SearchArchives for March 2012
30 March, 2012
Overhaul ordered for
A discussion paper proposing a sweeping overhaul of the Commonwealth financial framework has been released by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
Part of a Commonwealth Financial Accountability Review (CFAR), the paper Is Less More? Towards Better Commonwealth Performance covers a range of proposals to improve delivery of government policies and programs and upgrade the public management framework generally.
According to the Minister for Finance, Senator Penny Wong, the Government’s expectations of the Australian Public Service (APS) have changed and so too must the frameworks that provide APS staff with the flexibility and capabilities they need to meet changing demands.
“Much of the thinking behind the current financial framework is nearly 20 years old,” Senator Wong said.
“And while the current framework has met the needs of Government to date, it is insufficient to meet future needs.”
She said the discussion paper had been prepared by the Department of Finance and Deregulation to kick-start the process of reforming the current financial framework.
“While not pre-empting decisions of Government, the paper examines current arrangements and poses a number of questions to generate debate,” Senator Wong said.
In introducing CFAR, the Department says the discussion paper was an important part of the Better Government agenda which was concerned with ensuring an appropriate framework was in place for the APS to work effectively, irrespective of particular settings or policy priorities.
“Releasing the discussion paper is a crucial step in updating the financial framework,” the Department said.
“This is a great opportunity to address the needs of modern Government, improve performance and accommodate future changes.”
The paper can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be accepted until 29 June.
30 March, 2012
The National Archives of Australia is to receive a collection of Prisoner of War (POW) records from Japan.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr welcomed the transfer of historical records relating to former Australian POW’s held by the Japanese since the Second World War.
“We very much appreciate the cooperation of the Japanese Government in the transfer of these records to Australia,” Mr Carr said.
“This exemplifies the strength of our relationship with Japan and the goodwill between us.
“The Australian Embassy in Tokyo will arrange for the records to be safely dispatched into the care of the National Archives of Australia.”
He said that once the more than 16 volumes of records which included name-identified files and information, were repatriated to Australia they would be handed over to the Archives and carefully prepared for public access.
“With some of the records in a fragile condition, the Archives will undertake a rigorous process of careful examination and preparation so they can be digitised and made available to the public online,” Mr Carr said.
“It is expected that most of the records will become publicly available towards the end of this year.”
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon said the records would provide families with previously unseen vital information on their loved ones and help identify where a prisoner was held, the date of capture and date of liberation.
“These records will help to increase our understanding of the experiences of some of the 20,000 Australian prisoners of war held by the Japanese throughout Asia during the Second World War,” Mr Snowdon said.
“They are an invaluable insight into a tragic period in our nation’s wartime history, which will bring clarity for historians and, most importantly, some form of closure for the families of those listed who have, until this time, remained uncertain of their loved one’s fate.”
30 March, 2012
Legal services to
A new national legal service has been launched to provide free legal assistance to Australian parents dealing with the international abduction of a child.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the service would provide practical support to parents in distressing circumstances.
“We want to make it as straightforward as possible for parents to get the assistance they need when dealing with the abduction of their children from Australia,” Ms Roxon said.
“The Hague Convention on international child abduction, to which Australia is a signatory, provides a strong mechanism for lawfully seeking the return of abducted children to Australia.
“However, accessing information about the Convention and knowing how to apply to meet its requirements can be daunting for many parents during one of the most stressful and difficult times of their lives.”
She said the new legal assistance service would complement the counselling and mediation service already provided by International Social Services (ISS) Australia.
She said a new funding agreement with ISS would provide a national service to help parents prepare and lodge applications from Australia for the return of, or access to, children under the Convention.
Ms Roxon said it would also address key recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee report into international child abduction to and from Australia.
“This service will now provide a one stop shop offering legal and counselling assistance for Australian families affected by the abduction of their child from Australia,” she said.
“With the assistance of International Social Services, Australian parents will be able to apply directly to the Attorney-General’s Department, as the Australian Central Authority – and the national contact - for the Hague Convention.”
She said more information could be accessed at this PS News link.
30 March, 2012
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has released the findings of a research project which examined the quality of financial advice given to people to help plan for retirement.
fail advice test
ASIC’s Report 279 Shadow shopping study of financial advice found that over a third of the 64 advice examples were poor (39 per cent); only two could be classified as of good quality advice (three per cent); and the majority (58 per cent) were simply adequate.
ASIC Commissioner, Peter Kell said the results of the research demonstrated there was scope for significant improvement in the provision of good quality retirement advice in Australia.
“Our research found there are several areas where the financial advice industry needs to lift its game,” Mr Kell said.
“Advisers are important gatekeepers who have a key role to play in helping consumers plan and manage their finances.
“This underlines the importance for the industry to remove conflicts of interest and improve overall professional standards to ensure that their client’s trust is not misplaced.”
He said financial advisers needed to provide realistic and client focused communication about people’s retirement prospects, including how long their money would last, even though it could be a challenging conversation.
He said too much poor advice was overly product-focused and not strategic enough to help clients develop a realistic and achievable plan for their retirement.
Mr Kell said ASIC’s research also found many people had difficulty assessing the quality of the financial advice they received.
He said participants in the study rated their advisers and the advice they received highly, even when they received poor advice.
“Consumers’ difficulties in assessing advice quality are not surprising,” he said.
“People who thoroughly understand personal finance are less likely to need a financial planner.”
The research also revealed issues with conflict of interest in which advice was influenced by products that paid commissions.
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 March, 2012
A review has begun into two Commonwealth policies considered central to the sustainability of Australia’s fisheries.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig said Australia had some of the best managed fisheries in the world.
“You don’t become world class, or stay world class, without making sure that you have the best settings and the best policies for industry,” Senator Ludwig said.
“That’s why the Government has initiated reviews of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy and Guidelines (2007) and the Commonwealth Policy on Fisheries Bycatch
He said the harvest strategy policy underpinned the management of target stocks in Commonwealth fisheries and set the framework and ground rules for how fisheries were managed.
He said reviewing it would ensure that the playing field for management decisions was the right one.
“The harvest strategy policy guides key management decisions and their implementation – ensuring they are transparent and based on the best available science and economics,” Senator Ludwig said.
“These decisions have a significant influence on the day–to–day business of fishers. “Keeping this strategy relevant and fresh is just common sense.”
He said the review of the Commonwealth Bycatch policy would be the first of its kind since the policy was introduced in 2000.
“This review is 10 years in the making and fisheries have changed a lot in that time,” he said.
“There has been progress in addressing bycatch in Commonwealth fisheries but this issue is a constant challenge for fishers.
“Senator Ludwig said fishers and consumers wanted to be confident that bycatch was managed carefully, both for the environment and the long–term viability of fisheries.
“It’s a complex issue and this review will mean we can build on what we’ve learnt and get the plan right for management into the future,” he said.
The reviews were scheduled to be completed in early 2013.
30 March, 2012
10-year plan out for
A new framework for a national work health and safety strategy to cover Australian workplaces the next 10 years has been released for public comment.
Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 had been released for an eight week public consultation period and he encouraged workers, employers and policy makers across Australia to contribute.
“All Australians have the right to return home from work safely every day,” Mr Phillips said.
“I urge all interested Australians to be aware of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 and consider providing their views on it as it will influence their working lives over the coming decade.”
He said 216 Australians died from a work-related injury in 2009-10 and the estimated total annual cost of workplace injury, illness and disease was more than $60 billion, equating to roughly 4.8 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
“Despite significant improvement in work health and safety in the last 10 years there is still more that can be done to keep our families free from work-related death, injury and illness,” he said.
“Safe Work Australia is seeking your views to develop a practical, overarching strategy with targets that all Australian workplaces can and should aspire to achieve.”
Mr Phillips said the draft strategy was the result of months of extensive consultation with Australian workers, unions, employers, employer associations, community groups and other key stakeholders.
“It establishes clear and achievable targets and priorities for the progression of work health and safety in Australia,” he said.
“The ultimate vision is for ‘healthy, safe and productive working lives by 2022’.
The proposed framework can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until 21 May 2012.
30 March, 2012
Video content to
Video content from the ABC archives has made history by being released directly to Wikimedia Commons.
shine on website
Wikimedia Commons is a media file website that makes public domain and freely-licensed educational media content freely available to visitors.
Director of ABC Innovation, Angela Clark said it was the first time an Australian broadcaster (commercial or public) had donated video footage directly to Wikimedia, making it available to the general public under a Creative Commons licence.
When users upload a file to Wikimedia Commons they give anyone the licence to use, copy, remix and adapt the content.
Ms Clark said the development built on the ABC’s Open Archive initiatives that had previously been adopted to open ABC archives to the public.
She said by doing so, the ABC was supporting the work of creative producers and making some of its unique content available to a broader audience with a licence that explicitly allowed remix and commercial use.
“The ABC is proud to be the first Australian broadcaster to release content into the Wikimedia Commons,” Ms Clark said.
She said among the clips to be released were footage of Jean Shrimpton’s 1965 visit to the Melbourne Cup, Cathy Freeman’s win at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2001 Tampa Affair, the 1983 floating of the Australian Dollar, and the 1998 Waterfront dispute.
“Sharing content in this way not only makes more ABC content available to everyone, it also facilitates creativity and the possibility of new audiences for the footage.”
ABC content on the Wikimedia Commons is available for viewing at this PS News link.
30 March, 2012
A snapshot of caravanning and camping in Australia collated by Tourism Research Australia (TRA) has shown the experiences were still very popular with Australians.
shows good intent
The TRA findings show that Australians accounted for 91 per cent of all caravanning and camping nights and spent $5.4 billion of the $7 billion spent by tourists on the sector in 2011.
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said the Caravan or Camping in Australia 2011 Snapshot showed that both international and domestic tourists stayed over 45 million nights camping and in caravans.
“The sector is continuing to perform well in a difficult climate,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Despite the recent spate of natural disasters, and global economic turmoil, these numbers have remained reasonably steady over the past 5 years.
“This is a testament to the hard work of the tourism operators in this sector, most of whom are located in regional Australia.”
He said the industry directly employed over 10,000 people and with around 90 per cent of total caravan and camping nights spent outside Australia’s capital cities, the figures highlighted how important the sector was to regional areas.
“The Australian Government remains committed to supporting the caravanning and camping sector,” he said.
“We will continue to work together to develop quality tourism experiences by implementing programs such as T-QUAL Accreditation and T-QUAL Grants.”
The full snapshot report is available at this PS News link.
30 March, 2012
And in other news...
Radio rant costs station
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found comments about a female journalist by radio announcer Kyle Sandilands in November last year to be a breach of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice 2011.
ACMA has begun steps to impose a licence condition on Sydney broadcaster 2DAY FM for five years prohibiting the station from broadcasting any content that demeaned women or girls and requiring it to train its staff better.
Naval review snubs cruise ships
The report of a review of the use of the naval docks at Sydney’s Garden Island by visiting cruise ships has been released.
The review found that Navy requirements at Garden Island were essentially incompatible with cruise ship access.
Defence satellite launched
A new Australian Defence Force satellite has been launched in Kazakhstan to improve communications for Australian military personnel operating in the Middle East.
The launch means Australia now has its own dedicated Defence satellite communications network in the region.
Electoral stamp on a roll
A new postage stamp has been issued by Australia Post to mark the 100th year of the Australian Electoral Roll.
The milestone also coincides with the 50th year since Indigenous Australians became entitled to vote.
Groundwater booklet out
The National Water Commission has launched a new publication entitled Groundwater Essentials.
The booklet is part of the National Groundwater Action Plan and was developed to be accessible and easy to understand, covering everything readers needed to know about groundwater and including links to various water departments and authorities around the nations.
The booklet can be accessed at PS News link.
Trafficking paper released
A new research paper into people trafficking has been released by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).
The research paper is available from PS News link.
Glassworks open for school holidays
The Canberra Glassworks is partnering with the National Museum of Australia and the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival to stage events over the coming school holidays.
Information is available at PS News link.
Previously this week...
Election observers to Burma
Australia is to send an official five-person delegation to observe Burma’s Parliamentary by-elections on 1 April 2012 after the Commonwealth accepted the invitation from the Burmese Government.
Invitations were extended to observers from the United Nations, ASEAN nations and its dialogue partners, which include Australia, the European Union, the United States, Japan, India and others.
Police reject criticism
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have rejected media reports about the policing of professional standards offshore.
In a statement the AFP said its overseas operations were overseen both internally through the AFP Professional Standards framework and externally by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) and the Australian Parliament.
New committee for mining
New legislation has been introduced into Parliament to establish a statutory body to provide advice on coal seam gas and large coal mining.
An interim committee has been put in place and will continue until it hands over to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development from 1 July, 2012.
Bank in China deal
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has signed a currency swap agreement with the People’s Bank of China (PBC).
The agreement allows for the exchange of local currencies between the two central banks of up to A$30 billion or CNY 200 billion.
It is for an initial period of three years and aims to support trade and investment between Australia and China.
SA signs up to gas deal
South Australia is now the third State to sign up to tougher regulations for future coal seam gas and large coal mining projects.
The signing of the Commonwealth’s National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining will mean all environmental approvals and licensing developments in South Australia will be based on rigorous scientific evidence.
Queensland was the first to sign up to the Agreement, followed by NSW.
Globes shine at Library
The National Library of Australia has acquired two pairs of rare floor globes from a New York gallery.
The two pairs of terrestrial and celestial globes were produced between 1799 and 1825 by leading globe-makers of the time, J&W Cary.
Science week projects
Thirty-eight projects are to receive funding for National Science Week 2012 after their applications were successful.
Held from 11 to 19 August, National Science Week 2012 celebrates science, maths, engineering and technology with festivals and events across Australia.
Jobs program a success
The new Wage Connect initiative has been hailed a success.
According to the Minister for Employment Participation Kate Ellis and for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor, in just 10 weeks Wage Connect had helped nearly 2,500 people find paying jobs, with 279 of those people identifying themselves as homeless.
27 March, 2012
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has developed a number of guiding principles for delivering more mobility among staff for their own professional development.
to break down silos
The APSC said on its website that the principles would give Agencies the opportunity to test their own mobility initiatives for strategic value and operational efficacy.
“For example, the Department of Education and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Department of Health and Ageing (DOHA) in Adelaide have recently entered into an exchange arrangement for APS6 and APS5 staff for a placement of up to four months,” the Commission said.
“The APSC’s Client Engagement Group has been working with both Departments to assist in finalising the operational detail of the arrangement.”
According to the Commission, capability development at both an Agency and individual level was an ongoing challenge for the APS that must be addressed if it was to continue to effectively serve the Government of the day and the broader Australian community.
The introduction to the principles says they were developed to strengthen the APS workforce.
“This document seeks to establish guiding principles for the planning and implementation of temporary mobility initiatives for the professional development of Australian Public Service employees,” it says.
“The principles aim to encourage Agencies to consider their own business context and the place that mobility initiatives have within their workforce planning and talent management strategies.”
Among APSC’s 12 principles are recommendations that employee mobility initiatives be integrated into an organisation’s normal workforce planning; that mobility be seen as a strategic initiative; that mobility initiatives be driven by the need to enhance an organisation’s workforce capability; that clear objectives for both the home and host organisation be considered when adopting a mobility initiative; that mobility initiatives did not necessarily require alteration of an employee’s employment entitlements; and that the initiatives should be evaluated for their usefulness, cost effectiveness, and overall benefit to the employee.
The principles and explanatory notes can be downloaded from this PS News link.
27 March, 2012
Dad’s leave pops
New legislation has been introduced into Parliament which aims to give eligible fathers and partners financial support to take parental leave to bond with their new baby.
up for fathers
Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin said the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012 built on the Paid Parental Leave scheme by introducing Dad and Partner Pay from 1 January 2013.
“Eligible working dads and other partners, such as same-sex couples, will have access to two weeks Government-funded Dad and Partner Pay at the National Minimum Wage (currently about $590 a week before tax),” Ms Macklin said.
“This new payment will give families more options to balance work and family commitments.”
She said she understood that having a baby was a big moment in a family’s life, and wanted both parents to have support to take time off.
“We also know that having a baby puts financial strain on a family’s budget,” she said.
“That’s why we are making sure that mums and dads have access to financial support in those first important months of their baby’s life.”
Ms Macklin said the new entitlement would be especially important for parents who worked in casual jobs without annual leave entitlements along with self-employed people such as tradespeople, small business owners and farmers.
“A family will be able to receive Dad and Partner Pay either on its own or in addition to Paid Parental Leave or other family payments such as the Baby Bonus and Family Tax Benefit,” she said.
“Dad and Partner Pay will also help ensure that fathers and partners taking time away from work to care for a child is seen as a normal part of work and family life.”
27 March, 2012
Big wigs sought for
Two new Judges are being sought for the High court of Australia.
High Court jobs
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said a wide net had been cast to start the search for two High Court Justices, the result of the retirements of Justices Bill Gummow and Dyson Heydon.
“These are two of the most significant appointments that need the sharpest minds across the country to be considered,” Ms Roxon said.
“I have no doubt that these vacancies will attract a large pool of high calibre candidates.
“I encourage those from across the community to consider who they might want to nominate keeping in mind the need for a diverse range of professional speciality, cultural background, gender and residential location across applicants.”
Ms Roxon said the High Court and the Australian community would feel the loss of the two experienced judges.
“I take this early opportunity to publicly thank Justice Gummow and Justice Heydon for their exemplary service to the Court and to the Australian people,” she said.
“I’m sure they will continue to make their mark for the remaining period of their appointments.”
She said she had written to State and Territory Attorneys-General, law societies, universities, the Opposition, legal services and the wider legal community, asking for the names of those they considered suitable.
“I am deliberately casting a wide net so the very best of candidates can be considered by the Government,” Ms Roxon said.
27 March, 2012
The Australian Institute of Criminology has revealed the extent of fraud against the Commonwealth in 2009-10 finding that almost $200 million had been recovered during the period and almost $600,000 recovered from internal fraud incidents.
on the money
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare released the Institute’s Fraud against the Commonwealth 2009-10 Annual Report to Government saying it included information to assist Agencies improve their fraud control measures.
Mr Clare said the report particularly highlighted the work of Centrelink in targeting fraud relating to entitlements.
“Centrelink is one of Australia’s largest public sector Agencies, administering $84.2 billion in payments in 2009/10 alone – making it a potential target for fraudulent activity,” Mr Clare said.
“In 2009/10, Centrelink investigated almost 25,000 suspected incidents of fraud worth approximately $76 million.
“Centrelink also prosecuted almost 3,500 cases, with a successful conviction rate of over 99 per cent - an insight into the results that can be achieved from effective fraud management by Agencies.”
He said the report revealed a 12 per cent reduction in reported incidents of fraud and a 17 per cent reduction in the amount lost.
“The Australian Federal Police (AFP) accepted 94 fraud referrals, 24 of which resulted in legal action.
“The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) secured almost $60 million from fraud cases by way of reparation under the Crimes Act and orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act – an increase of over $14 million from the previous year; and $498 million was lost to the Commonwealth in fraud, misuse or theft.”
Mr Clare said any fraud against the Commonwealth was intolerable.
“That’s why safeguards are put in place to prevent fraud, theft and misuse of funds,” he said.
“This includes the Australian National Audit Office, big compliance and fraud control operations at the Australian Tax Office and other Commonwealth Agencies.”
The full AIC report can be accessed at this PS News link.
It was prepared by Jade Lindley, Penny Jorna and Russell G Smith.
27 March, 2012
Attorney signs off on
A discussion paper on proposed reforms to contract law has been released by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon.
Ms Roxon said she was seeking views on possible reforms aimed at cutting red tape for Australian businesses and helping them prosper in an increasingly globalised and digital economy.
She said while Australia performed well and was currently ranked by the World Bank at 17 out of 183 countries for ease of enforcing contracts, it could not afford to be complacent.
“Contract law is a complex mixture of common law, legislation, international agreements and the content of contracts themselves,” Ms Roxon said.
“For example, a contract to buy goods can be affected by common law rules, equitable principles, State and Federal legislation, and UN conventions.
“By improving contract law we can help to cut red tape and make it easier and simpler for business to do business.”
She said contract law was an essential base for economic activity by providing businesses and individuals the certainty and predictability needed to trade and invest with confidence.
She said other countries were also considering reform of their contract law to increase efficiencies and boost productivity and the discussion paper sought advice about the potential internationalisation of Australia’s contract law, with a view to improving the attractiveness of Australia as a business and investment destination.
“As with many debates, I expect there to be both passionate reformers and trenchant defenders of the status quo,” Ms Roxon said.
“Australia’s contract law should support businesses in creating a culture of innovation, embracing technology and looking for new trading opportunities in the Asian century.”
She said the discussion paper was available at this PS News link and submissions would close 20 July.
An article on the proposed changes prepared by Ms Roxon has been reprinted in the PS News Features section and can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 March, 2012
Security report locks
An unclassified version of the report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s inquiry into the arrest of Egyptian-born Australian Mamdouh Habib and his detainment at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has been released.
down policy changes
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the report Inquiry into the actions of Australian Government Agencies in relation to the arrest and detention overseas of Mr Mamdouh Habib from 2001 to 2005 indicated that no Australian official was involved or complicit in any alleged mistreatment or relocation of Mr Habib while he was detained overseas.
Ms Gillard said however, the report by Inspector-General Dr Vivienne Thom also made it clear that some whole-of-government mechanisms and processes could have worked better.
She said the report made a number of recommendations including that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) amend its current ‘Arrest and Detention checklist’; that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) amend its policies and procedures; and that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) develop a formal policy on what AFP officers should do in the event that they become award of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
The report also recommended that ASIO amend its guidelines on the communication of information to foreign authorities and the AFP review its National guidelines on the disclosure of information about Australia to foreign authorities.
“The Government has carefully considered the report’s findings, and accepted five of the report’s six recommendations,” Ms Gillard said.
She said the recommendations would strengthen policies and procedures to ensure proper treatment of Australians detained overseas
She said a recommendation that some Agencies apologise to Mrs Maha Habib for failing to keep her properly informed of Mr Habib’s welfare and circumstances was not accepted.
“We are satisfied that Australian Agencies and officials performed their duties faithfully in the difficult and unprecedented environment in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks,” Ms Gillard said.
“We note also that there were considerable constraints on access to detainees, including Mr Habib, in Guantanamo Bay.”
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 March, 2012
Tax Office to cash
Taxpayers have been warned that the Australian Tax Office (ATO) will be cracking down on undeclared foreign source income.
in on income
Commissioner for Tax, Michael D’Ascenzo issued the taxpayer alert saying the ATO was concerned that not all taxpayers were disclosing their taxable offshore income such as foreign investment income or income earned from inherited assets.
“There are some taxpayers who deliberately attempt to conceal income but there are others who are genuinely unaware of their taxation obligations in relation to offshore income and assets,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“As an Australian resident, you are taxed on your worldwide income, which means you must declare all income you receive from foreign sources in your income tax return.”
He said the ATO was undertaking a range of compliance strategies to address risks relating to nondisclosure of offshore income, including requesting information from banks and enhanced data matching with overseas revenue agencies, AUSTRAC and other Government Agencies.
He said Australian residents needed to be aware of their tax obligations and those who failed to declare their offshore income could incur penalties of up to 75 per cent of the tax avoided.
“Penalties will be reduced by 80 per cent if the person makes a full voluntary disclosure to the ATO,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
He advised anyone unsure of their situation to seek advice or contact the ATO by phoning 13 28 61.
27 March, 2012
Basin managers pull
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has rejected media reports claiming the Authority was changing the policy contained in the draft Basin Plan.
plug on criticism
Chief Executive of the MDBA, Rhondda Dickson wrote to the editor of the Australian newspaper after it published an article on 20 March headlined ‘We were wrong on flood data, says MDBA’.
“Your journalist’s report is wrong,” Dr Dickson wrote.
“The spokesperson did not make the statements attributed to her.
“We are not changing the policy contained in the draft Basin Plan as your article indicates.”
She said the journalist had misunderstood the Authority’s approach to estimating the amounts of water that could sustainably be diverted from the river known as the Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs).
“The MDBA’s statements are not contradictory,” she said.
“It is true that adding the two extra years of inflows will change the long term average of inflows (by 0.13 per cent) but long term average inflows do not simply translate into estimates of SDLs.
“The information is available on our Mythbusters site – as well as contained in numerous reports on our website – and that information shows that we estimate the SDLs using a model which balances environmental water requirements and socio-economic factors.”
Dr Dickson said therefore the extra two years of inflows would not affect the SDL estimates.
27 March, 2012
Positive climate for
World Meteorological Day celebrations were held last week with the theme Powering our Future with Weather, Climate and Water.
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said the theme highlighted the benefits of climate prediction in helping to manage resources better.
“It focuses on the critical roles of weather, climate and water services in powering a sustainable future for us and for generations to come,” Senator Farrell said.
He said 23 March marked 62 years since the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) came into being.
He said the day could also be used to recognise the depth and breadth of services provided to the community by the Bureau of Meteorology as one of the oldest and most established Australian Government Agencies.
“These days we rely on the Bureau’s services for information spanning all scales from the long-term climate to up-to-the minute observations,” Senator Farrell said.
“Everything from social activities to multi-million dollar investment decisions depend on this information.”
He said the past year had seen the Bureau play an active role in informing the public in relation to cyclones, storms, floods, bushfires, tsunami and volcanic ash – all of which had the capacity to severely impact public safety.
“During these events, the Bureau provided around-the-clock advice through its regional forecasting centres in every capital city, supported by data collected from observers and automated equipment in numerous and often remote locations on the mainland and offshore islands,” he said.
“These services keep us informed and help keep us safe.”
Senator Farrell said the Bureau’s work was fundamental to the day-to-day life of Australians.
“Its benefit is in no small way due to the global collaboration provided through the World Meteorological Organisation,” he said.
“For these reasons we should all celebrate World Meteorological Day.”
27 March, 2012
Bike path program
The audit of a $40 million bike paths program has found it fell well short of its stated objectives.
runs off the rails
In his report Establishment, Implementation and Administration of the Bike Paths Component of the Local Jobs Stream of the Jobs Fund, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the funding was part of a $650 million economic stimulus program.
He said the $40 million had been specifically quarantined for the construction of bike paths with eligible projects needing to be viable and ready to start and in areas of high unemployment.
The funding was not to extend past 2010–11.
“In total, 175 projects were approved for bike paths component funding,” Mr McPhee said.
“The bike paths component of the Jobs Fund fell significantly short of achieving the stated program objectives.”
He said in particular, the financial stimulus that occurred was later than that budgeted for and a significant proportion of the contracted funding was not paid out until the second half of the 2010–11 financial year, up to 12 months after the program end-date of 30 June 2010.
Mr McPhee said implementation of the program did not focus the available funding on projects that would maximise job creation and there was no reliable data available on actual employment outcomes achieved.
He said the responsible Department – the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport and the Department of Infrastructure and Transport - did not undertake any value for money analysis of the employment claims made by project managers and the process used to select the successful applications was inconsistent with the published Jobs Fund guidelines.
“More than one third of applications approved for funding had been assessed by the responsible Department as not meeting at least one of the criteria outlined in the published Jobs Fund guidelines,” he said.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Tina Long, Erica Sekend, Amanda Ronald, Ben Siddans and Brian Boyd.
27 March, 2012
Changes to the student visa program came into effect on 24 March the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, has announced.
Mr Bowen said the changes were recommended by the Knight Review and were part of a commitment to position Australia as a preferred study destination for international students.
“International education plays a vital role in a growing economy, educational outcomes and Australia’s diplomatic engagement with other countries,” Mr Bowen said, “so it’s important that we give it the best possible support.”
He said the new processing arrangements for prospective students enrolled in Bachelor, Masters or Doctoral degrees at participating universities had been streamlined, making the application process simpler and faster.
He said the changes would see university students, regardless of their country of origin, treated as though they were lower risk and would need to submit less evidence in support of their visa application.
“Universities in Australia have embraced the opportunity to sign up to the arrangements, which are expected to help boost international enrolments for semester two 2012 and beyond.”
He said more flexible work conditions would also be provided for all student visa holders, which would also provide more flexibility for their employers.
Mr Bowen said under the changes, postgraduate research (subclass 574) visa holders would also be allowed to work an unlimited amount of hours per week once their course had commenced, meaning they could engage in employment related to their research.
He said other Knight Review changes being implemented included improved access to English language study for schools sector visa applicants and student guardian visa holders; and the removal of the requirement for higher risk schools sector visa applicants to provide evidence of an English language proficiency test.
27 March, 2012
New radio rules to
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued new standards for advertising and disclosing commercial influence for radio broadcasters.
rule the airwaves
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the new standards would begin on 1 May and reflected the Authority’s recent decision to continue regulating commercial influence in current affairs programs and advertising on commercial radio.
“The standards were developed following the ACMA’s review and extensive consultation with industry and the public seeking comment on the proposed reforms,” Mr Chapman said.
“This reform package strengthens protections for listeners while at the same time reducing the regulatory burden on industry.”
He said reforms to the Disclosure Standard would require disclosure of not only ‘presenter agreements’ where the presenter had a commercial agreement with a sponsor, but also of some ‘licensee agreements’ where the presenter had an interest in the licensee company, which in turn had a commercial agreement with a sponsor.
He said other reforms would allow current affairs presenters more flexibility in how they identified sponsorship arrangements and would change the register and formal notifications process so industry could keep online registers without the need for formal notices to ACMA.
“ACMA has reformed the Advertising Standard by making it clear that advertising must be distinguishable from other program material at the time of broadcast, rather than later in a segment or program generally,” Mr Chapman said.
“Finally, in both standards, the definition of ‘consideration’ has been broadened by including other beneficial and indirect benefits to better capture instances of paid advertising and commercial influence.”
He said the Compliance Program Standard would also be revoked on 1 May which had required commercial radio licensees to undertake compliance education and audits.
27 March, 2012
The National Water Commission has released three reports aimed at furthering knowledge of water dependent ecosystems.
laps up reports
The Commission said effective adaptive management required knowledge to be continually extended, broadened and applied in decision making.
It said the 2011 Assessment of the National Water Initiative emphasised the importance of targeted investment in new knowledge and ongoing monitoring to support sustainable water management is vital.
It said the first report, Guidance on ecological responses and hydrological modelling for low-flow water planning, provided a ‘decision support’ for improving how low flows and cease-to-flows were managed, monitored, modelled and planned for.
“The Commission had previously found that there was room for improvement in drought planning, defining how systems will operate during low inflows, considering climate change in water plans, and in handling ecological issues,” the Commission said.
“The Commission reviewed and prioritised the knowledge gaps in monitoring and modelling low flows, and in relevant ecological information.”
It said another report, Ecological limits of hydrologic alteration: a test of the Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration framework in south-east Queensland, reported on the findings of the first Australian trial of the international ELOHA framework and made recommendations for water managers and policy makers on the ecological responses that could be expected when flow regimes were altered.
The third report, National Waterbird Assessment, was initiated to provide new data and analysis to support water planning and inform environmental watering decisions.
“The report has given us a snapshot in time of our important wetlands and waterbirds and ranked the top 20 Australian wetlands for waterbirds,” it said.
All reports can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 March, 2012
A new exhibition celebrating the centenary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition has been officially opened at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra.
comes in from cold
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said Sir Douglas Mawson’s first Australian expedition to Antarctica pushed the boundaries of human endurance in the quest for scientific knowledge.
Mr Crean said the new exhibition was dedicated to that journey and would be on show at the Archives until 9 September.
“Traversing Antarctica: the Australian experience charts the science and politics of Antarctic exploration from those early days to the modern era of the Antarctic Treaty System,” Mr Crean said.
“Australia has a deep connection and enduring fascination with the Antarctic and we continue to play a significant role in the exploration and care of Antarctica.
“For me, there is a personal connection to this fascinating chapter in history, as one of my relations, Tom Crean, was an early Antarctic explorer in three key British journeys including the Shackleton and ill-fated Scott expeditions.”
He said the exhibition contained rare artefacts, images, film and scientific data that gave an insight into Australia’s activities in Antarctica over the past 100 years.
He said much of the collection could be viewed online, which allowed all Australians regardless of where they lived to access the national treasures.
Mr Crean said the exhibition had first opened in Tasmania in December and would tour nationally until 2015.
“Just as our Antarctic explorers conquered great distances in the pursuit of knowledge, this exhibition will embark on its own journey, reaching out to a number of communities in regional Australia,” he said.
“The exhibition will visit Fremantle, Geraldton, Albany, Kalgoorlie, Adelaide, Wagga Wagga, Grafton, Bundaberg, Gladstone and Hervey Bay.”
He said the online exhibition could be accessed at this PS News link.
23 March, 2012
Public called on to
A new plan that enlists public support to expose Public Service, political and business corruption has been announced by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon.
fight PS corruption
Ms Roxon said the National Anti-Corruption Plan was an Australian first.
“We are taking tough and comprehensive action against corruption,” Ms Roxon said.
“Australia has a strong record in tackling corruption and is ranked amongst the least corrupt nations in the world - this plan will boost our anti-corruption efforts.
“I’m calling on the community to provide input into how Australia can effectively address emerging corruption risks and respond decisively to corruption in both the public and private sectors.”
She said while Australia was well equipped to respond to corruption threats it could not become complacent.
“A national plan underlines Australia’s zero tolerance attitude towards corruption and will ensure coordination of anti-corruption efforts across the nation.
“We expect a wide range of views to be received through submissions and will consider them in the development of the plan.”
Ms Roxon said a discussion paper had been prepared asking members of the public to comment on how Australia’s anti-corruption systems could be improved; what were the most important threats; and how Australia could be vulnerable to those threats.
She said feedback was also being sought on Australia’s risk mitigation strategies.
“The National Plan will include results of a risk analysis of current and emerging corruption risks and a framework to ensure the plan is able to effectively address these risks into the future,” she said.
“Public submissions to the discussion paper close on 20 April 2012.”
The 29-page discussion paper The Commonwealth’s approach to Anti-Corruption can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 March, 2012
Union sees red over
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called on the Government to get serious about cutting expenditure on consultants.
The union made the call after media reports revealed that $2 billion had been spent on consultancy firms over the past four and a half years while jobs were being lost from the Public Service as part of a savings drive.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said she thought most Australians would be outraged that such a large amount of taxpayers’ money was going to a handful of multi-national companies while essential frontline services and jobs were disappearing.
“The Federal Government appears to have developed a long-term dependence on expensive contractors to do work, much of which could - and should - be done in-house,” Ms Flood said.
“The Government knows it has skill gaps and shortages in key areas.
“Now is the time to get serious about addressing them.”
She suggested it would be better in the long term if the Government invested in its own people.
“If the Government is so committed to saving money on contractors, why isn’t it publishing this data itself,” she said.
“When the Government announced an extra $.2.2 billion cut to public sector Agencies late last year, they promised to crack down on consultancy spending.”
Ms Flood said if Agencies did have plans to cut consultancy spending, staff couldn’t see them.
“Instead they are facing redundancies and higher workloads for the staff left behind,” she said.
Ms Flood said recent CPSU research showed that very few Agencies had discussed cutting consultancies or other saving measures with staff, although many of those Agencies were going ahead with jobs cuts.
“We could see this problem get worse,” she said.
“Current Budget cuts to the Public Service are seeing skilled staff go out the door and not be replaced.
“If you keep degrading the Public Service’s long-term capacity, inevitably there will be greater reliance on expensive private sector firms to undertake core public service work.”
23 March, 2012
The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has been abolished.
Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the Building and Construction Industry (Transition to Fair Work) Bill had passed the Senate, winding up the ABCC and replacing it with a new body, the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.
Mr Shorten said penalties for breaches of industrial law would also be brought into line with those in the Fair Work Act 2009 and the change followed recommendations from a review undertaken by Justice Murray Wilcox.
“Compulsory examination notices will be retained, however they will now be subject to a number of significant safeguards proposed by Justice Wilcox,” Mr Shorten said.
“The powers will sunset after three years, but only after a comprehensive review.
“In addition, the legislation creates an office, the Independent Assessor who may make a determination that the compulsory examination notice powers will not apply to a particular project.”
He said the legislation balanced the requirements to ensure compliance with the law and the fair treatment of individuals in the building and construction industry.
“The Government has always supported a strong building industry regulator and a strong set of compliance arrangements for the building industry,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the new legislation met that commitment.
He said the Government also held the view that anyone who broke a law should feel the full force of the law.
“The Government will not tolerate an environment in which people choose which laws to obey and which ones to ignore,” he said.
“This goes for all industry participants.”
23 March, 2012
Electoral roll push
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has officially launched its Year of Enrolment 2012 aimed at encouraging 1.5 million eligible voters to join the electoral roll.
gets a big tick
This year marks 100 years since the right and responsibility to enrol became law and 50 years since all Indigenous Australians became entitled to vote.
Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn said the two electoral milestones provided an opportunity to draw attention to the ongoing challenge of ensuring all Australians had the chance to exercise a key democratic right and responsibility by enrolling to vote.
“Today, an estimated 1.5 million eligible Australians are not enrolled and if an election was held they could miss out on their vote – that’s equivalent to having an extra fifteen electorates or another State the size of Western Australia,” Mr Killesteyn said.
“The AEC makes extensive efforts to remind people to enrol, and stay on the roll, but roll numbers are not increasing at the same pace as the eligible population, a trend evident since the 1990s.”
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said major targets of the new campaign would be targeting young people in particular.
“Each month more than 22,000 Australian citizens turn 18,” Mr Gray said.
“Based on current estimates, only 36 per cent of 18 year-olds are enrolled to vote.”
He said the decline in enrolment required a response from both young Australians and the AEC.
“The challenge, not only for the AEC, but for us all, is to arrest this trend of declining enrolments and engage with the growing number of disenfranchised Australians,” he said.
“Ironically, young people are certainly not reluctant to express their voice in other areas of their life – tweeting, blogging, social media, voting for anything and everything online.
“But when it comes to voting for their elected representatives, something is turning them off.”
Enrolments can be made at this PS News link.
23 March, 2012
New visa process puts
Reforms to visa application processes are to come into effect this weekend (24 March), combining two parallel processes into one.
refugees in same boat
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen said the new protection visa process would combine separate processes for boat and air arrivals into a single system for all asylum seekers.
“The current onshore arrangements for application and independent review through the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) system will now apply to all people seeking asylum in Australia, regardless of their mode of arrival,” Mr Bowen said.
“This means the protection obligations assessment process for irregular maritime arrivals will be consistent with that of onshore protection visa applicants.”
He said the new system would apply to asylum seekers who arrive in Australia from 24 March as well as those who had arrived earlier but had not yet had a primary assessment interview.
“Those who are currently having their asylum claims assessed in the non statutory process will continue in that process with access to existing Independent Merits Review arrangements,” he said.
Mr Bowen said all asylum seekers would continue to have access to judicial review and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would also commence processing complementary protection claims as part of the protection visa framework from 24 March.
“This will mean people facing certain types of harm – not covered by the Refugee Convention but still warranting protection – will be recognised sooner, making the process more efficient and less stressful for vulnerable people at risk of violation of their fundamental human rights,” he said.
More information on the processing changes is available from this PS News link.
23 March, 2012
The first annual report of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor has been tabled in Parliament but does not make any recommendations.
In his report, the Monitor, Bret Walker SC, examines the operation of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation and outlines his agenda for the next year.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the independent Monitor’s position was established in response to recommendations from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security; the Independent Security Legislation Review Committee (the Sheller Committee); and the Clarke Inquiry into the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef.
“The Monitor plays an important role in making sure our enforcement and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to prevent terrorist acts from occurring,” Ms Gillard said.
“The Monitor also makes sure that these laws remain necessary, consistent with our international obligations and protect the rights of individuals.”
She said the role underlined the Government’s commitment to transparent oversight and regular review of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation.
“Although the report does not contain any recommendations, the Government will give careful consideration to the issues raised in this report,” she said.
“There will be no formal response.”
The Monitor’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 March, 2012
Skills website for
A new website is to be created to allow workers considering a career change find the training they needed.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the new My Skills website would be launched later this year and would allows people to compare courses, fees, and providers along with the quality of training on offer.
“Right now, there is no consistent or authoritative source of information on training providers,” Ms Gillard said.
“Different providers have different fees, varying level of student satisfaction and varying success in providing a pathway to employment or further training.”
She said the lack of available data meant it could be difficult for an employer or an individual to make an informed choice about which training course was most appropriate for them.
“Through My Skills, Australians will be able to research the courses on offer in the VET system by the approximately 5,000 registered providers,” she said.
“It will bring greater transparency and choice to the sector by allowing for comparisons to be made.”
Ms Gillard said that over time, the service would cover student fees, the outcomes of satisfaction surveys and greater information at the individual campus or training location level.
“It will also include information about the availability of student services such as childcare arrangements, as well as links to local employment opportunities,” she said.
“My Skills will be a key measure to boost transparency in the vocational education and training system.”
She said a new Unique Student Identifier would also be introduced so students would be able to access information about their training record from a single authoritative source.
“This will help students keep track of their qualification and training, as they upskill and reskill throughout their career,” she said.
“It will also give the Government better access to data on where training funds are being spent, boosting accountability and transparency.”
23 March, 2012
Tolerance survey finds
A new survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has found that most people are generally accepting of other cultures.
The 2010 General Social Survey (GSS) asked about the extent to which adults agreed or disagreed with the statement, “It’s a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different cultures.”
In its report, the ABS says that 80 per cent of respondents nationally indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) recorded the highest proportion of positive responses with 87 per cent agreeing.
“Tasmania (77 per cent) and Queensland (76 per cent) recorded the lowest positive rates,” the report says.
“In general, older age groups were less likely to agree.
“Tasmanians (nine per cent) and Queenslanders (eight per cent) were the most likely to disagree or strongly disagree with the statement.”
The report says the survey also found Tasmanians to be the most likely to have been born in Australia (87 per cent) and 86 per cent reported that all or most of their friends were from the same ethnic background as they were themselves.
“The jurisdictions with the lowest percentage of people reporting that all or most of their friends were from the same ethnic background were the Northern Territory (67 per cent) and Victoria (69 per cent).
It also examined how people kept in touch with their friends, finding this also varied between States and Territories but the use of computers and the internet had risen sharply across all jurisdictions between 2006 and 2010.
“While still the least likely to use computers to access the Internet at home, the proportion of Tasmanians and South Australians accessing the Internet from home increased the most of any region,” it says.
“People in the ACT had the highest level of home-based Internet access in the country.”
The Bureau’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 March, 2012
And in other news...
New consulate for China
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has announced that Australia is to have a new Consulate-General in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province.
Australia already has an Embassy in Beijing and Consulates-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
Ms Gillard said China was Australia’s largest two-way trade partner, with total trade valued at over $113 billion in 2010-11.
Scholarships honour GG
Two new scholarships have been announced to provide young Australians with the opportunity to study oversees at the top universities in the world.
The Scholarships will be offered in honour of former Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen.
A special one-off grant of $6 million has been made to the General Sir John Monash Foundation Endowment Fund to provide for the two Sir Zelman Cowen scholarships in perpetuity.
Super website launched
A new website has been launched to help Australians assess the changes in their retirement savings likely to come about following passage of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax through Parliament.
The MoreSuper website provides a calculator that allows people to input their details and find out the projected improvement in their retirement savings.
The website is available at this PS News link.
Literary awards biggest yet
The 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have attracted the highest number of entries ever according to the Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean.
Mr Crean said the number of entries demonstrated the strength and diversity of Australia’s cultural landscape.
“Entries were received from every State and Territory,” Mr Crean said.
“With the introduction of the new poetry award and incorporation of the Prize for Australian History, the number of works entered in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards has grown from 379 in 2011 to 509 in 2012.”
Titanic exhibition opens
An exhibition marking 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic is to open at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney next week.
The exhibition Remembering Titanic – 100 Years is to run from 29 March to 11 November 2012 and presents the history of the tragedy from construction to sinking and rediscovery along with the controversy surrounding it.
Entry is included with general admission to the Museum which is $7 for adults, $3.50 for children/concession or $17.50 for families.
Volunteer changes put off
Proposed changes to the funding arrangements of the Volunteer Management Program are to be deferred.
Minister for Social Inclusion, Mark Butler said the decision to defer the changes followed ongoing consultation with the volunteering sector.
Mr Butler said the Government would keep working with volunteering organisations to consider further the impact of the proposed changes and in the meantime, existing Commonwealth funding to volunteer organisations would continue.
Wage case submission
The Government’s submission to the Annual Wage Review of Fair Work Australia recommends that any increase be in line with living costs and other economic changes.
Fair Work Australia is required to consider minimum wage cases with regard to the state of the economy (including employment growth, productivity and inflation) as well as the needs of the low paid.
The official submission can be accessed at this PS News link.
Geoscience Australia is to survey 1,900 businesses to gather information on impacts and losses caused by Tropical Cyclone Yasi and last year’s floods in southeast Queensland.
The survey will also seek details on how businesses coped with the loss and disruption and will be followed by a survey of households to gather information on the social impacts of a disaster.
Consumer rights turn 50
The 50th anniversary of World Consumer Rights Day has been marked by Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury.
Mr Bradbury said it had been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy gave his speech to the US Congress in which he spoke about the need for consumer rights to be enshrined in public policy.
He said since then Australian Governments had committed themselves to a strong and robust consumer law framework which was at its strongest today.
Director takes medal
The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford has been presented with an Australia Council Visual Arts Laureate Medal for his ‘outstanding contribution to the development of the Australian cultural sector’.
The Australia Council for the Arts made the award alongside an Australia Council Visual Arts Laureate Award which went to contemporary artist Fiona Hall.
Detention manual outdated
A 2010 Serco training manual publicised in a media outlet was no longer in use according to the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen
Mr Bowen said the manual was out of date and didn’t reflect the clear guidelines agreed to by Serco and the Department of Immigration on the company’s engagement with people in detention facilities.
Leukaemia program launched
A major fundraising initiative for the Leukaemia Foundation has been launched in Canberra.
Lifecycle aims to increase community awareness of Leukaemia and raise capital toward a much needed purpose built facility in Canberra for ACT and surrounding regional NSW patients.
More details are available from this PS News link.
Financial advice put off
Commencement of the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms has been set back to 1 July 2013 with a voluntary scheme to be introduced on 1 July this year.
Minister for Financial Services, Bill Shorten said the Government had listened to business and the financial planning community who expressed concerns.
Flood report finalised
The Final report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry has been released.
The Commonwealth has accepted all recommendations related to it either in full or in part from the Commission’s interim report in September 2011 and has announced it will now consider the Final report and respond to recommendations in due course.
The Queensland floods are expected to be the most costly natural disaster in Australia’s history.
Indigenous projects closing gap
A new report has shown more than 50 projects have been established in 29 remote communities across Australia, helping to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
The Indigenous Remote Service Delivery Special Account 2010–11 annual report found a number of projects had been established which aimed at improving infrastructure; supporting organisations and leadership opportunities; maintaining arts and culture; and helping young people.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
Memorials for veterans
Sixty-four projects across Australia honouring Australian servicemen and women are to be supported with commemorative grants worth close to $170,000.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon said the Saluting Their Service commemorative grants would fund projects to commemorate Australia’s wartime history and honour those who served, and continue to serve Australia in wars, conflicts and peace operations.
He said since 2008, more than $7 million had been provided to over 1,800 commemorative projects across the country.
20 March, 2012
Judges to be judged
A new system for handing complaints against Federal Judges and judicial officers has been announced by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon.
in new system
Ms Roxon said new laws had been introduced into Parliament aimed at providing a clearer, more accountable and more effective system.
“It is essential that the community continues to have strong confidence in our courts and a transparent and robust complaints process is fundamental to this,” Ms Roxon said.
“An open and transparent judicial system is a cornerstone of a fair and just society.
“Australia’s courts are held in the highest regard and our judiciary takes very seriously the responsibility entrusted to them as holders of judicial office - these reforms will strengthen our legal system.”
She said in the rare circumstances where it was needed the Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012 would provide a mechanism to assist the Parliament’s consideration of the removal of a Judge from office.
She said the Bill enabled Parliament to establish Parliamentary Commissions to investigate serious allegations of misbehaviour or incapacity relating to a judicial officer and to support a decision to remove a Judge.
“The need for a Parliamentary Commission would be extremely rare, but it is nevertheless important to have fair and transparent processes in place, and to have it well in advance of a situation where it may be needed,” Ms Roxon said.
She said a second Bill, the Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012 would give a legislative basis for a largely non-statutory framework to assist the Chief Justices of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate to manage complaints within their Courts.
She said the framework would also give the heads of jurisdiction the ability to establish a Conduct Committee to investigate and report to them about a complaint.
20 March, 2012
New bullying aids
A new website and a new mobile phone application to help students and parents address bullying in schools have been launched.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the new Bullying No Way! Website and the Take A Stand Together mobile app would help address the problem but ongoing education and action was needed.
“Bullying is a very serious issue,” Mr Garrett said, “with research showing that one in six students are bullied weekly, and one in four students are bullied at least once over a period of a few weeks.
“These tools will show students and parents how to identify and deal with bullying, and will include educational games and videos which touch on the newest form of bullying, cyberbullying.”
He said the use of hand held devices and social media had seen the rise of more covert types of bullying such as cyberbullying.
“This presents us with a whole new range of challenges, but we are committed to working with parents, students and schools to tackle this important issue,” Mr Garrett said.
“We know that confident, happy, resilient children do better at school, and are more likely to develop positive relationships and pursue healthy lifestyles in the long term.”
Mr Garrett said he was working with States and Territories to implement the National Safe Schools Framework which would support schools in taking a proactive approach to developing safety and wellbeing policies, including addressing bullying and cyber-safety.
“I will put bullying on the agenda as an issue of national importance for discussion with State and Territory education ministers in April and see how together we can make the most of the framework we have all endorsed and bring about its positive impact in schools,” he said.
He said more information was available at this PS News link and this PS News link.
20 March, 2012
Guidance notes guide
The Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) has issued a Guidance Note to assist Departments and Agencies with Post-Implementation Reviews (PIRs).
on new Regulations
The Guidance Note says PIRs were required when a proposal proceeded to a decision maker without an adequate Regulation Impact Statement (RIS).
It says the resulting Regulation must be subject to a PIR unless the impact is of a minor or machinery nature and the regulation did not substantially alter previous arrangements.
“The absence of a RIS may be because an adequate RIS was not prepared or the Prime Minister granted an exemption for exceptional circumstances,” the Guidance Note says.
“A PIR must commence within one to two years of the implementation of the Regulation, as per the Government’s best practice regulation requirements.”
It says a PIR will be very similar in form and substance to a RIS.
“Like a RIS, a PIR will outline the problem and objectives, provide evidence and analysis, present findings from consultation, and make a conclusion,” it says.
“The main difference is that the impact analysis for a PIR should include information about the actual impacts of the Regulation, rather than just estimates.
“Stakeholder consultation is essential and will form a key part of a PIR.”
The Guidance Note says a PIR’s conclusion should provide an assessment, based on the available evidence, which considers whether the Regulation remains appropriate, and how effective and efficient the Regulation has been in meeting its original objectives.
The full Guidance Note can be accessed at this PS News link.
20 March, 2012
A new Australian Apprenticeship Mentoring Package has been announced to provide support to more than 12,000 Australian apprentices.
to pass the test
Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills, Senator Chris Evans said mentoring and adviser projects would be driven by the needs of industry and would target all occupations that had an emerging or demonstrated skills need.
Senator Evans said under the initiative, industry would work directly with students, parents, job-seekers and schools to give them tailored advice on the best training choice for the individual and one-on-one support throughout their apprenticeship.
He said the Government would spend $18 million on the first allocation of the program.
“This new approach is centred on the needs of industry and puts them at the heart of the apprentice system,” Senator Evans said.
“Completion rates for Australian Apprenticeships are currently around 50 per cent which is far too low.
“This support and advice will help increase retention rates, particularly in the crucial first year of training, and address the critical skills needs of the economy.”
He said lifting apprenticeship completion rates not only gave individuals the training they needed to get higher skilled and higher paying jobs, but it was also crucial for the economy.
“Skills Australia has estimated that in the five years to 2015, Australia will need an additional 2.1 million people in the workforce with higher vocational education and training (VET) qualifications,” he said.
“A failure to address this shortfall will leave the economy short of the skills it needs to grow.”
20 March, 2012
Tax watchdog rules
The Inspector-General of Taxation has reported on his review into the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) administration of class rulings.
on ATO rulings
Inspector-General, Ali Noroozi made eight recommendations in his Report, directed at improving the administration of class rulings processes and related areas.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said Mr Noroozi had examined information, systems and processes relating to the ATO’s administration and publication of class rulings over the five year period between 2006-07 and 2010-11.
“Overall, the Inspector-General observed that the class ruling system is a useful element of the tax system because, amongst other things, class rulings effectively mitigate operational costs and reduce risk by providing greater administrative certainty to relevant taxpayers,” Mr Bradbury said.
“However, he also acknowledged that there were areas for improvement.”
Mr Bradbury said the recommendations made in the report focused on case management; reporting; record keeping; external performance standards; communication; and transparency.
He said recommendations were also made regarding the awareness of ATO staff awareness of existing procedures and policies as well as the Office’s Siebel system search functionality.
Mr Bradbury said the ATO broadly agreed with all recommendations in the Report (agreeing with six recommendations in full, one in part, and one in principle) and the Inspector-General had worked with it to settle on a significant program of work, which when implemented, should deliver improvements.
“I commend both the ATO and the Inspector-General for their collaborative work on this Report to enhance the operation of the class rulings system, which will further improve the tax administration for the benefit of all taxpayers,” Mr Bradbury said.
The Inspector-General’s full report be accessed at this PS News link.
20 March, 2012
Tax Office does number
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has released its 2011 prosecution figures for tax and superannuation offences showing that almost 1,200 people were prosecuted and convicted last year.
on tax evaders
Commissioner for Tax, Michael D’Ascenzo said the ATO’s use of sophisticated data matching technology was helping to close the net around those exploiting the tax and super systems.
“People deliberately committing tax evasion are often caught by the sharing of information between Government Departments and other third parties,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“Cooperation across Government Departments has led to increased intelligence sharing and improved information gathering which is driving our data matching capabilities to new levels.”
He said the ATO used advanced technology to bring together information from a range of sources to cross check personal and business records such as car registrations and supply orders for businesses.
“The ATO also undertakes risk profiling to identify people and businesses that may have not declared all their earnings or overinflate their deductions,” he said.
“We can see how personal and business claims compare to other tax payers.
“If alarms are raised the ATO investigates those claims and taxpayer records more closely.”
He said the 2011 annual report revealed 48 people were convicted of serious tax crime offences and received sentences ranging from three months to nine years and 11 months.
He said 1,149 people and 370 companies were also convicted for other offences including failing to lodge a tax return, providing false and misleading information and receiving a fee for preparing an income tax return without being a registered tax agent.
Mr D’Ascenzo said the community as a whole paid the price for the actions of tax cheats.
“We take the responsibility of protecting the community from tax cheats very seriously and rigorously seek to identify people making false claims in their tax returns,” he said.
More information is available at this PS News link.
20 March, 2012
Young leaders in
The Department of Defence has nominated two young representatives to join a youth delegation to the NATO Leaders’ Summit in Chicago this May.
sights at Defence
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the Department had entered a partnership with Global Voices, a not-for-profit organisation promoting understanding of international diplomacy and encouraging participation by young Australians.
Mr Snowdon said Flight Lieutenant Melissa Houston and Farooq Mohammad had been chosen to attend the conference.
“It is an important activity in developing the capacity of Defence’s next generation of leaders and will no doubt give Melissa and Farooq an incredible insight into an important part of the world’s diplomatic framework,” Mr Snowdon said.
“This is the first time Australia has sent a youth delegation to a NATO Leader’s summit and it reflects Australia’s strengthening relationship with NATO over the last decade.
“Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor of troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, a role we all take very seriously.
He said before departing for Chicago, the participants would each produce a research paper on a topic relevant to Australia’s engagement with NATO.
“These papers will be provided to the NATO Summit secretariat, published online and in academic journals,” he said.
“During the Chicago conference, Australia’s youth delegates will have the opportunity to attend open briefings by senior Government representatives of NATO contributing nations, military commanders and diplomats.
“Global Voices organises Australian youth delegations to a range of important diplomatic gatherings including the Group of Twenty Nations (G20) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).”
20 March, 2012
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has celebrated the first anniversary of its MoneySmart website.
one year later
The website offers free, independent guidance to people on the best choices for their money and features a number of calculators and tips endorsed by ASIC to help them make better financial decisions.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll said MoneySmart was developed to promote financial literacy and education across the Australian community.
“Twelve months later you would have to say it has been a resounding success,” Mr Ripoll said.
He said 28,000 people per month were using the Budget Planner, 6,000 people per month were using the Retirement Planner and 75,000 people had downloaded the MoneySmart iPhone app.
He said a recent report found that 91 per cent of MoneySmart users had taken specific action as a result of visiting the website.
“The Government is determined to boost the financial literacy of Australians, in order to enable them to have more direct control of their finances,” Mr Ripoll said.
“I congratulate ASIC on the success of MoneySmart and look forward to seeing the future plans they have for the site come to fruition.”
20 March, 2012
Agreement on schools
A joint initiative between the Commonwealth and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Governments has been launched to give ACT schools greater control over managing budgets and the recruitment of teachers.
gives first class result
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the Commonwealth would provide more than $1.3 million to the ACT Government to roll out the Empowering Local Schools initiative over the next two years.
Ms Gillard said as part of the initiative, eight schools in the ACT would receive a start-up grant of up to $50,000 to help implement initiatives that provided them with more autonomy.
She said those selected schools were yet to be announced but the Empowering Local Schools initiative was an important part of a move to give schools the flexibility to direct resources where they were needed them most.
“We want every child in Australia to have access to a world class education, because giving our kids the best start in life is at the heart of what we stand for as a party and as a nation,” Ms Gillard said.
“This initiative allows principals to make decisions around managing staff and funding, because we know they are in the best position to make decisions about their own school.
“Evidence both here and internationally has also found that greater school autonomy is strongly linked with improved student results, behaviour and attendance.”
ACT Minister for Education, Chris Bourke said the ACT Government was already supporting Federal reform in the area through its $600,000 Empowering ACT Public Schools program.
Mr Bourke said eight local schools had already taken part in the first phase of the ACT program, with another 15 ready to join this year.
“ACT public schools have taken to this new model of teaching and learning with gusto and it is already revealing the benefits,” Mr Bourke said.
“Our schools provide a great showcase for these reforms, with policy makers from across Australia visiting to see the success of this new method of school governance.”
20 March, 2012
Skin diseases prompt
New reports on workplace skin diseases have found the conditions are costing over $33 million annually.
rash of reports
Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said occupational skin disease was the second most common work-related disease presented to general practitioners in Australia.
Mr Phillips said skin exposure to chemicals and the causes and occurrence of occupational skin disease were serious workplace health issues that had a large economic impact on the Australian economy each year.
He said the report Occupational Contact Dermatitis: A review of 18 years of data from an occupational dermatology clinic in Australia had found that 75 per cent of patients referred to the dermatology clinic had been diagnosed with occupational contact dermatitis.
“Occupational contact dermatitis is a preventable disease if the proper work health and safety systems are in place,” Mr Phillips said.
He said the main industries impacted by occupational skin disease included health and community services, accommodation, cafes and restaurants, construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing.
“Some of these industries have been identified as priority areas for chemical and hazard exposure prevention under the new work health and safety strategy that is due to be released in the second half of 2012,” Mr Phillips said.
He said a second report National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance: Chemical exposure and the provision of chemical exposure control measures in Australian workplaces had found smaller workplaces were less likely than large workplaces to provide controls for dermal chemical exposure.
“Of the workers who reported exposure to chemicals, only 61 per cent said they had received chemical safety training,” Mr Phillips said.
“This is a clear message that work health and safety training needs to be integrated in every workplace in Australia no matter how big or small and include how to properly handle chemicals and hazardous substances.
Both reports can be accessed at this PS News link.
20 March, 2012
Two new papers on overcoming Indigenous disadvantage have been released by the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse.
closing the gap
The Clearinghouse is jointly funded by all Australian Governments and delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).
The Clearing House said one of the papers, Increasing Indigenous employment rates, looked specifically at measures shown to improve Indigenous employment prospects.
“Indigenous Australians have much lower rates of employment than other Australians for a number of reasons, including lower levels of education and training, poorer health, and living in areas with fewer job opportunities,” it said.
“A number of measures, including increased formal education and training, pre-employment assessment and training programs, and non-standard, Indigenous-specific recruitment strategies are effective in overcoming this disadvantage.
“Ongoing measures are also helpful to ensure employment retention, such as the provision of cross-cultural training, flexible working arrangements, ongoing mentoring, and anti-racism initiatives.”
The paper, produced by Matthew Gray, Boyd Hunter and Shaun Lohoar said the problem of low Indigenous employment rates was magnified by the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in correctional systems which was an issue examined in the second paper, Strategies to enhance employment of Indigenous ex-offenders after release from correctional institutions.
“There are a number of prison-based and community-based programs aimed at improving employment prospects for ex-prisoners, however, there are only a small number of Indigenous-specific programs,” the Clearing House said.
“To address the problem, a long-term, transitional focus is essential, with programs ideally adopting a personalised, case-management approach.”
It said programs incorporating Indigenous knowledge and practices, or involving Indigenous facilitators or elders were also helpful, as was mentoring or other support options.
More information is available from this PS News link.
16 March, 2012
PS to go paperless
A plan to do away with paper records in Government Agencies and replace them with digital information has been unveiled by the National Archives of Australia.
in Archives plan
Director General of the Archives, David Fricker announced the Digital Continuity Plan at a special presentation in Canberra.
Mr Fricker said the Plan was developed by the Archives as a key element of a new whole-of-government policy that would see all Australian Government Agencies change to a comprehensive digital information and records management regime.
He said in a digital world it was no longer feasible or practical for Government Agencies to continue to manage and store paper records.
“A survey conducted by Archives in 2010 showed that by 2014 the total volume of electronic records which Agencies expect to create will be more than 10.7 million gigabytes,” Mr Fricker said.
“That’s just the new records, not the overall amount of information that needs to be managed.
“This explosion in information means traditional paper storage of records is simply not an option.”
He said the benefits of digital records management included substantial savings in reduced storage costs and a number of cost benefits relating to retrieving records, legal discovery and freedom of information requests.
He said that although all Agencies worked in a digital environment, many continued to convert digital records to paper for storage and management.
“We are working with Agency heads to implement change including the development of the Digital Continuity Plan and other practical guidance for Agencies in managing their digital information and records,” Mr Fricker said.
“The plan provides guidance for Agencies to ensure their digital information and records remain accessible and usable for as long as required.
“It is intended to promote better information management practice and avoid unnecessary stockpiles of digital records into the future.”
16 March, 2012
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has expressed satisfaction with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) for its response to an investigation into the National School Chaplaincy Program.
made in Heaven
Acting Ombudsman, Alison Larkins said the program had been revised and renamed since the Ombudsman’s report into its administration in July 2011.
“DEEWR has made a significant effort to reform its administration of the newly-named National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program,” Ms Larkins said.
‘The program has been expanded to allow schools to engage welfare workers, as well as chaplains, all of whom must now hold or be working towards a minimum qualification in youth work, pastoral care or an equivalent discipline.”
She said new internal guidelines had also been developed that required more rigorous assessment of applicants and provided greater clarity in relation to child protection issues and police checks.
She said there had been problems involving processes for gaining parental consent for children to participate in the program, funding agreements and complaint handling, but they had all been addressed by DEEWR.
Ms Larkins said there was an outstanding issue regarding the lack of a direct definition of the term ‘pastoral care’ in the guidelines and DEEWR had agreed to address that issue in the near future to alleviate confusion regarding what was meant.
16 March, 2012
Opposition to back
The Federal Opposition parties have promised to overhaul indexation arrangements for Defence Force superannuation schemes the next time they’re in Government.
Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott confirmed the pledge saying he would “keep faith” with the 57,000 recipients of military superannuation pensions under the Defence Force Retirement Benefit (DFRB) and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefit (DFRDB) by providing them with fair indexation.
Mr Abbott said the Opposition would ensure that DFRB and DFRDB superannuants aged 55 and over had their superannuation pensions indexed in the same way as aged and service pensioners did.
“This will ensure that 57,000 superannuants, and their families, will have access to fair, just and equitable indexation of their superannuation entitlements,” Mr Abbott said.
“Our plan is fully costed and fully funded.”
He said the Opposition had introduced legislation into the Parliament once before to deliver fair indexation to ex-Service men and women and their families but it had been defeated.
Superannuants in the broader Public Service have also been seeking similar changes to their indexation arrangements through the activities of the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association (SCOA).
Federal President of SCOA, Annette Barbetti said the standard of living for both former members of the Defence Force and former Commonwealth/Territory Public Servants had been significantly eroded by the continued use of CPI indexation.
“Contrary to what many may think, the average Commonwealth superannuation pension is more than $1,000 per annum less than the combined couple rate of Age Pension and mostly supports both members of a couple,” Dr Barbetti said.
“This issue adversely affects about 300,000 senior Australians who have proudly protected Australia and what it stands for.”
16 March, 2012
Water Commission to
The National Water Commission (NWC) is to continue overseeing the national water reform agenda following an independent review tabled in Parliament.
stay in the swim
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said that after considering the review by David Rosalky, the Government proposed extending the NWC and its “ongoing provision of robust and transparent oversight” of water reform through the Council of Australian Governments’ National Water Initiative.
“When the National Water Commission was established…it was for a fixed time frame only,” Senator Farrell said.
“The Government supports the National Water Initiative and Murray Darling Basin reforms and sees the National Water Commission as the best means of providing independent assurance on the progress of all Governments.”
He said the Rosalky review recommended the NWC continue for the life of the National Water Initiative and that it be refocused on four key functions: audit, monitoring, assessment and knowledge leadership.
“This will ensure the NWC can give priority to its valuable role as a credible, specialist and independent agency supporting national water reforms,” Senator Farrell said.
Chair of the NWC, Chloe Munro welcomed the decision which she said reflected the positive findings and recommendations of the independent review.
“Commissioners welcome the release of this report, which after extensive consultation with stakeholders concluded “the role that can be played by a specialist and independent body like the NWC is likely to be even more important in the future”,” Ms Munro said.
“Importantly, Dr Rosalky’s report recognised that the leadership activities performed by the NWC have set a strategic agenda and initiated essential elements of the reform activity.
“The Commission looks forward to its renewed role in driving the water agenda beyond 2012,” Ms Munro said.
16 March, 2012
Training reforms to
Major reforms to Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system have been proposed as the way of preventing a projected skills shortage of almost half a million people by 2015.
avoid train wreck
Minister for Skills, Senator Chris Evans said the system needed ‘radical reform’ and the Commonwealth would be taking a package of significant proposals to the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) next meeting in April.
“Too many Australians are locked out of the workforce because they do not have the skills they need,” Senator Evans said.
“Inaction is not an option.
“Failure to address this shortfall will leave the economy short of the skills it needs to be successful well into the 21st Century.”
He said Skills Australia had estimated that by 2015, Australia would need an additional 2.1 million people in the workforce with higher VET qualifications.
He said a total of 1.6 million people were expected to complete a VET qualification at Certificate III level or higher by 2015, leaving a shortfall of almost 500,000.
“Jobs for more highly skilled Australians are growing at 2.5 times the rate of other jobs but the pool of workers with the skills needed for these jobs is not keeping pace,” Senator Evans said.
“To meet this shortfall, the Government is determined to increase the number of skilled Australians, create a more responsive training system and make the system more transparent and accessible.”
He said the Government had committed $1.75 billion over five years for a new skills reform National Partnership Agreement with the States.
“On the ground, this means there will be more training options on offer in more places,” he said.
“Our reforms promise to deliver far-reaching changes that will make a difference for millions of Australian working families.
“Put simply, skills determine access to jobs and can transform lives.”
16 March, 2012
A new report from Safe Work Australia shows the total cost of work-related injury, illness and disease was now more than $60 billion a year.
keep Safe Work busy
The report entitled The Cost of Work-related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2008-09 was issued at the same time as a second report: Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2009-10, which revealed Australia recorded its lowest number of work-related deaths since 2003-04.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the second report indicated that in 2009-10 216 workers died from injuries incurred while working.
“The findings show that we are making some progress in reducing the number of Australians killed each year at work,” Mr Shorten said.
“But of course any work-related death is still one too many.
“What we need is real change in all workplaces so people feel confident to speak up about safety issues and indeed where necessary tell the boss the bad news.”
He said he was concerned that the transport, construction and agriculture industries remained a particularly high risk for workers and bystanders.
“These industries are priority areas for action under the new work health and safety strategy for the next decade, due to be released in the second half of 2012,” Mr Shorten said.
He said work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities had a huge impact on Australian society.
“They can physically and mentally affect workers, colleagues, employers, families and the community,” he said.
“This latest research is evidence of the significant cost to Australia’s economy.
“Workplace safety is not just about avoiding human tragedy it is also about reducing economic cost for the nation.”
More information and the two reports can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 March, 2012
Weather forecast not
A joint report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Bureau of Meteorology has updated Australia’s long term climate trends.
fine and settled
The report, State of the Climate 2012, found that Australia’s land and oceans had continued to warm in response to rising carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
Chief Executive of the CSIRO, Megan Clark said the latest analysis painted a clear decade-to-decade picture of Australia’s climate, while at the same time noted its highly variable nature from one year to the next.
“Much of Australia may have lurched from drought to floods since the previous summary, but this has occurred against a backdrop of steadily increasing air and ocean temperatures and rising sea levels,” Dr Clark said.
“What’s more, the rate of change is increasing.
“The fundamental physical and chemical processes leading to climate change are well understood, and CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology observations demonstrate that change is occurring now.”
Acting Director of the Bureau of Meteorology, Rob Vertessy said the updated summary was based on improved understanding drawn from detailed analysis of the nation’s national climate record, which went back more than 100 years.
“Ground, ocean and satellite based observations are giving us highly consistent observations of this warming trend,” Dr Vertessy said.
“State of the Climate 2012 confirms that each decade has been warmer than the previous decade for the past 70 years, with an increase in the number of warm nights, and the breaking of monthly maximum temperature records.”
“CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will continue to provide observations, projections, research, and analysis so that Australia’s responses to the challenges of a changing climate are underpinned by robust scientific evidence of the highest quality.”
The joint report can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 March, 2012
PM goes big on
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that a new Small Business Commissioner is to be appointed in the second half of this year.
Ms Gillard said the Commissioner would give Australia’s 2.7 million small businesses a direct voice to the Commonwealth Government.
She said she understood how vital the small business sector was to the Australian economy, employing almost 5 million Australians and making up over a third of the economy.
“The small business sector has been calling for better advocacy, advice and information at the Federal level and the Government has listened,” Ms Gillard said.
She said the new Commissioner would also provide a “one stop shop” for small business services and information and ensure the interests of small business remained at the forefront of Government policy making.
“Small business owners will be able to access information and advice, and referral to external services such as dispute resolution services,” she said.
Ms Gillard said the Commissioner would work with the Minister for Small Business to ensure Government Agencies took into account the needs of small businesses, including ways in which the regulatory burden could be managed.
“The Commissioner will report directly to the Minister, who will liaise directly with his Cabinet colleagues about issues important to small businesses,” she said.
“The Commissioner’s office will work with State and Territory small business commissioners to ensure services for small business are simple and easy to access, minimising duplication across jurisdictions.
“It will also work to simplify advice for small business, including in dispute resolution, making it more readily available online and via hotline,” the Prime Minister said.
16 March, 2012
Tourists from China
Tourism Australia is using new consumer research to enhance its 10-year marketing plan to encourage more visitors and tourists from China.
step up to the plate
The research was conducted across 13 of China’s largest and fastest growing cities and provides insights into the Chinese consumer, his or her purchasing intentions and desire for experiencing travel.
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy said he believed such research was essential as Tourism Australia was seeking to maximise the geographic reach and impact of its future marketing activity.
“We plan to use these findings to help prioritise our marketing activities in China and best educate the Australian tourism industry to capitalise on the anticipated strong growth in the middle and upper classes that can afford and want to travel long-haul outside of China,” Mr McEvoy said.
“Tourism Australia will make a further record investment in marketing resources in China in 2012 for the market is unprecedented in terms of its high growth and high value.”
He said to achieve long-term success in what had become a highly competitive China market, Australia needed to seek greater understanding of the many millions of customers who lived outside of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
“The response in China to Tourism Australia’s current There’s nothing like Australia campaign has been better than anywhere else overseas,” Mr McEvoy said, “with over 90 per cent of those who see the campaign confirming they had started researching a future trip to Australia.
“In the absence of significant differences between our target customers in both its super cities and emerging metropolises we have a fantastic opportunity to build upon the very successful platform already created through our existing tourism campaign work in China.
“This will allow us to achieve some significant economies of scale as we seek to expand our marketing across what is a vast and still largely untapped market.
16 March, 2012
And in other news...
Ombudsman to probe Fair Work
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is to investigate a complaint about delays by Fair Work Australia in its investigation of Craig Thompson MP and the Health Services Union.
Acting Ombudsman, Alison Larkins said her Office would limit its role in the first instance to examining whether an already-announced inquiry by KPMG, would provide a reasonable investigation of concerns about the delay.
“It should be noted that the Ombudsman’s office cannot investigate a complaint about misuse of union funds,” Ms Larkins said.
“Our jurisdiction relates to administrative action by a Government Agency – in this case, unreasonable delay by the General Manager of Fair Work Australia.”
Senate to sit longer
The Senate is to sit additional hours to debate a range of legislation yet to be passed.
Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Chris Evans said the extra time would enable key legislation to come before the Senate ahead of the May Budget sittings.
IPAA to host breakfast
The Institute of Public Administration Australia (NSW Division) is to host its annual CEO & Young Professionals Breakfast next week.
Now in its 10th year, the breakfast provides an opportunity for Chief Executives across the public sector to engage, recognise and foster young talent within their organisation.
The event will be held at the Westin Hotel in Sydney on 23 March from 7am and more information is available from PS News link.
Women seeking best bosses
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) has announced that 125 organisations had qualified for the Agency’s national EOWA Employer of Choice for Women citation this year.
It is the largest group in five years, despite the Agency imposing more stringent selection criteria over this period.
More information is available at PS News link.
Defence scientist honoured
A Scientist with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Dr Elena Mazourenko, has been awarded the 2012 Secretary of Defence Fellowship.
The Fellowship is awarded annually to enable a Defence Australian Public Service employee to undertake a year of full-time postgraduate research at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
Dr Mazourenko’s winning research topic is Supporting operational planning and evaluation in the ADF: investigation into the integration of theories of change and assumptions monitoring into campaign planning and campaign assessment.
Memorial design decided
A competition to design the National Workers Memorial planned for Canberra has been won by a Sydney architectural firm.
Johnson Pilton Walker’s design featured a series of tall, slender columns representing the contributions and sacrifice of workers from each State and Territory in Australia.
The memorial is scheduled for completion before the centenary celebrations of the national capital in March 2013.
150,000 join leave scheme
The Paid Parental Leave scheme has reached a new milestone.
Since it began, more than 150,000 new mums have applied to use the scheme which provides eligible working parents (usually the mother) with up to 18 weeks pay at the National Minimum Wage (currently about $590 a week before tax).
From next year Paid Parental Leave is to be extended to provide extra support to new parents with two weeks Dad and Partner Pay.
Stationery panel named
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has established a Stationery and Office Supplies (SOS) Whole of Government Panel.
The three panellists are Complete Office Supplies; Corporate Express; and OfficeMax.
Use of the panel is mandatory for Agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.
Upgraded offices for CPSU
Newly refurbished offices have opened for the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) in the ACT.
The upgrade took 12 months to complete and replaces existing office space that housed CPSU staff since the 1990s.
The upgraded office will be home to 40 CPSU staff; has a new training venue; and has tripled the number of meeting rooms.
Weight loss warning
Consumers have been warned that the weight loss capsules Xiyouji Qingzhi pose a serious risk to health.
While the supply of the capsules in Australia is illegal, a number of people have been found to have bought the product online.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) tested the capsules and found they contained the undeclared prescription substance sibutramine.
Archives to fund research
The National Archives of Australia has called for applications for its research grants.
The grants are worth a total of $40,000 and include one for established scholars, one for talented emerging scholars and one for archivists and other professionals.
Applications close on 4 May 2012.
Floods declared disasters
The March 2012 New South Wales and Victorian floods have been declared disasters for the purpose of establishing disaster relief funds.
The declaration ensures that new and qualifying existing disaster relief funds will be able to receive tax-deductible donations.
While funds still need to apply for formal endorsement, the Tax Office has established a fast track process to get applications approved as quickly as possible.
More information is available at this PS News link.
A number of organisations have been re-listed as terrorist organisations under Australia’s counter-terrorism laws.
Terrorist organisations Ansar al-Islam (AAI), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ) all made the list.
Asbat al-Ansar (AAA) and the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) were excluded and are no longer listed as terrorist organisations.
Criminals’ money to beat violence
Money confiscated from criminals is to be used to help women and children escaping domestic violence.
More than $1 million from the Proceeds of Crime Fund is to be allocated to boost security at crisis accommodation shelters.
First Contractor for recycle scheme
The first organisation able to deliver services under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme has been named as DHL Supply Chain (Australia).
The scheme will provide households and small businesses with access to free collection and recycling services for televisions, computers, printers and computer products.
Preschools to get security funding
Preschools are now able to apply for funding under the Government’s Secure Schools Program.
The program’s criteria were expanded to ensure that pre-schools could be included with the aim of acknowledging that pre-schools face many of the same security issues as other schools.
More information is available at this PS News link.
TGA quarantines solution
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has taken steps to quarantine CSL Human Albumin solutions from further use.
The TGA said some batches of human albumin solutions manufactured prior to 25 January 2012 had been contaminated with ethylene glycol as a consequence of an equipment failure.
13 March, 2012
Clean Energy Office to
The headquarters of the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation is to be established in Sydney.
be set up in Sydney
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Sydney had been selected because it had a strong clean energy sector and a network of financial, legal and professional services that would ensure the smooth set up and operation of the Corporation.
“Sydney is considered to be an optimal location from which to service a national client base,” Ms Gillard said.
“Locating the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in Sydney’s financial sector hub will also help with the building of partnerships with lenders and investors.”
She said in Sydney the Corporation would also be able to draw on higher education and research and development facilities across the State, including the CSIRO Energy Centre and the University of NSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering.
“The Government announced the Corporation as part of the Clean Energy Future package to encourage private investment and help overcome barriers to commercialising and deploying clean energy technologies,” she said.
“The Clean Energy Future package is a comprehensive plan to cut carbon pollution and drive investment in the clean energy technologies that will ensure our economy remains competitive in a low-carbon global economy.
“The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will play an important role in this economic transformation.”
Ms Gillard said it would make investments in businesses seeking funds to commercialise innovative clean energy proposals and technologies.
“The Corporation will also invest in the transformation of existing manufacturing businesses to re-focus on making the inputs for the clean energy sector,” she said.
“Jillian Broadbent AO has previously been announced as chair of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
“She is also chairing an expert review to advise on the design of the Corporation.”
Ms Gillard said Ms Broadbent had been consulting industry and stakeholders and would report back to the Government later this month.
13 March, 2012
More jobs to go
The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET) has announced it is to cut 100 jobs as a result of Budget pressure.
as Budget bites
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said the cut represented approximately one in every 10 of the Department’s Canberra-based employees and demonstrated that public sector Agencies were struggling to implement the Government’s $2.2 billion budget cut without cutting back on jobs and services.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said the union understood some workers would be offered redundancies because attrition alone would not cut the size of the workforce quickly enough.
“When the Government increased the efficiency dividend cut from 1.5 to four per cent in November, they argued that extra savings would be found by Departments reducing their spending on contractors, travel and reducing expenditure, hospitality, advertising, printing and training,” Ms Flood said.
“We said at the time we didn’t think it was possible to find that amount for saving without hacking into frontline jobs and services.
“Since then we have seen a steady stream of Agencies announce cuts to jobs and services including the Department of Health and Ageing, Treasury, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relation and many cultural institutions.”
She said the CPSU remained deeply opposed to the cuts.
“We believe they will damage the capacity of the Australian Public Service to deliver decent services for the community and make it harder to develop quality policy advice for Government,” she said.
“We are also concerned that the Government may make further cuts to deliver a Budget surplus.
“We are continuing to put our concerns to Government via meetings with Ministers and local MPs, formal submissions and through public comment and the media.”
13 March, 2012
Audit on books if
The Federal Opposition has promised to set up a ‘Commission of Audit’ into Government programs and spending as an urgent first step if it is elected to power.
Opposition leader, Tony Abbott told a meeting in Melbourne that it had been 16 years the last top-to-bottom independent review of public spending had been conducted.
“The commission will be asked to consider the range and effectiveness of existing Commonwealth government programs and agencies and to make recommendations for improvement,” Mr Abbott said.
“This no-more-than-once-in-a-decade review of what government does and how government does it, will report within four months to the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance.
“That way, the operations of government can be improved and streamlined while a new government has maximum political capital to take hard decisions.”
He said the Commission wouldn’t replace the expenditure review committee process which continuously vets new and existing programme spending but along with other initiatives would be expected to identify at least $1 billion a year in savings for businesses from reduced red tape alone.
“The Commonwealth Government, after all, constitutes close to a quarter of Australia’s GDP,” Mr Abbott said.
“If we are serious about building a more productive economy, it’s vital to ensure that the Commonwealth and its agencies are only doing what they really have to do and doing it as efficiently as they reasonably can.”
He said among the issues the Commission might look at why registering a medical device took nine months in the United States but four and a half years in Australia; why it cost $400,000 to register an anti-bacterial hand-rub when the same product with a different dye could be put on the market without registration for less than $3000?
“Why does the average GP spend almost five hours (or a half a day a week) complying with what the AMA says are government red tape requirements rather than treating patients; why is it impossible to share a birthday cake in an aged care facility without signing a disclaimer form; and why does the same Centrelink paperwork have to be filled in every six weeks by an employer giving work to people who are on part-benefits?”
Mr Abbott said the Commission of Audit would look at “unnecessary, intrusive and burdensome” data collection to recommend simplification and further savings.
“Other questions that the commission of audit might ponder could include whether the federal health department really needs all 6,000 of its current staff when the Commonwealth doesn’t actually run a single hospital or nursing home, dispense a single prescription or provide a single medical service; whether the federal education department really needs all 5,000 of its current staff when the Commonwealth doesn’t run a single school; and whether we really need 7,000 officials in the Defence Materiel Organisation, when the United Kingdom, with armed forces at least four times our size, gets by with 4,000 in the equivalent body?”
Mr Abbott confirmed Opposition plans to shrink, through natural attrition, the Commonwealth public sector by 12,000.
“This would still have left Commonwealth employment at higher levels than in the last days of the Howard government,” he said.
13 March, 2012
Insurance review a
A report has been released on the first stage of the review of State and Territory insurance arrangements for State-owned assets, such as buildings, roads and bridges.
pay-off for States
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said the review of insurance arrangements was introduced in 2011 through amendments to the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), which were jointly funded by the Commonwealth, States and Territories.
Senator Wong said the aim of the review was to examine the adequacy of existing insurance arrangements in each State and Territory.
“The Government welcomes the report as a positive milestone in the review process,” Senator Wong said.
“The Government believes that with the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters within Australia, it is important that all levels of Government do as much as possible to build resilience and mitigate financial losses following a disaster.”
She said the information in the review would inform a consolidated report on States’ and Local Governments’ arrangements later in the year, which would assess whether they were cost-effective for the State and Commonwealth and minimised the financial exposure borne by taxpayers.
“The uptake of appropriate insurance arrangements is just one mechanism by which Governments can address the risks they face in achieving higher resilience, and aid in their own recovery process,” she said.
“The Government will write to the State and Territories seeking additional information to inform this consolidated report.”
Senator Wong said any recommendations made in the consolidated report would not impact on the financial arrangements for the current flood situation in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
“The Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments will continue to work closely together through the NDRRA to assist individuals, families and communities affected by disaster events,” she said.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Commission puts time
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has issued an APS Circular setting out the requirements of Public Service employers relating to Public Holidays.
into holiday Circular
Circular 2012/2 Public Holidays, signed by Group Manager of the APSC’s Workplace Relations Group, Helen Bull says recent issues have arisen in certain jurisdictions as a result of State and Territory public holiday legislation.
The Circular says the Fair Work Act 2009 lists the eight national public holidays that apply to all national system employees, via the National Employment Standards.
The Act also says that employees are entitled to be absent on days, or part days, declared as public holidays under State or Territory legislation in the locality where they work, for example Canberra Day in the ACT and Melbourne Cup Day in Victoria.
“While an Agency enterprise agreement cannot exclude the provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009, it can address the entitlements applicable for work conducted on public holidays,” the Circular says.
It says the Australian Government Solicitor recently released an Express Law article highlighting potential issues with payments made to South Australian employees who worked on Sundays.
“The inclusion of Sunday in Schedule 2 of the Holidays Act 1910 (SA) results in every Sunday nominally being a public holiday or bank holiday in SA,” the Circular says.
“Agencies are advised to check their Enterprise Agreements to determine the appropriate rate of pay for employees working in South Australia on Sundays and seek further advice if necessary.”
It says the Queensland Government also undertook a review of the spread and allocation of public holidays in Queensland, which has resulted in changes to the Holidays Act 1983 (Qld).
“From 2012 the Queen’s birthday public holiday has been moved from June to the first Monday in October.
“As a transitional measure the Queensland Government has appointed a one-off Queen’s Diamond Jubilee holiday for Monday 11 June 2012 to allow for planned community and sporting activities to continue without disruption.
“Agencies should ensure these arrangements are applied, consistent with Agency agreements, to the relevant workforces.”
The Circular can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Conflict plan for
A national plan has been unveiled to protect women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations around the world.
women and girls
The Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security is also aimed at encouraging greater participation of women in the prevention of conflict and in building peace.
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said the plan represented a commitment to integrating a gender perspective in all Australian peace and security efforts.
“Around 90 per cent of casualties in recent conflicts have been civilians with the majority of victims women and children, and tragically sexual and gender-based violence has been on the increase,” Ms Collins said.
“Women and girls already play an important role in preventing and resolving conflict, but they are often not included in formal decision-making processes around peace and security.
“This is a particular concern given the disproportionate impact that conflict has on women and girls.”
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the National Action Plan would also strengthen the work the Government was doing through its policy frameworks and diplomatic relations.
“Protecting women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings should be a priority for all Governments,” Mr Snowdon said.
Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) was already working with other police forces in the region to increase awareness of the unique issues facing women and girls in places of conflict.
“The AFP is doing important, practical work in our region to help promote awareness of the impact of conflict on women and girls,” Mr Clare said.
“The National Women’s Action Plan is critical to the AFP’s ongoing role in promoting the rights of women in conflict and post-conflict environments.”
The Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012–2018 can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Queen makes address
Her Majesty the Queen has delivered her Commonwealth Day address saying the Commonwealth offered a pathway to greater understanding in the wider world.
for Commonwealth Day
In her address, Queen Elizabeth said one of the great benefits of today’s technology-based world was the range of opportunities it offered to understand and appreciate how others lived.
“We can see, hear and enter into the experience of people in communities and circumstances far removed from our own,” the Queen said.
“A remarkable insight we gain from such windows on the world is that, however different outward appearances may be, we share a great deal in common.”
She said people’s circumstances and surroundings may vary enormously but they shared one humanity and that drew them all together.
“The joys of celebration and sympathy of sadness may be expressed differently but they are felt in the same way the world over,” she said.
“How we express our identities reveals both a rich diversity and many common threads.
“Through the creative genius of artists – whether they be writers, actors, film-makers, dancers or musicians – we can see both the range of our cultures and the elements of our shared humanity.”
The Queen said Connecting Cultures, the Commonwealth theme this year, encouraged people to consider the special opportunities they had as members of a unique gathering of nations and to celebrate an extraordinary cultural tapestry that reflected the many individual and collective identities.
“The Commonwealth treasures and respects this wealth of diversity,” she said.
“This year, our Commonwealth focus seeks to explore how we can share and strengthen the bond of Commonwealth citizenship we already enjoy by using our cultural connections to help bring us even closer together, as family and friends across the globe.”
Commonwealth Day is celebrated on the second Monday of March every year.
13 March, 2012
Harmony Day app
A free Harmony Day smartphone application has been launched by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy.
strikes right chord
Senator Lundy said Harmony Day had become a significant event on 21 March each year as an occasion to celebrate the different cultures that made Australia a great place to live.
She said the app was compatible with both Apple and Android technology and would help people find out about the Harmony Day campaign; watch the latest videos; and scroll through the image gallery on their smartphone or tablet.
“With the release of this innovative new application, more people than ever have the opportunity to take part in Harmony Day celebrations,” Senator Lundy said.
“The app will allow people to download a twibbon, make a twitter comment about Harmony Day photos or share their own images.”
She said studies have shown that per capita, Australia had some of the highest smartphone usage in the world and the consumer base was only growing.
“I am proud that this year for the first time we are able to deliver Harmony Day directly into the hands of Australians,” she said.
“I acknowledge the contribution of Unisys who developed the smartphone application and I thank them for their strong support of Harmony Day.
“I encourage everyone to download the smartphone application, support Harmony Day and celebrate Australia’s wonderful cultural diversity.”
Information on Harmony Day and the new app is available at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Comcare has called for nominations for the 2012 Work Health and Safety Awards.
It is the first time the Agency has conducted the awards in its own right.
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said the awards had previously been administered by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) but those arrangements changed with the introduction of the new work health and safety (WHS) laws in January which made Comcare the sole regulator of WHS in the scheme.
Mr O’Connor said two new award categories had also been added this year to recognise the Health and Safety Representative of the Year and the Claims Manager of the Year.
He said the longstanding categories that would continue to be presented this year included:
Best Workplace Health and Wellbeing Program,
Leadership Award for Injury or Disease Prevention and Management,
Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System,
Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue,
Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety, and the
Rehabilitation and Return to Work Award.
“I encourage as many nominations as possible for these awards which recognise excellence in workplace health and safety, rehabilitation and return to work achieved by individuals and organisations covered by the Comcare scheme,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Many organisations and employees make a vital contribution to health and safety in the workplace.
“The awards highlight these contributions and how important they are in keeping employees safe, both physically and mentally at work.”
He said the awards would be presented at a dinner in Sydney on 20 September 2012 as part of the Comcare National Conference.
More information can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Red tape cuts
Government red tape is to be cut for businesses looking to address critical skills gaps through a simplified permanent employer-sponsored visa program.
get green light
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen announced the plan saying a fast-tracked pathway was to be established from the temporary skilled subclass 457 visa to permanent residence under the employer-sponsored visa program.
Mr Bowen said the changes would enable skilled migrants to settle and work in regional and metropolitan Australia.
“These reforms will make it easier for businesses and potential migrants to navigate the permanent employer-sponsored visa program, while ensuring the integrity of our visa system,” Mr Bowen said.
He said around four in five permanent employer-sponsored visa applicants previously held a 457 visa and the majority of them stayed with the same employer doing the same job.
“Skilled migrants deliver major benefits to the Australian economy in terms of contributing to economic growth and offsetting the impacts of an ageing population,” he said.
“We know these workers can do the job and are ready to make a commitment to Australia, so it makes sense to streamline their pathway to permanent residence.”
Mr Bowen said the Government would replace the current six permanent employer-sponsored visas with two new visas and consolidate the existing three sponsored occupation lists (subclass 457, employer nomination, and State and Territory sponsored general skilled migration lists) into one list.
He said the reforms to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) would commence on 1 July 2012.
“Permanent employer-sponsored visa places currently account for 39 per cent of the total skilled migration program for 2011-12, including 16,000 places through RSMS,” he said.
“The program allows Australian employers to sponsor workers for permanent residence to fill skilled full-time job vacancies in their businesses.”
More information on the simplified system can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Smooth passage for
A Draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan has been released by the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke.
Mr Burke said the plan was a proposed strategy to restore and manage ecological connections in the Australian landscape and was prepared by an independent Advisory Group chaired by former NSW Minister, Bob Debus.
Mr Burke said the Advisory Group’s plan aimed to restore native wildlife and rebuild the ecological functions in the landscape, including the long-term retention of natural stores of carbon.
“Sometimes the areas that are put into conservation from a connected landscape are so isolated that they lack the resilience that comes from connected landscape,” Mr Burke said.
“You can look at a map of reserved areas and sometimes it looks like someone has dipped a toothbrush in paint and splattered different unconnected dots across the land.
“Corridors are about connecting those dots; it’s a way of improving resilience and ensuring that we are protecting nature in a way that preserves it for generations to come.”
He said national wildlife corridors would lay a foundation for a new, collaborative, whole-of-landscape approach to conserving biodiversity.
“It’s also designed to help strengthen the resilience in our native landscapes against climate change,” he said.
Mr Burke said national wildlife corridors would be based on voluntary cooperation and the existing efforts of communities, landholders, Governments and industry.
“Any linking of the corridors would only be done through existing methods of putting land into conservation such as the work of Landcare volunteers, or when farmers have chosen to be part of environmental stewardship,” he said.
“It’s important that landholders understand that wildlife corridors will have no impact on land except through the voluntary agreement of the land holder.
“The rights which landowners have within the law would not change under any national wildlife corridors plan.”
Mr Burke said the public comment period would close on 20 April 2012.
The draft plan can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
The Australian Institute of Criminology’s (AIC) annual report into crime trends has been released and shows crime rates continuing to fall across most major categories although the incidence of cybercrime was on the rise.
shows crime scene
Key statistics in the AIC’s Australian Crime: Facts and Figures report reveal that break-ins had been cut by about half since 1996; car theft had dropped about 61 per cent over the past decade; and the overall number of violent crimes decreased in 2010 except for the offence of kidnapping and abduction.
It showed however that notifications of compromised websites were up 255 per cent on the previous year and 296 per cent over the period 2007-10.
Sites hosting malware more than doubled, increasing by 111 per cent in 2010 and online dating scams were the most lucrative for scammers with 52 per cent of victims claiming they had lost money.
Advanced fee and up-front payment scams were the most common according to the report with 35 per cent of all reported scams and 6,568 victims had reported losing money to a scam during the year with most (54 per cent) saying the loss was less than $1,000.
Four victims claimed to have lost at least $1 million and 15 victims between $500,000 and $1 million.
Credit and charge card fraud continued to rise, increasing by 70 per cent since 2006 and outpacing traditional cheque fraud.
Away from computers, the AIC report showed that four of the top five categories of violent crime (homicide, assault, sexual assault and robbery) recorded a drop in numbers of victims between 2009 and 2010 from an 11 per cent fall in homicides between 2009 and 2010 and assault rates down from 801 per 100,000 people in 2009 to 766 per 100,000 in 2010.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the trends were a good result for law enforcement agencies across the country, but there was still a lot more work to do.
The full report can be accessed online at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Donations to arts
The report of the Review of Private Sector Support for the Arts has been released.
in the frame
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said the Review, chaired by businessman Harold Mitchell, was tasked to identify opportunities to broaden and strengthen the base of ‘giving’ to the arts in Australia.
“A strong partnership between the arts and private sectors will be integral to ensuring our arts sector is positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented through the National Cultural Policy,” Mr Crean said.
He said the report showed there was broad support for the current suite of Government incentives to encourage and enable private sector support for the arts.
“The report highlights the success of many current initiatives such as the Cultural Gifts Program – however, it notes a clear need for a refreshed approach to increase private sector support,” he said.
“Private philanthropy and sponsorship for the arts is vital for growth and durability; it enables artists and organisations to plan for the future and produce high-quality, challenging and relevant work.”
Mr Crean said the report’s recommendations included transferring the Cultural Gift Program and Register of Cultural Organisation programs to the Australian Taxation Office; amalgamating the Australian Business Arts Foundation (AbaF) and Artsupport into a new organisation with responsibility for encouraging and facilitating all private sector support for the arts in Australia; and introducing a matched funding program.
He said the introduction of a taxation incentive for testamentary gifts to arts organisations and the establishment of a program of recognition for significant donors through letters from the Prime Minister and the Minister were also recommended.
He said the Government would consider the recommendations as part of the development of the National Cultural Policy.
The full report is available at this PS News link.
13 March, 2012
Six lucky winners of the acclaimed book, The Rook by fellow Public Servant Dan O’Malley have been named in the PS News competition to come up with the best book written by a Public Servant.
Those with the best ideas according to the judge were:
Finance and Deregulation:
High-flying graduate plans a fast-tracked career in to the SES until she uncovers a conspiracy planning to sacrifice her to the great demon ‘efficiency dividend.’
Time-travelling public servant who takes on the mystery of why policymakers working on a new ‘healthy ageing Act’ are being murdered just as it is nearing introduction.
The mysterious appearance across the PS of ‘Stepford clones’ giving blind loyalty - similar to the Stepford wives - to unnamed and unknown ‘masters’ who employ and exploit them for their personal gain.
Finance and Deregulation:
Thriller involving the death of a whistleblower complete with a mix of corruption, bureaucratic bungling, political intrigue and unexpected twists and turns.
Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities:
Change agent with psychic powers creates chaos in the PS by promoting ‘intrapreneurship’, creativity and other horrors from private enterprise;
Industry, Innovation Science, Research and Tertiary Education
Head of a prominent department murdered and the AFP called in to interrogate a myriad of likely suspects from the department’s mailroom to the highest office in the land.
Congratulations to winners and thanks to all who took part.
Rama Gaind’s review of The Rook can be accessed at this PS News link.
Winners will be notified by email.
9 March, 2012
Library in switch to
New arrangements that could see internet blogs, e-magazines and interactive newspaper articles collected by the National Library of Australia for inclusion in its archive have been proposed by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon and Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean.
The Ministers said the move would ensure digital documents were kept for future generations.
But first, they said, the Copyright Act would need to be changed.
Ms Roxon said in its current form, the Act required publishers to deposit printed works at the National Library in order to preserve Australia’s documented heritage and that a public consultation paper had been released proposing reforms.
She said the suggested changes would modernise the system by empowering the Director-General of the National Library to request certain electronic material to be deposited as well.
“The proliferation of electronic readers, smart phones and tablet computers means that publishers are increasingly making available and distributing works in an electronic only format,” Ms Roxon said.
“We want to ensure that these works are collected by the National Library and safeguarded for the benefit of all Australians.”
Mr Crean said the proposed reforms were an appropriate response to changes within the arts and cultural sector.
“Australia’s cultural landscape is changing dramatically with an increase in digital content and convergent art forms,” he said.
“As writers, publishers and creators move into digital formats, we need to ensure that we continue to preserve cultural content for all Australians to enjoy and appreciate.
“These changes will ensure future generations don’t miss out on Australia’s dynamic cultural heritage simply because the work was created digitally.”
The consultation paper Extending Legal Deposit can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 March, 2012
APS job security at
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has claimed that Budget restrictions and poor workforce planning are seriously impacting job security and staff entitlements in the Australian Public Service.
risk says union
Assistant National Secretary of the CPSU, Louise Persse has told an inquiry being conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) that insecure work was becoming more apparent in both the CPSU’s private and public sector membership areas.
“Employers such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Australian Public Service (APS) are seeking to reduce their short term costs by hiring non-ongoing staff who get less pay and fewer entitlements,” Ms Persse said.
She said that in the APS, eight per cent of all staff were ‘non-ongoing’ and another 10 per cent were on contract while the ACT and NT Public Services had even higher rates of non-ongoing employment at 23.1 per cent and 29.2 per cent respectively.
“Whilst not as high as the Australian average, these statistics go against the perception that public sector jobs are ‘jobs for life’,” Ms Persse said.
“Insecure work is a big issue in some public service workplaces.
“There is an increasing use of labour hire employees in workplaces such as Centrelink call centres and ATO Operations, where 35 per cent of staff now have temporary or non-ongoing jobs.”
She said of particular concern were statistics showing that the average insecure worker in the APS was more likely to be a woman, a young person or an Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander.
She said the CPSU’s What Women Want report had surveyed more than 13,000 women on their attitudes to work and found that of those who were employed on a non-ongoing basis, over two thirds were dissatisfied with their level of job security.
“Insecure workers have fewer entitlements and are often paid less than their colleagues,” Ms Persse said.
“Job insecurity has implications for getting loans, purchasing property and on retirement incomes.
“We know that these workers are dissatisfied with their situation.”
9 March, 2012
Big business buys
A new Business Advisory Forum is to be established to advise on deregulation and cutting red tape.
into red tape war
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said cutting red tape was a key priority for the Government because excessive regulation impacted on business costs and hindered productivity.
“The Council of Australian Governments has identified 27 areas of priority when it comes to cutting red tape,” Ms Gillard said.
“Of these 27 priorities, 16 have been implemented.”
She said the senior business figures in the new Forum would have the role of advising Governments on how best to coordinate and progress the remaining areas of competition and regulatory reform, as well as nominating new areas of regulatory reform that would help lift productivity and drive investment.
“Small business will also be directly represented on the Forum, given that smaller firms often disproportionately feel the impact of regulatory burdens,” she said.
“Business leaders are best placed to advise on these matters because excessive red tape is often experienced at an individual, business or industry level.”
Ms Gillard said while the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) members often held individual dialogues with business figures in their own State and Territory, the Forum would allow business leaders to put their case on the national stage.
“COAG’s reforms, which were agreed to by all States and Territories in 2008, aim to deliver a seamless national economy,” she said.
“As we build a new economy in response to the structural changes being driven by our high dollar, these reforms are more important than ever.”
Ms Gillard sis to chair the Forum which will meet for the first time on 12 April 2012, prior to the next meeting of COAG.
She said she had written to all State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers and would shortly write to business figures, inviting them to participate.
9 March, 2012
The findings from reviews into the culture of the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Defence Force Academy have been released.
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith joined the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Duncan Lewis and Chief of the Defence Force (CDF), General David Hurley to release the review report along with Defence’s response.
Mr Smith said the recommendations of the reviews would build on the ADF and Defence’s existing cultural strengths to develop an organisation which excelled in preparing for and conducting operations in support of Australia and its national interests, while reflecting modern community standards and attitudes.
“In summary, the reviews found that while good progress has been made, there are still areas of weakness and more work is required to be done to ensure Defence culture is commensurate with the nation’s modern day expectations,” Mr Smith said.
He said in total, the reviews made 109 recommendations of which 85 had been accepted fully by Defence and 24 accepted in-principle.
The Review of the use of alcohol in the ADF recommended ‘immediate and specific initiatives’ including the preparation of an evidence-based alcohol management strategy for implementation within Defence, and requirements for Commanders to assess situations in which alcohol was proposed to be used informally or formally.
The Review of personal conduct of ADF personnel focused on assessing the effectiveness and current policies governing ADF conduct.
It recommended the ADF more explicitly state its values and behaviours on enlistment, and reinforce them through education and practice.
The Review of the use of social media in Defence examined the impact of the use of social networking with the aim of developing measures to ensure that the use of new technologies was consistent with ADF and Defence values.
The Review of Defence Australian Public Service women’s leadership pathways examined the effectiveness of current strategies for employing women in Defence and proposed recommendations across a range of issues regarding employment pathways for Defence APS women.
The Review of the management of incidents and complaints focused on the treatment of victims, transparency of processes and the jurisdictional interface between military and civil law.
Tall the reviews can be accessed in full at this PS News link.
9 March, 2012
iPhone disaster game
A free iPhone game that helps students and families prepare better for natural disasters is now available.
is serious business
Developed by the Australian Emergency Management Institute, the game Before the Storm aims at helping students learn more about disaster resilience and build a safer future.
Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management, Nicola Roxon joined the MP for Latrobe, Laura Smyth to launch the game with students from Harkaway Primary School in outer Melbourne.
Ms Roxon said big storms could be frightening for children but learning what to do when a natural disaster struck would now be as easy as pulling out an iPhone.
“The devastating floods here in Victoria and in New South Week this week prove how important it is for communities to be well prepared for severe weather events,” Ms Roxon said.
“I encourage teachers to use this storm awareness tool to broaden knowledge about disaster resilience and to make it a catalyst for discussion and learning in the classroom.”
Ms Smyth said communities across Australia suffered from all kinds of storms causing extensive damage from strong winds and widespread flooding.
“Whilst navigating through the game, primary school students can learn the importance of households being prepared for a storm,” Ms Smyth said.
She said the game, which could be played on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, also introduced concepts of recovery after disaster events including ways to clean up safely after a storm and repair items that had been damaged.
More information about the game is available from this PS News link.
9 March, 2012
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has announced the outcome of a comprehensive review of some of its major price indexes.
so price is right
Reviews of the Australian Producer Price Indexes (PPIs) and International Trade Price Indexes (ITPIs) were conducted from mid 2011 and the Bureau said it would implement some of the outcomes commencing with the September quarter 2012 PPI and ITPI releases.
“An additional information paper will be published in September 2012,” the Bureau said.
It said key outcomes from the review included a determination that the principal purpose of the PPIs and ITPIs was to measure inflation by industry to support the compilation of the National Accounts and Balance of Payments.
It also determined that the basis of the PPIs would change from measuring products primary to an industry, to measuring its inputs and outputs and that the weights of the PPIs would be updated to maintain their relevance.
The review also concluded that the coverage of the PPIs and ITPIs should increase to cover more of the Australian economy; the Stage of Production indexes should be retained with industry classification and weights updated; the timing of the PPI and ITPI publication releases should delayed by nine working days to improve pricing coverage; and the ABS would continue to focus on high quality, quarterly PPIs and ITPIs, rather than releasing the series on a monthly basis.
“Some outcomes are dependent on the implementation of a new computer system which is expected in mid 2014,” the ABS said.
9 March, 2012
Tiny particles raise
A new publication on the safe handling and use of carbon nanotubes in the workplace has been released by Safe Work Australia.
the biggest issues
Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said carbon nanotubes had many useful properties but had raised health concerns as some forms of nanotubes could have structural similarities with asbestos.
“The publication released today addresses these health concerns and offers information on how people can work safely with carbon nanotubes in the workplace,” Mr Phillips said.
“It suggests two risk management approaches that can be used separately or combined to inform a safe approach when using the material.”
He said the information could also be adopted for the safe handling of other forms of carbon nanofibres like carbon nanorods or nanowires.
He said Safe Work Australia had commissioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to develop information on the safe handling and use of carbon nanotubes in the workplace.
Mr Phillips said that Safe Work Australia was proud to support research into work health and safety issues associated with carbon nanotubes and had commissioned a human health hazard assessment and classification of carbon nanotubes.
“Findings will be published in mid 2012,” he said.
The publication is available at this PS News link.
9 March, 2012
Crime to pay for
Money confiscated from criminals is to be provided to Police and Community Youth Clubs (PCYCs) around Australia to help young people avoid falling into a life of crime.
Police Youth Clubs
Almost $2 million has been awarded to 16 PCYCs and Blue Light organisations who work in partnership with community groups around Australia.
Minister for Justice and Home Affairs, Jason Clare described PCYC’s as “terrific” organisations.
“They’re a great example of community policing at work,” Mr Clare said.
“That’s why the Federal Government is supporting the crime prevention work they do.
“This funding will pay for things like anti-truancy programs to keep young people in school, outreach programs targeting youth crime hotspots, drug intervention programs and training programs to get them into jobs.”
Mr Clare announced the program at Bridgewater PCYC which said it would use its $111,100 grant to employ a youth worker to reduce school truancy, an ongoing local issue linked to youth crime in the area.
The youth worker attached to Bridgewater PCYC would work with students at school and hold activities like drug and alcohol education at the PCYC after school hours.
Mr Clare said the funding came from the Proceeds of Crime Fund which enabled money confiscated under Commonwealth laws to be returned to the community to prevent and reduce crime across Australia.
9 March, 2012
The first nation-wide assessment of key Australian fish stocks is currently being undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
on a grand scale
The Agency has announced it was compiling the fish stock report in partnership with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) with input from the Commonwealth, States and Northern Territory.
Fisheries analyst at ABARES, Robert Curtotti, said the consumption of seafood was increasing in Australia and for the first time there would be a single information source that covered 50 fish stocks, based primarily on their contribution to the value of Australian fisheries.
Mr Curtotti said the National Fishery Status Report was not aimed at being an eco-labelling guide, but rather a scientifically robust and simple tool for fishers, seafood consumers, the public, policy makers and managers to better understand the status of key wild-capture fish stocks around Australia.
“When completed, this report will be available online in an easy-to-understand format,” Mr Curtotti said.
“As part of the next stage, our FRDC partners plan to develop an ‘app’ for smart phones that will feature information about sustainable fisheries and seafood,” Mr Curtotti said.
“Australians care about our oceans and are increasingly seeking information on how we manage our fisheries.”
He said the choices of seafood consumers and retailers were more and more influenced by the perceived sustainability of the seafood products.
“We are working with our colleagues from all State and Territory fishery agencies to make sure information on Australia’s fish stocks is readily and easily available,” he said.
9 March, 2012
And in Other News...
Broad agreement on broadband
New agreements between NBN Co and Telstra have come into force which allow the National Broadband Network to use existing infrastructure and thereby avoid duplication.
The arrangement is expected to lead to less disruption for communities affected by the rollout of the NBN.
Archives to show rare documents
The National Archives are to display some of Australia’s most valuable records this weekend (10-11 March) in its Federation Gallery in Canberra.
Last month the Archives introduced new viewing arrangements for its Federation Gallery, inspired by the latest preservation research techniques which can measure the impact of light on documents.
Ombudsman takes on repairers
The Fair Work Ombudsman has written to more than 24,000 employers in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry as part of a new national education and compliance campaign.
The campaign is promoting a range of free tools, templates and advice accessible on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website at this PS News link.
Bryce link to Maori portrait
The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra has acquired a portrait of Maori Chief, Hohepa Te Umuroa.
His Excellency Michael Bryce unveiled the portrait completed in 1846 by the colonial artist, William Duke.
Mr Bryce is the great great grandson of the artist.
Long distance legal scheme
A new program that would use the National Broadband Network to increase access to legal assistance in regional areas has been announced.
The Regional Legal Assistance Program is open to provide funding to support trials of the system with support to be allocated to legal assistance providers currently receiving Australian Government funding including legal aid commissions, family violence prevention legal services, Indigenous legal services and community legal services.
Applications close Friday 13 April and more information is available from this PS News link.
Not-for-profit Commission delayed
The start date of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission has been extended to 1 October 2012.
The three-month extension aims to provide more time for Government and the sector to consult and finalise legislation.
Energy regulator to move
The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator is to be amalgamated into the Clean Energy Regulator from 2 April 2012.
The responsibilities of the Renewable Energy Regulator will also transfer to the statutory role of the Clean Energy Regulator.
More information is available at this PS News link.
Land goes to national park
The first parcel of Commonwealth land has been transferred to NSW to create a new coastal National Park near Sydney.
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray and NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Brad Hazzard signed handover documents for 17.7 hectares of heritage-listed bushland at Malabar Headland, 12km south east of Sydney.
The Commonwealth is expected to transfer another 50 hectares of land on the eastern and southern edge to NSW later this year.
Live cattle rules go live
The new exporter supply chain assurance system for Australian live cattle exports came into force on 1 March.
The reforms will initially apply to 75 per cent of Australia’s live export trade with all markets to be covered by the end of 2012.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF)has announced in the meantime that it is still investigating a complaint of alleged animal welfare concerns at three Indonesian abattoirs.
Mobile phone rules toughened
Tougher rules for the advertising and provision of premium rate SMS and MMS services for mobile phone users have been announced. The changes will be effective from 1 June.
The previous code was put in place to address the unacceptably high level of customer complaints about mobile premium services and while complaints have fallen 90 per cent, the new code will make the prices, terms and conditions of these services even clearer to consumers.
Drugs easier under new laws
Some health consumers are now able to obtain birth control pills and high cholesterol medication without going back to their doctor for a new prescription.
Under new laws a pharmacist is allowed to supply these medicines under circumstances where there is an immediate and ongoing need and the patient cannot get to a prescriber; the medicine has been previously prescribed for the person and is safe and appropriate for that consumer; and the pharmacist provides written communication to the prescriber within 24 hours.
Business name help out
Regulatory guidance has been released to help businesses prepare for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s new national register of business names.
Due to commence on 28 May 2012, the new business names register will allow businesses to register their name nationally through a simple and easy to use online service.
Businesses will only need to register their name once and will no longer be required to register separately in each State and Territory.
Heritage week signing events
Event registrations are now open for Australian Heritage Week 2012.
Community organisations are being encouraged to host events during the week which will run from 14 to 22 April 2012.
More information is available at this PS News link.
Easier rules for holidaymakers
Young people from Australia and Argentina now have the opportunity to visit and work in each other’s countries through a new work and holiday arrangement.
The arrangement allows university-educated citizens aged between 18 and 30 to work and holiday in the other country for up to 12 months.
There will be an annual limit of 500 work and holiday visas for both countries and more information is available at this PS News link.
6 March, 2012
Major PS reforms make
Important amendments have been proposed for the Public Service Act 1999 in a new Bill now before Parliament.
it into Parliament
According to the Minister for the Public Service, Gary Gray the amendments strengthen governance arrangements for the PS as well as implement a number of recommendations from the 2010 Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration report.
In particular, Mr Gray said the amendments would strengthen the independence of Departmental Secretaries and provide the public with a clear statement of their role; reduce the APS values into a shorter statement that blended contemporary ethical concepts with enduring principles of public administration; and set out more clearly the role of the Public Service Commissioner as the central authority for the development and stewardship of the Australian Public Service.
He said the 83 pages of amendments also included a number of technical issues that addressed matters arising since the last major changes in 1999.
“The Public Service Amendment Bill 2012 would result in greater efficiency and more effective use of Commonwealth resources,” Mr Gray said.
Among the measures included in the new laws are:
The proposed new APS values and Employment Principles can be accessed at this PS News link and the Public Service Amendment Bill can be accessed at this PS News link.
- Secretaries to undergo annual performance appraisals;
- A Secretaries’ Board to replace the Management Advisory Committee;
- Special Commissioners to be appointed by the Australian Public Service Commissioner for specific projects;
- New APS values and Employment Principles to apply;
- Stronger protections for whistleblowers; and
- Less protection for some staff caught up in Machinery of Government changes;
6 March, 2012
New laws improving gender equality in Australian workplaces have been introduced into Parliament by the Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins.
a gender item
Ms Collins said the legislation would improve gender equality outcomes and simplify reporting for businesses.
“This is an important reform aimed at the genuine and sustained removal of barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the workforce,” Ms Collins said.
“Improving women’s workforce participation is fundamental to closing the gender gap in the workplace and an absolute must if we are to boost Australia’s productive capacity.
“It has been estimated that closing the gap between men’s and women’s workforce participation could increase Gross Domestic Product by 13 per cent.”
She said the Bill’s introduction followed a review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 and set out a new regime for the reporting and monitoring of gender equality in a workplace.
She said the legislation would set out gender equality indicators and allow for minimum standards and performance benchmarks to be developed over time.
“The new Act is the result of extensive consultations with industry, employee organisations and the women’s sector,” Ms Collins said.
“It will enable employers to measure their own performance against other employers and makes it simpler for them to prepare and lodge reports on their progress.
“The Act specifically refers to equal pay for women and men and organisations will have to report on pay data.”
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick welcomed the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 saying it was a strong step towards improving women’s workforce participation and closing the gender gap.
“The removal of the barriers that prevent women from full and equal participation in the workplace is something that needs real, ongoing and measurable strategies,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“Importantly the new Bill simplifies the reporting process for business.”
6 March, 2012
Australia has presented its country statement at the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York, as part of the lead-up to International Women’s Day this Thursday (8 March).
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said the Australian Government had sent a distinguished delegation to the Commission, where it was also hosting three events focusing on the needs of rural women and rural women with disabilities.
“The Commission is the leading international event addressing gender inequality and comes at a time when the Australian Government has introduced legislation to improve gender equality in the workplace,” Ms Collins said.
“This event gives Australia the opportunity to highlight our successes in promoting equality between women and men – as well as to consider what more needs to be done to create a more equal society.”
She said the delegation was headed by the Office for Women and included Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, Penny Williams; Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick; and three representatives from the community sector.
She said the theme for this year’s Commission was ‘the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges’.
“These representatives bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience in issues affecting rural women,” Ms Collins said.
Australia’s country statement to the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is available at this PS News link.
6 March, 2012
New ministry mix
The Prime Minister has announced a number of changes to the Ministry, including a new Senator for NSW.
in PM reshuffle
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has appointed the Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson to the expanded role of Minister for Trade and Competitiveness and the Minister for Human Services and Minister assisting on School Education, Brendan O’Connor to Minister for Small Business and Minister for Housing and Homelessness.
Dr Emerson’s new role is to include increasing Australia’s international economic competitiveness with a particular focus on the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. He will continue to act as Minister for Foreign Affairs for the time being.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon is to take responsibility for Emergency Management, and the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke becomes Vice-President of the Executive Council.
Senator Kate Lundy is the new Minister for Sport and for Multicultural Affairs as well as Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation. David Bradbury becomes Assistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation.
The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare also becomes Minister for Defence Materiel with former Minister for Defence Materiel, Senator Kim Carr becomes Minister for Human Services.
Former NSW Premier, Bob Carr has been named as the next Senator for NSW and will become Minister for Foreign Affairs when his appointment to the Senate is finalised.
Changes to Parliamentary Secretary positions include Senator Jan McLucas adding Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister to her duties and Richard Marles adding Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs to his.
Bernie Ripoll becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Sharon Bird becomes Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills.
Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Jacinta Collins becomes Manager of Government Business in the Senate.
A full ministry list is expected to be posted to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website in the near future.
6 March, 2012
New direction for
The Australian Government Online Directory website has been revised and relaunched.
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said the latest version of the Directory provided a guide to the structure, organisation and key people in the Australian Government.
Mr Gray said information on the website was grouped under the four key arms of government: Portfolios, Commonwealth Parliament, Governor-General and Courts and Judges.
“The Government Online Directory website has been enhanced to include the ability to search across organisations, roles, surnames and services in one single search,” Mr Gray said.
“Search results can be downloaded to encourage reuse of data from the Directory.”
He said vCards (electronic business cards) had also been introduced to allow contact details to be saved to address books quickly and easily.
“If you’re accessing the website from a mobile phone, click on any phone number to connect straight away,” he said.
Mr Gray said the Government Online Directory received more than 400,000 visits during 2011 and the changes had been made in response to public feedback and a review of the copyright provisions of the website.
He said the information in the Directory was maintained by a network of updaters located within Government organisations that were responsible for ensuring the information was current and accurate.
He said the overall website was maintained by the Australian Government Information Management Office.
The Directory is available at this PS News link.
6 March, 2012
A new, independent institute devoted to regional growth and development has been launched by the Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean.
comes to town
Mr Crean said the Regional Australia Institute would help regions to recognise their strengths and diversify their economic base through rigorous scientific research and debate.
“If we’re going to embed localism in the way we govern, we need a central institute that is connected to our broader regional agenda to deliver benefits for communities across the nation,” Mr Crean said.
He said the Government had allocated $8 million in seed funding to create an inter-connected, bi-partisan body devoted to tackling regional issues.
He said the new Institute was connected to other key regional development bodies including the Ministerial Advisory Council on Regional Australia and the Independent Advisory Panel for the Regional Australia Development Fund (RADF).
“Under the leadership of inaugural Chair Mal Peters, it will become a trusted source of independent information and advice for communities, industries and Governments and bridge the gap between academia and policy,” Mr Crean said.
“The new institute and the RDAF are part of our record $4.3 billion Budget commitment towards regional health, skills, higher education and infrastructure investments.”
More information on the institute is available at this PS News link.
6 March, 2012
Media review wants
The independent inquiry into the media and its regulation in Australia has presented its final report to the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, recommending a new Government-funded watchdog be established to set and police ethical standards.
The Inquiry was undertaken by former Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Ray Finkelstein QC, with the assistance of the Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra, Matthew Ricketson.
Senator Conroy said the Report had been forwarded to the Convergence Review Committee for its consideration.
He said the Report found many people agreed that a free press played an essential role in a democratic society and regulations should not be allowed to endanger that role.
It says however that the press should be publicly accountable for its actions and codes of ethics should guide journalists and news organisations.
“There is less consensus on how this accountability should be enforced,” the Report says.
It says for newspapers there were several existing mechanisms of self-regulation including the adoption of ethical codes or standards; the appointment of an ombudsman or readers’ representative; and the establishment the Australian Press Council (APC).
“Broadcasters (radio and television) have additional regulation.
“They are required to observe standards both approved and overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).”
The Report found that although external regulation also applied to all news media including the laws of defamation and contempt, those mechanisms were not sufficient to achieve the degree of accountability desirable in a democracy.
It says if legal proceedings were necessary they were often protracted, expensive and adversarial.
It recommended a News Media Council be established to set journalistic standards across all mediums and handle complaints made by the public when those standards were breached.
“It will thus explicitly cover online news for the first time, and will involve transferring ACMA functions for standards and complaints concerning news and current affairs,” the Report says.
“An important change to the status quo is that, in appropriate cases, the News Media Council should have power to require a news media outlet to publish an apology, correction or retraction.”
The full Report can be accessed at this PS News link.
6 March, 2012
Excellence on show
The Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) is hosting an event in Canberra this month for the reigning winners of last year’s Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management to showcase their initiatives.
at Canberra event
The IPAA said the Awards aimed to encourage and recognise better practice and innovation in all levels of Government in Australia and were designed to honour the achievements of public sector workgroups, units and teams rather than individuals.
It said that last year a number of excellent initiatives by PS Agencies were recognised, including the Department of Human Services’ Small Business Superannuation Clearing House service which was awarded the Gold Award for ‘excellence in delivering a complex program within a short timeframe’.
Two Silver Awards were also presented to the Department of Finance and Deregulation for its implementation of the National Telepresence System and the Australian Taxation Office for its Community Programs project.
A number of other commendations were also made.
The IPAA event is to be held on 27 March at the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Building (50 Marcus Clarke Street) from 9am to 11am, with free entry for ACT IPAA members and $77 for non-members.
“The event will be live-streamed on the date,” the IPAA said.
IPAA ACT thanked DEEWR for its support for IPAA events and allowing its use of facilities and for enabling the events to be live streamed.
More information is available from this PS News link.
6 March, 2012
Ratings rated by
The Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended sweeping new arrangements for classifying films, books, websites, games and other media content in Australia.
Attorney General, Nicola Roxon has tabled the Commission’s report on the National Classification Scheme in Parliament saying it represented the first major review of Australia’s classification regime in the past 20 years.
Ms Roxon thanked the President of Commission, Professor Rosalind Croucher and the Commissioner in charge of the Inquiry, Professor Terry Flew, along with the team of authors who worked on the report.
She said the report made a number of recommendations including the proposal of a new National Classification Scheme and a single Agency responsible for that scheme; reforms relating to classification markings, modifications, time zones and advertising; and a single set of classification categories that applied to all classified media content.
She said proposals to change the name of the ‘Refused Classification’ category to ‘Prohibited’; develop Industry Classification Codes; and make legislative changes to provide for the enforcement of classification laws under Commonwealth law were also recommended.
“This is a major review with far reaching recommendations,” Ms Roxon said.
“It will be read with interest, not just by Governments, but also by stakeholders, industry and consumers.”
She said the report would also be taken into account by the Convergence Review, which was due to submit its own final report to the Government by the end of March.
“Our Government, along with State and Territory Governments, will consider the detailed work undertaken and the range of recommendations of the Commission,” Ms Roxon said.
The ALRC report can be accessed at this PS News link.
6 March, 2012
Residents of Norfolk Island can now apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a merits review of a range of decisions of the Norfolk Island Administration.
Attorney General, Nicola Roxon said the changes would see the legal rights for Norfolk Islanders bought into line with those of people on the mainland.
“Norfolk Islanders will now have access to the same legal rights that other Australians have taken for granted for decades,” Ms Roxon said.
“The extension of the jurisdiction of the AAT to Norfolk Island means the people of Norfolk Island can now take advantage of the knowledge, experience and skills of the Commonwealth in the review of administrative decisions.”
Minister for Regional Australia and Regional Development, Simon Crean said the development was an important milestone in the Norfolk Island Reform process.
Mr Crean said he had been leading the Norfolk Island reform process which included implementing a range of measures to enhance the accountability and transparency of Government decision making.
“These reforms are part of a package that will help provide a stronger, more open and transparent form of government in Norfolk Island,” he said.
“Norfolk Island residents will also soon be able to lodge complaints with the Ombudsman on decisions by Norfolk Island Government Agencies which they consider to be unfair or unreasonable.”
Special Minister of State Gary Gray, whose portfolio oversees the operations of the Ombudsman, said the establishment of a Norfolk Island Ombudsman would provide residents with an opportunity to comment on any aspect of public administration on the island.
“The Commonwealth Ombudsman plays an important role in promoting integrity in the provision of government services and this will soon be extended to the island,” Mr Gray said.
6 March, 2012
Australian consumers have been warned against purchasing medicine and other therapeutic products online.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King said the independent regulator of pharmaceutical goods, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), did not regulate therapeutic products available on international websites.
Ms King said without proper regulation those products may put people at risk.
“Medicines and medical devices are regulated in Australia to ensure that patients and consumers have access to safe and good quality products.” Ms King said.
“The TGA scrutinises therapeutic products before they can legitimately enter the Australian market to protect Australians from potentially harmful or counterfeit remedies.”
She said it was possible that products purchased via the Internet could be counterfeit; contain harmful quantities of active ingredients; or contain undisclosed, dangerous ingredients.
She said they could also be past their use-by date; be contaminated; or not be manufactured to appropriate standards.
Ms King urged consumers not to order therapeutics online unless they could be sure that they knew the content of the product and had checked the legal requirements for importation and use in Australia.
6 March, 2012
Detector dogs sniff
A new facility to breed detector dogs for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has been opened at Bulla in Victoria.
out new facility
Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, Jason Clare said the new 8.9 hectare facility featured a simulation and training building as well as mock airport baggage handling facilities.
“The new facility allows dogs and their handlers to be trained in the latest methods which they’ll use to detect drugs, weapons or explosives into Australia,” Mr Clare said.
“The dog detection teams will go through a rigorous 12 week training program to make sure they are well-equipped to sniff out illegal activity at our airports, ports and mail centres.”
He said in 2011 detector dog teams from Customs and Border Protection conducted more than 24,000 tasks and detected 694 illicit imports and exports.
“This included 98 kilograms of heroin and 118 kilograms of pseudoephedrine detected in a shipping container in Sydney in November last year,” Mr Clare said.
He said there were 61 detector dog teams in Australia specialising in either narcotic or firearm and explosive detection.
He said when the dogs were eight weeks old they moved in with a foster family who cared for them until they were about a year old, and after that they worked a normal working week until they retired at around 10 years old.
“They will also be used by other Australian Government Agencies, including the Australian Federal Police and DAFF Biosecurity,” Mr Clare said.
6 March, 2012
Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have discovered a previously unknown reproductive strategy in corals.
make a splash
In their recently published study the scientists, Andrew Heyward and Andrew Negri reported they found coral offspring had the unique ability to form genetic clones of themselves before they settled and developed into adult corals.
Dr Heyward and Dr Negri said while coral offspring were usually the result of sexual reproduction that were carried by ocean currents to a new location, coral ‘clones’ were genetic replicas of the parent coral and if waves broke up a coral colony, the remnant parts may continue to survive as independent but genetically identical individuals.
“As the early stage embryo develops it divides into a cluster of cells,” Dr Heyward said.
“Because this ball of cells lacks a protective outer-layer we wondered whether subjecting them to a little turbulence might cause them break up.”
“To our surprise many of the fragmented coral embryos later began to develop and settle in just the same way as their siblings that had remained intact.”
Dr Heyward said the fragmented embryos became smaller versions of baby corals rather than the complete embryos.
Dr Negri said coral embryos lacked a protective membrane, but that appeared to have been no accident.
“Almost half of all these naked embryos fragmented in our experiments, suggesting that this has long been part of the corals’ repertoire for maximising the impact of their reproductive efforts,” Dr Negri said.
Dr Heyward said the discovery of such a novel reproductive strategy was significant.
“This mixed breeding system means colonising corals benefit simultaneously from the advantages of both sexual and asexual reproduction,” he said.
“Much like humans, it’s important that the offspring of corals have genetically distinct parents, but these embryos also readily clone to form multiple versions of themselves, and helps to explain how coral maximise their chances of finding a suitable habitat in which to settle and survive.
2 March, 2012
New contracts guide
The Auditor General has published a new Better Practice Guide on developing and managing contracts in the Australian Public Service.
signed and delivered
The Auditor General, Ian McPhee said the new Guide Developing and Managing Contracts sought to support the effective development and management of contracts for public sector entities.
“Contracting is an integral part of the way the Australian Government conducts business,” Mr McPhee said.
“The Australian Government is a significant purchaser of goods and services, and each year the public sector enters into a large variety of contracts worth billions of dollars.”
He said the new Guide was intended as a general reference document for senior managers, contract managers and stakeholders involved in the development and management of contracts.
“It identifies the key issues and considerations that entities should be aware of when developing and managing contracts,” he said.
“A number of contract management checklists and similar aids are also included throughout the Guide, which can be tailored to the particular circumstances of each entity.”
He said the broader focus of the new publication, which updated and replaced a 2007 version, recognised that the foundations for the effective management of a contract were laid at the time the contract was being developed.
“This Guide covers the phases of the procurement cycle commencing from the selection of a preferred tenderer or contractor through to managing and ending the contract,” Mr McPhee said.
He said it also outlined a range of principles, key issues and other considerations.
“It identifies the key issues and considerations that entities should be aware of when developing and managing contracts,” he said.
The new Better Practice Guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 March, 2012
Court decisions to be
New laws are to be introduced to restore certainty to Family Court decisions relating to de facto property and maintenance matters.
caught in the Act
As reported in PS News earlier this week, the Court’s rulings were thrown into doubt when it was discovered that necessary Proclamations had not been made at the time the Court took on jurisdiction for the matters from the States and Territories, except Western Australia.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has announced that a Bill would be introduced into Parliament this month to correct the oversights which dated back to 2006 and 2009.
“This legislation will put people in the same position they would have been if these Proclamations had been made on schedule,” Ms Roxon said.
“The legislation will eliminate the need for anyone to go back to court to seek new orders”
She said the new laws would also remove the need for proclamations to be made in future in relation to the Family Law Act.
She said the orders that might have been affected related to facto property and maintenance matters made between 1 March 2009 and 10 February 2012 in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Norfolk Island and those made between 1 July 2010 and 10 February 2012 in South Australia.
Ms Roxon said a Proclamation under the Family Law Act 1975 had been made setting 11 February 2012 as the date from which the federal family courts could exercise the jurisdiction, ensuring there was no doubt about the validity of orders made after 10 February 2012.
“Orders in relation to marriage and children are not affected.
“Likewise, de facto property and maintenance orders made in Western Australia are not affected as Western Australia has not referred its powers in these areas to the Commonwealth.”
Ms Roxon encouraged people who had orders which might have been affected to continue to comply with them.
2 March, 2012
Treasury has released a Discussion Paper on measures to help consumers clarify what exactly is included in their insurance policies.
the best policy
Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten has invited comments on the Key Facts Sheet: Home Building and Home Contents Insurance Policies relating to its content, format, structure and provisions.
Mr Shorten said the new one-page Key Facts Sheet was to become mandatory for all home building and home contents insurance policies (combined and individual) and would clearly set out what was covered by the policy and what was not.
“Too many people are confused by lengthy insurance contracts and product disclosure statements,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Key Facts Sheet will improve the clarity of what is covered by home building and home contents insurance policies and will make it easier to compare different policies.”
He said people were entitled to know exactly what was and what wasn’t covered under their insurance policies.
“The release of this discussion paper brings us closer to a fairer, more transparent insurance system that meets the needs of the Australian community,” he said.
“It will help ensure consumers can make informed decisions about their insurance policies, particularly the level of flood cover they have.”
Mr Shorten said the deadline for submissions on the Facts Sheet was 23 March 2012 and the Discussion Paper was available at this PS News link.
2 March, 2012
New seatbelt laws
Seatbelt reminder systems are to become compulsory for the driver’s seat of all new passenger cars, passenger vans and sports utility vehicles.
clicked into place
Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King said the introduction of the technology into new vehicles would help combat seatbelt wearing non-compliance and see fatalities and serious injuries among vehicle occupants decline.
Ms King said the new requirement would mandate both visual and audible reminders that operated for at least 30 seconds, to make sure drivers put on their seatbelt.
She said currently only a visual reminder was required and it only had to display for four seconds on engine start-up.
“Almost one in three Australians fatally injured in vehicles are not wearing a seatbelt,” Ms King said.
“At present around 90 per cent of new vehicles currently sold in Australia are fitted with seatbelt reminder systems.”
She said the change in Regulation also updated the seatbelt standards generally, including requirements such as retractors on seatbelts in heavy vehicles.
She said seatbelt reminder systems would be mandated for all new model passenger cars, passenger vans and sports utility vehicles on 1 July 2013, with mandating of seatbelt reminder systems for existing models of these types of vehicle to follow in 2015.
Ms King said the move built on other recent Government initiatives which included mandating Electronic Stability Control for light passenger vehicles and Front Underrun Protection for heavy vehicles.
“The Government will shortly be introducing a new vehicle safety standard for ISOFIX child restraint anchorages, giving greater consumer choice,” she said.
“It will then turn its attention to Brake Assist Systems for passenger cars, to reduce the impact of collisions with pedestrians, as well as Electronic Stability Control for light commercial vehicles.”
2 March, 2012
My School website
The latest version of the My School website which allows parents and teachers to track how children have improved over time, has been launched.
goes up a grade
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the updated website measured the progress of students who sat for the NAPLAN tests over the past four years, allowing parents to identify schools that had helped their students improve in comparison with other students who started at the same level.
Ms Gillard said My School helped identify what was working and which schools needed support to improve.
She said the new version also included the latest information on the funding available per student for every school in the country in 2010.
She said the My School website was now more powerful than ever and shone a spotlight on Australia’s schools to help lift the performance of every student.
“We want every child in Australia to have access to a world class education,” Ms Gillard said.
“For Australia to succeed in the global economy, we must have a world-class school system.”
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the new version of My School included new information about the vocational education and training options available to students.
“This information will help young people wanting to pursue a vocation, plan their final years of school,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the information provided on the website was essential for the development of the new national school funding model.
He said without My School and the NAPLAN tests there would be no clear national picture of student performance and improvement.
“The Gonski Report showed that Australia’s education performance is being overtaken by other nations and that we must overcome the effects of disadvantage on student achievement,” Mr Garrett said.
“Greater transparency is a vital part of our agenda to improve Australian schools and fund them effectively.”
The My School website can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 March, 2012
Energy analysis is
The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) has published an updated reference of energy statistics and analysis to help inform the community about the important role of energy in the economy and society.
Energy in Australia 2012 provides a detailed overview of resources, production, consumption, trade and prices.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the publication by BREE (a professionally independent, economic and statistical research unit within the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism) was a useful reference that informed policy makers, investors and the broader community.
“In making policy and investment decisions the community needs accurate, comprehensive and readily-accessible energy data,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Energy in Australia 2012 provides this information, along with valuable insights into Australia’s energy sector.”
He said Australia was currently achieving record investment in its energy sector, including $175 billion in capital expenditure committed to LNG projects alone since 2007.
“Energy in Australia 2012 highlights our nation’s role as an energy superpower in the Asia Pacific region, with Australia being one of only three net energy exporters in the OECD,” he said.
Mr Ferguson said the annual publication built on the draft Energy White Paper and the National Energy Security Assessment of the past year and further informed Australia’s energy policy development.
BREE’s report Energy in Australia 2012 can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 March, 2012
A move to ratify a United Nations (UN) protocol combating torture has been announced by the Attorney General, Nicola Roxon.
for torture treaty
Ms Roxon said a National Interest Analysis that proposed Australia ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) had been tabled in Parliament.
“Torture is wholly inconsistent with the Australian Government’s fundamental responsibility to protect the rights and dignity of all individuals,” Ms Roxon said.
“Ratifying OPCAT will send a strong message both within Australia and internationally that Australia takes its human rights obligations seriously.”
Minister for Trade and Acting Foreign Minister, Craig Emerson said ratifying OPCAT followed Government legislation passed in 2010 that explicitly criminalised acts of torture committed both within and outside Australia.
“Australian law strongly prohibits the use of torture and will now be supported and strengthened by an internationally recognised and independent mechanism for the regular monitoring of places of detention,” Dr Emerson said.
Ms Roxon said the National Interest Analysis indicated that while further work was needed to ensure the arrangements for inspecting places of detention met the obligations in the OPCAT, all necessary steps would be taken to ratify it at the earliest practicable time.
“The Australian Government is continuing to work closely with States and Territories, who are largely responsible for places of detention to prepare for implementation and ensure ratification occurs in a timely manner,” she said.
“The proposal to ratify the Optional Protocol will now be considered by Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.”
2 March, 2012
The National Advisory Council on Dental Health has presented its final report on Australia’s dental health issues to the Government.
Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek welcomed the report which she said raised questions and pointed to challenges that would need to be resolved in order to deliver a publicly funded dental scheme.
Ms Plibersek said the Advisory Council was established in 2011 to examine a range of issues, including the current mix and coverage of Australia’s dental services, and provide expert advice on needs and priorities for reform.
“I greatly appreciate the hard work the Council has put into preparing this comprehensive and considered report,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said any proposed scheme would need to be managed in a fiscally responsible way and be phased in over a period of time.
She said it would need to be targeted at Australians who could least afford to pay for oral health care themselves; account for gaps in existing private and public dental services, including workforce and infrastructure constraints; and ensure that funding by the Commonwealth did not duplicate, or lead to a reduction in, existing State and Territory dental care services.
Ms Plibersek said it would also need to account for existing Commonwealth funding of dental care and be established after the closure of the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme.
“The Government will be considering the content of the report as it continues to examine options for public dental care in Australia,” the Minister said.
2 March, 2012
Pollie perks passed
Proposals to reform MPs and former politicians’ entitlements have been passed by Parliament.
Recommended by the Remuneration Tribunal, the changes included closure of the Life Gold Pass scheme; termination of the present Overseas Study Travel entitlement; limiting severance travel entitlement; breaking the link between pensions and Ministerial salaries; and workers compensation arrangements for Parliamentarians.
Telstra carve up OK
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has granted final approval for Telstra to separate its retail and wholesale arms.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said Telstra had been structured and sold in a way that was bad for consumers, bad for competition and bad for the economy.
Ms Gillard said the structural separation was also an essential step in the development of the National Broadband Network since Telstra had undertaken to close down its copper network as the NBN Co fibre network progressively rolled out.
More than 1,000 new houses have been built in remote locations for Indigenous people as part of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.
The program has also delivered 3,697 refurbishments to existing houses since it began on 1 January 2009.
According to the Minister for Housing and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, the milestone of 1,000 new houses was achieved with all States and Territories either meeting or exceeding their targets.
She said an additional 269 new houses and 369 refurbishments were underway.
Terror laws strengthened
Laws to strengthen the fight against nuclear terrorism have been passed in Parliament.
The legislation includes new offences and penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment for the misuse of radioactive material and nuclear facilities.
Audit standards improved
Legislation to improve the standard of audits in the private sector has been introduced into Parliament.
The reforms follow a Treasury review of audit quality.
The new Bill requires audit firms to publish an annual transparency report; gives more powers to the Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC) to issue an audit deficiency report; and allows ASIC to communicate directly with an audited body.
It also allows a two-year extension on the five-year auditor rotation requirement if it will not give rise to a conflict of interest.
Staff cuts at Customs
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service is to cut 11 senior staff in its ongoing efforts to deal with funding constraints.
Among the positions to go will be one of the Agency’s two Deputy Chief Executives.
Chief Executive, Michael Carmody has asked the senior staff who remain to take on extra responsibilities.
Women meet on Women’s Day
An International Women’s Day Forum to address gender equality and women’s rights in public policy is to be held at Old Parliament House in Canberra on 9 March.
The Executive Director of the Office for Women, Cate Mckenzie will chair the event with speakers Elizabeth Broderick, Marie Coleman and Alison Larkins.
More information from the Australian Human rights Commission.
RSVP by 5 March.
New art for Gallery
The National Gallery of Australia has unveiled a new major international acquisition.
Oceania, the sea (1946) by Henri Matisse was acquired to pair with the Gallery’s Oceania, the sky, purchased in 1990.
Oceania, the sky and 51 other works from the National Gallery of Australia’s Matisse holdings, is currently on loan to Matisse: Drawing Life at the Queensland Art Gallery.
Boat building begins
Construction has started on new Australian patrol boats.
The first of eight new Cape Class Patrol Boats for Customs and Border Protection will be rolled out over the next 12 months and ready for operational trials in March next year.
The new boats are almost 20 metres longer than the current vessels and will help protect Australia’s borders from maritime threats like illegal fishing, piracy, marine pollution, irregular maritime arrivals and prohibited imports and exports.
They are also capable of patrolling for 28 days at a time and travelling 4,000 nautical miles before refuelling.
Teacher awards open
Nominations are open for the 2012 Australian Awards for Outstanding Teaching and School Leadership.
The awards recognise the top performing teachers and school leaders across the country.
More information is available at this PS News link.
Water purchases announced
A new, strategic water purchase initiative has been launched for the southern parts of the Murray Darling Basin.
The initiative aims to contribute to the steady, measured pace of water recovery for the environment and is in line with recommendations of the Standing Committee on Regional Australia’s report Of Drought and Flooding Rains: Inquiry into the impact of the Guide to the Murray Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia.
Autism service reaches milestone
The first national initiative to help families and children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder has celebrated the delivery of its 500,000th service.
The Helping Children with Autism package provides early intervention services to young children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, including access to autism advisors, family support and playgroups.
More information is available at this PS News link.