SearchArchives for March 2008
25 March, 2008
Workplace humour is
no funny business
The Community and Public Sector Union is asking its members to report on the role of humour in the Australian Public Service workplace.
The union is using its website to canvass the opinions of APS officers, following the launch of the 2008 Humour in Business Awards in New Zealand.
Those Awards reward organisations that make life the most fun for their staff, suppliers and/or customers. Businesses of all types and sizes are encouraged to enter, describing how they had fun at work and how that affected business relationships, outcomes or productivity.
The CPSU is trying to find out if having a laugh with the boss, cracking a joke with colleagues, or reading a Dilbert cartoon can make work more bearable.
It said throughout history, humans had used humour to cope with tense, dangerous or repetitive situations. The concept of “gallows humour” came from the dark jokes made by prisoners waiting for their turn to hang, the CPSU said.
It said in the modern workplace, gallows humour, black humour, sarcasm, or just a plain old belly laugh could possibly help workers psychologically detach themselves from the stress of a performance assessment or the boredom of long planning meetings.
Founder and convener of the NZ Awards, Pat Armitstead, operates a speaking and training business, Joyology Limited.
Ms Armitstead said the awards were designed to celebrate the notion of fun at work and contribute towards the general well-being of individuals, teams and the nation. She said they raised awareness of the ways humour and fun contributed to workplace enjoyment and personal and team productivity.
“It is not necessarily about the most sophisticated application of humour or the best use of jokes, though these are all part of what it means to be good humoured,” Ms Armitstead said.
She had also toured Russia with the real Dr Patch Adams, clowning to entertain orphans and has been selected to join his annual trip again this year, in November.
The CPSU said defusing a situation with humour could be good for workplace health. It said medical evidence had shown humour can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, boost the auto-immune system and improve respiration.
It noted that joking around with colleagues could also be a great way of bonding.
Inside jokes, light-hearted teasing and office banter created what experts call a “shared system of understandings” - making those involved feel accepted and part of the group, and hopefully, improving team work and overall performance.
The union said there was also a serious side to workplace humour. Job security could be on the line if employers or co-workers don’t “get” jokes. What seems hilarious to one person can be extremely offensive to another.
It said people had to be wary of excluding people from jokes, intentionally or not, as it could alienate outsiders and create tensions within a workplace. Humour could veil targeted bullying and could reinforce power dynamics and subordination in a workplace.
The CPSU was thankful that in the modern workplace, the excuse that “it was a joke, they just didn’t get it” seemed to be coming less accepted. Sexual humour which reinforced gender relations in the workplace and humour which stereotyped racial groups could contravene the Public Service Code of Conduct and were routinely investigated as discriminatory by external bodies such as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.
For more information about the CPSU’s interest in humour in the workplace visit www.cpsu.org.au
25 March, 2008
PS Air travel
brought to Earth
The Minister for Finance and Deregulation has elaborated on the Government’s crackdown on official travel, saying he expected to realise $15 million in savings by enforcing tougher travel rules.
The Minister, Lindsay Tanner, who also heads-up the Government’s cost-saving ‘razor gang’ said by taking cheaper flights and making greater use of teleconferencing facilities, he would put a brake on Public Servants “flying endlessly” around the country.
A spokesperson for Mr Tanner was reported in the Canberra Times as saying the use of discount fares for official travel by the APS was very low.
“We are going to see if use of discount fares can be increased,” the spokesman said.
“Departments will be encouraged to ask whether a flexible fare is really needed.”
He confirmed that the previous Government’s aim of shifting 25 per cent of official travel onto the smaller or discount airlines would also be adopted by the new Government and that it would also look at bulk-buying airfares in a bid to save money.
“We want to get a focus on the issue of cost management and look at the most efficient ways of doing things,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Tanner said moves would also be introduced to encourage greater use of teleconferencing, as long as confidentiality could be assured.
“In the longer term we’ll be looking at video conferencing as a much stronger alternative to Public Servants flying endlessly around the country,” Mr Tanner said.
He told the ABC that in recent years the Government had spent too much on air travel and had not looked for potential savings.
“We think we can save $15 million a year, maybe more than that,” he said.
“I’m going to be cracking down over the course of this year on Public Servants air travel.”
Finance Circular 2008/02 issued in February, set out the requirements for FMA Departments and Agencies to seek out and use the best fare of the day for official travel.
25 March, 2008
Paying to advertise
puts Gov’t on top
The Federal Government spent more money on advertising in 2007 than any other organisation in Australia, according to the annual Top 50 Media Advertisers survey conducted by research company Nielsen Media.
According to the survey, the Commonwealth’s advertising bill of $215-220 million was the biggest in the country, beating second placegetter, the Coles Group by $45 million.
Experts attributed the high level of expenditure to the lead-up to the Federal election and pointed out it wasn’t the first time the national Government had been the biggest spender.
The 2007 survey included advertising on metropolitan and regional television, metropolitan radio, national, metropolitan and major regional newspapers, in magazines, on billboards and in cinemas
It found that the biggest campaigns run by the Government were those booked by the former Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Defence, Health and Ageing and the Electoral Commission.
Ranking third on the list of big-advertisers was Telstra, whose 2007 expenditure was estimated at $130-135 million. The State Governments of NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia were also prominent on the list.
The biggest spending State Government was NSW which came in 7th on the national list, spending an estimated $90-95 million on promoting State lotteries, cancer prevention, roads and traffic issues, other health messages and tourism.
The Government of Victoria held down 8th place ($75-80 million) paying for campaigns booked by the Transport Accident Commission and the Departments of Infrastructure and Human Services.
The Queensland Government was the nation’s 11th biggest advertiser, spending $65-70 million, and the Government of Western Australia was 28th with a bill of $40-45 million.
Overall, Governments appearing on the top 50 list accounted for $485-510 million in advertising expenditure.
25 March, 2008
has tax appeal
The Australian Taxation Office has released the latest edition of its annual statistical report, Taxation Statistics 2005-06.
Taxation Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said the report was the ATO’s most comprehensive statistical publication, providing valuable information about Australia’s tax system, including personal and company tax, superannuation and excise.
“Along with our annual report and compliance program, this publication is part of our open and accountable approach to administering the tax system, and helps us identify emerging social trends and potential compliance issues,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“The detailed tables we provide in our taxation statistics publication are valuable resources for the public sector, researchers and the community more broadly.”
According to the 11.5 million individuals lodged income tax returns for the 2005-06 income year claiming $27 billion in total deductions, including $13.1 billion in work-related expenses. Mr D’Ascenzo said this was a growth of 9.5 per cent on the previous year.
“Work-related expenses present a continuing compliance challenge for us,” he said.
“We review claims that are outside normal patterns and the claims of people identified as being at risk of not complying. I ask people to take particular care with claims in their tax returns this year.”
He said most individuals continued to lodge their tax returns through a tax agent (72.8 per cent) for the 2005-06 income year however, there was a 17.2 per cent growth in the number of people lodging through e-tax, the Tax Office’s electronic lodgment program.
“It’s worth noting the highest growth rate for people using e-tax was for those aged 55-74,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
The report also revealed that the number of self-managed superannuation funds grew by 13 per cent during 2006-07, while the value of assets held by these funds grew by 30 per cent.
The report included a new chapter on charities and not-for-profit organisations, as well as a chapter on the international aspects of the Australian tax system.
Other improvements included more information on rental properties, work-related deductions, superannuation co-contributions and enhancements to industry benchmarks.
Taxation Statistics was developed in consultation with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Treasury and a number of academic and professional bodies. It is released some time after the year of income to which it relates to, allowing the ATO to include details from late lodgments of returns and activity statements.
25 March, 2008
formula for MPs
Delegations of environmental scientists are heading for Canberra this week to educate the nation’s politicians about the role of nuclear science in monitoring and understanding the environment.
Led by the Head of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s Institute for Environmental Research, Professor John Dodson, the scientists plan to point out the importance of nuclear science in areas such as water management and climate change.
Professor Dodson said it was a great opportunity to inform Australian decision-makers about the importance of ANSTO’s environmental work.
“Many people don’t actually know that ANSTO has a strong environment focus, so it’s a chance for us to tell people about our work,” Professor Dodson said.
“For example, in understanding how our climate has evolved over time by mapping climate patterns over hundreds and thousands of years, we can discover the full range of system responses when thinking about future climate change. This is just one of the many areas of environmental expertise we have at ANSTO.”
Professor Dodson said understanding climate change could be done in several ways, such as analysing air bubbles in ice cores to find out the age and quantity of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane and how they correlated with the climate of the time.
He said the movement of ice sheets during certain climate periods could be tracked by collecting rock samples and dating them.
“We use nuclear techniques to do all this, and ANSTO has powerful instruments such as particle accelerators to help us do the science. Without these tools, we could not produce rigorous results,” he said.
Professor Dodson said his group also used nuclear tools to understand how human activities affected groundwater, rivers, marine and freshwater ecosystems.
He said, for example, that ANSTO had been conducting a water quality monitoring program along the Darling River where nuclear techniques were used to identify evaporation and groundwater discharge into the river during drought conditions.
“This work identified the presence of saline groundwater flowing into the Darling River, which happens when the river levels drop, as old saline groundwater is present in aquifer systems throughout western NSW,” Professor Dodson said.
“This is bad for the river because it’s the only fresh water supply to the region and if saline water continues to flow into it then agriculture and river life will suffer.”
He said nuclear tools had also been used for more than 10 years to measure air pollution in regional centres of Australia.
Aerosol samples collected from a number of sites have been studied using ion beam analysis provided by one of ANSTO’s on-site particle accelerators. The analysis allowed ANSTO to determine where the pollution was coming from and to assess its potential impact on health and the environment.
25 March, 2008
DoD in firing line
over kangaroo kill
The Department of Defence has defended itself against claims it was failing to manage a population of kangaroos on a Canberra communications station properly.
The Department has issued a statement saying it took its responsibility for environmental management very se riously.
Up to 600 kangaroos are overcrowding the 143ha Belconnen Naval Transmitting Station, damaging the local grassland and threatening endangered species.
The local Environment Commissioner has recommended urgent action be taken to remove the kangaroos and has proposed they be culled by lethal injection.
Defence has yet to act on the Commissioner’s advice and has been urged to do so by the Australian Capital Territory Government and the RSPCA but a groundswell of public opinion has left the Department defending its reputation as a land manager.
“As one of the largest landholders in Australia, Defence takes its responsibility for environmental management very seriously,” the Department’s statement said.
“Defence is taking all possible measures to ensure kangaroos at the Belconnen Naval Transmitting Station have access to water and shade.”
It said it had dismantled sections of a fence to allow the kangaroos access to nearby Lake Ginninderra and had installed extra water troughs.
The site is open to inspection by animal welfare officers.
“An animal welfare inspector visited the site and confirmed that the kangaroos remain in good condition.
“Defence environmental officers continue to monitor the welfare of the kangaroos on a daily basis to ensure that they are able to adequately access water and shade.”
The Department admitted the issue was a sensitive one to the local community.
“Defence has taken every measure to ensure that we deal with the matter responsibly.”
In the meantime, the ACT Government continues to press for the kangaroos to be removed from the site, with the Environment Commissioner, Maxine Cooper, calling in February for the removal of enough kangaroos to lower the population to one animal per hectare by the end of April 2008.
25 March, 2008
Soccer coach offside
at Sports Institute
The head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport’s men’s soccer program, Steve O’Connor, has resigned to take up a coaching role with the A-League club, Sydney FC.
AIS Director, Professor Peter Fricker paid tribute to Mr O’Connor, saying he had been responsible for nurturing some of Australia’s most outstanding young football talent.
Professor Fricker said international players such as Mark Viduka, Craig Moore, Ned Zelic, Marco Bresciano and Vince Grella were just a few of the Australian Socceroos players to have come through the AIS Men’s Football Program.
“For over a decade Steve has played a leading role in the training and development of Australia’s finest young football talent,” Professor Fricker said.
“I think a large part of the success we saw at the last World Cup was a result of Steve’s development of the national team players.
“His coaching ability is reflected by the number of top-class Australian football players who have gone onto excel on the international football stage.”
In 2003 Soccer Australia inducted Mr O’Connor into its Hall of Fame.
“We would like to thank Steve for the invaluable contribution that he has made to the AIS Men’s Football program and wish him all the best in his new coaching role at Sydney FC,” Professor Fricker said.
He said the AIS Men’s soccer program, which was established in 1981 and currently competes in the Victorian Premier League, aimed to identify and develop outstanding young talent with a view to preparing them for Olympic and Socceroo squads.
25 March, 2008
Thesaurus has final
word on ATSI data
A new on-line tool to assist in the search for information relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and cultures promises to make the task much easier, according to the Chair of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Professor Mick Dodson.
The Institute has developed a national thesaurus – or word list - to describe documents relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and issues. It consists of three thesauri that cover language and people, place and subject and are used in the Mura catalogue.
Professor Dodson encouraged people to use the new resource.
“The thesauri are now available to browse and search on the AIATSIS website and can also be downloaded for free,” Professor Dodson said.
“They are AIATSIS’s gift and I strongly encourage others to use them.”
He said the launch of the thesauri marked another milestone for Indigenous research and researchers in Australia and also marked the 10th anniversary of the Institute’s online collections catalogue, Mura
Professor Dodson said Mura was launched in 1998 and named after the Ngunnawal word meaning “pathways” and demonstrated how Indigenous materials should be sensitively and appropriately described.
“For 10 years people from Australia and around the world have been able to search and discover the AIATSIS collections in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner,” Professor Dodson said.
“I am proud to say that the Library of Congress of the United States of America has now approved the thesauri to be used internationally in catalogue records.”
He said the thesauri could be found through the Library section of the Institute’s website at www1.aiatsis.gov.au/thesaurus/
25 March, 2008
Uni figures show
net brain gain
Figures released by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations show that the number of students undergoing higher education studies across Australia was growing with almost 900,000 enrolled in the first half of 2007.
The record number of higher education students in the first half of 2007 represented an increase of 5.5 per cent from the same period in 2006 (increasing from 851,906 to 899,021).
According to the Department, females represented 56.7 per cent (172,512) of all commencing students in the first half of 2007 while 43.3 per cent (131,605) were male.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students represented less than one per cent of students in the first half of 2007 however, the number of Indigenous students in public universities increased by 6.6 per cent compared to the year before.
There was an increase in the number of students commencing courses leading to Initial Registration as a Nurse (11.1 per cent) and a small increase of 0.9 per cent in the number of students commencing courses providing Initial Teacher Training.
A substantial increase in new enrolments in Engineering and Related Technology was an improvement on previous years as the Department said between 2005 and 2006 there was only a 1.4 per cent increase in this field, while numbers declined between 2003 and 2005. It said the rise in the first half of 2007 reflected an increase of 510 Government supported places in that year. An additional 560 places would be offered in 2008.
The Department said an extra 1500 nursing places and 1500 early childhood education places would be offered to address shortages in key occupations and incentives would be available to encourage students to study and teach mathematics and science.
As part of the Government’s Higher Education Revolution, the number of undergraduate Commonwealth Scholarships would be doubled from 44,000 to 88,000 to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
25 March, 2008
aid is good bet
The first annual review of the effectiveness of Australia’s overseas aid program has been released.
The Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan revealed the report’s findings, saying the new Government had not only promised to increase overseas aid but to make it more effective.
“This requires a continuing priority on review of current performance and research into world's best practice in development assistance,” Mr McMullan said.
The review found that Australian aid activities were well managed and overall achieved good results, with more than three-quarters on track to achieve their objectives in 2006-07, ranging from better budgeting to stronger service delivery.
Mr McMullan said it also found that one of the biggest challenges facing Australia’s aid program was that about half of its country funding was directed to “fragile states” in the Asia-Pacific region.
This was more than any other OECD donor.
“These fragile states are clearly the areas of greatest need but they are also the areas where tangible results in the short or medium term are hardest to achieve or demonstrate,” Mr McMullan said.
“Australia has a profound commitment to such nations in the Asia-Pacific region and we will continue to work with them towards greater prosperity and stability.
“This is a long term exercise and no-one should imagine that results will be quick or easy.”
Mr McMullan said the review identified five opportunities to strengthen aid effectiveness:
* broadening the ways Australia engages in fragile states
* supporting reform in the larger economies of Asia
* strengthening performance orientation
* getting the most from technical assistance
* meeting gender equality commitments
He said work on these issues was already underway, particularly in the context of the Pacific Development Partnerships which the Prime Minister announced during his recent visit to Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
“We will use the lessons from the review to further improve the program as we meet our commitment to increase overseas aid from 0.3 per cent of national income in 2007-08, to 0.5 per cent by 2015,” Mr McMullan said.
25 March, 2008
Old heads seek
young at heart
Young people are being asked for ideas and suggestions on the shape and policies of a proposed new consultative body, the Australian Youth Forum.
Minister for Youth, Kate Ellis, said the new Forum would be designed to allow young people to participate in Government policy development and decision making.
Ms Ellis said the Forum would deliver on an election commitment to replace the National Youth Roundtable.
“The Australian Youth Forum will give young Australians a strong voice in Government,” Ms Ellis said.
“It will be broader in scope than the current Roundtable and improve communication between Government and Australia’s youth.”
She said the Government was committed to listening to the voice of young people and responding and wanted the new Forum to build on the National Youth Roundtable and better serve the needs of young people and the sector.
In addition to canvassing feedback from members of the youth sector, including stakeholder and advocacy groups, Ms Ellis said a series of public consultations would be held.
She released a discussion paper which would form the basis for the consultations, available at www.thesource.gov.au
“Public consultations are open to all interested people and organisations. Flexible options, including online consultation, will allow everyone to have their say,” Ms Ellis said.
She said the consultation period for ideas and submissions on the new Australian Youth Forum and current youth issues would close on 30 May 2008.
25 March, 2008
worth skilling for
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has put on a two-day Expo in London to entice skilled British workers to come to Australia to live and work.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said the 2008 Australia Needs Skills expo linked Australian employers with prospective skilled migrants who were mainly young, highly qualified, English speaking people.
“Australia is this year seeking more than 100,000 people in its skilled migration stream including accountants, engineers, health professionals and trades people,” Senator Evans said.
“There are skilled vacancies in all States and Territories in more than 90 occupations.”
More than 4,000 prospective skilled migrant workers were registered to meet Australian exhibitors at the London Expo, which included employers, recruitment companies, State and Local Government organisations.
Exhibitors at the expo included a Western Australian automotive engineering firm seeking to recruit 50 skilled mechanics; a Melbourne-based healthcare recruitment firm looking for doctors, nurses and allied health professionals; a recruitment firm acting on behalf of WA Local Governments; and a Canberra organisation aiming to recruit a range of skilled workers.
25 March, 2008
Country girl is
The manager of a NSW Centrelink office has been selected as Centrelink’s representative on the Australian Rural Leadership Program.
Jennifer Jeffrey, from Gunnedah, was chosen ahead of 23,000 staff to join the program which develops future leaders committed to Australia’s primary industries and its rural, regional and remote communities.
Ms Jeffrey said her selection would help her make a positive difference to rural communities.
“The chance to participate in such an influential program is very exciting and I want my experiences to benefit the rural communities Centrelink serves,” Ms Jeffrey said.
“I’m very lucky, as my employer and I share a common commitment to assisting rural and regional communities.”
Ms Jeffrey said she was looking forward to the start of the program, which starts with a four-day trek through the Kimberleys in May.
In addition to her appointment to the Australian Rural Leadership Program, Ms Jeffrey said her 25 years’ experience in the Public Service was a valuable asset in managing the Gunnedah Centrelink office.
“I'm using the experience and knowledge I’ve gained throughout my career to help Centrelink build a closer relationship with the Gunnedah community,” she said.
“Gunnedah Centrelink has a long tradition of providing a very high standard of service to our customers, who come from all walks of life, from young families to retirees as well as those people on the land and local Indigenous communities.”
She said her goal for this year was to get Centrelink more involved in community activities, as she thought it was important it continued to meet the needs of all customers.
“I’m proud to lead a professional team of 28 staff, who I know care about the community we work and live in,” she said.
“I want to make sure the people of the region know Centrelink is here to help make a positive difference to their lives.”
25 March, 2008
leaders more class
Winners of the inaugural Allison Sudradjat scholarships for emerging leaders in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have been announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith.
The scholarships honour the memory of Ms Sudradjat, the former head of the Australian aid program in Indonesia and senior representative in Papua New Guinea, who was killed a plane crash in Indonesia on 7 March last year.
The six scholars, two from PNG and four from Indonesia, were chosen from among the recipients of the Australian Leadership Awards Scholarship initiative, which offers post-graduate scholarships at Australian universities.
The scholarship winners will undertake Masters or PhD level courses in areas such as law, health, climate change and education and will also receive additional funding for research or a professional work placement.
The inaugural recipients have varied backgrounds including HIV/AIDS education, studies in inter-religious dialogue, paediatric and pre-natal medicine, and law of the sea.
Ms Sudradjat, who served with AusAID for 18 years, was passionate about education as a fundamental priority and empowering empower people in developing countries to participate in the leadership and future development of their nations.
The Allison Sudradjat Scholarships include a leadership development program in Australia and are part of AusAID’s Australian scholarship initiatives for emerging leaders in the region.
Announcement of the scholarships coincided with the 2008 Leadership Development Conference where more than 130 of the best and brightest from the Asia-Pacific region met in Canberra to share valuable skills, knowledge and networks.
The Leadership Development Program is offered to recipients of the Australian Leadership Awards scholarships, and is in addition to the scholarship award.
Winners of the scholarships were Najwa Shihab of Indonesia who is to study law at the University of Melbourne; I Made Andi from Indonesia who will undertake PhD studies in law at the University of Wollongong; Dr Jeanne Rini Poespoprodjo from Indonesia who will do a PhD in child health at the Charles Darwin University; Achmad Arifin from Indonesia who is to study for a PhD in social science at Griffith University; Uke Nentepa Kombra from PNG to study for a PhD in education at the Queensland University of Technology; and Shirley Gaiyer-Kore of PNG who will undertake a Master of Pharmacy course at Curtin University of Technology.
25 March, 2008
ACCC takes bite
at food marketing
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has used the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day to call for more responsible marketing of food to children.
ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel said World Consumer Rights Day was an international day of action and awareness which promoted the rights of consumers around the globe.
“This campaign will encourage Governments and the food industry to take greater responsibility for the marketing of food,” Mr Samuel said.
“A key part of dealing with junk food advertising is ensuring that consumers receive truthful information as children and young people can be particularly vulnerable consumers.”
He said the ACCC was particularly concerned to ensure food marketing did not breach the Trade Practices Act.
“The ACCC has taken a number of successful actions in relation to misleading or deceptive claims in the food and beverage industry. It will deal firmly with any further cases of misleading conduct.”
He said if businesses breached the law, the ACCC would take action and warned the food and beverage industry to be vigilant in marketing responsibly in this area.
“No matter how a business communicates with you – whether it is through packaging, advertising, logos, endorsements or sales pitch - you have the right to receive accurate and truthful messages about the products that are available to you,” Mr Samuel said.
“If the ACCC becomes aware of business conduct which could mislead or deceive, for example in relation to the ingredients or nutritional value of a particular food, the ACCC won’t hesitate to intervene.”
He said the ACCC recognised the good of organisations such as CHOICE to raise awareness of concerns associated with junk food advertising to children.
“While it can be a challenge to teach children about good nutrition and the value of healthy food choices, carers of children have a right to receive truthful information about the foods they purchase,” Mr Samuel said.
25 March, 2008
up in Antarctica
World Meteorological Day was marked by the release of a special weather balloon on the Australian Antarctic station, Casey.
Senior Weather Observer on Casey, Tom Delfatti said the Antarctic continent had a major effect on global climate systems.
“We released the balloon from an old balloon shed at Wilkes that is now usually covered in ice and snow over winter,” Mr Dellfatti said.
“It’s humbling to reflect on the history of meteorology at Wilkes that is continuing now at Casey.’
He said data that collected in Antarctica was used to help generate weather forecasts for mainland Australia.
“Historical data is also an important part of climate research into possible global climate change.”
Mr Delfatti said there had been weather observers in the area, doing similar work, for more than 50 years.
“Even though we are quite isolated here in the Antarctic, our work influences the lives of people back home every day.”
Observers at Casey station release two balloons every day, one in the morning and one at night. At Wilkes, which was in operation from 1957 to 1969, they also had weather observers that launched balloons twice a day.
“These balloons are important because they provide information about the atmosphere above Antarctica. The balloon is filled with hydrogen and a sensitive instrument package known as a radiosonde is attached which measures pressure, humidity and temperature,” he said.
“A Global Positioning System unit is also attached so that we can track the balloon and get information about the winds in the upper atmosphere.”
He said hundreds, if not thousands of balloons were launched almost simultaneously around the world, every day of the year and information from the global network of balloons was fed into powerful computer models so that meteorologists could accurately forecast and model the upper atmosphere.
World Meteorological Day is celebrated by the worldwide meteorological community on 23 March each year and commemorates the entry into force of the World Meteorological Organisation Convention creating the Organisation, which was designated as a specialised agency of the United Nations.
25 March, 2008
ABC to show search for Sydney
ABC TV is to screen a documentary on the search for the HMAS Sydney, which was discovered 2470m underwater off the coast of Western Australia.
The behind-the-scenes story, with exclusive footage, will screen at 8.30pm on Tuesday 1 April and follows shipwreck hunter, David Mearns, as he leads the Finding Sydney Foundation’s search for the sunken ship.
The Hunt for HMAS Sydney is a Film Australia and Electric Pictures production in association with Screenwest, Lotterywest and ABC TV.
Pay papers on net
The Australian Fair Pay Commission has announced that 83 written submissions were received for its 2008 Minimum Wage Review.
The Commission is posting 81 of them on its website at www.fairpay.gov.au. Acting Chair of the Commission, Professor Judith Sloan, said the submissions came from a wide range of stakeholders including individuals community groups, employees, employer, education and professional organizations as well as governments and private businesses.
A national program has been launched in 18 locations around Australia to support children dealing with parental relationship breakdown.
The Supporting Children after Separation Program will focus on the needs of children and help them deal with issues arising from the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.
Locations the program will be available at are Sydney, Newcastle, Gosford-Wyong and Wollongong in NSW, Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria; Brisbane, Bundaberg, Caboolture, Cairns, the Gold Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba in Queensland; Perth in Western Australia; Adelaide in South Australia; Hobart in Tasmania; Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory and Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Services were expected to open by the end of November 2008.
Communities claim journalist
Paul Toohey, a Walkley winning journalist based in the Northern Territory, is to hand back his award in protest against the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s stance on entry to Aboriginal communities.
Mr Toohey, who writes for The Australian, said he objected to a code of conduct the MEAA was drafting for journalists which would require journalists to contact police and Councils in communities they intended to visit and inform them of their intentions.
Mr Toohey said the Alliance was working against media freedom.
Australia’s population rose to 21,097,000 people in the year ending September 2007, an increase in the year of 318,500 people, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Net overseas migration contributed 179,100 people to the growth while natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) added 139,400.
As at 30 September 2007, the resident population for each State and Territory was: NSW 6,909,000; Victoria 5,226,000; Queensland 4,201,000; Western Australia 2,119,000; South Australia 1,588,000; Tasmania 494,500; Australian Capital Territory 340,300; and Northern Territory 216,500.
Telstra found lacking
An internationally-based monitor has found Telstra’s website to be the worst-performing of 50 top Australian companies.
The watchdog accessed home pages every five minutes between 11 February and 13 March, recording the time taken to download and number of errors.
Over half the sampled Australian sites exceeded the four-second standard for downloading but those belonging to Telstra, AGL Energy, Wesfarmers and Westpac bank were the worst.
Arts performing well
Australia’s 29 major performing arts companies continued to show steady growth across key financial and artistic indicators, according to the latest report from the Australia Council for the Arts.
The Securing the Future report showed that in 2006 the companies achieved 2.1 million capital city main stage attendances, mounted 68 new main stage works, raised approximately $152.2 million at the box office and presented 4400 education performances to 708,000 students.
The annual report has tracked the progress of flagship theatre, dance, opera and orchestral companies since 2001 against indicators established by the Major Performing Arts Inquiry of 1999.
Clearance for computer system
The Defence Signals Directorate is to assess the security of Xerox WorkCentre Multifunction Systems through the Australasian Information Security Evaluation Program.
The assessment is aimed at providing Government with the choice of a commercially available product with a level of assurance.
According to DSD, the enhanced security features on the Xerox WorkCentre Multifunction Systems would allow Government agencies to restrict access, track usage and protect confidential information.
Clyde Cameron dies
A state funeral service has been held for the former Minister for Labour and Immigration, Clyde Cameron.
Mr Cameron died on 14 March, aged 95. He was a Minister in the Whitlam Government and a Member of Parliament for 31 years.
Film festival developing
A science film festival being staged in association with CSIRO has received a 2008 National Science Week grant.
SCINEMA is a partnership between CSIRO, Cosmos Magazine and the National Museum of Australia, with funding from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research’s National Science Week program and ACT Department of Health.
The grant will enable the festival to travel to venues across Australia, bringing a program of science drama, documentaries and guest speakers, to more than 150 towns and cities.
SCINEMA is also looking for science-themed films from Australian film-makers to screen as part of the Festival and more information is available from www.csiro.au/scinema
18 March, 2008
Finance in pitch for
more legal harmony
Moves to harmonise laws around the States and Territories have gained momentum after a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that Australia was the poorest performing country in the western world on the issue.
The finding prompted Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner to join the debate by calling for more to be done on regulatory harmonisation.
“The OECD has found that Australia has the least harmonised regulations among the 30 countries profiled,” Mr Tanner said.
“This is based on data from 2003 and since then the regulatory burden has become much worse.
“Clearly this burden is restricting Australian businesses from reaching their full potential and the Rudd Government is determined to reverse the pile-up of new regulation.”
Minister assisting Mr Tanner on the deregulation issue, Dr Craig Emerson agreed the need for regulatory reform was urgent. He said the report found deregulation could help boost Australia’s per-capita Gross Domestic Product by more than 1 per cent, or more than $10 billion.
“The report encouragingly says we have an open economy as an island nation but if you asked any business owner if they are over-regulated I think the answer would be an emphatic ‘yes’,” Dr Emerson said.
He said the Commonwealth, State and Territory Business Regulation and Competition Working Group met for the third time in Canberra recently to look at ways to slash the red tape that was strangling business.
“We'll be taking to the next COAG meeting a plan to accelerate work on regulatory hotspots and take on a bold new agenda of reform,” Dr Emerson said.
“Australia needs the Commonwealth, States and Territories to harmonise key areas of business regulation such as occupational health and safety, payroll tax, trade licences and regulation of credit.”
Dr Emerson said the Business Council of Australia had made it clear that in the last decade Australian businesses had been suffering from “creeping re-regulation”.
The move comes at the same time the Council for the Australian Federation, consisting of all State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers (but not the Commonwealth) declared one of its priorities for 2008 would be the ongoing eradication of cross-jurisdictional anomalies.
It decided harmonisation would be a standing item on its agenda at every meeting as part of an ongoing commitment to co-operative Federalism.
18 March, 2008
New look Environment
as landscape changes
A major overhaul of the way Australia coordinates its approaches to environmental management has been unveiled by the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett.
The new $2.25 billion package, Caring for our Country, will deliver funding to local communities through a “one-stop shop” covering heritage, landcare and environmental programs.
Mr Garrett said the package was built on transparent national targets and recognised that the previous system was not working efficiently, scattering funding to individual projects across the country, with each one often working in isolation from the others.
“Caring for our Country will be backed by an annual business plan to ensure the investment is targeted to deliver the best results for the environment,” Mr Garrett said.
“It will also cut excessive administration costs and instead allow more funding to be provided directly to farmers and other land managers.”
He said the program would complement the $130 million Australia’s Farming Future initiative, which was designed to ensure the primary sector had a vibrant and sustainable future in a changing climate.
Mr Garrett said the Government planned to provide an annual report card on progress under Caring for our Country.
“The program will focus on the key goals of a healthier environment, which is better-protected, well-managed and more resilient against the challenges of climate change,” Mr Garrett said.
He said it would invest in projects which match six national priorities:
* Australia’s national reserve system;
* Biodiversity and natural icons (including weeds, feral animals and threatened species);
* Coasts and aquatic habitats;
* Sustainable farm practices and Landcare; and
* Natural resource management in remote and northern Australia;
* Community skills, knowledge and engagement.
Mr Garrett said the new program would deliver on key Government election commitments.
Under a streamlined system, the World Heritage programs and others related to it would be overseen by Mr Garrett while Landcare issues would be overseen by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke.
The regional natural resource bodies would remain central in delivering the program, with a guaranteed share of program funds.
“In fact, Caring for our Country will offer many regional bodies significant new opportunities,” Mr Garrett said.
Regional bodies would receive guaranteed funding of at least 60 per cent of historical average funding to secure their operations.
They could then access additional funds for projects which would help to deliver on key national priorities, or for extra assistance in adapting to the program.
“The Government will be flexible and look at how each bid would help to achieve the best environmental outcomes,” Mr Garrett said.
18 March, 2008
The Defence Signals Directorate has completed its security assessment of a number of Microsoft programs that have application to the Australian Public Service.
The Directorate’s Australasian Information Security Evaluation Program has finalised its assessment of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 with Messaging and Security Feature Pack and Windows Mobile 6 systems.
“The Defence Signals Directorate and Microsoft have worked collaboratively throughout the entire assessment period to ensure that these products meet the security needs for Government networks,” the DSD Director, Ian McKenzie, said.
“This assessment has been an important step in evaluating emerging technology for potential use in Government systems. The successful evaluation of these products means that Government can be assured that there will be greater choices available to work remotely.”
Mr McKenzie said that as the Government moved to become more mobile, it needed an assurance that there were appropriate levels of protection for its Information and Communications Technology systems across a broad range of locations.
He said as the national authority for information security, DSD played a vital role in evaluating ICT security products for use in the Australian Government’s official communications and information systems.
The Senior Director for the Microsoft’s Windows Mobile Product Group, John Traynor said security was a top priority for the company, its Government partners and customers.
“The successful inclusion of Windows Mobile on the Defence Signals Directorate Evaluated Product List is a significant milestone for us,” Mr Traynor said.
He said that as Microsoft continued to evolve the Windows Mobile platform, it was wholly committed to providing Government Agencies with secure mobile solutions that addressed their unique needs.
“We are extremely proud of the collaborative and co-operative relationship we have built with DSD and the increased levels of protection we offer to Government information networks today.”
18 March, 2008
Biometric ID trial
The administrative rebuild at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has led to delays in the adoption of high-tech identification systems, according to the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee.
In his report DIAC’s Management of the Introduction of Biometric Technologies, the Auditor said introduction of the new technology by the Department has been “challenging” in view of the rapidly evolving nature of the systems and the changes being made in the Department.
He said the Department had been evaluating the benefits of biometrics since the late 1990s, allowing it to use a person’s unique characteristics for identity purposes and cut down the risks of identity fraud, and improve Departmental efficiency.
While the Auditor noted that some of the benefits of the new technology – and its costs – were “difficult to quantify,” he said the Department had been hamstrung in evaluating them due to the administrative changes it has had to endure.
“The DIAC biometrics program area has also had to adapt to substantial changes to the internal DIAC systems environment during the design and deployment phase,” the Auditor said.
“Consequently, there have been delays in the delivery of planned biometric capabilities.”
He said the Department’s planning for the biometrics trial and its business case had been “generally sound” but as the technology had evolved and the world moved on, there would be benefits in adopting a more structured approach to monitoring changes.
“This is necessary to support management decisions about future directions in this area,” he said.
The Auditor was also concerned that sensitive personal information, including biometric information, collected by the Department, and protected by legislation, needed to be held with respect.
“DIAC needs to strengthen substantially its processes for assuring itself that the legislative requirements in relation to access, disclosure, retention, and destruction of personal identifiers and related information are being implemented consistently and appropriately,” he said.
The Auditor said the Department and its partners in the four-Agency Biometrics for Border Control initiative, might also miss the boat by concentrating on people’s facial features as their biometric cornerstone when many of the main international Agencies used both facial and fingerprint evidence.
“DIAC’s current relatively limited capability to use other biometric data such as fingerprints raises the risk that it will not be in a position to benefit from international developments,” the Auditor said.
He said examining processes in the other Agencies in the initiative – Customs, DFAT and the Office of Privacy – was outside the scope of the audit.
Following his audit of DIAC’s biometric aspirations, the Auditor-General made four recommendations the Department agreed with.
He also identified a number of lessons for the department to consider, including keeping better records of meetings, decisions and risk assessments; improving the accounting for project funds; involving the Department’s internal auditors more in IT system developments; and applying the Department’s requirements management mechanism to the biometrics project.
18 March, 2008
Search crew finds
The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon has congratulated the team of searchers that successfully found the WWII Royal Australian Navy cruiser, HMAS Sydney II off the coast of Western Australia.
HMAS Sydney II was lost along with its entire crew in November 1941 following an engagement with the German raider, HSK Kormoran.
“I would like to congratulate The Finding Sydney Foundation and the Royal Australian
Navy on this memorable discovery which will bring some peace to the relatives of the brave crew who gave their lives while serving our nation,” Mr Snowdon said.
“It is now hoped we may be able to piece together the events of that dark day in World
War II when we lost 645 of Australia’s finest.”
He said the search first focused on finding the Kormoran which was located on 12 March approximately 112 nautical miles off Steep Point, Western Australia lying in 2,560 metres of water.
He said the discovery of the main battle site, less than four nautical miles south of Kormoran’s position, was then used to direct the team’s effort in searching for Sydney.
The wreck of the Sydney II was found approximately 12 nautical miles off Kormoran, under 2,470 metres of water.
The Chairman of The Finding Sydney Foundation Ted Graham said the group had been prepared for the search to take 35 days or more so to find both ship in a matter of weeks had been a ‘stunning achievement’.
“A remotely operated vehicle with video filming capabilities able to operate in depths of up to 3,000 metres will be deployed in order to further examine both wrecks of the Sydney and Kormoran,” Mr Graham said.
Mr Snowdon said the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett would now make a declaration under the Historic Shipwrecks Act to ensure the site of the HMAS Sydney II was protected.
18 March, 2008
Bald facts revealed
at DIAC cancer cut
The Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Andrew Metcalfe, and a number of senior officers have made the ultimate hirsutory sacrifice in aid of charity.
Mr Metcalfe and First Assistant Secretary Peter Vardos submitted themselves to the barber’s clippers after the Department surpassed a fundraising goal for cancer research.
The Department was challenged to raise $10,000 for the cause - the final tally pledged was $17,000.
“Departmental staff rose to the occasion and went all out raising money for this very worthy cause,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“Losing my hair is a small inconvenience to go through compared with what cancer sufferers put up with every day.”
He said more than 30,000 Australians lived with cancer but only four out of 10 adults survived.
“So if we can help in some small way to raise the necessary resources to help find cures for this cancer, it’s the least we can do.”
Now in its 10th year, the World’s Greatest Shave is as strong as ever and since 1998 has raised more than $67 million.
Mr Metcalfe and Mr Vardos were not the only DIAC staff members to put their hair on the line for the cause. Dozens of people dyed, styled and cut their locks in many varied and imaginative ways to help the cause.
The Department’s ACT and Region’s Territory Director, Deb Lewis was the highest individual fundraiser – she lost her hair for $2500. Each year about 100,000 people across the country pledge to shave or colour their hair to raise funds for the Leukaemia Foundation.
18 March, 2008
Life’s a breach for
A simplified system for reporting breaches to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and Australian Securities and Investments Commission has been introduced for institutions regulated by both authorities.
The new online system simplifies the process for regulated institutions to report breaches, and prospective breaches, of a legal provision of an APRA-administered or ASIC-administered Act, standard or rule, as well as other matters that were required to be reported.
It also reduces duplication faced by institutions regulated by both APRA and ASIC. The superannuation industry is already using an online system to report breaches to APRA.
According to APRA Member, John Trowbridge, the new system will enable all APRA-regulated institutions — authorised deposit-taking institutions, general insurers, life insurance companies, friendly societies and superannuation licensees — to report breaches to APRA online.
It will also enable those institutions regulated by both APRA and ASIC to report breach notifications required to be lodged with both regulators through a single electronic breach report, thereby eliminating the requirement for dual-regulated institutions to provide separate breach reports for the same incident to both regulators.
Mr Trowbridge said APRA and ASIC had again demonstrated effective cooperation and commitment by reducing the reporting burden for dual-regulated institutions.
“I am pleased industry supports this initiative to report breaches in an efficient and low-cost way,” Mr Trowbridge said.
“Now all APRA-regulated institutions will be able to report online, not just superannuation entities.”
ASIC Deputy Chairman, Jeremy Cooper said the initiative was about responding to industry to achieve better outcomes for regulated entities.
“It will not only help improve supervisory effectiveness, but also streamline the reporting obligations of institutions,” Mr Cooper said.
The initiative follows the passage through Parliament, in late 2007, of the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Regulation and Review) Act 2007. The Act introduces a consistent definition of reportable breaches across all institutions in APRA-regulated industries and all ASIC-regulated Australian Financial Services licensees.
18 March, 2008
No negatives at
DFAT photo show
A photographic exhibition dealing with the rebuilding of Afghanistan has been opened by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in collaboration with the High Commission of Canada.
The exhibition in Canberra illustrates clearly why Australia, alongside its international partners, is committed to help the people of Afghanistan.
The 39 photographs capture the hope and determination of ordinary Afghan citizens.
From men digging canals with basic tools to young girls attending school outdoors, the photos depict people eager to build the foundations of a better life. The photos also show how Australia and Canada were helping realise the dreams by working alongside Afghans to build hospitals, install water tanks, mentor Afghan workers and more.
According to DFAT, Australia was making a substantial contribution to international efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force and a major aid donor.
Approximately 1,000 Australian Defence Personnel are serving in Afghanistan including as part of the Netherlands-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Oruzgan Province in southern Afghanistan. Since 2001, Australia has committed $450 million in aid and reconstruction to Afghanistan.
The exhibition will be on display in the R G Casey Building, in Barton and open to the public until 9 April, from 10am to 4pm.
18 March, 2008
Social Atlas maps
the way ahead
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has launched its 2006 Census Social Atlas Series.
According to Australian Statistician, Brian Pink, the Social Atlas Series was a resource delivered by the ABS to assist the nation to make informed decisions.
Mr Pink said he found the visibility and accessibility of statistics reflected in the Social Atlases as “very important."
“The ABS is taking a leading role in developing a strong National Statistical Service and engagement, collaboration and coordination with the broad range of producers of official statistics are the keys to its success," Mr Pink said.
He said the Social Atlases complemented other products on the ABS website by providing an at-a-glance view of the major characteristics of all Australian capital city areas and, for the first time, selected regional centres.
He said they provided a visually informative alternative to traditional tables and statistical spreadsheets.
“The Social Atlases' use of easy to read thematic maps of capital cities, featuring new analysis of 2006 Census data, makes data easier to interpret and provides the groundwork for a wide variety of stories on current and emerging issues,” Mr Pink said.
“A wide range of topics are covered relating to population, cultural diversity, work, housing, families, education and training and economic resources.”
Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen, who officially launched the Atlases, said information from the Census helped everyone to plan for and build a greater Australia.
He said the Social Atlases were "easy to understand with thematic maps and accompanying commentary including key social, demographic and housing characteristics."
The Atlases were available on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au, where the information could be downloaded free of charge.
18 March, 2008
leads to joint effort
A report into the way the Australian Federal Police works with its partner Agencies on counter-terrorism investigations has been welcomed by the AFP and the Attorney-General.
A review of interoperability between the AFP and its national security partners was conducted by former NSW Chief Justice, Sir Laurence Street, former Director of the Defence Signals Directorate, Martin Brady and former NSW Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said the review committee delivered 10 recommendations that would significantly improve the way joint Agency counter-terrorism investigations were managed in the future.
“The recommendations cover the four broad areas of operational decision-making processes, joint taskforce arrangements, information sharing, and training and education,” Commissioner Keelty said.
“The AFP accepts all 10 recommendations and will work closely with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and other national security agencies to ensure the recommendations are implemented as soon as possible.”
ASIO officers would soon be attached to the Melbourne and Sydney Joint Counter-Terrorism Teams, ensuring better communication between the Agencies at an operational level.
Commissioner Keelty said the AFP would act immediately on the recommendation to participate in exercises simulating the investigation and prosecution of terrorism offenders in Australia, and more would be done to retain expertise in the joint counter-terrorism teams.
Recommendations relating to enhanced information technology systems and information sharing would be managed in stages over the coming months.
Agencies and Departments that contributed to the review included ASIO, the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Attorney-General's Department, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, NSW Police Force, NSW Crime Commission, Victoria Police, Queensland Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, US Federal Bureau of Investigation, United Kingdom Metropolitan Police Service and New Zealand Police.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland also welcomed the recommendations.
“Sir Laurence Street and the other Committee members have made some very valuable and constructive suggestions, which will assist our agencies to work together more effectively,” Mr McClelland said.
“I am pleased that the AFP, ASIO and the DPP are already working hard at improving their coordination and communication in national security operations. The recommendations in the AFP’s Street Review will assist them in that process.”
18 March, 2008
ABC digs digital
in 2008 roll-out
2008 is to be the year the Australian Broadcasting Corporation fully embraces the potential of its digital media according to Managing Director, Mark Scott.
Mr Scott said the key to securing the ABC’s future as a public broadcaster in the digital age, was its ability to connect with its audiences with distinctive, innovative, Australian content in the emerging media space.
He announced four new services the ABC would be offering audiences this year:
* ABC Playback - Australia’s first internet TV service with full screen quality pictures;
* ABC Local – the launch of 60 new local online sites, with broadband content, feature stories, pictures, videos and audio reflecting local events and culture;.
* The establishment of a new 24/7 Continuous News Centre by ABC News.
* ABC Shop Downloads – an online browsing and shopping experience to give ABC Shop customers access to a huge catalogue of DVD, CD and Download products.
“Each of these initiatives is a significant step in creating the kind of public broadcaster that audiences expect and that Australia will require in the digital age,” Mr Scott said.
“Coming on top of the rebranding of ABC TV as ABC1 and ABC2 to better reflect the digital multichannel reality we now operate in, today’s announcements underline the ABC’s leadership in digital media in Australia.”
He said technology was changing so fast – as were audience expectations - that the ABC’s strategy must be to keep up with audience behaviour and technological opportunities that provide effective means of producing innovative Australian content.
“It is important that we are taking the initiative, demonstrating both excellence and leadership in digital media to secure the ABC’s future as a public broadcaster in the digital age,” Mr Scott said.
“These initiatives also underline the ABC’s priority in deriving maximum benefit from present funding levels as new technology allows the ABC to change the way it creates content,” he said.
18 March, 2008
Archives find is
name of the game
The National Archives of Australia has revealed that Australia’s capital city, Canberra, was almost named Gamelyn, Nardoo, Aurora or Frazer Roo.
The Archives “Find of the Month” for March is a collection of documents and photographs from the founding of the city celebrations on 12 March 1913, chosen to coincide this month with the 95th anniversary of the event.
In a circular addressing his fellow members of Parliament as “Brother”, the Minister for Home Affairs at the time, King O’Malley, asked for suggestions for names of the new city on 15 January.
“The 75 members of Parliament suggested 39 different names for the new capital,” said National Archives researcher, Jane Ellis.
“Canberra was the clear winner with 18 votes, while Austral with eight votes and Myola with six were the next most popular.”
She said the name Canberra was derived from the name given to the area by the local Aboriginal people meaning “meeting place”, a term that was already used by white settlers.
Until the ceremony, the name was kept a close secret and revealed only when Lady Denman, wife of the Governor-General, Sir Thomas Denman read it aloud.
Lady Denman officially named the city during a ceremony to lay foundation stones of a commencement column to mark the beginning of the city’s construction. The ceremony was a grand occasion with dignitaries including the Governor-General, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, 2000 mounted troops, 500 invited guests and 3000 spectators.
When World War I interrupted the development of Canberra, the commencement column was never built. The foundation stones remained in place on Capital Hill until they were moved to the lawns in front of the new Parliament House in 1988.
The documents and photographs that make up the NAA’s “Find of the Month” can be seen at www.naa.gov.au.
18 March, 2008
Airways trial brings
A world-first trial of high-tech take-off and landing procedures at Brisbane airport has resulted in major energy, greenhouse and efficiency savings.
Chief Executive of Airservices Australia, Greg Russell released a report of the trial recently to the global Air Traffic Control Community at its Annual Conference in the Netherlands.
“The trial at Brisbane Airport, which is the nation’s third busiest by passenger movements, clearly shows that the adoption of technologies available in today’s aircraft and by air traffic control organisations such as Airservices Australia can potentially deliver significant environmental benefits to the community and efficiencies to industry,” Mr Russell said.
The “Brisbane Green Project” integrated Required Navigation Performance (RNP) aircraft approach and departure procedures into a busy international airport environment. Under RNP, suitably equipped aircraft fly existing flight paths with much greater precision using the latest avionics and navigation systems.
Mr Russell said Airservices Australia worked closely with Qantas Airways (who have pioneered the introduction of the procedure into Australia), Naverus Incorporated (a United States based procedure design specialist), and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to achieve some promising results in the first 12 months of the trial.
Mr Russell said the trial estimated there could be:
* cumulative savings in flight time of 4200 minutes and distance flown of 17,300 nautical miles;
* cumulative savings in jet fuel burn of about 200 tonnes;
* carbon dioxide emission reductions of 650 tonnes;
* a reduction in the total aircraft noise footprint; and
* reduced traffic delays resulting from shorter arrivals for RNP aircraft.
18 March, 2008
lands on desks
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a report on the service quality and prices charged by some of Australia’s busiest airports.
The 2006-07 Airport Monitoring Report found that airports continued to benefit from strong growth in passengers and increasing prices.
“This has allowed airport operators to increase the profitability of their aeronautical services, even though many of them have reported rising costs,” said ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel.
“However, the profit performance of the airports does not appear to be related to the quality of service they provide.”
He said the ACCC’s monitoring of the quality of service offered by the seven airports studied once again showed a range of results varying from “below satisfactory” to “good”.
He said for the first time, Adelaide airport joined Brisbane airport as the highest rated on quality.
In contrast, services provided by Darwin airport have been ranked by users as only “satisfactory” while those provided by Canberra airport were regarded as “below satisfactory”.
In response to an inquiry into the airports industry carried out by the Productivity Commission, the Government announced some changes to ACCC’s monitoring role that would apply for the 2007-08 report and subsequent reports.
The changes include:
* Canberra and Darwin airports would no longer be subject to monitoring;
* refinement of the definition of “aeronautical services and facilities”, which would mean that financial information on certain services, such as aircraft refuelling, would be included in future reports; and
* requiring the airports to report the value of aeronautical assets that excluded the effect of “revaluation” exercises.
It was intended that this new monitoring regime be in place for six years commencing 2007-08.
Mr Samuel said that under price monitoring arrangements, the ACCC was responsible for reporting annually on aeronautical prices, costs and profits at airports. Prior to these arrangements, airports were subject to a price cap, however, the ACCC no longer has a role in approving price increases prior to their introduction with the exception of regional air services provided by Sydney airport.
Mr Samuel said ACCC monitoring of the quality of service at airports was intended to discourage airports from providing unsatisfactory service standards, provide information to airport users that would assist them in their commercial negotiations with airports, and assist the Government to address public interest matters relating to the regulation of airports.
18 March, 2008
new paper chase
Australia’s libraries have banded together to track down old newspapers.
The Australian Newspaper Plan is a nation-wide initiative of State and Territory libraries designed to find, collect and preserve access to historic newspapers.
National spokeswoman for the ANPlan, Cathy Pilgrim of the National Library of Australia in Canberra, said newspapers did not just report the news, they told stories of their times, through advertisements, photographs and even their design.
“The aim is to find the thousands of missing pieces in the jigsaw of our history,” Ms Pilgrim said.
“Old newspapers are an important part of our social, political and cultural history and they offer valuable insights into a society changed forever.”
Some of Australia’s most wanted newspapers include: Cairns Advocate (1897-1882); Croydon Miner (1887-1888); Mundic Miner and Etheridge Gazette (1889-1917); Pilbarra Goldfields News (1901); Mercury and South Australian sporting chronicle (1849-1851); and Renmark Pioneer (1893-1895).
“Often a chance conversation uncovers these wanted papers which may have been lying hidden in someone’s garage, in an elderly person’s collection of keepsakes, or even in the vaults of a local historical society or archive,” Ms Pilgrim said.
Once the wanted newspapers had been tracked down, they would be carefully saved to ensure their preservation for future generations of Australians. Access would be made freely available through the National Library of Australia and State and Territory libraries.
For a full list of the wanted newspapers from all states of Australia, visit www.nla.gov.au/anplan
18 March, 2008
is good buoy
A second tsunami detection buoy has been installed by the Bureau of Meteorology.
The new buoy was deployed in the Coral Sea and was now operational. Strategically placed tsunami buoys provide real-time tsunami detection as waves travel across the open sea.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the buoy was monitoring changes in sea levels for signs of potential threat from the South Solomon and New Hebrides trenches to the east coast of Australia.
“It is the second buoy deployed as we develop a state-of-the-art early warning system for Australia’s vast coastline,” Mr Garrett said.
“The massive devastation caused by the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 is a stark reminder of the potential for destruction that can be caused by the sudden movement of the sea floor. The sooner that people can be alerted to the chance of a tsunami the greater the likelihood that they can take action and survive.”
The Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami, (DART) buoy is part of the $68.9 million Australian Tsunami Warning System. The installation follows the successful installation of a DART buoy 1200km off the south-east coast of Tasmania in April 2007.
The DART buoys consist of a bottom pressure sensor that is anchored to the seafloor, and a companion moored surface buoy. An acoustic link transmits data from the bottom pressure sensor to the surface buoy, and then satellite links relay the data to warning centres for scientific analysis by the Bureau of Meteorology.
18 March, 2008
Insurance for Shergold
Early Bird registration for the 2008 National Conference of the Institute of Public Administration Australia has been extended to 28 March.
The Conference will be held on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 June 2008, in the Crystal Palace Convention Centre at Sydney's Luna Park.
The featured speaker is Jocelyne Bourgon, Canada’s Ambassador to the OECD from 2003 to 2007.
Bookings for the conference can be made at www.nsw.ipaa.org.au
Former top public servant Peter Shergold is to join the board of AMP Limited in May.
Dr Shergold, who recently left the role as secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, will join the board as a non-executive director.
He is currently the Chief Executive of the Centre for Social Impact based at the University of NSW.
20 tuned out at SBS
SBS Radio has announced 20 forced redundancies following adoption of a new structure which will see one Executive Producer for each language group based in either Sydney or Melbourne.
Management has agreed to consider union calls for voluntary redundancies to be invited but the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance says the redundancies follow assurances by SBS last year that there would not be any.
The Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner is conducting a free workshop aimed at assisting Australian Government Agencies to become model clients of the building and construction industry.
The workshop has been designed for project and contract managers working in Government Agencies on building and construction projects. The aim is to provide participants with information on processes and strategies to improve and integrate safety into the management of construction projects.
The half-day workshop and information session will be held on Tuesday 22 April.
Corruption prevention awards
The Corruption Prevention Network is to present its annual awards on 11 September in Sydney.
Nominations have been called for two categories:
* Corruption prevention tool or technique; and
* Corruption prevention program
A Nomination Guide contains further information about the awards which close Friday 11 July 2008. The Guide can be downloaded from www.corruptionprotection.net
Travel tally up
Australians spent $58.2 billion on domestic travel in 2007, up 7 per cent on 2006, according to a report from Tourism Australia.
Travellers took 73.8 million overnight domestic trips in 2007, which was largely unchanged from 2006, however they spent more nights away from home - up to 288.6 million nights for the year, which was 2.9 million more nights than in 2006.
Sydney was the most visited destination for overnight domestic visitors in 2007 with 7.3 million visitors, down from 7.8 million visitors in 2006.
Melbourne was the next most popular destination with 6.4 million overnight visitors.
ABC active in awards
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has won four awards at the 14th Australian Interactive Media Industry Association Awards.
The ABC’s winning nominations for 2008 were: Best Children’s: Dust Echoes; Best Cross-Platform Content: ABC TV website; Best Cultural, Lifestyle or Sport: Dust Echoes; and Best Interactive TV: RollerCoaster iTV.
The ABC News Election Website was highly commended in the Best News, Media or Reference category.
The Awards are among the first in the world to recognise excellence in this rapidly growing interactive media industry.
AIS Sports names stars
Sailors, Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page have been named as the Australian Institute of Sport Team of the Year.
Other sportspeople honoured by the AIS included Nathan Deakes (track and field), Anna Meares (cycling), Gemma Beadsworth (water polo) and Craig Hilliard (track and field).
Kyoto signed off
Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol has come into force, officially making Australia a full party to the Kyoto Protocol.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed Australia’s instrument of ratification in December as the first act of the new Government, however, under Kyoto rules, it takes 90 days before the ratification comes into force.
Meanwhile, the Government released Australia’s Initial Report under the Kyoto Protocol, 365 days earlier than the United Nations’ deadline required. The report demonstrates how Australia is able to measure the reductions in emissions that are required under Kyoto.
Australian scientists have developed a miniature radiation detector, the size of a human cell nucleus.
The detector is designed to accurately measure the amount of energy deposited by ionising radiation within a human cell nucleus allowing better understanding of radiation effects on humans, according to Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s on-line magazine Velocity.
The technology was developed in a collaboration between ANSTO, the University of Wollongong and the University of NSW with the support of the Australian Research Council.
11 March, 2008
The Prime Minister has expressed his disappointment at the state of the Australian Public Service, sparking a call for ideas and policy directions from the broader community and the 2020 ideas summit in April.
Speaking to business leaders in his home state of Queensland, Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was reported as saying he was also surprised that the APS was no longer apolitical and professional.
A former officer of the APS himself, Mr Rudd said he found when taking office last November that there was an absence of policy innovation in the APS, possibly as a result of its relationship with the previous Government.
“I mean this as no criticism of the Public Service,” Mr Rudd said.
“I think (it is) as a consequence of the experience of the previous decade there is a bit of an absence of a culture of policy innovation within the Australian Public Service.”
He said it was surprising because when he left the APS to work for the Queensland Government 20 years ago, “the Commonwealth Public Service that I left was a different type.
"My point about the bureaucracy is not that it is in any way political, in any way hostile, or anything like that,” Mr Rudd said.
“ I think in a culture where... our previous Government caused Public Servants to believe there was a right answer and a wrong answer and if you delivered the wrong answer you would cop some retribution, that as a result, the natural culture of independent policy innovation from our mandarins in Canberra has been sapped somewhat.”
He said the way ahead was to tell people in the business community and the ideas business and universities that the Government was “open for business.”
He said that was the right way to go, “particularly when you're dealing with highly professional, independent, senior mandarins.”
As far as revitalising the Public Service so it could resume its role as an innovative source of policy the Prime Minister said it was on the Government’s to-do list.
"One of the challenges we have is to breathe some life back into that," he said.
11 March, 2008
New Work Guidelines
Worth Bargaining For
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has issued new workplace bargaining guidelines for the Australian Public Service.
According to the Department, the new guidelines balance the workplace interests of the Government with those of the APS and are set out in the publication Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework.
“The aim of the Bargaining Framework is to implement the Government’s workplace relations policy with respect to Australian Government employment,” the Supporting Guidance to the Framework says.
* ensure fairness and flexibility
* promote productivity;
* provide for Collective Agreements, negotiated at the individual Agency level, as the principal means of setting terms and conditions of employment for non-Senior Executive Service level employees; and
* enshrine accountability for compliance with the Bargaining Framework with individual Agencies.”
DEEWR says its new Framework was not a definitive guide to the Government’s workplace relations policy or legislation and it would be issuing Workplace Relations Advices from time to time to clarify aspects and provide more information.
The new Bargaining Framework was welcomed by PS unions, the Community and Public Sector Union saying it would restore balance to the APS.
"Under the previous Government, workplace relations got bogged down in petty disputes which were more about ideology than common sense,” CPSU National Secretary, Stephen Jones said.
"The new guidelines go some way to restoring balance to the workplace relations across the Federal public sector.”
He said the new Guidelines created a level playing field, the key features being a central role for collective agreements and no more public service AWAs; the ability of employees to determine type of agreement for their Agency; reasonable access to union support in the workplace; a commitment to ‘genuine' negotiations; and recognition of the important role of union representatives.
"Importantly, collective bargaining is now at the centre of the process,” Mr Jones said.
“Employees have a real say, something an overwhelming majority of public sector workers have been calling for years.
"Hopefully we can move forward to a more constructive environment.”
The new Framework could be accessed at www.workplace.gov.au
11 March, 2008
Tight Budget To
Put Screws on PS
Treasurer, Wayne Swan has promised a tight Federal Budget that will be based on tough decisions, strict budget discipline and wise investments in the economy.
Speaking to the business community in Melbourne, Mr Swan said his 13 May Budget would set out a blueprint for a modern, overhauled economy that would be flexible enough to meet future challenges, create the right environment for business and deliver for Australian families.
With a view to curbing Commonwealth expenditure it would also have implications for the Australian Public Service.
“Since 2004-05 Commonwealth spending has grown on average at around 4 per cent per year in real terms – more rapid growth than in any other four year period in the past decade and a half,” Mr Swan said.
“Unfortunately, it's clear Australia has been facing a slow-burning emergency for several years.”
He said the Government had a responsibility strengthen the Budget position and take pressure off demand by running a strong surplus and cutting spending.
“We have already outlined the fiscal target that will guide the 2008-09 Budget – a surplus of at least 1.5 per cent of GDP in 2008-09, provided growth prospects remain as currently anticipated.”
Mr Swan said it wasn’t just the overall budget position that mattered, the quality of spending was equally important.
“To ensure the Budget delivers high quality spending, we need to ensure there is sound analysis of economic costs and benefits, and we need to be willing to cut or reprioritise poor quality spending programs,” he said.
“Where possible, we will direct budget priorities towards measures that improve capacity.”
Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, as Chair of the Expenditure Review Committee, has been identifying programs and expenditures that could be cut.
“Government spending has been growing much too fast,” Mr Tanner told the Canberra Times.
“But one way or another we have to achieve the outcome.”
He admitted the ERC’s focus had been on expenditure, not jobs but there were people in the Government looking at redeploying displaced Public Servants.
“We are working on the questions of redeployment to maximise the opportunities for people whose positions are abolished to quickly get new positions,” he was reported as saying.
“The larger Agencies, we believe, should be comfortably able to absorb these things through ordinary turnover, but there will be difficult circumstances in some Agencies that we will need to deal with.”
The Expenditure Review Committee will deliver its recommendations in May.
11 March, 2008
Union Over Jobs
strong>The Community and Public Sector Union has been criticised by a Liberal Senator for its attitude to Public Service job cuts.
ACT Senator Gary Humphries has accused the union of making an “about face” on Government job cuts and of registering “half-hearted” protestations that were “too little too late.”
Senator Humphries said the union had been vocal backers of the ALP during last year’s Federal election but had not responded when the party revealed it would take a “meat axe” to Canberra and the APS.
“During the 2007 Federal Election, I was the lone voice standing up against Public Service cuts in the ACT,” Senator Humphries said.
“The CPSU were nowhere to be found when it came to fighting for Canberra
He accused the union of actively supporting the party which promised to cut spending, scrap programs, and bring about large-scale job losses amongst their own members.
“Three months later, the CPSU has suddenly remembered that its role is to defend its members, not cosy up to the Labor Party, and has issued a weak call for the Government to reconsider its across-the-board efficiency dividend.”
Senator Humphries said it had taken job losses at Centrelink, DFAT, the National Capital Authority and the Australian Bureau of Statistics to bring the union out in defence of Public Servants.
“And that is just pathetic.”
He said it wasn’t as if the CPSU didn’t know that job cuts were the inevitable consequence of a change of Government: “Kevin Rudd touted this with some pride to paint himself as an ‘economic conservative’.”
Senator Humphries said the CPSU was too close to the Labor Party to effectively protect and represent its members its protests about job cuts would do nothing to help Public Servants worried about their jobs.
He said the CPSU was held in high regard by the Government and could have used this respect to save jobs if it had stood up for them from the start.
11 March, 2008
Job List a Hit
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency has released a list of 99 organisations it claims are “Employers of Choice” for women.
According to the Director of EOWA Anna McPhee, the businesses on the list had moved beyond simply writing policies and providing basic flexibility.
“For these organisations creating equity is about changing culture, changing expectations, breaking down the outdated myths about women and finally valuing the massive contribution women make to the workplace,” Ms McPhee said, “whether they are working part-time or full-time, working from home or in the office, starting their careers or nearing retirement.”
Ms McPhee said she was looking forward to a time when there was no need for an Employer of Choice for Women List because all organisations understood that every working woman had a contribution to make to the workforce and that it made sense to embrace diversity.
She said the average pay gap in 2008 EOWA Employer of Choice for Women organisations was 10 per cent which was seven per cent lower than the national average but each of the organisations on the list had shown that gender pay equity had been analysed, that the gap was less than the industry average and that they were working to address any gap identified.
She said the organisations had also shown that their recruitment and promotion processes were merit-based and transparent and they had provided training to all staff about preventing sex-based harassment in the workplace.
Paid maternity leave was provided in all 2008 EOWA Employer of Choice for Women organizations and despite the minimum requirement being six weeks paid maternity leave, the average provided by the listed organisations was more than 12 weeks.
Ms McPhee said the EOCFW citation was awarded to non-Government organisations with more than 80 employees that had demonstrated that they had policies and practices that supported women across the organization.
Organisations needed to apply for the citation each year.
“All organisations should use the EOWA Employer of Choice for Women requirements to benchmark their own policies and workplace environment.
“If every organisation could meet this minimum standard we would be going a long way towards creating true equity for women in the Australian labour force,” Ms McPhee said.
To see the list, visit www.eowa.gov.au
11 March, 2008
Air Force Plays
The Royal Australian Air Force has introduced an innovative new card system it hopes will improve workplace safety across the organisation.
Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd launched the “Safety Ace Card” which will be issued to every uniformed or civilian member of the service so they could draw attention to safety issues.
“The card is intended to set the scene for a safety discussion where the receiver of the card must take notice,” Air Marshal Shepherd is quoted as saying in Air Force News.
He said anyone issuing the Card had the full backing of the top Air Force brass and it would allow junior staff to raise issues other hierarchical Air Force practices might hamper.
He said confidential reporting of a safety issue sometimes allowed it to skirt the chain of command.
“If the person issuing the card thinks the problem is serious it should be treated as serious,” Air Marshal Shepherd said.
“The concern in the mind of the card user is valid to them even if there is no actual safety problem.”
He said he expected that any supervisor who was given a card would take the necessary steps to resolve the matter and if the card issuer remained unsatisfied with the outcome, he or she could issue the card to a higher level of authority which would also be required to take it seriously.
Air Marshal Shepherd was confident the card would not be used lightly and affirmed his expectation that every member of the Air Force needed to a responsibility and personal attitude to safety.
11 March, 2008
Has Rights in Sight
The Human Rights Commissioner has called on the Federal Government to change a string of laws that discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people.
The Commissioner, Graeme Innes, has also urged the Attorney General to support strong steps to change discriminatory behaviour in our society.
Commissioner Innes said a HREOC report last year entitled Same Sex: Same Entitlements exposed financial and work-related legislation that discriminated against same-sex couples and their children.
“We identified 58 discriminatory laws in the report,” Commissioner Innes said, “but as the Attorney-General is reported to have said, there are many other pieces of Federal legislation covering other areas of life in Australia that also discriminate against people who are gay, lesbian and transgender.”
In a letter to the Attorney General, Commissioner Innes urged the Government to change all such laws.
“We encourage the government to play a leading role in stamping out discriminatory behaviour.”
Commissioner Innes said if the Federal Government introduced legislation outlawing sexuality discrimination, it would provide strong benchmarks and guidelines to the community about behaviour that was discriminatory toward gay and lesbian people.
He said he had spoken to many people before and after taking part in the 30th Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney recently and the same questions were asked over and over again: When would the discrimination be removed from the 58 laws and when would all discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people be addressed?
“The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is not asking for any special treatment for people who are gay and lesbian”, Commissioner Innes said. “We are merely drawing attention to the fact that all Australians should be able to enjoy the same human rights in the same way, and while these people cannot, we are endorsing and supporting discrimination.”
The Same Sex: Same Entitlements report, which was released in June 2007, is available online on the HREOC website: www.humanrights.gov.au
11 March, 2008
MOU Takes Off for
High Flying Staff
Officers of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysian transport officials which increases the number of seats on air routes between the two countries.
Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese said the MOU could lead to more flights and lower fares between Australia and Malaysia.
Under the MOU, Malaysian and Australian carriers would be able to operate an additional 5000 seats per week to the major gateway airports of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth from March 2008, with an additional 3500 seats to be made available from March 2009.
“The previous arrangement restricted capacity to these airports to 15,000 seats per week for Malaysian carriers and 20,600 seats per week for Australian carriers,” Mr Albanese said.
“In addition, the new one-off arrangement provides unlimited access to and from airports other than the four major gateway airports. “
Mr Albanese said the MOU reflected a strong bilateral relationship between the two countries and the new arrangement would give Australian airlines the opportunity to significantly expand their current levels of services and to compete effectively in the Asian market.
He said it would allow Malaysian airlines such as AirAsia X to proceed with their planned expansion into Australia, with Australian travellers expected to reap the benefits of lower fares. AirAsia X currently operated four services per week into the Gold Coast and was looking to expand its operations to other airports including Melbourne’s Avalon.
“Ultimately Australian travellers, trade and tourism will benefit from the increased competition and greater choice when travelling to Malaysia, and onto other parts of Asia and Europe,” Mr Albanese said
He said any new airlines wishing to take up the commercial opportunities available under the new arrangements would need to obtain relevant regulatory approvals before commencing operations, including meeting Australia’s stringent aviation safety and security requirements.
The new agreement became effective immediately, pending formal approval of the new treaty by the respective Governments.
This agreement with Malaysia follows last month’s historic “open skies” agreement with the United States, also reported in PS News.
11 March, 2008
Army Shells Out
An Australian Army museum in South Australia is making use of work-for-the-dole participants to restore and create historical exhibits.
The museum, at Keswick Army Barracks, is hosting the program which is being coordinated by Workskil Incorporated.
The Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor visited the museum recently and met the participants.
Mr O’Connor said the employment program gave job seekers a chance to develop new skills including how to handle tools and awareness of the safety aspects required.
“The work experience and training received by participants in this program has been aligned with local ‘skills in demand’ to give participants' the best opportunity to find work beyond the program,” he said.
“Participants also gain a sense of personal pride knowing that their hard work has provided ongoing benefit to their local community.”
Mr O’Connor met the participants at the Museum who were involved in maintaining existing dioramas and creating new ones.
During these activities they would have the opportunity to develop basic building and carpentry skills.
Mr O’Connor said the historical restoration project also involved repairing two historic Mitcham church buildings, a graveyard and their grounds.
He said in this program and others coordinated by Workskil, participants had been successful in gaining employment as builders’ assistants, cleaners and gardeners.
He said the Government was committed to maintaining and improving the Job Network and Disability Employment Network and was currently reviewing employment services.
“The Government is committed to boosting employment participation as one of the five key measures we have outlined,” he said.
11 March, 2008
In High Court Case
The High Court of Australia has upheld provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 which force telecommunications giant Telstra to open up its network to competitors in the public interest.
The High Court decision was welcomed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
“The High Court has confirmed that Telstra's ownership of the public telephone network has always been subject to the rights of its competitors to gain access to and use its network for the ultimate benefit of customers,” a statement from the ACCC said.
“Accordingly, the access regime does not amount to an acquisition of Telstra's property.”
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel said access to the telecommunications network was a key component of the regulatory framework which supported the development of a competitive telecommunications industry.
"(The) High Court ruling comprehensively rejects Telstra's arguments, referring to them as 'synthetic and unreal',” Mr Samuel said.
“It provides welcome clarity around the basic regulatory rules which all carriers must abide by.”
He said the ruling also removed some of the uncertainty created by Telstra’s busy program of litigation.
“It provides welcome encouragement to industry participants using the access regime to continue investments which provide competitive services to end users," Mr Samuel said.
He said the ACCC had continued to arbitrate and make determinations relating to the Unconditioned Local Loop Service (ULLS) and Line Sharing Service (LSS) which were specifically dealt with in the High Court decision.
Under the rules, Telstra’s competitors were entitled to purchase the ULLS or LSS to allow them to connect copper wires to their equipment in the telephone exchange and allow their customers the full spectrum of services capable of being provided by the copper wires, which included traditional voice services and broadband internet access.
Mr Samuel said the LSS was more limited in that it only allowed the service provider to use the high frequency spectrum to provide a broadband service and could only be used in conjunction with the active provision of a traditional voice service.
11 March, 2008
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the National Library of Australia have entered a joint partnership to manage an oral history project focusing on immigration to Australia after World War II.
With Australia the destination for hundreds of thousands of post-war migrants and refugees, Immigration Officers were uniquely placed to tell the story of global population movement after 1945.
A number of retired Chief Migration Officers who interviewed and assessed prospective migrants and refugees were participating in the joint project.
Many of the officers were posted to distant locations around the world, such as the Middle East, South-East Asia and South America, often with minimal resources and only their own wits, skills and training to get the job done.
According to the organisers of the project, the officers had fascinating stories to tell and collectively represented much the nation’s immigration history, a history that forged a culturally diverse nation.
The oral history project would see at least 20 of these frontline Immigration Officers record their life and career stories with the National Library oral history unit, where they would become part of the Library’s permanent collection. The oral history and folklore collection consisted of 40,000 hours of original recordings.
Highlights from the interviews, along with photographs, memorabilia and video presentations would also be featured in a special multimedia presentation on the DIAC website, www.immi.gov.au.
The oral history project is to go live on the DIAC and NLA websites mid-year.
11 March, 2008
Is Special Case
The Australian Government Solicitor has highlighted the work of a litigation lawyer in its Canberra office who has spent some of the past year working part-time for the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House
Karina Harvey took on the job of matching people and organisations in genuine need of pro bono (free) legal assistance with legal service providers.
Ms Harvey’s experience with the Clearing House did not require her to provide legal advice, instead, she helped applicants draft and finalise their applications and assisted the Clearing House assessing committee by reviewing and preparing summaries of applications and associated documentation.
The assessing committee is made up of volunteer lawyers from all walks of practice, including commercial firms, community legal centres, Government Departments and the bar. It met weekly to determine which applications should be referred to law firms. Ms Harvey attended the committee meetings and provided information about applications and other assistance to the committee.
According to the AGS her experience allowed her to encounter a broad range of legal problems across many areas of law, including residential tenancies, domestic relationship agreements, criminal law, debt recovery, business law, sexual harassment and discrimination, property law, family law, neighbourhood disputes and equity and trust law.
Ms Harvey said her secondment to the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House was an interesting and rewarding experience and she enjoyed the opportunity to assist the applicants.
She was often amazed by the complexity of the legal problems facing applicants.
The Clearing House is an initiative of the ACT Law Society, community legal centres and the ACT legal profession and is typically, the last resort for people and organisations seeking pro bono assistance as many of its applicants had been unable to secure legal aid or other pro bono legal assistance elsewhere.
The AGS said its national Pro Bono Policy encouraged AGS lawyers to provide pro bono services in their personal capacity and also for AGS itself to sponsor and undertake pro bono activities.
As AGS is a Commonwealth statutory body, its AGS-sponsored initiatives were usually of a research or project nature or involved secondments such as Ms Harvey’s, to legal aid public interest clearing houses, community legal centres or other non-profit organisations.
More information about the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House is available from the ACT Law Society on (02) 6247 5700.
11 March, 2008
Back for Second Bite
The National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon, has welcomed back a travelling exhibition that has toured to Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Ipswich and Newcastle.
Eaten Alive – The World of Predators has proven to be one of Questacon’s more popular exhibitions.
According to Questacon Director, Professor Graham Durant, Eaten Alive explores the range of techniques predators use to find and capture prey.
“Teeth, claws, nets, barbs, traps and water pistols are just some of the amazing methods,” Professor Durant said.
“Visitors learn about biology and the food chain through hands-on interaction with the world’s most dangerous predators.”
He said few people knew that more people were killed by bee, hornet and wasp stings each year than by great white sharks and the Malaysian orchid mantis was gorgeously camouflaged as a pinkywhite orchid, so unsuspecting prey moved closer before they were caught.
Visitors to Eaten Alive – The World of Predators discovered these facts for themselves and more.
Professor Durant said Eaten Alive contained interactive exhibits relating to lions, slugs, echidnas, death adders and fish, with the most realistic being the Shark Encounter.
Made in partnership with the Australian National University, this exhibit allowed visitors to descend beneath the sea and wonder at the world of the shark.
Professor Durant said by merging robotics with immersive interactive techniques, the shark exhibition combined thrills and fascination with education in an “awesome and unforgettable” experience.
Eaten Alive was designed and built at Questacon, based on recent scientific research from Australia and around the world.
More than 30 scientific researchers assisted with information, images and footage, with 200 others consulted during development.
11 March, 2008
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has put its foot down to cut out the deliberate spreading of false and misleading information on the stock exchange.
ASIC says it has been approached by a number of market participants concerned about the practice, which was being done to artificially provoke sales of securities and to reduce their market price.
“Conduct of this type can be a criminal offence,” the Commission said.
“And ASIC, in conjunction with the Australian Securities Exchange, will be vigilant in monitoring the market to ensure this type of behaviour is detected and prosecuted.”
It said that under the Corporations law people were not allowed to make statements or pass information that was:
* false in a material particular or was materially misleading; and
* was likely to induce people to sell or buy financial products, or have the effect of reducing the price for securities.
“If a person spreads a false rumour without properly investigating its truth then the person risks breaching this section,” ASIC said.
It said it would investigate people it found spreading false information or rumours, and the maximum penalty, if found guilty, was five years imprisonment and/or a fine of $220,000.
“Financial market participants must not engage in dishonest conduct in relation to a financial product or service … when carrying out a financial services business.
“Dishonest is defined by reference to the standards of ordinary people.”
ASIC said it believed those provisions, combined with laws against insider trading were sufficient to ensure fair market trading practices.
11 March, 2008
Eye on Scammers
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has upgraded its SCAMwatch website to help people recognise and protect themselves from scams.
The Commission announced the changes during the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce’s Fraud Fortnight.
It published “mock” scams and examples of real scams on its SCAMwatch website to educate consumers about the elements of common scams and the warning signs to look out for. SCAMwatch lists a range of the different types of scams reaching consumers, and provides practical advice and information about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.
Deception scams were the focus of the second week of the Fraud Fortnight campaign.
According to the Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel, deception scams involved criminals pretending to be from legitimate companies and requesting information that would allow them to profit from their fraud.
“Most people think they can spot a scam a mile away, but unfortunately scammers are very good at what they do,” Mr Samuel said. “They rely on consumers letting their guard down.”
He said most scams relied on looking or sounding like genuine offers. They could be very hard to spot, and were very good at making the consumer think they had something to lose.
He said it was easy to panic when you were unexpectedly contacted by someone who sounded official, particularly if they said money was at risk.
“But organisations, like financial institutions and banks, don’t contact you out of the blue requesting your personal details and other information.
“If this happens to you, don’t provide your details.”
Mr Samuel said many scams originated overseas or took place over the internet which made them very difficult to track down and prosecute.
“One of the best ways to combat this kind of fraud is to help people take the steps to prevent being caught out in the first place.
“If consumers lose money to a scam, it is unlikely that they will ever recover it.”
He said SCAMwatch and Fraud Fortnight aimed at helping consumers avoid scams in the first place – “and prevention is definitely a better option.”
Throughout the Fraud Fortnight campaign which ended on 8 March, consumers were given crucial and simple precautions to help arm themselves and protect their hard-earned money and their identity.
To find out more about how scams work and how to be protected from them, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au or call SCAMwatch on 1300 795 995.
11 March, 2008
ABC Extracts Awards
For Digital Skills
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has presented its inaugural ABC Excellence in Digital Media Awards.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, announced the overall winner of the Awards with the Best of the Best category won by the Summer Heights High website and associated digital properties.
The judges of the Best of the Best category selected Summer Heights High for its innovative use of various broadcast platforms including online, mobile and social networking sites, helping to build anticipation and “buzz” prior to the television broadcast and enabling thousands of viewers to watch episodes how, when and where they chose.
The judges said the use of social networking sites and an interactive website allowed audiences to interact with the characters and the program both before and during the broadcast season.
The Awards attracted 75 eligible nominations from across all content divisions of the ABC, with projects ranging in size from dedicated local radio projects to large scale initiatives.
Winners in the seven categories were:
* Best abc.net.au Website: ABC TV
* Best Blue Sky Project: Pool
* Best Community/Participatory Initiative: Sledge
* Best Factual Online: 4 Corners Broadband Editions
* BestMultiplatform: Summer Heights High
* Best Visual Design: Dust Echoe
* Most Innovative Use of Technology: The Chaser’s War on Everything
“These inaugural awards celebrate innovation as central to the achievement and progress of the ABC,” said ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott.
“The creativity and dedication shown by our staff has been outstanding, and ensured that ABC has been widely appreciated, enjoyed and acclaimed by our audiences,” he said.
11 March, 2008
$2.6M for Rau
Wrongly-detained Australian citizen, Cornelia Rau is to receive $2.6 million in compensation from the Australian Government.
A Sydney Court revealed the figure which related to a 10-month ordeal in 2004-05 for the woman incorrectly believed to be an illegal immigrant and held in a women’s prison and immigration detention centre.
Border panel talks
Australia’s Quarantine and Biosecurity Review Panel has met to discuss its consultation processes.
Chairman, Roger Beale said the panel intended releasing an Issues Paper this month and consulting widely to seek a full range of views.
The four-person panel, which also includes Dr Jeff Fairbrother, Andrew Inglis and David Trebeck, expects to travel to all States and Territories to conduct forums and hear views from across the spectrum of interests.
It was set up in February to review of Australia’s quarantine and biosecurity arrangements.
Marshals get manual
The Federal Court of Australia has released a new version of its Marshal’s Manual.
The Manual is of assistance to Officers of the Federal Court who are directed
to perform the duties and functions of a Marshal under the Admiralty Act 1988 and is also useful for District Registrars and other staff involved in the arrest, custody, release or sale of a ship or property.
The Manual is published on the ‘Admiralty and maritime’ section of the Court's website.
Rugby League scores
The 100th anniversary of the National Rugby League is being supported by Commonwealth Agencies with both the National Museum of Australia and the Royal Australian Mint announcing special projects to mark the milestone.
The Museum is hosting a free exhibition entitled League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia, which will be on display at the Museum in Canberra until 11 May, after which it will tour to Brisbane’s Queensland Museum, Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, Townsville’s Museum of Tropical Queensland and Melbourne’s National Sport Museum.
The Mint has marked the occasion by launching a range of official licensed Rugby League centenary collector coins including a 2008 $10 Gold Proof Coin, a 2008 $5 Fine Silver Proof coin and a 2008 $1 Uncirculated Coin.
The coins can be purchased from the mint at www.ramint.gov.au, by calling 1300 652 020 or by visiting the Mint in Canberra or from most Australia Post outlets.
A cyber-security anti-terror exercise involving Government and business sectors in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States is being run this month.
Led by the US Department of Homeland Security, Cyber Storm II builds on the first cyber storm exercise held in February 2006 and involves simulated cyber and physical attacks on critical infrastructure such as the water, energy, IT, communications, banking and finance industries.
The Australian side of the exercise will involve the Commonwealth, South Australian and West Australian Governments and over 50 private industry organisations.
Arts awards shine
The Australia Council for the Arts has announced that its 2007 Visual Arts Emeritus Award would go to jeweller Mari Funaki and its Visual Arts Emeritus Medal to arts advocate David Williams.
Chair of the Australia Council’s visual arts board, Professor Ted Snell said Ms Funaki’s $40,000 Award was in recognition of her highly acclaimed metal and jewellery work and her role in promoting contemporary jewellery design in Australia.
Professor Williams received his $10,000 Visual Arts Emeritus Medal for his outstanding achievements as an arts administrator and advocate for the visual arts.
Boot camp graduates
Three hundred and Forty Six officer cadets from the Royal Australian Navy and Air Force have successfully completed their initial six-week military training program at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.
They were congratulated by the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.
Call for music teachers
Nominations for the 2008 National Awards for Excellence in School Music Education are now open.
The Minister for Education, Julia Gillard announced the awards saying they were in their second year and were intended to raise the status of music education in Australian schools.
Thirteen teachers and school leaders across the country would be recognised for outstanding contributions to music education, each award winner to receive $5,000.
Nominations close on 8 April 2008.
IT consultant, EDS has won the 2008 Excellence in Security Award from Microsoft.
The award recognises industry leaders for the planning, implementation and management of security programs that significantly improve their company’s security posture.
The company, which is plays a prominent role in many in Australian Government Agencies took out the honour for its business-oriented approach, global scope, customer-focused solutions, advanced security practices and demonstrated leadership.
New lease on Tax Office
The former Australian Taxation Office headquarters building at 2 Constitution Avenue in Canberra, is to become home to parts of the Australian Customs Service, Attorney General’s Department and the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
The Agencies have signed five-year leases following which the building is to be refurbished.
The Australian Film Commission has released of a new edition of its production budgeting and film management manual The Satchel.
The manual has been extensively revised and is a detailed, step-by-step guide to film budgeting.
The new edition reflects the impacts of technological change including digital intermediate post-production pathways, HD capture, computer-based animation and new rushes screening options.
Special chapters have been incorporated covering low-budget filmmaking, digital visual effects, animation, occupational health and safety, foreign cast and crew, and working with children.
The Satchel is available for $130 from www.afc.gov.au
Police teed off
The Australian Federal Police is holding its 2008 Australian Police Golf Championships in Canberra this week.
The championships have attracted over 200 police officers from forces across the nation for four days of competitive golf at some of the best courses in the Canberra region.
The championships are held in different States each year, with next year's event to be hosted by Tasmania Police.
4 March, 2008
Union Pays Out On Dividend
The Community and Public Sector Union has called on the Federal Government to consider more carefully the across-the-board application of the increased efficiency dividend this year.
The Government increased the dividend from 1.25 per cent to 3.25 per cent as a one-off, with Departments and Agencies expected to find the savings from existing funds.
The union’s concerns were highlighted when it was revealed the saving was going to cost Centrelink 2,000 jobs at a time when the economy appeared to slowing down.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Stephen Jones said such a cut in jobs at the social-security provider couldn’t be achieved without affecting front-line jobs.
“I think the Government’s got to have another look at this,” Mr Jones said.
“Cuts of this magnitude will have a major impact on Centrelink’s unemployed clients.
“But they will also be felt by pensioners, people on disability benefits and the millions of Australians who access Family Allowance benefits.
He said Centrelink would need more staff, not less, if it was to meet its current service delivery obligations and there were OHS issues associated with inadequate staffing levels that led to increased client aggression, and workplace stress.
“Do we really want to see 2,000 Australian workers lose their jobs on one side of the Centrelink counter, simply to turn up unemployed on the other side?”
Mr Jones said the CPSU had called for the establishment of whole-of-Government principles for the redeployment, retraining and redundancy of APS employees.
The union also sought assurances from the Government that it would stand by the Finance Minister’s statement that the razor gang cuts would not lead to involuntary redundancies.
The union was also concerned that the loss of 181 jobs at the Australian Bureau of Statistics would impact on the next Census and other important research programs being undertaken by the Agency.
It said the data the ABS collected was “absolutely essential” for Government, business, community groups and academics and staff were already working to full capacity.
The increased efficiency dividend has been defended by Environment and Arts Minister, Peter Garrett, some of whose Agencies, such as the national institutions, are in the public firing line and face cutbacks to popular programs.
Mr Garrett said there needed to be an emphasis on fiscal prudence.
“Every Department and every institution that is subject to the efficiency dividend must manage it within their own program delivery as well as they can,” Mr Garrett said.
“I have every confidence the institutions will be able to manage.”
4 March, 2008
Health Body Dishes
Out Bad Medicine
Governments across Australia have been criticised by the Public Health Association for allegedly suppressing academic information and research data.
CEO of the Association, Michael Moore said recent magazine articles identified instances of bureaucratic and political censorship of public health research that should have been available to the Australian public.
He said The Medical Observer used a front page story to review an article on censorship of academic research after the original article was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Mr Moore said the article identified the practice of bureaucratic and political censorship of public health research.
According to the PHAA, a survey conducted by the School of Population Health at the University of Western Australia, found that not one State or Territory in Australia was exempt from the practice of suppressing public health information.
It found the practice included Governments working to “delay”, “prohibit” or “sanitise” publication of public health research in a move to conceal embarrassing information.
“This sort of suppression is not so much a political issue as it is a bureaucratic one, making the matter even more insidious,” Mr Moore said.
“To curb information so that it does not reach the public is simply undemocratic.”
“How can the public understand the importance of prevention in improving health outcomes if research is withheld from them?”
He said the report was based on a 2006 survey that was issued to more than 300 academics across 17 institutions.
It found that since 2001, 142 acts of suppression had been carried out with 85 personally experienced by Australian public health researchers.
Government Agencies were reported as successful in hindering or preventing research publications 87 per cent of the time while affecting the entire research process.
Mr Moore said researchers deemed this a result of their work focusing primarily on the downfalls in health services, and the attention brought to environmental health risks and the health status of vulnerable groups.
He said measures needed to be taken to maintain the reliability of public health research undertaken with Government involvement.
“Government attitudes need to change to ensure a more accurately informed public,” he said.
“There is no doubt that better, more open decisions will be made where full, unsanitised information is available concerning imminent public health issues.”
4 March, 2008
Transport Study in Top Gear
A $70 million package of policies to tackle the ongoing loss of life on Australian roads has been announced by Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.
“I was shocked to learn that the National Road Safety Strategy target of a 40 per cent reduction in road deaths by 2010 was unlikely to be achieved,” Mr Albanese said.
“This is simply not good enough and should be a call to action for all governments, industry as well as the broader community.”
The four-year Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Plan will fund trials of technologies that electronically monitor a truck driver’s work hours and vehicle speed – one using an onboard “black box” or electronic log, and one which makes use of the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Mr Albanese said it would also fund the construction of more heavy vehicle rest stops and parking areas along highways and on the outskirts of major cities.
Freight routes would also be upgraded so they can carry bigger loads.
“The plan I’m announcing today demonstrates my determination to work with the states and territories as well as industry to substantially cut the number of speed and fatigue related road fatalities,” Mr Albanese said.
He said about one in five road deaths involved heavy vehicles, with speed a factor in around 30 per cent of the crashes and driver fatigue in up to 60 per cent.
“It is our intention to directly involve the trucking industry in the process of putting the available funds to the best possible use.”
He said the States and Territories would investigate the introduction of mandatory, periodic health checks for heavy vehicle drivers as well as undertake further work on new national standards for random drug and alcohol testing.
“At present, the small minority of truck drivers that don’t follow the rules threaten the safety of all road users – including themselves – and leave responsible truck drivers at a competitive disadvantage,” he said.
As well as improving road safety, the Plan would help lift national productivity by funding upgrades to the road network such as the strengthening of bridges.
This targeted investment in the road network would open more roads to heavy vehicles, freeing up the movement of freight across the country and easing congestion.
4 March, 2008
for Health System
Australia’s Health ministers have agreed on the need to build and report on a comprehensive set of performance measures across the entire national health system.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a conference last week, the Ministers said they agreed on the need for reciprocal public performance reporting, as well as priorities for immediate reform.
They said the first priority would be to improve the experience for people using health services.
This would mean bringing the different aspects of the system together so that hospitals, ambulatory care, primary health care and care in the community had clear funding, role delineations, paths of engagement and transition and were able to continually improve their uses of the workforce and technology.
Another priority, they said, would be to build new models of care based on conditions arising from the ageing population, chronic disease and long-term conditions.
They said there would also be a refocusing of the system on prevention and an expansion of services for mothers and young children, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Ministers said they would work together to build the health workforce Australia needed for the future and develop the next generation of leaders to drive health system reform into the future.
The Communiqué said the Conference also decided on a range of issues to be included in a new Australian Health Care Agreement to take the pressure off hospitals by keeping people well and avoiding hospital admissions. It said the key elements of health reform would be to bring together the various aspects of the system and ensure delivery services were well coordinated.
The Health Ministers also agreed the next AHCA would be expanded beyond public hospitals.
During the conference, Ministers discussed national registration and agreed on the need to take urgent action. They agreed to write to the Prime Minister as Chair of the Council of Australian Governments seeking finalisation of the national scheme.
The Ministers said their decisions would go a long way towards building a more patient-focused health system, with real results for working families.
4 March, 2008
Security Review Is
Kept Within Borders
A comprehensive review of Australia’s homeland and border security arrangements is to be undertaken.
The Homeland and Border Security Review is part of the Government’s commitment to carefully examine the need for change in Australia’s homeland and border security arrangements.
The Review will consider the roles, responsibilities and functions of Departments and Agencies involved in homeland and border security and would also consider possible changes to optimise the coordination and effectiveness of homeland and border security efforts.
It will be conducted by former Secretary of Defence, Ric Smith.
Mr Smith was the Secretary of the Department of Defence from 2002 to 2006 and had been Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia and the People’s Republic of China.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who announced the review, said Mr Smith was highly experienced and a well-qualified person to lead such an important and high-level review.
He said the Review would draw on expertise from across Australian Government agencies with responsibility for homeland and border security and would report to the Government by 30 June 2008.
4 March, 2008
New Child Scheme
Is all Grown Up
Detailed information about the new Child Support Scheme has been released on the internet for parents to examine.
The new scheme commences on 1 July 2008.
General Manager of the Child Support Agency, Matt Miller said the changes to the Child Support Scheme were recommended by a Ministerial Taskforce and aimed at better balancing the interests of separated parents and be more focused on the costs of children.
Mr Miller said the new Reforms, which affect all separated parents, were passed in Parliament in 2006 and 2007 and were being implemented in three stages over two years.
“The most significant change being introduced is a new formula used to calculate child support payments that will better reflect the costs of raising children today, treat both parents’ incomes and living costs more equally and better take into consideration the level of care parents provide for their children,” Mr Miller said.
“Separated parents across Australia will receive their new child support assessment between March and mid-May this year so they have time to check their details and plan prior to the new Scheme starting on 1 July.”
He said in the meantime, most parents could obtain an estimate of how much child support they may be required to pay or receive, using the online Child Support-Family Assistance estimator, available on the CSA, Centrelink and Family Assistance Office websites.
“All separated parents who pay and receive child support, including those with private arrangements, will be affected by the new Scheme,” he said.
“The new assessments may also affect Family Assistance payments, because Child Support and Family Assistance are closely linked.”
Mr Miller said the CSA wrote to its clients last year to collect care information required for new child support assessments. He said parents who did not receive their care letter and had not updated their details should contact the CSA.
“From March to mid-May it will be important for all 1.5 million registered parents to look out for their new assessment and check the details carefully,” Mr Miller said.
“Parents should advise the CSA of any changes so that the assessment can be reissued and is correct when the new Scheme starts. If you have moved recently please contact the CSA on 1300 885 437.”
The CSA administers child support and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is responsible for child support policy.
Separated parents can view details of the new Scheme on the CSA website www.csa.gov.au
4 March, 2008
A ground-breaking invention developed at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has been granted a patent in the United States.
ANSTO’s ion-exchange technology platform can remove a range of toxic radioactive and nonradioactive heavy metals including, lead, silver and caesium from industrial processing solutions resulting from nuclear and minerals activities.
The materials ANSTO discovered and developed are similar to the adsorbents used in the petrochemicals industry and domestic water treatment plants, except they can operate in highly aggressive environments.
According to the inventor of the technology and Research Leader of ANSTO’s project on Advanced Materials for Energy Applications, Dr Victor Luca, the patent represents a major milestone for the technology, opening up commercial opportunities in the mining, chemical and nuclear industries to help manage toxic wastes.
“The invention can significantly improve the methods by which toxic waste is processed for either storage or recycling,” Dr Luca said.
“The technology is a metal oxide material containing atomic scale channels that are akin to a common kitchen sieve, which is where the analogy ends,” he said.
“These molecular sieves display such exquisite selectivity for certain metallic atoms that they can pluck them out of the most highly acidic solutions containing massive concentrations of other elements.”
He said the ion-exchanger was initially prepared in the form of very fine fibres that were nanometers in width and microns in length.
However, Dr Luca and his team engineered the microscopic fibres into the form of millimetre sized beads with no loss in performance.
He said the outward appearance of the beads was similar to those found in an ordinary domestic water filtration system under the kitchen sink, except the ANSTO beads were blue and more specialised and remained stable to perform in highly acidic conditions.
“The technology, which was originally developed for dealing with the radioactive waste ANSTO generates during the production of medical isotopes, can also be used for the decontamination of solutions involved in uranium and copper mining operations as well as help manage the waste streams from nuclear power production in other parts of the world” Dr Luca said.
He said ANSTO was trialling the materials in partnership with industry and was keen to develop the technology for commercial use.
4 March, 2008
To Climate Review
The Government is to conduct a strategic review of its climate change policies.
The Ministers for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, and Climate Change, Senator Penny Wong, announced the review, saying it would develop a set of principles to assist its assessment of whether existing programs were complementary to an emissions trading scheme.
These principles are expected to include whether programs addressed clear market failures that were likely to continue after the introduction of emissions trading or which may be necessary to prepare for emissions trading.
“The introduction of emissions trading represents a fundamental shift in the way greenhouse gas emissions are managed,” Senator Wong said.
Mr Tanner said the aim of the review would be to ensure that existing climate change programs were efficient, effective and complementary to the emissions trading scheme.
“The review is not intended as a cost cutting exercise,” Mr Tanner said.
He said the review would also inform the Commonwealth’s input into the Council of Australian Governments which had committed to developing a coherent and streamlined set of climate change measures across jurisdictions to complement Commonwealth implementation of the emissions trading system.
The former head of the NSW Cabinet Office and now head of Citigroup’s public sector group, Roger Wilkins, is to lead the review which would be based in the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
The review is to report to the Government in July 2008.
4 March, 2008
Fires Final Shot
The Chief Defence Scientist, Dr Roger Lough, has announced his retirement.
Dr Lough has been the Chief Defence Scientist since October 2003 after serving in several senior positions in the Defence Science and Technology Organisation where he started his career in the 1960s.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon congratulated Dr Lough on a fine career saying his decision to retire had been accepted reluctantly.
“Dr Lough has served the Australian Defence Organisation with distinction for more than 44 years,” Mr Snowdon said.
“DSTO plays a unique role in maintaining Australia’s national security, and Dr Lough has been at the centre of that work.
“He has shown exemplary leadership in modernising DSTO and has initiated the most far-reaching reforms of defence science that Australia has seen since World War II.”
Mr Snowdon said Dr Lough has been providing independent technical and scientific advice to successive governments on the merits of major Defence acquisitions for the past 25 years and since 2003 had served as an ex-officio member on the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council and provided advice to the Prime Minister on science and technology matters through that forum.
“His scientific leadership and expertise will be sorely missed,” Mr Snowdon said.
“However, I respect his decision and wish him the very best on his retirement and the future.”
Mr Snowdon said the Department of Defence would be conducting a worldwide search to recruit a new Chief Defence Scientist.
4 March, 2008
Guest Worker Visas
to Work Harder
The processes for using temporary business visas to bring overseas workers into Australia is to become more transparent under arrangements to be introduced by the Minister for Immigration, Senator Chris Evans.
Senator Evans said under his planned changes, employers would be able to negotiate labour agreements with the Commonwealth setting out the numbers and occupations of workers to be covered by the temporary Subclass 457 visa program.
He said the labour agreements would provide flexibility to vary standard requirements under the visas, including language skills, occupational skill levels and salary levels.
“I have come to the view that the process for negotiating and approving these agreements should be informed by the views of relevant stakeholders,” Senator Evans said.
“Therefore employers seeking labour agreements will now be required to consult with relevant industrial stakeholders, including peak bodies, professional associations and unions about the proposed agreement and forward their views to the Department.”
He said the Department would advise employers on what would be required for this consultation.
“I want to make it clear that no-one will be given a veto right to block the approval of a labour agreement,” Senator Evans said.
“The Department will take the views of stakeholders into account when considering the approval of a proposed agreement.
“I recognise that labour agreements can play an important and positive role in meeting the needs of particular sectors, allowing employers to plan ahead for their workforce needs and address specific requirements that they may have.”
Under the previous Government the meat industry was required to negotiate a labour agreement in consultation with the State Governments and the meat workers union.
“The sector now has an effective agreement that enjoys community support and meets the needs of the industry which shows what can be achieved through a more transparent process,” the Minister said.
“Separate to the arrangements that will now apply to labour agreements, employers remain entitled to apply for 457 visas under the Standard Business Sponsorship arrangements.”
In addition to these changes an External Reference Group made up of industry experts has begun examining how selected temporary skilled migration measures can help ease labour shortages in the medium to long term.
The group plans to provide specific advice on ways to ensure the 457 visa program operates as effectively as possible in contributing to the supply of skilled labour.
The construction, major infrastructure, tourism and the resources sectors are the focus of the External Reference Group.
The reference group plans to provide an interim report to the Minister by 14 March with a final report due in April.
4 March, 2008
Police Use Net for
The Australian Federal Police has joined in the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce’s “Fraud Fortnight” by warning parents to monitor their children when they used the internet.
The Police said children needed to be aware of the risk of divulging their personal details online, particularly on social networking sites and online competitions.
They said scammers were on the internet with the intent of seducing users into giving them as many details as possible, which they then used to commit crimes.
“As an example, children provide personal details on these sites that no one would ordinarily provide to a stranger walking down the street, such as their full name and date of birth,” the Director of AFP Australian High Tech Crime Centre, James McCormack said.
“They may also click on ‘pop-up’ competitions or advertisements and provide personal details.
“What people don’t realise is that even if you take this information down from the website, it is still available to those looking for it on the internet.”
He recommended that parents and children agree on an acceptable usage policy for the internet that should cover issues like what time of day is okay for children in the house to surf the internet, the length of time they are allowed online, the sorts of sites are appropriate, and how to deal with privacy and safety issues.
“To prevent the risk of children falling into a trap where they can provide personal details online that may facilitate financial or identity fraud, parents should take an interest in the sites their children are browsing, have family discussions about the internet and encourage children to discuss any issues they may have found disturbing,” Mr McCormack said.
“Parents and children should be reminded that just because someone asks for your details, it does not mean they need to provide them, even if it is for a competition to win an item, such as a mobile phone.”
Fraud Fortnight runs until 8 March and aims to raise awareness about seductive and deceptive scams. To find out more about scams and to report scams visit www.scamwatch.gov.au or call SCAMwatch on 1300 795 995.
The Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce is comprised of 19 Federal and State Government regulatory Agencies and Departments with responsibility for consumer protection in relation to frauds and scams. It was established in March 2005.
4 March, 2008
Makes Disabled Call
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has released her second Disability Action Plan seeking to ensure that all people have access to services unrestricted by physical, communication or attitudinal barriers
The plan was launched by Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Graeme Innes and is available in html, pdf and audio formats at www.tio.com.au. A Braille version is available on request.
The TIO is a free and independent alternative dispute resolution service for people who have not been able to solve a problem with their telecommunications company or ISP.
Commissioner Innes said the Disability Action Plan covered areas including:
* recruitment of people with disabilities;
* the provision of information to ensure that the TIO is accessible as possible to people with disabilities;
* accessibility by TIO staff and complainants with disabilities to the TIO’s premises; and
* a review of TIO practices to reduce or eliminate physical and social barriers that may limit access by people with disabilities to the TIO services.
The TIO, Deirdre O’Donnell can take complaints from consumers and small businesses under a range of categories, which are detailed on the website.
She can also take complaints about the provision of equipment for people with disabilities by the Universal Service Provider, currently Telstra and can also take complaints about situations where the decision-making ability of a person entering a contract is claimed to have been impaired.
People may lodge complaints with the TIO in person, in writing, over the telephone or via email. A TTY service is also available for people with hearing loss of for those with speech and hearing impairments.
The National Relay Service and the Translating and Interpreting Service offer other means of contacting the TIO.
4 March, 2008
in Black and White
The Australia Council for the Arts has revised its protocol Guides that assist people understand how to use Indigenous cultural material.
The five Guides cover protocols for producing Indigenous Australian media arts, music performing arts, visual arts and writing. They were written for the Australia Council by Indigenous intellectual property lawyers Terri Janke and Robynne Quiggin.
Chair of the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts board, Dr Chris Sarra, said the Guides should be compulsory reading for anyone working in the arts, and an automatic first point of reference for Australians working alongside Indigenous culture.
“Real reconciliation involves understanding and respect; understanding the protocols in these Guides will help Australians do the right thing when working alongside Indigenous culture,” Dr Sarra said.
“The Guides use real-life case studies from the arts to help Australians avoid some of the common pitfalls that can cause distress to Indigenous people – from sampling music without permission to altering Indigenous creation stories.”
Guides’ editor, Terri Janke said they were also created to help Indigenous artists know their rights and get a better financial return for their work.
“Indigenous arts are worth more than $500 million to the Australian economy, but there are still some gaps in the general understanding of how cultural practices and Australian copyright law interact,” Ms Janke said.
“A lot of Indigenous culture is oral and performance based. It’s handed down from generation to generation and then communally owned.
“Acknowledging cultural sources and respecting the integrity of these important works isn’t enshrined in copyright laws. These guides help show artists how they can best protect their work and their culture.”
The five Guides are available online from the Australia Council’s website or in hard copy by phoning (02) 9215 9000.
4 March, 2008
A new report from Tourism Research Australia attempts to predict the future of domestic tourism in Australia.
Entitled Through the looking glass: The future of domestic tourism in Australia, the report examines future patterns of tourism activity, the resultant implications for tourism product, and investigates how the Australian domestic tourism industry can best prepare itself for change while adapting to meet the challenges of the future.
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said domestic tourism was critical in encouraging the dispersal of tourism dollars into regional areas.
“Tourism is not unique in the challenges it faces,” Mr Ferguson said.
“In a globalised world, all industries must adapt and develop strategies to enhance their future sustainability.”
He said the tourism industry already recognised the intensity of the current market and the report provided some powerful information for the industry to use to drive its future growth.
Mr Ferguson said it was also important to consider Australia’s national tourism industry in the broader context of the significant economic challenges the country faced both domestically and as part of the global economy.
He said the Government would work with industry and the community to address these challenges.
“As part of this partnership with the industry, the Australian Government will further explore innovative approaches to encouraging domestic tourism including a strong economy, cultivating the right environment for industry growth and investment, taking pressure off family budgets and enabling working Australians to take leave and enjoy a holiday in this great country of ours.”
He urged tourism operators and industry bodies to take advantage of the information provided in the domestic tourism research series to enable themselves to achieve a stronger and more competitive industry sector.
“As the report concludes, it is up to us all to work on weaknesses and build on strengths,” he said.
“In doing this, we shape our destiny.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in tourism and there are many great opportunities out there to be seized. In partnership with industry, the Government is ready to help tourism in Australia realise these opportunities,” Mr Ferguson said.
4 March, 2008
Consumer Study Shows
No Hang-Up on Phones
A study by the Australian Communications and Media Authority has discovered that four out of five Australians are generally satisfied with Australia’s telecommunications services.
The report did note however that there were notable differences in satisfaction levels between households, small and medium enterprises and the rural sector.
The research, undertaken in April and May 2007, provides a snapshot of consumer satisfaction with fixed-line (landline), mobile, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and internet services.
According to ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, while consumer perceptions about services were positive overall, the research suggested that the farm sector was significantly less satisfied with their internet and mobile phone services than households and small to medium business owners.
He said farm-based consumers reported the highest levels of dissatisfaction with mobile phone services (35 per cent), citing problems such as poor call quality, drop-outs and interference.
He said more than a quarter (26 per cent) of farm consumers also expressed dissatisfaction with internet services, primarily due to slow speed.
Mr Chapman said most household consumers were happy with their Internet Service Provider and the majority (58 per cent) indicated they were unlikely to switch providers but consumers in non-metropolitan areas perceived their internet services as inferior to those in metropolitan areas.
The research also highlighted that during the period 2002 to 2007, the number of complaints made to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about telecommunications services continued to grow.
The ACMA report also found that:
* Fixed-line telephone services were rated most highly across all consumer sectors, although 77 per cent of SMEs indicated improvements could be made; and
* For emerging services such as voice over internet protocol (VoIP), the majority of users were satisfied, although around a third reported being neither dissatisfied or satisfied, suggesting they were still getting to know the service.
The report is the fourth in ACMA’s ongoing Telecommunications Today research program about the take-up and use of telecommunication services in Australia. It can be found on ACMA’s website www.acma.gov.au
4 March, 2008
Water Babies Book
A collection of writing and art about water from children from across the Murray-Darling Basin has been published by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission under its Special Forever educational program.
Minister for Water, Senator Penny Wong, launched Liquid Gold, the culmination of a year’s work, in Canberra recently.
Senator Wong said the words and pictures in Liquid Gold provided adults with a timely reminder of the gravity of the challenges facing the Murray-Darling Basin.
“The poetry, prose and paintings in this book tell the story of the impact that water shortages are having on the environment and the families of these children,” Senator Wong said.
“Their work reminds us that climate change and water shortages are intergenerational challenges and we must take action to prepare Australia for the future.”
Special Forever is an award-winning educational program that allows children to learn about the ecological and natural resources systems that are such a big part of their lives.
The launch was hosted by MDBC Chief Executive Dr Wendy Craik; President of the Primary English Teaching Association Margery Hertzberg and the Principal of Canberra’s Ainslie Primary School Jo Padgham, where the collection was launched.
Some of the children read out their published works to Senator Wong and their art work decorated the school.
Dr Craik said the Special Forever program aimed to give children a sense of belonging and pride in the Basin, a greater discussion of the Basin in schools and families and a greater awareness of the topography, land use, cultural heritage and flora and fauna of the Basin.
Copies of Liquid Gold are available from the MDBC by calling (02) 6279 0434 or emailing email@example.com
4 March, 2008
The Assistant Secretary, Governance and Assurance at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Borko Vlatkovic, reached the finals of the Chartered Secretaries of Australia’s Governance Professional of the Year (Public Sector) awards.
The CSA awards are presented to those who demonstrate leadership and vision in driving best-practice governance within their organisation, who have a reputation for integrity and who demonstrate management of multiple stakeholders to achieve holistic governance outcomes.
ACCC delivers on Post
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released an issues paper seeking comment on Australia Post’s proposal to increase prices across a number of mail services. Australia Post lodged a draft notification with the ACCC on 5 February 2008 which proposes an increase in the basic postage rate from 50 to 55 cents as well as increases in the price of other mail services including large and small ordinary letters, large and small pre-sort ordinary letters, clean mail, reply paid mail, impact mail and local delivery mail.
Submissions are being sought from interested parties on key issues and will be received by the ACCC until 4 April 2008.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency has requested further information on the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s application to modify the reactor fuel design and to restart operation of Australia’s only nuclear reactor.
The reactor has been shut down for seven months following the partial displacement of some fuel plates and cannot recommence operation with the modified fuel until regulatory approval is granted by the CEO of ARPANSA, Dr John Loy.
Australia’s Army and Navy have celebrated 107 years of service to the nation with a parade in Canberra.
The occasion marked the day that authorisation for the formation of the Commonwealth Military Force was decreed in 1901.
Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, said the birthday remained a noteworthy event in the Defence calendar because it provided an opportunity to reflect on previous achievements and focus on current and future endeavours.
Australia has marked the 35th Anniversary of bilateral relations between Australia and Vietnam with an exchange of letters between Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Vietnam’s Foreign Minister, Pham Gia Khiem.
In 1973, Australia was one of the first western countries to establish diplomatic ties with the then Democratic Republic of Vietnam, now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Defence against stress
A study into stress among military personnel on active duty is to be conducted by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.
Personnel in the field will wear advanced sensors to measure physiological and biometric information with the results expected to help DSTO understand more about how work-related stress can affect individual protection and performance.
Pay board pays out
Responding to an article in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper that reported a pay rise for the Fair Pay Commissioner, Professor Ian Harper, the Australian Fair Pay Commission has released a statement explaining that it did not set its own remuneration.
The statement said remuneration of Commissioners was determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, which was an independent statutory body that handled the remuneration of more than 160 key Commonwealth offices, including those in the Australian Fair Pay Commission.
The newspaper article said Professor Harper’s own pay rose 47 per cent as he considered the last minimum-wage adjustment.
Judges meet lawyers
A meeting between the Federal Court’s Sydney Judges and Registrars and Barristers and Solicitors who represented parties in patent matters, is to be held on Monday 10 March.
All barristers and solicitors who might be interested in attending were invited to the meeting, the main purpose of which will be to discuss the current approach to listing and early dealing with patent cases in the Court.
Big money at Mint
The Royal Australian Mint, has produced its biggest ever coin to draw attention to the 2008 circulating coin, commemorating the Centenary of Scouts Australia.
The promotional coin – which was 400 times larger than a standard one dollar coin - was gradually revealed by 10 young people representing the various scouting groups from Joey Scouts to Rovers.
Over the past 42 years, only 14 special designs have been produced to commemorate an organisation or an event on the one-dollar coin.
A workshop on human rights and restorative justice has been held at the Australian National University to honour the late ACT Supreme Court Justice Terry Connolly.
The workshop marked the important contribution made by Justice Connolly in furthering human rights and restorative justice policies and highlighted the unique collaborative approach between the ANU and Government officials in both of these public policy fields.
Rights brought to book
A new book about racial inequality by two of Australia’s foremost historians presents a new perspective on the history of human rights.
Henry Reynolds and Marilyn Lake have published Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Country and the Question of Racial Inequality which tells a story about the circulation of emotions and ideas, books and people in which Australia emerged as a pace-setter in the modern global politics of whiteness.
The book was launched in Melbourne by former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.