetected and mount a successful attack.
"ASIO subsequently revised its assessment of the threat and the level of alert was raised to medium - that means, by definition, a terrorist attack in Australia is feasible and could well occur. It has remained that way since September 2001."
While the general level of alert in Australia was medium, the threat to United States, British and Israeli interests in Australia was assessed to be higher, Mr O'Sullivan said.
"Our assessment currently is based on a body of intelligence, public statements and actual attacks that show that Australia and Australians are considered to be legitimate targets for terrorist attacks.
"Unlike the situation in the 1970s and 1980s, it is a threat directed not only against foreign interests in Australia but against Australians and the country itself," he said.
Mr O'Sullivan said the challenge comes down to balancing how we deploy our resources against known sources of threat, while devoting resources to identifying and understanding previously unknown sources of threat, including from so-called non-traditional areas.
ASIO also had to work with other agencies to ensure such individuals and groups are not able to achieve their objectives.
"In this regard, arbitrary and ill-informed speculation about the number of would-be terrorists in the community is unhelpful and ultimately pointless," he said.
"If you look just at the attacks around the world in 2005, they were generally conducted by small groups. Their effectiveness stemmed from their ability to operate undetected and appear unremarkable within the community, not from being part of a large, organised group.
"Putting a precise figure on the number of potential terrorists in the country also is meaningless because it implies the problem is easily quantifiable and confined to a finite number of people," he said.
"The problem is not static - people move along a continuum. People can move from being apparently ordinary members of the community into being much more actively involved in terrorist activities in a very short period of time," he said.
"The speed of this radicalising process means that categorising people is futile."
Legislative changes since 2002 have been effective in strengthening the counter-terrorism framework to allow ASIO and other agencies better to respond to the threat of terrorism, he said.
"Perhaps the most significant legislative change - certainly the one that attracted the most public debate and most intense parliamentary scrutiny - was the enactment in 2003 of questioning and detention powers for ASIO," he said.
"In ASIO's view, the detention powers remain essential to the legislation. These powers can be used (in general terms) only when the subject is considered to be a flight risk, is likely to tip-off another person under investigation, or could destroy something relevant to an investigation.
"ASIO is required by legislation to report publicly on the use of these powers in its annual Report to Parliament, and has done so in each of its Annual Reports since the powers were enacted," he said.
March 21, 2006
Done Deal a Pay Deal at DEST
Staff at the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) have negotiated a 12 per cent pay rise over three years.
More than 90 per cent voted to accept the new deal negotiated by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). An initial 3.5 per cent increase is being paid now, to be followed by 2.5 per cent in September, 3.5 per cent in September 2007 and the final 2.5 per cent in September 2008. Three per cent of the total increase is linked to organisational performance.
A major boon for the 1800 employees covered by the agreement is access to $100 a week of school holiday child care assistance. Employees are also entitled to a $200 health payment on 1 September each year.
CPSU deputy national president Lisa Newman said the DEST agreement was a good result that had been overwhelmingly supported by employees.
"However, we have been very concerned at the apparent third party interference by DEWR (Department of Employee and Workplace Relations) which resulted in delays in the certification of the agreement," she said.
"These delays caused unnecessary stress for staff and management and were extremely counter-productive," she said.
Another feature64 of the agreement is that paid maternity leave has been extended from 12 to 14 weeks.
March 21, 2006
Families Saluted In Defence Childcare Upgrade
Defence families across Australia are set to benefit from a boost of 1000 extra places in 13 new Defence corporate childcare centres.
The Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Bruce Billson, announced the upgrade recently saying the demands faced by families relocating around Australia to serve the country were a Government priority.
“ADF personnel make an outstanding contribution to our nation and easing the demands faced by families relocating around Australia is a Government priority,” Mr Billson said..
“This expansion brings the total number of Defence childcare centres to 38 and offers further priority placement to Defence families under a contract with ABC Corporate Care Pty Ltd. The contract also allows other families in the wider community to access any vacant positions.”
He said new centres would be introduced between April and December 2006 and increase priority long day care places for Defence families to more than 2500, an increase of 150 per cent in the size of the program within 18 months.
“The childcare program is one of many family-friendly ADF initiatives that include practical and financial assistance for spouses and partners to find employment, school transition aides, education assistance and family support funding,” Mr Billson said.
“The Australian Government is committed to establishing the ADF as an employer of choice with policies that support the needs of Defence Force members at work and at home.”
The new sites Defence recently accepted from ABC are in the following locations:
• Hoxton Park and Wagga Wagga (NSW);
• Lower Plenty (VIC);
• Warnbro and Rockingham North (WA);
• Cairns North (QLD);
• Stuart Park (NT);
• Golden Grove (SA) (under construction, projected completion July 06);
• Aranda and Gungahlin (ACT) (under construction, projected completion December 06); and
• Medowie (under construction, projected completion November 06) and site acquisition by ABC in North Sydney and St Leonards (NSW).
March 21, 2006
Cheques Are in the Mail at Australia Post
All Australia Post staff are to receive a $400 bonus for achieving a major service performance target over the Christmas period.
The staff achieved their target of 94 per cent on-time delivery of letters in all states from 24 November 2004 to 31 December 2005 entitling them to the payment under their Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) covering more than 32,000 employees.
Australia Post’s delivery performance is monitored quarterly by independent auditors who evaluate Australia Post’s domestic letter service against its on-time delivery promise of 94 per cent and in most cases the result achieved was above the benchmark.
Australia Post Managing Director, Graeme John, said it takes a huge team effort to move over 20 million articles of mail across the country every business day.
“While we have state-of-the-art technology to assist in our processing, it is the commitment and dedication of our staff who make it happen in a timely manner,” Mr John said.
The $400 bonus would be paid this week and comes on top of a two per cent salary increase on March 9, the third instalment of a 10 per cent wage rise.
March 21, 2006
New Faces Join Thin Blue Line
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) welcomed 37 new Protective Service Officers (PSO) into the force at a recent ceremony at Old Parliament House.
The new recruits had completed an intensive nine week training course covering AFP governance and framework, legislation, firearms, defensive tactics, tactical communications and operational simulations.
AFP National Manager Protection, Assistant Commissioner Tony Negus congratulated the recruits on their achievements during training.
“Protective Service Officers are carefully selected and play an important role in day-to-day security,” he said.
The AFP Protective Service provides protective security services at Australia’s major airports, diplomatic premises, defence and official establishments and Parliament House.
The new recruits will be deployed to Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Pine Gap, starting work on March 20, 2006.
Awards were presented to three students for Most Improved, Most Outstanding and Academic Achievement.
Most Improved Student - Terry Markham
This award is presented to a student who commenced the course with little or no experience in the protective security industry. Over the period of the course they have demonstrated significant development in their knowledge and skills, in both theory and practical, and achieved a high standard.
Most Outstanding Student - Jamie Owers
This award is presented to the student who stood out during the course in all aspects, including theory, practical training and most of all as a team player. They have given their time and effort to achieve a high result and spent time and effort to assist others through the course. They have shown themselves to be a leader but also know how to follow directions.
Academic Achievement - Simon Beer
This award is presented to the student who achieved the highest average theory marks throughout the course.
March 21, 2006
Scientists on Dating Duties for Buddhists
Carbon dating of ancient manuscripts by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) could have found the missing link in Buddhist history.
Priceless texts dubbed the Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism have been dated as first and fifth century by ANSTO. The tests were carried out on two out of three international collections, the Senior and Schoyen collections which are both privately-owned. The third collection belongs to The British Library.
Tests showed that two manuscripts from the Senior collection date between the years 130 and 250AD, while three Schoyen texts date between the first and fifth century AD.
Dr Mark Allon, an Australian Research Fellow from the University of Sydney, is translating the texts and commissioned the ANSTO work. He said the date confirmation is an exciting step towards filling the historical void that existed before the scrolls’ discovery, in particular the Senior results.
“Buddhism was originally an oral tradition but little is known about how it developed from spoken word to written word, so the discovery and date confirmation will give us a unique insight into the development of Buddhist literature,” Dr Allon said.
“In addition, although Buddhism flourished throughout Asia and there is an enormous amount of literature available today, it totally disappeared from India, central Asia and the Indonesian archipelago and with it many literary traditions,” he said.
“The new manuscripts are therefore the missing link in the historical chain."
The Senior collection dating makes a major contribution to Indian chronology by ruling out an early date of 78AD for key Kushan emperor Kanishka.
At ANSTO, Dr Geraldine Jacobsen was in charge of the delicate chemistry needed to prepare the samples for dating. She said a sample chemistry test took place before the birch bark scrolls were analysed.
“As we have never tested birch bark before, we needed to ensure we got the chemistry right as sometimes samples don’t survive the pre-treatment stage,” Dr Jacobsen said.
“In the treatment, we had to remove any impurities that might have affected the date and as we had no idea how the scrolls were handled or if any conservation attempts were made, we had to use a series of organic solvents, such as hexane, chloroform and methanol to remove grease or resins.
“This process was followed by washing with acid and alkaline solutions which remove other possible contaminants, including the solvents we used in the first step, as these would also affect the dating if they remained.”
Carbon dating dates the material itself, in this case when the bark grew, not the time the writing took place. However, dating the bark gives a very good indication of when the texts were written.
The discovery of the scrolls and the ANSTO dating has enhanced Buddhist history.
They were found as a result of conflict in Afghanistan that saw many archaeological sites plundered or destroyed. The scrolls were among artifacts that appeared on the world antiquities market.
March 21, 2006
Comcare Comes Clean in New Booklet
A new booklet published by Comcare lifts the veil on the process of determining workers' compensation claims.
The guide: Workers’ Compensation. How Comcare determines claims made under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 explains the processes followed by the Agency in determining claims before it.
The Act covers more than 178,000 Australian and ACT government employees who at any one time have lodged 12,000 claims from more than 200 premium-paying government departments and agencies.
This represents potentially 800,000 determinations (decisions on liability or benefits) made by Comcare annually.
While the Act provides rights of reconsideration and review to both the employer and employee, less than one per cent annually are requested to be reviewed.
The booklet explains that for a claim to be considered, it is not necessary to determine if the employer or employee were at fault or negligent. However, compensation may be excluded where an injury is self inflicted or is caused by the serious and wilful misconduct of the employee but is not intentionally self inflicted, except where that injury results in death or serious and permanent impairment, Comcare said.
The Act also limits the circumstances in which a claimant can initiate common law action. Employers can assist Comcare by providing factual information about the circumstances of claims made by their employees. A statement of facts from an employer helps Comcare make informed decisions and prompts the employer to focus on the circumstances that led to their employee being injured or becoming ill, the reasonable and practicable steps required to prevent other employees being harmed and the support required by the injured or ill employee to stay at or to return to work quickly and safely.
The circumstances where an injury is considered to arise out of or in the course of employment are set out in section 6 of the Act. There are two possible bases for an injury to be compensable under this section:
• arising out of employment means arising out of the work the employee is employed to do or is incidental to that work, whether or not the employee is injured at their place of employment
• in the course of employment involves a purely incidental connection. Basically, an injury will be taken to have arisen out of, or in the course of, employment if the injury is sustained:
• at work for the purposes of employment or during an ordinary work recess such as the lunch break
• as a result of an act of violence that would not have occurred but for their employment
• on a journey between home and work
• while travelling for work
• on an approved educational course or while travelling to and from the course
• while at a place, or travelling for one of the other specified purposes in the Act, for example, to receive medical treatment for a compensable injury.
More details are available from www.comcare.com.au.
March 21, 2006
Australians Idle as Workforce Loses Interest
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed that one in three Australians aged 15 or more are not in the work force.
Conducted in September 2005 the ABS survey found that around 5.5 million people or 34 per cent of Australians were neither employed nor unemployed. Most – around 3.4 million – were women.
Just over one-fifth (21 per cent) of the people who were not in the labour force wanted to work, and most of these were women (68 per cent). Of the 1.2 million people who wanted to work, only six per cent (69,200 people) were actively looking for work.
A further 840,300 people were marginally attached to the labour force. While most (92 per cent) were not actively looking for work, they were available to start work within four weeks. For men, the main reasons for not actively looking for work were attending an educational institution (34 per cent) and own ill health or physical disability (20 per cent). For women, the main reasons were caring for children (31 per cent) and attending an educational institution (18 per cent).
Of those marginally attached to the labour force, two-thirds (67 per cent) were women and almost half of these women were aged 25-44. Around 59 per cent intended to enter the labour force within 12 months and 80 per cent had previously had a job. Most would prefer part-time work (72 per cent of women, 49 per cent of men) and eight per cent were discouraged jobseekers (people who wanted work and were available to work within four weeks, but weren't actively looking for work because they believed they would not find a job.
Around 61 per cent of discouraged jobseekers were women.
March 21, 2006
PS Lawyers Get New Guide
New Legal Services Directions (LSDs) have been issued by the Federal Attorney-General.
Known as the Legal Services Directions 2005, they replace the Legal Services Directions issued in 19 and took effect from March 1, 2006.
In an Explanatory Statement accompanying the Directions, the Office of Legal Services Coordination (OLSC) advised that for clarity and ease of use, the Attorney-General has decided not to amend the existing Directions, but to issue a new instrument which comprises certain changes to the Directions in their previous form.
Simon Daley from OLSC said major changes included:
• the threshold for a major claim rises from $10,000 to $25,000
• extension of the coverage of Appendix C (Handling monetary claims) to claims by the Commonwealth, as well as claims against the Commonwealth
• agency heads must make available records of their agency's legal services expenditure
• agency heads must after the end of each financial year disclose to OLSC any possible breach of the LSDs not previously reported
• barristers who have been or are presently bankrupt and who have been the subject of an adverse disciplinary finding on that account, are only to be briefed with the approval of the Attorney-General
• agencies conferring subrogation rights on contractors must use their best endeavours to ensure that the contractor agrees to comply with the model litigant policy, and consult with the agency if matters arise relevant to the tied work or sharing of advice obligations under the LSDs
• the type of limitation period that is to be invoked, in the absence of approval otherwise, now excludes those applying to judicial or merits review
• the Attorney-General may impose sanctions for non-compliance with the LSDs.
Mr Daley said that overall, there was a strengthening of agency accountability for LSD compliance and the whole of government focus in the provision of legal services to agencies.
As with the former LSDs, the new LSDs applied to all FMA agencies and had the same limited application as the former LSDs to bodies that were not government business enterprises (GBEs) or companies under the Corporations Act controlled by the Commonwealth
Agency heads would now be required to make publicly available records of their agency's legal services expenditure for the previous financial year by 30 October.
The model litigant policy had been given further definition to make clear that the requirement to limit legal proceedings wherever possible included giving consideration to alternative dispute resolution before initiating legal proceedings, and participating in alternative dispute resolution processes where appropriate.
More information is available from www.ag.gov.au.
March 21, 2006
Rich Returns for BROKE researchers
A team of Australian researchers have returned home after a comprehensive 10-week survey of the Southern Ocean.
The Baseline Research on Oceanography, Krill and the Environment (BROKE) -West voyage - was led by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and covered more than a million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean off Australia's Antarctic Territory.
During the survey researchers found temperature and salinity changes in some areas of the Southern Ocean as well as potential new krill populations – the main food source for whales and some seabirds.
Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell said the researchers found that deep waters in part of the survey area were warmer and had higher salinity levels than previously observed but most sectors confirmed earlier findings. The easternmost line of the survey showed an increase in both temperature and salinity however.
“This is possibly due to a convergence of ocean fronts and a movement of currents south,” Senator Campbell said. “Our researchers will undertake further analysis over the coming year to determine why this has happened and what it means for ecosystems in the region.”
Researchers on the voyage also confirmed the presence of a source of very deep Antarctic waters – among the densest waters found on Earth.
These waters, known as “bottom waters”, are so named because they fill the abyssal ocean around Antarctica and are important in carrying oxygen-rich waters and driving global deep ocean circulation.
A significant finding of the survey was the potential discovery of a new population of krill which is a very important food source for whales and some seabirds. Researchers found that krill in the region was more widespread when compared with other areas of East Antarctica, suggesting there may be an oceanic population as well as a coastal population.
Senator Campbell said that BROKE-West had been one of the most comprehensive surveys ever undertaken and would provide answers on a whole range of issues and assist with future planning initiatives for the Southern Ocean.
“This has been a great effort by the Australian agencies and a marvellous example of collaboration between 62 scientists from 14 countries,” he said.
The completion of this survey is the culmination of a 10-year project which means that most waters off the Australian Antarctic Territory have now been investigated by the Australian Government's $100 million a year Antarctic Program.
A diary of the voyage was available on the Antarctic Division website at www.aad.gov.au
March 21, 2006
Memories Alive at War Exhibition
The days during World War II when Australia was under attack and facing invasion were a time of real fear and great courage according to Veterans’ Affairs Minister Bruce Billson, who has launched the Australia Under Attack 1942 -1943 exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.
“Australia under Attack 1942–1943 is an important travelling exhibition from the Australian War Memorial that offers great insight into the experiences of Australians in a time of real threat to our safety and sovereignty,” Mr Billson said.
“In 1942, Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies fell to the downward thrusting Japanese forces as most of the Australian Imperial Force were in the Middle East fighting the Germans and her allies, leaving Australia largely exposed.”
He said the frightening episodes in which Australians endured air and sea attacks, including the bombing of Darwin, Broome and Townsville, the submarine attack in Sydney Harbour and the sinking of the Hospital Ship Centaur off the coast of Moreton Bay, were vividly recalled through personal accounts and official records.
To date more than two million people around the country have viewed the exhibition that was launched in December 2004 at the Australian War Memorial and was scheduled to conclude in Darwin in May 2007 for the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.
The Australian War Memorial’s Travelling Exhibitions program is an initiative designed to make the Memorial’s remarkable national collection of art, photographs, relics and documents accessible to all Australians.
Australia under Attack 1942-1943 is a free exhibition on show at the Australian National Maritime Museum until June 11 2006.
March 21, 2006
Thousands Tune In To Harmony For a Day
While elite athletes from all over the world compeetd in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, more than 300 000 Australians took part in events to mark Harmony Day, March 21.
Harmony Day brought Australians together to say “no” to discrimination and intolerance.
Now in its eighth year, Harmony Day has become a significant multicultural event and falls on the same day as the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Key events in 2006 included themed Australian Football League and National Rugby League matches, street concerts in Adelaide and Brisbane, a multicultural performance with a country and western flavour on the Gold Coast and activities during the National Surf Life Saving Championships.
Most Harmony Day events were local community gatherings at schools, councils, community organisations, workplaces and other venues.
As Melbourne welcomes Games visitors from around the globe, Harmony Day provided an opportunity to reflect on Australia’s proud tradition of welcoming new settlers from around the world.
Since 1945, six million people from 200 countries had migrated to Australia to join people from Indigenous and colonial heritages. Currently, 43 per cent of Australians were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas.
More information about Harmony Day can be obtained from www.harmony.gov.au.
March 21, 2006
Online entry point a winner
The Australian Government’s entry point - www.australia.gov.au - has been judged “best government site” in the 2005 Australian NetGuide Awards.
Managed by the Australian Government Information Management Office, the site has links to more than 700 Government websites and provides a search function covering 5 million online resources across Government, as well as state and territory government agencies.
The Australian Netguide Awards are based upon nominations made by the Australian public, which are then judged by an expert panel to determine the winner. Other categories for the award included best small business site, best search site, and best news service.
Other winners included websites such as Google, eBay, SEEK and ABC News online.
March 21, 2006
Austrade ties up with Thais
Austrade has opened an office in Phuket, Thailand, with the aim of securing a bigger slice of the island’s booming construction, marine, and food and beverage sectors.
Bangkok-based Senior Trade Commissioner, Sean Riley said Phuket was becoming a regional economic centre for Thailand, with more global companies setting up business there to take advantage of opportunities.
“Austrade - the Australian Government’s trade-promotion agency – wants to make sure Australian exporters get the best crack at these opportunities,” Mr Riley said.
Phuket’s economy grew by 4.6 per cent in 2005, driven by tourism – which is rebounding from the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.
Alisara Na Takuatung has been appointed Austrade’s Phuket-based Business Development Manager.
March 21, 2006
Calls out for helpline
The Office for Women is calling for suitably qualified organisations to tender for the provision of a National Helpline to provide counselling, referral and call transfer services to support the Violence Against Women. Australia Says NO. Campaign.
Seeking proposals for innovative and flexible responses to a range of service needs, te Office says the new service needs to include:
• a dedicated 24 hour a day, 7 days a week National Helpline providing immediate counselling services
• a call management and referral regime (including crisis referrals)
• a call transfer service
• management of an online national database providing information and referral services to callers seeking specialist advice/assistance
• a comprehensive Feedback and Complaints Management Procedure
• provision of detailed and accurate Helpline statistics
• management of funding to services receiving referrals from the Helpline.
Tenders close Friday April 7 2006. More information can be found at www.tenders.gov.au.
March 21, 2006
Share market (almost) perfect
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has declared the Australian Stock Exchange to be an effective and reliable market following its annual performance assessment.
ASIC’s fourth report to the Government on the ASX concludes that it had adequate arrangements for supervising the market and enforcing its rules.
During the assessment period, the ASX initiated a major review of supervision and announced several projects relating to the review of its operating rules. A separate supervision subsidiary is expected to be in place from July 1 2006.
March 21, 2006
Multicultural arts for WA
A $600,000 Multicultural Arts Marketing Strategy has been announced for Western Australia.
A program to enable arts organisations to reach out to and engage culturally diverse communities, the new program will be co-funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and the West Australian Department of Culture and the Arts.
The 12-week professional development initiative would include seminars and research presentations by expert speakers and provide arts organisations with in-depth knowledge and tips on how to make their programming and marketing more culturally inclusive.
March 21, 2006
Games win own weather station
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has joined in the spirit of the Commonwealth Games by launching a specific weather service for Games venues.
Basically a web page, the Commonwealth Games weather service allowed easy navigation to weather information relevant to each of the Games venues, including forecasts and current weather conditions for Melbourne as well as regional centres such as Ballarat and Bendigo where Games events are also being held.
The new service can be found at www.bom.gov.au.
March 14, 2006
Women Show Primary Colours in Parliament
Buildings in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle are being lit in the traditional colours of women’s suffrage (purple and green) as part of the ongoing celebrations for International Women’s Day that fell on 8 March.
Old Parliament House, the National Carillon and the National Library are being lit in the colours for the entire month.
Visitors are being encouraged to view these historic buildings, quite literally in a different light.
March 14, 2006
ATO Reveals Returns Not So Taxing On-Line
For the first time in 2005, more taxpayers chose to lodge their income tax return on-line than to trust it to the traditional paper return.
Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said 1.4 million returns for 2005 were lodged online, an increase of 27 per cent on the previous year.
“People are finding that lodging on-line is faster and easier to use, and in most cases it’s processed, and any refund owing is received, within 14 days,’’ Mr D’Ascenzio said.
“To make it even easier for 2006 returns, a person’s Centrelink, Medicare and the new 30 per cent child care tax rebate data will be able to be downloaded automatically onto the electronic form,.”
He said 2006 tax returns could be lodged online from July 1 2006.
March 14, 2006
Australia Shells Out to Save Sea Turtles
Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, has urged people from across the South-East Asian region to support an international campaign to save sea turtles.
Launched by the United Nations Environment Program, the Year of the Turtle – 2006 focuses on the South-East Asian region of the Indian Ocean, an area that contains six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles.
“Australia is home to these six species of sea turtles and supports some of the world’s most important remaining populations,” Senator Campbell said.
“Many of the world’s populations of marine turtles have declined, some to the point of extinction, as a result of incidental deaths in fishing gear, damage to turtle nesting beaches and unsustainable harvests.”
From Australia and Thailand to Oman and South Africa, this campaign pulls 25 countries together under the banner “Cooperating to Conserve Marine Turtles: Our Ocean’s Ambassadors”. It is being coordinated by the Secretariat of the Indian Ocean – South-East Asia Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding.
“Australia is a signatory to this Memorandum of Understanding and has been one of its most active supporters,” Senator Campbell said.
“As well as contributing almost $250,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust to the implementation of the MOU over its first three years, Australia has championed greater participation by countries which share turtle migrations.
“Turtles are unique ambassadors of our oceans, linking countries and communities globally. They are of cultural, spiritual, traditional and economic importance to Indigenous Australians, are great tourist attractions, and play a significant role in the health of our marine environment.
“I am pleased to see that Australian primary school children are participating in the year by developing a new turtle education guide.”
The Minister said other related projects in Australia funded by the Natural Heritage Trust include satellite tagging to increase our understanding of turtles migratory patterns, and the development of protocols for assisting stranded turtles.
Overseas, activities for the year include beach and reef clean-ups in Thailand, research in Iran to track turtle movements and underwater film festivals in the Seychelles.
March 14, 2006
IP Recruits Should have Patent Potential
IP Australia has opened the door for new Patent Examiners saying the job was varied, exciting and on the “cutting edge” of the innovation process.
The Government agency responsible for granting rights in patents, trade marks and designs IP Australia pointed out it was contributing to the improvement of Australian and international IP systems and supporting Australia's economic development
According to IP Australia , Patent Examiner positions offered an interesting mix of technical content and legal analysis where staff were required to help determine the patent protection available for new inventions and innovations.
“So if you are an experienced professional or graduate in science or engineering that is decisive, can work independently and apply your technical knowledge to new and challenging ideas, then a career as a patent examiner is for you,’’ the Agency said.
As a Patent Examiner with IP Australia new starters would benefit from a comprehensive training program in patent law and examination; ongoing professional development; flexible working conditions; four weeks annual leave and a competitive superannuation package; and a relaxed and friendly working environment
According to Allan Smailes, a Patent Examiner already with IP Australia, patent examiner work was interesting.
“I deal with a good variety of technologies. I particularly enjoy conducting searches to compare people's invention with what has already been developed so that I can decide if a patent is to be granted,” Mr Smailes said.
“Apart from the work – which I really enjoy, the flexibility of the working hours and the leave options are fantastic. It allows me to have a great balance between work and personal life, and time with my family.”
Mr Smailes said he had been on a couple of interstate trips to attend a Manufacturing expo to keep up with some of the technologies he dealt with, and visited a factory and design office of one of his clients to get a better understanding of their patent applications.
“I also represented IP Australia in a Careers Expo in Melbourne, talking to university students about being a Patent Examiner and working at IP Australia.”
More information about the positions can be found at www.ipaustralia.gov.au
March 14, 2006
Into Africa For AFP Peace-Keepers
Ten Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers bound for the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Sudan have been farewelled by senior AFP personnel and the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison.
The government approved deployment of AFP personnel to the United National Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) last November, the major role of which is to support the implementation of a peace agreement signed in January 2005 by the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. The agreement marked the end of a 22-year civil war.
Australia’s initial commitment to UNMIS, which also plays a role in supporting the African Union's Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in the Darfur region is for a period of 18 months. During this period several AFP contingents will be deployed, comprising a Contingent Commander and nine Contingent Members within UNMIS at any one time.
Senator Ellison said the AFP contribution formed part of the Government’s response to the humanitarian situation in Sudan, Australia a long-standing and regular contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
He said the deployments complemented Australia’s financial assistance to humanitarian crises in Sudan and demonstrated support for the resolution of the Sudan conflicts, both in the south and in Darfur.
In order to ensure operational readiness, the AFP members completed specialised training at the AFP’s International Training Complex which included courses in the Arabic language and cultural awareness delivered by Sudanese trainers from the Canberra Institute of Technology.
“This is another example of the important work being done by AFP personnel around the world,” Senator Ellison said.
“The AFP, working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies and multilateral bodies like the UN, is a key player in several peacekeeping missions,” he said.
March 14, 2006
Australia Post Delivers on Performance
Australia Post’s performance in the December 2005 quarter has again exceeded internal service delivery standards, according to a recent review.
Overall national performance revealed that 95.6 percent of domestic letters were delivered on time according to independent auditor, KPMG. The quarterly audit evaluates Australia Post’s domestic letter service against its on-time delivery promise of 94 per cent.
Spokesperson Lea Jaensch hailed the result as “particularly strong.”
“It shows that Australia Post staff were able to maintain their high standards over the busiest time of year,” Ms Jaensch, said.
“Our staff work particularly hard over the Christmas period, doubling their delivery capacity over this time.”
Across Australia, the national delivery targets were exceeded in every state, Tasmania the strongest performer with 96.7 per cent delivered on time.
March 14, 2006
Writers in Dead Heat for Stanner Award
A book chronicling the nature of Aboriginal Australia at the time of British colonisation and another portraying the oppressive surveillance and paternalism experienced by Aboriginal people in south Western Australia about a century later have been named joint winners of the 2004 Stanner Award presented annually by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).
AIATSIS Chairman Professor Mick Dodson said that two books, Aboriginal Economy and Society: Australia at the threshold of colonisation by Ian Keen and Shadow Lines by Mirriwoong man Stephen Kinnane, would share the 2004 award in honour of one of its founders, late anthropologist Emeritus Professor Bill Stanner..
Professor Dodson said the AIATSIS Council gives the award to what it regards as the best scholarly published contribution to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Studies that reflects the dynamic nature of Professor Stanner’s life and work.
Expert readers for the Award predicted that Ian Keen’s book will become the standard scholarly reference for anyone seeking to understand the nature of variation in Aboriginal Australia at the time of the British invasion and an inevitable baseline for the assessment of change since then.
The readers described Stephen Kinnane’s book Shadow Lines, portraying the lives of Kinnane’s Aboriginal grandmother and her English husband living in southern Western Australia from the 1920s, as a fine book for its readability, audience appeal and ability to evoke character and situation in powerful fashion.
“It is one thing to do the time-consuming and often painful research necessary to underpin and contextualise such a narrative, but to bring it vividly to life takes a strong literary and imaginary bent, and this Kinnane certainly possesses,” the readers said.
Professor Dodson said that 20 different authors had been judged worthy of
the Stanner Award since 1986.
“Whether they have chronicled important historic events, presented the artistic and cultural traditions or beliefs of particular language groups, explored government and societal attitudes, exposed myths or courageously shared personal stories, all past Stanner
Awardees have contributed to the indigenous knowledge estate and grown the field of
Australian indigenous studies,” he said.
Professor Dodson also congratulated the authors of the two other short-listed books, Euahlari woman Professor Larissa Behrendt for Achieving Social Justice: Indigenous Rights and Australia's Future and Christine Watson for Piercing the ground: Balgo women's image making and relationship to country.
“The four shortlisted books are very different to each other but all of them serve to chisel Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people deeper into the Australian historical
landscape,” Professor Dodson said.
“Like the shell middens of indigenous Australia, they tell stories that will inform and stimulate the minds of generations to come.”
Aboriginal Economy and Society: Australia at the threshold of colonisation is published by Oxford University Press; Shadow Lines is published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press; Achieving Social Justice: Indigenous Rights and Australia's future is published by Federation Press; Balgo women's image making and relationship to country is published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press.
March 14, 2006
Cinematic Kelly Gang to Ride Again
The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) has announced it will digitally restore the Australian film classic The Story of the Kelly Gang, believed to be the first feature64 film made anywhere in the world.
Aimed at being ready for the centenary of the film's premiere on 26 December 2006, state-of-the-art technology for moving image restoration will be applied to bring the surviving footage of the film to a condition as close as possible to the original.
The new version will be presented to the National Film and Sound Archive later this year, in conjunction with centenary celebrations for the film.
"The Story of the Kelly Gang is more than an icon of Australian cinema and history,” said Pablo Cherchi Usai, NFSA director.
"It is also the first evidence of the growth of feature64-length film as a form of mass entertainment.”
He said now, due to major advances in digital preservation, audiences will be able to experience the film in a way that would have been unimaginable only a decade ago.
The original running time of The Story of the Kelly Gang was almost an hour, making it by far the longest motion picture of its time. Over the years, NFSA has retrieved and saved from destruction a series of fragments from different sections of the work equal to about 10 minutes of projection. Each frame of the extant nitrate print will be digitally scanned at a high resolution to create a new 35mm preservation negative of better quality than the existing material.
"Digital is not the answer for the long-term conservation of the traditional cinematic experience," Mr Cherchi Usai said.
He said it was a powerful tool for public access and for restoring damaged parts of a film in a way that would not be possible with analog techniques.
He said a responsible use of digital technology could contribute to the protection and dissemination of our audiovisual heritage and the NFSA wanted to be at the forefront of that important process.
The NFSA would also create an additional study version of the film, incorporating production stills and narrative intertitles from original theatre programs. This study version will be made available on DVD together with the restoration of the original footage.
March 14, 2006
Commonwealth Games Mascot Cocky After Winning Gold
The battle to save from extinction the real-life version of Karak, the mascot of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, has been boosted with $1.3 million to protect the south eastern red-tailed black cockatoo.
The three-year habitat conservation project was officially launched by the Federal and Victorian Governments and will be funded through the Natural Heritage Trust, with contributions from the State Government.
Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Peter McGauran, and Environment and Heritage Ian Campbell, said the work was vital to the future survival of the species.
"With less than 1000 of these birds remaining in the wild, this important work will safeguard one of our unique species - now recognised around the world thanks to Karak, the symbol of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games," Mr McGauran said.
"The recovery project aims to encourage landholders' participation in a new, competitive tender system that funds worthwhile environmental projects on private land, based on proposals from the landholders themselves.
"Through this, advice will be available on management practices to support cockatoo habitat - for example, replanting cleared land or fencing remnant habitat, including paddock trees the birds need for feeding and breeding," Mr McGauran said.
The main threats to the cockatoo's long-term survival were the loss of the large hollow trees that provide nesting opportunities, the clearing of buloke trees and extensive hot fires in stringybark forests.
The recovery project will protect around 3000 hectares of stringybark woodland and buloke woodland each year for its duration.
“This will, in turn, benefit other woodland fauna in southern parts of Victoria and in South Australia, like the heath mouse, bush stone-curlew, masked owl and pale sun moth."
The project was expected to double the number of farmers in target regions who receive grants for activities that protect or enhance native vegetation.
March 14, 2006
Ageing Minister Has Long-Term Vision
The Federal Minister for Ageing, Senator Santo Santoro, has outlined a long-term vision for aged care in Australia admitting there “was room for improvement in the system.”
In a speech in Victoria, Senator Santoro said the Government was committed to choice, quality and financial sustainability for aged care, underpinned by respect for the human dignity of every aged person in care.
Responding to allegations of abuse that had come to light recently, Senator Santoro said both the Government and service providers needed to focus more strongly on meeting the individual needs of each person in care.
“I strongly believe that how we as a community care for the vulnerable amongst us - whether it is young children or the frail aged - has a direct impact on human dignity and the quality of our society," Senator Santoro said. “The innate human dignity of every individual is precious, and must be respected.”
“We need to continue the transition away from a system in which the government pays providers for the kinds of services that they want to provide, to one in which the government pays providers for the kinds of services that individual service-users want.
“Together we should be thinking about how we can go further than that in the longer term, and move to a system in which the government funds individuals so they, or their representatives, can purchase the kinds of services they want.”
He said the government was committed to continued improvements to the quality of aged care services, but would take a “reasonable” approach to the nature and degree of regulation.
The Government’s had added more than 11,000 new care places during 2005 and expected increases of 14,559 places in both 2006 and 2007. It had also invested more than $100 million in the 2004-05 Budget to increase the size, capacity and skills of the aged care workforce.
Senator Santoro said he was confident the upcoming special meeting of the Aged Care Advisory Committee would lead to a range of positive improvements.
“I will be putting on the table some potential solutions that I have been thinking very carefully and hard about, and which have been suggested to me by key stakeholders, including the many residents, relatives and carers that I have been speaking to.”
March 14, 2006
Media Watchdog Hooks Telcos on Identity Issue
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is cracking down on telephone companies collecting identity information about their pre-paid mobile phone customers.
According to new chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman, collection of accurate information about customers of pre-paid mobile telephones is important as it is used to help emergency service organisations respond quickly to time-critical emergencies and also identify people who make hoax calls.
Mr Chapman said identifying information could also be used to prosecute people who made life-threatening calls and assist law enforcement and national security agencies in their investigations of serious crime.
“It is likely to become increasingly important,” Mr Chapman said.
Part of the Authority’s crackdown includes releasing a discussion paper entitled Identity Checks for Pre-paid Mobile Services.
Mr Chapman said the paper noted that the data being produced by the telephone companies was of insufficient quality and consistency.
“The paper also outlines potential changes to the identity checking process to reduce industry costs and provide a simpler process for consumers.”
Mr Chapman said possible changes included removing the identity checking process from retail outlets such as supermarkets and petrol stations and requiring the mobile phone companies to collect and verify identifying information at the time the pre-paid mobile service is activated.
“ACMA is seeking submissions both on the issues raised in the discussion paper and on the options that have been identified.
“We need to test the viability of the proposed improvements to ensure that the needs of key stakeholders, including emergency services and law enforcement agencies, and that the concerns of industry and consumers are taken into account,” Mr Chapman said.
He said the discussion paper was available on the ACMA website or from ACMA on (03) 63 6725 and comments should reach the authority by 3 April 2006, either by fax to (03) 63 6979, email to email@example.com or by mail to ACMA at PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne VIC 8010.
March 14, 2006
Government Sheds Light on Dawn Service
Plans for Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli in April were well under way, with a high level of cooperation between the Governments of Turkey, New Zealand and Australia, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Billson said.
"Important lessons have been learned from record crowds at last year’s 90th anniversary. This has led to improvements for the 2006 services and a framework to handle increased attendance as we approach the centenary anniversary in 2015," Mr Billson said.
"This will include closer drop off points, assistance for the aged and infirm, better seating and food services, an alcohol ban, increased first aid facilities and clean up support from Conservation Volunteers Australia.
"This year’s crowd will experience an emotive collaborative program involving the 1915 story and the birth of the Anzac spirit, the premiere of a Turkish composed symphonic piece and an ABC trial broadcast link of the different services," Mr Billson said.
He said the Australian Government had undertaken extensive planning and consultation with Turkey and New Zealand in preparing for Anzac Day 2006.
“Additional planning has occurred to cater for the large number of visitors expected this year that do not impact on the historical significance of the site.” Australian engineers and other Australian officials are working with Turkish officials to undertake some minor road repairs before the 2006 services.
"The Australian government has also committed a further $16 million over four years to preserve the legend of Gallipoli, which includes the funding of a specialist Australian team to support an historical and archaeological review of the area.
Mr Billson said there was no greater symbol of Australia’s proud wartime history than Gallipoli and the Australian Government would continue to work closely with Turkey and New Zealand to commemorate this epic chapter of the Australian story.
March 14, 2006
Tourism Chiefs Stumped by Bloody Campaign Controversy
Tourism Australia Managing Director, Scott Morrison, is bloody glad the British have banned the controversial Tourism advertising campaign saying it will deliver a massive PR boost to Australia.
“The campaign was designed to achieve cut through and get people talking, especially online. After just two weeks, we’ve certainly achieved that,” Mr Morrison said.
“Already, we estimate that over 100,000 people in the UK have viewed the ad online through our website www.wherethebloodyhellareyou.com and after the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre [the United Kingdom’s television broadcasting authority] decision this is only going to get better.”
“More than 180 destinations advertised on UK television last year to attract tourists and only one of them, Australia, is now getting this type of reaction. The campaign is creating a talkability that marketers only dream about.”
Mr Morrison said the decision only relates to commercial television and that the rest of the campaign, including on-line and print, was unaffected by the decision and will run using the ‘uncut’ version.
At home, Tourism Australia will be inviting Australians to join the campaign, with advertisements in major Australian newspapers encouraging them to go online to invite their friends, family and contacts in the UK and other countries using a viral email ‘postcard’ available at ‘www.wherethebloodyhellareyou.com’.
Mr Morrison said “We had always factored in the prospect of such a decision in the UK. We decided to press ahead knowing that a ban would only increase interest in the campaign and give us the PR equivalent of ‘a free kick in front of an open goal’”.
Mr Morrison said “I’m sure that there will be a reaction to the campaign, after all that’s the point. Our extensive consumer research in the UK shows that our target audience does not take offence. Rather they appreciate the tone and warmth of the invitation as something that is uniquely Australian.”
Mr Morrison said the best way to find out what all the bloody’ fuss was about would be to click on www.australia.com or www.wherethebloodyhellareyou.com and see for yourself. “And while you’re there, send a copy to a friend,” he said.
March 14, 2006
Search on For E-Government E-xcellence
Nominations have been called for the inaugural 'Excellence in e-Government Awards'.
Reflecting the fact that Government business had become increasingly on-line and that more and more government information and services were being delivered electronically, Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn, unveiled the new award saying cyber-dealing had delivered major economic benefits for business, government, and the country.
Mr Nairn said Australia was one of the world leaders in e-Government which touched on many different areas of Government business including health, transport, defence and security, and involved many different parties all aiming at the same goal of better services leading to increased productivity and efficiency.
The award winner will be announced following a day-long e-Government Forum at the upcoming CeBIT Australia, on May 10.
Mr Nairn said that the e-Government forum is a partnership between CeBIT organisers Hannover Fair, and the Australian Government, through the Australian Government Information Management Office.
“I am very pleased to announce the Australian Government’s involvement in the forum, which will provide a unique opportunity to debate topical issues about the application of IT in government, in Australia and abroad," Mr Nairn said.
"Australia is a leader in e-Government. The e-Government Awards enable us to showcase the best examples of using IT to enable Government agencies to deliver services to citizens more efficiently and effectively."
The forum was expected to attract upward of 450 attendees from Federal, State and Local Governments, as well as industry professionals, academics and media.
With 11 keynote speakers, from Australia and abroad, and a group panel discussion, it would cover topics including health, human services, wireless technology, security and identity management.
More information on the e-Government Forum and e-Government Award is available online at www.cebit.com.au. Nominations for the excellence in e-Government Award opened on March 7 2006.
March 14, 2006
Tax Office On the Money in Dealing With Cash Economy
The Auditor General has found that the Australian Tax Office had the appropriate strategies in place to deal with tax evasion in the cash economy.
The Audit Report nevertheless recognised that the management of the cash economy was a challenging one and made six recommendations to the ATO.
The ATO defined the cash economy as “all legal transactions which are not disclosed and result in evasion of tax”. It said the cash economy was often synonymous with undisclosed or omitted income or supplies, but it also included those operating outside the tax system.
According to the ATO, the major tax risk arising from the cash economy was business income not being reported. The objective of the audit was to assess the ATO’s strategies to address tax evasion in the cash economy, with emphasis on:
the ATO’s strategic focus;
aspects of governance, management processes and compliance activities; and
responses to the 2002 Progress in Addressing the Cash Economy report.
The audit found that the ATO had fully implemented four of the five recommendations but was still to fully implement an effective community education program, as recommended.
It also found that the ATO had appropriate strategies to address targeted elements of the cash economy. Its strategic directions were risk-based, followed the expert advice of the Cash Economy Taskforce and were consistent with overseas approaches.
In its cash economy work, the ATO had sound governance arrangements with cross-line anagement arrangements and committee review structures for key functions. The auditor found that governance could be enhanced by specifying more comprehensively the roles and responsibilities of the ATO’s main cash economy management forum, the Cash Economy Steering Committee.
The report made mention of the ATO’s well-developed management processes and diverse compliance activities to address the cash economy. This was characterised in the ATO’s project management of cash economy risk projects operated by the dedicated cash economy teams and the targeted compliance measures applied by those teams and other parts of the ATO.
The auditor’s full report could be found at http://www.anao.gov.au/
March 14, 2006
Library Catalogues an Open Book to New Internet Link
A new service that enables anyone with an Internet connection to select from more than 40 million items held in 800 libraries across the nation has been launched by the National Library of Australia.
Known as “Libraries Australia,” the new service is an e-ticket to a world of information consisting of books, journals, newspapers, theses, pictures, music, manuscripts, maps and much more. Many online resources such as digitised images and full text government publications can also be accessed immediately online.
Underpinned by cutting edge technology and data contributed by the nation’s libraries, Libraries Australia makes it easy to search for information across the collections of the national, state and university libraries and most public, research, government, health and other special libraries.
Director-General of the National Library, Jan Fullerton, said Libraries Australia changed the dynamics of the way people used libraries.
“Libraries have continually been at the forefront of technology to improve the way people find the information they need," Ms Fullerton said.
“The beauty of Libraries Australia is that it uses a very simple search mechanism to find the item the person requires. Once found, the item can be borrowed, copied or purchased. All this can be done from home or work in regional centres or major cities.
She said the new service put the individual looking for the information in charge of their search, rather than a librarian.
“This saves time and is empowering for the information seeker.”
Some of the features of Libraries Australia are the ability to instantly access many digitised items, borrow from a local library or order from another library, copy selections of items at a small price, buy from online bookshops and find library locations nationwide.
Libraries Australia can be used to further education or personal interests, advance research, obtain information to develop business opportunities or to facilitate lifelong learning.
Access to the service is available at librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au
March 14, 2006
New Guide Good Value for Dealing with Ministers
Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs has launched a new “Good Practice” guide on upholding PS values by admitting there would always be a “natural tension” in the relationship between public servants and Government.
But she said it was a tension that made the relationship a constructive one.
Launching Supporting Ministers, Upholding the Values: A Good Practice Guide, Ms Briggs said it was important to recognise the very constructive relationship between public servants and Ministers and their offices, which was based on a good understanding of their different respective roles and responsibilities.
“The integrity of those roles and responsibilities is important and affects fundamentally the quality of outcomes the Government can achieve. And, for the most part, these relationships work well,” Ms Briggs said.
“But, in maintaining these relationships, it goes without saying that there will naturally be issues around expectations.”
She said this was an inherent part of being a public servant, and the fact that differences occurred was not surprising. “Rather, it is to be expected, and should not be seen as odorous or as a sign of politicisation. It’s a natural tension in the relationship.”
She said the new guide, which drew on advice from Management Advisory Committees and long-held Public Service conventions examined broad good practice principles associated with establishing the roles and responsibilities that defined interactions between Public Servants and Ministers and their advisers.
She said public servants were neither political advisers nor consultants.
“As well as our roles and responsibilities, we have professional standards and a legislative basis for our employment that distinguishes us from both groups.
“If we do not understand and keep to those standards and to the law, then we have nothing to offer the Government that is not available elsewhere, and the public service has no future.”
Ms Briggs said the new guide would help officers deal with issues that might arise when they have contact with a Ministers’ office.
“What do you do,’’ she asked, “when a ministerial staffer is screaming at you down the phone to recommend a particular project, or when they are adamant that you should recommend funding a project because the Minister “really wants” to fund it?
“How do you manage yourself in situations where a staffer insists that the name of someone in particular should be on the list of possibilities for appointment to a board or should be the preferred tenderer in a procurement process?
“What do you do when they tell you what your advice to the Minister should be and what your advice shouldn’t include? And what about being asked to include political material in a departmental submission to a Parliamentary inquiry?”
“The good practice guide can help you with those decisions, and lets you know where to go for advice on how to play the situation.”
It can be found at http://www.apsc.gov.au
March 7, 2006
Fitchett acting CEO at the Australian Film Commission
Chris Fitchett is acting Chief Executive of the Australian Film Commission following the departure of Kim Dalton.
Mr Fitchett has been head of film development at the organisation since last year and has been chief executive of the AFC’s Commercial Television Production Fund and deputy director at Film Victoria.
An extensive search will be undertaken for a new CEO over the coming months.
Appointees with Playing Australia
Carla Hartog and Jan Angas have been appointed to the Playing Australia Committee for three years.
Ms Hartog manages a range of theatre programs at the Theatre of the Arts Centre in Melbourne and Mrs Angas has worked as a volunteer and committee member for several festivals, including the Barossa Vintage Festival and the Barossa Music Festival.
Playing Australia is the Australian Government’s performing arts touring program, which provides all Australians, no matter where they live, with access to high quality performing arts.
New chair for Australian National Council on Drugs
Former politician Dr John Herron has been appointed chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs.
He replaces Major Brian Watters who led the ANCD from its inception in March 18 until April last year.
The council is a key body in providing informed and impartial advice to the government on reducing the harm caused by drugs.
Lonergan joins Tax Committee
Wayne Lonergan has been appointed an external member of the Tax Office’s Audit Committee.
Mr Lonergan is an adjunct professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Business and runs an independent valuation practice.
Taxation Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said Mr Lonergan had more than 35 years experience in corporate finance and valuations and was widely recognised as a leading expert in his field both in Australia and overseas.
The Committee oversees internal governance and assurance policy within the Tax Office. Mr Lonergan joins Tony Ayers as the second independent member.
New appointments to the classification board
Nine members of the Classification Board have been announced.
The board is responsible for classifying films, publications and computer games and werwe appointed by the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock.
Sally Bryant, Journalist of Bourke, NSW.
Georgina Dridan, Project Officer of Victoria.
Stephen Dunham, Former NT Minister from Darwin
Andrew Pak Poy, film-maker from Cairns
Greg Scott, a sailor with the RAN, currently from Canebrra
David Simon, of Sydney is an officer of the Office of Film and Literature Classification.
Rajan Venkataraman, from Canberra is a diplomat with DFAT
Chantal Chalier, of Sydney is a sub-titler with SBS-TV
Fiona Mitchell is a teacher and lecturer in early childhood development
Sports Commission board reappointed
Five members of the board of the Australian Sports Commission have been reappointed.
Sports Minister Senator Rod Kemp announced the reappointments of Alan Jones, John Eales, Roy Masters, Kieren Perkins and Pamela Tye for a further two year term.
Ms Tye was also reappointed to the board of the Australian Sports Foundation for another two years.
Chairman Appointed to Media watchdog
Chris Chapman has been appointed as the inaugural Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for a period of five years.
“I am delighted that Mr Chapman has agreed to join ACMA as its first Chairman and its CEO,” said the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan.
“He has relevant and diverse skills in broadcasting and telecommunications, as well as extensive legal, financial and management expertise. His significant experience will assist ACMA as it faces many challenges in the next few years from the rapid technological changes taking place in television, radio and other forms of the media.”
Mr Chapman will leave his position as the Chief Operating Officer of specialist funds management activities at Babcock & Brown Limited and commence with ACMA on February 27.
March 7, 2006
DEST Website Fosters
Science International is a new bilateral science website targeting Australian and Chinese researchers and developed by the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST).
The site at www.scienceinternational.dest.gov.au will assist Australian researchers to collaborate with their Chinese counterparts. Both governments recognise the importance of bilateral scientific collaboration to the research community. The new website will enhance links between researchers by providing a range of useful information on funding opportunities, Chinese institutions, news and events.
A Chinese version of the site has been developed by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology to assist Chinese scientists.
The websites build on a range of science and technology agreements between Australia and China. There are three government level agreements on science and technology which are jointly managed by the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST):
- Treaty on Cooperation in Science and Technology (entered into force in 1980)
- MOU on Cooperation in Science and Technology (signed in 1989)
- MOU on Establishment of a Special Fund for Scientific and Technological Cooperation (signed in 2000, renewed 2005).
The last of these agreements governs the Australia-China Special Fund for Scientific and Technological Cooperation. More information about funds from https://sciencegrants.dest.gov.au/isl/Pages/Doc.aspx?name=ChinaFund.htm.
The Fund provides support for collaborative research between Australian and Chinese scientists.
March 7, 2006
From Rain Dance to Hat Dance
for Aussie Water Experts
Australian experts in flood forecasting and climate information have been booked to contribute to the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico next month.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Bureau of Meteorology, Greg Hunt said eight hydrological specialists from the World Meteorological Organisation Commission for Hydrology met recently at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne to discuss their contributions to the world forum.
The forum helps developing nations manage their water resources through service integration.
The specialists are members of the Advisory Working Group to the Commission for Hydrology, which shapes the World Meteorological Organisation's water resources activities.
Mr Hunt said these included adaptability to climate variability and change, water resources assessment, flood forecasting and an exchange of technology between Australian forecasters - considered among the best in the world - and those from other nations.
Australian hydrologist and Assistant Director at the Weather Bureau, Bruce Stewart chairs the Advisory Group with other members from China, USA, Britain, Canada, Ghana, and Brazil.
Mr Hunt said the World Water Forum would show how science can offer solutions to some water-related problems.
“The Bureau of Meteorology and its state water agency and emergency services partners were among world leaders in operating an efficient flood forecasting and warning service,” he said.
"They monitor 2000 water level gauges and 2000 rainfall gauges over 70 catchments in real-time and issue 1200 flood warnings a year.”
He said Australia would also outline advances in computer modelling of weather radar data to predict how much rain will fall in particular areas.
The Bureau would contribute to another forum theme, Integrated Water Resources Management, through its experience sharing climate variability knowledge with Pacific island countries so they can better manage water problems.
March 7, 2006
Ski Planes Take Antarctic
Science to New Heights
Two Australian-owned support aircraft on skis have returned to Australia after their first full season of operation supporting scientific research in Antarctica.
The two CASA 212s first stop was Hobart, before one returned to its base in Sydney and the other continued on to Canberra.
Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the aircraft had clocked up more than 300 hours of flying time this season, covering 100,000 kilometres.
“Around 225 hours were in support of science projects, one of which is the significant AMISOR project. This Amery Ice Shelf Ocean Research is a major ongoing climate change research program which has involved taking ice cores from the ice shelf and at the same time retrieving data from the ocean beneath,” Senator Campbell said. He said that 91 hours were flown taking expeditioners between stations in Antarctica.
“Until the CASAs came on line it was not possible to transfer expeditioners between stations except by ship.
“It is essential for us to have this capability so we can move people around more quickly, allowing us to work with greater efficiency in Antarctica. As we move closer to the introduction of the air link between Australia and Antarctica we need to be sure that we have a reliable system in place once expeditioners arrive in Antarctica to do their work.”
In the meantime, work has begun on the glacial blue-ice runway to land the long-range aircraft that will come on line in 2007-08. Specialist equipment was taken south earlier in the season to begin construction of the airstrip which will be known as Wilkins Ice Runway, 60km inland from Casey station.
“This runway will be a unique engineering feat in what is one of the most remote and challenging sites on the planet,” Senator Campbell said.
“Once the new air link is up and running more senior researchers will be inclined to go to Antarctica knowing that their return trip will take a fraction of the time taken by ship.
“We are on the brink of an exciting new era for Australia’s Antarctic program and the air link will contribute to a more solid collaboration with our international colleagues.”
Trial flights between Hobart and Antarctica are scheduled for 2006-07.
March 7, 2006
International Police Station
Opened in Jakarta
A Transnational Crime Centre was opened in Jakarta recently to boost the joint fight against crime by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Indonesian National Police (INP).
The centre was established by Australia and Indonesia in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings to enhance information sharing between law enforcement agencies about transnational crime.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said the cooperation between the AFP and the INP after the first Bali bombings proved the importance of working together to combat terrorism.
“This new upgraded Transnational Crime Centre will continue to target major crime areas such as terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking as well as crimes like cyber crime and money laundering,” Commissioner Keelty said.
“The ability to share information between all law enforcement agencies around the region to disrupt the activities of criminal groups is vital,” he said.
Other transnational crime units are already established in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, in conjunction with the AFP.
The Jakarta centre hosts the first national intelligence database in Indonesia, linking 30 locations throughout the country.
“This collective regional intelligence gathering capacity ensures Indonesia is well placed to identify emerging criminal threats domestically and share intelligence with its law enforcement partners such as the AFP,” Commissioner Keelty said.
He said Australia and Indonesia would strive together and separately for new and dynamic ways to win the fight against crime. Australia's contribution to the development of the centre further demonstrated the AFP's commitment to working offshore to help prevent crime from affecting the Australian community.
March 7, 2006
Internet Sweep Cleans Up
on Shoppers’ Rights
Online shoppers should feel safer in their habits following an international swoop on the internet by consumer affairs agencies.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which coordinated the exercise said online shoppers were often fooled into believing their rights to refunds or service on faulty goods did not apply and that fine print disclaimers and misleading terms and conditions could be very convincing for the novice internet shopper.
The ACCC-led project which included 61 consumer protection agencies from more than 20 countries, scrutinised thousands of websites for illegally misleading shoppers.
“Hidden traps online are the official target for the 2006 International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network’s Internet Sweep,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Louise Sylvan.
“In 2006 this joint operation aims to catch sly businesses using online terms and conditions to exclude statutory rights, add hidden charges at the point of sale and allow sneaky downloads as part of the conditions of sale.
“For example an online trader may offer a special warranty clause instead of all other warranties, or claim they are not liable for the performance or quality of the goods they sell. In Australia, this is contrary to the Trade Practices Act 1974, as certain implied rights always exist and cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.
“Australian-based traders will have no excuses after previously being advised of their obligations following the release of the ACCC survey paper, Shopping Online: Survey of the top 1000 Australian consumer websites.”
The ACCC warned Australian businesses after the June 2004 survey report showed that of the 265 sites which contained terms and conditions more than half attempted to deny or restrict consumers’ warranty rights or limit liability.
Ms Sylvan said sweepers had their sights set on websites offering goods or services (transactional sites), with agencies paying special attention to high-traffic internet traders including those offering ring tones and other mobile phone extras, online car sales, tickets and jewellery as well as businesses operating from internet auction sites.
The annual internet sweep also forms part of a global Consumer Fraud Prevention Month which concentrates on stemming the tide of fraudulent and deceptive scams and claims emerging on the internet.
“Millions of dollars are lost worldwide to scams. In Australia we have formed the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce to help put a stop to income being made from fraudulent activities. The internet sweep will be complementing the work of the Taskforce,” Ms Sylvan said.
To avoid unwelcome surprises consumers can follow these simple tips for a more pleasurable internet shopping experience:
• know who you are dealing with – check that telephone numbers and contact details are true. Avoid traders who don't tell you who and where they are
• read the description of the product carefully – check the size, colour, value and safety of the product
• read all the fine print including refund and complaints handling policies
• note the final cost – check the currency, postage and handling and other charges
• confirm the final cost before paying
• print and keep a copy of each stage of the transaction
• pay safely – only use a secure site and pay by credit card or similar
• avoid money transfers and direct debit as these are the scammer's favourite tools
• never send bank/credit card details as payment via email, and
• be wary of super cheap bargains and fabulous prices for popular items from traders that may have packed up and moved on taking your money with them.
March 7, 2006
Supervisors Still Needed
to Come to Our Census
The hunt is still on for Census supervisors in some areas around Australia.
While the Bureau of Statistics has announced that more than 17,000 applications had been received for 3500 positions, there were still shortages in some locations.
"This has been an outstanding response by thousands of public-spirited people," Census Head Paul Williams said. "In terms of overall numbers it has exceeded our expectations. But there are still some areas where we still need to recruit people."
"As a result we have decided to extend the recruitment period for area supervisors. Applications will now be extended to 17 March."
Area supervisors recruit, train and manage census collectors in their area. In April they will recruit about 26,000 collectors nation-wide. The collectors will deal directly with the public, moving from door to door and delivering and collecting census forms. The census will be held on 8 August.
Area supervisors will work from 21 April to October 6. The majority of area supervisors will earn a total of between $1,900 and $3,300, depending on how much work is involved.
Mr Williams said that in the past area supervisors had included retired managers, former and serving school teachers, community workers, people working part time and parents at home with children.
Mr Williams said area supervisors were still needed for:
NSW: Sydney - eastern and inner city suburbs, north shore, and in the far west and north west of the state, New England and Hunter areas.
Queensland: Cape York, Mount Isa, west of Townsville, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Roma, Bowen, Emerald, Wide Bay region, Maryborough and Stradbroke Island.
West Australia: Perth inner city, Pilbara (Port Hedland, Karratha, Tom Price, Newman, Paraburdoo), Gascoyne (Carnarvon, Shark Bay and Exmouth), Kimberley (Broome, Derby, Kununurra and Fitzroy Crossing), Goldfields (Kalgoorlie and inland, Esperance and adjoining districts).
South Australia: In the inner city, inner west, outer northern suburbs of Adelaide and the Noarlunga region. Port Augusta, Mid Eyre Peninsula, Mid Yorke Peninsula, Murray Mallee and the coastal south east.
Tasmania: Southern Kingborough, Huon Valley, Tasman Peninsula, Southern Midlands, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley, Northern Midlands, Meander Valley, West Tamar, Glamorgan/Spring Bay, Break O’Day, King Island, West Coast.
Northern Territory: Tennant Creek, Litchfield Shire area.
To apply, visit www.abs.gov.au/recruitment or call 1300 236 787.
March 7, 2006
Future Big Shots on Parade
at Defence Academy
A brand new intake of future military leaders was on parade at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) recently.
ADFA Commandant Brigadier Brian Dawson congratulated the 2006 intake of 324 ADFA Navy Midshipmen and Army and Air Force Officer Cadets, who were on parade to mark the successful completion of their initial military training program.
"The high recruitment to this intake shows promising signs that more young Australians are pursuing a university education through ADFA as a start to their military careers in the Navy, Army and Air Force," Brigadier Dawson said.
"I wish these fine Australian men and women every success for their future in the ADF."
The new intake was joined on parade by more than 440 second and third year Midshipmen and Officer Cadets who paraded before dignitaries, family and friends. The parade was reviewed by the Vice-Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie.
Over the past five weeks the cadets had learned about leadership, physical training, adventure training, military law, weapons handling, first aid, field craft, and equity and diversity.
"They have developed the high standard of drill and ceremonial skills, dress and behaviour expected of them as future officers, and future leaders in the ADF," Brigadier Dawson said.
"During their time at the Academy, they will continue to develop and fine-tune these skills and behaviours, whilst also undertaking their university education through the University of New South Wales," he said.
Brigadier Dawson also welcomed to the Academy students from Cambodia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
March 7, 2006
Army, Navy Celebrate Milestones
Both the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Navy celebrated their 105th birthday recently with services and celebrations around the country.
“At a time when many Australian military are personnel serving overseas, it is important to recognise their outstanding contribution,” said the Minister of Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson.
“The 1st of March 1901 was the day the Navy was created under section 51 of the constitution with the states transferring their naval forces and everyone employed in them to the Federal Government.
“In the intervening years the RAN has earned a reputation for excellence, a reputation which is upheld by all who serve today whether it is in the Persian Gulf, in Australian waters or ashore.
“The Australian Army personifies the values of the Australian Nation. Its ethos of service to others, mateship and courage is at the centre of our emerging sense of national identity. The Army’s achievements continue to earn the pride, trust and respect of our community.”
The Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, said the day was a time to reflect on the achievements of all Australian soldiers – “their courage, dedication to duty and the sacrifices made in the service to this nation.”
He added that it was also time to reflect on the work that remains to be done both here and overseas, singling out the Middle East, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.
“Soldiers are working in tough environments … in the same spirit with which their forebears met the challenges of their generations. Every soldier is a leader, every soldier is an expert in close combat, every soldier is physically tough and every soldier is mentally prepared.
“These are the qualities of the Army today and of the last 105 years. Just as their forefathers saw in every day an opportunity to learn and in every threat an opportunity, so do the Diggers of today.
“From Beersheba, through Kokoda to the sands of Al Muthanna – the long thread of selfless service and sacrifice has continued and remains a constant theme for the Army in an otherwise changing and complex world.
“The Nation can be proud of its Army, as the Army is proud of its Nation. We look forward to the next 105 years with the same hope and commitment that we have shown for the last 105 years,” Lieutenant General Leahy said.
March 7, 2006
Overseas Police Win Beefed
Up Compo Scheme
Australian Federal Police officers serving overseas will soon benefit from their own compensation and rehabilitation scheme relating to dangerous foreign missions.
While AFP officers are currently covered under a number of compensation arrangements, this new police-specific scheme formally recognises the increased role of police at the frontline in a time of heightened risk and will ensure AFP compensation entitlements remain consistent with those currently provided to Australian Defence Forces in similar mission circumstances.
According to the Minister for Justice, Senator Chris Ellison, the AFP had significantly expanded its overseas presence in a number of developing and troubled countries.
“(It) had also taken on the role of assisting our regional neighbours in tracking down terrorists and eradicating terrorism, which impacts on the Australian way of life,” Senatopr Ellison said.
“The reputation of the AFP within the region has led to requests from the United Nations and a number of Pacific countries to request AFP assistance in restoring law and order, rebuilding criminal justice systems and capacity building of law enforcement within respective countries.
“This expanded demand on the AFP has led to unprecedented expectations of the Federal Police both domestically and internationally.
“By making this scheme available to AFP officers serving overseas, the Government is ensuring that staff deployed overseas to often dangerous missions are kept safe and continue to be afforded the best possible support in carrying out their difficult work.”
March 7, 2006
Door Open at Nuclear Plant
Residents living near the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s new reactor in Sydney have been invited to discuss the facility as well as ANSTO research at public meetings this month.
The meeting will be on Wednesday 15 March at 5.45pm for a 6.15pm start at Hazlehurst Gallery, Gymea.
Executive director of ANSTO, Dr Ian Smith said it was be an opportunity for ANSTO to listen to the community, present information and answer community questions on research and on OPAL, the new reactor that had yet to be commissioned.
"We know that many local residents would like to know more about ANSTO operations and its science," Dr Smith said.
The open door policy of ANSTO was welcomed by Federal MP Danna Vale who encouraged local people to attend.
"I believe this kind of open communication between ANSTO and the community is a good way to help us understand issues about which we may have questions," Mrs Vale said.
"ANSTO is showing a strong commitment to ensuring open and ongoing dialogue with our community. I encourage anyone interested in ANSTO, its science and the many industries it deals with to come along."
Dr Smith said there would also be a brief presentation on ANSTO’s world class neutron scattering facility.
Interested community members should contact Martha Halliday on 02-9717 3934 or firstname.lastname@example.org
March 7, 2006
Canberra Customs School
Takes on the World
The Centre for Customs and Excise Studies at the University of Canberra has won acknowledgment as an international centre of excellence, signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Customs Organisation.
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said the MOU acknowledged the CCES as a worldclass provider of customs training, education, advice and research.
“CCES, which has twice won Chief Minister’s export awards in the ACT, is a great example of a Canberra-based business that has achieved international recognition,” Mr Stanhope said.
“The centre has established a global reputation for strengthening the organisational capability of customs and excise administrations in many parts of the world, and this expertise has now been formally recognised by the World Customs Organisation, which wants a long-term strategic alliance with the centre.”
Mr Stanhope said that the international acknowledgment of the centre was another instance of the depth of expertise that could be found in Canberra’s universities and research institutions.
“Canberra’s export of its knowledge industries is proving to be a key factor in the city’s growth, again demonstrating how valuable Canberra’s universities are to the city,” he said.
The MOU was signed at the headquarters of the World Customs Organization in Brussels by the CEO of the Centre for Customs and Excise Studies, Professor David Widdowson.
The first of its kind in the world, the centre delivers online, on-campus and overseas postgraduate programs.
The centre also operates as a commercial arm of the University of Canberra, providing consultancy services and a broad range of non-award programs.
In 2004, the centre received the ACT’s Chief Minister’s Export Award for outstanding achievement in services and in 2005 was the recipient of the Chief Minister’s Award for outstanding export achievement in education services, facilities, expertise and curriculum.
March 7, 2006
Law Reformers Speak Up
to Protect Free Speech
The Australian Law Reform Commission has warned that moves to protect the security of Australians at home and abroad must be balanced against the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Embarking on an inquiry into the Government’s new sedition laws, ALRC President Professor David Weisbrot said that Australians placed a “very high premium on free speech and on the importance of robust political debate and commentary”.
“However, all democratic societies place some limits on free speech - for example, through defamation laws and prohibitions on obscenity and racial vilification. If restrictions are merited, then it becomes a matter of finding the acceptable balance in a tolerant society,” Professor Weisbrot said.
The attempt to modernise the old sedition offences in the Crimes Act was part of the federal Government's Anti-Terrorism Act (No 2) 2005, which targeted activity promoting terrorist violence.
The sedition provisions were controversial, with concerns expressed through the media and identified by a Senate inquiry that the laws may intrude unreasonably upon freedom of speech, and stifle or punish sharp criticism of government policy.
Late last year Attorney-General Philip Ruddock MP foreshadowed an independent review of the new sedition laws, and recently provided the ALRC with formal terms of reference for this purpose.
The ALRC review of the sedition provisions will consider whether:
• the amendments effectively address the problem of ‘intentionally urging others to use force or violence against any group within the community', or against Australians or our defence forces overseas; and
• “sedition” is in fact the appropriate term to identify this type of conduct.
“The ALRC often encounters this sort of balancing act in our work. For example, our recent inquiry into the protection of classified and security sensitive information required us to strike a creative balance among national security interests, the rights of an accused person, and the general public interest in fair and open court proceedings,” Professor Weisbrot said.
He said the inquiry had an extremely tight schedule. A discussion paper containing draft proposals for reform will be published as soon as possible, with the final report to follow later.
“We will endeavour to consult as widely as possible in the broader community, and seek out relevant experts, and groups with an interest in the subject - including prosecutors and defence counsel, the media, human rights experts and organisations, and police and security forces.
“We encourage anyone with an interest to register on the ALRC’s web site,” Professor Weisbrot said.
Further information on the inquiry is available on the ALRC's web site at http://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/current/sedition/index.htm
March 7, 2006
Centrelink Catching Up With Cheats
Centrelink has conducted more than 25 million reviews of customer payments since its inception, identifying 2.9 million cases of overpayment or fraud and saving the taxpayer $62.2 million per fortnight according to Human Services Minister Joe Hockey.
“Fraud in the cash economy is one of the most challenging areas for Centrelink to target, but it is a challenge the government is meeting with firm action,” Mr Hockey said.
He said more than 10,000 people had their Centrelink payments reviewed through 133 cash economy operations, saving Australians $30 million in the past year.
Centrelink staff were recently involved in a joint operation with Victoria Police, the Environment Protection Authority and the Victorian taxi directorate where officers joined a police roadblock where 500 commercial drivers, including taxi and courier drivers were questioned about traffic and vehicle issues.
Centrelink questioned 220 drivers and found 13 people fraudulently claiming benefits while working. This saved taxpayers $100,000. A further 20 people are now under investigation.
“While most people do the right thing, there are cheats who claim income support while earning an income,” said Mr Hockey. “In the past year, 3.8 million entitlement reviews were conducted, which resulted in the reduction or cancellation of over half a million payments and a saving of over $86 million,” he said.
The Australian government is running the Support the System that Supports You
education campaign to remind people of their obligation to report any changes to personal circumstances, no matter how small.
“Welfare fraud is like biting the hand that feeds you," said Mr Hockey.
“The system is there as a support for those people in genuine need, it’s not a free ride on taxpayer’s money."
March 7, 2006
Paperwork the Weak Link in Immigration Detention Contracts
The Auditor General has found major weaknesses in the contracts and procurements processes in the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) at the time it let its current Detention Services Contract in 2003.
The Auditor found a range of problems and the Department has agreed the next tender will have a greater focus on clients, health and psychological services.
DIMA agreed with the Auditor’s findings and has undertaken to introduce initiatives to improve its procurement, tendering and recordkeeping processes.
These initiatives are part of the range of measures announced by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Amanda Vanstone last October 2005 in response to the Palmer and Comrie reports.
The Auditor General acknowledged DIMA’s planned improvements to its tender administration and welcomed its positive response to the matters raised by the audit.
The audit report followed the release of an independent review of the current Detention Services Contract which found that changes were required to the contract and that the departmental management of it needed to be improved.
The review by former Deputy Chief Executive of Customs, Mick Roche concluded that changes were required to DIMA’s contract management and monitoring processes.
Mr Roche suggested that such contract changes could be used as a basis for a new tender for the Detention Services Contract. It was also recommended that health and psychological services be provided under a separate contract.
As a result of the review, the department is re-tender all detention services. This process will commence soon and successful providers will be selected to coincide with the expiry of the current contract in late 2007.
The aim is to develop new client-focused detention service contract arrangements, including improved performance monitoring and contract management processes.
Another important reform in response to the Palmer report has a review of DIMA records management processes by National Archives of Australia (NAA). The review supports Audit Office concerns about the quality of documentation maintained by the department, in particular documentation supporting decision making.
In response, the department is developing new record-keeping guidelines designed to improve the support of tendering and procurement processes.
The new procedures will ensure adherence to record-keeping requirements as stipulated in the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (CPGs) and will particularly focus on the appropriate recording of decisions and evidence to support those decisions. Changes to information technology systems will also be made to support the improved records management processes.
March 7, 2006
Children the Winners in
Child Support Overhaul
The 1.1 million children who rely on the support of the Child Support Agency will be the real winners out of the “Building a Better CSA” package announced by the Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey, recently.
Mr Hockey committed the Government to spend an extra $150 million over four years to make the system work for the benefit of 1.4 million separated parents who were CSA customers, but ultimately for the benefit of their children.
He said the extra funding was on top of $700 million committed by the Government to the Parkinson reforms.
“This is a comprehensive package of reforms that will deliver improved customer service and significant organisational change,” Mr Hockey said. “The CSA will be more responsive and accountable. Staff will be more customer-focused and CSA will engage and work more closely with stakeholders.
“I expect the CSA to respond quickly and fairly to its clients. This funding will allow for a more personalised service to customers including face to face meetings for 30,000 parents with complex issues. CSA services will be increased at 26 offices across the country largely through co-locations with Centrelink.”
Mr Hockey said that parents would have more options in how they interacted with the CSA and increased online services would mean they could access information and self-help tools at their convenience.
The five million phone calls CSA handles each year would now be recorded to assist in monitoring the quality and consistency of service to customers.
“Smaller CSA team sizes will also mean a faster response to issues as they arise and a consistency in decision making,’’ Mr Hockey said.
“3500 CSA staff will also undergo intensive and ongoing training to improve their customer service skills.”
He said new communication programs would be launched to educate and inform parents and the community in plain English and promote greater voluntary compliance with child support obligations.
He said the CSA sent seven million letters each year and these would be simplified along with publications and forms to reduce customer confusion and frustration.
An expanded $143 million compliance program, which was a component of the Parkinson Reform Package, would enable the CSA to ensure child support payments were made. Increased funding would expand existing successful compliance programs and better target parents who did not pay their child support in full.
March 7, 2006
Hard Landing for 300 at
Airservices Australia is to lose around 300 jobs by removing duplicated functions and realigning activities, CEO Greg Russell announced last week.
The reductions will be through voluntary and involuntary redundancies, in accordance with provisions in the applicable Certified Agreements and be completed over a 15 month timeframe.
But the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is asking how 300 positions could be cut purely through eliminating duplication in support functions.
The news came as the same time as details of a new and flatter management structure were released as part of an ongoing restructure program for the national air traffic control service provider.
Mr Russell said the restructure was transparent to airline and airport customers with no impact on the provision of air traffic control, aviation rescue and fire fighting or technical and engineering services.
He said the announcement followed an organisational review in late 2005, which showed improvements that would improve the efficiency without impacting on safety, better aligning services to the needs of the aviation community and the country as a whole.
"This restructure process is subjected to rigorous safety analysis and is being scrutinised by the Safety Regulator.
"The restructure is understandably causing some uncertainty, but these changes are necessary to ensure our organisation is best prepared to safely and efficiently face the challenges and requirements of an ever-changing aviation industry," he said.
But a spokesperson for the CPSU said the Agency should “come clean” with their full staffing and functionality plans following the job cuts.
The spokesperson said initial advice from management was that support functions would be most affected, such as HR, IT, finance and property.
"The bulk of these positions are in Canberra but the Melbourne and Brisbane centres will also be affected,’’ the spokesperson said.
“Airservices advise that there will be no job losses in operational areas."
But the CPSU said members have asked for answers to questions like:
• Will any functions be outsourced?
• Will the review lead to more job losses in other areas?
• How will the 300 positions be identified?
• Does management already have a list of targeted staff?
• What are the aviation safety implications of the job losses?
March 1, 2006
Experts make up Reference Group
An expert reference group has been established to advise the Australian Government on the delivery of its $100 million Commonwealth Environment and Research Facilities (CERF) program.
The group was announced by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, and will be chaired by WWF-Australia Chief Executive Officer, Greg Bourne.
As the Government’s key environment research program, CERF is designed to encourage and assist with research into current and emerging environmental issues facing Australia, bridge knowledge gaps and contribute to the development of environmental policy.
CERF Reference Group members include:
Chairman – Greg Bourne, WWF-Australia
Professor Angela Arthington, Australian School of Environmental Studies, Griffith University
Professor David Bowman, Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Charles Darwin University
Andrew Campbell, Land and Water Australia
Professor Adrienne Clarke, School of Botany, University of Melbourne
Professor Peter Davies, Centre for Excellence in Nat ural Resource Management, University of Western Australia
Professor Steven Halls, School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University
Dr Graham Harris, University of Tasmania
Professor Alfred Huang, International Graduate School of Management, University of South Australia
Professor Ted Lefroy, Centre for Environment, University of Tasmania
Professor Bruce Mapstone, Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre
Dr Deborah Peterson, Productivity Commission
Switkowski joins ANSTO Board
Dr Ziggy Switkowski has joined the board of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation for a period of five years.
The former Telstra boss brings business and technology development experience to the ANSTO Board, the governing body of Australia’s national nuclear research and development. ANSTO is responsible for delivering specialised advice, scientific services and products to government, industry, academia and other research organisations.
Dr Switkowski, who has a PhD in nuclear physics and studied at ANSTO as a graduate student, will attend his first Board meeting in February.
Appointees to Award Review Taskforce Reference Group
The Government has announced six appointments to the Award Review Taskforce Reference Group. The Taskforce was established by the Government to provide advice on two key projects associated with the implementation of WorkChoices - the rationalisation of federal awards and the rationalisation of wages and classification structures.
The appointees are:
David Cragg from the Australian Workers Union and Victorian Trades Hall Council.
Peter Costantini, consultant in the vocational and technical education sector.
Greg John of the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal and a director of the Chessman Group.
Tony Slevin, a Sydney barrister.
Warren Stooke, consultant in labour relations.
Nick Wilson of the Australian Industrial Registry.
The Taskforce is due to report to the Minister by the end of March 2006 on its recommended strategies for the rationalisation of federal awards and the rationalisation of wages and classification structures
Dalton takes on ABC-TV
Kim Dalton has been appointed Director of ABC Television replacing Sandra Levy who resigned in September last year.
Chief Executive of the Australian Film Commission since August 19, Mr Dalton has worked in the film and television industry for more than 30 years. He operated his own production company from 1987 to 11 and worked with the Australian Film Finance Corporation and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation in senior management positions.
Outgoing ABC Director Russell Balding said, “I am confident Kim Dalton will bring great expertise to this key ABC position. His very broad experience in all facets of television and film production - both in the private and public sectors – along with his considerable management and policy experience – will be a valuable addition to the ABC's leadership team.”
ASIC’s Beven to SA
Anthony Beven has begun a three-year term with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission as its South Australian Regional Commissioner.
Joining ASIC in 11, Mr Beven was formerly Regional Commissioner in the Northern Territory and a National Adviser in Consumer Protection.
ASIC Chairman Jeffrey Lucy announced the appointment saying Mr Beven had played a key role in leading ASIC’s Northern Territory office over the last six years.
“He has made a particularly important contribution to our national work for Indigenous consumers,” Mr Lucy said.
March 1, 2006
Dial 9 to Stop Telemarketers in Their Tracks
The direct marketing industry has unveiled a new device linked to an answering machine offers consumers the chance to opt out of telemarketing messages as its response to Government moves to launch a national Do Not Call list similar to those in use overseas.
Developed by Compvice Marketing the new system would terminate a call with a recorded message simply by dialling “9” on the telephone handset.
It would also allow call recipients to interact with pre-recorded telemarketing messages by responding to special offers or transfer to live operators should they wish to do so.
According to marking industry magazine B&T, a partner in Compvice Marketing said the opt-out feature64 woulwd be a positive for both customers and telemarketers.
David McMahon said his experience was most customers were positive towards telemarketers when used correctly, but a small number - about five per cent - did not want the calls.
The new system would allow the majority to receive calls but cut them off at will.Mr McMahon said it would also allow customers to enter data into a business’s database.
B& T reported that The Australian Direct Marketing Association had recently launched a new set of telemarketing guidelines and updated its Code of Practice in a bid to further raise industry standards and appease annoyed consumers.
March 1, 2006
AFP and Japanese Police Join Forces
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the National Police Agency of Japan (NPA) have signed a statement of intent to work more closely together to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational crimes.
The statement was signed in Canberra recently by Australian Federal Police
Commissioner Mick Keelty and Hiroto Yoshimura, NPA Deputy Commissioner General.
Commissioner Keelty said the statement would strengthen the healthy relationship between the two agencies.
"We’ll now be even more effective in fighting transnational crime," he said.
“Importantly, there is a provision for expert advice to be shared. We will also be drawing more on each others technical and forensic capabilities.”
Commissioner Keelty said similar arrangements existed between the AFP and other countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines.
The arrangements reflected the level of commitment between the AFP and its international law enforcement partners in the fight against transnational crime.
March 1, 2006
Volunteers Given Voice on New Website
A new website for emergency volunteers has been set up with the aid of funding from the Government 2004 Working Together to Manage Emergencies initiative.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock welcomed the new Australian Emergency Management Volunteer Forum (AEMVF) site, which can be viewed at www.aemvf.org.au.
Mr Ruddock said the forum would provide emergency volunteers, their managers and organisations with a platform to facilitate better communication and to provide advocacy for the sector.
"Australia has a long and proud tradition of volunteerism and today there are several million Australians who volunteer their services to assist their communities," Mr Ruddock said. "This easy-to-use website brings together a range of information for the emergency sector from news and events to resources such as training and legal protection."
AEMVF chair, Major General Hori Howard, said delegates were keen to boost awareness of their work.
"The website will allow the AEMVF to become more visible to volunteers and their organisations," Major General Howard said. "It also provides a great opportunity for us all to share good ideas despite the challenges of distance and limited time and resources."
Under the initiative, volunteer groups can access grants for projects to boost recruitment, retention and training strategies of organisations at the frontline of emergency management, as well as fund capital equipment (within guidelines established by State emergency management authorities).
Applications for 2006-07 must be received by 3 March 2006. Details about the fund are provided in the National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund Guidelines and are available at www.ema.gov.au/communitydevelopment
March 1, 2006
Darwin Weather Experiments Lifts Cloud Over Storms
Weather researchers have packed up their weather balloons and measuring equipment as a key international weather research experiment came to an end in Darwin recently.
Taking 23 days and hailed by a trio of politicians as a great success, the Tropical Warm Pool International Cloud Experiment collected data that will enhance the understanding of tropical clouds and improve weather and climate forecasts.
According to the Parliamentary Secretary for Meteorology, Greg Hunt, the experiment involved 20 missions by five research aircraft launching 1000 weather balloons from various sites around Darwin
"The Bureau of Meteorology is very excited by the results and I am sure the data collected will be used by scientists for years to come,’’ Mr Hunt said.
“The data will ultimately improve our ability to forecast regional weather and simulate climate change. It will also allow scientists to study the development and movement of the monsoon low."
MP for Solomon, David Tollner said the event attracted international scientists and media to Darwin and was a great opportunity for the city to be recognised as a centre of scientific excellence at the forefront of climate research.
"The experiment attracted scientists from over four continents, including more than 30 graduate students from a range of institutions and media outlets from as far away as Canada and the United Kingdom," Mr Tollner said.
Member for Mallee, John Forrest said the experiment produced one of the most comprehensive data sets of tropical cloud properties ever collected.
"This will further not only local but international scientists' understanding of the structure of cirrus clouds and the environment in which they are formed," Mr Forrest said.
The experiment was led by scientists from the Bureau of Meteorology and the US Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program and used sophisticated instruments including radars and in-cloud ice particle sensors located on a fleet of aircraft to show researchers the composition of high-altitude clouds.
By taking images of the ice crystals as the aircraft climbed through the clouds the scientists collected data on the size and shape of small ice crystals.
That data would provide information on how the properties of ice clouds vary with temperature and altitude.
Mr Hunt said a major contributor to the experiment was Australia's floating laboratory, the Southern Surveyor, provided by CSIRO.
RAAF Base Darwin and Charles Darwin University provided facilities and logistic support to the experiment.
March 1, 2006
Defence Force Academy Throws Gates Open to Public
The training grounds of the nation’s future military leaders will be shown to the public in a series of open days at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2006.
Subject to prevailing security conditions there will be a public tours scheduled once a month. They may also be cancelled due to other activities.
Public tours of ADFA for 2006 have been programmed for:
Friday March 24;
Thursday April 27;
Thursday May 25;
Friday June 30;
Friday July 14;
Friday August 26 (also ADFA Open Day);
Friday September 21; and
Friday October 12.
Each tour takes approximately 90 minutes and includes a presentation, short video and a tour of selected ADFA facilities including the indoor sports centre and the Academy cadets’ mess.
For times and bookings contact the Coordination Cell on (02) 6268 8541 or (02) 6268 8519.
March 1, 2006
Stats Bureau Says Privacy is Odds On
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has moved to reassure Australians their privacy is protected in its dealings with the Bureau as it prepares the community for this year's national census.
The Bureau said it depended on the goodwill and cooperation of Australians, businesses and other organisations to provide information in response to its many data collections and a critical way of maintaining such cooperation and goodwill was by ensuring that information supplied remained confidential.
And this had to be done while the information was still being used as a valuable resource for the production of statistics and supporting statistical research.
The Bureau said the importance of privacy was recognised in the Census and Statistics Act, with confidentiality being a legislative guarantee to respondents. This is a condition under which the ABS exercises its authority to obtain the information it requires to meet the information needs of governments and the community generally.
The Bureau said the data it collected was securely maintained, only used for statistical purposes, not inadvertently revealed in any published statistics and used safely as unidentifiable microdata files to support research and analysis.
“Access to files where the names and addresses necessary for data collection are attached is even more tightly controlled,” it said.
“Policies and practices for keeping information secure are adhered to by staff when collecting information and processing it to produce statistics.”
It said that during the various phases of this processing names and addresses were necessary to ensure the quality of the resulting statistics produced, and sometimes the Bureau needed to contact respondents to verify reported data.
“Once quality had been assured, however, names and addresses are removed, because this information is not needed for the production of statistics. Removal provides added protection against any breach of security of confidential information.”
The Bureau said that all its employees, regardless of their duties and status of employment, must sign an Undertaking of Fidelity and Secrecy on commencement of employment. This included contractors.
The undertaking required that employees did not disclose information acquired during their employment with ABS and continued to apply after ceasing employment. Significant penalties applied for any breach, including up to two years imprisonment and/or a $5000 fine.
March 1, 2006
Swim champs churn up pay deal
Australia's elite swimmers have been given the nod by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to use collective bargaining for pay deals.
Using its streamlined authorisation process, the ACCC gave draft approval to the Australian Swimmers Association (ASA) to collectively negotiate the terms and conditions of payments made by Swimming Australia Limited (SAL) to eligible swimmers.
"The ASA is the first party to ask the ACCC to consider its application under the streamlined process for collective bargaining arrangements," said ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel
"The initiative was announced in December 2005 to enable small businesses to access a simpler and more timely process that also provides greater certainty to eligible applications," he said.
"Under this process the ACCC undertakes to consider requests for interim authorisation and issue a draft decision within 28 days of receiving an application.
"In this case, the draft decision and request for interim authorisation were considered in 23 days," he said.
The ACCC noted that the collective bargaining arrangement would not alter federal government or corporate funding arrangements. SAL would retain responsibility for deciding how payments were distributed to eligible swimmers.
"The ACCC considers that the proposed arrangement is likely to result in a public benefit particularly by enabling swimmers, through the ASA, to have input into the terms and conditions of swimming payments."
It was satisfied there would be minimal anti-competitive detriment and noted competition between swimmers for SAL funds did not reflect the dynamics of a normal commercial market.
"Much of what the ASA proposes to do through the collective bargaining process can be undertaken by an association without necessarily raising competition concerns and therefore requiring authorisation. The ACCC does not expect that it will receive similar requests for authorisation from sporting associations."
The ACCC has also granted interim authorisation to allow the swimmers to begin collective negotiations immediately with SAL.
The ACCC will now engage in a further round of public consultation before proceeding to make a final decision on the collective bargaining proposal. The final decision should be by late April, three months from receiving ASA's application.
March 1, 2006
Athletes the Winners in Sport Institute Awards
Triathlete Peter Robertson and canoe slalom’s Robin Bell have been named the joint winners of the AIS Athlete of the Year award.
It is the third time in the award’s 25-year history that the Institute’s top honour has been shared. Swimmer Petria Thomas and gymnast Philippe Rizzo were named joint winners in 2001, while Thomas and cyclist Ryan Bayley shared the award in 2004.
Sports Minister Senator Rod Kemp said the performances of both Robertson and Bell over the past 12 months had been phenomenal and praised their commitment.
"Not only have both athletes proven themselves to be world-class champions in their respective sports but they have conducted themselves with dignity and great honour," Senator Kemp said.
"The Australian government takes great pride in the achievements of our Australian athletes and continues to fund cutting edge research and training at the AIS with an eye to building on our great sporting success," he said.
He said the government’s $70 million commitment to the redevelopment of facilities over the next few years at the AIS headquarters in Canberra would be a major factor in ensuring AIS and Australian athletes remain competitive.
Robertson overcame an injury-marred year to win his third world championship with a stunning victory against the world’s best triathletes in Gamagori, Japan.
The 29-year-old was only added to the Australian world championships team in the week leading up to the event, after fellow AIS scholarship holder Simon Thompson was forced to withdraw through injury. Robertson now boasts the remarkable record of three gold and two silver medals from five world championship appearances.
Robin Bell created history last year when he became the first Australian canoe slalom athlete to win a gold medal in any class at a world championship.
The 27-year-old bettered a top class field, including former world champion Tony Estanguet, to record a stunning victory in the C1 men’s class.
At the ceremony, triathlon was announced as AIS Program of the Year
AIS Director Professor Peter Fricker paid tribute to the program and former head AIS and Australian triathlon coach Jackie Fairweather.
"Jackie has been the backbone for much of the program’s success and has played an integral role in the development of Australia’s elite triathletes,” Professor Fricker said.
World champion sailors Malcolm Page and Nathan Wilmot were named AIS Team of the Year at the ceremony after winning their second consecutive gold medal in the 470 Men’s Class at last year’s world championships held in San Francisco.
Basketballer Renae Camino was named Junior Athlete of the Year and rowing coach Lyall McCarthy was named Coach of the Year for the second time.
March 1, 2006
Trade Sees Spin-Offs At Cricket World Cup
Austrade is looking for more than cricket at the 2007 World Cup in 2007, it is suggesting business should also be looking for export opportunities associated with the event.
Austrade’s Trade Commissioner to Mexico and the Caribbean, Paul Martins said Austrade was gathering pre-tender information about export opportunities associated with new stadiums being built and the major upgrading of venues in the West Indies.
“Austrade is working with individual country organisations and the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup Organising Committee to promote specific opportunities to Australia such as providing equipment and supplies for the CWC 2007,” Mr Martins said.
“Already six Australian firms have found success.”
He said Australian businesses should visit the ICC website www.cricketworldcup.com to see if there were prospects for them.
If there were opportunities, the next step would be to contact Austrade and let it know so they could alert the right authorities.
“Austrade can then use its networks to help find the business a local partner which is essential to be successful.”
Mr Martins said the export opportunities through the CWC 2007 include work associated with the construction of three new stadiums and the upgrading of four venues in participating countries.
“In addition, the event’s size and magnitude calls for the acquisition of myriad ‘temporary elements’ such as certain types of stadium seats, video replay boards, trailers, public address systems and security equipment which the local organising committee will lease or rent in bulk for all nine venues.”
Austrade Chief Economist Tim Harcourt said cricket-related trade ties were important for Australia and the world.
“It’s a bit of a legacy of the British Commonwealth,’’ he said.
“Overall, the Commonwealth accounts for around 26 per cent of total Australian merchandise exports (or just over $33 billion) and 21 per cent of our imports (around $32 billion).
“And if you just take the cricketing nations alone - that is, those competing in the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean - they account for over $26 billion and 29,175 exporters,” Mr Harcourt said.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 will see 16 teams compete over a 47 day period. Beginning on March 13, 2007 at Sabina Park, Jamaica. The final will be played on April 28 at Kensington Oval, Barbados.
Eight countries are hosting the matches: Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts, Saint Lucia and Trinidad. The 16 teams competing are: Australia, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Canada, England, Holland, India, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Businesses interested in following up on CWC 2007 export opportunities should phone 13 28 78.
March 1, 2006
New Nuclear Reactor Enters Testing Phase
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has commenced the cold commissioning of its new research reactor, OPAL, at Sydney’s Lucas Heights. This involves testing all reactor systems and equipment without fuel being loaded.
During cold commissioning the reactor’s designers, the Argentinean company INVAP, and ANSTO will check that all systems operate and perform as expected. ANSTO will then provide the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) with detailed results.
Consideration of those results will be one factor in ARPANSA’s decision as to whether it issues an operating licence.
If ARPANSA issues ANSTO with the licence, fuel can be loaded and hot commissioning commenced.
According to ANSTO this will be a slow process, with power starting at around one watt, which is less than an average light bulb. The power level will slowly be increased as tests are undertaken and operational safety is demonstrated. As reactor power is increased over some months to full power of 20 Megawatts, testing and measuring will continue to ensure OPAL’s performance is consistent with its design.
ANSTO is hopeful that OPAL will be in full operation by the end of this year. Cold commissioning is anticipated to take around 12 weeks to complete.
Like the current reactor, HIFAR, OPAL will provide Australians with over 70 per cent of the nuclear medicines needed for diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer. A major improvement over HIFAR will be the range of neutron energies it will provide, enabling state-of-the-art materials research, which will put ANSTO in the top ranks of international nuclear science.
OPAL will also have a larger capacity to irradiate silicon for the semiconductor industry.
March 1, 2006
Defence Team to be a Winner at Commonwealth Games
The Australian Defence Force is sending a team of about 2600 people to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games but they won’t be running, jumping or swimming.
The ADF team, along with a range of equipment, will support both security and non-security aspects of the 2006 Games being held in Melbourne from March 15 to 26.
“This is an activity that Defence is very proud to be involved with,” said Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. “We want to ensure that Australia stages a safe, secure and successful event for the athletes and public to enjoy.”
Defence tasks will include specialist ceremonial and general support, as well as assisting the Victoria Police search venues, operate vehicle checkpoints, respond to bomb threats and clear waterways.
Defence’s commitment will include Blackhawk helicopters and a detachment of F/A 18 Hornet fighters, specialised search teams, special forces, and ships from the Royal Australian Navy. The ships and aircraft will be able to divert aircraft and intercept vessels at sea to counter specific threats should they arise.
The ADF will also provide personnel to assist venue managers in coordinating communications at Commonwealth Games venues and precincts.
Air Chief Marshal Houston emphasised the ADF’s supporting role during the Games: “I want to stress that the Victorian Government, and Victoria Police in particular, are responsible for security at the Games. The ADF’s job is to provide specialised support to the Victorian Police, as well as support to the Attorney-General’s Department under the Commonwealth’s standing arrangements for counter-terrorism if that is required.”
Once again, Reservists from the Navy, Army and Air Force will play key roles in the ADF’s supporting task force by providing an additional layer to complement other ADF domestic security capabilities.
“I am pleased to see Reserves taking a full part in this operation,” ACM Houston said.
“Some of these troops are part of the Reserve Response Forces that were established two years ago as part of the Government’s commitment to securing Australia against the threat of terrorism. Their contribution to the Melbourne Games will include assisting the Victorian Police with tasks such as searching venues and operating vehicle checkpoints, showing just how versatile Australia’s Reserve forces are.”
Air Chief Marshal Houston also congratulated the newly-appointed commander of the ADF’s joint task force for the Games, Brigadier Andrew Smith. “Brigadier Smith is very experienced in this type of operation, having played an important role in the ADF’s support to the Sydney Olympics. I wish him, and all of his troops, the very best for this operation.”
March 1, 2006
Tourism Body Asks Visitors: Where The Bloody Hell Are You?
Tourism Australia launched a new international tourism campaign which issues a uniquely Australian invitation to prospective travellers to experience Australia first hand asking – ‘So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’
The campaign launched by the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey, conveys the compelling aspects of Australia which appeal strongly to global travellers – the personality, the lifestyle and the place - that would motivate them to visit Australia now.
Tourism Australia Chairman, Tim Fischer said the new campaign aimed at increasing the economic benefits of tourism to Australia. “This campaign is about increasing the dollars that we earn from international tourism and encouraging the spread of tourists right across Australia, especially for rural and regional areas," Mr Fischer said.
"This is the job that the Australian government has tasked Tourism Australia to do and this is the campaign that will deliver on that job.”
Mr Fischer said it was unashamedly a campaign about getting international tourists to come to Australia.
"What matters most is what potential visitors think and how we can get them to respond," he said.
Tourism Australia Managing Director Scott Morrison said in an increasingly competitive and tough commercial environment, we must be bold, aggressive and distinctive to win the business.
"We also must be credible - we must be true to what we are as a destination and focus on why the world loves us - and our marketing must be authentically and distinctively Australian," Mr Morrison said.
“Tourism Australia has made an unprecedented investment in making sure that we have done our homework on this campaign.
“In total, 86 focus groups were conducted in our top seven tourism markets which make up 67 per cent of our inbound tourism business, to develop and test this campaign.
“More broadly we have invested $6.2 million in the past 18 months through our brand tracking, segmentation studies, international visitor studies, focus groups, depth interviews and through these mechanisms have spoken directly to more than 47,000 tourism consumers around the world to put this campaign together.
“The research was firstly all about making sure we knew what we had to achieve - to get them to visit now, not just think we’re great. We then had to identify our target market, what we call the Experience Seekers who possess the characteristics best suited to meeting Australia’s objective to increase yield and dispersal as they spend twice as much and disperse three times as much as average travellers,” he said.
“It was then about developing a campaign which would have the desired impact in getting them to commit to holidaying in Australia and then having the confidence that what had been developed would work.”
Mr Morrison said Tourism Australia, and its predecessor the Australian Tourist Commission had been vigorously marketing Australia internationally as a tourist destination for almost 40 years and had attained record levels of awareness.
“The next step is to convert this awareness into an actual intention to travel to Australia now.”
He said the proposition for the campaign, “Australia invites you to get involved” delivered through the uniquely Australian invitation, captured the essence of Australia’s warmth and hospitality and provided a personal invitation to share in the Australian experience.
He said the tagline for the new campaign had been thoroughly tested in all of Australia’s major markets, particularly Japan, UK, USA, Germany, China, New Zealand and South Korea where it was given the green light.
March 1, 2006
Centrelink Winning Fight Against Absenteeism
Centrelink claims to have taken the first step towards addressing its high level of staff absenteeism reporting better management practices had led to fewer instances of unplanned leave
The agency said the better practices combined with staff considering their work colleagues had resulted in the turnabout in a surprisingly short space of time.
According to the Agency, some Centrelink staff were taking nearly as many sick days and unplanned absences as they were taking annual leave at one point.
“This is clearly an unsustainable position for any employer,” a spokesperson said.
“High absenteeism leads to low morale, a shortage of staff on the front desk and declining customer service levels.”
From July to December 2005, unplanned leave dropped from 8.29 days to 7.26 days per full time employee, the equivalent of 24,000 work days over six months.
The spokesperson said the fall meant Centrelink had the benefit of an extra 184 full time staff.
“That’s the same as staffing an additional Centrelink Call Centre or setting up three or four new Centrelink offices.
“For customers this means shorter queue times and more staff on hand to assist them.”
In another move to reduce absenteeism, the new Centrelink certified agreement,
Which took effect on 23 January 2006, provided that part of future pay rises would be conditional on Centrelink staff further reducing their unplanned leave.
March 1, 2006
Army Fights Back Over Kit Attack
Australian soldiers deployed on combat operations overseas have some of the best gear available in the world, said Chief of Army Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy.
Quoted in Army News, Lt-General Leahy reassured troops and their families that the Army’s combat clothing and equipment were sound after media reports they were sub-standard.
Brigadier David Welch, Director-General Land Combat Systems in Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) echoed the sentiments, saying DMO was confident that the combat equipment and clothing used by Army was safe and of high quality.
Lt-General Leahy said the feedback he and Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston received from deployed troops was “almost overwhelmingly that the equipment … from our vehicles, our weapons, our night-fighting equipment down to our clothing and body armour is way ahead of anything else in the theatre, including those of our major allies”.
“I’d really like to reassure all Australians, particularly the families and the mums and dads, that the equipment we’re issuing to our soldiers to deploy forward on combat operations is among the best in the world. We’re not going to ask soldiers to go into these very difficult and demanding conditions without making sure that they’re as well equipped, as well trained, as well prepared and as
March 1, 2006
Union Pays Out on Debt Collection Plan
Reports that the Tax Office planned to outsource its small debt collection service have the phones running hot at the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).
Officials at the CPSU said they had been inundated with enquiries from ATO staff concerned at plans to outsource the collection of debts under $7500 to a debt collection agency.
"Debt collection is an integral part of the tax system and not something that should be performed by the private sector for a profit," a spokesperson for the CPSU said. "It is no more acceptable to outsource tax debt collection than it would be to outsource the provision of advice or processing tax returns."
The Union said a major concern with the Tax Office plan was the protection of privacy.
"ATO staff cannot divulge details of individual taxpayer's circumstances even to the Treasurer,’’ the union said.
“How are the ATO going to ensure that the tax debts of small businesses are not made public?"
A spokesperson for the Tax Office said that as a Government organisation, they ensured any agreement was in accordance with Government policy and law.
"The Tax Office is currently conducting agency agreement negotiations. We are committed to working with unions to negotiate a collective agreement for all general employees," the spokesperson said.
The CPSU warned that the outsourcing plan could bring job cuts and poor pay conditions for those who moved to private companies to do the same work.
They also expressed concerns about the potential for after hours contact with recalcitrant tax payers in some areas and trials of dialer technology for outbound calls. The CPSU spokesperson said the union would raise the concerns at the next consultative committee meeting with the Tax Office. well led as we can make them. We want them to come home, we’re going to look after them,” he said.
“I’m not going to say that everything’s perfect. Because of changes in technology, because of an adaptive enemy, we’ve got to keep working at it, so we will change the equipment – fairly rapidly at times – in our effort to try to make sure we’ve got the best stuff.”
Brigadier Welch said new clothing and equipment underwent extensive assessment before it was issued throughout Army.
“Testing can involve agencies such as DSTO, Land Engineering Agency, the Australian Wool Testing Authority and CSIRO.
March 1, 2006
Trade of States Revealed in State of Trade Report
A new publication from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) reveals the flow of trade between Australia’s States and Territories for the financial year 2004-05.
Australia's Trade by State and Territory, 2004-05 is a comprehensive statistical analysis of each State and Territory's trade in goods by commodity, level of processing and by partner country. Services trade for each State and Territory is also analysed.
The statistics reflect Australia's diversity as a trading nation, with each state and territory having a distinct export profile. Most States and Territories contributed significantly to Australia's 13 per cent rise in exports to $164 billion in 2004-05. The Australian Capital Territory was the only jurisdiction to suffer an export decline.
According to the report, New South Wales exporters returned $39.1 billion in revenue to the Australian economy in 2004-05, a 13 per cent rise, through commodities such as coal, aluminium, beef, refined petroleum, copper ores, medicaments and wool.
Victoria, with exports worth $26.8 billion in 2004-05 (up 4 per cent), earned more than a third of its export revenue through trade in manufactured goods such as motor vehicles and aluminium. Rural exports such as dairy products, wool and meat (both beef and sheep meat) were also strong contributors to the state's export trade.
Primary industries were the major export earners in Queensland and Western Australia with over half of each of these states' export revenues earned through export of primary products. Queensland's exports were worth $33.1 billion in 2004-05 (up 24 per cent) and Western Australia's totalled $38.8 billion (up 19 per cent).
Major South Australian exports were up 1 per cent in 2004-05 to $8.7 billion and included wine, motor vehicles, metals, wheat and meat. Tasmanian exports, which increased 12 per cent to $2.8 billion included zinc, aluminium, copper ores, beef and crustaceans.
Increased minerals exports resulted in a stronger trade performance for the Northern Territory in 2004-05 with exports up 16 per cent to $2.7 billion.
Exports from the Australian Capital Territory declined 5 per cent to $762 million, with services dominating export activity.
Australia's Trade by State and Territory, 2004-05 is one of a series of statistical publications released each year by DFAT.
DFAT also offers a customised consultancy service, producing reports tailored to specific requirements.