SearchArchives for March 2010
30 March, 2010
A new look PS is
New powers for the Australian Public Service Commission, an evaluation of public service delivery, more staff training and better senior leadership are among reforms recommended for the Australian Public Service following a major six-month review.
vision for future
An Advisory Group led by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran produced the report, Ahead of the Game - Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration.
In the report, the Group makes nine recommendations for reform designed to position the APS to meet future challenges, including the ageing of the population, environmental issues, rising citizen expectations, new technologies, national security, financial pressures and a tightening labour market.
The report suggests the APSC be given new powers to take on a leadership and centralised role by providing expertise, guidance, performance monitoring and some services to Agencies.
It says policy capabilities need to be improved and leadership and the roles of Secretaries should be evaluated and clarified.
“Successful reform of the APS depends on leadership,” the report says.
The Blueprint proposes a Secretaries Board and Senior Executive Service APS 200 group be set up to strengthen leadership within the APS.
“These leadership groups would drive reform in areas including strategic policy, citizen-centred service delivery and collaboration across the APS,” it says.
“It is also proposed that there be a review of the size, capability and work level standards for each level of the SES before any new net growth in the SES occurs.”
The report recommends the Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework be strengthened to support a united Federal Public Service and that an APS-wide workforce planning framework be established to address recruitment, learning and development and performance management processes.
“It is proposed that learning and development be bolstered through the APSC developing and procuring learning and development activities on behalf of the APS,” it says.
The report also recommends more regular Agency reviews to assess strategy, leadership, workforce capability, delivery and organisational effectiveness and a systematic evaluation of how services are delivered from the public’s perspective.
It says these measures would help create more open Government and deliver better services for citizens.
The full report can be accessed at www.dpmc.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Central agency is
The new and more powerful Australian Public Service Commission recommended in the blueprint for the future APS would act as a central agency guiding, supporting and monitoring the performance of all other Agencies across the APS.
central to change
One of the more far-reaching recommendations made in the report: Ahead of the Game - Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, the new and bigger APSC would set common workplace standards for the APS, organise training for Departments and Agencies, oversight some recruitment processes and eventually establish common payrates across the Service as well as building a culture of APS unity that reaches across Departmental boundaries.
“The current APSC would be repositioned to take a leadership role within the APS,” the blueprint says.
“(It) would develop options for a common approach to workforce planning, leadership, learning and development and the recruitment and retention of high quality employees.
“It would also be responsible for classifications, work level standards, pay and employment conditions, ensuring greater consistency.”
The blueprint says the new APSC would be the main driver of change in the APS, would encourage and reward high performance and help Agencies deal with underperformance.
It would set up a framework that “supports all employees in identifying strengths and areas for improvement.”
The new APSC would also evaluate the effectiveness of the APS senior echelons
“The reforms propose clarifying the roles and responsibilities of Secretaries,” the blueprint says, “and holding them more accountable for meeting their responsibilities.
“The reforms include revisions to the appointment and termination processes for Secretaries as well as changes to the way their performance is assessed.”
Under the blueprint a Secretaries Board and a Senior Executive Service APS 200 group would be established to strengthen leadership within the APS.
“The APS values, currently set down in the Public Service Act 1999, should also be revised, tightened and made more memorable for the benefit of all employees,” it says.
“Talent management would also be introduced – allowing leaders to proactively identify and nurture high performers.”
To bring about the changes the APSC would need to transfer some responsibilities from other Agencies, including the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
The blueprint says that if the Government accepts its recommendations, a number of short, medium and long-term implementation activities will be required.
The full text of the blueprint can be accessed at www.dpmc.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Report delivers on
An evaluation of service delivery and enhanced policy capabilities have been recommended for the APS in a bid to better align Government services to the needs of the public.
The major review of the APS, led by Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran, has proposed a whole-of-Government strategy be developed to address citizen perceptions of service delivery.
The report, Ahead of the Game - Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, says a citizen survey should be conducted to evaluate how satisfied the public is with service delivery and to create a more open Government.
It recommends service delivery be streamlined, simplified and standardised to provide for easier communication between Government and citizens.
“There are opportunities to improve services within the APS, across Governments and with the community and private sectors,” the report says.
“Opportunities for new and aligned technological solutions must be pursued, while better models for partnering with the community and private sectors need to be developed.”
To address a “perceived lack of strategy and innovation” across the APS, the blueprint proposes a policy maker’s tool kit be created.
“Employees do not feel equipped to develop strategic policy and delivery advice, collaboration is not a routine way of working, and the immediacy of day-to-day activities prevents employees from focusing on emerging issues and producing forward looking policy analysis,” the report says.
“The APS needs to strengthen its capacity to undertake rigorous research, gather and analyse data and provide the highest-quality strategic policy advice.
“Under the proposed reforms, all Agencies would strengthen strategic policy capability.”
The blueprint says there is little evidence for benchmarking APS policy capacity and although some Agencies provide excellent advice, more time needs to be devoted to strategic policy rather than “reactive measures.”
The report says links with State, Territory and Local Government could be improved by co-locating existing State APS offices to provide a more coordinated Government interface.
“The blueprint recommends that the Australian Government become more open and that Public Sector data be more widely available, consistent with privacy and secrecy laws,” it says.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said the Government would consider the recommendations and respond later this year.
Mr Rudd thanked Mr Moran and the Advisory Group for their work on the blueprint.
The full text of the blueprint can be accessed at www.dpmc.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Comcare has been urged to check and double-check its calculations of compensation payments following an investigation by the Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman.
add up to problems
The Acting Ombudsman, Ron Brent said workers affected by past miscalculations appeared to have no appropriate means of redress.
“Due to their work-related injuries, claimants can be particularly vulnerable and not in the best position to assess the accuracy of Comcare’s calculations at the time of payment,” Mr Brent said.
“They should be able to trust that Comcare will detect fundamental errors and that they will do so within a reasonable timeframe.”
In his report, Comcare and Department of Finance and Deregulation: Discretionary payments of compensation, Mr Brent pointed to the cases of ‘Ms A’ and ‘Mr B’, who experienced financial hardship because Comcare did not discover that it had miscalculated payments for 10 and 13 years respectively.
He said ‘Mr B’ had contacted Comcare several times to raise his concerns, but Comcare did not review its calculations because he did not put them in writing.
“The problem was exacerbated because neither Comcare nor the Department of Finance and Deregulation has in place a direct mechanism to compensate people in such circumstances, or even to pay interest on the funds owed,” Mr Brent said.
Mr Brent said making matters even more difficult for short-changed clients was the fact that the legislation covering Comcare’s operation did not allow them to make claims under the Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) scheme, which covers most Australian Government Agencies.
Nor are they eligible to apply to the Department of Finance and Deregulation for an act of grace payment.
He said in some circumstances it would be reasonable for people to be able to seek compensation outside the confines of the review options currently available.
Mr Brent said his investigation had led to a decision by Comcare to compensate ‘Ms A’.
While the situation of ‘Mr B’ was more complicated, Mr Brent said he would be compensated through various means, including a discretionary payment under the Public Service Act 1999.
Mr Brent said Comcare and The Department of Finance and Deregulation had agreed to work together to establish a scheme similar to CDDA that would allow authorities in a legislative position similar to Comcare to deal with claims for compensation arising from defective administration.
He praised the two Agencies for the positive steps they had taken in response to the investigation and recommendations.
The report was available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
30 March, 2010
IT panel to beat out
A 15-year strategy for procuring and managing Federal data centre services has been announced by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.
data centre strategy
Mr Tanner said the whole-of-Government plan to managing Federal data centre requirements aimed to deliver more efficient and effective services.
“The key element of this strategy is that the Australian Government’s data centre requirements will be planned, procured and managed on a coordinated whole-of-government basis,” Mr Tanner said.
“This means that Government Agencies will be mandated to apply the data centre strategy and will no longer enter into separate arrangements.
“As such all Agencies will be encouraged to adopt - as soon as is practicable - the modern technologies and practices available.”
The Minister said the plan aimed to reduce the cost to taxpayers as well as minimise environmental impacts and encourage innovation and competition in the data centre industry.
He said the Federal Government’s current data centre footprint was close to 30,000 square metres and that was estimated to double in coming years.
“With Government demand for data centre ICT equipment rising by more than 30 per cent each year, it was clear that we needed to re-assess how the Government handled its data centre activities,” Mr Tanner said.
“Unlike the more efficient data centre consumers, the Government's data centre equipment is not centralised.
“It is spread across Australia; located in not just large enterprise data centres but also cupboards, converted offices, computer and server rooms, and in commercial and in-sourced data centres.”
Mr Tanner said a panel of suppliers would be established from which Agencies would be required to procure all data centre services.
He said the strategy included three five-year phases. In the first five years the Government aims to aggregate demand and establish the panel; help Agencies move to shared resource solutions; and define equipment and operations standards.
“In the second five years Agencies will share solutions and technology to drive further cost avoidance,” Mr Tanner said.
“And in the last five years of this strategy, Agencies will adopt new opportunities for cost avoidance that arise from changes in technology, processes or policy.”
He said the first approach to the market would be made in the second half of this year via AusTender.
The plan was designed following a recommendation by Sir Peter Gershon in his review of ITC in Government.
Mr Tanner encouraged Agencies to contact the Australian Government Information Office for further information or to visit www.finance.gov.au for a summary of the strategy.
30 March, 2010
Deputy Public Service Commissioner, Carmel McGregor has called on the APS to adopt an Agency-wide approach to managing employee talent.
In a recent speech in Canberra, Ms McGregor said a systematic and integrated approach to talent management was needed to ensure the PS was well equipped for the future.
“It would be fair to say that as a jurisdiction or employer we have not viewed or carried out our responsibility or our effort in a sufficiently joined up way,” Ms McGregor said.
“In this year’s State of the Service Report only 8 per cent of Agencies reported having active talent management strategies in place, although 36 per cent reported they were developing such strategies.”
She said the APS tended to focus on “replacement planning” rather than talent management and lacked a systemic management approach.
“To see talent management as a series of separate actions misses the key point, namely that talent management is a system or a strategy,” Ms McGregor said.
“From an Australian Public Service Commission perspective, the time is right to recalibrate our efforts, and refine our policies and practices.”
The Deputy Commissioner said while there was no “one size fits all” approach to talent management there were some comment elements to implementing a successful strategy.
“An overarching APS framework would consist of a number of elements, underpinned by a strategic framework and integrated implementation,” she said.
Ms McGregor said HR needed to focus on talent management, more “quality time” should be spent on developing talent, recruitment should focus on potential rather than performance; and more talent management infrastructure was needed.
She said talent was an “elusive concept” and that 71 per cent of high performing employees were not “high potential” employees and didn’t have “what it takes” to excel at the next level of the organisation.
“The performance of our workforce, our ability to attract, engage, develop and retain key people in key jobs is vital,” Ms McGregor said.
“In taking a systematic and integrated approach to the management of talent, we need to be sure that we are developing the right sort of talent for the roles and positions that will really make a difference in the future.”
A full copy of Ms McGregor’s speech was available from www.apsc.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Security call for
The Community and Public Sector Union has called for increased security and safety measures in Centrelink offices following a dramatic siege in Melbourne.
Deputy National President of the CPSU, Lisa Newman said she was concerned about reports that a woman threatened to harm herself with a knife at the Camberwell Centrelink office in Melbourne.
Ms Newman said police and the Critical Incident Response Team attended the incident, while employees were reportedly evacuated and a road was blocked off.
“This worrying event highlights the dangers at work for many Australian Public Servants, particularly Centrelink staff,” Ms Newman said.
“One in three Australians will have contact with a Centrelink office this year so having a safer environment is in everyone's interest.
“We are seeking assurances that the Government will boost safety for staff at Centrelink as well as the members of the public who use Government services.”
Ms Newman pointed to a 2008 CPSU survey, Securing Centrelink Safety, which showed four out of five Centrelink employees had witnessed violent or aggressive behaviour at work, including verbal abuse, death threats, assaults and physical violence.
She said plans to co-locate Centrelink and Medicare offices would increase pressure and traffic to Centrelink offices, making the issue of safer working environments even more critical.
Ms Newman said the CPSU would be writing to Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen, to request a briefing on the incident and an update on plans to improve safety.
In response to Securing Centrelink Safety, the CPSU has called for an acknowledgement from Centrelink that customer aggression is a serious problem, and immediate consultation and cooperation to make offices safer.
Ms Newman said the CPSU was also calling for improved training for staff on how to deal with aggressive customers, along with better support and follow-up care for employees who have been subject to or witnessed aggression.
Also on the CPSU’s list of demands was the presence of permanent security officers in every Centrelink office, a commitment that bad behaviour by customers is not to be rewarded by quicker or more favourable service and a zero tolerance policy of aggressive behaviour.
The report was available from www.cpsu.org.au
30 March, 2010
Agencies told to make
Government Agencies and businesses across Australia have been urged to make public their commitment to good privacy practices.
privacy plans public
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis made the call in the lead up to Privacy Awareness Week, which is being held this year between 2 and 8 May.
“While so many organisations have good practices in place to protect their customers’ data, they could be doing so much more to convey this message to their client base,” Ms Curtis said.
Ms Curtis said Privacy Awareness Week aimed to promote privacy responsibilities in the public and private sectors, and raise awareness of the public’s privacy rights.
With this year’s theme of Privacy: it's in your hands, the campaign is an initiative of the Australian Office of the Privacy Commissioner and other Privacy Authorities in the Asia Pacific region.
She encouraged organisations to get involved as a ‘partner’ of Privacy Awareness Week and to hold activities in the lead up to and during the event.
She suggested activities such as developing privacy FAQs for customers, launching privacy materials and publishing information about privacy procedures online.
“Customers have a high expectation that their personal information will be treated appropriately by organisations,” she said.
“Privacy Awareness Week is an opportunity for organisations to demonstrate to customers that the trust they have in the privacy practices of the organisation is not misplaced.”
Further information on Privacy Awareness Week was available from www.privacyawarenessweek.org
30 March, 2010
Stable doors open
Biosecurity Australia has approved the importation of horses from Japan, a practice that has been on hold since the 2007 outbreak of equine influenza (EI).
to Japan’s horses
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke welcomed Biosecurity Australia’s decision.
Mr Burke said an Import Risk Analysis (IRA) had been completed as part of the Government’s response to the Callinan Commission of Inquiry into the EI outbreak.
He said the IRA recommended Australia continue to allow imports of horses from approved countries, subject to stringent biosecurity conditions.
“We will never know the full cost to the Australian economy following the EI outbreak, which was estimated at $1 billion,” Mr Burke said.
“The outbreak had a crippling impact on the local racing sector, local jobs and regional economies.”
He said the measures set out in the new IRA were consistent with Australia’s “stringent science based biosecurity rules.”
“They involve certification, disease testing, pre-export quarantine and post-arrival quarantine,” Mr Burke said.
“The approved import conditions for horses closely reflect the current interim measures, which were introduced after the equine influenza outbreak.”
The Minister said Japanese horse imports would be able to resume soon provided they met biosecurity requirements.
He said more than 40 pests and diseases were assessed by the IRA, with the assistance of a panel of experts.
Biosecurity measures were recommended for 24, including EI.
Mr Burke said a wide range of stakeholders involved in horse imports were consulted as part of the process and that all recommendations from the Callinan Inquiry were progressing on schedule, with 33 recommendations implemented as of March this year.
He said the decision meant Japanese horses would be able to compete in the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
The IRA was available from www.daff.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Workers at risk have
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released a report on risky behaviour and its effects on participation in the workforce.
themselves to blame
The report, Risk factors and participation in work, found 96 per cent of all people reported engaging in at least one ‘health risk factor’ such as smoking, risky alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and low fruit and vegetable consumption.
The Institute said 75 per cent of people of working age reported multiple risk health factors.
The report looked at the work patterns of people who reported health risk factors, and compared them with the work patterns of those who did not report health risk factors.
Spokesperson for the Population Health Unit at the Institute, Karen Bishop said the odds of not being in the labour force were marginally greater for those with health risk factors than for those without.
“However, men and women with three or more risk factors had significantly greater odds of not being in the workforce,” Ms Bishop said.
She said men with three or more risk factors twice as likely to be out of the work force as for men without health risk factors.
For women with three or more risk factors, the odds were almost twice as high.
Ms Bishop said rates of absenteeism were significantly higher for men and women who reported at least one health risk factor and at least one chronic disease – up to four times higher for men and twice as high for women.
The health risk factors assessed in the report are widely known to contribute to the development of chronic conditions such as heart diseases, lung diseases and diabetes.
The report was available from www.aihw.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Privacy number’s up
The Victorian Privacy Commissioner has raised concerns over privacy risks involved in the Commonwealth’s proposed Healthcare Identifier number system, saying it should be ‘person-controlled’ to protect individual privacy.
for e-health identifier
In a submission to the Senate Committee on the Healthcare identifiers Bill 2010, the Commissioner, Helen Versey said the Bill was “somewhat artificial and limited” as it dealt with arrangements around the healthcare identifiers but did not discuss broader privacy issues concerning e-health.
“The privacy risks involved in this identifier are largely, though not exclusively, related to the proposed use and disclosure of the identifier to link e-health records,” Ms Versey said.
She said it was not yet clear how the e-health system would be operated and managed or to whom identifiers would be disclosed.
“This makes it difficult to adequately assess whether the safeguards being instituted will ultimately be sufficient or effective,” she said.
“The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission recommended that a person-controlled electronic health record should be available for each Australian, with the capacity for individuals to choose which healthcare providers and carers would have access to their person-controlled health records.”
Ms Versey said having Medicare operate the Healthcare Identifiers Service (HIS) posed a potential conflict of interest.
“While the stated intention is that the HIS will be a separate and new Medicare business, not linked to its funding or claims-for-payment functions, the fact that all of these functions will effectively be operated by the one organisation is likely to lead to a degree of public disquiet or concern about potential misuse,” she said.
Ms Versey suggested Medicare implement recommendations made by the Australian National Audit Office in its 2004-05 report before proceeding.
She said further clarity on whether State or Commonwealth Privacy Commissioners would have jurisdiction over privacy complaints relating to the HIS was also needed.
“A situation in which two separate regulators have jurisdiction, depending on which of them the individual happens to complain to, may create unnecessary confusion and allow ‘forum shopping’ on the part of complainants,” the Commissioner said.
Ms Versey said State and Territory privacy legislation should apply unless it did not exist, in which case Commonwealth legislation should apply.
She supported a number of offences for unauthorised use or disclosure of identifiers that were included in the Bill.
“I acknowledge that steps have been taken to ensure that privacy protections will apply to IHIs across all Australian jurisdictions,” Ms Versey said.
The submission was available from www.privacy.vic.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Tax system accounts
Taxation statistics released for 2007-08 show that the Australian Taxation system was “too complex and costly”, according to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry.
for costly headaches
Senator Sherry said the annual statistical publication revealed that managing tax affairs cost the average taxpayer $301.34 during the year, a compliance cost that needed to be brought down.
“This just underscores the need to simplify the tax system and reduce compliance costs for average Australians,” Senator Sherry said.
He said the 2007-08 statistics showed how the economy had moved towards the global financial crisis.
“Capital gains tax and company tax receipts had already begun to taper downwards – and we now know that was followed shortly after by a massive $170 billion in revenue being ripped from the Budget by the worst global recession in 70 years,” Senator Sherry said.
He said the statistics reinforced the importance of the Government’s stimulus measures, which he said protected hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses.
“Australia has emerged from the global recession in a stronger position than virtually any other advanced economy with an unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent – around half the unemployment rate in the US and Europe,” the Senator said.
He said at an individual taxpayer level, the figures showed it paid to lodge a tax return, with tax refunds totalling $22.4 billion paid in 2007-08.
Lodgements of individual tax returns rose by 7.1 per cent that financial year to 12.6 million income tax returns.
The Tax Office Taxation Statistics for 2007-08 was available from www.ato.gov.au
30 March, 2010
Support for payrise
The Commonwealth Government has given its support for an increase in the minimum wage.
right on the money
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard said the Government had lodged a submission to the Fair Work Australia 2010 Annual Wage Review calling on the Panel to grant a considered real increase in pay for low income workers.
The Submission to the Fair Work Australia Annual Wage Review 2010 calls for a rise in the minimum wage to reflect increases in the cost of living since the last minimum wage rise in 2008.
“The submission says any decision must be both economically responsible and fair,” Ms Gillard said.
“It notes that considered increases in minimum wages can allow low income working Australians to share in the benefits of economic growth while ensuring employment growth can continue.”
“Minimum wage increases have an important role to play in ensuring relative living standards and the needs of the low paid are provided for.”
She said it was the first review of minimum wages under the Government’s new workplace relations system.
Ms Gillard said the Minimum Wage Panel, which replaced the Australian Fair Pay Commission, was established within Fair Work Australia as a specialist body to review and set minimum wages on an annual basis.
“The Fair Work Act 2009 provides Fair Work Australia with new, balanced legislative parameters when setting minimum wages,” she said.
“The parameters restore the balance between economic factors - employment growth, productivity and inflation, and considerations of fairness - social inclusion, relative living standards and needs of the low paid.”
She said that during periods of recovery and growth, people at the lower end of the income scale should share in Australia’s prosperity.
“All Australian workers have a right to a fair wage that delivers a decent standard of living,” Ms Gillard said.
The Panel’s decision will take effect on the first pay period on or after 1 July.
The submission was available at www.deewr.gov.au
30 March, 2010
The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is to conduct a review of the Australian film industry.
is film review
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett said the 2010 Review of the Australian Independent Screen Production Sector would examine the industry’s viability, to what extent it was benefiting from Government support and if it was taking advantage of other investments.
“The Australian film industry has been going from strength to strength,” Mr Garrett said.
“In 2008–09 annual production activity was worth $688 million, significantly above the five-year average of $576 million.
“Last year also saw the highest number of Australian films released in the box office in 25 years, with local box office takings of $54.8 million.
“It is timely then for this important review to take place so we can ensure the industry continues to prosper.”
Mr Garrett said the review – which was a commitment of the Government’s arts policy paper, New Directions for the Arts - would look at how Government support measures such as the Australian Screen Production Incentive and direct funding were helping the sector to achieve screen cultural objectives.
The objectives include promoting the development of a sustainable independent production sector, ensuring the creation of a diverse range of quality Australian film and television productions and developing and reflecting a sense of Australian identity, character and cultural diversity.
Mr Garrett urged those involved in the screen industry to make submissions to the review, saying it was an opportunity to highlight recent successes and identify current challenges.
“It is crucial that we work to ensure the industry continues to produce quality film and television for Australian audiences,” he said.
The terms of reference, discussion paper and submission form were available online at www.arts.gov.au
Submissions close 29 April 2010, with the Department to report to the Minister by the end of the year.
30 March, 2010
Taxing tariffs to
Public comment has been invited on a review of tariff concessions available to importers, brokers and manufacturers in a bid to simplify a system that has become unwieldy over time. Launched as part of the Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership between the Innovation Minister, Home Affairs Minister and Finance Minister, the review is expected to create a simpler, more transparent system.
In a joint statement, the Ministers said arrangements for tariff concessions, which reduce or remove the normal rate of Customs duty on goods, are “complex, outdated and unclear”.
They said current arrangements created unnecessary burdens for business which lead to higher costs for consumers.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the existing Schedule 4 to the Customs Tariff Act 1995, which lists over 90 items covering a range of goods and industry sectors, had grown over the years and was becoming increasingly complex to administer and difficult to understand.
Senator Carr said the review would not examine new concessions or expand their scope but would focus on how to identify and remove unnecessary complexity within the existing system.
He said the review would improve the regime’s transparency.
“Cleaning up these concession items will help to clarify the benefits and make them easier to follow,” Senator Carr said.
“It will also improve their relevance to Australian businesses and communities.
“The changes also give greater certainty for manufacturers who may be concerned as to whether concessions apply to their products.”
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said streamlining concessions would complement the Government’s recent efforts to clarify the intent of the Enhanced Project By-law Scheme and Tariff Concession Orders.
“A more effective regime will foster international trade and investment, which is essential to underpinning Australia’s long-term economic growth,” Mr O’Connor said.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the review was another example of the Government’s commitment to better regulation.
Mr Tanner said the review would improve productivity and reduce regulatory costs faced by business and the not-for-profit sector.
Submissions close on 30 April, with further information available from www.finance.gov.au
30 March, 2010
ASIC rallies around
The Australian Investment and Securities Commission (ASIC) has installed an integrated market surveillance system (IMSS) to allow it to keep a tab on the nation’s stockmarkets.
new market monitor
The IMSS will help ASIC analyse activities and trends in market data, identify suspicious trading activity and raise alerts.
The Federal Government last year decided to transfer the market surveillance function from the Australian Securities Exchange to ASIC, with the Commission’s monitoring of real time trading on Australia’s domestic licensed markets to commence during the third quarter of this year.
ASIC Commissioner, Belinda Gibson said ASIC was well advanced in its planning for the transfer.
“The procurement of the IMSS is an important milestone in the transition and will underpin the streamlined markets analysis methodology and relationship management model ASIC has developed to monitor and engage market participants,” Ms Gibson said.
“The IMSS will support the new markets surveillance team, which ASIC has built from existing staff and new hires from ASX, supplemented with talent from the market.
She said ASIC aimed to ensure a seamless transition of supervision responsibilities and minimal disruption to participants.
“We are committed to market integrity and a fair, orderly and transparent market,” Ms Gibson said.
She said the successful tenderer, SMARTS Market Surveillance Pty Ltd, was a global leader in market surveillance systems.
The system, to be installed by 1 July 2010, will be externally hosted by SMARTS for a two-year period, with an option for a further two six-month periods.
30 March, 2010
Monitor announced soon
A National Security Legislation Monitor is expected to be appointed shortly after a Bill establishing the position was introduced to Parliament.
The position will review and report on the operation, effectiveness and implications of Australia’s counter‑terrorism and national security legislation on an ongoing basis.
The Monitor will also be responsible for considering whether counter-terrorism and national security laws remain necessary and are proportionate to any threat of terrorism.
Hands-on for Defence hopefuls
Twenty-seven young Indigenous Australians have graduated from the Defence Indigenous Pre‑Recruitment Course (IPRC) in Hobart.
The program gives participants first-hand defence experience and a taste of what a career in the Navy, Army or Air Force is like and aims to enhance their literacy, numeracy, physical fitness, leadership and confidence.
IPRC graduates are encouraged to undertake the Defence Force Recruiting process and go on to enjoy rewarding careers in the Navy, Army or Air Force.
Maritime mermaid on display
The Australian National Maritime Museum has a new photographic exhibition on display, showing its maritime archaeologists at work off the Queensland Coast.
The exhibition, Wrecks, reef and the Mermaid, features underwater photographs and a short video of the dive team in action.
The Mermaid was a well-known vessel that ran aground near Cairns in 1829.
The free exhibition runs until 13 June, with further information available from www.anmm.gov.au
Anzac book a true memory
The Australian War Memorial has launched a new edition of a book created by soldiers while fighting on the Turkish peninsula in 1915.
The third reprint of The ANZAC Book, which was first released in 1916,features illustrations, cartoons, stories and poems from soldiers who fought in Gallipoli.
Proceeds from the sale will go towards refurbishing and renewing the Memorial’s Gallipoli galleries for the centenary of the campaign in 2015.
Centrelink employee in Court
A Centrelink employee who allegedly created false accounts to claim tens of thousands of dollars in social security payments has appeared in an Adelaide Court.
The Court heard he created 26 fake identities and used those of four genuine Centrelink customers to claim welfare payments of $66,000.
The accused was released on continuing bail to be sentenced at a later date.
ABC back in Brisbane
A sod-turning ceremony has marked the beginning of construction on the ABC’s new Brisbane headquarters in South Bank.
The 15,500 square metre building will hold 450 ABC staff and members of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and is expected to be complete in early 2012.
The purpose-built facility, located in the arts and cultural centre of Brisbane, will be a state-of-the-art broadcast centre.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the US Air Force Research Laboratory have completed a second hypersonic flight at the Woomera Test Range.
Hypersonic flight is flight through the atmosphere at speeds above Mach 5.5, more than five times the speed of sound.
The experiment was part of the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program, which is investigating the hypersonics technology and its potential.
Youth Week coming
National Youth Week is to be held from 10 to 18 April, with young Australians between 12 and 25 encouraged to get involved by participating in a National Talent Competition.
Minister for Youth, Kate Ellis said the talent competition would allow youths to showcase their creative talents in fields such as writing, filmmaking, photography, music and graphic design.
National Youth Week’s 2010 theme, Live It Now aims to celebrate young people. Entries for the talent competition close 30 April and more information was available from www.youthweek.com
23 March, 2010
Siren sounds for
Whistleblowers in the Australian Public Service are to be encouraged and protected under new laws expected to come into force next year.
Tabling the Government’s response to a Parliamentary Committee’s report on whistleblowing, Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig said the Government agreed wholly with 10 recommendations, agreed in principle with 11, agreed in part to one and did not agree with four.
Senator Ludwig said the Committee’s report, Whistleblower protection: a comprehensive scheme for the Commonwealth Public Sector, and the Government’s response set the framework for the first stand-alone Federal whistleblower protection scheme.
“The response envisages a scheme which ensures there are appropriate processes in place, and protections offered, to support appropriate reporting of wrongdoing in the Commonwealth Public Sector,” Senator Ludwig said.
However, he said the scheme would not cover complaints about policy decisions, disclosures about Members of Parliament, disclosures relating to intelligence information, disclosures made to foreign Government officials and would not support or legitimise the leaking of information.
Senator Ludwig said under the scheme, a complaint should generally be made to the Agency concerned and, if necessary, to an external Agency.
He said if the complaint was serious, the alleged wrongdoing would be investigated through an internal review and if the whistleblower was not satisfied, he or she could seek an external review by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Senator Ludwig said new standard setting, monitoring and reporting obligations would be included in the scheme.
He said the motive of whistleblowers would be irrelevant under the legislation, provided they believed the matter concerned was worthy of disclosure.
The Senator said the law would protect disclosures made to the media and other third parties in some circumstances.
“The usual route for whistleblowing will be to first disclose within the responsible agency, or, if necessary, directly to an integrity agency,” he said.
“But the legislation will recognise there are limited circumstances in which direct disclosure to the media may be justified.”
Whistleblowers would also be able to seek legal advice in relation to their right to make a public interest disclosure.
Senator Ludwig said the Government would develop the legislation this year with the aim of having the scheme up and running by 1 January 2011.
He said within five years of the legislation commencing, the Government would also consider protections for members of the public who made disclosures about the public sector.
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood welcomed the Government’s response to the report, saying new laws to protect whistleblowers were long overdue.
“Currently Public Service staff have no protection and the way issues have been handled has been inconsistent,” Ms Flood said.
“The community needs to have confidence in the integrity of the Australian Public Service.
“Decent whistleblower laws are a key part of the mix.”
The report, Whistleblower protection: a comprehensive scheme for the Commonwealth Public Sector, could be accessed at www.aph.gov.au and the Government’s response from www.smos.gov.au
23 March, 2010
Buildings nail down
New minimum standards for making public buildings accessible by people with disability have been announced jointly by the Attorney-General, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry.
The Disability Standards for Access to Premises will apply to office blocks, shops, motels and common areas of new apartment buildings and cover features such as accessible lifts, stairs, ramps, toilets and corridors
Under the changes which are due to commence on 1 May next year, publicly accessible buildings will have to make entrances accessible to people with disability, provide lift access to upper storeys, ensure corridors have passing and turning spaces, include better wheelchair seating spaces, hearing augmentation in auditoria and better access to some swimming pools.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the Standards would ensure people with a disability could access employment and services just like other Australians.
Mr McClelland said the Standards – part of the Government’s 10-year National Disability Strategy - would also provide more certainty for business by providing national consistency.
He said the Government expected to work with industry to ensure it had all necessary information before the Standards were implemented and had agreed to undertake a review of the Standards within five years of their commencement.
Chairman of the Australian Building Codes Board, Graham Huxley said it would work to deliver the new Standards and that the Building Code of Australia would mirror the national standards.
Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes welcomed the Standards, describing them as a significant step towards making buildings safer and more accessible.
“Ensuring better access has to be seen as an investment in the future,” Mr Innes said.
“As our population ages, every Australian will benefit from these improvements.”
The Standards could be downloaded from www.ag.gov.au
23 March, 2010
Committee informs in
A Parliamentary Committee that inquired into the Commonwealth’s proposed new Freedom of Information laws has published its report, making six recommendations.
Cabinet Secretary, Senator Joe Ludwig said the Committee endorsed the objectives of the FOI reform agenda, which aimed to implement a pro-disclosure culture and create more openness in Government.
The Committee called on Parliament to pass the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 and the Information Commissioner Bill 2009 as soon as practicable, subject to certain recommendations.
These included the recommendation that anyone who appealed against a decision made by the Information Commissioner should bear the onus of proof in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Other recommendations from the Committee included amending section 49 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1976 to make the Information Commissioner an ex officio member of the Administrative Review Council.
The Committee recommended the Information Commissioner consider whether it is necessary and appropriate for entire Agencies and organisations to be exempt from the FOI scheme and it called on the Government to consider the feasibility of removing processing charges for FOI requests while retaining application fees.
Senator Ludwig said the Government would examine the most appropriate way to implement the recommendations.
He said the recent appointment of Professor John McMillan as Information Commissioner designate would ensure the Office of the Information Commissioner would be up and running as soon as possible after the passage of the Bills in Parliament.
“The Government’s FOI agenda is an important part of our integrity agenda, to promote better transparency and accountability in government,” Senator Ludwig said.
23 March, 2010
The Institute of Public Administration Australia has called for papers for its Annual National Conference and the International Conference on Public Administration, both being held in October.
up call for papers
The conferences aim to bring together Public Service managers to discuss the major issues facing public administration today.
The IPAA National Conference will see staff from Departments and Agencies across Australia meet with academics and others involved in public administration to learn about new developments, discuss issues and strengthen their networks.
The IPAA said was particularly keen for proposals that adopt a comparative perspective and address the implications of research and practice for public administration.
The International Conference on Public Administration (ICPA), to be held in Canberra this year, has a more academic focus and examines research relevant to countries in economic and political transition.
The IPAA is seeking papers by academics and practitioners on the ‘Australian experience’, especially those that provide possible lessons or guidance for countries looking to establish or restructure public institutions.
The conference will include a number of papers by scholars from Asia, Eastern Europe and the United States.
The IPAA said following the Conference, accepted papers would be published with permission on the IPAA Conference website and that some papers may also be accepted for publication in the Australian Journal of Public Administration or Public Administration Today.
Further information on submitting papers was available from www.ipaanationalconference.org.au
23 March, 2010
Less duty for Taxman
Changes to the taxation laws that reduce the Taxation Commissioner’s powers and lead to more certainty for Australian taxpayers have been announced.
in tax law rewrite
According to Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry over 100 provisions in the tax law have been overhauled, producing a result he says is a “great improvement.”
Senator Sherry said the main changes included the removal of provisions giving the Commissioner an unlimited period in which to amend a taxpayer’s assessment.
“The removal of these unlimited amendment powers will ensure taxpayer affairs for a particular year become final at the conclusion of the standard amendment period of two to four years," Senator Sherry said.
He said the finite amendment period would apply unless fraud or evasion were involved.
He also announced the release of the Inspector-General of Taxation's (IGT) Review into delayed or changed Australian Taxation Office views on significant issues, saying a study of taxpayer concerns about Tax Office decisions had found the Tax Office acted within the law but that some negative taxpayer perceptions were justified.
The IGT made five recommendations, including the Government consider whether the current legislative framework provided effective transparency and certainty for taxpayers.
"In relation to this recommendation, the Government agrees that transparency, clarity and certainty are critical principles with the administration of tax matters," Senator Sherry said.
"As such, it's important we consider this recommendation in the context of the overall response to the independent tax review, which is what we will do."
The remaining four recommendations were administrative in nature and directed to the Tax Office.
Senator Sherry thanked the Inspector General of Taxation, Ali Noroozi, the Tax Office and all other stakeholders involved in the report.
The IGT’s Review into delayed or changed Australian Taxation Office views on significant issues was available from www.igt.gov.au
23 March, 2010
Lower pay rates
A new study of the impact of the gender gap in pay equity has found it is costing the nation $93 billion a year.
The report, The impact of a sustained gender wage gap on the Australian economy, was commissioned by the Australian Government’s Office for Women and conducted by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM).
It found ‘being a woman’ accounted for 60 per cent of the difference between women’s and men’s wages.
NATSEM said this included a number of factors, such as women’s career choices, jobs and work hours, consideration of caring responsibilities, women’s work motivations, bargaining power and appetite for risk as well as discrimination against women in the workplace.
It found industry segregation and labour force history were other contributing factors.
Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek said the Government was committed to closing the gender pay gap.
Ms Plibersek pointed to recent changes to the Fair Work Act that would extend equal remuneration provisions to include the right to equal pay for work of equal or comparative value.
She said the changes would establish a more generous test allowing comparisons between comparable categories of work for female-dominated careers that were historically under-valued.
Other reforms included a special bargaining stream to help women in low paid sectors, 12 months unpaid parental leave for new parents and soon-to-be-introduced legislation for the Paid Parental Leave scheme.
The NATSEM report could be accessed at www.fahcsia.gov.au
23 March, 2010
Modernising electoral enrolment, voting and counting processes, and encouraging more people to vote are among the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee that looked into the 2007 Federal election that have been agreed to by the Government.
has the numbers
Responding to 53 recommendations made by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, the Government said it supported 37 in full, five in part, five in principle and noted six.
Tabling the Government’s response to the Report on the conduct of the 2007 federal election and matters related thereto, Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig said its decisions showed the Government’s commitment to facilitating and protecting electoral participation and ensuring maximum participation in the electoral process.
“The Australian Electoral Act has not been the subject of significant change for more than 25 years,” Senator Ludwig said.
“At any given time, the Australian Electoral Commission estimates there are more than one million people missing from the electoral roll.”
He said the Government had agreed to modernise enrolment and electoral processes, encourage greater electoral participation and respond to an increased demand for early voting services.
Senator Ludwig said the Government had already moved to implement some of the Committee’s recommendations.
He said the recently introduced Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill 2010 adopted six key elements of the report, including restoring the close of rolls period to seven days after the issuing of the writs and repealing the requirement for provisional voters to provide evidence of identity before their vote is counted.
“To partly address the decline in enrolment rates, the Bill will simplify the way in which enrolled electors can update their details with the Australian Electoral Commission, through an on-line update facility,” Senator Ludwig said.
“In addition, the Bill limits to one the number of candidates a party can nominate.”
He said the Committee report included recommendations that postal vote applications be able to be lodged electronically, provisional enrolment be lowered from 17 to 16 years and to encourage schools and other education providers to participate in the enrolment process by receiving a small bounty for each valid enrolment form they receive and forward to the Australian Electoral Commission.
The Committee’s report could be accessed at www.aph.gov.au and the Government’s response from www.smos.gov.au
23 March, 2010
Powers unlocked in
Extra powers for police, a wider role for the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and a new Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement are among major changes made to Australia’s national security and counter-terrorism laws.
security law upgrade
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the changes would ensure Australia’s national security laws were executed justly and fairly.
Under the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010, police will be able to enter premises without a warrant in “emergency circumstances” relating to terrorism.
Police will also have the power to re-enter a premises under a search warrant for up to 12 hours in an emergency, up from one hour previously.
In addition, a seven day limit on the amount of time a person arrested for a terrorism offence can be held under a magistrate’s order has also been established.
The new legislation also includes a right of appeal for the prosecution and the defendant against a decision to grant or refuse bail relating to terrorism and national security offences.
In other changes, the ‘urging violence’ offence will be expanded to include individuals as well as groups who incite violence based on race, religion, nationality, national or ethnic origin or political opinion.
It will also be possible to expedite Court proceedings relating to national security or counter-terrorism, while a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement will be set up to extend Parliamentary oversight to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission.
The role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security will be expanded to allow investigations into intelligence or security matters relating to any Commonwealth Department or Agency.
Mr McClelland said the amendments were the result of extensive public consultation and were outlined in the Government’s Discussion Paper on National Security Legislation, released last year.
“The measures contained in the Bill will give the Australian community confidence that our law enforcement and security agencies have the tools they need to fight terrorism, while ensuring these laws and powers are balanced by appropriate safeguards and are accountable in their operation,” Mr McClelland said.
23 March, 2010
House assessors have
A new and independent quality assurance team is to be set up in the Northern Territory to inspect and assess houses and refurbishments delivered under the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP).
In a joint statement, the Northern Territory Minister for Public and Affordable Housing, Chris Burns and the Federal MP for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon said the team would ensure work under the program met the appropriate standards.
Mr Burns and Mr Snowdon said the quality assurance team would operate in addition to existing checks being made on SIHIP construction and refurbishment works.
They said an assessment into SIHIP by independent consultants found changes and recommendations made in the 2009 review had been implemented, and that the program was on track to achieve its targets of 750 new houses, 230 rebuilds and 2,500 refurbishments by 2013.
The SIHIP Post Review Assessment was recommended in the 2009 review.
Mr Burns and Mr Snowdon said other measures to improve SIHIP included the employment by the Territory Government of an additional 20 asset management officers and tenancy officers to operate in remote communities.
They said the Federal Government would also provide additional resources to assess the existing condition of houses and improve baseline data.
Mr Burns and Mr Snowdon said the independent assessment found there had been improvements in the administration and delivery of SIHIP which had resulted in more efficient decision making, better processes for planning construction works and clearer program parameters relating to targets and cost.
Other improvements were a shared understanding and strong adherence to targets and budget and the recruitment of appropriately skilled people into new and pre-existing positions in the program management team.
The assessment found administration costs of the program were currently below eight per cent and that the end of year target to complete 1,000 rebuilds and refurbishments and 150 new houses was achievable.
A copy of the consultants’ assessment could be accessed from www.fahcsia.gov.au
23 March, 2010
Cane toad strategy
Public comment has been invited on a proposed strategy to deal with the growing problem of the cane toad invasion.
is warts and all
Minister for Environment Protection, Peter Garrett said a new draft plan, Cane Toad (Bufo marinus) Threat Abatement Plan, aimed to create a national, coordinated approach to protecting species and ecological communities that are under threat from cane toads.
“As the significant work undertaken to date has shown, there are no easy solutions for dealing with the cane toad menace,” Mr Garrett said.
“This new plan acknowledges that and focuses on what we can do now to manage the impacts of cane toads particularly as the population spreads, while on-ground activity and research continues.”
He said Australia was home to some of the world's most “unique and remarkable species” that needed to be protected from the pest.
Mr Garrett said the draft identified priority native species and ecosystems at risk and focused efforts on cane toad management to reduce their impacts.
He said it also sought to communicate accurate information about cane toads and the impacts they have.
Mr Garrett said the draft had been released on top of $2 million in funding to combat cane toads.
He said scientists at the University of Sydney would conduct a study to help teach the northern quoll, an endangered native predator sensitive to toad toxins, to avoid eating them.
Funding has also been given to scientists at James Cook University who are researching better ways to trap the toads.
Cane toads were introduced into Queensland to control pest beetles in the 1930s and have since become a widespread pest.
The abatement plan was available from www.environment.gov.au
23 March, 2010
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has launched a new website and a new recruitment campaign for Intelligence Officers.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the new website would support ASIO’s growth and help it to attract high quality candidates.
“The new website has a fresh, modern look and for the first time, includes video clips which provide a greater level of insight into the work of ASIO than ever before,” Mr McClelland said.
“With further material to be added to the site over the coming months, the website represents an invaluable resource for those who aspire to contribute to the important work of ASIO.”
The Attorney-General said applications for Intelligence Officer positions would close on 9 April.
He said Intelligence Officers were responsible for collecting and analysing intelligence through overt and covert methods to help protect Australia’s national security.
Mr McClelland said the selection process was demanding and that competition intense.
He said ASIO had doubled in size since 2003.
“Critical to this growth has been the ability to attract the right people with the right skills,” Mr McClelland said.
“Last year, for example, ASIO experienced a near 30 per cent increase in the number of employment applications.”
The new website could be visited at www.asio.gov.au
23 March, 2010
PBS drugs to be just
Nurse practitioners and midwives are to have access to the Medical Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme following passage of a new law that recognises the skills of Australia’s highly-trained nurses.
what nurse ordered
Under the changes, nurses will be able to prescribe PBS medicines and conduct some medical consultations.
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the Government would establish a new professional indemnity scheme for eligible midwives and allow nurses to provide care in aged care facilities, primary care settings and people’s homes.
Ms Roxon said the reforms would give greater choice to women when it came to maternity care.
“Today marks a new era for our health workforce – ensuring smarter use of our skilled workforce, and more encouragement to work in multi-disciplinary teams,” Ms Roxon said.
“This will help deliver better health and better results for patients.
“As a Government, we are extremely proud to be delivering these changes – providing new and innovative options for thousands of women and the community.”
The Minister said nurses and midwives wanting to provide treatment under Medicare and prescribe medicines under the PBS would have to meet professional eligibility requirements.
The new professional indemnity scheme for eligible midwives will be available from 1 July 2010 and the new Medicare and PBS arrangements will be available from 1 November 2010.
23 March, 2010
New credit rules are
The occasion of World Consumer Day last week prompted the Minister for Financial Services, Chris Bowen to alert the community to new national consumer credit rules that come into effect on 1 July.
a safe investment
Mr Bowen said consumer credit powers would be referred from the States and Territories to the Commonwealth T that time and would be administered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
He said ASIC had been provided with an additional $66 million over four years to train and prepare to take on the role.
“ASIC has pro-actively engaged with industry, the consumer movement and the general public to incorporate feedback in the development of regulatory guides and to communicate and prepare industry for these historic changes,” Mr Bowen said.
The Minister said the Council of Australian Governments had pursued what he labelled an “important microeconomic reform” to shift consumer credit powers.
He said ASIC would allow registration and licensing requirements to be conducted online, or by paper where necessary.
He said the registration process for the scheme would begin on 1 April and that the Government was releasing final sets of regulations as part of the National Consumer Credit Protection Reform package that would continue through March and April 2010.
The timetable and priorities of the Phase Two credit reforms will soon be announced and ASIC would undertake a national roadshow to help explain the registration and licensing processes to industry members.
The tour includes over 40 presentations in all capital cities and 24 regional centres with the presentations also available as a downloadable podcast.
Further information on the changes was available from www.treasury.gov.au or www.asic.gov.au
23 March, 2010
Single consumer law
A new national consumer law that replaces 17 others across the nation is expected to come into force nation-wide by the end of this year.
says ‘good-buy’ to 17
Minister for Consumer Affairs, Craig Emerson said the new law would ban unfair contracts between businesses and consumers by getting rid of small print “nasties” that could trick unsuspecting buyers.
Dr Emerson described the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) as the biggest reform of consumer protection laws since the introduction of the Trade Practices Act in 1974.
“It offers protections for consumers never before available to all Australians,” Dr Emerson said.
“The unfair contracts provisions will prevent businesses from imposing, through standard-form contracts, onerous terms on consumers – terms often tucked away in the fine print.
“This means businesses will no longer be able to get away with unfair terms and conditions and will have to be upfront with their customers.”
He said businesses found guilty of unconscionable conduct could face large fines while those who tried to lure customers with false or misleading information would be named and shamed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Other changes included bans on door-to-door sales Sundays and public holidays and imposes a curfew on other days, as well as the clarification of consumers’ rights to refunds or repairs under warranties.
Dr Emerson said there would also be a national system of product safety for the first time.
He said the Productivity Commission estimated the introduction of a national consumer law would save the economy up to $4.5 billion a year.
“At the moment, the protections against dangerous or suspect products are fragmented,” Dr Emerson said.
“This brings it all together so the same rules apply regardless of where you live.”
He said the new law would better equip consumer regulators to tackle bad business practices and dodgy operators.
Australia’s consumer regulators will have a single set of powers to enforce the ACL.
23 March, 2010
Hands-off air control
A remotely-operated air traffic control tower is to be put on trial by Airservices Australia later this year after the air navigation services provider signed a Memorandum of Understanding with two Swedish companies.
flies in for trial
Chief Executive of Airservices Australia, Greg Russell said the remote tower technology would allow small or medium-sized airports to be managed and controlled remotely from a single, larger air traffic services centre.
“This new trial will allow us to examine the possible application of remote tower technology in the Australian environment,” Mr Russell said.
“In particular, whether the system has the potential to assist us meet demand for services in areas including the remote north-west of the country.”
He said the trial would help Airservices develop new technology that could make aviation safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.
Mr Russell said the trial would be conducted later this year and any decision to roll-out the new technology would require industry consultation, a safety review and regulatory approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed with defence and security company Saab and the Swedish air navigation services provider and airport operator Luftfartsverket (LVF) in Amsterdam at the industry’s peak annual gathering, ATC Global.
The technology, which was developed by Saab with LFV as an operations partner, was launched last year after a period of testing.
23 March, 2010
The new ‘compact’ between the Federal Government and the not-for-profit sector has been formally signed by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Community Services and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector, as well as 23 representatives of not-for-profit organisations.
on ‘compact’ deal
The National Compact: working together sets out how the Government and sector plan to cooperate.
The Compact contains eight priorities for action including the need to document and promote the sector’s value and contributions and the need to protect the sector’s right to advocacy, regardless of Government funding relationships.
Other priorities listed in the compact are the recognition of the sector’s diversity in consultation processes and development initiatives; improved information sharing; reducing red-tape; simplifying financial arrangements; improving workforce issues; and improving funding and procurement processes.
In a joint statement the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd; the Minister for Community Services, Jenny Macklin; and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector, Senator Ursula Stephens said the compact was the result of consultation with a broad range of not-for-profit organisations.
Ms Macklin said the not-for-profit sector contributed to good public policy, enriched Australian culture, and provided advocacy on behalf of Australian communities.
She said not-for-profit organisations could sign up to the compact by going to www.nationalcompact.gov.au
23 March, 2010
New Secretary for CPSU
Nadine Flood has been appointed the new National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).
Ms Flood said her top priority as national secretary would be to create a single set of conditions for all Public Service workers.
She paid tribute to the outgoing National Secretary, Stephen Jones, who was leaving to contest the Federal seat of Throsby.
Bali donations tax free
New laws have been introduced to allow tax deductibility for gifts to the Bali Peace Park Association Inc.
The Association is raising funds to acquire the Sari Club site in Bali to create a memorial garden in commemoration of the victims of the terrorist attacks of 12 October 2002.
The legislation, foreshadowed on 17 December last year, will allow deductions for gifts to the Association to apply for a period of two years from the day they are donated.
DFAT publishes exports
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has produced a publication showing that the value of Australian service exports grew by more than five per cent last financial year.
Minister for Trade, Simon Crean said the value of Australian services exports increased to a record $53.3 billion in 2008-09, despite the global financial downturn.
“The rise in service exports is a remarkable performance by the Australian services sector,” Mr Crean said.
Trade in Services, Australia 2008-09 was available from www.dfat.gov.au
Mint honours lost soldiers
The Royal Australian Mint will issue a collectible 20 cent coin next month to commemorate Australia’s Lost Soldiers of Fromelles.
The coin’s design is based around the Cobbers Statue at the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles and features the inscriptions ‘Australia Remembers’ and ‘Lost Soldiers of Fromelles’.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said the battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916 was the bloodiest day in Australia’s military history.
The coin will be available from 1 April.
Regional Development online
The new Regional Development Australia (RDA) website has been launched to help people engage with their local communities and follow the work of their local RDA committee.
RDA is a new national network of 55 committees which have been set up to work across all levels of Government to support the growth and development of regional Australia.
The new website will keep people up-to-date with RDA news and information and could be accessed at www.rda.gov.au
First film restored
The National Film and Sound Archive has found, restored and screened the earliest known film made in Australia.
The film, Patineur Grotesque – or the Humorous Rollerskater – is believed to have been shot in Melbourne in 1896 by Lumiere cinematographer Marius Sestier.
Technicians at the Archive built special tools and modified standard equipment to copy and preserve the film, which is one minute long.
Patineur Grotesque can be viewed at the Australian Screen Online website: www.aso.gov.au
Irish on display
The National Museum of Australia is to launch a major exhibition, Irish in Australia, and open it on St Patrick's Day next year.
The exhibition will look at the Irish presence in Australia, from the arrival of Irish convicts, marines and officials in January 1788 to the young Irish backpackers of today.
Visitors will be able to trace their own ancestry with a database of over 30,000 Irish convict arrivals to Sydney between 1788 and 1840.
The exhibition will later travel to Dublin in Ireland.
Pacific Forum agreement
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, to provide further support and core funding to the Secretariat.
Mr Smith said the two-year funding agreement of over $10 million for 2010 and 2011 acknowledged the key role the Secretariat played in the Pacific region.
Mr Smith said the MoU would help the Secretariat strengthen regional cooperation, security, economic growth and make progress on the Millennium Development Goals.
Single tax act draws near
Australia is a step closer to having a single Income Tax Assessment Act with 149 pages of the 1936 Income Tax Assessment Act rewritten into the 1997 Income Tax Assessment Act and the Taxation Administration Act.
The rewriting process, which began in 1993, will see the 149 pages removed from the 1936 Act and rewritten into only 101 pages – a reduction of over 30 per cent.
Digital coverage extended
Legislation has been introduced to get a satellite service up and running to enable all Australian residents access to the full suite of digital television channels.
The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010 would create three new commercial television licence areas specifically for the new satellite service in Northern, South Eastern and Western Australia.
The Bill is expected to improve the choice and quality of digital television services for those living in regional areas.
16 March, 2010
ALRC blows whistle
Public Service whistleblowers could be protected from prosecution under changes to secrecy laws recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
on secrecy laws
In its review of the laws tabled in Parliament last week, Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia, the ALRC has set out a framework designed to reinforce Government openness and accountability, while ensuring protection of information that should legitimately be kept confidential.
President of the ALRC, who was also in charge of the inquiry, Professor Rosalind Croucher said a key focus of the report was to wind back criminal sanctions for the unauthorised disclosure of information, including repealing Section 70 of the Crimes Act 1914.
“Criminal sanctions should only be imposed where the unauthorised release of information has caused, or is likely or intended to cause, harm to identified public interests,” Professor Croucher said.
“In most cases, unauthorised disclosure of Commonwealth information can be dealt with through better education and training, improved information-handling practices and, where necessary, Public Service disciplinary procedures.”
A key recommendation in the report was for Government Agencies to develop and publish information-handling policies and guidelines about the application of secrecy laws.
The report, which made 61 recommendations, identified 506 secrecy provisions in 176 pieces of Commonwealth legislation, including 358 criminal secrecy offences.
Professor Croucher said changes outlined in the report could achieve greater clarity for Public Servants who handled Commonwealth Information.
She said key problems that emerged during the inquiry included the catch-all nature of some secrecy provisions and an over-reliance on criminal sections.
She said prosecuting Public Servants for the unauthorised disclosure of information did not sit easily with the Government’s commitment to transparency.
The ALRC also recommended that the new Office of the Information Commissioner provide independent oversight on the way in which Government Agencies discharge their information-handling policies.
The full text of the report could be accessed at www.alrc.gov.au
16 March, 2010
CSIRO and BOM storm
Australia’s lead climate science Agencies have produced a snapshot of the country’s climate history, saying it showed climate change was real.
into climate debate
Scientists from the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology said the data showed long term trends and changes in Australia’s weather.
The six-page snapshot was sourced from peer reviewed data on temperature, rainfall, sea level, ocean acidification, and carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere.
It found sea levels around Australia rose rapidly from 1993 to 2009 and there were substantial increases in rainfall in northern and central parts of Australia but decreases across much of the south and east.
Chief Executive of the CSIRO, Dr Megan Clark said all parts of Australia had experienced warming over the past 50 years.
“We are seeing significant evidence of a changing climate,” Dr Clark said.
“Our records of the ‘70s were broken in the ‘80s, broken in the ‘90s and we are also seeing fewer cold days.
“So we are seeing some very significant long-term trends in Australia’s climate.”
She said the snapshot would help Australians adapt to climate change and take action to reduce its impacts.
“CSIRO has been working with industry and in sectors of the economy such as agriculture to prepare for and implement necessary changes,” Dr Clark said.
The Director of the Bureau of Meteorology, Dr Greg Ayers said Australia holds one of the best national climate records in the world.
“The Bureau’s been responsible for keeping that record for more than a hundred years and it’s there for anyone and everyone to see, use and analyse,” Dr Ayers said.
“There is a thirst for good quality climate science and our two organisations are proud to publish this.”
He urged members of the public to view the snapshot online at www.bom.gov.au or www.csiro.gov.au
16 March, 2010
Women’s organisations and individuals from across Australia are to be represented on new National Women’s Alliances being set up to improve dialogue between women and Government and to engage on policy issues.
Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek said six National Women’s Alliances would be established, each with a specific focus. These would be economic security; equality rights; violence against women; immigrant and refugee women; rural; and Indigenous women.
“Through these Alliances, women and women’s organisations will share information, identify issues that affect them, and identify solutions,” Ms Plibersek said.
“The alliances will engage actively with the Australian Government on policy issues as part of a better, more informed and representative dialogue between women and Government.
“I look forward to listening to the ideas and opinions of the new Alliances and I encourage women throughout Australia to get involved.”
The Minister said the Alliances would share in Government funding of $3.6 million over three years.
Ms Plibersek said they would be encouraged to align strategically with Government priorities, and build broad collaborative networks to ensure women were represented - especially those who had previously found it difficult to engage in advocacy.
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development, Maxine McKew said the Alliance for rural women, National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC), would give a voice to the 250,000 women in rural and regional Australia.
“The needs of women in rural and regional areas often differ to those in metropolitan areas, for example, pressures of drought and flood, distance and isolation can be profound,” Ms McKew said.
“The NRWC will make sure the voices of women in rural and regional Australia are heard.
“The NRWC will also complement the newly established Regional Development Australia network, which has strong representation from women.”
Further information on the Alliances was available from www.fahcsia.gov.au
16 March, 2010
Auditor warms up
The Auditor-General is to conduct an audit of the now-defunct Home Insulation Program at the request of the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet.
to insulation probe
Mr Combet wrote to the Auditor-General on 3 March in response to claims of fraud being committed under the insulation program.
“The Government is committed to aggressively pursuing those who may have committed fraud,” Mr Combet said.
“The actions of unscrupulous operators have had a serious impact on legitimate businesses, employees and households who participated in the Government’s Home Insulation Program.”
Mr Combet said the Auditor-General had agreed to conduct the audit.
In addition, he said his Department is to appoint a specialist firm to conduct a forensic audit of the program so any cases of fraud could be referred to the Australian Federal Police or relevant authority.
He said the Department would also be conducting a new fraud risk assessment, with additional staff and resources moved into audit and compliance work.
In other measures announced to deal with concerns about foil insulation installed under the Program, the Government is preparing a plan to facilitate the safe removal of foil insulation or the installation of safety switches.
Mr Combet said the Government would fully fund the foil removal or safety switch installation program, and would continue with its commitment to undertake electrical safety inspections in the meantime.
“The Government is determined to address the safety issues that have arose in relation to the installation of foil insulation in homes across ceiling joists under the program,” he said.
Foil insulation has been installed in approximately 50,300 homes, the vast majority of which are in Queensland and northern New South Wales.
16 March, 2010
DIAC tunes up for
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is to screen community service television announcements in the lead-up to Harmony Day on 21 March.
Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson said the television campaign would promote the importance of inclusive communities.
“Harmony Day celebrates the cohesive and inclusive nature of our nation and promotes the benefits of cultural diversity,” Mr Ferguson said.
“It’s about community participation, inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.
“The Harmony Day TV commercial celebrates these ideals and captures the spirit of the younger generation of Australians.”
70 people from 20 different countries- including Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Spain, Ireland and Tonga - will appear in the advertisements, which will run in 15 and 30-second slots up to 21 March.
Mr Ferguson also announced a new training resource to help businesses make the most of their multicultural workplaces.
He said Harmony Day was a way for people to share a sense of community spirit and remember that everyone belongs.
“Hundreds of thousands of Australians will be out celebrating over the coming weeks, while sports organisations, community groups, Government Agencies, churches, schools and workplaces will host special events,” he said.
Mr Ferguson said thousands of schools, community groups and organisations had been involved with Harmony Day since its inception in 1999.
The Department will also offer supplementary material to the campaign on its YouTube channel, ImmiTV.
For more information, go to www.harmony.gov.au
16 March, 2010
Energy Centre to
Establishment of an Australian Centre for Renewable Energy has been approved by Parliament.
draw on power
Drawing together more than $560 million of renewable energy investment, the Centre will aim to develop and deploy renewable energy and was described as a “significant step forward’ for the renewable energy sector by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson.
“We can now get on with the job of driving down the cost of renewable energy technologies in Australia and increasing their deployment,” Mr Ferguson said.
Describing ACRE as a “one-stop shop” for Australian renewable energy businesses, the Minister said the Centre would consolidate a number of research and development programs, including the Renewable Energy Demonstration Program; the Second Generation Biofuels Research and Development Program; the Geothermal Drilling Program; and the Advanced Electricity Storage Technologies Program, among others.
First announced in October last year as part of the Government’s Clean Energy initiative, Mr Ferguson said ACRE’s interim board had been given the sole task of advising the Government on the prospective solar applications received under the original Renewable Energy Demonstration Program.
Mr Ferguson said his Department was now finalising the board’s recommendations.
The ACRE legislation, passed last week, allows for a Chief Executive Officer and permanent Board to be appointed.
Mr Ferguson said their first task would be to start work on a funding strategy to direct ACRE’s unallocated funds.
16 March, 2010
Nuclear reaction is
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO has entered an agreement with the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) to collaborate more closely on matters of mutual interest.
According to the CEO of ANSTO, Dr Adi Paterson, these issues would include research into areas such as nuclear medicine, life sciences, radiation therapy, safety and radiological protection.
Dr Paterson signed the agreement with his French counterpart, Professor Bernard Bigot, at the International Conference on access to Civil Nuclear Energy.
“CEA, with more than 15,000 staff, is a leader in research, development and innovation in Europe,” Dr Paterson said.
“ANSTO has key research programs that have become possible because of our state-of-the-art OPAL research reactor and our unique accelerator capabilities which make it mutually attractive to collaborate more intensively.”
The two organisations first collaborated in 1992 with the signing of an agreement on the peaceful uses of advanced nuclear technology which allowed for joint projects in areas such as medical imaging, radioactive waste forms and environmental research.
Dr Paterson said ANSTO researchers had also been involved with climate and atmospheric pollution monitoring in Europe and medical imaging collaborations with CEA.
“It is crucial that Australia continues to have a seat at the European table,” he said.
General Manager of Reactor Operations at ANSTO, Dr Greg Storr said Australia benefited from its involvement with international research and development projects.
Dr Storr said that over the past 18 months he had collaborated with his French counterparts to build the new Jules Horowitz Reactor in the south of France.
He said the reactor would become a key global nuclear innovation hub with a number of scientific ‘mega-projects’.
“Programs like these, which bring key skills, capabilities and facilities within the reach of Australian scientists, allow our experts to work in research activities of global significance,” Dr Storr said.
“Our French colleagues are also keen to learn more about our cutting edge projects and in partnership use and develop state-of-the-art facilities.
“In this context it made sense to re-establish a strong and comprehensive research agreement.”
16 March, 2010
The Royal Australian Navy has officially launched its women’s mentoring program, ‘My Mentor’.
sets sail in Navy
The program has already been implemented in a number of corporate and Public Sector organisations across the country as part of gender diversity strategies to help women achieve their career potential and counter the gender imbalance in the workforce.
Head of Navy People and Reputation, Rear Admiral Trevor Jones said My Mentor was part of the Navy Women’s Leadership Program.
“The ADF has a proud history, and continues to display its commitment to its female members, current and future, with initiatives such as this,” Rear Admiral Jones said.
“In the maritime combat space, Navy has more women in combat roles.”
He said ‘My Mentor’ was a DVD/CD and workbook-based program designed to be completed over a 12-week period.
The DVD features Navy Captains Elizabeth Rushbrook and Siobhan Bacon, as well as many other highly regarded senior women from corporate and Public Service organisations.
“What is so important about this program is that it is designed to enhance female leadership in the Royal Australian Navy, and can be used to shape our desired Navy culture through empowering and supporting these future leaders,” Rear Admiral Jones said.
“This program will assist in taking Navy in the direction that society in general is heading – of flexible careers, flexible work options and an inclusive culture.”
The program was launched at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra as part of Defence’s recognition of International Women’s Day.
Guest speaker, Professor Kerryn Phelps said the presence of female members wanting to enhance their leadership prospects was encouraging.
“Women in the military may face unique challenges, but they also enjoy unique benefits – access to leadership training, career progression, not to mention travel and adventure,” Professor Phelps said.
“The world is changing and I am pleased to see that traditionally male areas such as the military are changing with it.”
16 March, 2010
New measures to assist blind and vision-impaired voters cast their ballots at Federal elections have been announced by the Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig.
look-in at election
Senator Ludwig said an amendment to the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill 2010 would create a legal framework to allow blind voters to cast a secret vote.
“We have been working on viable and sustainable options for secret and independent voting arrangements to enable vision-impaired voters to participate in the electoral process,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The Government’s amendments will ensure suitable arrangements can be put in place in time for the next Federal election while longer term solutions continue to be developed.”
He said under the proposed changes, blind or vision-impaired people will have the option of attending a divisional office of the Australian Electoral Commission where they will be able to be connected to two trained call centre operators to complete the ballot papers.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten said the right to vote in a secret ballot had been part of Australian democracy for over a century and it was important to ensure there were no barriers preventing individuals from exercising their right.
“The Government’s amendments will seek to deal with some of the challenges which currently confront people with low vision from casting their ballot,” Mr Shorten said.
“This interim measure will be reviewed after the election, and the Australian Government will work to improve the system for voters with impaired vision in future elections.”
16 March, 2010
Audit lights fuse on
An audit report on the procurement of explosive ordnance for the Australian Defence Force has found a number of issues identified in previous audits still need to be addressed, but acknowledged some reform initiatives were underway.
In his report, Procurement of Explosive Ordnance for the Australian Defence Force, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the issues included the Defence Materiel Organisation’s (DMO’s) management of payments to suppliers, the serviceability of the inventory of explosives, deciding on the explosives required and domestic manufacturing arrangements.
“Cumulatively, the impact of these issues is substantial,” Mr McPhee said.
“In this light there remains considerable scope for improvement in the management of explosive ordnance.”
The Auditor-General said a 2005-06 audit of explosive ordnance conducted by his office made 15 recommendations aimed at addressing procurement problems similar to those outlined in this report.
He said just four of the 2005-06 recommendations had been fully implemented but all 15 recommendations had been marked as complete.
“Defence and DMO have since informed the ANAO that they have improved their internal control arrangements surrounding the monitoring and closure of audit recommendations,” he said.
“Since the 2005-06 audit was tabled, Defence and the DMO have worked to gain an increased understanding of the issues that need to be addressed to improve performance.”
The Auditor said a number of reforms had been introduced to address the issues but it was too early to know if they would provide long-term improvements.
“The 2008 appointment of the Vice Chief of the Defence Force as the single point of accountability for explosive ordnance provides an opportunity to improve the requirements determination process,” Mr McPhee said.
However he said the requirements determination progress still needed “significant improvement,” as did domestic manufacturing arrangements and expenditure.
“There are clear opportunities to derive savings in the explosive domain,” he said.
Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General David Hurley welcomed the audit report and agreed with the report’s two recommendations.
“The ANAO has acknowledged that Defence was already aware of a range of issues associated with procurement of explosive ordnance and has already established a number of reform programs to address these issues,” Lt-Gen Hurley said.
The ANAO’s recommendations were for Defence and the DMO to optimise explosive ordnance inventory holdings and undertake a strategic review of domestic manufacturing arrangements.
The report was available from www.anao.gov.au and was complied by an audit team of Natalie Whiteley, Kim Murray, Greg Little and Fran Holbert.
16 March, 2010
ACCC report brings
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released its annual airport monitoring report for the 2008–09 financial year.
airports to Earth
The ACCC monitors Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne (Tullamarine), Perth and Sydney (Kingsford Smith) airports to ensure they don’t use their monopoly position to increase profits at the expense of passengers and airlines.
The report highlights the airports’ performance in delivering services to airlines and includes a range of indicators including quality of service, prices, costs, profits and investment levels.
Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel, said the report found Sydney Airport’s performance was of the greatest concern as it had increased profits by allowing service quality to “fall below that which the airlines reasonable expect.”
“Airport users, including passengers and airlines, rated Sydney Airport last amongst the monitored airports for the fourth consecutive year,” Mr Samuel said.
“While Sydney Airport was the only airport to report a fall in passenger numbers, its revenue and profit margins still increased.”
Mr Samuel said airports typically charged airlines on a per passenger basis for using their facilities.
“Sydney Airport also recorded the highest average prices at $13.63 per passenger, compared to the lowest of $7.96 at Melbourne Airport,” he said.
“While airlines lowered their airfares to attract business in the current global economic slowdown, the airports appear to have enjoyed the security of guaranteed prices as well as benefiting from the airlines’ efforts to encourage travel.”
The report also raised concerns about the transparency and accountability of parking at airports.
“The indications are that car parking prices likely reflect an element of monopoly rent,” Mr Samuel said.
“At least some car parking charges increased at all of the monitored airports during the 2008–09 financial year, or since then.”
He said Brisbane Airport was the highest ranked airport in 2008-09 in respect of service by airlines and passengers.
Mr Samuel said in their survey responses, airlines had consistently identified Sydney Airport as the least responsive of the airports as far as service delivery and quality over a sustained period of time were concerned.
The report could be accessed at www.accc.gov.au
16 March, 2010
Poverty stricken to
A new strategy for Australia’s overseas aid program has been announced to help poor people overseas improve their way of life through increased access to financial services.
strike at poverty
Unveiled by the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, the strategy Financial services for the poor: A strategy for the Australian aid program 2010-15 was designed to help financial institutions offer fair and affordable financial services to the poor, through microfinance and new technologies such as mobile phone banking.
“As many as 2.7 billion adults in developing countries, or almost three-quarters of the adult population, still do not have access to financial services such as savings, credit, payment services and insurance,” Mr McMullan said.
“Their inability to borrow or save money safely makes finding a way out of poverty more difficult and makes them more vulnerable when adversity hits.”
He said financial services would give poor people, especially women, the opportunity to set up small businesses, insure against crop losses and save in case of illness or disaster.
“This has the potential to transform their lives,” Mr McMullan said.
He said the strategy included financial literacy programs to help people understand what services were available and to make informed financial decisions.
Mr McMullan said Governments would be helped to create a policy and regulatory environment that would allow for the expansion of financial services while protecting consumers.
He said an average of $10 million a year had been allocated to helping poor people access financial services since 2004, with this expected to increase to $20 million a year by 2012-13.
16 March, 2010
The Australia Council’s annual promotion of books and reading has been renamed ‘Get Reading!’ and has appointed 10 new author ambassadors.
turns over new leaf
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett said the program, formerly known as ‘Books Alive’, would showcase 50 titles to encourage Australians to spend more time reading.
Mr Garrett said the promotion would be launched in September.
“Few other activities have the power to take us on a journey of the imagination like reading a good book can, and I am really looking forward to the announcement of the titles that will this year have people right across the nation staying up late into the night unable to put their book down,” he said.
“Since it began, Get Reading! and Books Alive have directly resulted in the sale of an extra 1.36 million books throughout Australia, opening up a whole new world of great yarns and experiences to people of all age groups right across the country.
“I am sure this year will be no exception.”
The 10 new author ambassadors will help promote the program.
They are Alex Miller, Christos Tsiolkas, Craig Silvey, Nick Earls, Malla Nunn, Mark Dapin, Maggie Alderson, Judy Nunn, Georgia Blain and Rachael Treasure.
Mr Garrett also announced Sandra Yates had been reappointed as the Chair of Get Reading! for 2010, while Cheryl Akle had been reappointed as Project Director for 2010-13.
The campaign, now in its ninth year, is managed by the Australia Council for the Arts.
16 March, 2010
Post Office addresses
Australia Post has launched a new campaign to encourage letter-writers and other users of the mail system to get their delivery addresses right.
Australia Post spokesperson, Rachelle McDonald said about three million pieces of mail ended up in Mail Distribution Centres or Dead Letter Offices each year because they were incorrectly addressed.
Ms McDonald said while Australia Post did everything it could to ensure the mail was reunited with the intended recipient, approximately half of the mail at the Redistribution Centres would not reach its destination.
“The worst offending areas across the country include Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and the Gold Coast,” Ms McDonald said.
“Mail that is unable to be delivered is auctioned off after a period of three to 12 months depending on the item and all proceeds are donated to charity.
“Making sure you address all of your mail using the addressee’s suburb name and postcode will help get the mail delivered to the right recipient and will ensure customers receive items of importance or value on time.”
Ms McDonald said people should ensure they stick to the basic address format of three lines - the addressee’s full name on the first line, followed by a street number and name or post office box number, and finally, the suburb, State and postcode on the last line.
She said senders should also include their return address on the back of the envelope so undeliverable mail could be returned to them.
16 March, 2010
New sweetheart deal
Art dealers, art galleries and arts centres have been invited to register their interest in becoming signatories to a Code of Conduct in the sale and marketing of
is affair of the art
Indigenous Australian Art.
Developed by the Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code Administration Committee, the Code will provide a national set of standards for transactions between agents, artists and dealers in the Indigenous visual arts industry.
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett said the Code would be “owned and driven” by the Indigenous visual arts sector.
“Opening a process for dealers to register their interest is an important first step in meeting the aims of the Code,” Mr Garrett said.
“The Code will ultimately help Indigenous artists negotiate fair deals for their work and give buyers greater certainty of an artwork’s origin and the way in which it was purchased.”
A 2007 Senate Inquiry report into the Indigenous visual arts and craft sector recommended a Code of Conduct be established.
Mr Garrett said the Code Administration Committee was a voluntary, independent industry body set up to administer the Code, deal with complaints against signatories and promote the benefits of the Code to the industry.
The Committee is made up of representatives from across the industry, including dealers, Indigenous artists, artist resource organisations and independent professionals.
The Government is to provide $600,000 over three years to help implement the Code.
For more details about the Code, go to www.indigenousartcode.org
16 March, 2010
Finance watchdog puts
The role of AUSTRAC compliance officers has been researched to assist businesses understand the law relating to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing and the powers and resources the officers should have.
money into survey
Chief Executive Officer of AUSTRAC, John Schmidt said a research report had been produced based on the results of a survey of 150 anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) compliance officers in organisations affected by the rules.
Mr Schmidt said the survey collected a large amount of information about the compliance officers, including their professional and educational background, resources available to them and their responsibilities.
He said the compliance officers’ role involved creating and maintaining systems, procedures and controls to ensure their organisation’s products and services were hardened against money laundering and terrorism financing.
“This report will be a valuable document for those who are responsible for AML/CTF in their organisation as it will allow them to compare the way in which they have structured the position with a large sample of reporting entities,’ Mr Schmidt said.
“The information presents a snapshot of how those surveyed have interpreted and implemented the obligation to designate an AML/CTF compliance officer.”
He said it was expected that the report would be part of AUSTRAC’s ongoing survey series, which aims to help reporting entities understand their obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 and to increase AUSTRAC’s understanding of the issues the reporting entities face as they implement their obligations.
AUSTRAC is Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator and specialist financial intelligence unit.
The research report could be accessed at www.austrac.gov.au
16 March, 2010
APSC goes hypothetical
The Australian Public Service Commission is to host the 2010 Hypothetical event, The practice and ethics of disaster response in Canberra on 25 March.
The interactive forum will be presented by ABC broadcaster and journalist, Peter Thompson, and will include a panel of experts, commentators and practitioners who have been involved in managing natural disasters.
Further information is available from www.apsc.gov.au
Auditor goes green
The Auditor-General is to conduct a performance audit of the Green Loans Program.
The Australian National Audit Office has commenced preliminary work in the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) to refine the objective and scope of the audit.
The ANAO said in a statement its intention was to look at DEWHA’s administration of the program and any lessons for future programs.
ACMA calls on Do Not Call
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has reminded telephone subscribers on the Do Not Call Register that they need to re-register if they want to continue avoiding calls from telemarketers.
Registrations for the register are valid for three years, meaning anyone who signed up when the service was launched in May 2007 will need to refresh their registration.
Over 4.3 million home, mobile and VoIP numbers are now listed on the Do Not Call Register.
To re-register, visit www.donotcall.gov.au or phone 1300 792 958.
Ministers make list
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has published a new Ministry List indicating new arrangements applying since 9 March.
The List is available from www.pmc.gov.au
Court defendants rise
The number of defendants in Australian Children’s Courts rose by seven per cent in 2008-09.
The figures, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, show there were increases in all States and Territories except Queensland.
The number of defendants in adult courts increased by three per cent to 653,133.
The figures were available from Criminal Courts, Australia at www.abs.gov.au
Heritage funding open
Applications are being taken for the National Library of Australia’s 2010 Community Heritage Grants.
The grants are available to community groups for the preservation and management of locally held, nationally significant cultural heritage collections of documents and objects.
Applications close on Friday 14 May 2010 and for more information visit www.nla.gov.au
Army takes aim at uniform
Australian Army uniforms are set to be modernised with the second phase of the Army’s Clothing Review expected to begin shortly.
The review will look at developing a uniform made from modern materials to replace the current polyester ones while also achieving cost savings and maintaining a uniform that is “uniquely Australian”, practical and has clear corps embellishments.
Focus groups will be held to gauge the opinions of members and a questionnaire booklet will be made available for feedback and analysis.
Fair work for horticulturalists
The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced a national education and awareness campaign for the horticulture sector.
The campaign aims to educate employers in the sector of the new National Employment Standards and the Horticultural Award 2010.
It will be conducted in partnership with the Australian Workers’ Union, National Farmers’ Federation, Horticulture Australia Council and the Australian Industry Group.
A ‘Guide to the Horticulture Award 2010’ has been produced, and was available by calling the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.
NIHEC reports on Health
The National Indigenous Health Equality Council has completed two reports, one mapping the progress of improving Indigenous child mortality and health, and the other examining target setting in Indigenous health.
The Child Mortality Targets: Recommendations and Analysis report aims to help the Government progress towards its goal of halving the Indigenous mortality rate in children under five years with a decade.
The second report, the National Target Setting Instrument is a guide for policy makers on effective target setting.
The reports were available from www.nihec.gov.au
Australian tourism shines
Tourism Research Australia has released its International Visitor Survey which shows the Australian tourism industry out-performed the rest of the world last year.
It revealed that international visitor arrivals in Australia last year matched 2008 levels at 5.6 million.
In contrast, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates global tourism declined by four per cent in 2009. The survey results were available from www.ret.gov.au
Tax treaty with Chile
Australia and Chile have signed the first ever income tax treaty between the two countries.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the agreement would provide stability for cross-border investors and reduce tax-related barriers to allow for better economic relations.
Senator Sherry said Chile was a major destination for Australian investments, particularly in the mining sector.
9 March, 2010
Factsheet has goods
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has released a factsheet to assist Agencies faced with paying compensation to members of the public when mistakes occur.
on payout schemes
The factsheet, entitled Compensation for Detriment Caused by Defective Administration, is based on best practice principles for Agencies to follow when dealing with claims for compensation due to an Agency mistake.
According to the Ombudsman, the Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) Scheme was established to allow Government Agencies to provide compensation to members of the public who suffer loss or damage due to an Agency’s mistake or poor administrative practice.
“The aim of a CDDA payment is to restore a person to the position they would have been in if there had been no defective administration,” the factsheet says.
“‘Defective administration’ broadly means an Agency’s unreasonable failure to comply with its own administrative procedures, institute appropriate administrative procedures, or give proper advice.”
The factsheet includes the principles Agencies should keep in mind when dealing with CDDA claims including visibility and accessibility, timeliness, good communication with applicants, good decision making, recordkeeping, avoiding legalistic approaches, reviewing CDDA decisions, supporting staff and systemic issues.
The factsheet said CDDA payments were made at the discretion of the Agency to which the claim was made and based more on moral grounds than legal ones..
“In deciding whether to make a payment an Agency must act reasonably and according to principles of good decision making,” it says.
“If investigation of a complaint reveals that the Agency is legally liable, the CDDA scheme is not the appropriate avenue for dealing with the matter.”
The factsheet said some common examples of CDDA payments included when a debt was wrongly imposed, personal property was damaged or documents were lost by an Agency.
The CDDA scheme only applies to Agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.
The factsheet could be obtained from www.ombudsman.gov.au
9 March, 2010
Union reaches super
Inadequate superannuation has emerged as the issue of most concern to women in the Public Service according to a survey conducted by the Community and Public Sector Union.
agreement for mums
CPSU’s Director of Policy and Research, Kristin van Barneveld said that after the 2008 What Women Want survey revealed that few women were making extra contributions to their superannuation accounts to make up for unpaid maternity leave, the union had campaigned on the issue.
Ms van Barneveld said a 2009 campaign had resulted in new agreements with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) where women on unpaid maternity leave would continue to receive employer superannuation contributions.
She said the union was “very proud” of reaching the agreements, the first Federal Public Sector agreements of their kind.
She said before the agreements were made, the only way women in the Public Service could receive super while on unpaid maternity leave was by making contributions their employer matched.
“The arrangement with the FWO, for example, is a superior benefit and goes someway towards addressing the disadvantage women suffer after starting a family,” she said.
“We have made securing a better deal for women on super a priority that is now part of the union’s ‘core bargaining’ claim for all new agreements.
“The challenge now for unions and employers is to find ways to make these sorts of arrangements more widespread.”
Ms van Barneveld said research showed helping employees build better retirement incomes would prevent major problems in the future.
“What has been achieved in these Agencies is a small but significant step in the right direction and the CPSU will be continuing to push ahead in this area,” she said.
9 March, 2010
Web upgrade goes down
Centrelink has upgraded its website to offer easier access and better information delivery to its clients.
well at Centrelink
General Manager of Centrelink, Hank Jongen said the revamp was prompted by customer feedback and offered a more contemporary design and improved service access for the Agency’s 6.8 million clients.
“With more than 140 million pages viewed each year, the Centrelink website is crucial in linking customers to the information and services they need,” Mr Jongen said.
“Centrelink’s new website design makes it easier to find important information and do your business online using self-service.
“Now you can also share information across Delicious, Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon or Twitter straight from the Centrelink website,” he said.
Mr Jongen said new features would be added in coming weeks, including a function allowing customers with vision challenges to print pages in large type and a ‘Really Simple Syndication’ feed that will allow the media to access Centrelink announcements as they happen.
Mr Jongen said the text-to-speech Talking Website feature, which had been activated 100,000 times since it was launched in July last year, would still be available through ‘Listen To This Page’.
“Most weeks, the top pages chosen to be read out by customers relate to online self service, which shows how Centrelink’s website has become a valuable tool for many Australians,” he said.
“This new website design shows how Centrelink is responding to feedback from Australians and using that to deliver service that suits our customers.”
9 March, 2010
PM prescribes reform
The Prime Minister has announced a major restructuring of the national healthcare system, offering to take over health and hospital funding from the States and Territories if they agree.
for health system
Prime Minister Rudd said the National Health and Hospitals Network would be funded nationally but run locally.
Describing it as the biggest change to Australia’s health and hospital system since the introduction of Medicare, Mr Rudd said the reform would see the Government fund 60 per cent of all hospital services, as well as take full financial and policy responsibility for GP and primary care services.
“The new National Health and Hospitals Network will end blame shifting and cost shifting, and provide national leadership on health and hospitals with increased local control,” he said.
“Sweeping changes to the way hospitals are funded and run will also lead to less waste and duplication and a health system which is sustainable into the future.”
Mr Rudd said the new system would be funded by diverting about one-third of GST revenue but pledged no State or Territory would be worse off.
He said Local Hospital Networks would be established across the country and paid directly by the Australian Government for each public hospital service they provide.
The Local Hospital Networks would be made up of between one and four hospitals that would work together to provide services and manage their own budgets.
Mr Rudd said the Local Hospital Networks would allow Doctors and nurses to have a greater say in decisions made within hospitals.
He said an independent umpire would set the “efficient national price” for different hospital services.
The Government is expected to put the reforms to the States and Territories at the Council of Australian Governments meeting on 11 April.
Mr Rudd said if the States and Territories did not agree to the changes, the Government would take it to Australians to let them decide through a referendum “by or at” the Federal election.
9 March, 2010
Supplier advocate in
Small and medium enterprises are expected to secure more Government IT contracts following the appointment of an IT Supplier Advocate.
bid for PS contracts
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr and ACT Senator Kate Lundy that the Advocate would be appointed with the job of helping Australian businesses secure more major IT contracts.
Senator Carr said the IT Supplier Advocate would work as a broker and spokesperson,
particularly for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the information technology sector.
He said the IT Advocate was part of the Government’s $8.2 million Supplier Advocate Program, which appoints industry figures to provide leadership in targeted sectors.
“We want Australian IT firms, particularly SMEs, to have the best chance of getting in the game and the best chance of winning,” Senator Carr said.
“It is vital that Government has access to the nimble, innovative capacity of IT small businesses and equally, they have access to Government.”
Senator Carr and Senator Lundy said the IT Supplier Advocate would help SMEs access Government IT contracts while working to ease concerns that were often associated with awarding work to small businesses.
The Australian eGovernment Technology Cluster, which is part of National ICT Australia, is to work with the IT Supplier Advocate to provide services and facilities to help SMEs field test and prove their IT solutions to prospective clients.
The Advocate will not only help companies achieve Government IT contracts, but will work with them to secure contracts with large companies.
Senator Carr and Senator Lundy said consultations with stakeholders showed there were “significant IT procurement opportunities in the Government where the Supplier Advocate could make a difference.”
They said the IT Supplier Advocate was expected to be appointed by the end of March.
Senator Carr said Supplier Advocates had already been appointed for Rail and Steel under the initiative.
He said Supplier Advocates aimed to champion Australian suppliers in the Government procurement market, enhance industry competitiveness, improve tendering practices and increase the use of Government programs.
9 March, 2010
Staff freeze heats
A freeze on Public Service recruitment for non-essential positions and possible caps on PS pay increases have been announced by the Government of the Australian Capital Territory.
up cutback debate
The belt-tightening follows cuts to the ACT’s share of GST revenue recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
ACT Treasurer, Katy Gallagher, revealed the recruitment freeze and suggested future payrises for the ACT Public Service could be held to 2 per cent a year. The Government had already offered 2.5 per cent in its current round of talks.
Speaking to the media, Ms Gallagher said the $85 million reduction came as a “nasty shock” to the Territory’s Budget.
“No other jurisdiction is being asked to accept a 10 per cent cut to their GST revenue,” she said.
“We’ve taken some decisions in relation to the staffing freeze that’s been imposed on the ACT Public Service for non-essential frontline services, so of course that leaves out health and education and those areas where we need to continue to provide service.”
The Community and Public Sector Union criticised the ACT Government for failing to consult with staff or unions before announcing the hiring freeze.
In a statement, the CPSU said it was unclear which jobs were considered to be non-essential or how long the freeze would last.
“While the CPSU acknowledges the extent of the financial issues the Government is facing, we are concerned that the hard-line approach they are taking will have a negative impact on staff and services,” it said.
The CPSU said in a bid to recognise tough economic realities, it had lowered its wage increase demand from 4 and 4.5 per cent over the next two years to 3 and 3.5 per cent.
“Unfortunately the Government is still only offering 2.5 per cent in the first year and 2 per cent in the second year,” the union said.
“The Government needs to understand that the local service is not a magic pudding and they cannot continue to cut millions of dollars every time there’s budget pressures,” the union’s Vince McDevitt was quoted as saying in the Canberra Times.
The ACT Public Service employs around 20,100 staff.
9 March, 2010
A new job service for people with disabilities has been launched in Sydney.
Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib said the new Disability Employment Services would mean more jobs for people with disability, improved choice for job seekers and employers and better service delivery.
Senator Arbib said Disability Employment Services would operate under two new programs: the Disability Management Service to help job seekers who were not expected to need regular long-term support to maintain their job, and the Employment Support Service for those who needed continuous support.
“For the first time, people with disability will have direct access to the help they need to find and keep a job,” he said.
“There will be no waiting lists because the Government has uncapped services.
“People with disability will have access to better and more individually tailored employment services.”
Senator Arbib said employers would benefit by being able to tap into the wide range of skills and experience offered by people with disability.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten said people with disability were under-represented in the workforce.
“We need to ensure that we remove the barriers facing people with disability who want to work, and recognise their potential rather than their impairments,” Mr Shorten said.
A Disability Employment Services Reference Group is to be established to provide strategic advice on the future of Disability Employment Services.
The Government has also launched a $6.8 million Disability Support Pension (DSP) Employment Incentive Pilot to encourage employers to offer jobs to people with disability and allow DSP recipients to demonstrate their skills.
9 March, 2010
An investigation into Australia Post’s ‘Safe Drop’ program by the Postal Industry Ombudsman has found the initiative to be working as intended.
The Safe Drop Program, which has been running for 12 months, allows Australia Post to deliver parcels that do not fit safely into a mail box, even if no one is home, so long as a signature is not required, the parcel can be left out of street-view and is safe from weather and pets.
The Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan said unfortunate incidents such as a horse destroying a feed parcel could be prevented with an ‘opt out’ system, but “regrettably” Australia Post had rejected the option, saying it would add to delivery costs and affect parcel prices.
“I hold the contrary view that an opt out option could actually save Australia Post and its customers money in the long run, given the costs incurred when parcels are safe dropped inappropriately and lost or damaged,” Professor McMillan said.
He said a streamlined parcel delivery service made sense in the age of internet and telephone shopping, but some properties were unsuitable for the safe dropping of parcels.
The Ombudsman said it was not unreasonable to expect that Australia Post should be able to let customers have a choice about the service, pointing to a case in which a woman living in a block of 10 units made an agreement with Australia Post, which was not honoured, to opt out of the program.
‘Strictly speaking, Australia Post complied with the conditions of the program when safe dropping her parcels, but they did not consider the fact that the parcels were on view to the occupants and visitors of the other nine units in the complex,” Professor McMillan said.
He said in general he was satisfied with the program’s administration, but further improvements could be made by improving the training of postal delivery people and reviewing and updating Safe Drop delivery notification cards.
Professor McMillan’s report, Australia Post Safe Drop program: A review of the first year, was available from www.ombudsman.go.au
9 March, 2010
New posters featuring ‘age-enhanced’ images of long-time missing persons have been unveiled by the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor.
posters a hit
Launched at Sydney Airport, the posters were produced by the Australian Federal Police’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre which used forensic imaging techniques to create the images.
The posters feature photos of six missing persons from five States and Territories.
“This is the first time a poster featuring age-enhancement has been produced in Australia for this purpose,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The images aim to spark recognition by providing realistic images of what the missing people may look like today.
“Uncertainty about the whereabouts and safety of a loved one can be a traumatic experience that can last for weeks, months and, sadly in the case of these families, years.”
Mr O’Connor said the billboards featured six people who had been missing for between six and 33 years.
They are Amelia Hausia of the ACT, missing since 1992; Karen Skinner, WA, missing since 1995; Ronya Livoni, NT, missing since 1980; Lydia Notz, QLD, missing since 1976; Ian Stanton, NSW, missing since 2003; and Ursula Barwick, NSW, missing since 1987.
The images had been produced in consultation with families and State and Territory Police.
Mr O’Connor said Australia was one of the few countries to have trained staff to provide forensic imaging techniques specific to long-term missing persons.
The AFP’s regular missing persons poster, which features 16 new faces every six months, will now be complemented by these biannual age-enhanced posters.
Of the 35,000 people reported missing in Australia each year, 95 per cent are located within a short period of time.
There are approximately 1,600 Australians who have been missing for more than a year.
The images can be accessed at www.missingpersons.gov.au
9 March, 2010
A new website to serve university students and their families in the way My School serves primary and secondary school students has been announced by the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard.
goes up online
Ms Gillard said the ‘My University’website would feature information about institutions, courses and pathways and would showcase Australia’s higher education providers.
She said it would include information on student-to-staff ratios, results of student satisfaction surveys, measures of graduate skills, graduate outcomes and fees.
Information detailing access to student services and the quality of teaching and learning outcomes would also be available.
“The Government wants students to use this data to make their choice about their university on the basis of information about quality rather than students having to rely on hearsay, inference from entry requirements or the perceived prestige of universities,” Ms Gillard said.
“My University will provide a robust, consolidated and transparent source of information about all of Australia’s 39 universities.
“Information will be provided in an easily accessible form for students and parents.”
Ms Gillard said the website would help students decide which university to attend as the Government uncapped places from 2012.
She said the new website was supported by universities and would be developed with their input.
Ms Gillard said the website would commence in time for the new system in 2012.
9 March, 2010
Survey paints image
New research by the Australia Council for the Arts has revealed that over 16 million Australians are actively participating in arts.
of an arty Australia
Chief Executive of the Australia Council, Kathy Keele said the survey, More than bums on seats – Australian participation in the arts, found nine out of 10 Australians over 15 had made the arts a part of their lives in the past year.
Ms Keele said while nearly three quarters had attended the arts, four out of 10 people had creatively participated.
The research, which she said was a comprehensive look at how Australians were involved with the arts, included creative participation and attendance in all major art forms, including visual arts and crafts, music, theatre, dance, reading, writing and music.
“Visual arts and crafts is the most popular creative activity – 22 per cent of people did some form of painting, sewing, woodwork or art photography for example,” Ms Keele said.
“Literature is also popular with 7 per cent of people writing a novel or short story, and 5 per cent of people have written poetry – that’s almost 900,000 Australians writing poems.”
She said another welcome finding of the research was that the arts had become more inclusive, with a greater number of Australians believing that individuals and society benefit from the arts.
Ms Keele said a similar survey in 1999 showed over half of all Australians felt the arts “attracted the somewhat pretentious and elitist”, but this number had now dropped to a third.
“We can see that the internet is having a big impact on people’s attitudes to the arts and to their accessibility,” she said.
“People online are researching shows or exhibitions on their own terms.
“Knowing more about the works help people feel more confident about walking into a show or an exhibition.”
Another key finding was that young people were the leading generation in creative participation.
Ms Keele said the results would help arts organisations understand their audiences better and make their work more accessible.
The survey results were available from www.australiacouncil.gov.au
9 March, 2010
Navy honours to be
The Royal Australian Navy is to update the campaign and battle honours awarded to its various ships, units and establishments.
Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said campaign and battle honours were highly prized by ships, squadrons and establishments across the RAN.
He said the honours, dating back to the Colonial period, were proudly displayed on large boards and served as a reminder of the Navy’s past accomplishments.
The earliest Australian award dates back to 1860-61.
Describing the decision as an “historic milestone”, Senator Faulkner said a recent review of the Navy’s list of campaigns and battles had proposed several new awards be established to reflect recent operations.
It also identified previous “anomalies” where some ships had not received due recognition for their activities.
Senator Faulkner said the Governor General had approved a full revised list of award nominees last year.
“The Royal Australian Navy places a high priority on remembering those people, ships and units which have played their part in protecting the nation and I am sure that veterans and serving members will be delighted,” Senator Faulkner said.
A full list of RAN units in line for changes to their campaign and battle honours can be located at www.navy.gov.au
9 March, 2010
CSIRO modeller is
An ecosystem modeller with the CSIRO has won an international award for scientific research.
model of excellence
Dr Beth Fulton of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship is to receive a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation.
Dr Fulton will use the $165,000 Fellowship to develop models to assess how marine biodiversity is affected by pressures such as overfishing and climate change.
She said the new modelling techniques could be adapted to guide environmental management decisions to help combat threats to biodiversity in vulnerable habitats.
“Existing models of marine ecosystems used in support of management and conservation do not represent or evaluate changes in biodiversity,” Dr Fulton said.
“Rather, they group species according to their niche in the ecosystem – for example, by similarities in diet, growth, reproduction and habitat use – and cannot simulate changes in species composition.”
The models, focusing on marine systems in Antarctica and Indonesia, will draw on long-term datasets of fish, plankton and seabed biodiversity, as well as field observations designed to fill existing information gaps.
Dr Fulton is the developer of Atlantis, one of world’s most successful models in the field of whole-of-ecosystem modelling for the marine environment.
Only five Pew Fellowships in Marine Conservation are presented each year from a candidate pool of about 40 applications.
9 March, 2010
Scam campaign reels
The Australian Federal Police joined the Tax Office and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to issue warnings about email scams during Fraud Week, held last week.
in phishing frauds
The Agencies ran a campaign with the theme ‘Online Offensive: Fight Fraud Online’, which aimed to overcome high levels of internet-based consumer fraud.
According to official figures, two-thirds of consumer fraud was occurring online and one in 20 Australians had been the victim of a scam.
Acting National Manager for High Tech Crime Operations for the AFP, Commander Karl Kent said criminals sent out millions of emails randomly in an attempt to get people to divulge personal details.
Commander Kent said these sorts of ‘phishing’ emails, where criminals ‘fish’ for information, often claimed to be from a bank or financial institution.
“Banks will never send an email to their customers requesting their personal details and it is important that everyone is aware of this,” he said.
Commander Kent advised people never to respond to emails purporting to be from their bank or give out personal information online or send bank account details via email.
The Australian Taxation Office also warned people to be cautious of unsolicited emails claiming to be from its staff.
ATO Second Commissioner, David Butler advised people to ensure their computer had up-to-date security software installed and to enable automatic updates so they stayed current.
Mr Butler said people should not divulge their tax file number online unless they were certain about the authenticity of the sender.
Those who have received fraudulent emails should report it at the www.scamwatch.gov.au website.
The Fraud Week campaign was an initiative of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT), which was established in 2005 to reduce the incidence and impact of fraud and scams.
The Taskforce involves 21 Government Agencies from Australia and New Zealand and each year it conducts an information campaign for consumers to coincide with the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network Global Consumer Fraud Prevention Month.
9 March, 2010
Every person in Australia should be helping protect the country from imported pests and diseases according to the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Rona Mellor.
Addressing the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics Outlook Conference in Canberra, Ms Mellor, who is also Executive Director of the Biosecurity Services Group, said shared responsibility and a risk-based intervention approach to biosecurity issues was the way forward.
“Each member of the community has a role to play—before the border, at the border and within Australia—to prevent, prepare for, detect and mitigate biosecurity risks, and respond to, manage and recover from biosecurity incidents should they occur,” she said.
“We’re no longer just focusing on quarantine.
“An effective biosecurity system minimises risks to the health of our plants and animals and provides invaluable support to Australian agricultural production and to our place as an important exporter of food and fibre to the world.”
Ms Mellor said the level of risk Australia was prepared to accept would not alter but that the Agency would improve the way it manages it.
Director of the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University, Professor Tom Kompas, said economic approaches to biosecurity were important.
Professor Kompas called for a variety of rules and procedures relating to resource allocation for surveillance, quarantine, containment and eradication measures for invasive species.
“Proper surveillance measures can ensure cost-effective detection of an invasive species,” Professor Kompas said.
For more information on speakers and papers presented at the ABARE 40th National Outlook conference, visit www.abare.gov.au
9 March, 2010
Aussie centre solves
Australia’s first dedicated international dispute resolution centre is to be established in Sydney.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the $600,000 Australian International Disputes Centre would strengthen the nation’s capacity to help corporations resolve cross-border disputes without resorting to Court action.
“Australia will be the place to come to when businesses want their problems fixed, and fixed fast and fairly,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the facility would feature world class communication, audiovisual and video conferencing facilities, tribunal facilities, conference rooms and access to translation and transcription services.
The Centre is to be jointly funded by the Commonwealth and NSW Governments, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) and the Australian Commercial Disputes Centre.
“Australia is well placed to capitalise on the booming global market for cross border dispute resolution, particularly in the Asia Pacific region,” Mr McClelland said.
“We enjoy very close ties to Asia and Europe, we have stable and robust economic, political and legal environments and we boast some of the best legal practitioners in the world.”
Director of ACICA, Professor Doug Jones said he estimated the direct and indirect economic benefits of the centre could run into “tens of millions of dollars each year.”
Professor Jones said the flow-on from the Centre would help the legal services sector, the professional services, hospitality, tourism and support sectors.
“The fact is that international arbitration is emerging as the preferred choice for resolving commercial disputes, particularly by Asian business,” he said.
“The explosion in arbitration is largely due to the fact that international investors want to avoid the uncertainty of litigation in a foreign Court system with the associated lack of familiarity over processes.”
Mr McClelland said ongoing reforms to arbitration laws, at State and Federal levels, would create an international best practice legal framework for arbitration in Australia.
“These reforms provide the local framework for our highly skilled and internationally experienced Australian arbitrators to resolve disputes on Australian territory, under Australian arbitration law,” he said.
The Centre is expected to open mid-year.
9 March, 2010
Auditor-General awarded medal
The Indonesian Government has awarded the Australian Auditor-General, Ian McPhee a First Class Medal of Honour.
The Award recognises the contribution Mr McPhee and the Australian National Audit Office made in promoting transparency and accountability in public finances to the Government of Indonesia, particularly in the Audit of Natural Disaster Management in Aceh and Nias, and in best practice and capacity building in auditing.
The award was presented by the Indonesian Ambassador, His Excellency, Primo Alui Joelianto.
NBN release sites announced
The first five sites to receive high speed broadband as part of the National Broadband Network have been announced.
The release sites – Brunswick in Melbourne; Townsville in Queensland; west of Armidale and south of Wollongong in NSW; and Willunga in South Australia were chosen on a range of criteria including demographics, climate, existing infrastructure and terrain.
The selected communities are expected to receive high speed broadband by early 2011.
Post previews website
Australia Post has called for community feedback on its new website after launching a preview.
The new site aims to cater for the entire community, with improved accessibility for people with disabilities.
To view the site and make comments on its usability, visit preview.auspost.com.au
Live music under the stars
Some of Australia’s best musicians are to play under the stars at the National Gallery of Australia’s Sculpture Garden.
The event is running in association with the Gallery’s major blockbuster exhibition, Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and beyond.
Artists playing at the Starry Nights performance, which runs Friday and Saturday to 13 March, include the Clare Bowditch Trio and the Tim Rogers Band.
Further information was available from www.ticketek.com.au
Revenue scam email alert
The ACT Revenue Office has warned members of the public of a scam email claiming to be an investigation by the Office into personal finances.
The Revenue Office said the email was titled Currently pending investigation and asked people to fill out an attached form.
The Office has posted a warning on its website and urged people who receive the email not to open or respond to it.
Plane to survey plains
A low flying aircraft will be conducting a major airborne geophysical survey across Canberra and the southeast of NSW over the next few months.
The survey, a joint venture of Geoscience Australia and the NSW Government, is to collect data to improve the understanding of the area’s geology and provide information for land use planning and natural resource management.
The aircraft is expected to cover over 24,000 square kilometres and acquire in excess of 107,000 line kilometres of geoscience data while flying 60 to 150 metres above the ground.
Workforce needs addressed
The National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce has released a discussion paper to generate conversation on how to address the workforce needs of major resources projects over the next five years and beyond.
The Taskforce has encouraged interested parties to provide feedback on the paper and will consult with stakeholders to gather additional information.
Submissions are due by 9 April with further information available from www.deewr.gov.au
R18+ games closed
The discussion paper on the R18+ classification for computer games has received more than 55,000 submissions.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the response showed a high level of interest in whether there should be an R18+ classification for computer games.
Mr O’Connor said the Federal Attorney-General’s Department would now prepare a report on the consultation for the Standing Committee of Attorneys General.
Tax laws help fight fires
Tax laws are to be changed to help volunteer bushfire brigades attract more donations.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said less than a third of Australia’s 6,000 volunteer brigades could access tax deductible donations.
Senator Sherry said the changes would extend tax deductible donation support to all volunteer bushfire brigades.
Defence Families to win
Defence Force families are expected to benefit most from the new national school curriculum, according to the Education Minister in the ACT, Andrew Barr.
Mr Barr said the children of Defence Force employees that moved interstate each year would benefit from having a familiar curriculum when changing schools.
He said the ACT had a large Defence population and was “delighted” it had been chosen to trial the new curriculum at 10 local schools.
2 March, 2010
The Australian Public Service Commission has called on Departments and Agencies to make a stronger commitment to recruiting, retaining and developing Indigenous Public Servants.
Following a review of its APS Employment and Capability Strategy for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Employees the Commission its success depended on the increased engagement and participation of APS Agencies.
According to the APSC it undertook the review to ensure the strategy met the expectations of the Government’s Closing the Gap agenda and continued to respond to the needs of Indigenous APS employees, their managers and Agency business objectives.
The Commission outlined four key objectives for the next three years, saying it would support Agencies in their bid to increase the representation of Indigenous Australians in the APS.
Among the APSC objectives to achieve this end are making greater use of centralised recruitment programs; providing more career development opportunities for existing Indigenous staff; assisting Agencies maintain culturally respectful workplaces; and support employers in learning how to work with Indigenous staff.
“The Commission recognises that each APS Agency has its own challenges and its own opportunities to make a contribution to raising the level of Indigenous representation in the APS.
“As part of its heightened focus on improving retention of Indigenous APS employees, a range of support mechanisms are available under the Strategy to Indigenous APS employees,” the APSC said.
The Strategy aims to help increase Indigenous employment to at least 2.6 per cent of the APS by 2015.
As of 2009, just 2.1 per cent of the APS identified themselves as Indigenous.
The review found the Commission was well placed to lead the approach to APS recruitment, development and retention of Indigenous Australians and to work with Agencies to improve their ability to tap into the capacity of Indigenous employees.
The Strategy was implemented in 2005 and has since recruited over 400 Indigenous Australians to APS Agencies.
The new strategy could be accessed at www.apsc.gov.au
2 March, 2010
The current high workload of Public Servants has been identified as a health hazard by leading consultant on Occupational Health and Safety, Kevin Jones.
heavily on PS
Mr Jones said looking after the safety of Public Servants and employees was often difficult for politicians as they sought to implement their election commitments and policies.
“The way that politics operates in Australia, at least, makes the health of Public Servants an ancillary consideration when the Government is investigating and implementing their reform programs,” Mr Jones said.
He referred to a recent television interview in which Minister Stephen Conroy commented on the “cracking pace” Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd set and how the PM expected high performance from his Ministers, staff and Public Servants.
Senator Conroy said the Government had a “huge agenda” to deliver.
“I’d love to tell you that the Kevin 24/7 logo is a myth. I’d love to tell you that,” he said.
“It’s unfortunately not.
“We are getting on with the job of implementing the 600-odd promises that we made before the last election and that has meant that there is an enormous change in the direction of the Public Service.
“And I think that because of that change in direction, that has led to more and more workload.”
Mr Jones said he it was unlikely that the health and safety of Public Servants involved in implementing Government programs were examined or mentioned in evaluations, particularly those by Senate Estimates Committees.
“It may come up under ‘related matters’ but this is also unlikely,” he said.
“In various Governmental investigations of Government programs costs is always a significant issue due to the sensitivity that politicians are playing with taxpayer funds.
“What is never included in the investigation of cost, in their broadest sense, is the health, stress and workers’ compensation costs that stem from the “rush job” demand.”
Mr Jones regularly comments on workplace issues on his blog, SafetyAtWorkBlog which is at www.safetyatworkblog.wordpress.com
2 March, 2010
Purchasing plan buys
Government procurement processes are to change on 1 July in favour of creating more employment, training and opportunities for Indigenous Australians.
into Indigenous jobs
Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib has announced that from that date, tenders for Government projects in some parts of Australia worth more than five or six million dollars will be required to show how they will include Indigenous people as workers, trainees or suppliers.
Senator Arbib said the changes to the Indigenous Opportunities Policy were part of the Government’s Closing the Gap strategy to halve the gap in Indigenous employment within a decade.
He said officials were currently required to consider training and employing local Indigenous people and using Indigenous suppliers, but the changes would encourage greater corporate social responsibility.
“Many Australian companies are already actively considering Indigenous employment, and the business sector has provided some valuable preliminary feedback on the Indigenous Opportunities Policy,” Senator Arbib said.
“The Government will continue to consult with the sector between now and the commencement of the Indigenous Opportunities Policy in July.”
The changes are to affect construction projects in regions with significant Indigenous populations.
Senator Arbib said Guidance on applying the policy, including definitions and locations on where it applies, would be made available through guidelines and the National Partnership Agreement website before July.
He said all Commonwealth Government offices undertaking procurement would be required to do so in line with this policy from 1 July, and it is to be fully implemented by 31 December.
Senator Arbib said other Government programs were already in place to help Indigenous businesses, such as the Indigenous Capital Assistance Scheme, Job Services Australia, the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council, Indigenous Business Australia and the Australian Employment Covenant.
2 March, 2010
New web access to
Improved standards of accessibility for Government websites are being developed by the Department of Finance’s Australian Government Information Management Office. Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten said the Government had endorsed the new website accessibility standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
Mr Tanner said the standards would improve the accessibility of Government websites for people with a range of disabilities.
“This is an important step in making democracy more open, accessible and accountable for all Australians,” Mr Tanner said.
“It will encourage and enable people living with disabilities to more fully interact with, and get services from Government online.”
He has given Agencies until 2015 to comply with the new standards, saying they were in line with international best-practice and part of a Government push to implement new online technologies.
Mr Tanner said the new standards would replace WCAG 1.0, which had been the requirement since 2000.
Mr Shorten said unequal access to information for people with disability meant they faced “too many barriers” stopping them from participating in work, education and other pursuits.
“This initiative will help ensure that people with disability are not left behind by the rapid growth of the Internet,” Mr Shorten said.
Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes praised the Government for endorsing the new standards, saying the decision would help people living with disability.
“Accessibility is not only important to people born with a disability, but will become important to a great many of us who will develop various disabilities as we get older,” Mr Innes said.
“So, whether my computer speaks to me because I can’t see the screen, or I use a mouth stick to press the keys, these new standards will ensure Government information will be easier to access.”
The Government is also developing a National Transition Strategy for the move to WCAG 2.0 as part of the National Disability Strategy which is to be released later this year.
All Government websites will have to adhere to the new WCAG 2.0 standards.
Information about the guidelines and upcoming National Transition Strategy will be made available from webpublishing.agimo.gov.au
2 March, 2010
Consultation call to
A Public Service union in Queensland has called for national consultation on the delivery of quality public services for the next 40 years.
talk the talk on PS
General Secretary of the Queensland Public Sector Union (QPSU), Alex Scott made the call, saying the Commonwealth’s Intergenerational Report made it “crystal clear” that Governments needed to start their strategic planning now if they were to serve 36 million Australians in 2050.
Since taxpayers will be paying for those services, Mr Scott said, they should all have a say.
“It makes sense for Governments to take the time to have a considered, realistic discussion with our community about our perspectives as the future of quality Public Service delivery is charted,” Mr Scott said.
“Today, we are asking the Federal Government and the States to stand up for our community and to consult.”
He said the Federal Government needed to consult and stop looking for ways the private sector can profit at the expense of public service delivery and the community.
He said there was a need for investment in the Public Service to ensure taxpayers would be able to access public health care, aged care, education and other vital services.
Mr Scott criticised the trend towards short-term contractors and consultants, saying they led to poor organisational knowledge and lower productivity.
“The intergenerational report confirms what the QPSU has been saying for some time – for Governments to be confident they are ready and able to deliver quality public services in the future it needs to invest now in keeping that capacity in-house,” Mr Scott said.
“As skilled labour access becomes more challenging, the only way future Governments can be confident in its quality of public service delivery is to build and continuously develop capability [and] to value its Public Sector workers.”
He said Public Servants supported the Government’s focus on continuing to roll out infrastructure but stressed the need for it to be done efficiently, effectively and with the community’s interests in mind.
“If Governments are going to get real about long term, strategic nation building to meet population growth and public service delivery, they must build real Public Sector capability within Governments to provide continuity to these infrastructure projects.” he said.
2 March, 2010
Committee votes for
A Parliamentary Committee’s report into the automatic enrolment of voters for Federal Elections has been welcomed by the Minister responsible for electoral matters and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig.
voter enrolment plan
Senator Ludwig said the Government was considering amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act in an attempt to address the 1.39 million voters missing from the electoral roll.
He said a key recommendation made in the report was to allow the Australian Electoral Commission to copy a NSW program that automatically enrols voters based on data received in other Government Agencies.
He said the report also called for electors to be able to enrol on Election Day and to cast a provisional vote if they could provide suitable identification.
Committee Chair, Daryl Melham MP said the NSW Automatic Enrolment legislation would create a ‘Smart Roll’ system which operated around the idea that there were alternative ways for electors to be enrolled and to notify the Electoral Commission of a change in their details, particularly where such information has already been provided to other Government Agencies.
“Declining electoral enrolment continues to present a significant challenge,” Mr Melham said.
“Existing paper‐based enrolment requirements under Commonwealth legislation are a deterrent to the current generation of Australians who are accustomed to conducting business with Government Agencies through electronic transactions.
“The introduction of flexible approaches which modernise electoral enrolment processes is a vital component for addressing the challenge of declining enrolment.”
Senator Ludwig thanked the Committee for their “important work” and said he would consider their recommendations.
The report was available from www.aph.gov.au
2 March, 2010
A decision to close three State offices of the National Archives of Australia has been overturned following political and community pressure.
a thing of the past
PS News reported in November that the Archives would close its State offices in Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart in an effort to cut costs.
Director General of the Archives, Ross Gibbs said last year that the decision to close the offices had been made because they could not maintain high levels of service in the face of further budget cuts.
The Darwin office was due to close on 30 September this year, Adelaide on 30 March 2011 and Hobart on 30 April 2012.
However, the Minister with responsibility for the National Archives, Senator Joe Ludwig said the Archives would maintain face-to-face services in all three cities following lobbying by politicians and the public.
Senator Ludwig said the Government had listened to community concerns and as a result the National Archives would maintain a local presence in each of the States and Territories.
“Australia’s National Archives play a vital role in keeping the political, social and cultural history of Australia alive,” Senator Ludwig said.
The Government is to examine co-locating offices in Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart with other local institutions.
“The reality is that our society is changing and more people are using the internet to search for records,” he said.
“Last financial year there were only 337 visits to the Darwin reading room compared to 22,290 visits nationally, while more than 1.9 million records were accessed online.”
Local Members of Parliament praised the decision, saying it was good news for academics, researchers and other interested groups who use the Archives.
The Community and Public Sector Union also welcomed the decision but said the announcement did not clarify questions about job certainty for Archives staff and how budget cuts would now be met.
2 March, 2010
Glowing plans for
A purpose-built facility for managing Australia’s radioactive waste has been proposed by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson.
Mr Ferguson said the planned facility would be set up under the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 and would process waste generated by Australia’s medical, industrial, agricultural, and research sectors.
The Bill, to replace the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005, would mean a waste collection site could no longer be automatically imposed on a community.
“There is no pre-determined site outcome – the new Bill requires any site to be volunteered by the landowners,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Affected landowners and communities must also be consulted.”
He said Australia had been attempting to meet its international obligations to properly manage its own radioactive waste since 1988.
“It is about time we did so.”
He said Australia’s radioactive waste stockpile was currently stored at more than 100 “less-than-ideal” sites at Australian universities, hospitals, offices and laboratories while research reactor waste went offshore to Scotland and France.
The Minister said the situation was not consistent with international best practice and Australia had contractual obligations and a moral responsibility to accept the return of its own waste by 2015-16.
He said three sites selected by the former Government on Defence land in the Northern Territory had been ruled out as locations and the new Bill would require any proposed site to undergo full environmental, heritage and other approval processes.
He said provisions for volunteer nomination processes would allow a nation-wide volunteer process including Aboriginal Land Councils volunteering land on behalf of traditional owners.
Mr Ferguson said the Bill would allow the nomination of Ngapa land on Muckaty Station, which was offered as a suitable site by the Northern Land Council in 2007.
He said the Commonwealth had entered into a Site Nomination Deed in relation to the land and that the nomination continued to have the support of the Ngapa clan and the Full Council of the Northern Land Council.
2 March, 2010
A new work experience program that will see 100 Indigenous students from around Australia brought to Canberra to experience Public Service life has been announced by the Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib.
to connect the dots
Senator Arbib said the Inaugural Student Work Experience Program would allow students to undertake voluntary internships in Parliamentarians’ Offices and Government Departments and Agencies from 21 to 25 June.
“The goal of the program is to help Indigenous students expand their horizons about what job opportunities exist as they consider their future careers,” Senator Arbib said.
“The participating students will see the how Government works first hand, as well as seeing the diverse options available within the Australian Public Service.”
Senator Arbib said the program, which had bipartisan support, was part of the Government’s commitment to increase Indigenous employment in the APS to 10,800 by 2015. There were 3,176 employed in June 2009.
The program is being run in partnership with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and Dare to Lead, with students to be selected from schools that are part of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and Dare to Lead networks.
Senator Arbib said the initiative would provide an invaluable opportunity for Indigenous students.
“I look forward to meeting the students and listening to their career ambitions and hearing about their week in Canberra,” he said.
2 March, 2010
Migrants take page
An online booklet published by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship is proving immensely popular with its target audience according to the Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson.
out of DIAC booklet
Mr Ferguson said the booklet, titled Beginning a Life in Australia had been published in 37 languages and attracted 840,000 hits last year.
“This publication helps new migrants with practical information as they settle in Australia,” Mr Ferguson said.
“As a Government, we do the best we can to provide new arrivals with the information they need to participate in the community.”
He said the booklets provided information on what migrants could expect in Australia, along with information on employment, housing and education.
He said the information was particularly useful to refugees and the booklet had been translated into languages such as Burmese, Nepali and Arabic, as well as the less common Swahili, Karen and Kirundi.
“The feedback we received indicates that this is well appreciated by newcomers,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said the booklets complemented a range of other settlement services such as English language training and translating services, as well as an information DVD for refugees from Africa and Asia, Australia – a new home.
The booklets were available from www.immi.gov.au, with the next edition expected to be released in April this year.
2 March, 2010
The Auditor-General has found that the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has “effectively managed and coordinated” enforcement operations against illegal foreign fishing in Australia’s northern waters.
is good catch
In his report entitled , Illegal Foreign Fishing in Australia’s Northern Waters, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, said while Customs had performed well overall, there were still a “number of challenges” for it to address.
He said the program against illegal foreign fishing was a “complex whole of Government program” comprising of a number of Agencies.
Customs and Border Protection, through its Border Protection Command, coordinated surveillance and enforcement operations on behalf of Australian Fisheries Management Authority.
Mr McPhee said an increase in foreign fishing vessels (FFV) from 2003 to 2006 had caused the Government to provide the program with additional funding but in the following years the numbers had declined.
In 2005-06 there were 367 apprehensions (although 717 were expected) then there were just 216 in 2006-07, 156 in 2007-08 and 27 in 2008-09.
“As a result of the impact of additional funding on increased detection, apprehension and destruction of FFVs, there was a substantial reduction in FFV apprehensions,” he said.
“The fact that the program has had the opposite effect meant that effectiveness indicators for the program required substantial revision over time, and indicates a gap in Agencies’ strategic understanding at that time of the drivers and dynamics of illegal foreign fishing activity,” he said.
H recommended that the administration of the program be improved, particularly in terms of leadership responsibility, implementation planning and ongoing performance evaluation.
“Resolving these challenges will be important in ensuring there is appropriate high level direction and coordination of the program in the future,” Mr McPhee said.
He made four recommendations aimed at improving the management and coordination of enforcement operations, all of which were accepted by Customs and Border Protection.
Mr McPhee said all Agencies involved regarded the program as successful and that the outcome of the program had rested on effective coordination between participants.
Other Agencies involved included the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service; the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Defence and Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (now DIAC); the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; the Attorney‐General’s Department; the Australian Federal Police; and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
The full audit report was available from www.anao.gov.au and was prepared by an audit team of Peter Jones and Kate Cummins.
2 March, 2010
Bulletin is low-down
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has warned pilots that low-level flying can prove fatal.
on low-level flying
Director of Safety Data, Research and Technical at ATSB, Julian Walsh said the Bureau had released the first in a series of bulletins on avoidable accidents.
Mr Walsh said the bulletin aimed to educate the flying community and general public about the dangers of unauthorised low-level flying.
He said at least 12 people had died over the past 10 years as a result of unauthorised and unnecessary low-level flying.
“The key lesson we’ve learnt from this report is that these tragedies were avoidable,” Mr Walsh said.
“Low-level flying is risky and should be avoided when there is no reason to do it.”
He said that when pilots fly low they encounter obstacles such as powerlines that are difficult to see and difficult to avoid.
“There’s also very little time to recover control of the aircraft if something goes wrong,” Mr Walsh said.
“I sincerely hope that pilots take heed of lessons detailed in this bulletin and consider the potentially tragic consequences of low-level flying.”
He said further bulletins to be released on avoidable accidents will be based on trends in types of accidents reported to the ATSB.
The bulletin was available from www.atsb.gov.au
2 March, 2010
ASIO seeks out
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is to be given sweeping new powers to combat people smuggling.
Changes to the law announced jointly by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans and the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor would empower ASIO to specifically investigate people smuggling and other border security threats.
The Ministers said that under the new laws, national security Agencies would also have the power to collect foreign intelligence about non-State actors, such as people smugglers and their networks.
The Ministers said the Bill would create new offences to target those who provided finance or support to people smuggling activities.
Providing material support for people smuggling would have a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $110,000, while a new offence of people smuggling involving exploitation or danger of death or serious harm could lead to 20 years in jail or a fine of $220,000.
The Ministers said the legislation would also provide greater clarity and consistency by harmonising people smuggling offences in the Migration Act and the Criminal Code.
They said under the new Bill, if a person was convicted of multiple people smuggling offences minimum penalties set out in the Migration Act would be applied.
The Ministers said the legislation represents an important part of the Government’s approach to combating people smuggling.
2 March, 2010
The rules for providing education services to international students have been significantly strengthened, requiring every participating college to re-register if it wants to remain in the sector.
to learn a lesson
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard said the legislation would help weed out “dodgy” providers from the industry.
“The Australian Government is deeply committed to ensuring international students who choose to study in Australia receive a quality education and training,” Ms Gillard said.
“While the vast majority of education providers are delivering quality education, unfortunately the sector has been tarnished by the activities of a few.”
The Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Re-registration of Providers and Other Measures) Bill 2009, which passed the Senate last week, requires all education and training providers currently registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) to re-register under the strengthened criteria by 31 December 2010.
“This is intended to reinforce confidence in the quality of the Australian international education sector and to strengthen the registration process,” Ms Gillard said.
“Only those who have met the strengthened entry requirements will remain on the register from 1 January 2011.
“Providers will also have to prove that education is their principal purpose and that they are able to deliver that education to a high standard.”
Ms Gillard said under the changes, regulation of the international education industry would be strengthened and include greater accountability for providers.
She said the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations was working with the States and Territories to ensure the re-registrations were managed efficiently and implemented consistently.
2 March, 2010
Bravery medals to
The Australian War Memorial in Canberra has announced that its collection of Victoria Cross medals awarded from Gallipoli is to go on a national tour to mark the 95th anniversary of the wartime landing.
show their mettle
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said it would be the first time the medals had toured and it would allow many Australians to see the Anzacs’ decorations first hand.
“Gallipoli was where the Anzac legend was born,” Mr Griffin said.
“These nine Anzacs epitomise the courage and sacrifice of those who fought there.”
He said the nine Victoria Crosses to go on tour belonged to Corporal Alexander Burton, Corporal William Dunstan, Private John Hamilton, Lance Corporal Albert Jacka, Lance Corporal Leonard Keysor, Captain Alfred Shout, Lieutenant William Symons, Second Lieutenant Hugo Throssell, and Lieutenant Frederick Tubb.
Seven of the nine Victoria Crosses awarded at Gallipoli were for bravery during the battle of Lone Pine in 1915.
A total of 97 Australians have received the Victoria Cross.
Director of the Australian War Memorial, Major General Steve Gower said the Victoria Cross was the highest form of recognition that could be bestowed on a soldier for remarkable and unselfish courage in the service of others.
“The entire nation draws pride and inspiration from these brave men,” Maj-Gen Gower said.
The exhibition, This company of brave men; the Gallipoli VCs, will travel to Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, from 20 March, 2010.
2 March, 2010
Visa changes face up
Overseas applicants hoping to visit Australia are to face tough new security checks when lodging their visa applications.
to security threats
A four-year program to introduce biometric checks, including fingerprints and facial images, is to be adopted for 10 yet-to-be-named countries.
The Government is to spend $69 million on the changes in an attempt to combat the threat of global terrorism.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said under the new system, visa applicants from the designated countries would be required to submit fingerprints and facial images at a visa application centre.
Mr O’Connor said biometric information used biological characteristics to establish a unique identity for a person.
He said the data would be recorded and cross-checked to provide the Government with information that could help determine the true identity of visa applicants by matching the data to information on terrorists and criminals held in databases by Australia and international partners.
He said the new system would make it easier for immigration authorities to detect people trying to conceal their identity and would reduce the risk of terrorists and other people of concern entering Australia undetected.
He said the program was being undertaken in collaboration with the United Kingdom Government, which operates a similar scheme.
Biometric data-sharing agreements are already in place with the United Kingdom and Canada, and soon to come into effect with the United States and New Zealand.
Mr O’Connor said the 10 countries would be based on national security and fraud risks, locations where the Government can use British biometric collection centres, and the broad geographic coverage of the scheme.
He said the Department of Immigration and Citizenship already collected biometric data from all people in immigration detention.
2 March, 2010
Change at change Department
The Department of Climate Change is to become the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency in a bid to promote stronger coordination and greater efficiency when developing climate change policies and programs.
The change was announced by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who said Senator Penny Wong has been appointed Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water while Greg Combet has been appointed Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
Mr Combet will take over responsibility winding-up the Household Insulation Program from the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett.
Mr Combet has also retained his existing Defence responsibilities.
Roof hotline hot to trot
A new hotline for householders concerned about insulation installed under the discontinued Home Insulation Program has been launched.
The safety line, which has been expanded to handle calls involving all insulation installed under the program, can be reached on 131 792.
Urgent cases will be acted on immediately, while non-urgent cases will be followed-up with a full risk-based assessment.
Health registration overhaul
Legislation to establish a national system of registration and accreditation of 10 health professions has been introduced into Parliament.
Under the proposed changes health professionals would not need to re-register every time they moved across State or Territory borders.
Legislation is also required to be introduced into each State and Territory, with Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria already passing theirs; the ACT and Northern Territory have introduced their Bills; and South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia are yet to do so.
Security lecture a first
The Prime Minister’s adviser on National Security has delivered the inaugural National Security Lecture, the first in a series run by the University of Canberra’s National Security Institute.
National Security Adviser, Duncan Lewis assessed Australia’s progress towards implementing the recommendations made in the Prime Minister’s National Security Statement of December 2008.
Mr Lewis also addressed changes in the security challenges facing Australia and discussed the development of a cooperative and collaborative national security community in Australia.
Whale plan floated
The Government has submitted a new proposal on the future of whaling to the International Whaling Commission.
The proposal calls for whaling in the Southern Ocean to be phased out within five years and all other whaling, other than Aboriginal subsistence whaling, to be phased out within a reasonable period of time.
It suggests all whaling be brought under the Commission’s control to end the practice of countries being able to unilaterally grant whaling permits.
The proposal was available from www.environment.gov.au
Network comment called
Draft legislation to establish a regulatory framework for the National Broadband Network Company, NBN Co Limited, have been released following last year’s public consultation process.
The NBN Co is to operate as a wholesale-only company, offering open and equivalent access.
The Government said public comment on the drafts closed on 15 March, with further information available from www.dbcde.gov.au
Tax deductions abolished
Legislation to abolish tax deductibility for donations to political parties and candidates by businesses has passed.
The changes apply retrospectively from 1 July 2008, meaning businesses will not be able to deduct political donations from that day.
Individuals will still be able to claim deductions up to the $1,500 cap.
TV lock up proposed
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is seeking public comment on a technical standard that would make it a requirement for digital television receivers to have a parental lock to allow parents to control access to programs.
ACMA has asked the public whether some receivers should be exempt, if there is a need for labelling and record-keeping as part of compliance with the standard, and the date by which suppliers should comply.
The closing date for comment is 2 April and the standard, Mandating parental lock in domestic reception equipment — Determination of a technical standard under Part 9A of Broadcasting Services Act 1992, was available from www.acma.gov.au
An amended tax treaty between Australia and Malaysia has been signed to enable greater exchange of information on potential tax abuse.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the protocol would support better cooperation on tax matters, improve information exchange and transparency and help the Government crackdown on tax evasion.
It would also allow the Tax Office to request information relevant to the imposition of all Australian federal taxes, including the goods and services tax.