SearchArchives for May 200827 May, 2008
Mum’s the word on maternity leave bid
The Community and Public Sector Union has released the initial results of a survey of nearly 1,300 of its members which reveals that working women on maternity leave wanted their employers to keep in touch with them while they were caring for their newborns.
The CPSU announced the survey results to coincide with its appearance before the Productivity Commission’s paid maternity leave inquiry in Sydney.
Respondents to the survey were all CPSU members who had taken maternity leave.
The survey found 66 per cent of respondents felt their employer did nothing to keep them connected to the workplace while they were on maternity leave.
CPSU members said phone calls, emails or invitations to bring babies into work would have made the return to work far easier.
CPSU National Secretary, Stephen Jones said the focus needed to be placed on returning to the workplace as well as the time spent away.
“What our members tell us is that very simple thoughtful measures by managers would make all the difference to a women’s experience of motherhood,” Mr Jones said, “and also contribute to a more productive workplace and help retain valuable staff.”
The survey found 90 per cent of women in the Australian Public Service said they felt forced to take other annual or long service leave to spend more time with their child.
It highlighted major issues with workplace breastfeeding for mothers of babies less than 6 months old.
The women reported only 14 per cent had access to a clean fridge to store breastmilk; only 12 per cent had access to a private space to express breastmilk and only 7 per cent were permitted to express on paid time.
Mr Jones said the findings demonstrated the need for the Federal Government to set a family friendly standard for all Australian workplaces.
“These new survey findings reveal that more work needs to be done to make Government workplaces more family friendly and for a national benchmark to be set,” he said.
Mr Jones said this was a “golden opportunity” for the Federal Government to fulfill an election pledge to help working families.
27 May, 2008
Defence apology to shamed names
The Department of Defence has apologised for the unauthorised publication of allegations concerning behaviour during a recent Forces Entertainment Tour of Afghanistan.
The Department said that official information, which included the names of people allegedly involved in the behaviour, was obtained and published by a news organisation.
Defence spokesman, Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said the Department was unaware of how the unauthorised disclosure had occurred and called on the news organisation to return any material it had obtained to assist in an enquiry.
“We apologise unreservedly to those named,” Brigadier Nikolic said.
He said an initial document prepared internally to brief the Minister contained names, but was withdrawn by because of privacy concerns.
“Importantly, the final version of the document did not include names,” he said.
Brigadier Nikolic said Defence was currently inquiring into a number of matters, including the allegation of inappropriate behaviour, privacy concerns, and the unauthorised disclosure.
“In relation to the inappropriate behaviour allegation, we are unable to comment as the investigation is ongoing,” he said.
“In relation to the privacy concerns and unauthorised disclosure, we are clearly concerned at this breakdown in a trusted process and have taken steps to prevent a re-occurrence.”
Brigadier Nikolic said this included a review of the process of raising and distributing official information of this kind.
“We hope to complete these inquiries quickly and have taken steps to formally apologise to the people whose names were published by the media,” he said.
27 May, 2008
300 cut adrift from Immigration Dept
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is to cut 300 positions from its national headquarters in Canberra.
The move has created concern within the Community and Public Sector Union which said it comes at a time the Department is facing a growing workload following the Budget announcement of a rise in immigration to 300,000 places per year.
The Government said the immigration increase was the largest on record since World War II.
Deputy Secretary of the CPSU, Michael Tull said while the Union was seeking more details from management about the functions and programs to be affected by the cuts, it remained opposed to the redundancies.
“The union has two priorities,” Mr Tull said.
“Firstly we want to ensure there will be no involuntary redundancies.
“Secondly we are concerned that these cuts will make workloads in DIAC unmanageable for remaining staff.”
He said DIAC staff were already stretched to the limit.
“We are (now) looking at the largest increase in migration in 63 years, as well as increased humanitarian and aid activities.”
He said the Union thought cutting the DIAC workforce was short-sighted and would be a recipe for disaster.
“At the point that the workload is looking to really take off, staff's being cut. Clearly the maths there doesn't add up."
He said the Union’s fears were supported by recent comments from the Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans who described the system as “creaking’ under the strain, and from Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd who said a lot had been asked of DIAC.
Mr Tull said the cuts were also short-sighted in light of the number of staff due to retire over the next few years.
"We have to remember that the Budget cuts are arbitrary,” he said. “They're not linked to changes in workload, not linked to changes in service delivery standards. They're an arbitrary measure to save money.”
Mr Tull sad DIAC staff had been offered voluntary redundancies or the chance of a job elsewhere in the Australian Public Service.
27 May, 2008
CSIRO discovers how to do more with less
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, CSIRO has come to terms with its funding cut of $63 million over the next four years by announcing measures to survive the cuts and continue to set science directions.
Chief Executive of CSIRO, Dr Geoff Garrett told staff that while the cuts were disappointing and came on top of a five-year program of cost cutting, the challenge was to work within the new constraints.
“Over the past three years CSIRO has had to make hard decisions to focus its research, reduce its overhead costs and improve efficiency, and is now clearly being required to do so again,” Dr Garrett said.
He said the Organisation had focused on finding ways to reduce fixed costs and overheads wherever possible and to minimise the impact the reductions would have on its science capability and activity.
“However, with funding reductions of this size and in light of the significant reductions that have already been made by CSIRO over the past five years to overhead and support costs, there will be an adverse impact on research,” Dr Garrett said.
He said the cuts would also result in around 100 job losses.
“With a salary bill close to 60 per cent of our total expenses, it will not be possible to absorb this change without some job losses.”
He said CSIRO had a well-established and robust process for reviewing and prioritizing investments in research and support programs: the Science Investment Process (SIP).
“The SIP provides a rigorous and systematic approach for prioritizing research investments across CSIRO ensuring that skills and resources are built and focused on the most important issues for Australia,” Dr Garrett said.
He said after assessing the Budget implications combined with the SIP outcomes, the board of management had approved measures to accommodate the reduction to the CSIRO’s budget.
CSIRO is to reduce its fixed and management costs by closing some sites; reducing the number of operating Divisions through Divisional mergers; re-phasing planned growth in the Flagship Collaboration Fund; and making additional reductions in lower priority research portfolios.
Dr Garrett said CSIRO had Government support to increase investment in energy, water and climate research and would redirect funding from some aspects of the food production and supply domain to address issues affecting the long term viability of Australian agriculture and food production.
It will close its Livestock Industries’ WA field Station at Bakers hill and the Rendel laboratory in Rockhampton; consolidate its horticulture capability in Adelaide; distribute Forest Biosciences capabilities to other divisions; and merge the Textiles and Fibre Technology (CTFT) Division with the Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE) Division.
27 May, 2008
AG puts case for PS legal service change
The first wave of reforms to the way the Commonwealth buys legal services has been announced by Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
Mr McClelland said the Government was developing standard tendering and contracting documents for Agencies and legal firms tendering for Commonwealth work.
He said it should help reduce costs for the Government and firms by improving the predictability of tender requirements and simplifying the task of tendering.
Mr McClelland said the Government was also developing a standard reporting format for legal expenditure by Commonwealth Agencies.
The reforms were designed to improve the monitoring of how taxpayer's money was spent on legal services.
“To promote equal opportunity briefing practices, the new mandatory reporting format will also include information on the number and value of briefs to male and female counsel,” he said.
Mr McClelland said he would also develop amendments to the Legal Services Directions to strengthen the requirement that Agencies consider using alternative dispute resolution processes where appropriate and enable a broader range of law firms to receive standing instructions to accept service of legal documents on behalf of the Commonwealth.
“These reforms will help promote the efficient resolution of disputes as well as competition in the Commonwealth legal services market,” he said.
The Attorney-General said a further amendment to the Legal Services Directions would ensure that firms undertaking pro bono work against the Commonwealth were not discriminated against by Commonwealth Agencies in procuring services.
Mr McClelland said this was the first step to promoting pro bono work through the Commonwealth legal sector.
“The Government is consulting on other possible reforms in this area,” he said.
Mr McClelland’s Department has held a series of roundtables to seek the views of legal services providers and other stakeholders on a range of reforms to Commonwealth legal purchasing.
“The Government values this input from legal providers and experts, and will consider the views received in developing further reforms to improve Commonwealth legal purchasing,” he said.
He said the reforms demonstrated the Government's commitment to keeping a check on spending and pursuing value for money.
27 May, 2008
Child Agency reforms secret mail business
The Child Support Agency has announced that a national mail-out to parents affected by changes to the Child Support Scheme has been completed.
Since the beginning of March, separated parents across Australia had been receiving new details on how much child support they would receive or pay after 1 July.
The Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, said around 1.5 million parents and over 1.1 million children were affected.
Senator Ludwig said 715,900 new assessments had been issued by 18 May.
“This represents 97.5% of all active cases,” he said.
He said some parents, including those with complex arrangements, who were yet to receive their assessment would receive them before 1 July.
The completion of the mail-out had laid the groundwork for a new, more balanced system of child support.
“This is the first time the Child Support Scheme has undergone significant transformation since its creation 20 years ago,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said the new scheme aimed to meet the best interests of children, reduce conflict between parents and ensure child support was paid in full and on time.
He said the most significant change was the new formula used to calculate child support payments.
“It’s a more balanced way of working out child support and a better reflection of the cost of raising children,” he said.
“It treats both parents’ incomes equally and takes into consideration the level of care parents provide for their children.”
Senator Ludwig said the CSA was keen to identify and address any customer concerns relating to the new scheme and he encouraged clients to contact CSA if they had questions about their new child support assessments.
He said between 3 March and 18 May, CSA received 153,950 calls relating to the new assessment notices and the new scheme, and had received 71 complaints from 14 March to 16 May.
“The Child Support Agency is gathering and analysing the information it has received through customer complaints,” he said
He said parents who had not received their new assessment should update their contact details with the CSA by calling 1300 885 437.
Separated parents could view information about the new scheme, and obtain an estimate of their child support and family assistance payments using the online Child Support-Family Assistance estimator available at www.csa.gov.au
27 May, 2008
Women deliver on baby leave submission
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) has released the findings of a research project it said supported calls for the introduction of a national paid maternity leave scheme for Australia.
According to the EOWA findings, paid maternity leave among medium to large organisations increased from 23.7 per cent in 2001 to 48.9 per cent in 2007 and the percentage of Australian employers providing 12 weeks or more paid maternity leave had increased to 40 per cent, compared to 27 per cent two years ago.
The Agency is to include the research findings in its submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Paid Maternity Leave.
According to EOWA, despite the spread of paid maternity leave there were significant disparities across the workforce, thereby supporting the introduction of a universal scheme.
The data collected for EOWA showed that two thirds (63%) of organisations providing paid maternity leave did not make it available to all staff.
The disadvantaged staff were casual employees, contractors, non-managerial employees and those under particular awards or women who did not meet minimum eligibility criteria.
“Among the 51.1 per cent of organisations that do not provide paid maternity leave are sectors that have a high number of women workers, particularly the retail, accommodation and food services sectors,” the Agency said.
“Together, these sectors employ nearly a third of all women covered by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act.”
It said in addition, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that women professionals were twice as likely to use paid maternity leave as women who were employed as clerical, sales or service workers.
“Only 19 per cent of small and medium enterprises provide paid maternity leave”.
Director of EOWA, Anna McPhee said the research clearly demonstrated a solid business case for universal paid maternity leave to address the inequities.
27 May, 2008
New border portal is cutting edge
A new border security portal introduced by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship will give airport inspectors more time to assess passengers' data before their flight arrives in Australia and would strengthen Australia's border security according to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans.
Senator Evans said new technology now in place at international airports and seaports meant border inspectors could clear low-risk passengers quickly and allow for more careful assessment of people of concern.
“Previously, inspectors needed to check multiple systems and sources of information to gain a full picture of a passenger's circumstances,” Senator Evans said.
“The new portal gathers information from several separate systems.”
He said when assessing if a person was eligible to enter the country, Immigration staff needed to access to a passenger's travel history, travel documentation, contact information, known aliases as well as the status of any security checks.
“Through one computer screen, staff at airports and seaports will be able to view all relevant information and linkages between different pieces of information from multiple systems about a client, quickly and efficiently,” he said.
“This new technology will provide border security staff faster access to a wider range of information to ensure people arriving in Australia have legal travel documents and pose no risk to our security.”
He said the Government would also continue supporting delivery of the Security Referral Service to staff based in Australia and overseas over the coming months.
“This service provides an effective and reliable electronic link between the Immigration Department and security Agencies, ensuring a more efficient security checking process,” Senator Evans said.
He said about 1500 people were refused immigration clearance at the border each year, with those stopped from entering Australian returned to their country of departure as soon as travel arrangements could be made, often on the same day they arrived.
“We have about 12 million passengers arriving in Australia each year,” Senator Evans said.
“Passenger arrivals are expected to rise by about five per cent per year which means the Immigration department must adopt cost-effective strategies to manage the increased workload.”
The new Border Security Portal cost $2.5 million to develop and is part of the Systems for People business transformation program being implemented at DIAC.
27 May, 2008
CrimTrac gets away with e-Gov’t Award
The law enforcement information sharing Agency, CrimTrac has won the 2008 Award for Excellence in e-Government at CeBIT for its National Police Reference System (NPRS).
The Agency won a similar award last month from the Australian Information Industry Association for the same system.
According to Acting Chief Executive at CrimTrac, Stewart Cross, NPRS was an electronic program that enabled Police and law enforcement Agencies to exchange police information about people across all jurisdictions.
The Award for Excellence in e-Government is administered by the Australian Government Information Management Office and was introduced to promote high standards in the use of information and communications technology in Australia at all levels of Government.
Mr Cross said receiving the award was a tribute to those who had developed the NPR system.
“CrimTrac has been working closely with police jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies for a number of years to develop this system, so to see it reach this point is a great achievement,” Mr Cross said.
The Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus congratulated CrimTrac on winning the award, saying the system allowed police to determine whether individuals were a threat to the public or wanted by the police.
Mr Cross said NPRS provided information critical to the day-to-day duties of community policing, supporting Police with better data on persons of interest than was previously available.
“Traditionally, police have maintained information within jurisdictional boundaries using disparate systems,” he said.
“Having a system that transcends jurisdictional borders will address the problem of offenders moving interstate to avoid detection.”
Mr Cross said NPRS would have more than 50,000 users once it was rolled out across the country next year.
He said the system would make policing more efficient and the Award recognised the most outstanding initiatives in e-Government implemented in the past two years.
27 May, 2008
DIAC over par in charity golf drive
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has raised almost $11,000 for a Canberra charity by playing golf.
The proceeds of the annual DIAC charity golf day were presented by event organiser, DIAC’s Greg Mills, to the Chairman of Canberra’s Newborn Intensive Care Foundation, Peter Cursley at the Canberra Hospital’s Centre for Newborn Care.
Mr Mills said DIAC staff enjoyed the tradition of contributing to the NBCIF after each Departmental golf day.
“While talent on the greens varied as wildly as some of the shots, the commitment of all players to this worthwhile charity was a straight drive,” Mr Mills said.
“There were a number of people who volunteered time and effort to the golf day, allowing it to be such a success and raise a significant amount of money.”
He said the funds were collected through sponsorship from corporate partners, entry fees, beverage sales and donations from players.
The DIAC annual charity golf day had been supporting the Foundation for five years and had donated more than $60,000 to date.
“Despite participants battling hot temperatures and strong winds, the golf day attracted an excellent turn-out with a record 268 participants and a record amount of money raised,” Mr Mills said.
Mr Cursley said the money provided by DIAC would assist the NBICF support the good work of the Centre for Newborn Care, which made a huge difference to the lives of families and newborns.
The NBICF was established in the ACT in 1995 and was operated entirely on a voluntary basis.
With the help of NBICF, the Centre for Newborn Care at Canberra Hospital treats around 500 babies from the ACT and southern NSW every year.
The Foundation support covered a wide range of research and education activities and provided funding for equipment.
27 May, 2008
Defence acquires DMO reports
The Defence Materiel Organisation is to produce an annual report on the performance of its most significant acquisition projects.
The move was announced by the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, Greg Combet who said the reports would be independently reviewed by the Australian National Audit Office.
Mr Combet said nine projects would feature in the first ‘pilot’ report which would contain key performance metrics on cost, schedule, capability and emerging trends.
“The review of five projects was completed between November 2007 and April 2008. During May and June 2008 DMO will complete its report on the remaining four projects,” he said.
He said the ANAO would subsequently publish their review of DMO's Major Projects Report.
Mr Combet said during 2008-09, DMO intended to build on the number of projects reported.
“This new reporting will also greatly aid the important work done by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit in ensuring accountability of these projects,” he said.
Mr Combet said the pilot included a combination of Navy, Army, Air Force and Joint projects, and covered upgrades to existing capability and new acquisitions.
He said the ANAO was planning to table its report on DMO's inaugural Major Projects Report in Parliament during the second quarter of 2008-09.
He said the report was a step forward in fulfilling the Federal Government’s election commitment to task and resource independently validated reports on DMO's top 30 projects.
“It will provide scrutiny of the level of project management being applied and will monitor the Government’s investment in these military capabilities on behalf of the Australian taxpayer,” he said.
27 May, 2008
Library research has information booked
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has scoured through its information database on libraries and produced a snapshot of how Australia regards its library and information resources.
The report was prepared for Library and Information Week which ran from 19 to 25 May.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Libraries are for everyone” and the ABS figures showed that 46 per cent of Australians over 18 visited a library in 2006.
This meant that libraries were the second most attended cultural venue or event in 2006.
The most popular cultural and leisure activities enjoyed by people aged 18 years and over in 2006 were going to the movies (69 per cent of persons when reporting all activities enjoyed over a 12 month period); visiting libraries (46 per cent); visiting zoos and aquariums (41 per cent); and visiting botanic gardens (40 per cent).
“Information literacy is critical to a thriving nation,” said the Executive Director of the Australian Library and Information Association, Sue Hutley.
“Making use of those skills can help you find information and learn how to research and evaluate information you find for yourself,” Ms Hutley said.
“With good information literacy skills, the future can truly be what you want it to be.”
There was a focus on children during Library and Information Week as well, with National Simultaneous Storytime being held on 21 May when close to 70,000 children at 900 locations across Australia were read the book Arthur, by Amanda Graham and Donna Gynell.
The ABS found that 55 per cent (1,467,500) of children visited a public library outside of school hours in 2005-06. The figures also showed that 74 per cent (1,984,000) of children read for pleasure in April 2006. While 80 per cent of girls read for pleasure during the same period, only 69 per cent of boys did so.
Other ABS figures showed that females were more likely than males to visit a library - their attendance rate was 41 per cent, compared with 27 per cent for males – and there was also a big volunteering rate with 72,600 Australians reporting unpaid involvement in libraries and archives in April 2007.
Federal and State and Territory Government funding for libraries in 2005-06 was $394.0 million which was a national average of $19.95 per person.
27 May, 2008
Travellers given fare warning
The Australian Customs Service and Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service have joined forces to warn overseas travellers that their luggage will be checked for prohibited items when they return.
The Agencies said more than a million Australians were expected t travel overseas to take advantage of the European summer so it was important they be reminded of the rules governing prohibited imports.
The Agencies said Australia had strict Customs and Quarantine regulations which required travellers to declare medicines, weapons and duty free purchases, as well as food, plant material and animal products on their Incoming Passenger Card. It was also important to declare shoes and sporting gear that could be carrying soil or seeds.
The Agencies said most items would be returned, but some might need to be treated (at the traveller’s expense) or confiscated.
They also said to note that some medicines, weapons, and steroids might be legal in Europe but not in Australia. Customs also recommended that travellers should check their duty free allowance before they headed overseas.
Travellers could be prosecuted if they were caught with undeclared items. One traveller entering Australia recently was fined close to $3500 for trying to smuggle 1.6 kilograms of lychees.
The Agencies said that upon return to Australia, travellers must correctly fill out their Incoming Passenger Card and declare and present for inspection all food, plant material, animal products and items used in freshwater streams or lakes. They must also place items that needed to be declared in an easily accessible part of their luggage.
The Agencies said there was plenty of information about Australia’s Quarantine laws including a free brochure, available from travel agents, called What Can’t I Take Into Australia? as well as the AQIS website at www.aqis.gov.au
For information on Customs prohibited and restricted items visit www.customs.gov.au
27 May, 2008
Centrelink charity down to a Tea
Staff of Centrelink’s Illawarra Call Centre in NSW were more than happy to join Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea recently week and raise money for cancer research.
According to the Manager of the Centre, Helen Oberg, Centrelink was often called on to help people and their families affected by the insidious disease.
“Cancer affects so many people in our society and often these people turn to Centrelink for support,” Ms Oberg said
"Centrelink staff see firsthand the effect cancer has on individuals and their families and we hope our contribution can help make a difference.”
She said the Centrelink staff were passionate about participating in Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea.
“Whether it be our staff here at the call centre, our social workers or the staff in our Customer Service Centres, we have all been touched by cancer’s affects in some way,” she said.
Ms Oberg said participating in the morning tea was a fun way for Centrelink staff to raise money and help the community.
“The staff here at the centre are constantly raising money for local charities and Australian’s Biggest Morning Tea is a priority cause of ours,” she said.
Ms Oberg said 170 staff participated in the event.
“I think this is the biggest single morning tea event ever held in the Illawarra,” she said.
27 May, 2008
ACCC signs contract with consumer body
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Victorian Consumer Affairs agency, Consumer Affairs Victoria.
The agreement was signed by ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel, and CAV Director, Dr David Cousins.
Mr Samuel said the MOU reflected the collaboration between the two Agencies and demonstrated their commitment to work together to ensure consumers and traders were aware of fair trading and consumer protection laws.
He said the agreement set out a framework for cooperation which best served the interests of consumers and promoted fair trading and active competition across jurisdictions.
Mr Samuel congratulated CAV for being the first Agency to reinforce its commitment to work actively with the ACCC.
He said under the MOU they each agreed to consult one another in relation to recent judgments, current law reform, policy issues, news releases, joint publications and stakeholder groups.
“The ACCC already enjoys a positive working relationship with CAV, meeting regularly to exchange information and cooperate on compliance, education and enforcement activities,” Mr Samuel said.
During the signing, both Agencies announced new cross promotional tools to assist consumers and small businesses.
The ACCC launched an online tool, the Consumer and Business Directory which Mr Samuel said was a one-stop shop for people to get the information they needed to resolve consumer or small business problems.
“It allows visitors to the ACCC website to find the most appropriate organisation to help them with inquiries or complaints.”
He said a link to the new tool had been provided on the CAV website.
CAV highlighted the recent launch of the new Toy and Nursery Safety Line, a joint initiative of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Tasmania.
“The toy hotline is the first cross-jurisdictional dedicated toy and nursery safety line in Australia and will provide parents and carers in Victoria and Tasmania with important product safety information,” Mr Samuel said.
He said the Safety Line was featured on the CBD.
“Opportunities for staff exchanges and combined training programs will also be explored to further reinforce the strong cooperative culture that already exists between the two Agencies," Mr Samuel said.
He said further information could be obtained by contacting the ACCC's Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or visiting www.accc.gov.au or contacting CAV on 1300 558 181 or visiting www.consumer.vic.gov.au.
27 May, 2008
Commission to build on homes promise
The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has announced that the Commonwealth is to establish a National Policy Commission to develop innovative proposals to improve housing in remote Indigenous communities.
Mr Rudd said he made a commitment in his National Apology speech to create a forum to develop solutions to the overcrowding, health, violence and abuse problems that resulted from inadequate housing in remote Indigenous communities.
He said he aimed to meet that commitment by establishing a National Policy Commission, which would report to him and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.
He said the Commission would meet at least four times a year and he hoped the first meeting would be held before the end of June.
Mr Rudd said Ms Macklin would oversee a secretariat comprising of officers from their Departments to support the work of the Commission.
The Prime Minister said he would invite previously nominated candidates to take up positions on the Commission, including Danny Gilbert, Paul Pholeros, Leah Armstrong, Joe Ross, Tania Major, Warren Mundine and Dale Alcock.
“I have confidence this group will provide sound advice to the Government on new approaches to addressing remote Indigenous Housing,” Mr Rudd said.
He said he was disappointed that the Commission would not be bipartisan.
“The Government was unable to reach agreement with the Leader of the Opposition on the membership of the Commission, although two of his nominees, Mr Warren Mundine and Mr Dale Alcock will be invited to participate,” he said.
Mr Rudd said he would not delay the Commission for ‘the sake of an agreement that might never be reached”.
27 May, 2008
Defence gap fills year
Applications for the 2009 Australian Defence Force Gap Year program have opened, with the ADF to offer more places after the success of the inaugural year.
Navy and Air Force are each seeking 250 entrants (up from 100 each last year) while Army will maintain its 500 places.
More information is available from Defence Force Recruiting’s website www.defencejobs.gov.au or by calling 13 19 01.
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Job watchdog urges students
Australia to protect women
Pucka houses for Defence
Treasury calls in credit agencies
Lobbying Code to be influential tool
Public Servants and senior Defence Force personnel have been included in the Government’s new Code of Conduct for dealing with lobbyists and the Australian Public Service Commission has issued a Circular explaining the new rules.
The main thrust of the Code is to ensure that professional lobbyists engaged by private companies and individuals to influence Government policy, are registered and act in a transparent and accountable way.
The policy places restrictions on any Minister, Parliamentary Secretary or staff member of an MP who leaves his or her position to become a lobbyist.
Following adoption of the Code by the Australian Government, the Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs and Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, decided that it should also apply to SES level Public Servants and Defence personnel at Colonel equivalent and above.
According to the APSC Circular, lobbyists not only approach Ministers and their Offices to influence Government policy, they also approach Public Servants.
“These contacts normally focus on introducing their clients’ views and related information into policy and program development processes,” the Circular says.
“While this is a legitimate activity that can improve the quality of advice to Government, it must be subject to similar standards of probity and transparency as lobbying contacts with Ministers.”
The Circular says that under the new Code, Public Servants will only be allowed to deal with registered lobbyists and the lobbyists will be obliged to make clear who they represented and the issues they had been hired to raise.
“It also means that Agencies should have frameworks and processes in place for managing contacts with lobbyists,” the Circular says.
It says these should include measures to ensure Agency staff were aware of the Lobbying Code of Conduct and their obligations; the Register of Lobbyists and how they could access it; and their obligation to report breaches of the Code to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“Agencies should have an internal point of contact for any such reports which could then be passed at agency level to PM&C,” the Circular says.
“The restrictions on Public Servants dealing with lobbyists also apply to a person engaged as a contractor or consultant by an APS agency…. (and) Agencies will need to include clauses in contracts to ensure that contractors and consultants are aware of and comply with the Code.”
The new Code also imposes a 12-month ban on PS senior staff acting as a lobbyist after leaving the APS and prohibits them working on matters they dealt with in their last 12 months of PS employment.
Cabinet Secretary, Senator John Faulkner announced the new Code and its application to the APS and Defence and said the Register of Lobbyists would be administered and kept up to date by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
“The Department has undertaken to update information on the Register on a same-day basis,” Senator Faulkner said.
20 May, 2008
Retirees put work into Budget response
The Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association has recorded its disappointment with the Federal Budget saying that while a number of its recommendations were picked up by the Government, its most important one was not.
SCOA President, Dr Annette Barbetti said as a result, the 200,000 ex-Public Servants who made up the Association would have mixed feelings.
Dr Barbetti congratulated the Government on adopting its policies such as the interstate reciprocal transport arrangements, the re-introduction of a national dental health program and an increase in aged care funding.
“It was disappointing however that many of SCOA’s pre-Budget recommendations did not appear in the Budget, particularly when some of them have also been recommended by other retiree organisations,” she said.
“SCOA’s most important recommendation was not included, namely the introduction of a fairer indexation method for the pensions of the Government’s former employees and former members of the Defence Force.”
She said SCOA was pleased that a third string was being introduced to the indexation bow for most Government funded pensions as this showed Government concern for the financial plight of senior Australians.
“The Government’s former employees and former serving members of the Defence Force will be eagerly awaiting the completion of a promised six month review of their pension indexation,” Dr Barbetti said.
“They will certainly be expecting the Government to show them equal concern and adopt the recommendations of three separate Senate Inquiries to index their pensions more fairly.”
She said the cost of the change was very affordable: “especially when the former Government said, prior to the last election, that the Future Fund will hold sufficient monies to meet long term Commonwealth superannuation pension payments once the Government deposits a small fraction of this year’s massive budget surplus.”
“This Budget has taken some steps towards providing a ‘fair go’ for many senior Australians,” Dr Barbetti said.
“The Government has an obligation to extend this ‘fair go’ to former Government employees, whose average pension is less than the married rate of Age Pension.”
20 May, 2008
COAG fund puts money where mouths are
A new fund to reform the Council of Australian Governments has been announced by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan.
Mr Swan said the intention was to help deliver a new era of Commonwealth-State relations.
He said many significant challenges facing the Australian economy could only be addressed through more effective Commonwealth-State arrangements.
He said the COAG Reform Fund would enable the Commonwealth to work with the States to deliver better services through investment in transport, communication, education, skills, health and aging.
The Reform Fund would receive contributions directly from the Commonwealth Budget as well as from the three other Funds being set up by the Government for capital investment - the Building Australia Fund to focus on transport and communication infrastructure; the Education Investment Fund; and the Health and Hospitals Fund.
Mr Swan said the Government intended to make an initial contribution of around $40 billion to the funds, largely from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 surpluses.
He said where investments in transport, communication, health, hospitals and education were to be undertaken by the States, any Commonwealth funding towards them would be channelled through the COAG Reform Fund.
He said more cooperative Federalism would deliver better services through reducing administration and compliance costs, freeing up resources and ending the blame game and cost shifting behaviours of the past.
Mr Swan said the States would have increased freedom to design and implement methods of services delivery within the context of the mutually-agreed national objectives.
He said this would lead to service delivery which was cost-effective and better met the needs of the community.
He said to ensure total capital spending from the fund was consistent with the Government's macroeconomic goals, the Australian Loan Council would provide advice on whether the combined spending envelope of both the Commonwealth and the States could be delivered in prevailing economic conditions without putting the Government's inflation targets at risk.
20 May, 2008
Fiji threats cause trouble in paradise
The Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, James Batley, has received a second death threat.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the Government believed the threats to be credible and was extremely concerned by them.
Mr Smith said he had written a formal note to the Fiji Interim Foreign Minister reiterating the deep concern of the Australian Government about the threats.
He sought urgent and full cooperation in providing personal protection and security for the High Commission staff.
Mr Smith said a previous anonymous threat was delivered to the High Commission in Suva on 7 May and both threats were immediately brought to the attention of the Fiji Police.
He said following the first threat, the Government took urgent steps to fully revise security arrangements for Australian High Commission staff in Fiji and to improve the safety of the staff of the High Commission and the security of the High Commission premises. Restrictions had now been placed on access to the High Commission.
“In response to the first threat, the High Commissioner met Ministers of the Interim Fiji Government and requested agreement for Australian Federal Police officers to join the High Commission staff to provide additional close personal protection and security,” Mr Smith said.
“He also requested additional security services be provided by the Fiji Police to High Commission staff.”
Mr Smith said Australia’s travel advice for Fiji had been updated to take account of the threats as well as recent increasing levels of crime in Fiji.
“The safety, security and welfare of all High Commission staff and their families is paramount in Australia’s response to these threats,” Mr Smith said.
“If, for some reason, these threats are an effort to intimidate the Australian Government about its policy on Fiji - or an attempt to intimidate our High Commissioner - let me make it very clear that they will not have any such effect.”
A request to invite the Australian Federal Police to assist with security of the High Commission had been rejected by the interim Fiji Government.
The Fijians said security at all diplomatic missions was the host Government’s responsibility.
20 May, 2008
DIAC’s doors open to detention enquiry
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has expressed its total commitment to cooperating with a judicial inquiry into the treatment of Indian terrorism suspect, Dr Mohamed Haneef.
DIAC Secretary Andrew Metcalfe said the Department would be completely transparent in its dealings with the inquiry and would present all appropriate material to it.
Former NSW Supreme Court Judge John Clarke has been commissioned to conduct the probe which will look into Dr Haneef’s detention without charge for 12 days after being arrested at Brisbane Airport in July 2007 for alleged links to a failed terrorist plot in the United Kingdom. The Court case against Dr Haneef subsequently collapsed.
Mr Metcalfe said the Inquiry would have full access to the Department’s documents, systems, emails and officers.
“In fact I will be inviting the Inquiry to visit the Department where inspection of our documents will be arranged if requested,” he said.
The issue of the release of documents under Freedom of Information was an entirely separate matter.
“The Department released a substantial number of documents under FOI to Dr Haneef’s legal representative, Peter Russo on November 8 and 14, 2007 and January 8,”’ Mr Metcalfe said.
“Following this release, his lawyers requested an internal review of the documents exempted, as is their right under the FOI Act.”
Mr Metcalfe said the Department had assigned a senior officer to review the three decisions and gave priority to the request to enable Maurice Blackburn (Dr Haneef’s lawyers) to have the FOI review finalised before the Clarke Inquiry’s preliminary hearing on April 28.
“This process resulted in further documents being released to Dr Haneef’s legal representatives on April 24, a number of which were released following further consultation with other Commonwealth Agencies.”
He said it was not unusual for an internal review process to result in further releases.
“That is the purpose of internal review – to have a new decision maker look afresh at the relevant documents and make a new decision.”
20 May, 2008
Budget doesn’t skirt women’s interests
The 2008-09 Women’s Budget Statement showed that women could expect to share more equally in Australia’s prosperity, according to the Minister for the Status of Women, Tania Plibersek.
“The Government values the contribution Australian women make in our workplaces, homes and communities across the country,” Ms Plibersek said.
“This Budget will secure Australia’s future and build a strong economy to deliver for women and their families.”
She said the 2008-09 Women’s Budget Statement highlighted measures in the Budget that would assist women, including a range of initiatives to boost their safety and wellbeing; their economic security and that of their families.
She said working mothers would receive a significant increase in take home pay as a result of tax and child care relief.
Ms Plibersek said the Government would deliver on its commitment to improve women’s health with a number of initiatives including a $91.1 million boost in child and maternal health services over the next four years.
She said carers would benefit too from an $822 million package of measures to increase support and recognition of their economic and social role.
Ms Plibersek said another highlight was the commitment of $3.7 billion over three years to implement a new integrated workforce participation system which would provide greater flexibility for providers to tailor services to assist female job seekers better.
“The Government is working to improve women’s economic security, including reducing the gender pay gap, through the phasing out of Work Choices and the work of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said other measures included the implementation of a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children, the development of Respectful Relationships resources for Australian high school students and tougher nationally consistent laws on domestic violence and sexual assault.
She said the Government was resuming Australia’s place in the international community by commencing the assessment process required to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The full 2008-09 Women’s Budget Statement could be read at www.ofw.fahcsia.gov.au
20 May, 2008
Audit maintains NCA maintenance failure
The National Capital Authority’s management of some of the nation’s most important national assets has been found wanting by the Australian National Audit Office.
The ANAO has made five recommendations which have been agreed to by the Authority.
Reporting on the audit, which was requested by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, the ANAO found that the NCA managed $456 million in national assets but there had been “significant deficiencies” in its maintenance of them.
“The national assets for which the NCA is responsible include some of the National Capital’s most significant national and cultural landscapes and attractions, including Lake Burley Griffin, Anzac Parade and a large number of memorials,” the auditors said.
“This audit highlights the need for stronger governance arrangements in relation to both asset management and contract maintenance.”
The auditors said many of the NCA’s problems stemmed from an inadequate computerised asset management system which, despite costing $1.4 million over 10 years, was still not fully functional.
They said maintenance deficiencies the NCA suffered were due in part to an “absence of a functional asset management system to inform decision making, and to inadequacies in the management of maintenance contracts.”
The auditors said a study of two large maintenance contracts had revealed shortcomings in managing the performance of a contractor and in establishing funding priorities for work which had been recommended and scheduled, but postponed.
They found that on one occasion the NCA overpaid a contractor and that it also failed to collect rent for a depot the contractor occupied on NCA-owned land.
“The financial consequences of these deficiencies totalled more than $300,000,” the auditors said. “The NCA has instituted recovery action.”
They found however that the Authority’s management of new projects were of an appropriate standard.
In addition, the auditors said that an informal arrangement concerning the rental of land by foreign diplomatic missions which dated back to the 1930s had cost the Government about $385 million.
“The NCA commissioned a review of diplomatic leasing in 1993 which highlighted this situation.
“However, the review, which could have resulted in the development of a considered whole-of-Government approach to guide the NCA , was not finalised.”
Among their recommendations,, the auditors suggested the NCA bring its asset management framework up to date; that it implement a system that worked; improve its maintenance contract arrangements; and work with the Departments of Finance and Foreign Affairs to explore options for diplomatic leases.
The NCA said in its defence that it had suffered real funding decreases of more than 20 per cent over the past five years.
20 May, 2008
More brass for AFP Commissioner
The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, has been awarded Singapore’s Distinguished Service Order.
Commissioner Keelty was congratulated on the award by the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus who said the honour was normally reserved for the citizens of Singapore.
“It’s an honour for Australia’s top Police Officer to be recognised for his significant contribution in strengthening the working relationship between the AFP and Singapore’s Police Force and I congratulate the Commissioner,” he said.
Mr Debus said the two countries had worked together to sign the Memorandum of Understanding to Combat Transnational Crime and Developing Police Cooperation in June 2005; continue the annual International Management of Serious Crime course in Singapore and; co-host the Integrated Narcotics Enforcement Program.
He said the Award could be given to someone from outside Singapore where distinguished conduct had been shown.
He said the Integrated Narcotics Enforcement Program assisted other members of the Association of South East Asian Nations with anti-drug strategies and frameworks for combating drug abuse.
President of the Republic of Singapore, Sellapan Ramanathan, presented the Order to Commissioner Keelty in Singapore.
Commissioner Keelty had previously been honoured with an award by Indonesia in recognition of the AFP’s cooperation with the Indonesian National Police, particularly for the support provided during the 2002 Bali bombing investigation.
The Commissioner was also awarded the Australian Police Medal for distinguished service in 1996.
20 May, 2008
Transfers brighten film archive
The National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra has received a number of public access programs transferred from the Australian Film Commission.
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett said the transfers would ensure the Archive’s public access role was strengthened.
“In addition to building on the National Film and Sound Archive’s strong international reputation as an audiovisual collecting institution, these programs will improve its ability to promote and deliver public access programs associated with the collection,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the programs included:
He said the public access programs being transferred to the Archive would be underpinned by annual indexed funding of $1.7 million to meet the costs of the outreach function and a further $500,000 per annum would be provided from Film Australia to ensure additional costs in administering the new entity, for instance Board and Chief Executive Officer costs, did not impact on its programs.
The National Film and Sound Archive was created as a statutory authority from 1 July 2008.
20 May, 2008
Report sprouts need for GM modified food
A report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research (ABARE) has found that genetically modified crops would provide significant benefits to regional economies.
The report Economic impacts of GM crops in Australia concluded that not growing GM crops was costing regional Australia dearly.
ABARE Executive Director, Phillip Glyde, said the potential economic impact of cultivating GM crops on State and regional economies was estimated for two scenarios – adopting GM canola and adopting GM canola alongside GM wheat, maize, soy beans and rice.
Mr Glyde said the results indicated New South Wales would benefit most from adopting GM crops, while significant benefits were also estimated for other major grain producing states including Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
“If the adoption of GM canola is delayed for five years, for example, the cumulative foregone benefits would be around a total of $97 million for Western Australia and $66 million for South Australia, measured in 2006-07 dollars,” he said.
The report was funded by the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry under the National Biotechnology Strategy.
Copies of Economic impacts of GM crops in Australia, could be downloaded from the ABARE website www.abare.gov.au or obtained by phoning (02) 6272 2010.
20 May, 2008
Public judgement for property law
A new law that replaces more than 70 pieces of Commonwealth, State and Territory laws has been released for public comment.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland issued the new draft which deals with people taking personal property, other than land, as security for investments and loans. The instruments are known as Personal Property Securities of PPSs.
Mr McClelland said the reforms, which were part of the Government’s broad deregulation agenda, would deliver the PPS system Australia needed in the 21st Century.
“Currently, PPS is regulated by inconsistent and duplicate laws and registers,” Mr McClelland said.
“A streamlined national system will deliver greater certainty and cheaper finance to individuals and business.
“This Bill will align Australian law with that of other major economies, boosting Australia’s international competitiveness.”
Mr McClelland said PPS involved taking a security interest in all types of property other than real estate, such as for cars, boats and livestock.
He said the draft Bill was available at www.ag.gov.au/pps and submissions were invited by 15 August.
The Attorney-General’s Department has announced that public seminars would also be held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane in late May and would offer interested participants the chance to raise questions and comment on the draft legislation.
To attend a seminar, register at www.ag.gov.au or email email@example.com
20 May, 2008
ABC puts museums on week-long display
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has marked International Museums Day with the launch of a week-long schedule of museum programming and the introduction of a new museums award.
The program was kicked off on Sunday 18 May to recognise the vital role museums played in Australia’s cultural life.
The inaugural Marvellous Regional Museum Award is to be awarded to Australia’s best-loved local museum.
The manager of ABC Radio National, Jane Connors said the winning museum would receive a visit from one of ABC Radio National’s flagship programs and the chance to show itself off to a national audience.
Ms Connors said Indigenous Cultural Centres and Keeping Places would have the opportunity to enter their sites for a separate award, the winner of which would be the subject of an ABC Radio National Awaye! program.
Ms Connors said ABC Radio National looked forward to creating an ongoing relationship with museums around the country.
“We hope to give some of Australia’s best regional museums exposure to a national audience and to assist in telling the many stories they hold,” she said.
She said entries for the Marvellous Regional Museums Award were opened on 18 May and more information was available at abc.net.au
Ms Connors said to enter, museums would be asked to illustrate why they should be judged at the top of their field.
She said visitors to the ABC website could view entries and contribute to the guest book, while ABC Radio National listeners would have the chance to win prizes by sharing their favourite Australian museum memories.
Ms Connors said the website would also feature ABC Radio National programs with museum-themed content during the week, as well as memories from a variety of ABC presenters and personalities
20 May, 2008
Finance literacy on steep learning curve
The Financial Literacy Foundation is to be transferred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission from 1 July 2008.
Treasurer Wayne Swan announced the move saying it was part of the Government’s efforts to improve financial literacy.
“ASIC will play a national leadership role in advancing financial literacy in Australia,” Mr Swan said.
“The Government’s decision recognises the need for people of all ages to have access to a range of learning opportunities, as well as reliable and independent information and resources to help them make informed financial decisions.”
He said the decision would help ensure that Australia’s financial markets were fair, transparent and supported by more informed investors and consumers.
“The Government also recognises the importance of financial literacy in helping families and individuals to secure their financial well being and to plan for the future.”
He congratulated the Chairman of the Financial Literacy Foundation’s Advisory Board, Paul Clitheroe, saying he had been instrumental in advancing financial literacy in Australia.
“The Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Nick Sherry, and I look forward to working with Mr Clitheroe and current Advisory Board members under the new arrangements.”
Mr Swan said, in keeping with the Government’s commitment to fiscal discipline in order to tackle inflationary pressures, the decision would achieves annual savings of $5.4 million from 2008-09.
20 May, 2008
Student assessment put to national test
School students from around Australia have sat for tests that are expected to reveal the first national assessment of literacy and numeracy skills.
The tests replace separate State and Territory tests.
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard described the national collaboration as “ground breaking” said it formed the centrepiece of the Government’s education revolution.
“There are important innovations in the new assessment program,” Ms Gillard said.
She said Year 9 students were included in the tests for the first time and for each area of literacy and numeracy assessed, there would be a single continuous scale of achievement across 10 bands for Year 3 to Year 9. She said each year level would be reported in six bands.
“This means that as students advance through the years it will be possible to see how much progress in literacy and numeracy they have made,” Ms Gillard said.
Each band for each subject would have plain English descriptors which teachers and parents could use to see what students could typically do at each.
Ms Gillard said the new program also permitted a strong diagnostic approach for teachers and parents to understand the level of achievement of students.
“This includes information on students who have not achieved the minimum literacy and numeracy standard and need further support,” she said.
“At the national level, the result for these assessments will be central to the Council of Australia Government’s reform agenda.”
Ms Gillard said literacy and numeracy results from the new national tests would be one of the key progress measures for COAG to assess the impact of the significant shared public investment in schooling.
20 May, 2008
Research plugs into communications
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the skills and confidence needed to use new communications and media services were becoming increasingly important in all aspects of Australian society.
ACMA commissioned the report, Media Literacy – Concepts, Research and Regulatory Issues, in May 2007 to examine the ability of Australians to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts.
ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, said promoting media literacy was a key component to ensuring Australians were equipped with the tools to make informed choices about media and communication services.
“With an increasingly complex array of services and technologies, people need to be confident and skilled in navigating an expanding range and choice of content,” Mr Chapman said.
“They need to know how to manage security and privacy risks online and be able to make informed decisions between various distribution platforms and competing service providers.”
The review, completed by consultants Dr Robyn Penman and Associate Professor Sue Turnbull, provided an historical overview of the academic literature surrounding media literacy in traditional broadcast and digital media environments.
It identified educational and other organisations involved in promoting media literacy in Australia and overseas.
The report found media literacy was important in order to be engaged in society; the gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ was narrowing in terms of information access; there was evidence of a digital literacy divide associated with socio-economic statistics, age, workforce participation and household type; and preparing young people to deal confidently with a range of media in their education, social life or in the workforce should be concentrated on in the future.
The release of the report coincided with ACMA’s participation as a founding member in the International Media Literacy Research Forum in London between 14 and16 May.
The Forum sought to share learning about emerging media literacy issues and to increase awareness on international developments in the field.
ACMA was one of only five institutions worldwide to be invited to join the Forum as a founding member.
A copy of the report was available by visiting ACMA’s website www.acma.gov.au
20 May, 2008
Journalist funding makes headlines
A project encouraging journalists to report cultural diversity issues in a fair and balanced way has been extended and rewarded with Federal funding.
Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson, presented Murdoch University with $185,000 to develop further resources for journalism education.
The funding was in addition to $164,000 provided to the university by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
During a consultation meeting of the project, which is entitled Reporting Diversity and Integration, Mr Ferguson said the extension would help Murdoch University and its partners study how diverse elements of Australia’s population were represented in the media.
“The extra funding will enable analysis of talk back radio to be extended into regional and rural areas,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said DIAC’s contribution was provided to develop tertiary and cadet journalism education resources to support balanced reporting on cultural diversity, integration and social cohesion.
Mr Ferguson said a collection of high quality curricula resources was already being trialed in five universities.
“The project has been so successful that the Government has decided to increase the funding available to Murdoch University so teaching resources can be provided to all journalism courses throughout Australia,” he said.
“The media is a key institution in a modern democracy like ours, and the news media plays a very influential role in shaping public attitudes and ultimately, the kind of society we live in.”
Mr Ferguson said asking the media to exercise judgment when reporting on issues of diversity and integration was not about limiting the freedom of the press, but about acknowledging the public impact of publications and broadcasts.
“I would hope that it also assists the crucial task of diversifying our media and its workforce,” he said.
20 May, 2008
Legal seminars on indemnities
The Australian Government Solicitor is to conduct a series of seminars on the use of indemnities in commercial transactions.
The AGS said indemnities were an important aspect of contractual risk management and it was essential that Agencies employed them wisely for proper allocation of risk and to comply with particular requirements of the Government.
The AGS seminars will be held in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. More details can be found at www.ags.gov.au
Ethical leadership course
Police lines thicken
Green light for nuclear
Volunteers for museum
Safety on the web
Army first for Coral
Museum scores goal
Disability service awards
Soldiers in Rugby war
“People join ASIC to make a difference through improving confidence in the integrity of our markets. These changes will give our people, and new people, better opportunities to make that difference.”
Mr D’Aloisio said ASIC would retain its strong approach to enforcement with six main enforcement teams instead of one large directorate.
“Each team will be tasked with specific responsibilities such as insider trading, major fraud, and international fraud and teams for other significant misconduct,” he said.
The new arrangements have already been put into effect and will be fully implemented over the next four months.
13 May, 2008
Review delivers for Defence Materiel
The Defence Materiel Organisation is to be reviewed in keeping with a Government election promise.
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, Greg Combet said the Organisation would be formally evaluated to gauge the effectiveness of ongoing reforms. The review is to be conducted by the Chairman of Australia Post, David Mortimer.
“There have been some high-profile problem projects in the area of Defence procurement and the Government is committed to avoiding a repeat of past problems through an ongoing reform program,” Mr Combet said.
“The Review will consider further potential reforms to the acquisition and through-life support of defence equipment. It will also make recommendations on initiatives to further enhance delivery of capability to the Australian Defence Force in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.”
Mr Combet said the Government was committed to ensuring that the DMO was subject to continual reforms to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. He said the reforms underway in the DMO had been working, but this review would highlight areas where more could be done.
“For example, I would like the review to examine how DMO can continue to develop its commercial orientation and become more business-like in its operations.”
He said the recent reappointment of Dr Stephen Gumley as Chief Executive Officer of the DMO was critical to the success of the reform program given his background, experience and performance in the area.
He said Dr Gumley would be responsible for implementing the future program of reforms within DMO, including any reforms that came from this latest review.
Mr Combet also thanked Mr Mortimer for agreeing to undertake the review.
“I am confident that Mr Mortimer is the right person for this job,” Mr Combet said, “and I am happy with the calibre of support being provided by the DMO.”
Mr Mortimer was also Chairman of Leighton Holdings as well as Australia Post and has been Chairman of the Defence Procurement Advisory Board since 2004. He will be supported by a review team headed by Major General Tony Fraser, the Head of DMO’s Helicopter Systems Division.
Mr Combet expected Mr Mortimer to report to him in 12 to 14 weeks after which the Parliamentary Secretary would make recommendations to the Minister for Defence.
Mr Combet said the review would take submissions up to 10,000 words from interested groups and individuals by Friday 6 June 2008. Submissions could be made through DPS.Review@defence.gov.au.
13 May, 2008
Treasury taxed by concessions audit
The Auditor General has found that Treasury’s reporting of taxation deductions and concessions contains inconsistencies and omissions, despite recommendations it be improved that date back 35 years.
In his report Preparation of the Tax Expenditures Statement, the Auditor, Ian McPhee said the schemes, known as “tax expenditures” had been reviewed at both Government and Parliamentary levels a number of times in the past 35 years: “however, few of the recommendations of these reviews have been adopted.”
He called for an ongoing review to be introduced to develop standards, produce better reports and improve their reliability.
Mr McPhee said “tax expenditures” were among the oldest forms of financial assistance offered by Governments and included such techniques as tax exemptions, tax deductions, tax offsets, concessional tax rates and deferrals.
He said in 2006-07 they provided over $41 billion in tax relief to Australian taxpayers.
“Total assistance through tax expenditures is similar in size to assistance delivered through the Commonwealth’s largest spending (or outlay) programs.” he said.
“They can represent revenue that, if collected, would have been available to fund spending programs.”
He said the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration had expressed the view that reporting of tax expenditures should be no less transparent than the reporting of special appropriations.
But his audit found that they were not.
The Auditor said the statutory requirement that a report of tax expenditures be made mid-year had proven elusive as “Treasury has not yet found a way to integrate the reporting of outlays and expenditures,” and, in any case, the measurement, monitoring and reporting of tax expenditures relied on subjective judgements and benchmarks that could change over time.
He found that a requirement that external reporting standards be used to produce the official Tax Expenditure Statement (TES) was also problematical as neither the Australian Accounting Standard nor that developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for economic reporting were suitable and that there were frequent examples of unreported categories of tax expenditures in the TESs.
“TES 2006 included quantified estimates for less than 60 per cent of those tax expenditures that were reported and, of these, two thirds were not based on reliable estimates,” the Auditor said.
The Auditor made six recommendations following his audit, most of which were agreed by Treasury, although some with qualifications.
13 May, 2008
Super study first to have currency
A study of superannuation funds by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has found little difference between the Public Sector, Corporate, Industry and Retail sectors in many areas of trustee policies and practices.
Releasing the results of recent research on the governance practices of super funds, APRA said it was part of a broader study of the reasons for differing performance between fund types, and had been conducted under the auspices of the Council of Financial Regulators.
APRA Deputy Chairman Ross Jones said the study was the most authoritative and comprehensive research of its type into governance practices within Australia’s major superannuation funds.
“The research provides the superannuation sector with some important insights into how trustees and boards are governing funds,” Mr Jones said.
“Importantly, it shows that all superannuation sectors, generally speaking, seem to be successful in selecting experienced and qualified trustee directors.”
The research, based on a detailed survey of superannuation trustees, also found most boards (76 per cent) had both independent audit and regular self-assessment to review compliance with the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 and other regulations.
It also found that service providers were widely used in the superannuation industry, with the average fund using more than 13 service providers.
Mr Jones said more than 60 per cent of retail directors had one or more associations with service providers, a figure that was double that for directors of Corporate funds and almost three times that for Public Sector or Industry funds.
He said relative to the other trustees, retail trustees had fewer directors, shorter (but just as frequent) board meetings, and relied more on fund executives to take the initiative on most key decisions. By contrast, trustees in the other three sectors mostly made the decisions with the main input coming either from themselves or from their consultants.
The report was published in the latest edition of APRA’s Insight that also contained some detailed information on the housing lending portfolios of authorised deposit-taking institutions, based on a survey of housing loan approvals during September 2006.
13 May, 2008
Defence targets cultural recruits
The Australian Defence Force is to expand its recruitment drive to attract new members from a wide range of cultural groups, according to the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon.
Mr Snowdon outlined the need for more cultural diversity in the ADF.
He said the ADF must appeal to a wider range of potential recruits that were more representative of the wider Australian community in order to meet its current and future commitments.
“Over the next 20 years it’s predicted that the Australian workforce will be older, more gender-balanced and include increased participation from members of culturally diverse groups,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said while 21.5 per cent of the wider Australian population spoke a second language at home, only 6.5 per cent of military personnel did.
“Clearly there is still work ahead to convince ethnic communities that the ADF is an inclusive employer,” he said.
He said the ADF tended to attract young Caucasian males, and more could be done to let Australians know about the benefits of a life in the ADF.
“The military must also consider the values that are important to people from a variety of cultural backgrounds,” he said
Mr Snowdon said joining the military did not mean ADF members would lose their identities or cut ties with their family.
“A career in the ADF instills a sense of pride in Defence personnel, and allows them to directly participate in the security and protection of Australia.”
He outlined the need for the new strategies at a meeting with the Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson, community leaders and residents in Sydney.
13 May, 2008
Wartime website to make big noise
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies has launched a new online exhibition telling the story of Indigenous Australians at War.
The website was originally compiled by Garth O’Connell, an Indigenous soldier who was currently an employee of the Australian War Memorial. AIATSIS had taken over the redevelopment and hosting of the site from Mr O’Connell for future safe-keeping.
“Indigenous Australians at War is a journey into the author’s research into Australian Aboriginal servicemen in the defence of Australia,” AIATSIS Principal, Steve Larkin said.
“It gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and non-Indigenous Australians a free, online resource about an aspect of history that is not very well known.”
Mr Larkin said AIATSIS was very grateful to Mr O’Connell for his dedicated work on the site and it hoped all Australians would visit it to learn more about the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have made and continue to make to the Australian Defence Forces.
The website includes biographies and an honour roll amongst historical and modern information about Indigenous Australians in the armed forces from the Boer War until now. The exhibition would be continuously updated and those interested in contributing new information or offering corrections were invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org the first instance.
A dedication on the site reads in part: “To the kids in communities today, that they find out that we’ve got heaps of pride when it comes to fighting for our country – we’ve always stepped up when freedom was being threatened both here and overseas.”
The online exhibition can be viewed at http://www1.aiatsis.gov.au
Mr Larkin said the AIATSIS library was also displaying medals and memorabilia belonging to Australia's only Indigenous WW2 Fighter pilot, Sergeant Len Waters and Captain Reg Saunders, the first Aboriginal serviceman to command a rifle company. These items are on loan from the Australian War Memorial.
13 May, 2008
Posties enveloped in safety clothing
Australia Post has launched a pilot protective clothing program for posties that would save them from the harmful rays of the sun.
To be introduced first in NSW and the ACT, the improved sun-smart uniforms featured high visibility long sleeve shirts, three-quarter length shorts or long pants, gloves and hats or helmet flaps.
The uniforms would be rolled out across Australia before the start of next summer.
Australia Post spokesperson, Scott McIntyre said that although UV rays were invisible, they were a very real danger to outdoor workers.
“Australia has the highest skin cancer rate in the world and the disease kills around 1400 Australians every year so it is important we cover-up our employees with the most advanced fabrics and equipment available to limit the risk of sun exposure,” Mr McIntyre said.
“The uniforms were designed specifically to take into account the way posties are exposed to the sun when riding their bikes. The back of posties hands and the tops of their knees and thighs can be exposed to the sun whilst riding.”
Mr McIntyre said UV gloves would protect hands and the new below-knee shorts would protect posties legs better than sunscreen could.
Australia Post developed the uniform with the assistance of uniform supplier Yakka, following an assessment of UV exposure by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. They have an Ultra Violet Protection Factor of 50+, the highest rating possible.
Posties would also shield their eyes from the sun’s rays by wearing Eye Protection Factor (EPF) 10 sunglasses and applying a broad spectrum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30+ sunscreen to exposed skin.
Mr McIntyre said the new arrangements were in addition to Australia Post’s current solar UV protection policy and were a result of detailed external assessment and advice.
13 May, 2008
Ocean survey scheme makes waves on reef
Monitoring the health and wellbeing of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef has taken a major step forward with the unveiling of the Great Barrier Reef Ocean Observing System (GBROOS).
Funded jointly by the Federal and Queensland Governments and part of the Integrated Marine Observing System managed by the University of Tasmania, the new system involves a “digital skin” of sensors that would make possible the finest resolution picture ever of the region’s dynamic systems.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, said it was the most exciting development in coastal ocean observation in Australia since the launch of Earth-orbiting satellites, providing real-time data on current conditions throughout the region.
“The Observing System is a regional ocean observation network covering the eastern Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. It will give researchers and managers more comprehensive and subtle understandings of the complexities of the Reef, particularly as threats from climate change loom,” Senator Carr said.
“From the kilometre to the millimetre scale, diverse forms of Reef data gathered by multiple sensors will be integrated for the first time to produce detailed models reflecting real conditions on the Reef and enabling forecasts of future conditions.”
GBROOS is a multidisciplinary infrastructure project costing about $16 million. It will be led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science on behalf of a consortium of Agencies including James Cook University, Great Barrier Reef Island Research Stations, University of Melbourne and CSIRO. The Great Barrier Reef marine tourism industry will also participate in GBROOS by including shipboard sensors on some of its vessels.
Senator Carr said, like the methods used to assess the performance of elite athletes or racehorses by applying a network of monitors to skin, this system would cover the Great Barrier Reef in a variety of sensors to pick up real-time information on how the reef was travelling.
“We know that any environmental change is complex and we need long term, multi-scale, high resolution datasets to best interpret what is going on with this ecosystem and to forecast what is likely to happen,” said the CEO of AIMS, Dr Ian Poiner.
“GBROOS is a co-coordinated set of observing systems that together will provide real-time measurements of the GBR system at a range of scales for the first time ever.”
He said the network would use a powerful blend of technologies including high frequency coastal radar, experimental over-the-horizon microwave technology developed by James Cook University and Telstra’s 3G mobile phone network to transmit data from multiple sensors deployed along the Great Barrier Reef from Cooktown to Gladstone.
13 May, 2008
Points scored in sports paper
A new directions paper for Australian sport has been released by the Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis.
Ms Ellis said the new policy was needed to meet emerging challenges in the sporting arena and to maintain Australia’s status as a leading sporting nation.
“If we are to safeguard the future of Australian sport, we must be prepared to embrace necessary reform,” Ms Ellis said.
“The Government will also ensure that sport and physical activity play a key role in our preventative health agenda.”
The new paper entitled Australian Sport: emerging challenges, new directions outlines two key areas where the Government would introduce reform - by supporting elite sport and using sport to boost participation and physical activity as a way of building a healthier nation.
The paper also outlined particular projects the Government would pursue, including the promotion of women in sport; improving program delivery of indigenous sport and enhancing support and recognition of disabled sport.
Ms Ellis said the talents and experience of some new members of the Australian Sports Commission matched the new direction in sports policy and she was confident they would make a contribution.
She said the Australian Sports Commission was the Government body that managed, developed and invested in sport at all levels by working closely with a variety of national sporting organisations, State and Local Governments, schools and community organisations to ensure sport was successful and accessible.
Ms Ellis said the policy document Australian Sport: emerging challenges, new directions was available from the Department of Health and Ageing’s website www.health.gov.au
13 May, 2008
Textile scientist sews up award
A textile scientist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has been awarded a Centenary Medal from an industry body in the United Kingdom.
Dr Keith Millington received the award from the UK Society of Dyers and Colourists for a recent review of the scientific literature on the photo-yellowing of wool.
The award caps off 10 years of research into the chemistry and mechanisms of wool yellowing.
In 2003, Dr Millington and Professor Louis Kirschenbaum of the University of Rhode Island were awarded a Gold Research Medal from the Worshipful Company of Dyers in London for their work on the free radicals which form in polymers and fibres on exposure to light. These radicals are highly reactive and can attack the materials, leading to degradation and yellowing.
In 1996 Dr Millington also won the US Innovative Technology Award from Radtech North America for his work on the use of UV technology in textiles.
Dr Millington said the free radical chemistry that causes photo yellowing of wool was also relevant to most other proteins.
“There are many synergies with research on ageing and developing methods for slowing down the degenerative effects of free radicals on skin, joints and tissue,” he said.
Dr Millington was currently working on new methods to study free radical oxidation in proteins and polymers, including chemiluminescence techniques.
He was also leading the colour sub-program in the newly formed Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation.
13 May, 2008
Way made clear for safety awards
The Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission has launched it s 2008 SRCC Safety Awards.
The awards promote the workplace safety achievements of organisations operating in the Federal occupational health and safety scheme.
“These national awards are an opportunity for individuals and organisations to showcase their solutions for a safer workplace,” said SRCC Chairman, Les Taylor.
Previous winners of the SRCC Safety Awards include the Department of Defence, the Department of Health and Ageing, Optus and Linfox.
SRCC Safety Award winners progress to the national awards which the winner of the 2007 SRCC Award for Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety, Army Captain Sharryn Batt, also won.
Entrants in the 2008 SRCC Safety Awards will contest five categories:
Leadership Award for Injury 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
Rehabilitation and Return to Work Award
Nominations for the 2008 SRCC Safety Awards close on Wednesday 18th June and more details can be found at www.comcare.gov.au
13 May, 2008
Aviation report gets off ground
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has released a report into the future of the aviation industry which found it will face increased demand, more environmental pressure, changes in technology and ongoing security issues.
Chief Executive of CASA, Bruce Byron said identifying future trends would help the Australian Government, CASA and the aviation industry mitigate potential risks to safety.
“It is no longer acceptable to rely solely on incident or accident data in an attempt to predict future risks to aviation safety,” Mr Byron said
“A range of representatives and organisations contributed to the report and were asked to consider the greatest safety risks the aviation industry will need to address over the coming three to five years.”
He said participants were asked to look beyond organisational level issues and instead consider matters of a “whole of industry” nature, focusing on the priority area of passenger-carrying operations.
He said the most consistently identified broad trends were global demand for aviation services, environmental change awareness and initiatives, aircraft, systems and technology and international instability and security.
He said issues identified in the report would feed into industry/CASA working groups and contribute to the development of the Government’s National Aviation Policy or White paper, which was announced in April by the Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese.
Mr Byron said while CASA would address some of the risks identified in the report, a number of the issues would require an industry-wide approach.
“The industry/CASA working groups will be a valuable input to the Government’s aviation policy development process,” Mr Byron said.
“The business of identifying real safety solutions – where action is not already underway – will be the focus of future work. While Australia continues to enjoy a world-class aviation safety record, we must remain vigilant.”
The report identified four broad trends currently impacting on the aviation industry, which were expected to remain key influences into the future. These were:
13 May, 2008
Free lessons drive road safety plan
A road safety program that would deliver 200,000 free driving lessons to learner drivers and their parents has been unveiled by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese.
The program, keys2drive, will receive $17 million over the next five years and will be fine tuned in Tasmania by the Australian Automobile Association before being rolled out nationally from early next year.
Once implemented, keys2drive will provide learner drivers and a parent or mentor with a free professional driving lesson from an accredited instructor as well as support parents and mentors with instructional material and practical guidance on how to provide effective supervision and training to a learner driver.
The program will also establish an interactive website which will offer short instructional videos, guides for handling various road terrains and weather conditions, and the location of their nearest accredited driving instructor; and deliver the country’s first ever national accreditation scheme for driving instructors.
“A young person is at far greater risk of being involved in a fatal car accident than other drivers,” Mr Albanese said.
“Nearly a third of people killed on Australian roads are aged 16 to 25 - yet they represent only 15 per cent of the population. In fact, young people go from being one of the safest drivers on the road when on their L plates to being one of the most likely to have a car crash the moment they get their P plates.
“We must and will do more to prevent these tragedies.”
Mr Albanese said keys2drive would provide extra incentive for novice drivers to get more on-the-road experience and would assist those supervising them - usually their parents - to become better informed and more confident in undertaking this important role.
He said the Government was committed to making roads safer for all drivers.
“keys2drive is a practical way of equipping young people with the skills they need for a lifetime of safer driving,” he said.
13 May, 2008
Military justice to be judged
The Military justice system is to be reviewed after two years of change.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, announced the review saying almost every element of the system had been changed.
He said Sir Laurence Street and retired Air Marshal Les Fisher would lead the study which he hoped would be independent and assess the effectiveness of the many reforms.
Mr Snowdon said Sir Laurence, a former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court and Naval Legal Officer, would bring legal and military experience to the review while Air Marshal Fisher, a former Chief of Air Force, would contribute his extensive knowledge gained through almost 40 years in the Air Force.
The review was announced at the opening of the Australian Centre of Military Law and Justice.
“The new Australian Centre for Military Law and Justice based at the Australian National University College of Law will provide valuable research and sustained study into military law issues that have long been overlooked, and could well inform Government in the future,” Mr Snowdon said.
“So it is appropriate that I take the opportunity of today’s opening to announce the first of regular independent reviews into the health of the military justice system.
He said an effective military justice system was vital to maintaining command and retaining Defence’s reputation and was critical to operating effectively.
“It is of utmost importance to get the right mix of balancing the rights of the individuals with effective discipline,” he said.
Mr Snowdon said work on the review had already begun and the Review Team had invited submissions from stakeholders with input on the reformed military justice system.
For further details or to obtain a copy of the Review’s Terms of Reference, visit www.defence.gov.au
13 May, 2008
Radio Awards easy as ABC
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has presented its 2008 Local Radio Awards at a ceremony in Sydney.
Station of the Year (Metropolitan) was named as 666 ABC Canberra with Townsville station, 630 ABC North Queensland taking out Station of the Year (Regional) and 774 ABC Melbourne’s Red Symons named Broadcaster of the Year.
Established in 2001 and open to all staff contributing to the ABC’s nine metropolitan and 51 regional stations, the Awards were designed to celebrate the best of Local Radio across Australia.
Director of ABC Radio and Regional Content - and Awards judge - Sue Howard said the awards celebrated the diverse range of work produced by ABC Local Radio from across the country.
“These Awards highlight the talent of our staff and their commitment to producing entertaining and inspiring radio for audiences. I congratulate everyone recognised this evening,” Ms Howard said.
Other winners were:
13 May, 2008
ABC surveys for breast cancer
Every ABC studio is to be included in a survey of breast cancer cases to see if there was an increased risk among staff nationwide.
Employees of the ABC’s Toowong studios in Brisbane reported a six-fold increase in breast cancer last June and so far, investigators have been unable to find the cause.
They suggested it might be related to the working environment so the ABC is to see if increased risks are also present at other ABC sites.
The Cancer Council of NSW is to conduct the study and has issued a call for women diagnosed with breast cancer who worked at any ABC site between January 1994 and last July to come forward. The results are expected next year.
Budget blues at Archive
Taste of AQIS at Mint
AGs for property seminars
Wheat for Afghanistan
Same sex welcome
Austrade does Canada
The job cuts have been criticised by the Community and Public Sector Union which described them as arbitrary and as coming at a time Departments and Agencies were already overstretched.
DIAC goes bush
Verdict on jury service
Students rate at RBA
IPAA picks up Covey habit
Yacht visa cruises in
DSTO speeds up
Media access study
IT award again