SearchArchives for May 2010
25 May, 2010
Focus on staff in
The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran has assured staff of the Australian Public Service that they will be supported through the process of implementing far-reaching reforms to the APS in the coming months.
In an address to the Institute of Public Administration Australia, Mr Moran said increased accountability and support for staff would “underpin” the success of the changes outlined in his Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration.
He said all 28 recommendations of the Blueprint have been accepted by the Government and some had already been implemented.
Mr Moran said the Blueprint was “more than the sum of its parts because structural changes are backed up with support for staff and improved accountability.”
He said that among the measures designed to support staff would be a new policy toolkit to help implement best practice in strategic policy as well as improved links to academia through staff scholarships and participation in training programs.
“These are concrete measures to support staff and develop policy capacity amongst APS employees,” Mr Moran said.
He said the toolkit would help improve staff understanding of eight core elements needed to provide quality strategic advice.
“The first is the time horizon,” he said. “Strategic policy advice thinks beyond the next incremental decision.”
The second element looked at taking a holistic approach to strategic advice while the third was to set clear goals and objectives.
“The fourth is analysis of underlying problems. The fifth is shaping the future debate,” he said.
The sixth element is to innovate and find creative solutions, the seventh involves implementation and mitigating risks and the final element is to test the results of strategic policy work by “imagining their impact on the ground.”
Mr Moran said every APS employee would have access to annual learning and development opportunities to ensure the workforce was appropriately skilled.
He said the accountability of APS leaders would be increased through capability reviews and a new performance management system for Secretaries would result in capability improvement plans and 360 degree feedback.
According to Mr Moran, the Australian Public Service Commission would be reinvigorated.
He welcomed the Commonwealth’s acceptance of all the Blueprint’s recommendations saying Governments did not always accept review in full.
“It sets us on a path to reform with clear Government support and acceptance,” he said.
“The APSC, the Department of Finance and Deregulation and PM&C are the lead Agencies for the vast majority of reforms.”
Mr Moran said APS staff would now be educated on the “intent of the Blueprint” through a series of seminars to be conducted over the next two months.
He said more information about the Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration could be obtained from www.dpmc.gov.au
25 May, 2010
APS Values to
The APS Values are to be revised and condensed to make them more meaningful and effective.
The Australian Public Service Commission has announced a series of consultations over the coming months to help inform changes to the 15 APS Values.
In an address to a PS leaders recently, Public Service Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick said the core APS Values would be amended to promote unity within the APS, encourage excellence in public service and clarify staff expectations of how to act in order to promote public trust.
Mr Sedgwick said the reforms were based on recommendations from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Blueprint for the reform of Australian Government Administration.
He said the coming consultations would involve Public Servants and stakeholders from the Government, community, private sector and unions.
He said leaders in the Public Service had roles that were “less well understood today than they should be.”
“These relate to the responsibility of Secretaries to recognise that they are the stewards of two enduring organisations.
“These organisations are their Department and the Public Service at large.”
Mr Sedgwick said the Blueprint recommended a new articulation of APS Values to a smaller core set that were meaningful, memorable and effective in driving change.
“The consultations will take as their starting point the five qualities that the Blueprint has proposed: accountable; frank, impartial and non-partisan; results-oriented; ethical; and merit-based employment.”
He said the consultations would look at broadening accountability, citizen engagement, risk management practices, timely policy delivery, ethics and meritocracy.
Mr Sedgwick said APS Values provided a set of unifying themes that recognised that regardless of how different individual Agencies were, there were “fundamental commonalities that bind us in the way we approach our duties.”
25 May, 2010
The Australian Privacy Commissioner has commenced an investigation into reports that Google Street View Cars have been unknowingly recording data from unsecured wireless networks as they travelled around Australia over the past four years.
in privacy net
Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis confirmed an investigation was underway, but said the Privacy Act prevented her from commenting on the specific details.
“Google has admitted that it inadvertently collected ‘payload’ information from unsecured WiFi networks in Australia,” Ms Curtis said.
“As we understand it at this stage, the data collected inadvertently has been encrypted and stored offline.”
In a statement on its blog, Google said payload data was information sent over the WiFi network and that it had been mistakenly collected and stored by the internet giant.
“The data protection authority in Hamburg, Germany asked to audit the WiFi data that our Street View cars collect for use in location-based products like Google Maps for mobile, which enables people to find local restaurants or get directions,” the blog statement said.
“It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products.”
Ms Curtis said the Assistant Privacy Commissioner met with Google representatives last week (17 May) to discuss the issue before deciding to launch an investigation.
“Google provided answers to a number of questions at that meeting and my Office has sought further information from Google as a result,” she said.
“Google advises it has not made that data available to others.”
The Commissioner warned members of the public to ensure their WiFi network had security settings enabled and was password protected.
“Unsecured networks are vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves,” Ms Curtis said.
Vice-Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia, Geordie Guy said his organisation was concerned because the information captured by Google was private information about Australians.
Mr Guy said the information needed to be destroyed.
“It’s our belief that the organisation that should be responsible for that is the Australian Privacy Commissioner,” he said.
Google Street View Cars have accidently collected information from Wi-Fi networks from over 30 countries.
25 May, 2010
Auditor’s audit not
An independent audit of the Australian National Audit Office’s IT framework and management has identified three areas for improvement.
out of the ordinary
The audit, conducted by a consulting firm, found the ANAO’s ICT Strategic Plan (ICTSP) had a “well defined outline” of key ICT technical infrastructure and application elements.
“Future business objectives are clearly defined through the identification of key projects that clearly link to the high-level corporate business drivers,” the audit report says.
The report, Australian National Audit Office - IT Performance Review, rated the ANAO’s ICTSP on a maturity scale, finding it was a level three (defined process) or four (managed and measurable).
“This is certainly where we would expect the ANAO to be, considering its size and operations, and is noted that no formal recommendations were made as part of this review,” the report says.
It says data collected by the consultant on 13 other Government Agencies it assessed using the same scale showed maturity scores averaged 2.538.
“When comparing this to the ANAO, it clearly shows that they are well positioned (within other Government Agencies) in terms of ICT strategic planning maturity,” it says.
The report found however that the ANAO could better align and manage its ICT performance by improving in three areas.
It suggested the Audit Office provide a clear link of corporate risks to its ICTSP; that it incorporate key performance indicators into the Strategic Plan; and that it document procedures for recovering data.
“These suggestions are considered ‘business improvement’ opportunities that will further strengthen the ANAO’s control environment,” the report says.
The audit report said the 2008 Gershon Review, which looked at Government ICT efficiencies, impacted on the ANAO by requiring it to achieve efficiency dividends.
The ANAO was required to achieve total cost savings of around $90,000 for the 2008-09 financial year and $270,000 for 2009-10.
“The ANAO has reported that for the first year of this requirement, that it has achieved this level of cost saving and attributes this to an assessment and review of its software licensing arrangements, with the removal of unnecessary software and licences; and a retesting of its primary ICT contract for ICT services,” the report says.
“The ANAO is continuing to identify opportunities to reduce the costs associated with ICT,” it said, “and has started to consider how the process of ‘shared services’ might be implemented.”
The ANAO welcomed the audit and agreed with the suggestions for improvement.
The full report was available from www.anao.gov.au
25 May, 2010
Mobile phone study
An international study of the health effects of mobile phones has led the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) to advise parents to limit their children’s exposure to the devices.
leads to hang-ups
The Interphone report was the most extensive study of its kind and includes the results of interviews conducted in 13 countries, including Australia, where it was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Cancer Council.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mark Butler said the Government’s independent radiation authority ARPANSA had reviewed the Interphone report, and had recommended that parents encourage their children to reduce their use of mobile phones.
ARPANSA advised that children’s exposure could be limited by reducing call time, making calls where reception was good, using hands-free devices, or by texting.
Mr Butler said the Agency had concluded that the data currently available did not warrant any general recommendation for adults to limit their use of mobile phones.
“I note the ARPANSA statement is consistent with its existing advice on the use of mobile phones, including by children,” Mr Butler said.
“I also note that it is consistent with the advice of the Cancer Council issued in response to the Interphone report.
“The Australian Government will continue to closely monitor ongoing research in the area.”
Mr Butler said while there were suggestions of an increased risk of certain types of brain cancer associated with the highest levels of mobile phone use, these results may have been due to biases in the study which are difficult to avoid.
Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which oversaw the study, Dr Christopher Wild said an increased risk of brain cancer was not established from the data from Interphone.
“However, observations at the highest level of cumulative call time and the changing patterns of mobile phone use since the period studied by Interphone, particularly in young people, mean that further investigation of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk is merited,” Dr Wild said.
25 May, 2010
Draft guidelines have been published on new procurement policies for the Australian Public Service aimed at increased Indigenous employment, training and supplier opportunities.
guide to pay up
The Ministers for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, and Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib, have released the guidelines for public consultation.
From 1 July, tenders for Commonwealth projects worth over $5 million or construction projects over $6 million will have to include plans for employing and training local Indigenous people and for using Indigenous suppliers if the project is being conducted in an area with a high Indigenous population.
Senator Arbib said the new policy would come into effect on 1 July and be fully implemented by 31 December.
He said the consultation process aimed to ensure the policy took the needs of business and Government into account.
“The new policy will drive the way businesses contribute to Indigenous employment and business opportunities when supplying to the Government,” Senator Arbib said.
“I encourage Australian companies, particularly those who regularly do business with Government, business representative bodies, Indigenous businesses, procurement experts and other relevant parties to respond.”
Mr Tanner said under the enhanced Indigenous Opportunities Policy successful tenderers would be required to implement the Indigenous employee plans whenever they won a Government contract.
He said the draft guidelines, which included definitions and locations on where the changes would apply, were developed following feedback from the business sector and Government Agencies.
Mr Tanner said consultation on the guidelines would close on 4 June.
The draft guidelines were available from www.deewr.gov.au
25 May, 2010
PS research uncovers
A survey conducted by the Australian Human Resources Institute for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet last year revealed that most senior APS staff were seeking to achieve Agency objectives rather than broader, whole-of-Government outcomes.
AHRI surveyed 244 human resources staff, around 50 per cent of whom said senior staff sought to achieve Agency goals over cross-portfolio goals.
The results of the survey were released in Building a better public service: AHRI members have their say.
According to the report, half the survey respondents said the leaders of their Agencies were either ‘lukewarm’ or opposed to achieving cross-Agency outcomes as a priority
Fifty-two per cent believed attaining Agency outcomes was the top priority for their leaders compared to 6 per cent who saw attaining cross-portfolio outcomes as the main criterion.
Around one third of respondents said Ministerial advisers encouraged or insisted whole-of-Government agendas be observed.
The survey found 22 per cent of respondents thought their leaders did not act in accordance with Public Service values such as honesty, integrity, political neutrality or respect for citizens and almost six in 10 thought their Agency did not encourage innovation through strategic risk taking.
Pressure from the media was cited as placing pressure on Agencies to cope with short-term results by 58 per cent of respondents.
Around two thirds of respondents did not believe their Agency trained staff adequately to deal creatively with long-term strategic policy matters and 77 per cent believed their Agency did not have a succession plan for key staff.
The survey asked questions relating to workplace culture and leadership, talent development, succession planning, training, cross-portfolio strategy, PS independence and Ministerial office interplay.
The full report was available from resource.ahri.com.au
25 May, 2010
The peak body for Ombudsmen in Australia and New Zealand is calling for stronger controls on the use of the term ‘Ombudsman’.
over name game
The Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA) has released a policy statement setting out six essential criteria it believes members of the public should be entitled to expect of any office described as an Ombudsman.
In its statement, Essential Criteria, ANZOA said an ‘Ombudsman’ should have: independence, jurisdiction, powers, accessibility, procedural fairness and accountability.
Chair of ANZOA, Fiona McLeod said when problems arose in an industry or an area of Government services, the call for an Ombudsman often followed.
“ANZOA’s concern lies with the increasing inappropriate use of the term ‘Ombudsman’ to describe bodies that do not conform to, or show an understanding of, the accepted Ombudsman model and its 200-year history,” Ms McLeod said.
“The term ‘Ombudsman’ is understood by the public as signifying an independent office, which primarily has a complaint handling and investigation function.”
She said that using the term to describe an office with regulatory, disciplinary and/or prosecutorial functions confused the role of Ombudsman with that of a regulatory body.
“This criticism applies to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the recently proposed Supermarket Ombudsman, and the proposed National Legal Services Ombudsman,” she said.
“The concept of Ombudsman is being stretched and the confidence of the Australian public in the role and independence of the Ombudsman institution is at risk of being undermined and diminished.”
“An ‘Ombudsman’ office under the direction or control of an industry or a Government Minister is not independent.”
Ms McLeod said no Australian organisation should misuse the term and urged anyone considering an ‘Ombudsman’ proposal to consult ANZOA early in the process, to ensure the proposed office meets the necessary criteria for use of the term.
25 May, 2010
Correct weight for
A new national system for policing weights and measures is on track to come into force on 1 July.
Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry, Richard Marles said the new system would ensure consumers got exactly what they paid for - from the supermarket check-out to the petrol pump.
The changes mean the Commonwealth will have responsibility for weights and measures for the first time, replacing 17 different pieces of State and Territory legislation.
The new system will cover measures used in trade totalling more than $400 billion a year nationally, including exports, imports and over-the-counter sales such as meat, fire wood, petrol and gas.
“One hundred and nine years after it was written into the Australian Constitution, the responsibility for weights and measures has finally gone national,” Mr Marles said.
“Whether they are buying petrol in Hobart or groceries in Cairns, Australians are entitled to buy with confidence knowing they are getting exactly what they pay for.
“Even small errors in weight or volume can add up significantly over time.
“If you lose one per cent of a weekly $200 grocery shop because the scales are wrongly calibrated, over a year you would be down more than $100.”
Mr Marles launched a public awareness campaign that highlighted the importance of a national system for both consumers and businesses.
He said the reform was part of the work being undertaken by the Council of Australian Governments as part of its effort to create a seamless national economy, and would make it easier for business to operate interstate.
From 1 July, the National Measurement Institute (NMI), a division of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, will be responsible for all trade measurement, including its regulation.
Chief Executive of the NMI, Dr Laurie Besley said Commonwealth-employed trade measurement inspectors would ensure the effectiveness of the new system.
“Inspectors will be checking the accuracy of equipment and transactions in all types of retail outlets Australia wide,” Dr Besley said.
More information is available from www.measurement.gov.au
25 May, 2010
Agencies join forces
Medicare Australia and Centrelink have joined forces to issue a public warning against hoaxes from telephone callers claiming to be from the two Agencies.
to get their hoax up
General Manager of the Human Services Portfolio which includes the bodies, Hank Jongen said Medicare Australia had received reports from women about suspicious phone calls from a man claiming to work for Medicare.
“He’s phoned several women that we’re aware of, offering cash and holiday prizes as rewards for participating in a survey,” Mr Jongen said.
“He’s then proceeded to ask these women intimate and inappropriate questions.”
Mr Jongen urged anyone who received similar calls to terminate the conversation immediately.
He said there had also been reports of scammers posing as Centrelink staff attempting to obtain the personal details of clients, which could be used to commit identity fraud or other criminal activity..
“If you’re unsure of whether it really is Medicare or Centrelink calling you, simply hang up and call us on your regular contact number to verify,” Mr Jongen said.
“If you suspect a possible identity fraud phone scam has occurred, I encourage you to report any details like the phone number, time, date, gender and accent to the Australian Government’s designated fraud tip-off line on 13 15 24.”
He also reminded people who use Medicare Australia and Centrelink online services to protect their information by keeping their login details private and regularly changing passwords.
25 May, 2010
Injection of training
The newly-formed Agency, Health Workforce Australia has invited universities and health and aged care providers to come up with new proposals for clinical training opportunities across Australia.
for health workforce
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the Government would spend $139 million on supporting clinical training studies for eligible health professionals during the 2011 academic year.
Ms Roxon said advertisements calling for proposals were running in all major daily newspapers.
“Priority will be given to develop clinical training capacity in areas of existing professional, as well as geographic health workforce shortages, including for rural and remote settings, mental health, aged care and dental health,” Ms Roxon said.
“Proposals should support the clinical training needs of the 24 different health professions agreed to by the Australian, State and Territory Ministers, including such disciplines as Indigenous health, speech pathology, nursing, medical, midwifery, dentistry and allied oral health.”
Health Workforce Australia, which is leading the call for proposals, was established as part of the 2008 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) partnership agreement, with a record $1.6 billion in workforce investments.
Ms Roxon said the Federal Government had committed $1.1 billion to the COAG partnership, with the balance coming from State and Territory Government contributions.
She said investing in new clinical training places was a vital element of the Government’s plan to build a National Health and Hospitals Network and to deliver better health outcomes for all Australians.
She said other Budget health measures which would help tackle doctor and health professional shortages included $640 million in funding to deliver training places for an additional 5,500 GPs, as well as 680 medical specialists and 5,400 pre-vocational general practice program training places over the next decade.
“And in a landmark boost for local front-line primary care in Australia, the Government committed $390.3 million over four years to support the provision of an estimated 4,600 full-time practice nurses in GP surgeries,” Ms Roxon said.
For more information, visit www.hwa.gov.au
25 May, 2010
High fives for
Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force have entered an agreement to integrate their air traffic control systems.
air traffic deal
Described as ‘historic” by the Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, the agreement will see the RAAF and Airservices purchase and develop compatible equipment together.
Mr Albanese said this would deliver safer and better air traffic control over the nation’s skies, as well as provide better value for money, potentially saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
He said other benefits of the Joint Operational Concept would be a reduction in overlaps, increased cooperation, improved communication between civil and military air traffic control and the delivery of better training of air traffic controllers.
“This historic agreement will make sure Australian aviation remains at the forefront of technologically advanced air traffic management and safety,” Mr Albanese said.
“It is a significant milestone that delivers upon one of the major commitments outlined in the Government’s Aviation White Paper.”
The Minister said Airservices and the RAAF would undergo major equipment upgrades and replacement over the next five to seven years, ensuring alignment of multi-million dollar procurement processes scheduled to replace ageing and separate air traffic management infrastructure and systems in both organisations.
He said the Government would ensure the unique operational requirements of the RAAF were maintained.
The joint purchasing of air traffic management equipment and technology is to include automation systems, tower automation systems, radar and navigational aid equipment, and training and simulation systems.
Mr Albanese said Airservices and the RAAF had approached the international market with a Request For Information to establish what technologies and resources were available to deliver the next generation of air traffic management, taking into account the specific needs of both organisations.
25 May, 2010
New justice measures
A new package of measures to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of Australia’s justice system has been unveiled by Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
judged a winner
Mr McClelland said the Government’s Strategic Framework for Access to Justice was underpinned by five key principles of accessibility, appropriateness, equity, efficiency and effectiveness.
“Access to justice is not just about access to a court or a lawyer, it is about providing practical, affordable and easily understood information and options to help people to prevent or resolve their disputes,” Mr McClelland said.
A key measure of the Strategic Framework is the launch of an Access to Justice website - www.accesstojustice.gov.au - to provide access to local information about legal assistance and related services.
Other initiatives include increased funding of $154 million over four years for legal assistance services, taking the total Commonwealth contribution to over $1.2 billion, and the introduction of a new law, the Civil Dispute Resolution Bill, which will require people to take genuine steps to resolve their disputes before going to court.
An action plan will be developed to ensure Commonwealth laws are clearer and easier to understand, while a national advisory body will be established to develop national responses to critical challenges in the legal assistance sector.
Mr McClelland said the requirement to attend family dispute resolution to property and spousal maintenance matters would be extended.
Other reforms include examining options to improve the discovery process in civil litigation through a review by the Australian Law Reform Commission and improved administrative law guidelines for Commonwealth officials would also be developed.
The Government will also spend $1.6 million on attracting and supporting lawyers working in rural, regional and remote areas.
“These measures are designed to encourage better information, early intervention, and improved avenues to resolve disputes without the need for litigation,” Mr McClelland said.
“Appropriate access to justice is central to the rule of law and integral to achieving greater social inclusion.
“It is also a critical element of a well-functioning democracy.”
25 May, 2010
The National Water Commission has joined with the Water Services Association of Australia to release three new software tools to help water managers implement recycling schemes safely.
Chief Executive of the National Water Commission, Ken Matthews and the Executive Director of the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), Ross Young said the tools would encourage re-use and recycling by practitioners.
Mr Matthews said the tools were developed to help managers implement the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling.
He said the tools comprise three software components: Requality - a self assessment and improvement tool for urban water recyclers; AquaSafe – an exposure and treatment technology performance database; and Web based user friendly guide – which explains how to use the software tools to help implement the Guidelines.
“Water recycling is an important option in building a more reliable and diversified water supply portfolio for Australian cities and to meet the pressures of drought, climate variability and population growth,” Mr Matthews said.
“Uptake of the tools will help improve certainty in planning recycled water systems, provide clarity on the scientific evidence used to support recycling decisions and promote national consistency for both industry and regulators in managing critical water quality issues.”
Mr Young said there had been a rapid increase in the volume of recycled water produced across Australia.
“These tools will assist planners, operators and regulators in improving and robustly managing potential water quality risks,” he said.
“These tools will provide additional support to recycled water supply organisations ranging from smaller scale systems such as golf courses and Council operated systems watering parks and ovals through to large utility-managed dual reticulation schemes,” Mr Young said.
The tools were developed with funding from the National Water Commission’s Raising National Water Standards Program.
Further information on the tools was available from www.nwc.gov.au or www.wsaa.asn.au
25 May, 2010
New war paintings put
A new exhibition of paintings at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra reflects the experiences of Australian troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
soldiers in the frame
The exhibition – Framing Conflict: Iraq and Afghanistan - features the work of Lyndell Brown and Charles Green, who have been creating paintings and photographic works together since 1989.
Director of the War memorial, Major General Steve Gower said the exhibition was an insight into the activities and experiences of Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is a great opportunity for visitors to the Memorial to see the art that will help define Australia’s involvement in these conflicts for future generations,” Maj-Gen Gower said.
Mr Gower said the artists in 2007 travelled through the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf as the Memorial’s official war artists, continuing a tradition that began during the First World War.
Embedded with coalition forces, Brown and Green depict servicemen and women involved in various operational activities or military duties, as well as the environments in which they operated.
The exhibition also features a painting of Sabi, the explosive detection dog who was lost for more than a year in Afghanistan after she went missing during a battle. Incredibly, Sabi was found by an American soldier in November 2009 and returned to her Australian handler.
“Just as we now value the paintings of Gallipoli and the Western Front by George Lambert and Arthur Streeton as important contributions to the history of the First World War, the works of art by Brown and Green capture these modern conflicts for the records,” Maj-Gen Gower said.
Framing Conflict: Iraq and Afghanistan is on display at the Australian War Memorial from 21 May to 18 August 2010, before travelling to other exhibition venues.
25 May, 2010
A new Court to deliver military justice for Australian Defence Force is to be established as part of a restructured Federal Court system.
Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said the new Military Court of Australia would replace interim measures put in place after the High Court ruled the former Australian Military Court, established in 2007, was invalid.
Senator Faulkner said the new Court would be created under Chapter Three of the Australian Constitution.
He said all judicial officers appointed to the Court would have either past military experience or a familiarity with the Services to ensure the Court had the necessary understanding of military discipline.
The Senator said the new Court would be independent of the military with no judicial officers serving in the ADF or as members of the Reserves.
“This new specialist Court will deliver a system of military justice for ADF members that combines the necessary independence and constitutional protections for the judiciary, with an understanding of the vital importance of military discipline in the operation of our armed forces,” Senator Faulkner said.
“Timely and fair trials in the new Court will enhance military justice and promote discipline in the ADF, which in turn will contribute to improved morale and operational effectiveness.”
He said the Military Court of Australia would be part of the Federal Court system in which Magistrates would continue to hear general Federal law matters.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland admitted the Government had considered dissolving the Federal Magistrates Court.
“It has been more practical to retain the Federal Magistrates Court as a separately functioning Court,” Mr McClelland said.
“Under the new arrangements, a lower tier of the Family Court will be established and commissions offered to Federal Magistrates who undertake mainly family law work.
“This new structure will achieve a more integrated and efficient system in order to effectively deliver legal and justice services to both the civilian and Defence community.”
He said existing Judges of the Federal Court and Federal Magistrates Courts with the requisite background could be offered dual commissions to the new Military Court.
“We anticipate that the bulk of work undertaken by the Military Court will be at that Federal Magistrates level,” Mr McClelland said.
The Attorney-General said consultations with Courts and the Law Council of Australia in finalising the restructure process would continue.
Legislation to establish the new Military Court is expected to be introduced this year, with a view to the new Court commencing operations in late 2011.
25 May, 2010
Gender gap widens
The gender pay gap in Australian businesses has widened according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The study showed women’s average weekly earnings were now 82 per cent of men’s meaning the gap had widened by 0.8 of a percentage point since this time last year.
Australian women will have to work an extra 66 days to earn the same amount as men.
Acting Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Mairi Steele said as a result of this widening of the pay gap, Equal Pay Day this year will fall on 4 September.
Shift work stats
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed that 1.4 million Australian employees – or 16 per cent - work shift work in their main job.
The ABS said that of all male employees, 17 per cent usually worked shift work, while the figure was 15 per cent for female employees.
The figures showed a higher proportion of younger employees worked shift work than those in older age groups.
A training workshop has brought together media and emergency management officials to develop greater collaboration in broadcasting emergency warnings to the public.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the training package would be made available for use by all broadcast media networks and all State and Territory emergency management Agencies.
“It is essential that during emergencies the government and media work in partnership to inform and warn the community of the potential dangers and any required actions,” Mr McClelland said.
New ACMA Bulletin
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released its first Telecommunications Consumer Protection Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin.
The quarterly bulletin covers ACMA’s work in telecommunications consumer protection compliance.
The inaugural issue examines complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and ACMA compliance assessments.
ACMA said the purpose of the bulletin was to show the volume and subject matter of ACMA’s compliance work.
The Bulletin can be accessed here: Telecommunications Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin
Private health high
Figures released by the Private Health Insurance Administration Council show private health insurance has hit a 27 year high, with a total of 9,912,887 people covered in the March quarter of 2010.
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the last time this many people had this cover was in March 1983 when 9,986,000 people were covered.
The figures showed 44.5 per cent of the population was covered by hospital treatment policies, 51.4 per cent by general treatment policies, and 51.5 per cent by either hospital, general, or hospital and general treatment combined policies.
The jailing of three people in Queensland for welfare fraud has prompted the Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen to issue a timely warning that the Government would not tolerate welfare cheating.
A man who defrauded Centrelink of more than $187,000 was sentenced to 12 months in jail; a woman was jailed for two months after falsifying documents to claim $11,000 in Centrelink payments; and another woman was jailed on the Sunshine Coast for two months after collecting benefits worth $51,637 she wasn’t entitled to.
“In 2008-09, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions prosecuted 3,388 Centrelink cases for fraud, with a success rate of 99 per cent,” Mr Bowen said.
He said the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line was 13 15 24.
New TV licences
New licences have been allocated for a third, digital-only commercial television service in remote central and eastern Australia to commence broadcasting on 10 June.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority allocated a new licence to Central Television Pty Ltd – a joint venture formed by Imparja TV and Regional Television - in each of the television licence areas of Remote Central and Eastern Australia TV2 and Mt Isa TV1.
The service will feature digital simulcasts of the current WIN and Prime television services, along with the new, digital-only third commercial television service, which will commence at all digital sites.
Bunnett wins fellowship
International researcher, Professor Nigel Bunnett from the US has been awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council Australia Fellowship.
Professor Bunnett will take up his Fellowship at Sydney University, where he will research inflammation and pain.
The Australia Fellowships are Australia’s most prestigious award for excellence in medical research, with recipients each receiving $4 million in funding towards their nominated research project
Professor Bunnett joins nine other recipients of the Australia Fellowship 2010.
Library left books
The National Library has acquired the vast Marcie Muir collection of Australian children’s books.
The 7,600-volume collection is one of the largest of its kind in existence.
Marcie Muir, who died in 2007, was a well-known Australian bibliographer and champion of children’s literature.
18 May, 2010
Business unusual as
The Federal Government has agreed to accept all the recommendations of the Moran report into reforming the Australian Public Service.
APS reforms adopted
Cabinet Secretary, Senator Joe Ludwig said the report, titled Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for Reform of Australian Government Administration, outlined a reform agenda to ensure the APS could meet the challenges of today.
Senator Ludwig said a key reform would see the Australian Public Service Commission take a greater role in assisting Agencies to build their workforce capability and coordinating workplace relations for Government employees.
“A revitalised Australian Public Service Commission is central to both managing and developing our workforce and improving accountability and decision making in the APS,” Senator Ludwig said.
“It is imperative that we focus on these improvements to ensure Government and citizens are well served.
He said the Commission’s new role in workplace relations would also support a “unified APS” better.
Under the changes, the APSC would help Agencies improve the design and delivery of services provided to citizens, and investigate the best ways to gather citizen views on their satisfaction with Government programs, services and regulation.
Key recommendations include establishing a Strategic Policy Network and cross-Agency policy project teams, strengthening links with private sector experts, and creating an APS-wide forum to share best practice in regulations.
The report also calls for revising APS Values to a smaller set of core values, and amending the Public Service Act 1999 to recognise the roles and responsibilities of Secretaries and the Public Service Commissioner.
Other recommendations include revising the processes for appointing and terminating Secretaries and reinforcing the appointment for Secretaries to provide for a five-year term.
A new APS leadership group – the Secretaries Board – would also be established, along with a senior leadership forum - the APS 200 - and a Leadership Development Centre.
A review of the size, capability and work level standards for each level of the Senior Executive Service (SES) is to be undertaken before any new net growth in the SES occurs, while best practice standards for recruitment that uphold the merit principle would be developed, and new recruitment processes for SES Band 3 officers utilised where appropriate.
The report also calls for the development of common APS-wide guidelines for dealing with underperformance, and for all portfolio Agencies to review the most efficient way to conduct their corporate functions.
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood welcomed the Government’s announcement and called on it to abolish what she said were arbitrary cuts, such as the ‘efficiency dividend’, and provide more funding for the APS.
A list of all the reforms agreed to by the Government can be accessed here.
18 May, 2010
Opposition does job
The Australian Public Service is to be reduced by 12,000 positions over two years if the Federal Opposition wins Government, according to the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott.
on PS staffing levels
In his Budget Reply speech last week, Mr Abbott said he would “rein in spending” by freezing Public Service recruitment for two years and would cut Government advertising by 25 per cent.
“There will be no redundancies,” Mr Abbott said, “but for two years, 6,000 bureaucrats who retire or resign each year will not be replaced.
“This should deliver a modest reduction in public sector numbers without compromising essential services and save about $4 billion over the forward estimates.”
The Opposition Leader said the freeze would apply on an Agency-by-Agency basis but would not include uniformed and frontline service positions.
“The Federal Police, Customs and quarantine, the Australian Defence Force and Centrelink customer service staff will be excluded,” he said.
The Community and Public Sector Union has criticised the plan, saying it would lead to reduced service delivery.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said the public was placing increasing demands on the Public Service and Government.
“People want a public sector that can find answers to challenges like health care reform, border protection and the environment,” Ms Flood said.
“Every time someone leaves the public sector, their work stops getting done.
“No matter if they’re a critical scientist working on water shortages or in a Medicare back office supporting frontline staff.”
She said Mr Abbot could not assure the public that cutting PS staff numbers would not affect essential services.
The 2010 Federal Budget brought down last week includes an increase of around 380 staff for the APS.
18 May, 2010
Timely advice on
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has released a checklist to help Agencies and Departments table their 2009-10 Annual Reports correctly.
In Tabling Circular No 2/2010, Tabling Officer, Alison Carson said it was the responsibility of Departments and Agencies to be aware of and meet legislative requirements when arranging to have their reports tabled.
“The purpose of this Circular is to advise of the ‘one-off’ arrangements in place when tabling 2009-10 Annual Reports during September and October this year,” Ms Carson said.
Ms Carson said all Annual Reports should be tabled by 31 October 2010 and could be tabled when Parliament was sitting or not.
The Circular includes a checklist for tabling an Annual Report on a sitting day and another for tabling out of sittings.
It also includes templates for required memorandums, letters and other necessary paperwork.
“Departments and Agencies should take into account possible delays in the design and printing of reports, in obtaining Ministerial clearance or in the Parliamentary process in deciding when to table their annual report,” Ms Carson said.
“To avoid these potential problems, aim to table reports in early October.”
Ms Carson said the circular differed from PM&C tabling guidelines with respect to the distribution of the document.
“The PM&C Tabling Officer will (once the embargo has been lifted) undertake the distribution of the document in the building to the Parliamentary Press Gallery, House of Representatives Table Office, Senate Table Office and the Parliamentary Library,” she said.
The Circular includes a list of dates of sitting and non-sitting days to help Departments nominate a day to table their report.
Ms Carson said Departments and Agencies must ensure all packaging, labelling and delivery requirements were met and clear instructions to couriers and printers were provided.
She said Annual Reports must be appropriately boxed, clearly labelled and weigh no more than 16 kilograms upon delivery to the Parliament House Loading Dock.
Ms Carson said all reports, including five that must be hand delivered to the PM&C Tabling Officer, must be delivered before 2.30pm the day prior to being tabled.
Tabling Circular No 2/2010 is available for download from www.dpmc.gov.au
18 May, 2010
New-age PS needed
A future in which there are fewer and fewer Public Servants managing more and more private sector service deliverers has been predicted by the Special Minister of State, and Minister responsible for the Public Service, Senator Joe Ludwig.
to deal with ageing
In a speech at the 2010 Government Business Conference, Senator Ludwig said almost 43 per cent of all APS employees and 72 per cent of the SES would be eligible to retire over the next 10 years, with “profound” implications for the future of public administration in Australia.
“In an ageing Australia, Government and industry are going to have to come up with innovative ways to engage and service an ageing population,” Senator Ludwig said.
“This is easier said than done.
“What I suspect we’re going to see - in the Commonwealth and the States and Territories alike - is fewer public servants overseeing more services delivered by the private sector.”
Senator Ludwig said the Government needed to follow the recommendation of the advisory group on Public Service reform, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran, to boost public sector workforce planning, skills and capabilities.
Predicting that within the public sector, more people would be shifted from administration to frontline delivery to cope with the demands of an ageing population for health and other social services, he said some “major shifts in thinking” would have to take place.
“Sometimes the private sector delivers services that are accessible, high quality and low cost,” Senator Ludwig said.
“Other times the private sector underperforms.
“The public sector needs to develop accountability and performance management mechanisms to handle an increased private sector role in service delivery, and to guarantee that limited public resources are being used wisely and well.”
Senator Ludwig said the public sector needed to improve its service delivery, and there was a need for common resources, such as APS-wide contracts, performance measurement tools and ‘feedback loops’.
Pointing to a recent speech he gave to new APS graduates, Senator Ludwig said he told them that if later in their careers they found they had only worked on policy, then they needed to get out into the community and work in service delivery on the frontline.
He also said Public Servants and politicians needed to admit they were not infallible, and that Canberra did not have all the best ideas.
“The Advisory Group recommends using State and Territory governments, local governments and the community and private sectors to deliver more services using simpler funding arrangements,” Senator Ludwig said.
“For this to work, another major shift in thinking has to happen: the Commonwealth public sector has to address its suspiciousness of outsiders.”
Senator Ludwig’s address can be accessed at www.smos.gov.au/speeches
18 May, 2010
Tax Office glitches
The Taxation Inspector-General has been called on to protect the identity of staff from the Australian Taxation Office who give evidence at an inquiry into problems with the ATO’s new IT system.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the Senate’s move to protect the ‘whistleblowers’, led by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, was unnecessary and that Parliament should not interfere with the Inspector-General’s inquiry into the matter.
Senator Sherry announced the Taxation Inspector-General, Ali Noroozi would review the Tax Office’s IT system Change Program, after reports of glitches and delays in processing tax returns.
Senator Sherry said Mr Noroozi was “unequivocally required to maintain the confidentiality” of those who supplied him with information at his request, under the Inspector-General of Taxation Act 2003.
“Where an ATO employee indicates to the Inspector-General that they have information relevant to the Change Program the Inspector-General will formally ask the ATO employee to provide that information,” he said.
“The employee will then have the full protection of section 17 of the Inspector-General of Taxation Act 2003.”
Senator Sherry said Mr Noroozi had publicly confirmed his commitment to confidentiality, as set out in recent notices calling for submissions to the inquiry.
“The independent review should be allowed to run its course, without interference from Parliament,” Senator Sherry said.
“I would argue that Parliament cannot break its own acts of Parliament in attempting to instruct the Inspector-General, who is fully independent and fully at arm’s length.”
Senator Sherry said the Inspector-General’s position had been established in a way that did not allow the Parliament or Ministers to influence an inquiry once it was called.
Senator Xenophon had asked the ATO to confirm in writing that there would be no prejudice against workers who made submissions.
“I have been approached by a number of sources who say they have important information about the taxation office debacle, but are scared that if they speak out they could be demoted or prosecuted,” he said.
“It’s important that there be an assurance from the Australian Tax Office that there will be no recriminations against their employees for coming forward.”
The new IT system came online in January but has led to delays in returns and assessments and around 140,000 letters being sent out without any cheques attached.
18 May, 2010
Bureau health survey
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is to undertake the biggest health survey in Australia’s history.
goes for the doctor
The survey – to be conducted under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 – will build on the ABS’s long-running Australian Health Survey and is being planned in consultation with the Department of Health and Ageing and the National Heart Foundation of Australia, which have provided supporting funding for new components of the collection.
The Australian Statistician, Brian Pink said it was an important survey for all Australians.
“It will be the most comprehensive health survey ever undertaken by the ABS and will be an important benchmark to help determine future health strategies,” Mr Pink said.
He said the survey would include new and improved measures of what Australians are eating and their levels of physical activity.
Other health information – such as whether people have been diagnosed with arthritis or heart disease – will also be collected, while the survey will for the first time measure chronic disease risk factors, like cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Chief Executive of the National Heart Foundation, Dr Lyn Roberts said the survey would provide crucial information about the health of Australians.
“Information from this survey will help improve our understanding of cardiovascular disease, which is currently responsible for one-third of all deaths in Australia,” Dr Roberts said.
“This research has never been more important, so this survey is an investment in the future health of all Australians.”
Survey participants will also be asked to consider visiting a pathology centre so information on health risks and factors could be derived from blood and urine samples, which will provide a more accurate picture of Australians with high cholesterol, diabetes risk or poor nutritional status.
Around 50,000 people across Australia will be asked to participate in the survey, which will commence in April next year.
18 May, 2010
Retirees do job on
Retired Commonwealth Public Servants have welcomed the changes contained in last week’s Federal Budget but complain that any gains they receive won’t make up for the loss of purchasing power their pensions suffer from.
Federal President of the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association, Dr Annette Barbetti said retired Public Servants would experience an ongoing decline in their standard of living as a result of inadequate pension indexation and unfair taxation of their superannuation pensions.
“Several hundred thousand former Federal Government and Defence Force employees will be very disappointed to find that the Budget has not addressed the problem with the indexation of their pensions,” Dr Barbetti said, “a problem that has been well documented by three Senate Inquiries, including 29 Senators, a problem
Kevin Rudd promised to fix, in the run to the last federal election.”
Dr Barbetti said while Commonwealth and Defence Force pensions were indexed by the CPI, the ABS said this was neither a purchasing power nor a cost of living measure, which is why it was scrapped as the main means of indexing the Age Pension over 10 years ago.
She said a key problem was that the observed shelf prices were adjusted - usually downwards - for technological changes in various products, such as
houses, computers, audio-visual equipment and motor cars.
“The problem with this is that consumers have to pay the shelf price - they often cannot purchase the item without the improvement,” Dr Barbetti said.
“For example, according to the CPI, the average price of motor cars has increased by a little over seven per cent in the past 20 years.
“However the real average price has increased by much more than this, but the CPI price has been significantly discounted to reflect improvements such as air bags, CD players and stability control.”
Dr Barbetti said SCOA welcomed the increase in the low-income tax offset, the increases in the tax-free thresholds for low-income earners and the 50 per cent tax discount on interest on savings and deposits of up to $1,000.
However, she said these measures would for not make up for losses due to CPI indexation, and did not go far enough to help struggling Commonwealth superannuants whose pensions average less than the combined married rate of Age
Pension, and often supported both members of a couple.
“Commonwealth superannuants expected better from Kevin Rudd,” Dr Barbetti said.
“They know too well that in the past 20 years retired Federal MPs’ pensions have increased at exactly twice the rate, (140%) of theirs (70%).
“Many of them will demonstrate their anger on polling day”.
18 May, 2010
Tax rate cuts mean
Public Servants and their families can expect to benefit from tax cuts announced in the Federal Budget.
many happy returns
Treasurer, Wayne Swan said the Government’s third round of tax cuts from 1 July would help low-income and part-time workers by increasing the effective tax free threshold from $11,000 in 2007-08 to $16,000.
Mr Swan said other changes included increasing the 30 per cent threshold from $35,000 to $37,000, and lowering the 38 per cent marginal tax rate to 37 per cent.
He compared income tax liability for the 2007-08 financial year, and excluding the Medicare levy, said a person earning $20,000 would have received an income tax cut of around 56 per cent by 2010-11, while someone earning $50,000 would have received an 18 per cent cut.
“This tax relief means the Government has provided tax cuts in each of its three budgets, delivering on its 2007 election commitment in full, despite the pressures placed on the Budget by the global recession,” Mr Swan said.
“Treasury has estimated that the cumulative impact of the Government’s three rounds of tax cuts will boost employment by around 85,000 workers in the medium term.
“Together with our new business tax reforms, as well as major investments in infrastructure, skills and education and other reforms, these three rounds of personal tax cuts are a key part of the Government’s plan to strengthen our economy so we can face the future with confidence.”
Mr Swan said a family with two young children where one person earned $60,000 and their partner earned $27,000 would be $40.38 per week, or around $2,100 a year, better off as a result of the tax cuts.
He said the amount of income a senior Australian eligible for the Senior Australian Tax Offset (SATO) could earn before paying income tax or the Medicare Levy would increase from $29,867 to $30,685 for singles, and from $25,680 to $26,680 for each member of a couple.
18 May, 2010
A new academic institute to develop, debate and dissect public policy has been established at the Australian National University in Canberra.
floated at ANU
Announcing the first stage of the project, Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said the Australian National Institute for Public Policy would be modelled on the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States.
“Our development as a prosperous, dynamic and outward looking nation depends on strong, well informed, innovative and robust public policy debate,” Mr Rudd said.
He said the Government would invest up to $111.7 million in the ANIPP, including $14 million to bolster public policy expertise at ANU, through enhancing capacity in the Crawford School of Economics and Government and establishing the HC Coombs Policy Forum, which he said would inform future policy development.
It would also include $7 million in Sir Roland Wilson Foundation scholarships for Public Servants to study at ANU; the recently announced $17.3 million National Security College; and a new $19.8 million building to house the new National Security College and the enhanced presence of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) in the precinct, expected to open in 2012.
Mr Rudd said Cabinet would do a better job in setting the Government’s strategic goals if it had the best possible advice from the Public Service.
“While the Australian Public Service does a fine job, I believe we can always strive to do better,” Mr Rudd said.
“Public Servants will be in a much better position to offer us the best advice if they have the best analytical skills and access to the best research from those with specialist knowledge.
The Prime Minister said while the PS fosters the development of generalists, with excellent skills at solving problems and administering programs, and universities foster the development of specialists, there was a need for both and they should complement each other.
He said that too often Public Servants and academics did not talk to each other at all, or if they did, they would talk past each other.
“You can see this in academic research that doesn’t take account of real world constraints,” Mr Rudd said.
“You can also see it in public service advice that lacks analytical clarity and ignores academic research and evidence.
He said the new institute would help meet a key recommendation of the APS review, which identified a need to reinvigorate the public sector’s links to the outside world with academics, research institutions and with private sector experts.
“In line with the recommendations of the APS review, every public servant will be expected to take part in some learning and development activity every year,” Mr Rudd said.
“Every Department and Agency will be required to provide, every year, for each public servant, a significant opportunity to take part in some learning and development activity, including training and education, on-the-job training, and coaching and mentoring.
Mr Rudd said the Institute was a partnership between the Public Service, ANZSOG and the ANU and would ensure Government drew upon the wealth of expertise among these networks.
He said ANZSOG would be expanded to help it achieve its goal of building executive leadership in the PS through its courses with a vocational professional focus on public administration and public sector management, and its public sector research
18 May, 2010
New environment plan
A new national plan for the collection of information about the environment has been announced by the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett.
gets green light
Mr Garrett said the National Plan for Environmental Information was the first step in the Government’s commitment to reforming Australia’s environmental information base and building it as a critical infrastructure for the future.
He said the long-term initiative would coordinate and prioritise the way the Government collected, managed and used environmental information.
“The natural environment is vital to our wellbeing and that of future generations,” Mr Garrett said.
“Our landscapes, oceans, water, atmosphere and biodiversity play an important role in the economy, from agriculture and mining to energy production and tourism, and are fundamental to our Australian identity and way of life.
“To manage this natural capital responsibly, Governments, industry and the community need comprehensive, trusted and timely environmental information.”
He said good information was essential in the making of sound decisions about the major issues affecting Australia’s natural assets.
Mr Garrett said that in the first for years of the plan, the Bureau of Meteorology would be established as the Australian Government authority for environmental information, while arrangements to coordinate priorities and activities across Government would be formalised.
Existing information resources and environmental information activity would be reviewed, and the building of priority national environmental datasets would commence, along with the infrastructure to deliver them.
The initiative will be implemented jointly by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
Mr Garrett said the Department would introduce legislation governing environmental information and giving BoM an enduring mandate, and review Government activity in environmental information to identify opportunities for cooperation, consolidation and improved efficiencies.
It would also establish with the Bureau a high-level advisory group to provide whole-of-Government direction and prioritise environmental information activities.
The Bureau would conduct a review of existing environmental data to meet national environmental information priorities and establish expert technical panels and partnerships with key Agencies to develop and deliver specific products.
18 May, 2010
Red tape cuts
A move to cut red tape for small businesses will allow owners to register the name of their business just once, instead of up to eight times in the States and Territories.
Minister for Small Business, Craig Emerson said the national system of registering business names was one of the 27 regulatory reforms identified by the Council of Australian Governments designed to move Australia towards a “seamless national economy”.
Dr Emerson said the initiative would save small businesses $1.5 billion over eight years because owners would have to register their name only once.
“Small businesses are increasingly establishing themselves in multiple States through their online presence and have had to register separately in each State and pay registration fees to each State government,” Dr Emerson said.
“Under the national system reforms, small businesses will need to register only once, and importantly, pay only one fee.”
Dr Emerson said the reform honoured the Federal Government’s side of the Business Names Agreement adopted by COAG last year and would be used to establish a single, national online registration system for business names and Australian Business Numbers, and an easier way of searching for trademarks.
He said other initiatives would include a Business Licensing Information Service which would allow businesses to access information online about regulatory requirements, and an online clients’ account that would give them access to registrations, compliance requirements, and regulatory change notifications from all Governments.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission will take over the administration of business names from the States and Territories, while the nine existing Business Licensing Information Services will come under one roof and will be administered by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
“These changes will bring an end to the rail-gauge economics of eight different State and Territory systems for registering and renewing business names,” Dr Emerson said.
18 May, 2010
Universities on course
Financial support for Australia’s higher education system is to be indexed to ensure funding certainty and long-term sustainability for universities.
for funding support
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard and Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr said the Higher Education Support Amendment (Indexation) Bill 2010 would apply to all grants under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) from 2012.
The Ministers said the new, more generous indexation rate would deliver more than $2.6 billion to universities over five years, helping them to meet the cost of quality teaching and research.
This amount would be on top of what the sector would have received under the previous indexation arrangements and includes conditional funding of around $94 million a year from next year for universities signing on to the Government’s new performance indicators.
The Ministers said from 2012, the revised indexation arrangements would apply to all amounts subject to indexation under Part 5-6 of the Higher Education Support Act 2003.
Ms Gillard said while other countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, were cutting higher education funding, the Federal Government believed Australian universities had a critical role in boosting the nation’s long-term productivity.
She said under the new legislation, a Professional, Scientific and Technical Services labour price index would replace the Safety Net Adjustment, which makes up 75 per cent of the new index. The remaining 25 per cent of the index would continue to be the Consumer Price Index.
The new index applies to maximum student contribution amounts, the Os Help loan amount, and the Fee-Help limit from 2011.
Ms Gillard said this index was considered to reflect wage price increases better in the higher education sector.
“The new indexation arrangement will also help the Rudd Government meet its objectives of ensuring that 40 per cent of Australians aged between 25 and 34 years have bachelor level qualifications by 2025,” Ms Gillard said.
She said when passed, it would also fulfil the Government’s goal to improve indexation for the higher education sector included in the response to the Bradley Review.
18 May, 2010
A report that proposes a new direction for Australian sport has been released by the Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis.
goes for gold
Ms Ellis said initiatives included in the policy Australian Sport: The Pathway to Success included Sport and Education Strategy to deliver quality sport in schools and boost the number of children participating in sport.
She said national sporting organisations (NSOs) would be required to increase their focus on participation outcomes as part of their funding agreements with the Australian Sports Commission, while direct grants to community clubs would help grow grassroots participation.
Other measures included additional coaching and officiating training opportunities for up to 45,000 community coaches and officials, and doubling the Local Sporting Champion program to support 8,000 junior athletes to participate in competition.
Ms Ellis said this would assist in better preparation for major events such as the Olympic and the Paralympic Games.
Acting Chairman of the Australian Sports Commission, David Gallop said the Commission Board supported the main themes of the policy which included greater participation, stronger links between grassroots and high performance sport, and an attitude to strive for success.
“A National Sport and Active Recreation Policy Framework underpins the Government’s new direction – which will foster a whole-of-sport approach to sport in a new partnership between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments,” Mr Gallop said.
“The Framework will also be supported by new partnerships between jurisdictions that will achieve long overdue alignment of the Australian Institute of Sport and State Institutes of Sport/State Academies of Sport, and strengthen our high performance systems.”
Ms Ellis said the policy was supported with $325 million in ongoing funding - $195.2 million of which was new - to boost sport participation rates and improve the nation’s sporting success.
She said it was the biggest funding injection into sport in Australia’s history.
“Australia has always been at the forefront of innovation and doing things differently to ensure our competitive edge when it comes to sport,” Ms Ellis said.
“What has become clear is that our approach to sport has stagnated over the last decade resulting in stunted participation rates, skyrocketing obesity numbers and an emerging decline in our international sporting performances.”
18 May, 2010
Australia’s Vocational Education and Training system is to be overhauled.
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard said $243 million would be spent over the next four years to create a new training system that would provide more Australians with greater access to high-level qualifications.
Ms Gillard said this would help people advance their own careers and strengthen the economy.
“These reforms will provide employers with more confidence in the skills and qualifications of their employees, regardless of where they have been trained in Australia,” Ms Gillard said.
“Employees will also be able to invest in their own education and training with an assurance about the quality and transferability of their qualifications.”
She said under the changes a National Entitlement to a Quality Training Place would established to ensure all young people under 25 would have guaranteed access to a course that enabled them to get a first qualification or to lift their qualifications to the next level.
Ms Gillard said this would help about 364,000 young Australians who did not have a Year 12 or a Certificate II qualification.
Each State and Territory Government would be offered the opportunity to use National Partnership Productivity Places Program funding from 2011–12 to boost their base VET funding and help meet the costs of this training guarantee.
The Federal Government would also help people access higher education through an income contingent loan, such as VET Fee-Help.
Ms Gillard said reforms would include setting specific performance benchmarks, raising the quality of teaching, lifting student achievements and expanding access to training, particularly for disadvantaged Australians and in skill shortage areas.
She said training providers would have to negotiate performance targets prior to the fund’s implementation, with a rigorous performance management framework to ensure that the funding led to better student outcomes.
She said the Quality Skills Incentive would start in the 2011/2012 financial year and be open to the 100 registered training organisations with the largest number of enrolments, including 59 TAFE institutes.
Other initiatives include the development of MySkills, a website to be launched in July next year that will provide Australians with robust information to help them select a VET provider.
18 May, 2010
Nurses medical centre
Australia’s first walk-in medical centre run by nurses has been opened in Canberra.
is good medicine
The clinic, located beside Canberra Hospital’s emergency department, will offer free treatment for people with minor illnesses or injuries.
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the medical centre was part of the Government’s commitment to easing the pressure on local GPs and hospital emergency departments.
“We are focused on making sure Australians have access to the right type of health care for their needs, particularly after hours,” Ms Roxon said.
“This new clinic will help thousands of Canberrans who need medical care and advice, but who may not need to see a doctor.”
She said nurses at the clinic would provide advice, assessment and treatment for conditions such as cuts and bruises, minor infections, strains, sprains, skin complaints, and coughs and colds, and would redirect people to more appropriate services, such as their GP or the emergency department, where necessary.
ACT Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher said the Walk-in Centre was designed to help people get fast, free, one-off treatment for minor illnesses and injuries.
“Substantial work has gone in to developing this innovative model of care which aims to reduce pressures on other services such as emergency departments and improve access to primary care in Canberra,” Ms Gallagher said.
“The nurses who work in the Walk-in Centre have all completed additional training, and the care they provide is guided by established protocols that have been endorsed by the relevant clinical oversight bodies.”
The Federal Government also announced the establishment of a national after hours telephone-based General Practice medical advice and diagnostic service.
The service will help people who need to see a GP at night or on the weekend when their usual practice is closed.
Under the new system, the patient will contact their local GP and have their call referred to healthdirect Australia and have their condition assessed by a nurse, who will determine whether the patient should have their call transferred to an online doctor.
The free service will become operational on 1 July next year, and will provide access to GP advice after hours, from 6pm to 8am Monday to Thursday, 6pm Friday to 8am Monday and on national public holidays. It will be a free service.
18 May, 2010
Little fallout from
Work is due to commence soon on decommissioning obsolete nuclear facilities at the Lucas Heights Science and Technology Centre and the National Medical Cyclotron.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr said Government funding of $9.7 million in 2010-11 would ensure compliance with international best practice for the decommissioning of nuclear facilities.
“Australia takes its nuclear safety responsibilities extremely seriously,” Senator Carr said, and this funding will help ensure the health and safety of the Australian community.
He said experts from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation would finish decommissioning the Moata reactor and continue work on decommissioning the HIFAR reactor, both at Lucas Heights, and begin the process of decommissioning the National Medical Cyclotron.
“The funding will be used to dismantle the facilities, support ongoing maintenance and inspections, and manage waste products.”
Senator Carr said the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency was overseeing the decommissioning projects and ensuring that rigorous safety procedures were in place.
He said the three nuclear facilities had already been shut down and were monitored constantly.
“For safety reasons, there is always a delay between when a nuclear reactor is shut down and when it is decommissioned,” Senator Carr said.
18 May, 2010
FoI changes passed
Legislation to establish the new Freedom of Information regime has passed through Parliament.
Under the new laws, the Australian Information Commissioner and FOI Commissioner will be established.
Other changes include a new framework for the proactive publication of Government information; a single public interest test for many exemptions which favours disclosure; abolition of application fees; reduced charges; and reducing the open access period under the Archives Act from 30 years to 20 years for most records.
Skills list updated
A new Skilled Occupation List has been released by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.
The Minister, Senator Chris Evans said a number of occupations such as hairdressing and cooking had been removed from the list which would now provide Australia with more highly skilled migrants.
Senator Evans said only people qualified in occupations on the list would be eligible to enter Australia under the skilled migration program and the revisions would help crackdown on people trying to achieve permanent residency by undertaking “low-value” education courses.
The list could be accessed at www.immi.gov.au and is to be reviewed annually.
Buildings to cut gas
Thirty-nine commercial office buildings are to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30,000 tonnes a year through the latest round of Green Building Fund grants.
The $18 million in grants will help building owners retro-fit commercial office buildings and support investment of $73 million by building owners.
Improvements such as upgrading, replacing or retro-fitting building management systems; upgrading heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems; installing external shading; and installing energy-efficient lighting have been proposed.
Australia’s new national brand is ‘Australia Unlimited’, with the concept to become the public face of Australia on the international stage.
Advertising agency M&C Saatchi developed the concept after a tender process in which 60 submissions were received and four agencies were shortlisted.
Minister for Trade, Simon Crean said eight concepts were tested in 14 countries, including Australia, with about 1,000 consumer interviews in each country.
Kickstart kicks off again
The second stage of the Apprentice Kickstart campaign has commenced, in an effort to employ 22,500 more teenage apprentices across the nation.
The campaign helps small businesses take on apprentices and also makes it easier for young people to get a start in the trades.
The initial Kickstart exceeded expectations, with about 24,400 young people receiving an apprenticeship.
Yacht on view
Lone yachtswoman, Jessica Watson’s yacht Ella’s Pink Lady is on view at the Australian National Maritime all this week following Ms Watson’s completion of her round-the-world solo adventure.
The 10.3 metre yacht will be on display at the Museum’s new Display Pontoon which is immediately in front of the building.
The Australian National Maritime Museum is open from 9.30 to 5 pm daily. Admission is free.
Veterans’ review revisited
The recommendations of the 2003 Clarke Review of Veterans’ Entitlements has been completed.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said 45 recommendations were reconsidered as part of an election promise and would result in many more Australians gaining access to benefits they otherwise would not have received.
Mr Griffin said three of the review recommendations had already been acted upon, four had been accepted, four deferred for further consideration, 22 referred to the review of Military Compensation Arrangements and 12 rejected.
ADF joins paralympians
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) could soon see wounded and injured military members playing paralympic sports for Australia.
A new ADF Paralympic Sports Program (ADFPSP) has been established after the formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the ADF and APC.
The MOU will provide more opportunities for wounded and injured Australian personnel, with Defence able to draw on the expertise and knowledge of the APC Sports Science, Sports Medicine and High Performance staff.
Tourism careers project
A new project will help promote careers in tourism.
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said the Discover Tourism careers program would help the National Tourism Alliance develop a careers website, produce a CD ROM, and market and promote careers in tourism.
Mr Ferguson said more than 93 per cent of tourism businesses were small, and that the project would help support these family businesses.
He said Tourism was a $41 billion industry that employed almost half a million Australians.
Questacon water on show
Questacon has launched its latest travelling exhibition, Our Water.
The new exhibition features 28 hands-on exhibits, including a digital pinball game, that provide simple, easy and innovative ways to save water around the home.
Our Water is sponsored by the National Water Commission and will be open at Questacon in Canberra until August before travelling to 14 locations across Australia over the next two years.
Additional funding of $138 million has been announced to help Australia’s best Defence scientists and engineers protect and defend the country’s national interests.
Minister for Defence Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said the funding package would help the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DTSO) employ 200 more of the country’s top scientists and engineers.
Mr Combet said it would also help strengthen its Corporate Enabling Research Program, which focused on technologically challenging areas of Defence significance for current and future operations, and enable DSTO to upgrade some of its laboratories and technical facilities.
Disease report issued
Safe Work Australia has released its Occupational Disease Indicators report, the third in the series, with data sourced primarily from workers’ compensation claims.
Key findings include decreasing trends observed from 2000-01 to 2006-07 for musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, infectious and parasitic diseases, contact dermatitis and cardiovascular diseases.
For the same period, no clear display of an overall trend of increase or decrease was observed for noise-induced hearing loss, respiratory diseases or occupational cancers.
11 May, 2010
Smooth approach for
A new whole-of-Government approach to air travel has been introduced across the Australian Public Service to improve efficiency and reduce costs according to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.
new PS travel rules
Mr Tanner said the new arrangements would come into effect on 1 July and meant the Government would no longer take a multi-Agency approach to travel, instead forming a single travel agreement to span the entire APS.
He said the plan would deliver over $160 million in savings to the Budget over the next four years and improve competition within the aviation industry.
“We are now using the Australian Government’s collective buying power to put in place a new travel deal for the Government,” Mr Tanner said.
He said in addition to Budget savings, Agencies would also retain savings they could redirect to other areas.
“Further savings may also be generated as a result of behavioural change within Agencies, such as encouraging travellers to utilise online booking tools, to book tickets early or simply change the type of fare class travelled on short haul trips,” the Minister said.
Mr Tanner said as part of the new arrangements, Public Servants would no longer be able to accrue frequent flyer points when they travelled for work.
He said although the practice had long been banned for PS staff, it was a ban that was difficult to monitor.
“All domestic and international airlines now contracted to the Australian Government have agreed to turn off frequent flyer and equivalent loyalty reward points for business related travel,” Mr Tanner said.
“This has been an issue of particular importance to me as the Government has previously been unable to extract full value from such programs, with loyalty reward points acting as an incentive to travel.”
Mr Tanner said successful tenderers for the new contracts included four domestic airlines: Jetstar Airways, Regional Express (REX), Qantas Airways and Virgin Blue and thirteen international airlines.
The Qantas Group welcomed the new system saying it contributed to a competitive and viable aviation industry without making radical changes to the marketplace structure.
Executive of Government and Corporate Affairs at Qantas Group, David Epstein said the new framework struck the right balance between fare levels and convenience.
“In some cases, the arrangements will allow for greater competition, enabling all carriers to compete on merit with no preferential treatment,” Mr Epstein said.
Mr Tanner said a feasibility study had commenced into a whole of Government approach to travel cards, accommodation and hire cars, with industry consultation expected to commence shortly.
11 May, 2010
A declaration that the Commonwealth is an ‘Open Government’ is to be made soon as part of the official response to the report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce.
over web 2.0 report
Releasing the response jointly, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig, said it represented a major step forward toward more participatory and open Government.
Mr Tanner and Senator Ludwig commissioned the Taskforce last year to investigate how the Government could utilise Web 2.0 technologies to deliver better services to citizens and improve its engagement with them.
A key recommendation of the Taskforce’s report was that the Government make a declaration of open government, which Senator Ludwig said had been accepted, with the declaration to be made in the near future.
“The Government has progressed a number of issues recommended by the Government 2.0 Taskforce,” Senator Ludwig said.
“For instance, the FOI reforms will require more government information to be released and published under the new Information Publication Scheme.”
He said along with the FOI reforms, the latest announcement represented a significant cultural change for the Australian Public Service,
Of the report’s 13 recommendations, 12 had been generally agreed to, with the recommendation regarding tax deductibility for information philanthropy deferred for consideration in the context of the review of Australia’s Future Tax System.
Mr Tanner said Web 2.0 technologies offered the Government significant scope to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery, public administration and community engagement.
”The Government’s response to the report prepared by the Taskforce shows we are supportive of the overwhelming majority of their recommendations and committed to progressing this agenda across government,” he said.
“The task now is to implement these changes, beginning with assisting agencies to make the most of the opportunities offered by Web 2.0.”
Mr Tanner said a new blog to be managed by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) would provide a forum for discussion on issues surrounding Government use of information and communication technology.
“There is no doubt that the Australian Government will increasingly be looking for ICT solutions to 21st century challenges and there is also no doubt that not all of those solutions are going to come from inside government,” he said.
“That is what Gov 2.0 is all about, sharing information and engaging with citizens to determine better ways of doing things.”
For more information on the Government’s response to the Taskforce report visit www.finance.gov.au
11 May, 2010
Spit and polish for
Personnel systems in the Department of Defence are in line for improvement with a consultant engaged to “technically refresh” them.
Announced by the Minister for Defence Personnel, Alan Griffin, the $16 million project will update the technology platform supporting Defence’s Human Resources Management System (PMKeyS), as well as integrating the Defence Reserve payment system, CENRESPAYII.
Mr Griffin said the project was a key part of the Integrated Master Plan for the Personnel Systems Modernisation and HR Shared Services Reform, and supported the objectives of the Defence Strategic Reform Program and Pay Remediation Task Force.
“The project will address the current technology risks associated with the PMKeyS and CENRESPAYII systems and ensure continuity of the personnel and pay functions,” Mr Griffin said.
“The project will also provide a modern, stable technology platform, on which to build the longer-term solution for personnel systems, enabling Defence’s business process reform initiatives and supporting reform in the Workforce and Shared Services Stream of Defence’s Strategic Reform Program.”
Mr Griffin said the consultant would commence work on the Technical Refresh Project this month.
He said it was expected that the project would be completed in the first half of 2012, and would include an early replacement of the outdated Reserve payment system in July next year.
He said Australian industry would work with Defence in updating the technology platform and in training Defence users of the updated PMKeyS system.
11 May, 2010
Watchdog snaps at
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has found that a Centrelink client was convicted of fraud due to the Agency’s mishandling of her application for a pension.
Acting Ombudsman Ron Brent said the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (CDPP) decision to prosecute based on incomplete evidence led to a fraud conviction after the woman applied for a Disabilities Support Pension.
Mr Brent said the conviction of ‘Ms Z’ related to her failure to declare work earnings while in receipt of the DSP, however his investigation revealed that she did notify Centrelink of that employment – just in the wrong section of the DSP claim form.
“The consequences of Ms Z’s error should and could have been avoided were it not for Centrelink’s failure to act on the information provided, its failure to keep good records of its dealings with Ms Z, its confusing forms and correspondence with Ms Z, inadequate advice, a substandard investigation of the case, and provision to the CDPP of a misleading and incomplete proposal to prosecute,” Mr Brent said.
He said despite these failings, Centrelink was not entirely responsible for the problems in the case as the CDPP had failed to notice that parts of the evidence were missing.
“It is also of great concern to me - especially given the potentially grave cost to the customer - that while Ms Z maintained throughout the fraud investigation that she had declared her employment to Centrelink, no attempt was made to explore this claim.”
Mr Brent said had the matter not been handled so badly, Ms Z would not have been convicted.
He made several recommendations in his report, including that Centrelink apologise to Ms Z in writing and invite her to lodge an application for compensation.
He also recommended Centrelink confer with the CDPP and assist Ms Z to pursue the actions identified, while it reviewed its procedures and reconsidered her case immediately.
General Manager of Centrelink, Hank Jongen defended the Agency’s actions by saying that the Ombudsman’s report acknowledged there were undisputed facts in the case to support a conviction.
“In particular, this customer did not provide information to Centrelink to supplement or correct the income and assets advices and statements that were provided to her by Centrelink,” Mr Jongen said.
“Centrelink will certainly take on board these recommendations, and discuss our response with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP),” he said.
11 May, 2010
New privacy guide
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has issued a new guide for organisations to conduct Privacy Impact Assessments when developing new policies, services, projects or systems.
lifts lid on impacts
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis said in many cases, privacy measures were an afterthought.
“All too often, organisations try to tack on privacy measures after having already designed their projects or systems,” Ms Curtis said.
“This could lead to inadequate protection of customers’ personal information, as well as leading to privacy breaches.
“At the outset, organisations should consider the privacy implications of a proposed project or system by conducting a comprehensive Privacy Impact Assessment.”
Ms Curtis said the Privacy Impact Assessments guide - launched last week by Cabinet Secretary, Senator Joe Ludwig - would help take organisations through the considerations and steps they should employ.
She said the guide, written in plain English, was modelled on a previous version developed for Government, and could be applied to both the public and private sectors.
“It is important to note that, even if a PIA identifies aspects of a project or system that may have negative privacy impacts, this does not necessarily mean compromising your organisation’s goals,” Ms Curtis said.
“It is likely that you will find options that will make a significant difference to the privacy impact, while still allowing you to achieve your overall objectives.”
More information is available from www.privacy.gov.au
11 May, 2010
Audit finds lesson in
The Auditor-General has reported that excessive red tape and poor administrative management hindered the Government’s Building the Education Revolution primary school infrastructure program.
school building scheme
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the $14.1 billion Primary Schools for the 21st Century program (P21) was initiated as part of the Commonwealth’s response to the Global Financial Crisis and aimed to provide economic stimulus and improve school learning environments.
Mr McPhee said the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) was responsible for implementing the plan in consultation with State and Territory Education Authorities.
“The task facing DEEWR and Education Authorities was considerable, with infrastructure projects to be delivered in almost every school across the country within very compressed timeframes,” the Auditor-General said.
He said DEEWR’s governance arrangements ensured the program was delivering improved education facilities to most primary schools in Australia but that the uniform approach it took to its relationships with other authorities could have been be improved.
“The approach adopted by the Department has reduced the capacity of school systems to take account of system priorities and the differing needs of schools in their systems,” the Auditor General said.
“Additionally, some of the administrative arrangements put in place by the Department were unduly complicated and time-consuming for Education Authorities.”
Mr McPhee said while there were some “positive early indicators” that the program was making progress, a more streamlined approach would have enabled DEEWR to meet the program’s objectives more efficiently.
The audit found the majority of school principals were positive about the improvements expected to result from the program and that around 78 per cent of P21 projects met their commencement targets.
“Construction on Building the Education Revolution P21 projects has, however, progressed more slowly than originally intended,” Mr McPhee said.
He said despite the good starts the majority of milestones for project completion were yet to be reached with just 9.5 per cent of smaller schools projects due to be completed by February 2010 meeting the milestone.
Mr McPhee did not make any recommendations to DEEWR as the program has already been established.
“Nevertheless, the findings from this audit underline the need for Departments to keep in view the balance between control and devolution in implementing a National Partnership Agreement,” he said.
“The audit also recognises that many of the issues arising were a function of the compressed timetable for the establishment of the program, given the prevailing economic downturn.
The full audit report can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au and the audit team that conducted the exercise included David Rowlands, Mark Simpson, David Slattery, Kate Cummins and Tom Clarke.
11 May, 2010
Defence returns fire
Media claims that Australian soldiers were unhappy with their combat clothing have been rejected outright by the Chief of Army and head of the Defence Materiel Organisation.
over clothing claims
Responding to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie and Chief Executive of the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), Dr Stephen Gumley dismissed claims that there had been ‘hundreds of complaints’ by soldiers about their gear which had not been acted on and that that the Army had placed them all at risk.
“I want to reassure our soldiers, their families and the Australian public, that the inferences in this article are not accurate,” General Gillespie said.
“Indeed in nearly a decade of warfighting, our training and our equipment have protected our people and saved many lives.”
Dr Gumley said since the 2006 Clothing Review, Defence had supplied approximately five million items of clothing and personal equipment each year ranging from buttons and bootlaces to body armour.
“All soldiers have the ability to report on their equipment and from January 2007 there have been 59 Reports on Defective or Unsatisfactory Materiel (RODUMs) on personal combat equipment including load carriage equipment, body armour and boots from the Middle East Area of Operations,” Dr Gumley said.
He said contrary to the newspaper article “all of these have been acted upon.”
General Gillespie said the Army worked closely with the DMO to ensure the safety and quality of combat equipment and clothing, responding to complaints and continuously reviewing the needs of personnel.
He said the Army had responded to feedback from soldiers deployed on operations, and that a decision was made at a specifically convened Army battle worthiness board to increase the modularity of the currently used Body Armour System by providing the option for a lighter ballistic plate, with trials currently underway.
General Gillespie and Dr Gumley said soldiers were strongly encouraged to raise any concerns through their chain of command, with feedback used to identify defective items.
They said operational commanders were routinely posted from the field back into the Army and Defence Headquarters in order to ensure that their expertise was captured.
11 May, 2010
Parents win custody
A new paid parental leave scheme to be introduced on 1 January next year is expected to be of great value to seasonal, contract and casual workers.
of leave scheme
Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin, said women would not have to be employed at the time of the birth of their child to be eligible for the scheme but would instead have to meet a work test for each child
Under the work test, women would need to demonstrate that they worked for at least 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of a child, and that they worked at least 330 hours in that 10 month period (just over one day a week).
“Our scheme encourages women to remain connected to the workforce and boosts economic participation,” Ms Macklin said.
“Most women will receive government-funded parental leave pay through their employers as per their normal pay arrangements.”
Ms Macklin said many seasonal, contract and casual workers may not be in regular work and may not work immediately before giving birth, while the Government’s consultations had shown those in physically demanding jobs, such as retail and hospitality, could not always work in the later stages of pregnancy.
She said eligible mothers undertaking contract work but whose contracts finish before their babies are born, would still receive parental leave pay.
“Women are more likely to be casual workers and make up almost 57 per cent of all casual employees in Australia,” Ms Macklin said.
“Almost 25 per cent of women work in casual jobs and receive no paid leave entitlements.”
Ms Macklin said Australian families had been waiting for paid parental leave for decades, and that the Government’s scheme was fair for both families and business.
11 May, 2010
New laws protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of family commitment have been foreshadowed by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
Mr McClelland said proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 were part of the Government’s response to a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ inquiry into eliminating discrimination and promoting gender equality.
Under the changes, protection from discrimination will be extended to cover family responsibilities for both women and men, while there will also be greater protection from sexual harassment for students and workers.
Mr McClelland said the amendments would also ensure that protections from sex discrimination applied equally to men and women, and that breastfeeding would be established as a separate ground of discrimination.
“Ensuring that anti-discrimination law meets the needs of contemporary Australians is an important part of ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights,” Mr McClelland said.
He said other recommendations from the Senate Committee’s Report would also be considered as part of the Government’s commitment to Australia’s Human Rights Framework to consolidate anti-discrimination legislation into one single comprehensive law.
“Strengthening protections for workers with family responsibilities is an important step toward achieving economic equality between women and men,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the Government would introduce legislation to implement the amendments.
11 May, 2010
New initiatives to deal with deliberately lit fires have emerged from the second annual ‘National Forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson’.
sparks new ideas
Hosted by Attorney-General, Robert McClelland to promote more effective and collaborative means of preventing and deterring bushfire arson, the second forum attracted more than 40 police, fire agency officers, and arson specialists from around the country.
Mr McClelland, along with Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, announced the new initiatives, which include establishing a centralised national database of convicted and suspected arsonists and investing in the development of a ‘Bushfire Arson Investigation Course’ to build the expertise of arson investigators across the country.
A ‘Bushfire Arson Prevention Manual’, developed by the Australian Institute of Criminology to help local communities develop strategies to prevent arson will also be published.
“Arson is a major threat to the Australian community, with up to half of all bushfires being deliberately lit or starting in suspicious circumstances,” Mr McClelland and Mr O’Connor said in a joint statement.
“In addition to the massive human toll that fires can take, it is estimated that arson in all its forms costs the Australian community approximately $1.6 billion each year.”
Mr McClelland and Mr O’Connor said maximising cooperation between fire agencies, police social services, the criminal justice system and all levels of Government was key to reducing and preventing bushfire arson.
They said a centralised national database of arsonists would provide local authorities with access to up-to-date information on arsonists, while the manual would be an important reference for local organisations, fire Agencies and the police when developing arson prevention strategies.
“Today’s Forum demonstrates the ongoing commitment of Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to work together to prevent and deter arson through a coordinated and nationally agreed framework,” Mr McClelland and Mr O’Connor said.
11 May, 2010
DFAT buys into
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has set out the benefits and advantages of Free Trade Agreements in a submission to the Productivity Commission’s Review of Australia’s FTAs.
free trade study
It its submission, DFAT highlights the benefits that have been achieved through FTAs with ASEAN, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.
It also outlines the potential benefits of other FTAs currently being negotiated with China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Minister for Trade, Simon Crean said FTAs had made a significant contribution to Australia’s economic prosperity.
“Trade is a vital component of Australia’s strong economy and trade liberalisation is a sure-fire way to create jobs, boost productivity and lift real wages,” Mr Crean said.
“Let’s not forget that one in five Australian jobs is trade-related.
“Australia’s comprehensive and high quality FTAs can be building blocks for multilateral and regional trade liberalisation.
“We have shown ourselves to be capable of pursuing our objectives in the Doha Round while at the same time negotiating FTAs which support these objectives.”
Mr Crean said DFAT’s submission recognised the Government’s activism on all trade fronts, including at the multilateral level through the World Trade Organisations, through its participation in regional institutions such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the pursuit of bilateral and regional FTAs.
He said specific FTA gains included the Singapore-Australia FTA’s removal of restrictions on the number of wholesale banking licences available to Australian banks in Singapore; the Australia-US FTA, which ensured access for Australian business to the American Federal and State Government procurement markets for the first time; and the Australia-ASEAN-New Zealand FTA which will eliminate tariffs on 96 percent of current Australian merchandise exports to ASEAN countries by 2020, with most of the liberalisation achieved over the next few years.
Mr Crean also announced the conclusion of the Australia-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Joint Feasibility Study, which recommends negotiation of a comprehensive bilateral FTA.
The study was undertaken at the request of the Indian Government.
11 May, 2010
Union pays out on
The 2010-11 Budget for the Australian Capital Territory has been released and includes measures for staff recruitment, wage restraint and an efficiency dividend for the Public Service.
ACT wages plan
Around $35 million is expected to be saved through wages policy and the efficiency dividend while other measures such as a reduction of the Treasurer’s Advance are expected to save an additional $13 million.
The Community and Public Sector Union has described the Budget as “lazy” and “unimaginative”, saying it would undermine public services and make it difficult to attract and retain staff.
CPSU organiser, Vince McDevitt said savings made through wage restraint would mean salaries would increase at a lower rate than inflation.
“That’s where they’re getting the savings from,” Mr McDevitt said, “they’re cutting the pay of about 10,000 local workers.
“The people of Canberra need to prepare for longer lines, more frustration and delays, and falling quality of service.”
Despite a current freeze on non-essential recruitment and last year’s Budget assurance that Public Sector growth would be limited to 123 full-time equivalent staff, the Budget shows the number of FTE workers was expected to increase by almost 500 by 30 June 2010 compared to 2008-09.
An additional 346 FTE workers have been budgeted for in 2010-11.
“For 2009-10, employee expenses are estimated to be $1.276 billion or 3.6 per cent above the original Budget, the increase largely reflecting the impact of wage increases and increased staffing associated with new initiatives and Commonwealth funded programs,” the ACT Treasurer said.
“Employee expenses will grow by $67.5 million or 5.3 per cent in 2010-11.”
The one-off efficiency dividend has been extended to the 2010-11 Budget after being announced last year.
Under the dividend, ACT Agencies will cut operating costs by one per cent, or 0.5 per cent for smaller Agencies. The cuts are budgeted to save $18 million during the 2010-11 financial year.
According to the Treasurer, the dividend will apply until at least 2012-13, but is expected to be halved to 0.5 per cent by 2012-13.
11 May, 2010
ACMA does number on
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has called for public comment on a proposal to require mobile phone carriers to supply emergency services with the location of people making emergency calls from a mobile phone.
mobile phone locations
Under the proposal, which is outlined in the paper Enhanced mobile location information for the Emergency Call Service, mobile phone carriers would have to provide the location information for Triple Zero calls if requested by an emergency service organisation.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said mobile phones accounted for around 63 per cent of all calls made to Triple Zero.
“Unlike landline phones, emergency calls from mobile phones don’t automatically give emergency operators accurate details about a caller’s whereabouts,” Mr Chapman said.
‘In most cases the caller can tell the emergency operator where they are located. But there are times—estimated at less than one per cent of calls—when people are too distressed or unfamiliar with their environment to report their location.”
Mr Chapman said access to enhanced location information would help emergency service organisations locate these callers.
He said the consultation paper addressed four key issues.
The first point would require mobile carriers to provide the location information upon request, while the second identified the need for operational arrangements to implement better mobile location solutions.
He said the third issue looked at managing unrealistic expectations of the public in regards to mobile location capabilities.
“The ACMA is concerned that the community may have unrealistic expectations about the current ability of mobile technology to help them in an emergency situation,” Mr Chapman said.
“For example, a recent ACMA survey found that 52 per cent of people believe they can be located automatically via mobile phone.
“This is not the case.”
He said there was currently no single or widely-available method that could accurately pinpoint a mobile phone user’s location and then pass the information to emergency operators.
Mr Chapman said the final issue was to determine a temporary exemption process to give carriers reasonable time to upgrade their technology.
The paper recognised there was no single solution for all carriers and mobile handsets, and acknowledged the cost involved for carriers.
Submissions on the paper close 18 June and will be considered when amending the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009.
The mobile location information study and Consultation Paper were available from www.acma.gov.au
11 May, 2010
Information Awareness Month has been launched in Canberra at the National Archives of Australia.
is bunch of data
The event is held across the country throughout May and aims to help Australians understand the importance of keeping good records.
It is supported by the information industry and professional bodies, with a series of workshops, seminars and discussions held for everyone from global corporations through to small business owners and homemakers.
ACT Labor Senator, Kate Lundy launched this year’s event, which has the theme Access across the generations, at the National Archives last week.
Senator Lundy, spoke about ‘Gov 2.0 – communities and conversations’ and the implications and opportunities for more effective engagement between citizens and Government, particularly in light of the recommendations of the Gov 2.0 taskforce.
Senator Lundy said many Gov 2.0 taskforce recommendations had made Government information more accessible and usable in creative ways, and that Information Awareness Month inspired the Australian Public Service to continue such innovation.
Events include a breakfast in Victoria on 14 May to discuss how businesses can use social media to their advantage, while a seminar and discussion on business intelligence and analytics will be held in Canberra on 18 May.
Other events as part of Information Awareness Month include a seminar in Tasmania by state archivists and a talk in Melbourne on how Gov 2.0 will affect information managers.
For Information Awareness Month events, go to www.informationawarenessmonth.com.au
11 May, 2010
Health delivers on
A new insurance scheme to protect midwives from professional indemnity has been announced by the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon.
Making the announcement on International Midwives Day, Ms Roxon said it was the first ever Commonwealth-supported professional indemnity insurance for midwives, and the first time since 2002 that midwives could purchase insurance.
Privately practising midwives will be able to purchase their own insurance, to be provided by Medical Insurance Group Australia, and will be covered from 1 July this year.
“This is an important step for Australia’s midwives,” Ms Roxon said.
“It is also an important step for Australian women and their families.
“This insurance arrangement will help midwives who wish to provide high quality midwifery services to Australian women as part of a collaborative team with doctors and other health professionals.”
Ms Roxon said the deal was part of the Government’s maternity reform measures to improve choice and support for Australian mothers, building on legislation passed in March this year to give midwives access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
“It also helps underscore the importance of midwives in providing high-quality, safe maternity care in Australia,” she said.
She said the Commonwealth-supported insurance would not cover services provided during home births.
Medical Insurance Group Australia was selected through a tender process and had been providing insurance to doctors and other health care professionals in Australia for many years.
11 May, 2010
Sea level monitors
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has joined with the Torres Strait Regional Authority to provide sea-level monitors to four island communities in the Torres Strait to measure the impact of climate change.
for islands in the sun
The $1 million initiative will allow island communities in the Torres Strait to monitor mean sea levels and assess tidal variation, potential sea level rises and support decision-making in response.
Minister for Climate Change, Senator Penny Wong also announced $400,000 for new research into the impacts of climate change on the Torres Strait that would help build scientific knowledge about the risk of inundation to local communities.
Senator Wong visited several Torres Strait islands along with Labor MP for Leichhardt, Jim Turnour to examine problems caused by sea inundation and coastal erosion.
“After seeing firsthand the unique challenges faced by these Island communities, it is obvious that we need to gain a better understanding of the potential future impacts of climate change in this unique region,’’ Senator Wong said.
Mr Turnour said regular flooding at times of high sea levels was already affecting communities in low lying areas, putting small townships and cultural sites under threat.
“Climate change is a real risk, we need to help these communities to better understand the risks and to prepare for it,’’ Mr Turnour said.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said while Torres Strait communities were particularly vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels, they were proactively addressing the issue.
“I commend the work of the Torres Strait Regional Authority to-date, which will form the foundation for initiatives that help local communities prepare for the impacts of climate change,’’ Ms Macklin said.
11 May, 2010
Equal opportunity up
Figures released by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) show that 53.4 per cent of reporting organisations now provide paid maternity leave to employees, an increase from 50.8 per cent in 2008.
Acting Director of EOWA, Mairi Steele welcomed the findings as “great news” but said it was important to realise at least half a million women working for organisations reporting to EOWA still do not have access to paid maternity leave.
“This makes the introduction of a government funded, universal scheme so important,” Ms Steele said.
Legal consultations open
Consultations on the National Legal Profession Reform Project will commence on 14 May 2010.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the project aimed to create a single national market for legal services, as well as simplify and increase the effectiveness of the legal profession’s regulation.
He said stakeholder meetings would be held in Sydney on 19 May; Canberra on 20 May; Melbourne on 20 and 21 May; Hobart on 24 May; Adelaide on 27 and 28 May; Brisbane on 1 June; Darwin on 2 and 3 June, and Perth on 4 June 2010
Consumer representatives will also be invited to a one day workshop on the proposed reforms and submissions could be made until 13 August.
More information from www.ag.gov.au/legalprofession
Support for smuggling Bill
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee has released its report into the Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2010, which was developed to strengthen Australia’s people smuggling laws.
The Committee’s report provides bipartisan support to the Bill, which will enable the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to specifically investigate people smuggling and other serious border security threats and also allow national security Agencies to collect foreign intelligence about non-State actors.
It will also create additional offences targeting those who finance or provide support for people smuggling activities
The Senate Committee strongly endorsed the proposed new offence of ‘providing material support for people smuggling’.
National crime approach
The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General has agreed on a coordinated national approach to combating cybercrime.
Under the agreement, a National Cybercrime Working Group will review Australian arrangements for fighting cybercrime and cyberbullying; coordination between Federal, State and Territory law enforcement Agencies is to be enhanced; and greater reporting of online offences is to be encouraged.
Broadband network OK to go
The National Broadband Network (NBN) Implementation Study has been released, showing that high-speed broadband for all Australians was achievable and could be provided on a financially viable basis.
The report makes 84 recommendations, with key findings including that there be opportunities to significantly reduce the build cost and that entry level wholesale prices on the fibre be set at around $30-$35 a month for basic broadband 20Mbps plus voice service.
The Government has invited key stakeholders and the general public to comment on the Implementation Study by 27 May 2010.
More information from www.dbcde.gov.au
Changes at airports
New procedures are being introduced at airports to improve safety for both private and commercial flights.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the new procedures would apply to all airports without an operating air traffic control tower from 3 June 2010.
Under the changes, all aircraft flying into or from the airports will be required to carry and use an aviation radio.
Pharmacy agreement finalised
The Government and Pharmacy Guild of Australia have finalised the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement, which will provide better pharmacy services for consumers.
Key features of the Pharmacy Agreement include medication-management programs whereby pharmacists provide education and support to patients, and changes to allow pharmacists to provide dose administration aids to patients.
Pharmacies will be encouraged to use electronic prescriptions, while a new patient service charter will outline the roles and responsibilities of the pharmacist and the pharmacy.
Other measures include support for pharmacists to identify, resolve and document medicine-related issues, and simpler and safer dispensing processes in residential aged care.
Airservices Australia’s Flight Inspection Service (FIS) is to visit rural and remote areas of Australia this month to check navigation aids.
As part of a long-term nation-wide program, over 500 pieces of critical air navigation equipment are checked on a three-year rotational basis.
The inspection service will carry out 39 separate routine or special flight inspections on equipment including instrument landing systems, distance measuring equipment, non-directional beacons and Sydney Airport’s ground based augmentation system.
Cambodian deal signed
Legal and law enforcement Agencies in Australia and Cambodia have pledged to work together to combat transnational crime.
Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, His Excellency Sar Kheng signed a Joint Declaration recognising the cooperation between the two countries.
The Declaration committed the law enforcement and legal Agencies to overcoming people smuggling, people trafficking, sexual exploitation, money laundering, narcotics and environmental crime.
4 May, 2010
APSC in drive for
A new career structure for information and communications technology (ICT) workers in the APS has been unveiled by the Australian Public Service Commission, as well as a whole-of-Government workforce plan.
ICT workforce plan
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the career structure was a recommendation of the Gershon review into the Government’s use of ICT.
“Our aim is to have a workforce that can meet the Federal Government’s future ICT needs,” Mr Tanner said.
“That workforce needs to be sufficiently skilled and mobile to apply the new technologies that will deliver improved services to Australians.
“This workforce plan and career structure goes a long way to achieving that.”
Mr Tanner said the workforce plan contained a high-level overview of the issues affecting the ICT workforce and strategies to address future human capital needs of ICT employment in the APS.
He said the plan would allow Agencies to better plan, develop and manage a “qualified and flexible” ICT workforce and create an attractive career path for ICT professionals working in the Public Service.
Special Minister for State, Senator Joe Ludwig said the new whole-of-Government arrangements would help APS leaders manage and develop their ICT workforce better.
He said it would also lead to better service delivery.
The plan says the labour market for ICT workers is dynamic, making it difficult to assess the imbalances in the supply and demand for skilled professionals.
It says ICT employment is forecast to grow strongly which would make it harder to find to deliver Government priorities such as the National Broadband Network, Service Delivery Reform and the Government 2.0 Taskforce.
Central elements of the plan include identifying future business direction and workforce needs; knowing the current workforce through data collection and analysis; and bridging the gap by developing appropriate strategies.
The APSC will provide Agencies with ongoing advice, guidance and support in implementing the plan’s strategies and activities, and is also responsible for monitoring and reporting progress.
The ICT career structure includes an online career planning tool, Career Navigator.
It ensures a consistent approach to recruitment, development, education and the assessment of employees’ skills across the APS.
The career structure will help ICT staff in the APS plan their careers by providing guidance on performance requirements at each classification level. It will make it easier for ICT professionals to enter, move around and return to the APS workforce.
According to the Ministers, Career Navigator will allow ICT staff to access the framework and create contribution (role) profiles; perform self assessments; compare the skills required with their current capabilities; view learning and development opportunities.
4 May, 2010
Post Office delivers
Australia Post has launched a five year program it says will lay the foundations to create a more customer-focused and sustainable organisation.
on 5-year plan
Managing Director and CEO of Australia Post, Ahmed Fahour said the program, Future Ready would allow the organisation to do everything it does in the physical world in the digital world.
“As the world has moved on from the horse and buggy and has shifted from the telegraph to the telephone, Australia Post must embrace the digital world,” Mr Fahour said.
He said the program mapped a strong growth platform based on a growth in parcels, retail and business-to-business express delivery, that would offset the decline in letters being sent.
He said Australia Post would be restructured into four strategic business units with individual profit and loss accountability: Postal Services, Retail Services, Express Distribution Services, and e-Services.
Mr Fahour said Postal Services would be responsible for providing both letters and parcels, enabling Australia Post to offset the decline in letters with the growth in parcels, while Retail Services would handle the services offered in its 4,433 retail stores.
“We are in every major town across Australia and play a vital role at the centre of each community,” he said.
“We want to be the community hub for important trusted services like passports, identity verification, payments and more.”
Mr Fahour said Express Distribution Services would oversee Australia Post’s courier and logistics business, as well as joint ventures such as Australian Air Express, Star Track Express and Sai Cheng Logistics, focusing on the business-to-business market, particularly in Australia and Asia.
He said e-Services would be a dedicated new business incubator focusing on opportunities such as secure, identity-verified, digital communications, e-commerce initiatives and other services that can be offered electronically, to complement Australia Post’s physical network.
Mr Fahour said under Future Ready, a new structure would be established in 2010/11, while the “rebuilding and growing” phase would occur from 2012.
He said the restructure would be based on a customer-focused approach, and building a collaborative culture with strong accountability and transparency.
“The new organisation structure is designed to unlock the depth of talent within Australia Post which will be developed and rewarded for sustainable outcomes,” Mr Fahour said.
4 May, 2010
OS property report
An audit report of overseas properties owned by the Government has recommended the current commercial management model be reviewed.
is hot property
In his report, Management of the Overseas Owned Estate, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee recommended the Department of Finance and Deregulation work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Overseas Property Office (OPO) to examine the effectiveness of the commercial model, which was implemented over 10 years ago.
Mr McPhee said under the commercial model, the full cost of properties are charged to tenants and property portfolios are required to achieve a commercial rate of return on their assets.
He highlighted the challenges faced by the OPO in managing the $1.7 billion overseas owned portfolio, which includes 404 properties in 60 overseas locations.
“Some buildings are old and have heritage significance, which can make maintenance, and compliance with current standards, difficult and expensive,” he said.
“The requirement to manage the estate on a commercial basis and the increased priority given to security-related upgrades in recent years have added to the complexity of the task.”
Mr McPhee said a number of issues impacted on the commercial business model and caused tension between the OPO and its Agency tenants.
He said these included unresolved issues relating to supplementary budget funding, responsibility for meeting the cost of shared space in new chanceries and rent increases.
The Auditor-General said the issues could affect the capacity of the OPO to maintain properties, fund relocations and refurbishments and pay annual commercially based dividends.
Mr McPhee said administrative processes were not yet sufficiently developed to support the management of the property portfolio but that improvements were being made.
He said the basic elements needed to manage the portfolio had been put in place however poor implementation had reduced their effectiveness.
Mr McPhee recommended the OPO better manage tenancy arrangements by reviewing its rent-setting policy, improving the timeliness of its lease agreement renewals and developing a client service charter.
He recommended the OPO strengthen and review arrangements for maintaining the estate, report against benchmarks for repairs and maintenance and strengthen performance indicators.
The Auditor-General said the OPO should work with Finance to carry out necessary reviews.
The full audit report can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au and the audit team that conducted the exercise included Tim O’Brien, Damien Brown, Tom Clarke and Freya Markwell.
4 May, 2010
New laws get tough
Public comment is being sought on ways to improve laws that protect women and children from family violence.
on family violence
The Australian and NSW Law Reform Commissions have released a Consultation Paper on the issue, entitled Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks (Consultation Paper 1).
President of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), Professor Rosalind Croucher said input from over 60 individuals and organisations involved in family violence, sexual assault and child protection had formed the thinking behind the consultation paper.
Professor Croucher said the paper was released as part of the Commissions’ Inquiry into family violence laws.
“This Inquiry will be one of the largest and most significant in the ALRC’s recent history,” Professor Croucher said.
“The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference have asked the Commissions to focus on laws and legal processes and to consider what improvements could be made to protect women and children from family violence.”
She said the Inquiry would cover at least nine sets of criminal laws, eight sets of child protection laws, eight sets of family violence laws, the Family Law Act and evidence and sentencing laws.
“The importance of what we are trying to achieve—a more integrated, seamless and accessible system of justice that will help people dealing with family violence and sexual assault, to have their voices heard— makes it imperative that we get our proposals for reform right,” Professor Croucher said.
Commissioner for the NSWLRC, Professor Hilary Astor said families in crisis were currently faced with a complex maze of Courts, legal processes and services which didn’t always relate well to each other.
“At the moment, it is far too easy for people to fall through the cracks, for them to leave the process disillusioned, or for outcomes not to deliver maximum safety for families in crisis,” Professor Astor said.
She urged people to contribute their ideas for improving law and practice to ensure the systems for dealing with family violence were approachable, effective and easy to navigate.
Those working in and around the justice system have been encouraged to inform the Commissions of which Federal and State laws do or do not work.
Submissions close on 4 June, with the Consultation Paper and information on how to make a submission available from www.alrc.gov.au
The Commissions are expected to submit their final Report to the Federal and NSW Attorneys-General on 31 July.
4 May, 2010
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has officially opened the National Security College at the Australian National University in Canberra.
College locked in
The College aims to become a central institution in shaping the future of Australia’s security policy and personnel.
“In the 21st century Australia faces a more complex national security environment than at any time in its history,” Mr Rudd said.
“To respond to the challenges, the Australian Government is working to build a new level of expertise among our national security professionals.
“The National Security College will draw together policy makers and others into high-level courses to deepen national security capability.”
Mr Rudd said the Government would provide the College with $17.3 million over four years to help with its establishment.
He said courses to be run would be designed to enhance the ability of national security leaders to analyse Australia’s strategic environment and the dynamics of change within it, and to recognise and respond to threats.
Mr Rudd said it would foster a new national security culture and be the training ground for national security experts of the future.
“Australia depends upon having trusted networks of interaction between the Government’s national security professionals and those in State and Local Governments, business, academia and the community engaged in national security matters,” he said.
“The National Security College will help improve coordination, cooperation and collaboration across Government, and will be a key element of our new national security community.”
Mr Rudd said a new building to be constructed for the College at the ANU was expected to open by the end of 2012.
The founding Executive Director of the College is former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Professor Michael L’Estrange.
4 May, 2010
Super changes super
The Minister for Superannuation, Chris Bowen has announced reforms to superannuation processes that will require employers to make larger super contributions to their employees.
Mr Bowen said the reforms were part of the Stronger, Fairer, Simpler: Tax Plan for our future, and included a 12 per cent Superannuation Guarantee (SG).
He said the increased SG would commence with a 0.25 per cent increase in 2013-14 and 2014-15, followed by 0.5 per cent increments until it reaches 12 per cent in 2019-20.
“The three year lead time recognises that employers and employees need to factor this into future wage negotiations,” Mr Bowen said.
He said the reforms were the biggest to superannuation since the introduction of compulsory superannuation in 1992 and would deliver an “historic boost to retirement savings”.
“The Government’s reforms will deliver substantial improvements in retirement savings and a fairer distribution of superannuation tax concessions, ensuring more Australians can enjoy a comfortable retirement,” the Minister said.
Mr Bowen said the reforms included a concessional superannuation contribution cap for those nearing retirement from 1 July 2012.
“Workers aged 50 and over with superannuation balances below $500,000 will be able to make up to $50,000 in annual, concessional superannuation contributions,” he said.
Mr Bowen said a Government contribution of up to $500 annually would also apply from 1 July 2012 for workers on adjusted taxable incomes of no more than $37,000.
“This will provide a reward for savings for low income earners by ensuring no tax is paid on SG contributions,” he said.
“The Government will also retain the co-contribution scheme.”
Mr Bowen said the SG age limit would be raised from 70 to 75 from 1 July 2013, meaning workers aged 70 to 74 would be eligible to have SG contributions made on their behalf for the first time.
The superannuation measures are expected to cost around $2.4 billion over the next four years.
“As a result of these reforms 8.4 million Australians will receive an increase in their retirement incomes,” Mr Bowen said.
He said a 30-year-old employee on current average weekly earnings would retire with an additional $108,000 in superannuation and a 30-year-old woman on average weekly earnings, with an interrupted work pattern, would retire with an additional $78,000 in superannuation.
The Stronger, Fairer, Simpler: A tax plan for our future was available from www.futuretax.gov.au
4 May, 2010
A committee has been set up to establish an Australian National Workers’ Memorial in Canberra.
is labour of love
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, announced the new body on International Workers’ Memorial Day, also known as World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
Senator Doug Cameron has been appointed Chair of the committee, while members include Senator Gary Humphries, Senator Kate Lundy, Senator John Williams and Senator Rachel Siewert.
They will guide the establishment of the Memorial and are expected to consult widely with the community to develop its design.
Ms Gillard said the International Workers’ Memorial Day was a reminder that even one workplace death or injury was too many.
She said employers and employees had a responsibility to ensure that workers would return home safely at the end of each working day.
“It encourages all those who have an opportunity to influence safety at work – including business leaders, employers, workers and their representatives – to work together to improve health and safety performance,” Ms Gillard said.
“This cooperation is essential in helping to prevent work-related accidents and deaths.”
Workers’ Memorial Day, held on 28 April, originated in Canada in 1984. It was recognised by the International Labour Organisation in 2001 and is now an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work around the globe.
28 April is an international day of remembrance, recognised as a national day in numerous countries including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Luxembourg, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Thailand and the United States.
4 May, 2010
Australia and the United States have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen management cooperation during bushfires, major storms and other severe natural disasters.
signed by safe hands
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano signed the Australia-United States Emergency Management Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create the framework which would lead to greater cooperation and coordination during disasters and emergencies.
“The MOU establishes an important disaster preparedness link between our two countries,” Mr McClelland said, “and will enable us to work cooperatively together to prevent, respond and to recover from significant natural disaster events.”
Under the agreement, the two countries will exchange technical experts and specialists in emergency management, while there will also be information sharing about emergency management frameworks and public awareness programs.
The MOU will also see Australia and the US undertake professional development for emergency management personnel, and exchange experiences learned from natural disasters.
Mr McClelland said the two countries had a long history of helping each other during significant natural disasters and emergencies, including the recent ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires in Victoria and the Californian wildfires.
He said the MOU would build on these experiences and improve the capacity of both countries to deal with emergencies by enhancing existing ties between emergency management personnel, as well as between individual States, Territories and emergency management Agencies.
4 May, 2010
Arresting new website
The Australian Federal Police has launched a new website to improve the way it engages with the public.
for Federal Police
Commissioner of the AFP, Tony Negus said the website was designed to educate the community about the role of the AFP, providing detailed information on both policing in the ACT, and national and international spheres.
“I invite the community to enter the world of the AFP by taking full advantage of the material and many features contained in our website,” Commissioner Negus said.
“The new website is not just a change in the culture of communicating in the AFP, but it also provides an opportunity to utilise new technologies and adopt more efficient practice.”
Commissioner Negus said the website kept all aspects of the current website, but also included a featured news items section with media releases, photographs and video footage, allowing “unique and unprecedented” access to AFP operations.
This section will also highlight the AFP’s work, with information on the training of the K-9 sniffer dog unit and the relics from the organisation’s past that can be found at the official AFP museum in Weston, Canberra.
Other features of the new website are a ‘really simple syndication’ (RSS) feed which utilises new technologies to communicate the latest AFP information to the media and the community both here and overseas.
Commissioner Negus said the website would allow people to access AFP statistics, such as how many people work for the organisation and their years of service, with this section to be enhanced.
It also has an improved system support with a secure host.
4 May, 2010
Marine Institute makes
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has been recognised at the 5th Annual Safe Work Australia Awards, run by Safe Work Australia.
splash in awards
AIMS won the category for best workplace health and safety management system in the public sector for its development of a safety system for crew undertaking a baseline environmental study at Scott Reef north of Broome.
“Through the effective development and implementation of this health, safety and environment management system, AIMS’ safety practices and performance has gone beyond statutory compliance while striving for continuous improvement,” the citation said.
“AIMS has achieved a lost time injury rate of zero.”
The Awards, presented at Parliament House last week, are designed to encourage and honour work health and safety initiatives.
Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said the 36 finalists were acknowledged for their efforts to reduce the number of workplace deaths, injury and disease.
“These Awards recognise the important work that organisations and individuals are doing to make work health and safety a top priority to ensure everyone returns home safely,” Mr Phillips said.
“More than 135,000 Australians are seriously injured at work each year and more than 260 die as a result of work-related injuries and this can be prevented through the adoption of safer work practices.”
Finalists in the four categories were winners in the State, Territory or Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission awards. Their submissions were judged by an independent panel, which decided the final winners.
Mr Phillips urged businesses and individuals to enter the awards at their jurisdictional level so they could also be recognised for their efforts, and to get involved in Safe Work Australia Week by organising a workplace activity.
For more information, visit www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
4 May, 2010
Human rights to
A new range of interactive human rights education resources have been released by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
right human wrongs
President of the Commission, Cathy Branson, said complimentary DVDs would be sent to each school in Australia in an effort to educate students about human rights and responsibilities.
“The importance of human rights education should not be underestimated in our efforts to create a more respectful human rights culture in Australia,” Ms Branson said.
“Human rights education is critical if we are to make real inroads in our efforts towards true social inclusion.”
Ms Branson said the rightsED resource was guided by a clear set of education principles and learning outcomes, and included interactive education activities for teachers and students which would introduce human rights concepts in an engaging and relevant way.
She said there were nine resources, each of which focussed on different human rights issues: understanding human rights, commemorate Human Rights Day, child rights, bringing them home, face the facts, voices of Australia, disability rights – what about Doug’s rights?, young people in the workplace, and tackling sexual harassment.
“rightsED comprises more than 400 pages of worksheets, resources and activities and is the culmination of over a year’s work,” Ms Branson said.
“The resource fits in well with the emphasis on human rights education announced by the Attorney-General.”
Ms Branson said the Commission would be taking a strong focus on education over the coming year and she urged teachers to take advantage of the resources available to them.
For more information go to www.humanrights.gov.au/education, contact 1300 369711 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
4 May, 2010
Paper lifts roof on
A discussion paper on the community housing sector has been released to start a public consultation process on the options for regulation and growth of not-for-profit housing providers.
Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek said the community housing sector had increased by a third between 2003 and 2008, and it was important to look at ways it could be supported and sustained.
Ms Plibersek said not-for-profit providers had demonstrated their ability to build more homes when working with finance, developers and other commercial partners than through Government grants alone.
“The Government supports these new partnerships and initiatives,” Ms Plibersek said.
“I want this paper to provoke debate and discussion and result in the best possible blueprint for growing and extending not-for-profit housing so the sector can take a stronger role in meeting Australia’s housing needs.
“We need a national regulatory system that protects the interests of tenants and governments and at the same time builds investor confidence in the sector.”
Ms Plibersek said the paper argued that in order to allow the sector to reach its full potential, there was a need to change institutional frameworks, improve access to capital funding and facilitate a shift in scale and sophistication of operations.
She said a national regulatory system would give housing providers the opportunity to operate across State and Territory jurisdictions and enter into solid commercial relationships.
“I encourage those with an interest in how the not-for-profit housing sector can help increase the supply of affordable rental housing to contribute to this discussion by providing a written or online submission,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said a public consultation process in 11 locations across Australia was begun on 3 May to allow people to contribute to the eventual policy.
Submissions close on 4 June and more information is available from www.fahcsia.gov.au
4 May, 2010
The Fair Work Ombudsman has released a draft Guidance Note on how he intends to interpret transitional pay arrangements applying in some industries covered by modern awards and has invited public submissions.
sinks teeth into pay
Under most modern awards, which began operating on 1 January this year, rates of pay and certain other conditions will be gradually phased in over a four-year period from 1 July.
These include minimum wage rates, casual and part-time loadings and penalty rates for weekend, public holiday and night work.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said he would adopt a flexible and fair approach to enforcing compliance with the transitional arrangements of modern awards.
“Our first preference is always to assist employers to voluntarily rectify any non-compliance issues identified,” Mr Wilson said.
“We have not prosecuted a small business for making an honest mistake and fixing it up – and we are not about to start now” he said.
He said his Agency had been in consultation with unions and employer groups since the transitional arrangements were finalised by Fair Work Australia in December.
“We have considered the views of unions and peak industry bodies in reaching our interpretation of Fair Work Australia’s transitional arrangements and we are now in a position to hear from the wider community before we publish our final position on June 1,” Mr Wilson said.
“I encourage all interested workplace participants to take this opportunity to provide constructive input to this important process.”
For more information on the Guidance Note and how to make submissions, which close on 12 May, go to www.fairwork.gov.au.
Tools and resources to assist employers comply with Australia’s new workplace laws are also available online, including PayCheck, which by 1 July will provide users with information about transitional pay rates for the 50 most common modern awards.
4 May, 2010
Housing rules slam
Foreign investment rules for residential housing have been tightened with the introduction of tough new civil penalty, compliance, monitoring and enforcement measures.
door on investors
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the changes would ensure temporary residents and foreign non-residents were within the law when they invested in Australian real estate and were not putting pressure on housing availability.
Senator Sherry said the new provisions would introduce tough penalties that would be fully enforced.
He said Australia’s foreign investment regime relied on a combination of legislation, primarily the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (FATA), the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulations 1989 (Regulations) and an accompanying Government Policy Each is administered by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).
Under the changes, amendments have been made to each of the FATA, the Regulations and the Policy to ensure that foreign non-residents can only invest in Australian real estate if the investment adds to the housing stock and they be temporary residents in established properties whilst living in Australia.
He said temporary residents would be required to sell the property on their departure, undeveloped land would have to start building within two years or have the land compulsorily sold.
Senator Sherry said the changes were developed in consultation with the community and industry.
“International investment that boosts the numbers of houses available for people to rent is a good thing,” he said.
“But the rules have to be tough enough to make sure the system works.”
Senator Sherry said a special penalty would be imposed to capture any capital gain made through an illegal purchase and sale of a property.
Senator Sherry said monitoring would be expanded, with FIRB to undertake a new program of three-way proactive data matching using information from State and Territory lands and property offices, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
A community hotline would also help members of the public report possible breaches.
4 May, 2010
Library search engine
The National Library of Australia as launched a new, free search engine, called ‘Trove’.
is one for the books
By logging on to trove.nla.gov.au, visitors can access a wealth of resources across more than 90 million items about Australia and Australians.
Much of Trove’s content is digital and comes from more than 1,000 libraries across the country, as well as other cultural and educational institutions, and international collections with relevance to Australia.
Users of Trove will be taken straight to the source, rather than a list of websites, allowing them to search pictures, unpublished manuscripts, books, oral histories, music, videos, research papers, diaries, letters, maps, archived websites and Australian newspapers from 1803 to 1954.
Director-General of the NLA, Jan Fullerton said Trove was the culmination of more than three years of work.
“Trove has been designed for all Australians,” Ms Fullerton said.
“ It’s the perfect option for researchers, writers, family historians, academics, students, and more – in fact for anyone with a question about Australia and Australians.
“Now, with the ease of one search via Trove, you can have access to the greatest Australian collections in the world.”
Ms Fullerton said the NLA recognised that today’s users were part of a growing online community which is why they wanted to create more than just a passive information service.
She said Trove featured interactive options, allowing users to tag, comment on and organise data, as well as share information and ideas.
4 May, 2010
A discussion paper has been released outlining ways to strengthen regulation of Australia’s remittance sector, which looks after international money transfers.
to pay dividends
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the paper was part of the plan to stop money laundering and people smuggling.
Mr O’Connor launched the paper following a joint investigation between the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission into links between organised crime and remittance agencies that led to seizures of $9 million cash.
“A strong new regulatory regime is needed so that remittance dealers who help criminals such as people smugglers and drug traffickers to launder funds can be deregistered,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said there was international recognition that remittance dealers were vulnerable when it came to money laundering and terrorism financing.
He said Australian law enforcement authorities were aware that international cash transfer services could be used to pay people smugglers.
“We must ensure that this valuable service – often used to send money to family and friends – can’t be misused to support criminal activity,” Mr O’Connor said.
“I encourage everyone with an interest to be involved in the consultation process.”
Submissions close 7 May.
The Minister also released a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology into the risk posed by remittance dealers in Australia for money laundering and terrorism.
On 16 April this year a new rule was introduced giving the CEO of AUSTRAC the power to deregister remittance dealers who posed a significant money laundering or terrorism financing risk.
The Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) aims to address the risk of money laundering in Australia and the threat to national security caused by the financing of terrorism.
The Act covers the financial sector including banks, credit unions, building societies and trustees and extends to casinos, TABs wagering service providers and bullion dealers.
4 May, 2010
APSC releases ICT Stats
The Australian Public Service Commission has released the 2009 ICT Statistical Bulletin.
It provides an overview of Australia’s ICT workforce as at August 2009.
It looks at staff numbers and capabilities within the APS workforce, trends and forecasts in supply and demand for ICT staff, ways to create an agile and mobile ICT workforce, and critical job roles and potential capability shortages in the future.
The 2009 ICT Statistical Bulletin can be accessed at www.apsc.gov.au
Moran denies Agent claim
The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran has denied media reports that intelligence agents are to receive an increase in powers.
Mr Moran said the media reports were inaccurate and that no secret review into Australia’s intelligence community was underway.
He said from time to time the intelligence community was subject to review, and that the last such inquiry was held in 2004.
ABS reveals casual stats
New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that in November 2009, one in five, or 20 per cent of Australian workers were casual employees, with no paid holiday or sick leave entitlements.
The ABS said this represented over two million people, with women more likely than men to have no paid leave entitlements.
Over half (58 per cent) of all employed people in the accommodation and food services industry did not have paid leave entitlements.
Google improves ABS data
Regional information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics will now be easier to find with the implementation of a new Google Maps interface.
The National Regional Profiles now use Google Maps to make it easier to find information on Local Government Areas and other types of regions.
There are more than 2,000 Regional Profiles, each offering a range of current social and economic indicators over a five year period.
Innovation festival on
The Australian Innovation Festival, which started on 26 April and runs until the end of May, is expected to attract 400,000 participants to over 650 events across the country.
The Festival will show businesses how to use ideas to prosper during the economic recovery.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr urged businesses to get involved in what was the biggest festival of its kind in Australia.
Reform for pension
The Disability Support Pension (DSP) to be reformed to make it simpler, fairer and sustainable.
According to the Minister for Community Services, Jenny Macklin, a key reform is the revision, by medical and disability experts and advocates, of out-of-date Impairment Tables used to measure a person’s ability to work.
Ms Macklin said the reforms would also make it simpler and fairer for people who have a profound disability or a terminal illness to receive the benefit as quickly as possible.
Defence buys more satellite
The Department of Defence is to purchase additional satellite space.
Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said buying the full ultra-high frequency payload on the Intelsat IS-22 communications satellite would cost an extra $193 million, bringing the total expenditure for the satellite acquisition to $475.1 million.
Senator Faulkner said the move would enhance communications support to the Australian Defence Force, including in the Middle East Area of Operations.
Nepal friendship turns 50
Nepal and Australia have celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations.
Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan on a visit to Nepal announced the establishment of an Electoral Resource Centre at the Election Commission in Kathmandu to mark the 50th anniversary.
Mr McMullan said the Centre would increase community understanding of the electoral process and help entrench democracy in Nepal.
US Agreement renewed
Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston and the US Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Cartwright have renewed the Australia-United States Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement.
The Agreement is a vehicle through which cooperative military logistics support is conducted between Australia and the US.
It ensures supply support and services to Australian and US forces deployed to all parts of the world wherever forces from both countries are operating together.
Plan for Anzac centenary
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has announced the appointment of a National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary.
The Commission will be made up of former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser, as well as the President of the RSL, Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, and will receive support from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and representatives of the Defence Forces and the National War Memorial.
Mr Rudd said the Commission would call for submissions from across Australia on how the nation can most appropriately mark the Anzac Centenary, before making its recommendations to the Government.
Tax review released
The Board of Taxation’s review into the taxation of employee share scheme arrangements has been released by the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry.
The Board examined how to best determine the market value of employee share scheme benefits and whether shares under such schemes should be subject to a tax deferral arrangement.
The review made five recommendations, four of which were fully accepted by the Government and one which was partially accepted. The Australian Taxation Office agreed to all aspects of the recommendations relating to it.
Details of the review were available from www.taxboard.gov.au