SearchArchives for May 2011
31 May, 2011
PS disability record
The Australian Public Service has been called on to introduce quotas for the employment of people with a disability.
The call was made by Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes who told a Senate Estimates Committee in Canberra last week that the current situation was “shameful”.
“I do think ‘massive fail’ is the absolutely correct expression,” Mr Innes said.
“The efforts of the Public Service in this area have been, and I’ve described them before, as shameful and the public and the Government can’t go out and ... try to sell employment of people with disability to the private sector if they are not performing in that area themselves.”
Mr Innes said while efforts were being made by the Public Service Commissioner to improve employment opportunities for disabled people, the current employment rates were very poor.
He said the number of people with a disability employed in the Public Service dropped from 6.6 per cent in 1986 to 3.1 per cent last year.
He said he wanted the Federal and State Governments to match the ACT Government’s commitment to double the number of disabled Public Servants over the next four years.
He said while he had always been opposed to quotas or targets for disabled workers, they were now necessary.
“We are so far behind on employment of people with disability that the only way we are going to redress the balance is to set some quotas or targets,” Mr Innes said.
He said individual Government Departments and Agencies needed to set their own quotas and targets.
Mr Innes said there should be incentives, but also measures to make managers accountable for driving change.
“Targets certainly should introduce a degree of accountability in the same way as other targets, they should be linked to people’s performance bonuses,” he said.
“I mean that is the only way that we are really going to get people to focus on and address what is a complex problem because it is a problem of changing people’s attitudes.”
31 May, 2011
Tasmanian PS to sack
New laws have been introduced in Tasmania to allow the State Government to sack underperforming Public Servants.
The new powers were announced by Premier Lara Giddings, who said they were needed because the Tasmanian PS was “too big” and “changes were needed” to improve its efficiency.
Ms Giddings said mass redundancies would not be offered but employees in programs identified by Departmental heads as no longer required would be laid off.
She said she would introduce changes to ensure workers deemed “surplus to requirement” would be given six months and help to find a new job before they were made redundant.
Details of who would be affected and the size of redundancy packages offered were yet to be revealed, however the plan is to cut the equivalent of more than 2,000 public sector jobs over three years.
Minister for Police, David O’Byrne said under the plan, police officers were being offered $20,000 to retire early, and the same offer was being made across several Government Departments as part of Budget savings measures.
Minister for Education, Nick McKim, also said up to 150 teachers and other education staff may choose to retire under the latest round of the retirement incentive scheme.
Public sector unions in Tasmania have criticised the plan to trim the Public Service, saying it was creating more uncertainty within the sector.
Ms Gidding said Public Servants would have a wait of at least three weeks before they found out if their managers had deemed their jobs no longer necessary.
The Premier said a wide-ranging investigation into the productivity of the public Service had also been commissioned.
The Premier’s plan comes three weeks before the state Budget is due to be handed down.
31 May, 2011
The Australian Human Rights Commission has raised concerns about Australia’s policies for dealing with refugees following a visit to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s detention centre in Villawood in NSW.
calls for change
Commission President Catherine Branson QC said the apparent suicides of three men at the centre last year and the high rates of self-harm among inmates should ring urgent alarm bells about the effects the system was having on the asylum seekers.
Ms Branson said the uncertainty caused by indefinite detention and delays in refugee processing and security assessments were triggering serious mental health issues among the 400 people detained in the facilities when the Commission visited.
“What we saw at Villawood was the result of the system of mandatory and indefinite detention, where people can see no end in sight because there is no set time limit on the period a person can be held in detention,” Ms Branson said.
“Sixty per cent of those in detention when we visited Villawood had been detained for longer than six months, and 45 per cent had been detained for more than a year.”
She said the Commission had been deeply concerned for some time about the detrimental impacts of prolonged and indefinite detention on people’s mental health and wellbeing, but these concerns had escalated over the past 12 months as thousands of people were being detained for long periods.
Ms Branson said that as of 6 May there were 6,715 people in immigration detention across Australia.
She said Australia’s system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention was a key concern raised by the international community during the recent United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Australia’s human rights record.
“I urge the Government to make greater use of community-based alternatives that are cheaper, more effective and more humane, such as the use of bridging visas or Community Detention,” Ms Branson said.
The report of Ms Branson’s visit to the Centre is available at this PS News link.
31 May, 2011
Call for overhaul of
The National Water Commission has called for a fresh look at the rules and regulations governing water management in Australia.
In a report released by National Water Commissioner Chris Davis, three options for reform are set out to ensure the nation’s water sector maintains its record of delivering safe drinking water to towns and cities.
Mr Davis said given the complex changes affecting urban water supplies and associated implications for ensuring water quality, it was time to look at improving regulatory approaches.
“The good news is that Australians continue to benefit from high standards of water quality management,” Mr Davis said.
“The urban water sector has in place a solid regulatory platform for managing the risks to our existing supplies, coupled with an enviable record in protecting public health and safety and caring for the environment.”
He said however the report found recent advances in science and technology and today’s more diversified water sources were presenting new challenges to water quality regulation and management.
Mr Davis said according to the report, some decisions were being made without a full appreciation of the longer-term risks and costs, and in other instances, existing regulation was stifling innovation.
“For example, current regulatory and decision-making arrangements for stormwater management lack clarity,” he said.
“This stands in the way of a more integrated approach to urban water management.”
Mr Davis said the National Water Commission called for a fresh look at the arrangements for safeguarding urban water quality and they needed to be sufficiently flexible to keep pace with new technologies.
He said the Commission also called for more collaboration to take into account the broader spectrum of water quality, water quantity, energy and land-use planning interests.
The Commission also argued that policy-makers should focus on achieving greater consistency and more efficient management in regulating urban water quality.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
31 May, 2011
Protection audit finds
A performance audit of the Australian Federal Police Protection Service has found the Service to be effectively managed, generally responsive and professional.
job in good hands
Conducted by Auditor-General Ian McPhee, the audit Australian Federal Police Protection looked at whether the Uniform Protection (UP) and Close Personal Protection (CPP) programs were being managed effectively and it found that they were.
The Auditor-General reported that his audit examined whether the Protection function had been effectively integrated into the AFP; whether sound arrangements were in place to strategically plan Protection services and manage risks; whether Protection staff had access to appropriate training and guidance; and the management arrangements for UP and CPP services.
Mr Mcphee said his audit found the functional integration of the APS into the AFP had largely been completed with key elements such as recruitment, training and human resource management delivered and monitored through common AFP-wide systems.
He said Protection had established sound planning and risk management arrangements, which underpinned its service delivery.
Mr McPhee said the Service had also put in place effective arrangements to monitor and manage its UP and CPP workforces on a day-to-day basis, strengthened its training arrangements for new and existing PSOs and CPP officers, and developed adequate guidance for staff.
He said the audit also found protection management and station management were generally responsive and professional.
According to the audit, despite management oversight and service delivery being generally sound, there were a number of weaknesses in some of Protection’s supporting administrative arrangements that had the potential to impede effective management decision-making and the allocation of resources.
Mr McPhee said there would be benefits to both Protection and its clients in increasing the transparency of Protection’s cost-recovery arrangements, strengthening its reporting arrangements, and improving the performance information for both the Protection function as a whole, and for individual UP clients.
He did not make any formal recommendations.
The full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Tim O’Brien, Adam Thomas and Tom Clarke.
31 May, 2011
Parents report finds
New research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that inter-parent conflict, abuse and fear continue for many parents after they have separated.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the reports – Parenting dynamics after separation and Views of adolescents in separated families – examined the behaviour and experiences of parents and adolescents from families that had separated since 2006.
Mr McClelland said of the more than 7,000 separated parents who participated in the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families (LSSF), about 60 per cent of parents reported a friendly or cooperative inter-parental relationship, while around one in five described it as highly conflictual or fearful.
Mr McClelland said the reports also showed that experiences of abuse were more likely to take the form of emotional abuse rather than physical hurt; one in five parents reported they had safety concerns for themselves or their child as a result of ongoing contact with the other parent; and most parents who reported recent experiences of being harmed physically indicated that their children had witnessed violence or abuse.
“These reports demonstrate that family violence or the fear of family violence is still prevalent in the community,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Government has introduced the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill to create a safer and fairer family law system and prioritise the safety of children.”
He said the new definitions of violence and abuse were intended to help people within the system understand and recognise family violence and child abuse, and encourage them to act.
“Importantly, it removes previous disincentives for people to bring forward evidence of family violence and child abuse,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Bill continues to promote a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, but with one key difference – it emphasises that the child’s safety must come first in situations where there is conflict.”
The reports by the Australian Institute of Family Studies can be accessed at this PS News link.
31 May, 2011
R18+ games in
Draft guidelines to support the introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games have been released by the Minister for Justice, Brendan O’Connor.
Mr O’Connor said the draft guidelines had been distributed to Ministers for State and Territory Classification to assist in their decision making ahead of a meeting in July to decide whether to create the new rating.
“The Government wants to provide better guidance for parents and remove unsuitable material from children and teenagers,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The introduction of an R18+ classification will help achieve that and will also bring Australia into line with comparable nations.”
He said this issue had been on the table for many years, without the necessary progress to make a change.
“We’ve recently seen several States publicly express their support for an adult only rating for games and I’m keen to reach a unanimous decision at the July meeting,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said under present legislation, an R18+ classification for computer games could only be introduced with the agreement of all Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers.
“The draft guidelines make it clear that sexually explicit games or games with very frequent, strong and realistic violence will not be allowed in the MA15+ category,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the draft guidelines provided safeguards to restrict the availability of material that was unsuitable for children; addressed the difference between films and computer games, especially in terms of interactivity; and ensured that the Refused Classification category was retained.
Mr O’Connor said a survey last year showed that 80 per cent of the 2,226 people contacted support the introduction of an R18+ classification for games.
He said those results built on public consultation in which 98 per cent of about 57,000 people supported the introduction of an adult classification.
Mr O’Connor said the draft guidelines were available at this PS News link and public feedback would be accepted online until Wednesday 22 June 2011.
31 May, 2011
Training aid in line
A performance audit of training assistance offered to overseas countries by AusAID has found the program to be ‘broadly effective’ but has identified a number of opportunities for improvement.
Conducted by Auditor-General Ian McPhee, the audit AusAID’s Management of Tertiary Training Assistance examined the effectiveness of the Agency’s management of the scheme with particular emphasis on planning, in-Australia scholarships, devolved management, monitoring and other forms of assistance.
The Auditor-General said his audit placed particular emphasis on planning of tertiary training assistance; management of in-Australia scholarship programs; management of other forms of tertiary training assistance, including support for overseas tertiary training institutions and direct provision of tertiary training overseas; devolved management of tertiary training assistance; and monitoring, evaluation, and reporting.
Mr McPhee said the Audit found Australia provided aid to more than 80 countries, and as every country’s circumstances were different, it was difficult to generalise about the outcomes of Australian aid or tertiary training assistance in particular.
He said the outcomes of aid might be constrained by factors that were outside the direct control of aid agencies, and even if interventions were well-conceived and effectively implemented, their effectiveness could be undermined by corruption, conflict, weak institutions, or chronic funding shortages within the countries receiving the aid.
Mr McPhee said in spite of these constraints, many of Australia’s tertiary training interventions were having a positive impact.
He said evaluations had consistently established that individuals benefited from the program.
He said overall, AusAID’s management of tertiary training assistance had been broadly effective, and the Agency had also made good progress coordinating the delivery of tertiary training programs in the Pacific by establishing joint management arrangements with the New Zealand Government’s aid program.
According to the audit, a notable gap in AusAID’s management of tertiary training assistance had been a failure to build greater certainty into the implementation of its country programs with longer-term financing commitments.
Mr McPhee said this gap had increased the potential for misalignment between aid allocations and needs on the ground.
He said the impact of the gap had been particularly evident in the Pacific, where AusAID had struggled to develop a well-balanced and predictable program,
Mr McPhee said his Office had identified a number of other areas where AusAID’s management of tertiary training assistance could be improved.
In particular, proliferation of scholarships schemes had created unnecessary administrative complexity and streamlining of scholarship programs would help.
Mr McPhee made three recommendations to support the provision of more balanced and predictable aid for tertiary training; streamline scholarship programs; and strengthen evaluation of the short and long-term impacts of scholarship programs.
The full text of the audit report can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au and the audit team was David Slattery, Alison Palmer and Tom Clarke.
31 May, 2011
Vaccine emergency to
An independent assessment of Australia’s management of adverse events involving vaccines has recommended a more cohesive and coordinated national plan to deal quickly and effectively with the issues they raise.
spark national plan
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King commissioned the review which was conducted by the former Chief Medical Officer, Professor John Horvath, following public alarm over the withdrawal of seasonal flu vaccines for children in the 2010 flu season due to an unusually high incidence of fever with convulsions in vaccinated children under five.
“The Review found that once the first batch of adverse case reports had been received by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), its regulatory actions were appropriate and timely,” Ms King said.
“The decision by the Chief Medical Officer to suspend use of all seasonal influenza vaccines for children was also considered by the Review as appropriate and proportionate to the risk.”
She said, however, the Review identified that the arrangements for vaccine safety issues were complex and while the TGA had the key responsibility for monitoring adverse events, many other organisations, including Commonwealth health authorities, also had a role.
Ms King said the Review noted that there were no Standard Operating Procedures for responding to a vaccine safety issue which had possible implications for the use of vaccines in large groups of people.
“The report calls for an improved system of governance for vaccine safety monitoring and provides a number of options for consideration including the establishment of a Vaccine Safety Committee with broad membership of experts with knowledge of vaccines, vaccine safety, and vaccine program implementation, to assist the TGA to more effectively implement its vaccine safety responsibilities,” Ms King said.
She said other recommendations covered surveillance objectives and actions, the need for timely reporting of adverse events following immunisation, raising community and health professional awareness about vaccine safety monitoring and more transparency by the TGA to ensure better access to vaccine safety information for consumers and health professionals.
Ms King said the government had accepted the thrust of all of the recommendations.
She said a copy of the Horvath Report was available at this PS News link.
31 May, 2011
Vitamin study finds
A study of office workers conducted by the University of Sydney has found that 42 per cent have a Vitamin D deficiency.
‘D’ in short supply
Invited by the confectionery company Nestlé to study its head office employees in Sydney, the university researchers found one on three of the workers remained Vitamin D deficient even in the summer months.
The study by the University was the first of its kind in Australia and found workers who were Vitamin D deficient were at greater risk of osteoporosis, poor muscle function and other health problems.
The study examined the vitamin D levels of 104 male and female employees.
World expert in Vitamin D and leader of the university’s study, Professor Rebecca Mason, said she was concerned at the results.
“In a relatively young and healthy population you don’t expect these results,” Professor Mason said.
“What’s really alarming is that some of the women in the study were of childbearing age and vitamin D is important for the healthy development of a foetus as well as beneficial to the health of the mum.”
She said the study also revealed that people who ate fish had higher levels of vitamin D compared with those who didn’t while 90 per cent of people with dark skin were deficient by the end of winter.
“We also found that those who wear sunscreen had higher levels of Vitamin D than those who didn’t use sunscreen so it’s vital we still follow the safe sun messages but get out in the sunshine for short periods of time during the day – all year round,” Professor Mason said.
She said people should get 10 minutes of sunshine mid morning or afternoon in summer every day and up to 30 minutes around midday during winter, depending on how far south people live.
31 May, 2011
Four separate overseas volunteer programs run by the Government have been merged into one with the establishment of Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID).
merged at AusAID
The new body was announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd who said it would be an integrated program serving more than 900 volunteers - the most ever – and deploying them to 33 countries, including new countries such as Sri Lanka, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
“Australians wishing to participate in Australia’s overseas aid program will now have even more information and easily accessible material to help them navigate their way through what being a volunteer actually means on the ground,” Mr Rudd said.
“Australian volunteers bring unique expertise and perspectives to their host countries - from setting up clinics for women to give birth safely or building stronger homes to withstand cyclones, Australian volunteers directly contribute to improving people’s lives in developing countries.”
He said Australian volunteers returned to Australia richer for the experience and added new ideas and perspectives to Australian life.
Mr Rudd said the new integrated program had been made possible by new funding announced in the May Budget, which would allow the Government to send at least 1,000 new volunteers overseas each year by 2013.
“Australian volunteers encompass the character of our country which we hold dear, a truly open-hearted society, and without it we would be a lesser people,” Mr Rudd said.
He said since the 1960s, the Government had supported more than 12,000 Australians to volunteer in Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.
More information on Australian Volunteers for International Development is available from: this PS News link.
31 May, 2011
New app helps
The Department of Health and Ageing’s Swap It, Don’t Stop It campaign has launched a new iPhone application to help people lose weight.
to lose weight
The new Swap It, Don’t Stop It app, which has already nearly 10,000 users, allows people to choose from a range of simple food and physical activity ‘swaps’ while on the go, letting them make healthier choices without missing out on the things they love.
According to the Department, the app helps people stay motivated and on track with simple swap suggestions and alerts.
It said users could set up alerts to be reminded when it was time to make a swap - it could be getting off the bus a couple of stops early and walking the rest of the way or swapping that afternoon chocolate bar for a piece of fruit.
The Department said the ‘Swap It’ app offered the ability to track personal progress over a 12-week period and earn badges when reaching milestones as a ‘swapper’.
It said there was also an ingredient planner to help people choose healthier food alternatives, and a shopping list feature.
The app also has a handy activity finder, where, with the help of GPS technology, people could search and find activities near them.
According to the Department, the Swap It Don’t Stop It campaign was the new phase in the Australian Government’s Measure Up initiative, showing people how they could take some simple steps to help reduce their waist measurement and improve overall health and wellbeing.
It said since the campaign launch on 13 March almost 33,000 swaps had been recorded via the iPhone app by individuals inspired by the simple swapping concept.
The Swap It, Don’t Stop It website can be visited at this PS News link where all the information needed to start thinking like a swapper is available as well as links to the Facebook page and the new iPhone app.
27 May, 2011
The Australian Information Commissioner has released a set of principles for information management across the Australian Public Service.
released on principle
The Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said the Principles on open public sector information marked a significant shift in open government practice.
“There is now greater recognition that government information is a national resource that should be published for community access and use,” Professor McMillan said.
“These Principles set out the central values of open public sector information – that it be freely available, easily discoverable, understandable, machine-readable and reusable.”
He said open government rested on the premise that transparency and public access to government information were essential elements of a strong democracy.
“A free flow of information between Government, business and the community can also stimulate innovation to the economic and social advantage of the nation,” he said.
Professor McMillan said the Principles had been developed by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) through a process of public consultation, and drew on work in Australia and overseas on best practice Government information management.
He said they would be applied by the OAIC when monitoring agency compliance with the publication requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
He said while the Principles were not binding on agencies, and would operate alongside legal requirements about information management spelt out in the FOI Act, the Privacy Act 1988, Archives Act 1983 and other legislation, they formed part of a core vision for Government information management that saw it as important in its own right.
The eight Principles include agencies adopting a default position by allowing access to information unless there was a legal need to protect it; engaging with the community on what information to publish; welcoming feedback; responding to comments promptly and making use of Web 2.0 tools.
The Principles also include agencies appointing a senior executive ‘information champion’ to be responsible for information management; ensuring the information they held was discoverable and useable and could be re-used easily; that they kept charges as low as possible; and were supported with a transparent enquiry and complaints process.
The Principles also expect agencies to treat their information as valuable assets by creating an inventory or register of it and training staff on its protection, access and use.
The Principles can be accessed at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner at this PS News link.
27 May, 2011
New laws governing discrimination on the grounds of sex and age have been passed by the Federal Parliament.
target age and sex
A position of Age Discrimination Commissioner has been created in the Australian Human Rights Commission for the first time.
Attorney General, Robert McClelland said the new laws would provide stronger protections for employees and students from sexual harassment.
“The workplace and schools should be places where people feel respected, valued and safe,” Mr McClelland said. “They are not places for intimidation or sexual harassment.”
He said the changes recognised that sexual harassment could occur in many different forms in the workplace so they expand the protections to include sexual harassment from co-workers or supervisors, colleagues in other organisations or customers and clients.
He said the Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 would also provide greater protections by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities for both men and women in all areas of employment; establishing breastfeeding as a separate ground of discrimination; and bringing in new protections for students from sexual harassment, including over the internet or by texting.
Mr McClelland said the creation of the Age Discrimination Commissioner would tackle attitudes and stereotypes that contribute to discrimination of all ages.
“The Government strongly believes people susceptible to age discrimination – young or old - deserve a dedicated advocate,” he said.
“The new Commissioner will play an important role in raising awareness among employers about the benefits that can be realised from the valuable contributions that senior Australians as well as younger employees can make, including in the workforce.”
Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis said the proposed amendments were timely given 2011 was the centenary year of International Women’s Day.
“By explicitly extending harassment and discrimination protections to include family responsibilities and the right of women to breastfeed, these amendments will make a positive difference for employees around the country,” Ms Ellis said.
“Recognition of this in these changes to the Sex Discrimination Act legislation will ensure that parents can now be protected when making equitable choices for their work and caring responsibilities,” she said.
27 May, 2011
Judges judged fit for
Judges would be required to take a more active role in managing the cases that come before them under new laws proposed by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).
The proposal is one of 27 recommendations in the ALRC’s Managing Discovery: Discovery of Documents in Federal Courts report, which followed a 10-month inquiry into the process of discovery in Federal Courts.
President of the ALRC, Professor Rosalind Croucher said the Commission’s report made recommendations for improving the practical operation and effectiveness of the process of discovery.
“The underlying premise for this Inquiry was that the costs of discovery - which can be very high - may inhibit access to justice and result in an undue public cost,” Professor Croucher said.
“The ALRC heard that, in many cases, there are literally hundreds of thousands of documents stored electronically that may be called on during a discovery process and you can imagine the cost that providing access to all these documents can involve.”
She said the challenge for the Commission was to recognise the important role that discovery could play in facilitating the resolution of disputes, while noting that the reality of the modern digital information age meant there could simply be “too much information”.
Part-time Commissioner, Justice Bruce Lander said there was an “uneasy tension” between the time and money that discovery could involve and the right of parties to present their case.
Justice Lander said the Commission considered that the most effective way to manage that tension was through robust case management.
“Such a model preserves the discretion of the judge while, at the same time, introducing greater clarity of expectations in relation to discovery,” he said.
Part-time Commissioner, Justice Arthur Emmett agreed.
“A key focus of the recommendations is on reinforcing the flexibility that Federal Court judges have in the case management of litigation so that, for example, any discovery regime can be tailored to suit the particular issues in each case,” Justice Emmett said.
The full text of ALRC Report 115 Managing Discovery: Discovery of Documents in Federal Courts can be downloaded from the ALRC website this PS News link.
27 May, 2011
Climate report to
A report by the Climate Commission calling for immediate and significant action in response to climate change has been welcomed by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet.
heat up debate
Mr Combet said the report, The Critical Decade: Climate science, risks and responses was a “comprehensive synthesis of the most recent climate change science with a focus on the Australian context.”
He said the report made clear that there was no doubt the climate was changing and that the impacts were there to see.
“Human activities are triggering these changes,” Mr Combet said.
He said the Report was written by renowned climate scientist and Climate Commissioner, Professor Will Steffen and highlighted some of the key impacts of climate change which were already being observed.
These included the fact that in the past 50 years the number of record hot days in Australia had more than doubled and the risk of heat-waves, associated deaths and extreme bush fire weather in South Eastern and South Western Australia, was increasing.
The Report also noted the impacts of a rise in sea level (20cm globally since the late 1800s and another 20cm projected by 2050), which would affect many coastal communities by more than doubling the risk of flooding and the vulnerability of the natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef, which had suffered from nine bleaching events in the past 31 years.
Mr Combet said the Report concluded that the longer action on climate change was delayed, the more it would cost.
“Bringing down carbon pollution levels is critically important to our children’s future,” he said.
“It is about ensuring they have a healthy environment to live in, and new high skill jobs for their work.”
He said taking action on climate change was the right thing to do.
“It is the right thing for our economy, for jobs and for the environment,” Mr Combet said.
The Climate Commission’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 May, 2011
A new website featuring a database of Australian inventions has been launched by the former patents office, IP Australia.
a great new idea
Known as AusPat, the new site contains records of patents dating back to the first patent issued under Commonwealth legislation in 1904.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the new website would help modern day innovators by enabling easy access to the work of numerous Australian innovators.
“Australia has a rich history of innovation and this excellent tool delivers better access to this important information,” Senator Carr said.
“Records for iconic Australian inventions, such as David Unaipon’s 1909 patent for the shearing handpiece featured on the Australian $50 note can now be located with the easy to use search tool deemed one of the best in the world,” he said
Senator Carr used the example of Andrew Brown McKenzie, a railway man who in 1904 invented what became known as the Westinghouse Air Brake – the first invention to be granted an Australian patent.
He said Mr McKenzie’s work was one of the many examples in the 7,300 books, 620,000 microfiche films and more than 37 million documents on the website which showed how Australian innovation had contributed to the nation’s history.
“McKenzie’s work on the railways led him to identify a problem with train brakes and a way to overcome it,” he said.
“His patent–improvements in air leak preventative for Westinghouse and like brakes – helped railway workers and passengers alike.”
Senator Carr said the development of AusPat offered a significant improvement on the old process which had people searching through a myriad of paper, microfiche and electronic systems and would save modern Australian inventors time and effort as they can easily search the inventions that have come before them.
“When Andrew Brown McKenzie filed that first Australian patent in 1904 he could never have envisaged that his patent record, and the records of thousands of other Australian innovators, could be accessed so easily more than 100 years later,” Senator Carr said.
“One hundred and seven years later Australian innovators are still changing lives with modern day inventions like Gardasil and the CSIRO’s Wi-Fi technology.”
To access the AusPat search system visit this PS News link.
27 May, 2011
NT’s licensed shops
An independent report into the licensing of shops in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory has found the scheme to be delivering healthier and more affordable food.
delivering the goods
Introduced as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response program (NTER), the store licensing regime is helping improve food security, in particular the quality, quantity and range of healthy food available.
The report found increased availability of healthy food was helping to promote better nutrition; and between July and December 2010, 86 per cent of stores were selling at least 13 varieties of fresh vegetables and 91 per cent sold at least 7 varieties of fresh fruit.
It said in one store, the store manager reported that fruit and vegetable sales had gone up by 28 per cent in dollar value in the last year.
According to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, the report also found the licensing regime had helped to improve the management of the shops, including financial management, and there was a high level of compliance with the income management requirements.
She said many people consulted for the report said that one of the most positive reforms brought about by stores licensing had been the abolition of ‘book-up’.
They also reported that now there was more consistency in the pricing and labelling of goods on shelves.
“Now it’s like a real store, with aisles you can walk down, a range of products, prices, proper clean shelving, fridges for fresh food and meat,” one community member said.
The report found however that there were still concerns about some aspects of stores’ operations, including the quality of food sold by takeaways.
It also indicated that further work should be done on the governance practices of the stores.
The full report could be accessed at this PS News link.
27 May, 2011
A telephone interpreting service set up by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has recorded its one-millionth call this financial year.
easy to interpret
Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy said she welcomed the one-millionth call answered by the translating and interpreting service, TIS National.
Senator Lundy said the query, from a Melbourne migrant resource centre for a Sudanese interpreter, beat last year’s millionth-call milestone by a whole month.
“A new Melbourne operator yesterday took the call, which lasted for 50 minutes,” Senator Lundy said.
She said TIS National was DIAC’s interpreting service for non-English speakers as well as English speakers who needed to communicate with them and as of 19 May, had taken 1,001,358 inbound calls in 2010-11.
Senator Lundy said during April the service had provided 69,302 operator-assisted phone interpreting services – nearly five per cent more than the number of services provided in April last year.
“Once answered, callers were transferred to an interpreter in a major community language within three minutes on 99 per cent of occasions,” she said.
Senator Lundy said TIS National had recruited more interpreters to maintain its service standards, given the increase in demand for interpreting services.
She said it had contracted 410 new interpreters in the 2010-11financial year and had also increased its number of operators to ensure service requests were responded to promptly.
“These extra operators have enabled TIS National to increase its service standard of answering calls within 30 seconds from 82.9 per cent in February to 86.9 per cent in April,” Senator Lundy said.
She said TIS National serviced all of Australia, providing phone interpreting around the clock in more than 180 languages and dialects and also helping non-English speakers communicate with government departments, private businesses, emergency services and community-based organisations.
She said the phone number for translation services on the TIS national hotline was 131 450.
27 May, 2011
A new network has been set up for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and research students.
to blaze new trail
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said Indigenous Australian researchers and research students could now join the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Researchers’ Network, which would help them take advantage of more research opportunities and progress their research in a supportive environment.
Senator Carr said the Government would provide up to $800,000 a year over four years to the Australian Research Council to fund the new network, which would build the capacity and leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers who were under-represented among higher degree participation.
“Only 0.5 per cent of students who complete PhDs in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” Senator Carr said.
“This highlights a need for strategic investment to support talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to pursue research degrees and research careers.”
He said it was crucial to harness the leadership and guidance of successful and experienced university-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers.
“These experienced researchers are well placed to develop research programs that focus on Indigenous approaches to knowledge and also to mentor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research students and early-career researchers, improving their chances of staying on and completing their higher degree research and pursuing successful research careers,” Senator Carr said.
“This Network will help us address one of the key needs identified in our Research Workforce Strategy — we need to ensure Australia enlists all of the research talent we can, including Indigenous Australians who offer a unique cultural perspective and knowledge base that nobody else can provide.”
He said a call for proposals for the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Researchers’ Network would occur in coming months, and would be advised by the Australian Research Council.
More information about the initiative was available at this PS News link and this PS News link.
27 May, 2011
A driving force behind the National Museum of Australia’s “Not Just Ned” Irish exhibition, the prominent Canberra businessman, Jim Murphy, has died.
Mr Murphy was chairman of the National Australian Irish Business Association which came up with the idea of the exhibition in the mid-80s and promoted the idea to the Museum over many years.
He was 63.
Pay talks in dispute
The Community and Public Sector Union has lodged disputes with the Fair Work Ombudsman as part of its current enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The union claims that guidelines for Agencies issued by the Australian Public Service Commission amount to cuts in conditions which APS employees have not had the chance to negotiate. It has accused the APSC of refusing to ‘bargain’ on the guidelines.
Seventy-four enterprise agreements across the APS expire on 30 June.
Trainee figures grow
More Australians are taking up apprenticeships and traineeships according to figures released by National Centre for Vocational Education Research.
Minister for Skills, Jobs and Workplace, Senator Chris Evans said the figures showed there had been a 6.3 per cent increase in the number of Australians in apprenticeships and traineeships in the year to 31 December 2010.
Senator Evans said in the same period, the number of Australians who have commenced a traineeship or apprenticeship has increased by 15.7 per cent to 314,000.
Directors’ pay study reports
A report by the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC) on Australia’s director and executive remuneration disclosure framework has been welcomed by Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury.
Mr Bradbury said in May 2010 the Government had asked the CAMAC to conduct a evaluation with a view to reduce the complexity of remuneration reports.
The report contains a range of recommendations that are intended to simplify remuneration reports and provide more relevant information to shareholders.
Mr Bradbury said the Government would closely examine the CAMAC’s recommendations and respond in due course.
24 May, 2011
Challenges ahead for
Public Service superannuation cannot be quarantined from reforms to the broader superannuation industry and should prepare for change according to the Minister for Public Sector Superannuation, Senator Nick Sherry,
Speaking to a recent superannuation seminar in Sydney, Senator Sherry said despite the PS ‘paving the way’ for the super industry of today, there was still efficiencies and improvements that could be made.
“Public sector superannuation cannot be kept at a distance from the reform agenda,” Senator Sherry said.
“Though the defined benefit nature of many of the older public sector schemes presents complications and limitations on what improvements can be made, there is still scope for improvement.”
He said the merger of the Australian Reward Investment Alliance, the Military Superannuation and Benefits Board and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority would come into force on 1 July when the new Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation assumes responsibility for 650,000 PS and military members and their $21 billion worth of funds.
“The Government has also announced a range of reforms aimed at improving the administration of the Australian Government’s superannuation schemes,” Senator Sherry said.
“These reforms are designed to improve member data, IT infrastructure and administration systems, with a view to delivering savings and efficiencies.”
He said progress was also being made on outsourcing the administration of the Public Sector Superannuation Accumulation Plan (PSSAP) to a private sector provider with Finance and ComSuper working collaboratively on the process.
“This will also deliver cost efficiencies and allow ComSuper to focus on the more complex defined benefit schemes,” the Minister said.
He said an increase in the 9% superannuation guarantee would also be introduced, but would be phased in from 1 July 2013 to 1 July 2019.
Senator Sherry said that among the challenges facing public sector schemes was the management of the closed defined contribution schemes.
“In addition to the defined benefit nature of traditional public sector super, there are unique challenges arising from the legislative framework under which these schemes operate,” he said.
“Governments, both at a State and Federal level, have sought to move to more modern arrangements, providing new public servants with accumulation schemes and choice of fund arrangements.
“These members present the challenge for public sector superannuation providers to offer quality, well administered and cost effective services to members.”
The full text of Senator Sherry’s speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
24 May, 2011
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has revised, simplified and modernised its guidelines relating to Government Procurement Policies.
A new-look website has also been developed clarifying policies on “Buying for Government” as well as “Selling to Government”.
According to the website, a new icon depicts the steps to follow and issues to consider throughout the procurement process.
It says practical guidance on Government procurement policy could be found in the range of guidance materials, making buying for Government easier than ever before.
According to the website, understanding the Australian Government’s procurement policy framework was the key to ensuring optimal value for money in purchasing decisions.
It says the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (CPGs) establish the core procurement policy framework and articulate the Government’s expectations of all Departments and Agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and their officials, when performing duties in relation to procurement.
It says the new framework establishes a the Government’s expectation for all Agencies when performing duties in relation to procurement, and it also governs how agencies procure property or services and reinforces the fundamental procurement principle of value for money.
To help people understand the policy framework, the website also looks at accountability and transparency; procurement practice; and reporting requirements as well as Procurement Connected Policies; Cooperative Agency Procurement; and Incorporating Sustainability.
The website also looks at selling to Government and says understanding the market and focusing efforts would make the selling process less difficult.
The website provides advice on knowing the customer, understanding the rules, understanding the process, watching for opportunities and building relationships.
To visit the website and get more information about buying for government or selling to it go to this PS News link.
24 May, 2011
The Parliamentary Library has completed the process of digitising the Hansard transcript of Parliament and it is now searchable.
has Hansard taped
Transferring the record from 1901 into PDF last year, the Library has now launched it in XML which means it can be searched by word or speaker.
It has also published an information brochure explaining the new service and backgrounding Hansard and the digitisation project.
According to the Library, until mid-2010 Hansard was available online only from 1981, and between 2009 and 2011 more than 600,000 pages (from 1901 to 1980) were digitised and are now available online for full searching.
The Department of Parliamentary Services funded the digitisation project to ensure all Senate and House of Representatives Hansards were available online to the public.
The conversion was done using an high quality scanners and image resolution was 300dpi.
The Library’s brochure said the challenges it faced in completing the project included the changing styles of recording proceedings as well as changes in typefaces and formatting.
It said a five-step processing system was used for each page to ensure all content was marked as header, tables, graphics, new day or more and every page of the scanned files was sequencing for accurate conversion.
According to the brochure a visit to ParlInfo Search (http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/) would allow searching by choosing “Advanced” for Hansards and then searching or browsing the contents by many attributes including Date; Speaker; and Words in a speech.
An online guide and tips sheet could be found under the Help tab in ParlInfo Search.
The brochure said Parliamentary information was published under a Creative Commons licence, meaning material was free to share fro non-commercial purposes as long as attribution in the manner specified was made.
The Hansards can be accessed at either this PS News link or this PS News link.
24 May, 2011
Testing time for
Schools have been warned against using NAPLAN results to decide on the enrolment of students.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett issued the warning saying it was “entirely inappropriate” for schools to use NAPLAN to decide on who should be part of the school community.
He said any schools thought to be doing so should be referred to the relevant State Education Department for investigation.
“The vast majority of schools are using NAPLAN for the purpose that it was intended, that is, as a valuable tool used by parents, schools and Governments to understand and improve literacy and numeracy results of our kids,” Mr Garrett said.
“I fully expect that all students will participate in NAPLAN testing, it is not appropriate to apply pressure to parents to withdraw their children from testing.”
He said attendance data for the day of testing would be published on the My School website and any attempt to manipulate the results would be investigated.
Mr Garrett said NAPLAN was only one indication of how well a child was doing at school, but there were significant benefits in having a diagnostic tool to identify how students were performing in literacy and numeracy.
“We understand that literacy and numeracy are the building blocks of a great education and publishing results on the My School website gives us the opportunity to see how well students are performing in the context of the specific school environment,” Mr Garrett said.
24 May, 2011
Indigenous business in
New purchasing guidelines that exempt Indigenous small and medium businesses from mandatory procurement guidelines have been announced by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong and Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Senator Mark Arbib.
The Ministers say the new arrangements will strengthen business opportunities for Indigenous enterprises and encourage employment.
“Under the exemption, Commonwealth Government agencies will be able to contract small and medium Indigenous businesses without conducting a full tender process while still delivering value for money,” Senator Arbib said.
He said both Commonwealth Government agencies and Indigenous businesses would benefit from reduced administrative costs as a result of the exemption.
“We know the best way to boost Indigenous employment is to develop Indigenous enterprises because businesses owned and run by Indigenous people also provide great job opportunities for Indigenous Australians,” Senator Arbib said.
Senator Wong said the new exemption measures complemented the Indigenous Opportunities Policy (IOP), which aimed to increase training and employment opportunities for Indigenous communities.
Senator Arbib said the new policies also built on efforts to drive Indigenous enterprise through measures such as the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC).
“AIMSC was set up to link some of Australia’s biggest corporations with Indigenous suppliers,” Senator Arbib said.
“It has facilitated almost $9 million in contracts and $4.5 Million in transactions between members and certified suppliers in just 18 months of operation.”
The Ministers said the new exemption meant the Mandatory Procurement Procedures would not apply to the purchase of property or services from small or medium enterprises with at least 50 per cent Indigenous ownership.
They said the definition of an Indigenous business would move to 51 per cent by 1 January 2013 in line with the definition under the Indigenous Opportunities Policy.
24 May, 2011
Police clean up in
The Australian Federal Police has been recognised for its role in advocating gay and lesbian diversity in the workplace, receiving an Equity in Diversity Award on the recent International Day Against Homophobia.
AFP National Manager of Human Resources, Stephen Walker said the inaugural Equity in Diversity Awards were held in Sydney and recognised the top 10 employers in Australia for their roles in providing support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees.
Mr Walker said the AFP was ranked as the top public sector organisation for the 2011 Australian Employer Quality Index award and came second overall against Australia’s best private and public employers.
The AFP’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer (GLLO) Network was also recognised at the ceremony, ranking second among employee networks.
Mr Walker said the AFP was a foundation member of Pride In Diversity, Australia’s first and only not-for-profit workplace program designed specifically to assist Australian employers with the inclusion of LGBT employees.
He said that the AFP was honoured to have received the award.
“The award is particularly important as the AFP celebrates its 15th anniversary of the GLLO network this month,” Mr Walker said.
“The AFP is committed to ensuring its workforce fully reflects the community it serves and develops a range of policies and networks to promote the value of equity and diversity in the workplace.”
The awards were based on Pride In Diversity’s Australian Workplace Equality Index, a free service provided by Pride In Diversity that evaluates and benchmarks LGBT inclusiveness in Australian workplaces.
24 May, 2011
Defence takes aim at
The Department of Defence has launched a project to clean-up unexploded bombs on three islands west of Darwin.
Expected to take three years, the hazard reduction project will be conducted at the Quail Island Air Weapons Range, which covers Quail Island, Bare Sand Island and Djadjalbit Island.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said Bare Sand Island in particular, had been used by tourists and researchers to observe turtles nesting.
“We recognise that this is a valuable ecological area for turtle breeding, for Indigenous interests, tourism and recreational purposes,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The hazard reduction program is designed to make the area as safe as possible for these activities.”
He said Defence had consulted with turtle experts at Charles Darwin University to ensure that there were no negative impacts on the nesting turtles.
He said the Department had rated the risk of unexploded bombs in the area as substantial.
Mr Snowdon said the Quail Island Air Weapons Range was used for aerial bombing practice by the Royal Australian Air Force from 1945 to 1979, and a number of bombs which didn’t explode remained buried under the sand.
He said Defence had maintained warning signs on Quail Island for many years and conducted bi-annual inspections to remove any bombs that might have been uncovered by tidal or wind action.
As the area was no longer required as a Defence Practice Area, the Department was now considering de-gazetting the range, and the hazard reduction program was an important step in this process.
Mr Snowdon said Defence was working closely with the key stakeholders including the Northern Territory Government, and the Northern Land Council.
The first stage of the program began earlier this month when Defence engaged a company that specialised in finding unexploded ordnance, to locate and identify bombs on the islands.
24 May, 2011
People’s Forum to
A special People’s Forum is to be held in the days before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in October and 40 Western Australians will be invited to take part.
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said more than 250 delegates from throughout the Commonwealth would have the opportunity to take part in the Forum and collectively address global issues ranging from climate change to human rights which were of concern to everyday citizens.
“This is an unparallelled opportunity for at least 40 Western Australians to discuss the global issues that are important to them and to influence the agenda to be discussed by over 50 Heads of Government that will be in Perth for CHOGM,” Mr Gray said.
He said the Forum would meet from 25 October to 27, and would generate the ‘Civil Society Statement’, which would be presented to the world leaders meeting in Perth for CHOGM from 28 October to 30.
Mr Gray said he had met with representatives of the Commonwealth Foundation and the Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS) to discuss the arrangements for the Forum.
He said the term ‘civil society’ referred to the relationships and associations, independent of both government and business, that made up our life at a grass-roots level, in families, neighbourhoods and voluntary associations.
He said as part of Forum deliberations on civil society issues, delegates would be invited on a series of ‘Learning Journeys’, to see for themselves examples of best practice being implemented by community groups in and around Perth.
He said the 2011 CPF was organised by the Commonwealth Foundation and hosted by WACOSS with the support of the Australian and Western Australian Governments, and the Forum was held every two years in the run-up to CHOGM.
Western Australians interested in attending the Forum can register on line at this PS News link.
24 May, 2011
An audit into economic stimulus measures intended to build community infrastructure projects as a way of beating the global financial crisis has found that progress on many of the projects was slower than expected.
In his report The Establishment, Implementation and Administration of the Council Allocation Component of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said parts of the $450 million ‘Council Allocation’ component of the program were held up by delays in local Councils identifying projects to nominate.
He said the two components of the program were $670 million available in two application rounds for large strategic projects and the $450 million available in three rounds for direct allocation by Local Governments.
He found there were 6,000 projects approved for funding across the scheme which was administered by the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government (RA).
The Department dealt with the delivery of regional and rural specific services, regional development and regional Australia policy and coordination.
Mr Mcphee said the audit examined all three funding rounds of the Council Allocation component of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program (RLCIP).
He said the audit found by the middle of March 2011, more than 71 per cent of projects had been completed, with a further 6 per cent reported by councils as underway.
Mr McPhee said that in respect to the first two rounds, the Department had developed effective processes for monitoring progress but for the third, Councils had not been asked to provide a forecast expenditure profile for the nominated projects as part of the application.
The Auditor-General said this meant that unlike the first two rounds, a baseline was not established at the time each project was nominated and approved for funding.
He said by the time the second round of funding was announced, the Department was noticing that some projects from the first round were not proceeding as quickly as Councils had forecast and that expenditure by the Councils was well below the level envisaged.
“It was not until the latter part of 2009 that the full extent of delays in construction work (and associated stimulus spending by Councils) became clear.”
Mr McPhee made two recommendations in light of the delays.
He recommended that the monitoring of approved grants be improved and that RA regularly evaluate the need for, and the optimal timeframe of, subsequent rounds.
The full text of the audit report can be found at this PS News link and the audit team responsible included Nicola Rowe, Robert Pincini, Ryan Wilson, and Brian Boyd.
24 May, 2011
The latest phase of a campaign encouraging respectful relationships among young Indigenous people has been launched by the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.
Ms Ellis said The Line - Respect Each Other campaign was part of the initiative The Line which uses social media and music to engage young people about what is acceptable in relationships and to reduce violence against women.
“This campaign takes a grassroots approach to helping young Indigenous people develop and maintain healthy relationships by emphasising the importance of respect – respecting themselves, respecting others, respecting their community and respecting culture,” Ms Ellis said.
“Disturbingly, we know that one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and almost one in five has experienced sexual violence.”
She said of those, Indigenous women and girls were 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence-related assaults.
“These figures are simply not acceptable and this new phase of The Line campaign will help encourage young Indigenous people to think about what sort of behaviour is acceptable in a relationship and what crosses the line,” Ms Ellis said.
She said education packages, developed in consultation with Indigenous students would be distributed to primary and secondary schools and community groups around the country.
The packages contain a range of resources to actively promote healthy relationships, including comics and a set of four plays promoting respectful behaviour, collectively called Serpent Tales.
Ms Ellis said an art and poster competition, open to Indigenous youth aged between eight and 14 years, would also be held later this year, and entrants would be asked to produce a poster or artwork promoting a healthy and respectful relationship message.
The Line – Respect Each Other is an initiative under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, which was focused on building respectful relationships in the next generation.
For more information about The Line campaign visit this PS News link.
24 May, 2011
Food safety workshop
An international workshop on food safety incidents is expected to lead to better management across the Asia Pacific according to the Chief Executive of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Steve McCutcheon.
has food for thought
Mr McCutcheon said 18 member nations had taken part in the workshop which would help APEC members develop and improve food safety incident management protocols and practices.
“One of the key outcomes of the workshop is the establishment of a Food Safety Incident Network among APEC member economies which will lead to a faster exchange of information and adoption of best practice approaches to help respond when food safety emergencies arise,” Mr McCutcheon said.
“Having better systems in place to manage incidents means the response to such events can be more efficient and effective, reducing negative effects on both trade and public health.”
He said the workshop was a key part of the program at APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum (FSCF) meetings.
Australia and China Co-Chair the Forum.
Mr McCutcheon said the third meeting of the FSCF allowed regulators and key international stakeholders to review progress on goals and to restate their commitment to work together to strengthen food safety systems and progress towards a safer regional food supply chain.
He said work undertaken by APEC members had raised the profile of food safety in the Asia Pacific region and resulted in improved communication and information sharing on food safety issues.
“This forum is a way for members to share information and increase knowledge on food safety with APEC member economies sitting at the table discussing food safety priority issues,” Mr McCutcheon said.
“Out of session communication now takes place regularly between members and websites have been established that provide a range of information.”
Mr McCutcheon said the FSCF and its Partnership Training Institute Network (PTIN) had also signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Bank with all parties agreeing to work cooperatively on food safety capacity building initiatives, in the APEC region.
24 May, 2011
Australia’s first-ever sustainable population strategy has been released, setting out a framework for a sustainable future.
gets the numbers
Minister for Sustainability, Population and Communities, Tony Burke unveiled the Sustainable Australia - Sustainable Communities plan, saying it outlined key directions to help ensure future population change supported the economic, environmental and social wellbeing of the nation.
Mr Burke said the Strategy’s focus was on population change rather than setting targets, driving growth to regional areas by attracting skilled workers and building more houses where job opportunities were, and alleviating pressures in outer suburbs of major capital cities by supporting more local jobs.
“We have communities where there are not enough workers and communities where there are not enough jobs,” Mr Burke said.
“A locally targeted approach to addressing population growth and change is needed.”
He said a sustainable population strategy targetted at the needs of local communities was the right strategy for a patchwork economy.
“The Government will deliver housing and targetted immigration to where there is a shortage of workers and promote efficient infrastructure and local jobs where there are congestion issues,” Mr Burke said.
He said Sustainable Australia - Sustainable Communities sets out the framework for improving the mix of services, job and skilled training opportunities and affordable housing, while boosting the liveability of cities and regions to ensure they were places people wanted to live, work and build a future.
He said the framework was backed by more than $230 million in the Budget including funding for a Suburban Jobs initiative; new investments in the National Urban Policy; a new Sustainable Regional Development initiative; a new Promoting Regional Living Program; and a new Measuring Sustainability program.
Sustainable Australia - Sustainable Communities has been informed by advice from three advisory panels, a sustainable population issues paper and a public consultation process in which over 370 public submissions were received.
More information is available from this PS News link.
24 May, 2011
Plan for lawyers
A new initiative to attract lawyers to work in the bush has been unveiled by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and President of the Law Council of Australia, Alexander Ward.
to go bush
Mr McClelland said the RRRLaw (Rural, Regional and Remote Law) project recognised that geography and isolation could present challenges when it came to providing access to justice.
“The RRRLaw project is an excellent initiative that will go a long way to attracting lawyers to remote and regional areas to improve legal services,” Mr McClelland said.
He said there were also other valuable programs underway to enhance legal services and support lawyers on the ground delivering those services, including the WA Country Lawyers Program which employed 23 lawyers across Western Australia.
Mr Ward said that in March 2009, the Law Council coordinated a nationwide survey of legal practitioners in RRR areas that confirmed Australia was having difficulty attracting and retaining legal professionals in the bush.
He said the survey results formed the basis of a funding submission to Mr McClelland for the development of a campaign to assist in the recruitment and retention of lawyers in RRR areas.
“[We have launched] an exciting and interactive marketing campaign,” Mr Ward said, “ which includes a website and DVD to assist in addressing the recruitment and retention issues facing legal practitioners in RRR Australia.”
He said rrrlaw.com.au was the key resource for the RRR initiative, a website that linked people to job opportunities in RRR Australia and included everything practitioners needed to know about legal careers in rural, regional and remote areas including interactive case studies from people working in RRR locations.
He said the RRRLaw DVD gave legal practitioners an insight into what life was like in RRR Australia by breaking down myths and highlighting the opportunities available.
Further information on the Law Council’s RRRLaw initiative is available at this PS News link.
24 May, 2011
Censorship paper out
The Australian Law Reform Commission has released an issues paper for its inquiry into the
national censorship scheme.
President of the ALRC, Professor Rosalind Croucher said the Terms of Reference for the inquiry asked the Commission to undertake widespread public consultation as part of the review.
The paper, National Classification Scheme Review Issues Paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
Scholarship on offer
Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) is calling applications for its annual scholarship to study for the Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance.
Applicants must be employed in the PS for 12 months or more, hold a minimum bachelor’s degree or equivalent and submit a 2,000 word essay on a topic of PS interest.
One scholarship will be made available for each State and Territory and each is valued at over $12,300.
For more details contact the CSA at this PS News link. Entries close 1 July.
The Department of Defence has been officially recognised for its long standing support of The Salvation Army
The Department received the Red Shield Award for Outstanding Organisation at the launch of the 2011 Red Shield Appeal.
Set top boxes popular
The Household Assistance Scheme delivered by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has helped about 40,000 households to successfully convert to digital television since its inception in January 2010,
In regional Victoria - the most recent area to switch-off analog signals - more than 26,500 installations had taken place to date.
The Minister for DBCDE, Senator Stephen Conroy, said that in response to the delivery of the scheme across regional Victoria, the number of complaints about the installations was 149.
Of these, 62 were still being investigated.
Water awards open
Commercial and industrial companies that can demonstrate recent water savings are encouraged to nominate for the 2011 Prime Minister’s Water Wise Award.
Nominations are now open for the award, which recognises the commitment to saving water from within the commercial and industrial sectors.
Applications close on 8 August 2011 and the winners will be announced at a ceremony in November.
More information and entry details are available at this PS News link.
Finance hotline funded
Access to financial counselling services is to be made easier with a funding boost allocated to a national 1800 number.
The extra funding will enhance access to the 1800 007 007 number, linking people anywhere in the country to a qualified financial counsellor.
20 May, 2011
The Australian Trade Commission, Austrade, is to be overhauled in a “comprehensive reform” to meet the needs of Australian businesses better.
better for business
Announced by Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson, the reforms would include opening new offices in some countries and closing others.
Dr Emerson said Austrade would look to establish offices in Mongolia and Central Asia and strengthen its presence in Latin America, China and Africa.
“More of Austrade’s work will be undertaken in the world’s frontier and emerging markets, where Australian businesses can benefit most from government support,” Dr Emerson said,
“Until now Austrade has had no permanent presence in a number of these frontier markets, but that’s about to change.”
He said the cost to individual companies seeking to do business in frontier or emerging markets could be prohibitively high.
“A single business might find it hard to justify the cost of getting to know how to do business in an emerging market and the potential commercial opportunities.
“That’s where Austrade’s expertise is likely to be most valuable. The information Austrade gathers can then be used for the benefit of all interested Australian businesses.”
Dr Emerson said the reforms were based on a comprehensive review of Austrade’s operations, initiated last year by its Chief Executive, Peter Grey.
He said it was the first such review in 20 years and would benefit Australian business as Austrade’s resources would be better targeted around sound economic and commercial principles.
“This is where the big growth potential lies for Australian businesses and Austrade will be there to lend assistance,” Dr Emerson said.
He said that in order to implement the reform Austrade would close small offices in Europe and North America, and rationalise its staffing in some locations.
The Minister said Austrade would continue its role of promoting Australia’s education and training capabilities in all major markets and existing programs such as the Export Market Development Grants and Tradestart would also continue to support Australian exporters.
20 May, 2011
Defence takes hit
An audit of the Department of Defence’s land and property holdings has found a long term lack of funding is threatening maintenance needs and reducing the life of much of the $20 billion asset.
from land audit
In his report Maintenance of the Defence Estate, Auditor-General Ian McPhee says the useful life of Defence facilities had fallen from 22 years in 2001 to 17 years in 2009.
“The management of estate maintenance has not been fully effective,” Mr McPhee said.
“The funding currently applied to estate maintenance is insufficient to preserve existing assets.”
He said the objective of the audit was to examine the effectiveness of the management of maintenance of the Defence estate, the largest land holding in Australia which consisted of 394 Commonwealth-owned properties (including 72 major bases); 355 domestic leases; and 220 overseas leases, all up valued at $20.2 billion.
He described the estate was an ageing, complex and costly historical legacy, in which investment for maintenance had been decreasing since the 1980s.
“Providing sufficient funding for estate maintenance is an ongoing challenge,” Mr McPhee said.
“Estate maintenance planning processes would benefit from Defence having in place authoritative, longer-term plans for the estate itself, and from condition assessments of estate facilities and infrastructure—both elements being key to sound infrastructure maintenance approaches.”
He said the funding currently applied to estate maintenance was insufficient to preserve existing assets and, with regard to the delivery of estate maintenance services to bases and other Defence establishments, performance was mixed.
“While Defence is currently developing plans for the future of its estate, it is yet to establish its inaugural estate management plan,” he said.
“However, a key area of potential improvement is in Defence’s priority setting and management of its planned general estate works.”
Mr McPhee said based on the data provided by Defence from its most recent Infrastructure Appraisal process, there was a shortfall over the next three years (2011–14) of approximately $500 million in funding to effectively maintain the existing estate.
“While acknowledging that maintenance will at times need to make way for other priority requirements, this level of shortfall will result in increasing maintenance backlogs in the future, and reductions in the lives of existing assets, with added pressure to bring forward upgrades and renewals,” he said.
The full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team working on the audit was Fran Holbert, Kim Bond and Michael Kozakos.
20 May, 2011
Jobs report to
An annual report on jobs published by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations reveals the public sector workforce increased by 80,700 in the past five years and now employs 6 per cent of the Australian working population.
get job done
The report Australian Jobs 2011, was unveiled by the Minister for Employment Participation and Child Care, Kate Ellis, who said it was a key resource for helping job seekers find employment opportunities.
“It is essential that job seekers, students and employment service providers have access to up-to-date information about what the opportunities are and where the jobs are now,” Ms Ellis said, “and where opportunities and new jobs are likely to arise in the next five years.
“The Australian Jobs report is a key resource in helping job seekers to find employment opportunities in our nation’s dynamic job market, and for employment service providers to plan for the future.”
She said the 2011 report focused on regional labour markets and contained useful information about occupations and industries and about State and Territory labour markets.
“Australia’s economy is strong,” she said.
“More than 265,000 new jobs have been created over the past year and the national unemployment rate is 4.9 per cent.”
The report revealed the Public Administration and Safety ‘industry’ enjoyed strong levels of full-time employment, as well as high levels of female employment and workforce participation for those aged 45 or over.
Ms Ellis said the report also highlighted that 4.1 million Australians were employed in regional areas, with regional employers experiencing particular difficulty recruiting skilled workers.
She said that meant there were sound opportunities for employment outside State capital cities.
“Improving labour market outcomes – putting more people into more jobs – benefits individuals, their families and communities but also the whole Australian economy,” she said.
“The 2011-12 Budget lays out a strong plan to make the most of current economic circumstances and get more Australians into work.”
Access to the report Australian Jobs 2011 is available at this PS News link. or email Aust...@deewr.gov.au
20 May, 2011
Increased support for six national women’s alliances has been announced to advance work on gender equality in Australia.
bustle for support
Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis unveiled the move saying an additional $485,000 would be provided in funding for the National Women’s Alliances.
“The National Women’s Alliances are made up of passionate and hard-working women who are helping to change the face of Australia and the lives of Australian women and men for the better,” Ms Ellis said.
“Their role is to bring together women’s organisations and individuals from across Australia to share information, identify issues that affect them and build solutions.”
She said the Alliances actively engaged with the Government on policy issues as part of a more informed and representative dialogue between women and government.
She said up to $300,000 of the new funding would be set aside for special policy projects responding to new and emerging issues the Alliances identified.
“Each of these Alliances plays a critical role in the Australian Government’s commitment to engaging women’s groups and bringing the perspective of women to policy making across government,” Ms Ellis said.
“We value the important work of the Alliances and their efforts to ensure representation and recognition of the diversity of women’s voices.”
She named the Alliances as the Australian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance; National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance; Australian Women Against Violence Alliance; National Rural Women’s Coalition and Network; Equality Rights Alliance; and the Economic Security4Women Alliance.
She said the funding allocation also included $45,000 to enable Alliance members to undertake training the help them learn new ways of engaging strategically with the Government to ensure effective progress toward gender equality.
Ms Ellis said the new funding came over and above the $200,000 each Alliance receives annually to ensure Government policy takes into account the experience and perspective of women.
More information about the National Women’s Alliances is available from this PS News link.
20 May, 2011
Top vet vets
Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Andy Carroll, has marked World Veterinary Year by welcoming a new printed history of the veterinary industry in Australia.
Dr Carroll said the release of the booklet entitled A Veterinary Awakening: The history of government veterinarians in Australia showed the many valuable contributions Australia’s veterinary specialists had made to the country’s economic and social wellbeing.
“This year we hope to raise awareness of the vital role that government veterinarians play in biosecurity, by protecting the environment and human health from problems associated with pests and diseases of animals,” Dr Carroll said.
“National veterinary organisations in 78 countries are celebrating this anniversary by raising public awareness about the importance of veterinarians in areas such as public health, food safety, environmental protection and poverty reduction.
He said the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) employed many veterinarians in order to maintain Australia’s favourable animal-health status, which was vital for ensuring favourable trade in livestock and livestock products.
“The Department is the biggest employer of veterinarians in Australia, and government vets play a key role in ensuring that Australia’s livestock industries remain profitable, sustainable and competitive,” Dr Carroll said.
He said the booklet was a collaborative effort between DAFF, Animal Health Australia and CSIRO and traced the history of the development of the Government veterinary services in Australia from the 1800s.
He said it uncovered a rich history in veterinary achievement, ingenuity and perseverance in the face of adversity.
“I encourage everyone to read this informative booklet to find out how the work of government veterinarians affects all of us,” Dr Carroll said.
20 May, 2011
Teachers to learn
A new online professional development program for school teachers has been released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
from online course
The Connect.ed program is designed to train teachers on how to protect students from potential online dangers.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the new initiative addressed the cybersafety needs of every child and young person in Australia.
“Connect.ed is a free resource open to primary and secondary teachers in private and public schools, and represents a significant development for education in Australia,” Mr Chapman said.
“It is designed to complement and enhance the ACMA’s existing suite of Cybersmart programs, which already includes extensive online support for teachers.”
He said the program covered a number of issues including cyberbullying; sexting; excessive internet use; mobile use; e-security; and managing digital reputations and profiling.
He said Connect.ed advised teachers on what young people of all ages were doing online and had drawn upon Australian experts in the cybersafety field, as well as teachers and students themselves.
“Through the online world, young people have access to an extraordinary amount of information and images, yet many do not have the guidance and direction required to satisfactorily and responsibly manage their online experiences,” Mr Chapman said.
‘While children seem to embrace every new development in communications, the reality is that both teachers and parents find it challenging to keep up with modern technology.
“Connect.ed is designed to help them meet that challenge.’
He said new program also provided ACMA with the opportunity to reach casual relief teachers and teachers in regional and remote areas who may otherwise miss out on the training they needed to protect their students.
Connect.ed is available online at this PS News link.
20 May, 2011
New business kit
The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has released a new computer-based information tool for small business.
does the business
Launched by the Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry, the new Small Business Resource Kit makes use of a USB drive to provide valuable information and tips to the operators of small businesses.
Senator Sherry said the kit was the latest addition to the Government’s range of assistance and resources for small businesses.
“Having essential tips and guides on a USB drive that can be plugged into a computer at any time, is extremely convenient,” he said.
“Small business operators are generally time-poor - they are focused on developing their businesses and need access to resources in a way that suits their busy schedules.”
He said the kit would give small business operators instant access to resources in a variety of formats, including video files, audio recordings, as well as traditional handbooks.
“The kit also has useful templates and a range of other vital resources that can help make a business a success,” Senator Sherry said.
“This latest initiative complements the Australian Government’s other valuable services to help small businesses, such as the Small Business Support Line and www.business.gov.au information portal – both highly successful.”
H said small business was important to the wealth of the nation with 2 million businesses providing jobs for around 5 million Australians.
“We want to make sure it continues to be a dynamic and vibrant player in the national economy,” Senator Sherry said.
He said anyone planning to start or expand their small business could obtain a Small Business Resource Kit by contacting the Small Business Support Line on 1800 77 7275 or by emailing
More information was also available from this PS News link.
20 May, 2011
New AQIS office
New frontline biosecurity facilities have been opened in Gladstone, Queensland for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).
to push borders
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig said the new AQIS facilities would help protect Australia from pest plants, animals and diseases and also contribute to the national economy.
“The work of AQIS staff in Gladstone and across the nation contribute to Australia’s productivity and bottom line,” Senator Ludwig said.
“Here in Gladstone, AQIS staff inspect incoming vessels that carry our coal all over the world, making sure they aren’t bringing in harmful exotic pests and diseases.”
He said the 2011-12 Budget committed more than $445 million to maintain and progress Australia’s biosecurity systems so that they would be able to target risk and ensure the protection of the economy and environment in the future..
“$19.1 million is allocated for urgent repair and maintenance work at post-entry quarantine facilities and scoping Australia’s future post-entry quarantine arrangements”, he said.
“Further funding has also been allocated to purchase land for Australia’s post-entry quarantine arrangements.”
Senator Ludwig visited the Gladstone wharf to view the extension of the port which had been supported through the expansion of coal mining in Central Queensland.
He said the development was great news for Queensland and the people of Gladstone.
“As the Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery, I remember how badly impacted Gladstone’s port was back in January when the first floods hit the State and stopped export coal getting to the port,” Senator Ludwig said.
“Looking around today it is apparent that this busy port is back to operating at full capacity, with further potential to grow.”
17 May, 2011
Happiness to be new
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has promoted ‘happiness’ as a measuring tool for the success of Government policies and programs.
measure for programs
Speaking at a service delivery conference in Sydney, the Ombudsman, Allan Asher said happiness was a “legitimate and useful way” of measuring progress and success.
Mr Asher said there were two significant challenges for government agencies: to improve services and their delivery by talking to customers about what they wanted and needed; and to represent the views of the public, challenge bad practice and recommend changes.
Referring to the British Government’s ‘Happiness Index’ and the US President’s ‘Streamlining service delivery and improving customer service’ Executive Order to Federal agencies, Mr Asher said Australia also suffered from a democratic deficit in need of redress.
“It is one thing to vote governments in or out of power, but quite another to make sure that those governments deliver the services we need in the way we want to receive them,” Mr Asher said.
“By adopting a new philosophy of public service that involves consulting and collaborating with individuals in ways that are meaningful and lead to the development of services, we will not only meet their needs but enhance the wellbeing of the community.”
He said this was what citizens expected when they voted - a government that would represent them, listen to them and make decisions that added to their well-being.
Mr Asher also suggested consideration be given to the establishment in Australia of an over-arching “integrity agency” to ensure standards in governance.
“What we need is an overseer with a clear mandate to shape and enforce standards of behaviour across all arms of governance, and anti-corruption legislation and measures that are monitored by specialised bodies with adequate powers, resources and training,” he said.
Mr Asher said his 10 suggestions for better governance and public service included improving stakeholder engagement, soliciting feedback, thinking creatively about how to collect information, and providing individuals with accessible review processes.
The full text of the Ombudsman’s speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
17 May, 2011
Women cash in on
The Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, has released the Women’s Budget Statement 2011-12 outlining the key initiatives from the recent Federal Budget that impacted on women and their families.
Ms Ellis said a package of reforms was being implemented to improve the effectiveness and relevance of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA).
She said the 2011-12 Budget provided the necessary funding to deliver the reforms, with an additional investment of $11.2 million over four years for EOWA to drive gender equality in Australian workplaces.
Ms Ellis said EOWA was a key part of plans to improve choices for women and men and better utilise the significant untapped productivity potential in women’s workforce participation.
She said the Women’s Budget Statement 2011-12 outlined other key Budget initiatives for women including: $2.2 billion for vital national mental health reforms, which included a doubling of the number of Family Mental Health Support Services for families with young children and teenagers; and $771.9 million to help women and their families to meet the higher costs of raising older children and encourage more teenagers to stay in school.
Ms Ellis said funding would also be given over four years to support up to 31,000 flexible and vocationally oriented training places for single and teenage parents on income support; and the Budget also provided funds to help jobless families in targeted locations get off welfare and back into work.
She said the Government was also making a considerable ongoing investment in the continued implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, which brought together the efforts of Commonwealth, State, and Territory governments to make a real and sustained reduction in the levels of violence against women.
The Women’s Budget Statement 2011-12 is available at this PS News link.
17 May, 2011
New language for
Amendments to the Acts Interpretation Act have been proposed by the Attorney-General to make it easier for the general public to understand Commonwealth laws.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the amending Bill would update and modernise the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, which provided overarching rules for interpreting all Commonwealth legislation
“This is the first comprehensive review of this important piece of legislation in over a hundred years,” Mr McClelland said.
“This Bill will update the language and concepts of the Acts Interpretation Act, bringing it into the 21st century.”
He said this was a major step towards reducing the complexity of Commonwealth legislation.
“The measures contained in this Bill will assist in making the law more accessible and easier to understand,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Bill significantly improves the clarity of the Act, but does not change the underlying policy of the Act.”
He said the Bill would ensure that the important rules and definitions contained within the Act were easier to find and understand.
Mr McClelland said it also reduced the size of the Commonwealth statute book by including a number of new general rules and definitions, which avoided the need to repeat them in other Commonwealth Acts.
“The Bill supports the Government’s work to improve the accessibility of the civil justice system through the Strategic Framework for Access to Justice,” Mr McClelland said.
17 May, 2011
New electoral laws that give effect to recent decisions of the High Court of Australia have been passed by Parliament.
get the numbers
Passage of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment and Prisoner Voting) Bill 2010, changed the law to reflect the Court’s decisions relating to the closure of electoral rolls before an election and the voting rights of prisoners in jail.
The Bill restores the close of rolls period to seven days after the date of the writ for a federal election and reinstates the previous disqualification for prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment of three years or longer.
The changes to the Bill follow two decisions: Rowe v Electoral Commissioner - concerning the close of rolls period; and Roach v Electoral Commissioner - regarding the franchise for people serving a sentence of imprisonment.
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said the Bill marked the reversal of unfair amendments made to the Electoral Act in 2006 by a former Government and restored enrolment and voting arrangements that applied before that time.
“Importantly, the Bill implements the Government’s response to recommendation 47 of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters Report on the conduct of the 2007 federal election and matters related thereto,” Mr Gray said.
“These amendments ensure that while prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment of three years or longer are disqualified from voting, they may remain on, or be added to, the electoral roll.”
He said the Bill also made consequential amendments to the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 to ensure consistency with the Electoral Act.
17 May, 2011
A new program of support for regional communities trying to attract new settlers from the capital cities has been announced by the Ministers for Regional Australia, Simon Crean and Population and Communities, Tony Burke.
seen as capital idea
Mr Crean said the Promoting Regional Living program would support non-capital cities, or groups of cities in a region, to deliver targeted marketing strategies to promote living and working in their regions.
He said the program was based on the successful ‘Evocities’ program in New South Wales where seven inland cities had joined forces to attract Sydneysiders to make the switch with a campaign that included an innovative website.
Mr Crean said the Government had backed the Evocities campaign and it had been highly successful.
“The successful Evocities model is now becoming a national initiative delivering benefits across regional Australia,” Mr Crean said.
“People living in capital cities should be aware of the lifestyle on offer in the regions and the fact they do not have to compromise on access to services, sports and cultural facilities or job opportunities.”
Mr Burke said groups of regional councils would also be able to apply for grants to support regional promotions.
“We know that Australia’s regional cities have a lot to offer - affordable housing, job opportunities, good schools and hospitals as well as a great way of life,” Mr Burke said.
“This initiative is about laying the foundations for a sustainable Australia by ensuring our regions are well-placed to market the benefits of regional living.”
He said under the Promoting Regional Living program regions that could demonstrate the potential for future growth would be eligible for support to undertake campaigns that promoted their regions as a good place to work, live and build a future.
17 May, 2011
New approaches to addressing disadvantage in targeted communities across Australia have been announced as part of the Budget initiatives.
target of new rules
The Ministers for Human Services, Employment and Tertiary Education have combined to introduce the new plans which they say will concentrate on assisting communities likely to miss out on the benefit of the growing Australian economy.
The Ministers announced that new measures would be taken to assist teenage parents finish school and support their children; help jobless families prepare for work; and extend income management from Indigenous communities in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia to other neighbourhoods around the nation.
They said the measures would be trialled in 10 disadvantaged communities across Australia: Playford (SA), Hume (Vic), Shepparton (Vic), Burnie (Tas), Bankstown (NSW), Wyong (NSW), Shellharbour (NSW), Rockhampton (Qld), Logan (Qld), and Kwinana (WA).
According to the Ministers, services would be centred and coordinated around a key Centrelink Service Centre in each location.
They said from 1 January 2012, teenage parents in trial communities receiving Parenting Payment, with a child aged six months or older, would be required to attend compulsory support and engagement interviews with Centrelink until they completed Year 12 or equivalent or until their youngest child turned six.
The Ministers said to help jobless families prepare for work, new participation requirements and matching supports would be introduced in the 10 disadvantaged communities.
According to the Ministers, parents who have been on income support for more than two years would be required to meet regularly with Centrelink to plan for their return to work.
They said there would also be an extension of income management in five trial sites.
“To help ensure welfare payments were spent in the best interests of children, the Australian Government was providing $117.5 million over five years to introduce targeted income management in five of the 10 trial communities,” the Ministers said.
The five communities would be Playford (SA), Shepparton (Vic), Bankstown (NSW), Rockhampton (Qld), and Logan (Qld).
They said income management ensured that money was available for life essentials like food, clothing and housing, and provided a tool to stabilise people’s lives and ease immediate financial stress.
According to the Ministers - Kate Ellis, Senator Chris Evans, and Tania Plibersek - under voluntary and vulnerable income management, 50 per cent of income support payments are set aside for spending on essential items, while 70 per cent of income support is quarantined under child protection income management.
17 May, 2011
Energy tax puts
New taxes on alternative fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) have been announced by the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten.
pressure on gas
Mr Shorten said the new taxation arrangements would start to phase in on 1 December 2011, and be complete from 1 July 2015, when the tax would apply on an energy content basis but with a 50 per cent tax discount to recognise the potential environmental, regional development and fuel security benefits of alternative fuel use.
He said the arrangements also included simplified administrative measures for collecting the excise to make it easier for industry to transition into the excise system.
“Australia enjoys the lowest LPG prices in the OECD,” Mr Shorten said, “and by introducing taxation on these fuels we bring Australia into line with the taxation treatment of LPG in most other OECD countries.”
He said the Bills reflected extensive negotiations with stakeholders and the cross bench MPs, and it would ensure renewable fuels played an important part in Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy and future energy security.
Mr Shorten said current taxation arrangements for renewable fuels (ethanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel) would continue for the next 10 years.
Methanol will continue to be untaxed and the Government will undertake a review of the taxation and grant arrangements for ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel and methanol after 30 June 2021.
Mr Shorten said in addition, the Government would consider the carbon emissions of alternative fuels as part of its consideration of arrangements for fuel under a carbon price.
“The Government remains committed to ensuring that the alternative fuels make an important contribution to transport fuel use in Australia both today and into the future,” he said.
17 May, 2011
The Fair Work Ombudsman has released new educational resources designed to assist Australian employers make the transition to Modern Awards.
takes on Awards
Developed jointly with some of Australia’s leading employer organisations, the resources include interpretive guides and tables, industry-specific help lines, fact sheets, handbooks and a range of other materials.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said the extensive input from peak employer organisations had ensured the resources were practical, user-friendly and met the needs of employers, particularly those running small businesses.
“These resources are excellent tools for assisting employers to understand and comply with the Modern Award that covers their business,” Mr Wilson said.
“They are freely available to both members and non-members of employer organisations and are an important addition to the wide range of educative material available on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.”
He said the SIAP program involved $2.5 million in grants being offered to 15 employer organisations to produce educational resources relating to 25 Modern Awards.
Mr Wilson said resources now available covered Modern Awards in the aged care, fast food, retail, pharmacy, horticulture, pastoral, joinery and building trades, road transport, security, construction, hair and beauty, electrical, graphic arts, manufacturing, health, hospitality, clubs, cleaning and clerical industries.
He said information could be accessed directly from links in the SIAP section of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website at this PS News link and were published on the websites of the relevant employer organisations.
Employers or employees seeking further information or assistance could visit this PS News link or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.
A free Interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.
17 May, 2011
Crossed wires for
A study into mobile phones by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that most consumers have a “patchy” understanding of billing arrangements and the costs of their calls.
mobile phone users
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said there had been profound changes in the range of telecommunications services available, and the way consumers purchased and used them.
“These changes have significant implications for regulatory arrangements, particularly those protections that rely on consumers understanding the structure of telephone numbers,’’ Mr Chapman said.
He said the findings were canvassed and analysed in ACMA’s fourth consultation paper from its numbering work program Numbering: Implications of research into consumer issues.
Mr Chapman said the research provided important evidence of how Australians were using and thinking about their communication services, which would be invaluable as government and regulators considered how to manage the transition to a more converged world.
He said it found that mobile phones continued to leap ahead as the main communication service for 47 per cent of Australians, compared to 33 per cent primarily using a fixed landline.
“There has also been a sea change in the way communications services are purchased,” Mr Chapman said.
“Bundled plans have become very popular; and the research found that three in five mobile phone users and two in five home phone users report have a usage plan.”
He said those who had a usage plan for only one service reported a higher proportion of calls from that service compared to the service without a cap or deal.
“Both of these trends are major factors contributing to a decline in consumers’ understanding of the price and location information embedded in traditional fixed telephone numbers, meaning that embedding this information may no longer be an effective mechanism to fulfil consumer protection needs.” Mr Chapman said.
The consultation paper could be accessed at this PS News link and feedback /comment would be accepted until 1 July 2011.
17 May, 2011
The Department of Defence has revealed that new arrangements for operating the radar network protecting northern Australia over the next 10 years will save it $100 million.
on the radar
Announced by the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, the savings would be achieved by Defence working in partnership with BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin to deliver more efficient support services to the radar - the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN).
Mr Clare said this was a “terrific example” of Defence and industry working together to deliver savings to the taxpayer.
“Defence, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin Australia have done excellent work to deliver these savings,” Mr Clare said.
“This $100 million saving will be achieved without any impact on the operating capability or safety of the radar network, representing a saving of 16 per cent per year.”
He said the savings followed an end-to-end review of the JORN system to identify possible savings measures.
“The JORN system was chosen as one of the four initial pilot projects developed in early 2010 for the implementation of Strategic Reform Program – Smart Sustainment Initiatives,” Mr Clare said.
“These revised support contracts represent a significant saving for Defence and would not have been possible without the excellent work put in by both Defence and the industry partners – Lockheed Martin Australia and BAE Systems.”
He said JORN provided long range surveillance of Australia’s northern sea and air approaches up to 3,000km from the three radar sites located near Laverton, WA, Alice Springs, NT and Longreach, QLD.
Mr Clare said the revised contracts included an extension to the original contract support periods, as well as an option for further extensions should capability outcomes and cost savings continue to be achieved.
17 May, 2011
Airservices Australia has completed its third intake of technical trainees to its Diploma of Electronics and Communications Engineering course hosted by TAFE NSW in Wagga Wagga.
course takes off
General Manager of People and Change at Airservices, Peter Ward said the 15 trainees would have the opportunity to work with cutting-edge equipment and systems as the nation’s air navigation service provider rolls out a five-year capital expenditure program.
Mr Ward said the course was supported by a trade-specific curriculum and training facility.
“Last month the trainees completed the final stage of their induction with tours of Airservices facilities in Melbourne, as well as field trips to radar installations at Mt Macedon and Gellibrand Hill. They also had the opportunity to visit the Airways Museum at Essendon Airport,” Mr Ward said.
He said over the course of two years, the trainees would learn about communications, surveillance, navigation aids and data systems to help give them the skills to maintain Australia’s high-tech air traffic control equipment.
“This is an ideal opportunity for young people and those with an interest in combining theoretical and practical learning to gain an industry-recognised qualification while learning skills which will be needed to ensure the future of Australia’s robust air navigation system,” Mr Ward said.
He said the trainees were selected from more than 140 applicants nationally, came from all around Australia and the group was made up of school leavers and people looking for a career change, and includes four women.
He said while they would be based at Wagga Wagga throughout training, field placements at Airservices locations around the country would provide them with vital practical experience working on equipment such as instrument landing systems, radar and other air navigation aids.
He said the intake followed the graduation of the first group of 15 trainees in October 2010, who had since taken up permanent positions with Airservices around the country.
17 May, 2011
Detector dogs lap
The last class of dog teams trained in firearms and explosives detection under the Australian Federal Police’s current training program has graduated.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor said the graduation marked the fulfilment of a $17.8 million commitment to increase the number of AFP Firearms and Explosive Detection Dog teams operating in Australia’s major international airports by 50 per cent.
“Australians can already rely on the AFP’s aviation security arrangements and these new teams represent a further enhancement to public safety,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Canine teams provide a highly mobile and effective screening capability over a wide variety of search areas including terminals, baggage, aircraft, vehicles and freight.”
He said the additional teams would take on this work and also provide a highly visible deterrence factor.
He said the decision to increase AFP’s firearm and explosive detection dog capability by 50 per cent was announced last year as part of a package to strengthen Australia’s international and domestic aviation security regime.
Among the four handlers and six dogs graduating was Constable Dean Poletta who would be deployed to Adelaide Airport.
“I have always had dogs and am definitely an animal lover,” Constable Poletta said.
“As well as being a great opportunity to work with dogs, being a canine handler also means I am involved and contributing to Australia’s national security, which is a big thing for me.”
Mr O’Connor said AFP Firearms and Explosive Detection Dogs (FEDDs) had been provided by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s breeding program.
The dogs are trained to detect a range of military and commercial explosives and weapons.
The AFP provides a permanent policing presence at Australia’s 11 major airports, with FEDD teams located at airports in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Gold Coast, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
17 May, 2011
NBN reaches Armidale
The National Broadband Network (NBN) has officially been launched on mainland Australia.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard performed the honours in the regional NSW city of Armidale, saying that switching on the NBN on mainland Australia would offer unprecedented opportunities.
“It will help create jobs, provide greater training options, support regional growth and improve health and education services across rural and regional Australia,” Ms Gillard said.
She said the NBN would reduce the need to travel for health services; allow local businesses to reach new markets and create new job opportunities; and offer better access to education and training resources for young people.
Climate talk for Canberra
The Chief Climate Commissioner, Professor Tim Flannery, is to host a national climate change forum at Parliament House on 24 May.
Professor Flannery said the event was unique for its cross-partisan nature and would bring internationally renowned climate scientists together with policy and business leaders.
“All Members of Parliament having been invited and Coalition, Labor and Green members have already accepted, as well as Tony Windsor,” Professor Flannery said.
The independent Commission was established earlier this year to provide an open and trusted source of information on climate change science and solutions.
PM to give Oration
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard is to deliver the 2011 Garran Oration at this year’s national conference of the Institute of Public Administration Australia in Hobart in August.
Ms Gillard is expected to comment on the future of the Australian Public Service and public administration across Australia during the Oration which will be delivered on Friday 26 August.
Bookings for the conference are now being taken at this PS News link.
The Special Minister of State and the Public Service Gary Gray has stepped in to correct comments made by the Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, about increases in the establishment of the Australian Public Service.
Mr Hockey was reported as saying the APS had grown by 20,000 staff since 1997.
Mr Gray said that at 30 June 2010 the Service had only increased by 9,137.
Tank rebates dry up
The National Rainwater and Greywater Initiative household rebates are no longer available for rainwater tanks or greywater systems and the scheme will cease altogether in November.
The number of applications for the rebate has decreased significantly since its introduction in 2009.
Households can still apply for a rebate for rainwater tanks or greywater systems that were purchased on or before 10 May 2011.
All applications must still meet the eligibility criteria and must be received by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities by 10 November 2011. Applications received after 10 November 2011 will not be eligible.
The rebate guidelines and application form are available from this PS News link.
Warning on hair conditioner
Consumers are being warned against using the ‘Keratin Complex Intense Rx’ hair conditioner product, which has been found to have high levels of free formaldehyde.
A product safety warning notice has been issued highlighting the health dangers of high levels of formaldehyde in the Intense Rx hair conditioner product.
The Keratin Complex Intense Rx product was recently recalled by the supplier because it contained timonacic acid, an ingredient that was not declared on the packaging and is not approved for use in cosmetics in Australia.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also tested the product and found that it contained levels of ‘free formaldehyde’ that are in excess of the allowable limits.
The purchase of an additional 101 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles to support Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations in Afghanistan has been approved.
The Bushmaster has proven to be a most effective combat vehicle, providing Australian troops with mobility and protection, including against Improvised Explosive Devices.
Thirty-one Bushmasters have been damaged beyond repair in recent years and their replacement with a further 70 vehicles will support current and future operations.
Defence will also evaluate a range of enhancements to the Bushmaster vehicle to increase the level of protection it provides to ADF personnel.
Report on nanotubes study
Safe Work Australia has released of a research report Durability of carbon nanotubes and their potential to cause inflammation.
This study examined the durability of carbon nanotubes and the tendency to cause lung inflammation, two indicators of potential asbestos-like behaviour, if inhaled.
Key findings in the report include: some types of carbon nanotubes can be durable, but others may also break down in simulated lung fluid; and, carbon nanotubes of certain length and aspect ratio can induce asbestos-like responses in mice.
The research report and further information on the nanotechnology work health and safety program can be found at: this PS News link.
Chief Minister retires
The Chief Minister of the ACT, former Public Servant, Jon Stanhope has retired.
Mr Stanhope was the longest-serving leader of the ACT Labor Party, taking the lead in 1998 ACT and steering his party to Government in the 2001 election.
In 2004 he secured the only majority Government in the Territory’s history and in 2008 won an historic third term for his party.
Under Mr Stanhope, reforms to the Territory’s education system were introduced and a total rebuild of Canberra’s hospitals was commenced.
Privacy comments sought
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is seeking public comment on two consultation papers about Credit Provider Determinations.
The papers can be accessed at the OAIC website at this PS News link and relate to the classes of credit providers and the credit provider status of Indigenous Business Australia.
Public comment on the papers will be accepted until 3 June 2011.
Medicines access improved
Consumers will have more ready access to generic medicines following the passage of new legislation.
The Therapeutical Goods Legislation Amendment (Copyright) Bill 2011 will ensure originating pharmaceutical companies can no longer use copyright of product information to delay or prevent generic medicines entering the market.
The amendments are a response to an emerging practice of pharmaceutical companies arguing that the product information approved by the Therapeutical Goods Administration (TGA) of a generic version of a medicine breaches copyright by being essentially the same as the original.
13 May, 2011
Reforms not over
After three decades of reform, the public services in Australia still need more according to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran.
says DPMC chief
Speaking to the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney recently, Mr Moran said a new wave of reform was needed to take public service delivery to its next level.
“Some have argued that both Governments and the Public have grown weary of change,” Mr Moran said.
“I don’t agree.”
He said people who argued that reform had run out of puff did not appreciate the broader scope of the new reform agenda.
“I believe the overriding goal of the Australian Public Service today is to extend and broaden that new reform agenda,” he said.
“We need to continue the agenda-broadening.”
Mr Moran said a key factor behind the success of reforms over recent decades had been bold advice to Government from a strong Public Service.
“The success of these systems shows that Australian public services have what it takes to give citizens what they want,” he said.
Mr Moran said the new wave of reform that was needed would have an economic dimension but also include adapting to the Public Service key principles of management.
He said it would need to address the level of economic resources devoted to the public sector; ensure greater efficiency in the use of resources; ensure that regulation was effective; require adjustments to the structure of the economy; and work on the interaction between the tax system and the welfare system.
“To support the next wave of reform, the Australian Public Service has to address three challenges,” Mr Moran said.
“(These were) taking a broader view of its role in giving professional, frank and honest advice; improving service delivery; and engaging better with citizens.”
He said that although the role of the PS was well defined, in practice definitions of jobs, boundaries, and rules were not so simple.
“There is considerable uncertainty around the proper role of the Public Service, about where the boundaries lie,” he said.
“At times we public servants become collateral damage in the battle of politics...I want to see the public service become better and more assertive in giving strategic advice.”
Mr Moran said a blueprint for reform had been developed which spelt out a contemporary view of the authority, role and responsibilities of the APS.
“The Ahead of the Game Blueprint reform program supports an Australian Public Service that provides strategic policy advice, delivers public services better and is more engaged with citizens,” he said.
Mr Moran’s speech can be read at this PS News link.
13 May, 2011
Union does job on
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has taken aim at the Federal Budget warning that the scene is set for cuts to the Public Service workforce and essential services will suffer as a result.
Budget job plans
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said by increasing the ‘efficiency dividend’ to 1.5 per cent, the Government will be cutting $1.1 billion from the APS in 2011/12 and 2012/13.
Ms Flood said the Budget also contained billions of dollars of additional cutback with 42 Agencies to reduce their staffing levels.
“Cutting 1,256 jobs in Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support could endanger the Government’s welfare to work agenda,” Ms Flood said.
“We welcome additional resources for the Department of Immigration and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, both struggling at present.”
She said the efficiency dividend was a blunt instrument which could only be achieved through cuts to jobs and services.
“The truth is that the full impact of this Budget will only be felt when agencies begin to implement the efficiency dividend by making cuts to staff and services,” Ms Flood said.
“The Government’s own figures show 44 per cent of agencies have cut staff this year to meet the existing 1.25 per cent efficiency dividend.”
She said the cutbacks might help the Government meet the short-term goal of a Budget surplus in 2012/13 but would go against Australia’s long-term interests.
“The Government expects the Public Service to deliver its reforms in health, migration and welfare, while cutting Public Service budgets,” she said.
13 May, 2011
Geologists rock says
A review of Geoscience Australia (GA) by the Department of Finance and Deregulation has concluded the Agency provides significant value to the national economy.
Finance’s Strategic Review of Geoscience Australia was commissioned by the Government in the context of last year’s Budget and examined the Agency’s work in the ongoing exploration of Australia’s natural resources.
Geoscience Australia is the nation’s geological surveyor providing information and products that inform Government policy on managing the natural environment.
The Finance review recommended improvements to strategic planning, priority setting, performance reporting and in the management of competing interests for GA’s resources and capabilities.
It also recommended an examination of the current process of allocating offshore acreage exploration permits, a process it said GA currently supported by providing fundamental geological and geoscience information, similar to a ‘prospectus’, to potential investors in exploration permits.
The review said radical change or re-alignment of GA activities was not necessary but a number of measures could be taken to assist the Government achieve higher valued outcomes from its services and capabilities.
It said one measure would be to address funding for acquisition of new pre-competitive information in a manner that would reconcile with the priorities of Government and accord with the economic value of such an activity.
The full report of the review is available at this PS News link.
13 May, 2011
Wave of support for
A new service that improves information about tsunami threats in the Indian Ocean has been agreed by the countries affected, including Australia.
The decision came after a week-long gathering of international representatives for the Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG) for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, held at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s head office in Melbourne.
Incoming Chair of the ICG, Rick Bailey said the new service, to commence in October, would provide much more detailed tsunami threat information for Indian Ocean countries than the current Interim Advisory Service.
“The Regional Tsunami Service Providers will help Indian Ocean countries better prepare their national tsunami warnings, providing more accurate information to save lives and reduce the frequency of false alarms,” Mr Bailey said.
He said ongoing education on natural warning signs was essential for communities in coastal regions near earthquake zones, where a tsunami could arrive in minutes.
“Tsunami education programs are being carried out on the ground with the support of international development programs and donor agencies such as AusAID, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and various NGOs,” Mr Bailey said.
Joint-Director of the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC), Chris Ryan, said Australia, India and Indonesia would play a leading role in the new service.
“Over the past two years the JATWC has built its capability of state-of-the-art, comprehensive tsunami warning system for Australia, and will now be able to provide similar information to other countries bordering the Indian Ocean to inform their warning systems,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Bailey said ICG was established in 2005 under UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004, where more than 230,000 people lost their lives.
13 May, 2011
The proposed development of a national mobile broadband capability for police and emergency services has been discussed at a meeting between the Government, State and Territory public safety agencies and representatives of the telecommunications industry.
plug into broadband
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy attended the discussions to determine industry requirements for a reliable and resilient mobile broadband capability.
Senator Conroy said a number of options were being considered to provide the capability with a range of constructive views put forward by the agencies.
“Discussions centred around the possible ‘earmarking’ of spectrum from the 800 MHz band for potential use by public safety agencies to build their mobile broadband capability,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Australian Communications and Media Authority is currently working on replanning space in this band and will work with public safety agencies to identify appropriate spectrum requirements to meet their operational needs.”
Attorney General McClelland said a Steering Committee, co-chaired by his Department and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy with senior representatives from public safety agencies, would undertake further work with a view to reporting to the next meeting of the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Services.
“The Government will continue to work with public safety agencies and State and Territory Governments to find the best possible solution to support the critical work of our police and emergency services,” Mr McClelland said.
13 May, 2011
Historic oak park
An oak plantation in Canberra dating back to the opening of the Federal Parliament in 1927 has been reclaimed, upgraded and officially opened by the Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean.
grows on trees
Mr Crean said the opening celebrated the 84th anniversary of the plantation’s inaugural tree planting on 10 May 1927 by the Duke of York, Prince Albert who later became King George VI.
“This occasion is another example of the growing maturity of Canberra,” Mr Crean said.
“It is often viewed as a young national capital, but of course we are on the cusp of celebrating its centenary.”
Mr Crean said in 1931 the Commonwealth made funding available to plant an additional 78 English Oaks as a way of providing relief work for the unemployed during the Great Depression.
He said re-opening the park highlighted the significant development of Canberra since 1927.
“Today reminds us of the rich, and evolving history of this vibrant community,” he said.
“Since 1927, when the first tree was planted onsite, we have seen Lake Burley Griffin, the suburbs of Parkes and Barton, and Australia’s permanent Parliament House developed around the park.”
He said the York Park Oak Plantation was added to the Commonwealth Heritage list in 2004 and the National Capital Authority had upgraded the plantation to include new public access paths, stone walls, and seating.
“This heritage listed site has been transformed into an urban parkland, to be enjoyed by generations to come,” Mr Crean said.
He said most of the materials used on the site were natural and the stones for the walls were sourced from Wee Jasper, in New South Wales.
13 May, 2011
A Canadian researcher who completed his PhD at the Australian Antarctic Division has been awarded a $300,000 fellowship to map the genome of the Antarctic Krill.
in for the krill
Geneticist, Dr Bruce Deagle, is the first recipient of the inaugural R J L Hawke Post Doctoral Fellowship in Antarctic Environmental Science.
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said Dr Deagle would use modern genetic technologies to sequence the crustacean’s genome, as well as examine gene expression and how it related to temperature and ocean acidification.
Mr Burke said the project represented the cutting edge of science on a keystone species in the Southern Ocean.
“This prestigious three-year Fellowship aims to develop a new generation of scientists and build capability in Antarctic environmental science,” Mr Burke said
“Just as former Prime Minister Bob Hawke pushed the boundaries when campaigning to ban mineral exploration in Antarctica in the late 1980s, promoting the frozen and fragile continent as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science, Dr Deagle’s project will also be exploring new scientific horizons.”
Dr Deagle was announced as the recipient of the Fellowship at a ceremony attended by Mr Burke and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Dr Deagle said krill was one of the most abundant species on the planet, the major consumer of photosynthetic organisms in the Southern Ocean, and the key food source for most predators including whales, penguins, fish and seals.
“Developing a deeper understanding of this keystone species through modern genetic technologies will allow us to identify likely physiological responses of krill to future environmental changes in the Southern Ocean,” Dr Deagle said.
Mr Burke said the Fellowship, announced in 2009, was awarded on the basis of scientific excellence for early career doctoral graduates to pursue policy-relevant science aligned to the Australian Antarctic Science Plan.
13 May, 2011
Awards scheme to
A new awards scheme has been announced to recognise people who make outstanding contributions to their communities through volunteering.
work for volunteers
Announcing the scheme, the Minister for Social Inclusion, Tanya Plibersek said the National Volunteer Awards would celebrate the 10th anniversary of the United Nations International Year of Volunteers (IYV+10).
Ms Plibersek said more than five million Australians volunteered each year, contributing 730 million hours of unpaid work, worth $14.6 billion to the national economy.
“Volunteering connects us, strengthens our sense of belonging and creates positive relationships that build stronger local communities,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Local communities rely heavily on the contribution of volunteers – unsung heroes who give up their free time to deliver services, in areas of sport, emergency services and community welfare.”
She said participating local MPs would take nominations from constituents, organise local judging panels and present the awards.
She said the award categories included the MP’s Volunteer of the Year; Junior Volunteer (17 and under); Young Volunteer (18-25); Education; Environment; Long-term Commitment to Community Service; Business Volunteer; Innovation in Volunteering (for an organisation or individual); New Organisation; and Emergency Management Volunteer.
Ms Plibersek said nominations would open on 30 June and award ceremonies held on or around International Volunteer Day on 5 December.
She said 10 award winners in each electorate would receive an award pack including a letter of recognition from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Inclusion; a certificate of appreciation for volunteering efforts; and an IYV+10 commemorative stamp and coin set.
10 May, 2011
Budget adds up
A Budget that saves $22 billion but spends $19 billion on new programs has been kind to the Public Service workforce, planning to add 1,104 positions to the wider Commonwealth public sector.
for PS jobs
In his 2011-12 Budget, which Treasurer Wayne Swan described as focussed on “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”, the big PS jobs winners are Defence (1,497 new civilian positions), Prime Minister and Cabinet (317 new positions), Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) 290, and Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCHSIA) 144.
On the job-loss side are Attorney-General’s (a reduction of 147 positions), Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) down 105, Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) down 125 and Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) 25.
The merger of Centrelink, Medicare Australia and Human Services will cost Centrelink 1,016 jobs, Medicare 102 and DHS 138.
According to the Treasurer, the Australian Public Service has responded to a new “rigour in spending” and kept funding proposals below the Government’s imposed ceiling of 2 per cent.
“Spending restraint means real growth in spending averages 1 per cent a year over the Budget estimates, the lowest average rate in a five-year period since the 1980s,” Mr Swan said.
Apart from the creation of a small number of new offices, the increased efficiency dividend and a focus on the regions, issues likely to affect many PS staff are changes to the way Child Support is to be calculated and an increase in Fringe Benefits Tax on leased vehicles following the abolition of minimum travel distances.
According to the Budget papers, from 1 July this year Child Support payers who haven’t lodged tax returns for two years will have their estimated income assessed on their last known taxable income instead of a percentage of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) which is currently used.
“This change will increase the average rate of child support payments, reducing the child support recipient’s Family Tax Benefit entitlement which will result in savings of $78.7 million over four years,” the papers say
“Introducing a single rate of Fringe Benefit Tax for leased vehicles regardless of how far they’re driven will save the Government $954 million over four years.”
For more information on the 2011-12 Federal Budget, visit www.budget.gov.au
10 May, 2011
Agencies cash in on
By Dion Pretorius
The 2011/12 Federal Budget presented by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, outlined a number of new programs for the Australian Public Service.
Describing the Budget as designed to ‘spread opportunity across the country’, Mr Swan said it placed an emphasis on skills and training, mental health and regional Australia.
Among the priorities Mr Swan said, was a new independent training and skills Agency to be established under the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
The Treasurer said the National Workforce and Productivity Agency would manage funds directed to industry-based training initiatives and create workforce development plans, undertake research, consult industry and disseminate information on workforce planning issues.
He said funding would also be provided to DEEWR for a National Vocational Education and Training Regulator to be established this year and employ 155 staff.
Mr Swan also announced $32 million over five years for a new National Mental Health Commission under the Department of Health and Ageing (DHA), to produce an annual Mental Health Report Card and encourage greater transparency and accountability for mental health services.
Regional Australia is also to benefit from several new programs, with a dedicated unit inside DHA set up to provide advice to the public and other Agencies on regional health and aged care matters.
A new website, MyRegion, is to be established by the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government with the job of providing information on regional transport infrastructure, health and aged care, education, social services, communications and the environment and funding of $35.3 million over four years will be provided to the Department of Human Services to set up an integrated Health Services website combining online elements from Centrelink, Medicare Australia and the Child Support Agency.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is to set up a speedy visa processing centre in Brisbane; Queensland is also to get a new national heavy vehicle regulator and a national rail safety regulator is to established in South Australia.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is to receive extra funding to expand its maritime regulatory functions which will be extended to cover all commercial vessels.
DIAC will also take on three new initiatives including a new independent Australian Multicultural Council, a Multicultural Youth Sports Partnership Program and a National Anti-Racism Partnership.
A new Australia-China Research fund is to be managed by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research to assist collaboration between Chinese and Australian scientists and work is to start on a National Forensics Centre for the Australian Federal Police.
An Australian Biofuels Research Institute will be trialled at James Cook University and the Australian Human Rights Commission is to be expanded with a stand-alone Age Discrimination Commissioner.
The Government has also set aside $24.9 million to make framing future Budgets easier by creating a Parliamentary Budget Office to provide independent budget advice and analysis.
10 May, 2011
Not all winners as
By Lauren Harriss
The 2011-12 Federal Budget is to realise $22 billion in savings over five years with $2.5 billion in cutbacks earmarked for its first year.
Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan said his fourth Budget was full of tough calls that would be costly politically but were essential in returning the Budget to surplus in 2012-2013.
Mr Swan said the Department of Defence in particular would be subject to a significant realignment of its budget to return $2.7 billion to Government over the next four years.
He said the Defence savings would be achieved through reprogramming its Major Capital Investment Program (saving $1.3 billion); reduced operational expenditure ($1.3 billion); and lower than planned costs associated with acquiring the fifth C-17 aircraft ($87 million).
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith said reforms to shared services and other efficiency measures would see Defence reduce its civilian workforce growth by 1,000 over the next three years.
“Reducing the APS workforce growth will be achieved by natural attrition, not hiring new staff and, if required, some limited voluntary redundancies,” Mr Smith said.
“There will be no reductions to the Australian Defence Force military workforce as a result of these changes.”
Budget papers reveal a range of programs to suffer cuts and bear the brunt of broad Departmental efficiencies including the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency’s National Solar Schools program which will be redesigned to save $156 million; cuts to the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research’s Collaborative Research Networks and Cooperative Research Centres programs which will deliver $54 million in savings; and reductions in funding to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s (PM&C) Illicit Drugs in Sport and Sports Anti-Doping programs to save $5.6 million.
PM &C’s Get Reading! program promoting books and reading is set to lose $1.6 million in funding over four years as it is refocussed on digital technology and e-publishing.
The across-the-board increase in the efficiency dividend is also expected to produce $465 million in the coming financial year.
The Treasurer said strict spending limits revealed a firm fiscal discipline which kept spending increases to only 1 per cent in comparison to economic growth of 4 per cent. He said this was the fastest fiscal consolidation in 40 years.
Mr Swan said the savings had primarily been achieved through spending cuts and revenue changes but new measures had also been included, particularly the 2 per cent expenditure cap, which would have a profound and enduring affect for years to come.
10 May, 2011
DHS merger to pay
Over 500 Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support Agency offices are to be co-located in the next round of reforms following the Human Services merger.
off for clients
According to the Minister for Human Services, Tania Plibersek, the Agency can now begin to improve access for geographically and socially isolated Australians.
Announcing the co-locations, Ms Plibersek said the number of shopfronts providing face-to-face access for the public would more than double from 240 currently to 500 by the end of 2014.
“Customers who visit the new offices will be given access to a broad range of services, from applying for Medicare rebates to making enquiries about family tax benefits, all in one convenient location,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Service delivery reform is about simplifying interaction with Government by giving people more control, better support and assistance when they need it.”
She said increased funding would be provided for outreach workers to assist homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless; more social workers to work with families experiencing difficulties; and new mobile offices to serve areas affected by natural disasters.
Ms Plibersek said extra funding for the mobile offices would also directly benefit up to 500,000 Australians living more than 50 kilometres from Government services.
“When mobile offices aren’t needed in natural disaster areas, they travel to areas that don’t otherwise have a face-to-face Medicare or Centrelink office,” she said.
The Minister said the reforms also included new self-service and online options to give clients 24-hour access to many Centrelink, Medicare Australia and Child Support Services as well as offer people an easier first point of contact with the Agencies.
“The new website will allow more people to access Government services and information from home at a time that is convenient for them,” she said.
Ms Plibersek said new initiatives would include streamlining and automating current administrative procedures in the new, merged, Agency, allowing clients to “tell us once” about changes to income and personal information. There would also be improvements made to Medicare’s new online claiming service.
“As a result of Budget funding, the number of procedures which customers will be able to claim for online will increase and in the future will include specialist consultations and diagnostic imaging procedures,” she said.
The Minister also promised more training for Human Services staff to assist people with complex needs.
10 May, 2011
Finalists named in
The finalists have been announced in the 2011 Australian Government ICT Awards.
In a field of 19 that includes Agencies from most States and Territories, the Australian Public Service is represented by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), National Library of Australia and the police records registry CrimTrac.
Special Minister of State Gary Gray said the Awards program recognised the most outstanding initiatives in eGovernment, across a number of ICT disciplines.
He said 62 nominations had been received this year in the categories of Applications Development; Geospatial; Government 2.0; Project Management; and Service Delivery.
DEEWR Canberra, was a finalist in the Geospatial Category for its project Spatial Empowerment of Users at DEEWR in which more than 100 Spatial functions were available to every DEEWR user, including interactive Geocoding and Boundary tagging of addresses and simple mouse click access to in-house and external data reports by location.
Mr Gray said in the Government 2.0 Category, the Australian Bureau of Statistics was a finalist for its ßetaWorks™ project alongside the Country Fire Authority of Victoria and the Queensland Police Service.
The ABS project was an open invitation to the Australian community to assist the Bureau in identifying, prioritising and developing concepts for its website.
The Minister said CrimTrac reached the finals in the Project Management Category for its CrimTrac IT Service Continuity Project (ITSC).
He said the ITSC project delivered an ICT Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery capability through the provision of a highly available, scalable and fault-tolerant technology environment that supported the delivery of information services now and into the future.
Mr Gray said the Australian Electoral Commission was a finalist in the Service Delivery Category for its Virtual Tally Room project, vying with National Library of Australia which was a finalist for its Trove project.
Trove is the Library’s premier discovery service, linking Australians to resources available online, and in Australian libraries, cultural institutions and research collections.
Mr Gray said finalists in the ICT Professional of the Year Award had also been announced with the Headquarters Joint Operations Command J6 staff from Department of Defence and Peter Priddle from Defence Material Organisation competing for the honour.
Award winners will be announced at a special dinner, held in association with CeBIT Australia 2011, on 1 June 2011 at the Sydney Convention Centre.
10 May, 2011
Survey surveying for
The 2010–11 State of the Service online employee survey is now under way with more than 18,000 randomly selected employees of the Australian Public Service invited to answering questions about their work, health, ambitions and more until 3 June.
State of the Service
Conducted by the Australian Public service Commission (APSC) the survey provides a strong foundation for the annual State of the Service Report published by the APSC towards the end of the year.
The Commission said this year’s State of the Service Report would continue to draw on the directions outlined in the APS Reform Blueprint targeting those areas that had been identified as important to building the human resource capability of the APS.
Some of the specific areas of investigation included in the employee survey include identifying leadership capability gaps in the APS; identifying key drivers of employee engagement in the APS; identifying where effort was needed to build more productive workplaces; and assessing indicators of health and wellbeing in APS workplaces.
This year’s survey will also examine generational differences in relation to retention and recruitment strategies and examine the extent of innovation in the APS including the use of Web 2.0 technology.
According to the APSC this year’s survey includes a set of questions for SES staff on recruiting and retaining specific occupational groups which would be important in laying the foundation for systematically identifying and addressing critical skill shortages across the APS.
The sample size for the State of the Service employee survey has been significantly increased this year to enable the Commission to provide agency specific reports to agencies with 200 (instead of 400 in the past) or more employees.
The APSC said the agency reports compared agency results against the APS average and against a range of international benchmarks.
10 May, 2011
Safety drives car
Purchasing guidelines for Government fleet motor vehicles are to be amended to strengthen safety requirements.
From 1 July this year, the guidelines will require all new passenger vehicles to be rated five stars by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, ANCAP.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Penny Wong said changes to the Government’s fleet would also mean the purchase of minimum four-star light commercial vehicles would need to be considered wherever practical and would be a requirement from 1 July 2012, subject to operational requirements.
Senator Wong said the Government was committed to leadership in vehicle safety, while at the same time setting a standard other fleet operators would be encouraged to follow.
“We have a role to play in leading the way on important issues like vehicle safety, and this initiative is another example of how the Government’s good procurement policy can promote change,” Senator Wong said.
“We hope that by taking this step we will make Australians more ‘safety aware’ when buying a new or used vehicle for their family or business.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King said the Government’s support of ANCAP and the new requirements in its fleet purchasing policy complemented its existing role in regulating vehicle safety for the community.
“We want to encourage other fleet operators and individuals to make safety a key consideration in their vehicle purchasing decision making,” Ms King said.
“Our aim in regulating vehicle safety and in supporting and promoting consumer awareness through ANCAP is to keep pushing the safety bar higher.”
She said the new arrangements would also mean safer vehicles were sold into the community at the end of their fleet service.
The Australian Government joined ANCAP as a member in May 2010 and is providing the program with $5 million between 2009-10 and 2013-14, to help increase ANCAP’s crash test program.
10 May, 2011
New building standards
New building accessibility standards, which will ensure that public buildings in Australia are accessible to people with disabilities have now come into force.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the Disability (Access to Buildings – Premises) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) was an important milestone in the National Disability Strategy.
“The new Premises Standards will apply to any application for a building approval for a new public building or upgrade of an existing public building,” Mr McClelland said.
“Providing better access to public buildings will remove a significant barrier for people with a disability accessing services, employment and taking part in the community.”
He said the access requirements in the Premises Standards operated throughout Australia and were complemented by building regulations in each State and Territory.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the changes were good for both the building industry and people with disability.
“The Australian Government will work with industry to improve access to buildings in Australia for people with disabilities,” Senator Carr said.
“The new building codes give everybody involved the certainty they need for future investments.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas also welcomed the Standards.
“Ensuring our communities are accessible and well designed for people with disability is an important part of the National Disability Strategy,” Senator McLucas said.
She said the National Disability Strategy set a 10-year reform plan that would help to ensure that people with disability had the same opportunities as other Australians.
Senator McLucas said the Premises Standards had been under development since 2001 and were developed in consultation with representatives of the disability sector and industry, as well as the Australian Building Codes Board and the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Copies of the Premises Standards and associated documents are available at this PS News link and further information on them can be obtained from this PS News link.
10 May, 2011
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has published its initial Agency Plan setting out how it proposes to implement and administer the new Information Publication Scheme (IPS) in respect of the information it holds.
The plan is open for public comment until the end of June.
Explaining that the Department’s role is to advise and support the Prime Minister, other portfolio Ministers and Cabinet as well as coordinate, develop and implement government policies, the eight-page plan addresses establishing and administering the IPS; describing the information required to be published by it; other information to be published; accessibility; and planned reviews.
The plan is also intended to support PM&C in delivering good practice implementation of its agency responsibilities in relation to the IPS.
According to the plan, PM&C’s objective in preparing the plan is to outline mechanisms and procedures which will be implemented to manage and make available information to be published by PM&C; identify information required to be published; and proactively identify and publish appropriate optional information.
The plan also aims to ensure and confirm on a regular basis that information published by PM&C is accurate, up-to-date and complete; ensure that it is easily discoverable, understandable, machine-readable, re-useable and transformable; and ensure conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Version 2).
The plan will also help develop procedures to evaluate PM&C’s implementation of the IPS, and assist it adopt best practice initiatives when implementing and administering its contribution to the IPS.
According to the plan, PM&C’s Deputy Secretary (Governance) is the senior officer responsible for implementation of FOI reforms.
It said PM&C recognised that content managers would need to ensure that published information was accurate, up-to-date and complete, and that ongoing efforts would be required to improve the accessibility of published information.
Comments on the initial agency plan are invited to firstname.lastname@example.org and the document can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 May, 2011
The Australian Information Commissioner has published a new Fact Sheet to assist consumers make informed choices about how their information is used in online advertising.
has bite at privacy
The Fact Sheet reinforces the theme of last week’s Privacy Awareness Week which was that people should take control of their privacy.
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said while some people didn’t mind receiving advertisements that were targeted to their interests, it was still important they understood how their information was being collected and used.
“Many people may have noticed that online advertising reflects their personal interests and online habits, but they don’t know how advertising and data collection companies build a picture of browsing habits and interests to deliver advertising,” Mr Pilgrim said.
He said, for example, not everyone knew that many ads on websites were placed not by the website they visited, but provided by advertising networks acting as brokers which connected websites that wanted to sell advertising space with advertisers who wanted to reach potential customers.
Mr Pilgrim said the Fact Sheet Online Behavioural Advertising: Know Your Options described how the practice worked and set out a number of options for controlling how information was collected and shared online.
“Different browsers have settings that can be used to control the collection and sharing of information online,” Mr Pilgrim said.
“Some companies give users the option of viewing their profile, editing it or opting out of receiving targeted ads, and there are tools available that help people see which trackers are active on pages and allow them to be blocked.”
Mr Pilgrim said that the information collected by online advertisers might often not be enough to identify an individual, and so would not be covered by the Privacy Act.
He said, however, it was important to remember that new technologies made it increasingly easy to develop a detailed picture of who a person was by combining the information they revealed when transacting online.
Online Behavioural Advertising: Know Your Options is available at this PS News link.
10 May, 2011
A national education campaign has been launched to raise awareness of new Personal Property Securities (PPS) laws that come into force in October.
goes cross country
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister Assisting on Deregulation, Senator Nick Sherry, announced the start of a national road show to raise awareness of the new laws.
Mr McClelland said PPS reform would create a national legal framework for lending using personal property as security.
He said from October, there would also be a national online PPS Register, replacing multiple Commonwealth, State and Territory registers of security interests in personal property.
“These changes will deliver significant benefits for businesses right across Australia,” Mr McClelland said.
“Not only will the changes make it easier for borrowers to establish security when they apply for a loan, it will become simpler for lenders to cross check that security.”
He said the education campaign would travel to more than 50 centres across Australia over the next two months, including major regional, rural and outer metropolitan areas.
“It will raise awareness of the benefits of the reforms and what businesses need to do to take advantage of the new laws once the reforms commence in October,” Mr McLelland said.
“A single Commonwealth PPS Act, replacing over 70 pieces of existing legislation, will come into effect.”
Senator Sherry said PPS reform was one of COAG’s deregulation priorities as part of its National Partnership to Deliver a Seamless National Economy.
“The new system will cut red tape and reduce costs for business especially small business, improve regulatory consistency and make it easier to use business assets as collateral to raise finance to enable businesses to develop and grow,” Senator Sherry said.
He said the PPS Road Show was aimed at the small and medium business community and their advisors but anyone interested in the reforms was welcome to attend.
Details on the PPS Road Show, including dates, locations and how to register are available at this PS News link.
10 May, 2011
Fisheries caught in
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Research Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has issued a report on climate change and its potential effects on Commonwealth fisheries.
Deputy Executive Director of ABARES, Paul Morris, said the report identified the components of Commonwealth fisheries most vulnerable to climate change, research gaps and possible ways to improve resilience and capitalise on opportunities.
“Climate change will bring many challenges and opportunities for fishers who already operate in an uncertain environment,” Mr Morris said.
“Variability in fish prices, the strength of the Australian dollar, fish abundance and availability and weather all contribute to this uncertainty.”
He said depending on the fishery, climate change might cause positive or negative changes to access and fishing costs, catch quality, and catch levels, and it was clear from the report that the expected impacts would differ between fisheries.
“Determining the likely impacts of climate change on the aquatic environment is complicated,” Mr Morris said.
“Not only are there uncertainties in the climate change model projections, but there are also large gaps in our understanding of marine ecosystems.”
He said predicted climate change impacts on the Australian marine environment included increases to sea surface temperature (especially in the waters off south-eastern Australia; rises in sea level; altered ocean currents; wind and rain patterns; increases in ocean acidification; and increases in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones and storm events.
“While climate change is an important issue for Commonwealth fisheries, in the short term other issues such as markets and input costs are likely to have a greater effect and be higher priority for individual operators,” Mr Morris said.
He said in the longer term, there was a need to ensure that management and policy measures considered future changes in fish abundance and distribution, and fisher behaviour that might follow from climate change related factors.
He said policies and management measures would need the flexibility to enable fishers to adapt to changes while still ensuring that stocks are harvested in a sustainable manner.
10 May, 2011
Change review puts
A report by the Inspector General of Taxation into the Australian Taxation Office’s Change Program has been released by the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten.
case against Change
Mr Shorten said the Inspector-General of Taxation’s Review into the Australian Taxation Office’s Change Program focused on the impact the Change Program had on the processing of income tax returns and refund payments for taxpayers and tax practitioners.
“The Inspector General identified a number of risks with the Change Program project in this report and, while he has generally found the ATO developed appropriate mitigation strategies, he has also identified some areas for improvement,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the Change Program was a comprehensive upgrade of the ATO’s information and communications and technology systems to allow it to provide a more efficient service to the Australian community through the implementation of online client portals, an integrated core processing system for tax returns, a single system for case management and a single system for client relationship management.
Following implementation however, the Change Program experienced difficulties which led to delays in processing tax refunds, confusion over the dates of lodgement for tax returns and for the due dates of payment liabilities for some taxpayers.
The problems led to complaints from the public over an extended period of time and drew criticism that the ATO had not communicated effectively and had taken too long to resolve the issues.
Mr Shorten said the Inspector General made nine recommendations in his report.
He said the ATO had agreed with five of the recommendations, agreed in part with two of them and did not agree at all with one.
He said he ATO agreed with recommendations to communicate the risks and impact of the risks of software and large ICT implementations; that it design and implement improved ICT reporting of output performance and processing details; that it ensure it specifically notifies tax practitioners of the different avenues for compensation claims, including how to make claims; and that it publish an independent report on the Change Program in full.
The ATO also agreed in part to consider whether it should have guidelines for compensation in place early for future projects and that it conduct open and frank post-implementation consultation with its staff.
The Change Program was an eight-year, $756.7 million overhaul of 180 ATO legacy ICT systems.
The Inspector General’s report, which also contains the full ATO response, is available this PS News link.
10 May, 2011
Education kit is
Every Australian primary school is to receive a new education kit to teach children how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
top of the class
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the Li’l Larrikins Teachers Resource Kit was developed around a national television campaign of safety stories featuring animated cartoon characters.
“It’s important that children are aware of the dangers of natural disasters,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Li’l Larikkins series helps students learn in a fun way that won’t unnecessarily frighten or upset them.”
He said more than 7,800 independent and public primary schools across Australia had already received the resource kit, which included a DVD-ROM containing lesson strategies and student activity sheets for teachers along with background information on the types of disasters likely to happen in different parts of Australia.
Mr McClelland said the safety messages and resource kit were both part of the Li’l Larikkins Natural Hazards Children’s Program which was funded by the Australian Government and developed in partnership with State Emergency Service agencies, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) and the Ettamogah Group.
“This is a great program which will help children become more aware of their environment and encourages them to share their knowledge with their parents and families,” he said.
“The storms, floods, bushfires and cyclones that have been experienced in many parts of the country over the past summer remind us that it is extremely important families understand and are prepared for the potential danger posed by natural hazards.”
Further information on Li’l Larrikins Natural Hazards Children’s Program and other natural disaster education and awareness initiatives for children can be found at this PS News link.
10 May, 2011
An audit of Identity card schemes used for maritime and aviation security has found a number of concerns with the management of the schemes and the risks involved.
ID card failings
Conducted by Auditor-General Ian McPhee, the report entitled Management of the Aviation and Maritime Security Identification Card Schemes found more than 250,000 cards had been issued by more than 200 authorised bodies and that the risks involved could be reduced.
“The majority of cards (80 per cent) are issued by a small number (20 per cent) of issuing bodies,” the Auditor-General said.
“Some of the risks associated with the current delivery model could be better managed by the Office of Transport Security (OTS).”
He said these risks primarily related to issuing bodies and visitor management and were inherent in the devolved nature of the schemes.
Mr McPhee said 35 per cent of all cards were issued by commercially-based ‘third party’ issuing bodies that had a limited ongoing relationship with the applicant.
He said while the security schemes prescribed mandatory standards for issuing bodies, these standards were not being consistently met by some of them.
This included how an applicant’s operational need for the card was established and maintaining adequate records to demonstrate that an applicant’s identity had been confirmed.
Mr McPhee said an area of concern was visitors entering secure areas at airports.
He said visitors could obtain a visitor identification card (VIC) and although being supervised, did not need to undergo the background check required for an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC).
Mr McPhee said it was difficult to obtain a reliable count of the total number of current ASIC and Marine Security Identification Cards (MSIC), or the currency of all cards on the AusCheck database, despite the database being established to provide a comprehensive record of all ASIC and MSIC applicants and cardholders.
He made three recommendations aimed at strengthening the ASIC and MSIC schemes; providing increased assurance and improving the outcomes of compliance activities; and improving the effectiveness of the ASIC scheme.
The Department of Infrastructure and Transport agreed to all the recommendations.
The audit team was Charles Higgins, Edwin Apoderado and Tom Clarke and the full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link.
10 May, 2011
Nominations are now being accepted for the 2011 National Disability Awards.
The awards recognise people with disability who have achieved something remarkable or made a significant contribution to their community, and people or groups within the community who have contributed to the disability sector or improved access and inclusion.
The 2011 Award categories are the Minister’s Lifelong Achievement Award, which recognises people who have advanced the rights of people with disability over a prolonged period of time; the Young Disability Challenge Award for young people aged 12-25 years who have advanced the rights of people with disability; and the Business Award, which recognises organisations that have improved access to employment, or created increased employment opportunities for people with disability.
Other categories include a Local Government Award for work in a community that provides opportunities for full inclusion of people with disability; a Social Inclusion Award, which recognises schools, universities, employment and training providers and advocacy services who have enabled equal participation of people with disability in a range of areas in life; and an Inclusive and Accessible Communities Award for work by developers, builders and others in the building sector to create accessible buildings or facilities for people with disability.
There is also a Health and Wellbeing Award, which recognises health and wellbeing services that are creating equal access for people with disability.
Nominations for the Awards close at 5pm on 30 June 2011.
The National Disability Award categories are aligned with the National Disability Strategy priority areas, a 10-year strategy to improve the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.
Nomination forms and guidelines are available at this PS News link or on 1800 440 385.
10 May, 2011
Design competition on
An international design competition is to be held to produce cutting-edge designs for eight Brisbane Ferry Terminals destroyed during the recent floods.
the drawing board
Treasurer, Wayne Swan joined Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery, Senator Joe Ludwig to launch the competition for the terminals which will be rebuilt with Federal and State funds.
“This competition is an invitation to designers and architects from across the world to become part of the rebuilding,” Mr Swan said.
“The results of this design competition will show everyone that Brisbane is not just back on its feet, it’s standing tall again.”
Premier Bligh said this was an unprecedented partnership between the Federal and State Governments who have committed $145 million to replace the Brisbane Ferry Terminals and the Riverwalk.
“CityCat and Ferry Terminals are not infrastructure that would normally qualify for funding under the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, but the State and Federal Governments recognise how vital they are to our capital’s transport infrastructure,” Ms Bligh said.
“What’s more, it’s an opportunity to put a unique stamp on our city.”
She said this was a once-in-a-generation chance to build CityCat and Ferry Terminals that were truly unique and would be instantly recognisable as a distinctive part of the River City’s landscape.
Ms Bligh said expressions of interest would be sought for a single design that could be adapted for eight terminals at River Plaza, West End, North Quay, Queensland University of Technology, Sydney Street, Holman Street, Regatta, and University of Queensland St Lucia.
The winning design will be awarded a contract as consulting architect. Members of the public will also be able to have their say on the shortlisted entries.
Expressions of Interest opened on 5 May and more information is available from this PS News link.
6 May, 2011
Union strikes out for
The Community and Public Sector Union has called on the Government to show mercy in Tuesday’s Budget on some of the nation’s cultural institutions which it says are already “at breaking point” coping with job losses and program cuts.
National Secretary of the union, Nadine Flood said the efficiency dividend had hit cultural institutions hard and the announced increase for the next two years would deliver another blow.
“We are receiving reports of job losses and cuts to cultural programs,” Ms Flood said, “most recently at the National Gallery of Australia, and this is before the latest Government funding cuts kick in.
“The latest cuts at the National Gallery mean that exhibitions will be reduced from 12 to five, and there will be cuts to the travelling exhibitions.”
She said 20 years of budget cuts had left the NGA and other cultural institutions “slashed to the bone” and they were finding it harder to do their job.
She said representatives from cultural institutions were meeting in Canberra to explore ways of “convincing the Government that Australia’s cultural institutions matter” and that “funding cuts just don’t work.”
Ms Flood said institutions experiencing difficulty included the Australian War Memorial, National Archives of Australia, National Library of Australia, National Museum of Australia, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the National Gallery and the Australian National Maritime Museum
Union delegate at the National Archives, David Hearder said staff were concerned for their ability to identify, maintain and make accessible the nation’s documentary history in today’s digital world.
“Any new cut to our funding means we have to do less of what Parliament and the people of Australia require of us,” Mr Hearder said.
Ms Flood said most of the Institutions were in the Prime Minister’s portfolio.
“We are calling on the Prime Minister and other Ministers responsible for cultural institutions to put an end to funding and program cuts that are affecting our national icons,” she said.
6 May, 2011
Protected area to
The prohibited military area of Woomera, South Australia, is to be opened up for mining.
The Ministers for Defence, Stephen Smith and Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson announced the plan when releasing the final report into a review of the future management and use of the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA).
The review was undertaken by former Secretary of Defence, Allan Hawke.
“As a result of the Review, a new management framework will be introduced to increase use of the Woomera Prohibited Area in Australia’s national interest by better balancing national security and economic considerations,” Mr Smith said.
“The Woomera Prohibited Area has great economic potential, with estimates that more than $35 billion of developments, including iron ore, gold and uranium projects would be possible over the next decade,” said Mr Ferguson.
The Ministers said that under the new arrangements, Defence would remain the primary user of the WPA but it would be divided into green, amber and red zones, signifying differing levels of access to non-Defence users.
They said a new joint Commonwealth/South Australian Government coordination office would be set up to finalise the financial, legislative and regulatory arrangements for the new management framework.
A six month moratorium on applications for access to the WPA would be imposed to allow the new Office to develop the necessary protocols although some users close to settling arrangements or with a longstanding presence in the WPA, may be allowed in earlier.
Mr Smith and Mr Ferguson acknowledged the work of Dr Hawke and his review team saying the report struck a balance between maintaining national security and developing national economic interests.
The Hawke Report can be accessed at this PS News link.
6 May, 2011
A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed that 378 new public hospital beds were opened across Australia in 2009-10 with record numbers of patients treated in emergency departments and undergoing elective surgery.
The report was welcomed by the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, who said the improvements were a strong sign that Government policies were working.
“The evidence is now starting to roll in that patients and hospitals are benefiting from our $20 billion hospital funding injection in 2008, which is being delivered to hospitals over four years,” Ms Roxon said.
“This report shows now, more than ever before, more patients are being treated in our hospitals by record numbers of doctors and nurses in more hospital beds.”
She noted that demand for hospital services continued to grow with elective surgery operations in the public system increasing by 2.4 per cent and the number of presentations at emergency departments increasing by 3.1 per cent in the past year.
“For the first time ever there has been over 600,000 elective surgery operations in the public system,” she said.
“The continued pressure on our hospitals emphasises the importance of COAG national health reform.”
The Minister said that hospital information on the new MyHospitals website had been updated using data collected for Australian Hospital Statistics 2009-10 and Australian Hospitals 2009-10.
The reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare can be accessed at this PS News link.
6 May, 2011
Budget a loser for
The Government of the Australian Capital Territory plans to save $40 million dollars in the coming year by cracking down on inefficiencies, staff and costs in its 20,000 strong Public Service.
Announcing the plans as part of the Territory’s 2011-12 Budget handed down this week, ACT Treasurer Katy Gallagher said a number of new Budget initiatives would be paid for from the PS cutbacks.
“The initiatives in this Budget will be delivered by a streamlined Public Service,” Ms Gallagher said.
She said an efficiency dividend would be introduced from 1 July, raising $7.8 million and a further $33 million would be realised through cuts to Agency operating costs in the coming year.
She said the cuts would increase yearly, reaching $63 million in 2014-15.
Among the expenses to be targeted will be PS salaries, travel, car leasing arrangements, consultants and contractors.
Staff will also be expected to use less electricity and stationery.
Ms Gallagher said the Budget allows for 210 redundancies from the ACT PS but over time would hire 110 more.
She said it includes a new $432 million Government Office Block to bring all PS staff under one roof, paid for partly by $114 million in asset sales, and a new ACT Public Service Workers Compensation and Work Safety Scheme would be introduced at a cost of $4 million to contribute to a healthier and more productive Public Service and to cut costs.
Ms Gallagher said the new scheme would include a new case management model and strengthen the capability of case managers.
She said planning would start on a new office block in the satellite settlement of Gungahlin and the Government’s information and communications technologies would receive a boost to improve service delivery.
The PS shake up in the ACT follows a review by Dr Allan Hawke which recommended the ACT be served by one single Government Department with a number of Directorates.
The threatened positions are expected to go mainly from the Chief Minister’s and Municipal Services Departments.
Full details of the ACT Budget can be accessed at this PS News link
6 May, 2011
Network links up
A high-profile team of “NBN Champions” is to be enlisted to encourage support for the National Broadband Network.
The 12-person team has been drawn together by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to highlight the potential of the $36 billion network.
Each Champion is a high-profile expert in his or her field in areas as diverse as business, science, media, academia and the environment.
According to a spokeswoman for the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, the Champions would feature in a campaign to help households and businesses understand better how they might benefit from high-speed broadband.
“Because of their expertise, our proposed partners are ideally placed to explain how high-speed broadband can help in areas such as health, education, business and innovation,” the spokeswoman said.
Details of the campaign are expected to be announced this month.
The Champions have been named as former Australian of the Year and environmentalist, Professor Tim Flannery; retired High Court Judge, Michael Kirby;
founder of Planet Ark, Jon Dee; rural women’s advocate, Karen Tully; CSIRO’s James Bradfield Moody and Jonathon Roberts; managing director of the Australian Telecommunications Users Group, Rosemary Sinclair; academics Ross McAree and Eric Nettleton; ‘Gadget Guy’ Peter Blasina; businessman Rodney Spark; and Sarv Girn from Westpac.
6 May, 2011
Koori Mail delivers
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has completed a unique program of digitising 20 years of indigenous news and placing it all online.
for online research
More than 35,000 pages of the weekly Koori Mail newspaper have been developed into a collection by AIATSIS and posted on the internet.
The collection features two decades of stories, photos and cartoons published in the Koori Mail dating back to the very first edition in May 1991, and will be launched this Saturday (7 May) on the occasion of its 500th edition.
Chairman of AIATSIS, Professor Mick Dodson described the collection as a “stunning resource for all Australians”, but especially Indigenous people.
“It reflects a treasure trove of the social and political history of Aboriginal affairs in this country,” Professor Dodson said.
He congratulated the AIATSIS library digitisation team for completing the task with the help of the State Library of NSW and the not-for-profit library services company CAVAL.
Digitisation Manager at AIATSIS, Gerald Preiss said it was the first time in Australia’s history that a complete run of a copyright national newspaper had been made available free online.
Mr Preiss said AIATSIS believed the website would prove enormously popular.
Library Manager with AIATSIS, Rod Stroud, who initiated the project with Koori Mail Managing Editor Kirstie Parker, said that although it involved a great deal of time and effort, the project had been particularly worthwhile.
“It has also been different and exciting seeing the range of issues covered by the Koori Mail over the past 20 years and 500 issues,” Mr Stroud said.
Chairman of the Koori Mail, Russell Kapeen said the online collection would be an important research tool for Indigenous people, students and anyone interested in a rounded perspective on national debate.
“We thank and commend AIATSIS staff for their efforts in this important initiative,” Mr Kapeen said.
The Koori Mail online archive will be available via the AIATSIS website at this PS News link.
6 May, 2011
The Government of India has agreed to enter negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Australia.
a hot item
The decision has been welcomed by the Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson.
“India is an enormous, rapidly expanding market for Australian businesses,” Dr Emerson said.
“That India has now formally agreed to begin the negotiation process is a milestone in the Australia-India relationship.”
He said negotiations for a high-quality trade deal with India were central to the Government’s wider plans for greater economic integration between the two countries.
He said there had been significant growth in Australian commodity exports to India in recent years as well as education exports, increases in investment flows in both directions and the decision to convene a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forum.
“These moves towards greater economic integration are part of the wider economic objectives set by the countries’ Prime Ministers in the Australia-India Strategic Partnership of November 2009,” he said.
Dr Emerson said a high-quality, truly-liberalising trade deal with India that supported the multilateral trading system would be important to Australia.
“Such a deal would broaden the base of merchandise trade, remove barriers to services trade, facilitate and encourage investment and address behind-the-border obstacles to trade.”
He said India, with its population of 1.2 billion and average economic growth of 7 per cent a year so far in to 2000s, was already Australia’s third-largest export market.
He said the next step would be to determine negotiating objectives and a negotiating mandate for the FTA.
6 May, 2011
The Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship returned to his University of Queensland student days recently, appearing as guest speaker at the University’s Master of Business Administration Leadership Enhancement Program.
sails back to school
The Secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, shared with the students lessons learned from the program of reform and renewal his Department had been through in the past few years.
According to reports from the University, the task was obviously formidable with 8,000 DIAC staff to be managed across the world; 28 million people crossing Australia’s borders each year; four million visas issued; 100,000 new citizens welcomed; 14,000 new refugees arriving and 5,000 media requests.
Mr Metcalfe said part of the renewal process at DIAC was to turn to the Department’s staff for a new motto rather than a mission statement, and they came up with “people our business”.
He said leadership was about achieving results through getting the best out of people and doing this required setting the context and environment so the team understood it was contributing to the organisation’s efforts towards nation-building.
“Values are crucial,” Mr Metcalfe told the MBA student audience.
“Nothing devalues values more than not adhering to them.”
He said DIAC’s values were encapsulated in a system that featured high performance and evidenced-based integrity, and which emphasised humanity.
He said this led to fair and reasonable dealings with clients, an open and accountable organisation, and well developed and supported staff.
Mr Metcalfe said leadership must be practised throughout the organisation and the right decisions must be right the first time.
“These decisions will literally affect a person’s life, especially because people migrate to succeed and not to fail,” Mr Metcalfe said.
6 May, 2011
Fish scientists go
A number of management changes have been ordered for the Gillnet, Hook and Trap (GHAT) Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.
fishing for data
Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), James Findlay said the changes were designed to offer better protection to non-target species in the fishery, particularly Australian Sea Lions, and to improve data collection on interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species.
Dr Findlay said the changes took effect from the start of the fishing year on 1 May and were put in place through a Temporary Order under the Fisheries Management Act 1991, and through specific Directions under the Act.
He said AFMA had been working with fishers, researchers and conservation groups for some time to improve management of fishery interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species.
He said however that recent independent data collection and research had prompted AFMA to strengthen management arrangements to afford better protection to sea lions and other protected species including dolphins, seabirds and some shark species.
Dr Findlay said additional measures would include extension of existing closures to gillnet fishing around 31 sea lion colonies, bringing the total area of closures around the 48 sea lion colonies off South Australia to 18,500sqkm.
He said all gillnet vessels operating in the remaining open areas off South Australia would be subject to 100 per cent coverage by independent scientific observers or cameras.
In all other areas of the Gillnet, Hook and Trap (GHAT) Sector beyond South Australia, observer or camera coverage would be increased to 10 per cent to allow more accurate information on fisheries interactions with other species to be obtained.
More information on the new arrangements and the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, including a map of the areas closed to gillnetting, was available on the AFMA website, this PS News link.
3 May, 2011
New vision issued
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a draft Strategic Vision for ICT services across the Australian Public Service.
for ICT in PS
Released for public comment by the Secretary of Finance, David Tune in his capacity as Chair of the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board, the draft 2011 ICT Strategic Vision outlines a long term plan for the Government’s use of information and communication technology to support increased public sector productivity.
According to Mr Tune, the Vision does this by describing how the PS sector can use ICT to deliver better government services, engage openly with stakeholders and improve government operations.
He said it explains the actions and activities to support each of these priorities and outlines a possible new direction for the use of ICT by government – a shift of emphasis not just from cost efficiency but also to one of improving public sector productivity.
According to the Vision, the Government’s use of ICT was largely Agency focussed, but more visibility of the ICT design and investment intentions between Agencies was desirable.
The Vision says decisions to acquire or upgrade ICT systems should consider the broader implications for government, people and business.
It says rapid changes in the technology landscape continue, and these changes could profoundly influence government and industry choices for ICT investment and how services could be delivered.
The Vision says the Government needed to balance the potential gains from innovation in ICT with the need to provide stable and reliable operations and services.
Mr Tune said the draft 2011 ICT Strategic Vision refocuses the Government’s ICT priority to improving productivity by delivering better services to people, communities, and business, engaging openly and improving government operations.
“In releasing the draft Vision, we want to ensure that the final document reflects the community’s needs and expectations from government in using ICT to deliver services, improve our operations and better engage with you,” Mr Tune said.
The draft Vision can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until 16 May 2011.
3 May, 2011
CHOGM to swallow
The search is on for up to 500 volunteers to help run the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth in October.
up 500 volunteers
Minister for Skills and Jobs, Senator Chris Evans, said there was now just six months to go before CHOGM.
“In six months time, more than 50 delegations from around the Commonwealth will arrive in Perth for the largest gathering of world leaders ever seen in Australia,” Senator Evans said.
“The role of volunteers will be critical to the success of this major event.”
stakeholders and improve government operations.
He said the 500 volunteers were needed to help showcase Australia, welcome visitors from across the globe and deliver a safe and secure event and the Government was working with Volunteering WA to implement the CHOGM 2011 Volunteers Program which will recruit, train and manage the volunteers for the event
“This is a unique opportunity for Western Australians to participate in a major international event and interact with delegates from all over the world,” ,” Senator Evans said.
He said volunteer roles included transport assistance and providing support and information to delegates.
Chief Executive of Volunteering WA, Mara Basanovic said as well as ensuring the smooth running of the event, volunteering also provided personal benefits for individuals.
“Volunteering changes the lives of those who give as well as those who receive,” Ms Basanovic said.
“CHOGM 2011 will provide a unique opportunity for volunteers to demonstrate the warmth, generosity and hospitality of Western Australia to fellow members of the Commonwealth family.”
Senator Evans said CHOGM 2011 would be held from 28 to 30 October 2011 and would be the biggest international event to be held in Perth for almost 50 years.
People interested in volunteering for CHOGM 2011 should visit this PS News link to find more information.
3 May, 2011
Privacy goes public
The Australian Privacy Commissioner has identified this week’s Privacy Awareness Week as a good time for people to think about the security of their personal information.
in Privacy Week
Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim said people were asked for their personal information so often, they sometimes forgot their privacy rights.
“Default settings usually allow public access to information that is posted, so people continually risk their privacy, often without realising it,” Mr Pilgrim said.
“I am urging everyone to use Privacy Awareness Week as an opportunity to reflect on the security of their personal information and take practical steps to protect their privacy.”
stakeholders and improve government operations.
He said it could be something as easy as checking privacy settings on social networking sites and internet browsers.
“Your information belongs to you,” he said, “you are under no obligation to hand it over to anyone without knowing what they are going to do with it.
“Once your privacy has been compromised, it can be difficult to get back.”
Mr Pilgrim said everyone should feel comfortable asking a business or Government Agency why they needed personal information.
“When you agree to provide others with your personal information, it’s in your best interest to understand how it will be used, kept safe and where it may end up.”
Mr Pilgrim said social networking had become entrenched in most people’s daily lives but many seemed to be unaware of the risks.
“We’re not saying don’t use it,” Mr Pilgrim said, “we just want Australians to know that there are steps they can take to restrict who sees their information so they can engage with social media safely.”
He said business and government had particular responsibilities under the law to make sure the personal information of their customers was handled according to strict rules.
These include giving sufficient notice about why personal information was being collected and how it would be used and disclosed.
“It must also be stored securely and destroyed or de-identified if it is no longer needed,” the Commissioner said.
He said privacy tips for business and Government Agencies included making sure their IT systems were secure and up-to-date; not collecting personal information that was unnecessary; telling people why their personal information was needed, what it would be used for and how long it would be kept; making clear who would have access to it; and taking steps to destroy or de-identify it when it was no longer required.
He said the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) had joined together to release an animation and e-survey to promote the issue.
“We want to hear from people who use social networking sites about how much they know and understand about privacy online and whether they read privacy policies,” Mr Pilgrim said.
He said the more information about Privacy Awareness Week – including access to the e-survey – was available from this PS News link.
Privacy Week runs to 7 May.
3 May, 2011
Cross examination for
A judicial review is to be conducted into the effectiveness of the Federal administrative law system.
Federal law courts
Announced by the President of the Administrative Review Council, Colin Neave, the review will be the first in 30 years and will examine all aspects of Federal judicial review in Australia.
The ARC has issued a consultation paper which describes the current system and raises issues about its future direction.
“Judicial review provides a mechanism for people to test the legality of government decisions in the courts,” Mr Neave said.
stakeholders and improve government operations.
“There have been considerable changes to the government landscape since the administrative law package was introduced in the 1970s.”
Mr Neave said the inquiry was being conducted as part of the Council’s statutory responsibility to keep the administrative law system under review, and the Council intended to report to the Attorney-General by the end of 2011.
He said the Consultation Paper would examine the federal system and raise issues about the future direction of judicial review including the need for statutory review mechanisms; the ambit and provisions of a general statutory review scheme; and, the general principles that should to apply to any statutory review scheme.
According to the Consultation Paper, more than 30 years have passed since the commencement of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977.
It says the development of legal principles and changes in the nature of government administration which were relevant to the inquiry included the differing jurisdiction of the three Federal Courts in judicial review matters; the increase in both legislation and the volume of decisions made by government; and the privatisation of government functions.
To inform its deliberations, the Council would consider developments in the law of both statutory and constitutional judicial review; changes in the broader system of government administration; statistical data about judicial review applications; comparisons with other jurisdictions; and the views of stakeholders.
Information on the consultation paper, including how to make a submission, is available on the Council’s website at this PS News link.
The closing date for public submissions is 24 June 2011.
3 May, 2011
State Public Servants in Tasmania are concerned that PS job cuts may be on the table after the Opposition obtained documents under Freedom of Information laws.
Tom Lynch, from the Community and Public Sector Union, said the union was demanding to see the detail of the Government’s redundancy plans.
He said a letter from Treasury to Government agencies allegedly outlined strategies approved by Cabinet to cut the public sector wage bill, including vacancy control measures, early retirement incentives and targeted voluntary redundancies.
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Mr Lynch called on Premier Lara Giddings to end the uncertainty.
“What I would be guessing there is the Government is planning to put out a redundancy program even lower than the one that it ran last time,” ,” Mr Lynch said.
“Two weeks (pay) for each year of service is below market standards”
He said if the Government was making decisions to make PS staff redundant it should at least pay them community standard amounts.
He said some staff were being told to take $20,000 and go because the offer may be less later on.
Shadow Treasurer Peter Gutwein said Premier Giddings had no intention of imposing forced redundancies on the public sector but she had been overruled by her Cabinet colleagues.
“This document is devoid of any mention whatsoever of the Premier’s preferred plan and that is to have a forced redundancy program,” Mr Gutwein said.
The Premier said the Government was exploring all options to achieve the savings required.
3 May, 2011
Mint unveils its
The Royal Australian Mint has celebrated the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Princess Catherine with the official launch of commemorative coins and a program of ‘swaps’ of old coins for new.
A commemorative 20 cent coin was released into public circulation following the wedding, while a 50 Cent Uncirculated Royal Wedding Coin was now on sale.
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The 50 Cent Selectively Gold-Plated Royal Wedding Coin is also available for sale in the Two Coin Set.
On the day after the wedding, the Mint in Canberra encouraged members of the public to bring their own royal coin collection in to have it valued for free from coin valuers.
With the purchase of a Royal Wedding uncirculated 50 cent coin, the first 1,000 people were also entitled to swap any 20 cent coin for a brand new Royal Wedding 20 cent coin.
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten said the 20 cent coin, designed by the Mint, featured a detailed sculpted portrait of the couple which had been through a highly consultative approval process with Her Majesty The Queen.
Mr Shorten said it was fitting for the Mint, on behalf of Australia and the Australian Government, to continue the tradition of honouring and preserving royal history.
“There are many royal collectibles out there but this circulating coin creates the excitement of checking your change to see if there happens to be a collectible right there in your pocket,” Mr Shorten said.
Chief Executive of the Royal Australian Mint, Ross MacDiarmid said renowned coin sculptor Vladimir Gottwald designed the coin using images of the couple as inspiration.
The same design on the circulating 20 cent coin is also on the collectible uncirculated 50 cent coin and as part of the Royal Wedding Set.
3 May, 2011
CSIRO has formula
The 6th annual Safe Work Australia Awards have been presented in Canberra with CSIRO Livestock Industries taking out the award for best solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue.
for safety award
The chairman of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips, said the genuine commitment of the 38 finalists to safety in their workplaces was acknowledged by their nomination in the awards presented at Parliament House.
“The Safe Work Australia Awards recognise the important work that organisations and individuals are doing to make work health and safety a top priority and ensure everyone returns home safely from work each day,” Mr Phillips said.
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“More than 135,000 Australians are seriously injured at work each year and more than 260 die as a result of work-related injuries,” he said.
“This can be prevented through the adoption of safer work practices.”
CSIRO Livestock Industries won its award for developing an electronically controlled LN2 Filling Station which provides a monitored, well controlled environment for handling Liquid Nitrogen (LN2).
LN2 is an asphyxiant which presents a significant risk to staff using and dispensing it.
Finalists in each of the four awards categories were winners in the state, territory, Seacare or Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) awards.
The judging panel included state, territory, union, employer and Safe Work Australia representatives.
Among other awards presented, the Courts Administration Authority (SA) won the award for Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System – Public Sector.
Awards were also made for Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System – Private Sector, Best Workplace Health and Safety Practices in a Small Business, and Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety.
Mr Phillips said the awards reinforced the importance of safe work practices as the community prepared for changes to work health and safety regulation across Australia.
“I encourage businesses and individuals to follow in the footsteps of these winners and enter the awards at their jurisdictional level so they too can receive national recognition for their efforts,” he said.
Mr Phillips invited people to get involved in National Safe Work Australia Week, from 23 to 29 October, by organising an activity in their workplace.
For more information, visit this PS News link.
3 May, 2011
A technical report on structural damage to buildings hit by Queensland’s Cyclone Yasi is expected to inform future design and construction standards according to the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB).
to nail reforms
The Board funded the report entitled TC Yasi Structural Damage to Buildings which was compiled by James Cook University’s Cyclone Testing Station.
Chairman of the ABCB, Graham Huxley said James Cook University’s Cyclone Testing Station (CTS) marshalled Australia’s leading cyclone researchers and building professionals to compile data for the report.
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He said the ABCB which provided financial support for the report, welcomed its release.
“The report noted that under the heavy wind loads of TC Yasi, buildings that had been built or extensively modified since the 1980s performed well,” Mr Huxley said.
“However, the report clearly pointed to the need for further review of a range of issues affecting community safety and resilience in cyclone prone areas.”
He said the report recommended several issues for consideration by industry, governments and the community relating to the performance of building products, Australian Standards and the cyclone construction requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC).
Mr Huxley said the Board would consider the report’s implications for work it already had underway on the adequacy of existing cyclone construction requirements and engaged with Standards Australia on issues identified in the report.
The ABCB also noted that the Cyclone Testing Station would work with other relevant authorities on various aspects of the report.
He said the ABCB was a joint initiative of all levels of government in Australia, with the building industry, and oversaw issues relating to health, safety, amenity and sustainability in building.
Mr Huxley said the Board promoted efficiency in the design, construction and performance of buildings through the National Construction Code.
The report was available on the Board’s website at this PS News link or from James Cook University at this PS News link.
3 May, 2011
A record number of students have enrolled in Australian universities this year, 50,000 more than in 2009.
on course for record
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said in 2011, more than 480,000 undergraduate places were being funded – an increase of 10 per cent since 2009.
He said regional universities also had 10 per cent more student places than in 2009.
He said as a result of this growth, more than 200,000 students were estimated to have commenced undergraduate studies in public universities this year.
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“This means that more Australians will have the chance to gain the qualifications they need to access the high skilled jobs of the future,” Senator Evans said.
“Skills Australia has forecast that by 2025 a third of all jobs will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree qualification.”
He said under the Government’s demand-driven system for domestic undergraduate student places to be implemented from 2012, universities would be able to enjoy sustainable growth and diversity in response to student needs.
“Our universities have responded strongly during the transitional years to the opportunities of this significant reform,” Senator Evans said.
“Increases in university enrolments will make a major contribution to the Government’s national target that by 2025, 40 per cent of all 25 to 34-year-olds will hold a qualification at bachelor’s degree level or above, while in 2010, 34.2 per cent of this age group held such qualifications.”
He said data on applications and offers showed universities were already attracting a broader range of students, particularly those from low socio-economic status backgrounds (SES).
Senator Evans said between 2009 and 2010, university offers to low socio-economic applicants also increased faster (8.8 per cent) than offers to medium SES applicants (7.8 per cent) and high SES applicants (5.8 per cent).
He said preliminary data for 2011 suggests these trends have continued.
3 May, 2011
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is calling for submissions on the shape and implementation arrangements of a proposed carbon pricing mechanism.
in carbon price
The submissions are to be used to inform the Department’s policy options for presentation to Parliament’s Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC).
The Committee has produced a paper looking at the different schemes it has considered and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each.
According to the Committee a climate change framework had been developed outlining the broad architecture for a carbon price mechanism.
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It said the proposed mechanism had been agreed by the Government and Greens members of the Committee, who had also agreed that it be released to enable consideration by the community and to demonstrate the progress that had been made.
The Committee had discussed a number of different ways in which a carbon price could be introduced into the economy and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The paper outlines the results of that discussion.
According to the Committee, the proposal focuses on the high level architecture, start date, potential mechanisms to allow flexibility to move to emissions trading, sectoral coverage and international linking arrangements.
It said further detailed discussions would be required relating to a starting price for the carbon price mechanism, assistance arrangements for households, communities and industry, and support for low emissions technology and innovation.
The outlined architecture also allowed for consideration of other design options such as phased coverage of sectors over time and coverage of the electricity sector via an intensity-based allocation scheme.
Written submissions close on 10 May 2011.
Submissions should be emailed to CarbonPriceSubmissions@climatechange.gov.au or mailed to arrive by 10 May 2011 to: Consultation Support Team, GPO Box 854, Canberra ACT 2601.
3 May, 2011
Bureau puts effort
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that Australia’s total energy use increased by 19 per cent between 2001-02 and 2008-09.
into energy stats
The data is from Energy Account, Australia which is part of a suite of integrated environmental-economic accounts being developed for Australia.
Figures from the Bureau revealed the export market to be the single largest consumer of Australian energy products, growing by 29 per cent between 2001–02 and 2008–09.
In contrast, total domestic use of energy products showed a relatively small increase from 7,852 picojoules (PJ) to 8,207 PJ (or 5 per cent) over the same seven year period.
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According to the Bureau, consumption of energy by households accounted for 12 per cent of the total domestic energy consumption in Australia during 2008-09.
The Bureau said while the overall contribution of households to energy production was below 1 per cent in 2008–09, household energy production from solar quadrupled from 2 PJ in 2005-06 to 8 PJ in 2008-09.
It said the energy intensity of the Australian economy (excluding the electricity and gas subdivisions for which estimates were not produced) had fallen 40 per cent in the last three decades.
According to the statistics, despite rises in the Mining and Water Supply and Waste Services industries, energy intensity fell in most other industries over the last three decades with large declines in Transport (41 per cent decrease) and Construction (76 per cent decrease).
The Bureau said increasing dominance of coal and iron ore production, along with growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production for export, contributed to the increased energy intensity for the Mining industry (79 per cent increase since 1978-79).
Water Supply and Waste Services also experienced a rise in energy intensity over the last three decades (53 per cent increase).
Further details can be found on Energy Account, Australia is available from this PS News link.
3 May, 2011
Consumers signing up for financial advice are to be better protected under new rules applying to financial advisers.
a good investment
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten said there were three key elements to the Future of Financial Advice reforms, which were a requirement for financial advisers to get clients to ‘opt-in’ every two years if they wished to continue to receive ongoing advice; banning all commissions on risk insurance inside superannuation, and a broad ban on volume-based payments.
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“These reforms are designed to provide further protections for consumers of financial advice and to restore trust in the system following the collapse of Storm, Trio, Westpoint and other financial service providers,” Mr Shorten said.
“It will also provide more certainty to the financial advice profession, which has been closely engaged in the consultation process.”
He said the vast majority of financial advisers were dedicated professionals who gave good advice to the best of their abilities, but that didn’t change the fact that many consumers lacked trust in the profession and there was a perception that advice was under-regulated and open to abuse.
“It is a concern that only one in five Australians seek financial advice,” Mr Shorten said.
“These reforms are designed to encourage those people who have doubts and concerns about the value of such advice, or who have just never thought about it - those other four in five people - to perhaps in the future get financial advice.”
The reforms also included a decision to ban all trailing and up-front commissions and like payments from 1 July 2013 and a broad ban on volume-based payments, targeted at removing payments that have similar conflicts to product provider-set remuneration.
The Finance Sector Union welcomed the announcement, National Secretary Leon Carter saying it was clear from the Government’s announcement that they had signalled the death knell for conflicted remuneration in the finance industry.
3 May, 2011
Migrants kick goal
Young people from culturally diverse backgrounds are to be given increased opportunity to engage with sport and physical activity thanks to a new Multicultural Youth Sports Partnership Program.
with sports program
Minister for Sport, Senator Mark Arbib and Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy announced the initiative, saying the program would provide grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 to support the costs associated with community sport around Australia.
Senator Arbib said the grants would create opportunities for young people from culturally diverse backgrounds to engage with sport and physical activity.
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“The Australian Government wants to see all Australians have access to safe, fun and inclusive sporting opportunities,” Senator Arbib said.
“I believe sport is central to the Australian way of life, and sport can help to teach children from all cultures values, such as self-discipline, team work and how to reach your goals.
He said the Government wanted children from all backgrounds to have equal access to sporting opportunities.
“We want to see children out of their lounge rooms and into their backyards, playing with friends, playing down at their local sporting clubs,” Senator Arbib said.
Senator Lundy said the opening of the grant applications was a commitment from the Australian Government to promote social cohesion and build a more inclusive multicultural society.
“Sport is a fabulous driver for building participation and inclusion for young Australians from diverse backgrounds,” Senator Lundy said.
“The grants will play an important role in helping these young people to participate in their local communities through sport.”
She said more information about the grants scheme could be obtained from this PS News link.
3 May, 2011
Warm welcome for
Research commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has revealed that refugees accepted into Australia on humanitarian grounds increase their education, language and other skills the longer they are here.
Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy said DIAC had commissioned the Settlement Outcomes of New Arrivals research report which surveyed 8,500 newly arrived humanitarian entrants and measured their settlement experience in Australia.
“Refugees face a lot of challenges when they arrive in Australia and our settlement services assist them to learn about living in their new home,” Senator Lundy said.
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“While the settlement outcomes for refugees improve over time, the report does find that there are difficulties, especially in the early years, in securing stable employment.”
She said the Government was committed to improving these outcomes and had begun implementing a series of enhancements to settlement services to increase employment outcomes with the focus on finding a job.
“These changes will improve future outcomes for newly arrived refugees and increase participation in the long term,” Senator Lundy said.
“Changes also include structured cultural orientation programs that cover content on Australian laws, rights and responsibilities, and greater emphasis on case management.”
She said report found that after four years of settlement, 56 per cent of humanitarian entrants reported they could speak English well or very well; 23 per cent obtained a trade or university qualification within five years of arriving; and regional settlement was more successful in terms of social and economic measures.
Senator Lundy said areas of research covered by the report included education, employment, language and access to government services.
“This research will assist government agencies and settlement service organisations as they work together to ensure that successful settlement meets the needs of humanitarian arrivals,” Senator Lundy said.
The report is available on the department’s website at
this PS News link.
3 May, 2011
The Fair Work Ombudsman has been congratulated for taking successful court action against an employer who exploited international students in Victoria.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans praised the FWO action which led to two 7-Eleven shops in Melbourne and Geelong paying the students almost $90,000 in back pay.
Melbourne Magistrate Kate Hawkins fined a Toorak couple $30,000 and their company $120,000.
Senator Evans said the court action sent a strong message to unscrupulous employers that exploitation would not be tolerated.
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“International students, and any foreign worker, are afforded the same protections against exploitation as Australian workers,” Senator Evans said.
“It is important that international students in Australia understand their rights in a range of areas, including the workplace,” he said.
Senator Evans said the six students from India and Zimbabwe were paid flat hourly rates that were less than half the rates they were entitled to for many shifts.
Foreign students can work up to 20 hours a week under their visa conditions for studying in Australia.
In September 2010, the Government released the International Students Strategy for Australia which outlines 12 initiatives to address four key areas of concern including international student wellbeing, consumer protection, the quality of international education and the availability of better information for international students.
Senator Evans said the Government had recently passed legislation that would provide greater protection for international students.
The ESOS Amendment Act aimed to protect international students by further strengthening education providers’ registration requirements and expanding the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman for external complaints by international students relating to private providers.
3 May, 2011
Verdict delivered on
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that while the number of defendants in Federal Courts remained the same in 2009-10 as in years before, the number of offences increased by 38 per cent.
According to the ABS, the average number of offences per defendant increased from 2.5 in 2008–09 to 3.5 in 2009–10.
It said more than a third (34 per cent) of defendants had a principal federal offence of fraud, deception and related offences and a further 26 per cent had a principal federal offence of offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations.
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The ABS said while the number of finalised defendants remained stable, the number of defendants sentenced to a custodial order increased by 11 per cent.
According to the Bureau, other findings included 13,000 people charged with at least one federal offence in the Magistrates’ Courts; 800 in the Higher Courts; and 200 in the Children’s Courts; and, of the combined States and Territories, New South Wales had the highest proportion of Federal defendants (34 per cent), followed by Victoria (22 per cent) and Queensland (21 per cent).
It also found the highest proportion of offences for finalised defendants to be illicit drugs in the Higher Courts (26 per cent or 200 defendants); fraud, deception and related offences in the Magistrates’ Courts (36 per cent or 4,600 defendants); and abduction, harassment and related offences in the Children’s Courts (41 per cent or 90 defendants).
The ABS said the statistics also revealed persons aged 35–39 years had the highest proportion for all combined court levels (15 per cent or 2,000 defendants).
More details are available in Federal Defendants, Selected States and Territories, 2009-10 available for download from this PS News link.
3 May, 2011
FoI plans disclosed
The Attorney-General’s Department has published details of its Freedom of Information publication scheme and FoI Disclosure log.
All agencies are required to publish the information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
The documents can be accessed at this PS News link.
Pay line-up announced
The membership of the new national consultative group which will examine how to manage the implications of the equal pay test case, has been announced.
Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins said it was the next important step in closing Australia’s gender pay gap.
Senator Collins will chair the Community Sector Wages Group, which will include representatives from the federal, state and territory governments, the social and community services (SACS) providers, and unions.
FOI List out
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has issued a list of all Freedom of Information contacts across the Australian Public Service and interstate.
The list includes more than 600 APS Agencies or offices as well as eight State and Territory FOI contacts.
To see a full list of Freedom of Information contacts visit this PS News link.
Printer panel appointed
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has named the successful panellists to its Major Office Machines Whole of Government Equipment and Support Panel.
The MOMs arrangements cover network printers, multi-function devices and scanners but not paper.
The panellists are Fuji Xerox, Konica Minolta, Kyocera Mita, Ricoh, Lexmark and Sharp.
Use of the panel is mandatory for agencies under the FMA Act.
Rural health boost
People living in rural and remote communities are set to benefit from a program to boosting health and medical services.
The Department of Health and Ageing has allocated funding to 42 projects making it easier for people in rural and remote areas to see a doctor or allied health professional closer to home.
The projects include refurbishing medical centres to provide extra space for doctors and other medical staff, purchasing new equipment and replacing old, and upgrading training facilities.
Price rise comment
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is seeking public comment on a plan to increase the charge for issuing a telephone number from $21 to $27.50.
The proposed increase has arisen from an unexpected decrease in demand for the service.
ACMA invites written comments by 18 May 2011.
One in ten contractors
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that one in 10 workers are independent contractors.
According to the figures, 1.1 million people were independent contractors in their main job in November 2010, representing 9.8 per cent of all employed persons.
It was an increase from 1 million (9.6 per cent of employed persons) in November 2009.
In November 2010, one in 10 (10 per cent) of independent contractors worked seven days a week, compared with 4 per cent of employees.
More details are available in the ABS’s Forms of Employment, Australia, November 2010.