SearchArchives for May 2012
25 May, 2012
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released a draft guide for Government Agencies to build and take part in ‘community clouds’.
guide aims high
Releasing the guide, First Assistant Secretary of AGIMO, Glenn Archer said the Better Practice Guide – Community Cloud Governance – An Australian Government perspective (draft) was developed to provide agencies with guidance on providing a governance structure around Community Clouds.
“It is based around related frameworks using formal agreements that are managed by well-defined governance structures with clear roles and responsibilities,” Mr Archer said.
“It is important that agencies providing cloud services and those agencies consuming those cloud services have a common understanding of the features and how the service is managed.”
He said the guide formed part of the Cloud Framework: a Stream One deliverable of the Australian Government Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper.
“The strategy paper, released in April 2011, positioned government agencies to choose cloud based services if they demonstrate value for money and are adequately secure,” he said.
The guide itself says a Community Cloud was one of four cloud models outlined in the Direction Paper.
“The other models are public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud,” it says.
“A Community Cloud may support those agencies with a common delivery agenda to take advantage of the benefits that may be realised by cloud computing services (also known as cloud services).
“The Strategy defines a Community Cloud as “cloud computing services shared by several organisations that have shared requirements (e.g. mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations)”.
The draft guide can be accessed at this PS News link and comments and submissions will be accepted until 8 June.
25 May, 2012
Australia has entered a partnership with the Government of Afghanistan to support that country’s security, development and governance following the withdrawal of troops in 2014.
a shot in the arm
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard signed the partnership agreement with the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.
Among the partnership arrangements will be an Australian commitment to helping build the capacity of the Afghan government and its national institutions to promote and protect human rights.
It will also see Australia work with Afghanistan to combat transnational threats such as terrorism, narcotics and people smuggling; encourage business and investment links; cooperate on migration issues; foster people-to-people links and help preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.
Ms Gillard said a joint Commission would be established to review the implementation of the partnership and to provide a forum for regular dialogue on issues of shared strategic interest.
“The Partnership will give confidence to the people of Afghanistan that Australia will stand side by side with Afghanistan beyond the end of transition in 2014,” she said.
She said the nature of Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan would change after the troops were pulled out, but Australia’s commitment to the country’s stability and development would endure.
25 May, 2012
Parliament House in Canberra has recorded its lowest visitor numbers since opening in 1988.
with visiting public
Under questioning led by ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries in Senate Estimates hearings, senior staff of the Department of Parliamentary Services revealed that the budget for promoting Parliament House as a destination to visit in Canberra was minimal.
“The fact is that there is no promotion of our national Parliament and the opportunity to visit it”, Senator Humphries said.
“Australians’ understanding of their democratic institutions is enhanced by visiting the national Parliament building.
“But if the government doesn’t invest in providing information about visiting Parliament, It would come as no surprise that the number of visitors will fall.”
Senator Humphries said that over the past three years, the number of annual tours of Parliament House had fallen from 4,527 to 1,911 and staffing levels had also taken a hit with the number of guides being further reduced this year.
He said a collaborative study tour including representatives from several national institutions would soon depart for Washington, D.C. but nobody from Parliament House would be taking part in that opportunity to promote the building internationally.
“Cuts to the Parliament’s budget are making Parliament House less accessible with very little capacity to promote Parliament as a ‘must see destination’ in Canberra,” Senator Humphries said.
“A meagre $16,000 will be spent advertising Parliament house to regional areas over the coming year,” he said.
“That is pocket change and reflects just how little investment is being made in Australians visiting their Parliament.
He called on the government to integrate Parliament House in the programs and organisations responsible for promoting national institutions in Canberra.
25 May, 2012
An audit of Australia’s e-Passport system has found that while its hi-tech security measures and processing efficiencies were up to international standards, administrative arrangements in the Australian Passport Office could be improved.
In his report Management of ePassports, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said his audit assessed the effectiveness of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) implementation of biometric technology to meet international requirements for enhanced passport security.
“Implementation and management of biometric technology by passport issuing authorities around the world is a relatively new and challenging function,” Mr McPhee said, “particularly given the ePassport’s dual aims of enhancing passport security and improving the efficiency of passenger processing at the border.”
He said in Australia, the task of introducing ePassports occurred against a backdrop of increasing general demand for passports by Australian travellers.
“Today, there are more than 8.8 million Australian ePassports on issue which represents over 78 per cent of all Australian passports in circulation,” he said.
“With the introduction of the Australian ePassport on 24 October 2005, Australia became one of the first countries to introduce an ePassport.”
Mr McPhee said the ePassport’s electronic security measures, combined with the booklet’s security features, made the task of producing a fraudulent passport significantly more complex than it was prior to the ePassport’s introduction.
“While the introduction of Australian ePassports has been generally sound, there are a number of weaknesses in some of the APO’s supporting administrative arrangements that have the potential to impede effective management decision-making and the monitoring and reporting of outcomes,” he said.
“In particular, while a timely review of the facial recognition system was undertaken in 2008, most of the review observations and recommendations had still not been addressed in 2011.”
“At the time of the audit there were difficulties in extracting accurate data from the APO’s systems on passport fraud.”
The Auditor-General made two recommendations, one of which was to periodically test the ePassport’s electronic security features to ascertain its vulnerability.
The full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Tim O’Brien, Troy Kelly, William Na and Tom Clarke.
25 May, 2012
APRA judged fit
Stronger powers over superannuation funds for the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) have been included in a new law that has passed the House of Representatives.
for super powers
The law also places greater demands on the trustees of superannuation funds.
Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten said the measures contained in the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Trustee Obligations and Prudential Standards) Bill 2012 implemented changes recommended by the Cooper review into the governance, efficiency, structure and operation of Australia’s superannuation system.
“I flagged these reforms as early as December 2010,” Mr Shorten said.
“This Government passed legislation through the lower house that gives the regulator and members new powers to go after rogue superfund directors.”
He said the Bill also identified the duties that applied to directors of superannuation funds, including acting honestly and in the best interests of members.
“The Government has worked closely with a range of stakeholder groups to deliver the measures contained in this legislation,” he said.
“The Bill helps to close a regulatory gap by giving APRA standards-making power in superannuation.”
Mr Shorten said the prudential standards provisions, which would provide APRA with greater flexibility to adapt to industry developments, would apply from the day after Royal Assent.
“The enhancements to trustee obligations will apply from 1 July 2013,” he said.
“I am committed to reforming the governance and supervision of our superannuation system and will be bringing further changes before Parliament including additional disclosure requirements for trustees and enhanced data collection and publication powers for APRA,” Mr Shorten said.
25 May, 2012
Project plants seed
A new project funded by the Rural Industries R&D Corporation (RIRDC) could change the concept of the Australian garden.
for roof gardens
Dubbed “vertical gardens”, the project has identified a number of hardy native plants that can readily grow on the walls and roofs of buildings.
According to RIRDC, the concept involves setting up slim-line growing beds on building walls and also on rooftops, where the plants grow in specialised soil and are watered using a drip irrigation system.
The research project found that there were social, environmental and economic benefits from growing plants on walls and rooftops.
A chief researcher on the project, Melinda Perkins said that the greatest benefit of a vertical garden was its ability to block heat.
“Apart from being attractive, these gardens can reduce the need for air conditioning in warm weather by shading and buffering buildings from heat,” Dr Perkins said.
“Temperature reductions of up to 17 degrees celsius were achieved inside prefabricated metal buildings that incorporated living walls and rooftops.
“In the built environment this can lead to very significant reductions in energy demand for air conditioners.”
She said the project identified six native plant species for green roofs and seven for green walls that displayed traits suited to Australia’s harsh sub-tropical environment.
“To be suitable, the plants need to have a strong, shallow root system, provide good vegetation cover, be pest and disease hardy, and be tolerant of wind, drought and high temperatures,” Dr Perkins said.
“On the other hand, species prone to become a weed problem or which display aggressive growth rates should be avoided.
“Also, where sites are accessible to the public, plants with thorns or which are poisonous to humans are potentially unsuitable.”
The report Living Wall and Green Roof Plants can be accessed at this PS News link.
25 May, 2012
A mid-term review of the telecommunications watchdog ACCAN has found it to be fulfilling its role and assisting consumers in their dealings with the big telcos.
has the numbers
According to the review, ACCAN (the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network) had established itself as a well-regarded and effective organisation for representing consumers’ interests.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said ACCAN received $2 million in annual funding from the Government and the review assessed whether it had met its obligations under its deed and its performance against key performance indicators.
It also looked at the difference ACCAN had made to consumer representation in the Australian telecommunications sector.
Senator Conroy said before ACCAN was established in 2009, consumer advocacy in the telecommunications sector was under-resourced and difficult to access.
“As a result, consumers were often under-represented in the policy making process,” Senator Conroy said.
“The review recognises the significant difference ACCAN has made to the telecommunications landscape in a relatively short period of time.”
He said the review found the organisation to be effective and to have satisfactorily met its obligations under its Deed of Agreement.
The Minister noted that every submission received by the Review supported a continuing role for ACCAN.
“ACCAN’s board, staff, and members are all to be commended for their diligence and enthusiasm in achieving this outcome,” Senator Conroy said.
He said the review made a number of recommendations and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy would work with ACCAN on their implementation.
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
25 May, 2012
New gambling laws
New laws clamping down on problem gambling on poker machines have been announced by the Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin.
take the plunge
Ms Macklin said the new legislation would require all new poker machines manufactured from the end of next year to be capable of supporting a pre-commitment scheme in which players decided in advance how much they intended to invest.
She said the new laws would require all poker machines to be part of a state linked pre-commitment system by 2016 (except eligible small venues which would have longer); all poker machines must show electronic warnings and cost of play displays by 2016; and a $250 daily withdrawal limit must be set on ATMs in gaming venues (excluding casinos) by 2013.
“The Government is also sponsoring a large scale trial of mandatory pre-commitment in the ACT,” Ms Macklin said.
“We have included new provisions in the legislation to ensure the trial is independently designed, managed and evaluated.”
She said the new legislation required that an independent review of the trial results must be conducted by the Productivity Commission.”
She said that by rolling the technology out to every machine now ensured that authorities would be ready to move to a mandatory pre-commitment system, if the trial results supported it.
“To ensure the system is ready for this transition, the Government has also added a clarifying clause to the legislation to make clear that the infrastructure to be put on all poker machines must be capable of supporting mandatory pre-commitment,” Ms Macklin said.
“Problem gambling ruins lives and destroys families,” she said.
“In fact up to five million Australians are affected by problem gambling.”
The Minister said that in addition to rolling out pre-commitment on poker machines and ATM limits, counselling support would also be boosted.
She said self-exclusion arrangements would be strengthened, as would staff training in poker machine venues, banning the promotion of live odds during sports coverage and cracking down on online betting.
25 May, 2012
And in other news...
AUSTRAC to cut staff
The Australian Transactions and Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has revealed plans to reduce its staffing levels by 12 in the coming year in addition to 22 it has cut in the past 12 months.
The Agency revealed the cuts at the Senate Estimates hearings, indicating the losses were around 10.5 per cent of its workforce.
Study finds NBN popular
The 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review Committee report has been released, finding there was a “genuine desire across regional Australia” for the National Broadband Network (NBN).
The Committee was established in 2005 and regularly examines telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote Australia.
The report is available in full at this PS News link.
Crime reports out
The two latest Australian Institute of Criminology reports on drug and alcohol use and crime have been released.
The first, Drug and alcohol related crime compiles the latest figures on the link between drug or alcohol use and crime and shows 41 per cent of people arrested attributed their crime to alcohol use.
The second, Drug and alcohol related crime – comparison to the United States compares drug use rates amongst people arrested in Australia and the United States and shows the rate of cannabis use amongst people who had been arrested was similar in the United States (46 per cent) and Australia (44 per cent).
The reports are available at this PS News link.
NAIDOC week poster a winner
A young Aboriginal artist from Queensland has won the National NAIDOC Poster Competition for 2012.
Twenty-five year old, Amanda Joy Tronc’s Look at us Now won this year’s competition and will be distributed throughout Australia to promote NAIDOC Week 2012, which runs from 1 to 8 July.
To order your free copies of the 2012 National NAIDOC Week Poster, visit this PS News link.
AIM Moves in to Canberra
The Australian Institute of Management ACT and NSW (AIM) has opened new office in Canberra.
The new office is located in the centre of Canberra’s business district, Childers Square, and will provide the template for future AIM offices.
AIM’s Sydney headquarters will be the next to be redeveloped with a move on the cards for late 2012.
Previously this week... New website for APSC
The Australian Public Service Commission has announced it will be switching over to a new website this week (24 May).
The Commission said the new site had been upgraded and redesigned in response to feedback and would include an improved navigation structure.
Following the launch, the Commission said it would begin a process of migrating archived content into the new site and warned the new design could affect some settings such as ‘favourites’ and RSS feeds.
Service team seeks feedback
The Service Delivery in Government Team in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is seeking opinions about Service Delivery in Government and how people use it.
The feedback is to be used to help the Team understand how subscribers used the product and what value it provided.
Comments can be marked to the attention of the Service Delivery in Government Team and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
The site can be found at: servicedelivery.govspace.gov.au
Tax concession for comment
Exposure draft legislation for reforms to the tax concession for living–away–from–home allowances and benefits has been released for public comment by Treasury.
The proposed reforms aim to ensure that Australian taxpayers are not funding the unfair exploitation of concessions by employers or employees.
The exposure draft bill is available at this PS News link and submissions close 29 May.
Revamp for Melbourne building
Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens are to be returned to their former glory with the help of Federal funding.
The Commonwealth is to contribute $20 million to assist in the protection and promotion of the World Heritage listed site.
Museum Victoria is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Royal Exhibition Building in conjunction with the City of Melbourne which manages the Carlton Gardens.
Local film wins
The Australian educational film, Quiet Signs of Love has won an international award for Best Short Film (hearing directors category) at the Rome Deaf Film Festival, Cinedeaf.
The film tells the love story of two characters, one of whom is deaf and features a vibetrack - a soundtrack that focuses on vibrations for deaf audiences.
It was made to help raise awareness about the National Relay Service, a Government initiative that enables people who are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairments, to communicate by phone.
The film is also one of five nominees for a ‘Webby Award’ at the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
It can be viewed at this PS News link.
French show for National Gallery
The National Gallery of Australia is to present Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris & the Moulin Rouge as its summer exhibition.
This retrospective will bring over 120 paintings, posters and drawings to Australia s and will launch Canberra’s Centenary celebrations which kick off in 2013.
Toulouse-Lautrec will open on 14 December 2012 with tickets on sale from September.
22 May, 2012
Budget blues as
Both the Western Australian an Tasmanian State Governments have announced cutbacks to their Public Service staff and services in their 2012-13 Budgets announced last week.
States cut too
WA Treasurer, Christian Porter handed down the WA Budget expecting a surplus of $196 million, with further surpluses forecast across the forward estimates to 2015-16.
Mr Porter said despite strong economic growth of 4.75 per cent for 2012-13 the State faced a challenging revenue and fiscal outlook.
He said the State Budget contained a major re-prioritisation of service delivery, with a range of new State Government initiatives being introduced and funded through savings measures.
He said the savings initiatives totalled $4.9 billion over four years and included an efficiency dividend to be applied to public sector agencies from 2012-13.
Mr Porter said there would also be a two-year cap on the growth of PS numbers as well as tighter controls on public sector salaries; a formal policy of limiting general government sector full-time equivalent growth; and a deferral of spending on a range of capital works projects across a number of agencies.
He said the initiatives would ensure PS expenses would be contained.
The WA Treasurer also announced the establishment of a Future Fund from 2016-17 to receive at least one per cent of the State’s annual royalty revenue every year and for each of the 16 years thereafter.
In Tasmania, the Premier and Treasurer, Lara Giddings said the magnitude of the 2012-13 Tasmanian State Budget challenge had made it impossible to quarantine the delivery of frontline public services from proposed cutbacks.
“Where possible, we have made savings by being more efficient and reducing spending in areas such as cars, travel and phones,” Ms Giddings said.
“The Government’s single biggest expense is staffing, and our Workforce Renewal and vacancy control programs have seen a reduction in public sector employment of around 1,100 full-time equivalent positions without the need for involuntary redundancies.
“However, our income has continued to fall.”
She said all agencies, with the exception of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Police and Emergency Management, had therefore been given additional savings targets on top of those set last year.
“This will save a further $8.4 million in 2012-13, and $68.2 million over the next four years,” she said.
Ms Giddings said she had also decided to increase some taxes in four areas where Tasmania’s rates were below those in other States and Territories.
22 May, 2012
PS to converge on
The largest gathering of public administrators ever held in Australia is to be held in Melbourne in September with more than 1,000 people expected at the IPAA 2012 International Congress.
National President of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA), Percy Allan said this year’s Congress would focus on valuing public administration and be held from 18 to 20 September at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“The three day program will feature leading Australian and international public sector practitioners and academics,” Mr Allan said.
“We already have delegates registered from across Australia as well as from the United States and China – and Australia’s major trading partners and governments in South East Asia and the Pacific have indicated that they will also be sending delegates.”
Chair of the Congress Working Group, David Hanna said the Congress program had been developed to inspire new ways of thinking about public administration.
“Over three days, we will present 10 big thinkers, 50 congress sessions, 120 speakers and eight site visits,” Mr Hanna said.
“The theme valuing public administration has guided us in developing streams that address how the external world values and views public administration; how public administration currently performs in delivering value to the taxpayer; and new ways of working that could generate extra value at a time of growing expectations and shrinking budgets.”
More information on the conference is available from this PS News link.
22 May, 2012
Earthquake tour for
Geoscience Australia is to host a tour of earthquakes monitoring equipment and mineral resources at its Canberra headquarters as part of APS Innovation Week (2-8 June).
movers and shakers
The tour will provide participants with an opportunity to find out about the latest technology geologists are using to monitor earthquakes and help uncover Australia’s hidden mineral wealth.
Geoscience Australia (GA) will offer members of the public the experience of a virtual 3D tour of some of Australia’s key national geophysical and mineral datasets using GA’s innovative open-source 3D World Wind Data Viewer, followed by a visit to the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC).
It said three public tours of the World Wind viewer and the JATWC would be offered at 10am, 12pm and 2pm on Tuesday 5 June.
“Numbers will be strictly limited to 20 visitors per tour,” the Agency said.
Another highlight of the week will be a public seminar on the topic of Searching the Deep Earth: uncovering Australia’s hidden mineral wealth by GA geophysicist, Dr Richard Chopping.
The seminar will be held from 11am to 12pm on Wednesday, 6 June when Dr Chopping will explain the cutting-edge techniques being used to discover Australia’s hidden mineral resources and talk about some of the innovative high performance computing research being undertaken to help secure Australia’s economic future.
“APS Innovation Week is about sharing new ideas, solutions and priorities to get better results and outcomes, and to showcase the latest ways of doing things better in the Australian Public Service,” GA said in a statement
“If you miss out on taking part in Geoscience Australia’s Innovation Week activities, they will be showcased again as part of Geoscience Australia’s annual Open Day on Sunday 19 August during National Science Week.”
Bookings for the tours can be made on (02) 6249 9324.
22 May, 2012
Wallace and Gromit
IP Australia has sponsored a new interactive exhibition in which claymation characters Wallace and Gromit teach kids about intervention and Intellectual Property (IP).
The world-famous characters developed by British studio Aardman Animation are the stars of the exhibition which opened at Scienceworks in Melbourne on 19 May.
It will provide visitors an opportunity to see some of the characters’ more colourful inventions including the Telly-scope II, the Blend-o-matic, the Thinking Cap and the Karaoke Disco Shower, as well as Wallace’s half half-baked ideas from the Chocolate Teapot to the Ice Hot Water Bottle.
IP Australia said Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention exhibition showcased innovation and creativity in everyday life, highlighting the important link between invention and intellectual property protection.
“Visitors walk through different rooms in Wallace and Gromit’s “house”, where they can view both real and imaginary innovations, learn about important Australian inventors and discover how IP rights work in practice,” IP Australia said.
“Visitors are also encouraged to get creative themselves with activities such as devising a smoothie recipe and logo, inventing household tools and singing their hearts out in the Karaoke Disco Shower.
“We are the principal sponsor of the exhibition in Australia and have worked with Scienceworks to ensure that the exhibition contains strong and accurate IP messages that are relevant to an Australian audience,” IP Australia said.
It said it hoped the exhibition inspired a new generation of Australian inventors who understood IP rights and how to use them to protect their inventions.
The exhibition will be in Melbourne until 11 November 2012 and then move to the PowerhouseMuseum in Sydney until 26 May 2013.
Tickets are $19 for adults, $7.50 for concession holders and $6 for children.
22 May, 2012
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced it will soon launch a new website publishing all insolvency and deregistration notices.
rises from ashes
Deputy Chair of ASIC, Belinda Gibson said the website would provide a single point of access for the many notices relating to external administration and deregistration of companies, currently advertised across Australia in the print media.
Ms Gibson said the new website would replace the current requirement to publish insolvency-related notices in State or Territory newspapers or in the ASIC Gazette.
It takes effect on 1 July 2012.
“This is a positive initiative for people affected by the insolvency of a company,” Ms Gibson said.
“It contributes to a fairer and more efficient market by reducing cost and providing opportunities for affected stakeholders to access important notices relating to insolvent companies from a single, easy-to-search source rather than trawling through individual newspaper advertisements in each State.”
She said the proposed advertising fees for the website were believed to represent a significant saving on the current cost of newspaper advertising.
“ASIC is currently working to support industry through these changes and deliver the new web service on schedule,” she said.
“We will provide further information in the lead up to the website going live on 1 July 2012, including the final web address and outcome of the Government’s public consultation on proposed changes to the Corporations Regulations.”
Ms Gibson said that as well as providing for the new insolvency notices website, the amendments to the regulations empowered ASIC to wind-up abandoned companies in certain circumstances to facilitate employees claiming unpaid entitlements under the General Employee Entitlements Redundancy Scheme (GEERS), administered by the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations.
“ASIC intends consulting publicly and with relevant Government Agencies to determine when it will exercise the new power and how to effectively administer and prioritise requests, with a view to issuing formal regulatory guidance,” she said.
“ASIC expects its initial focus will be on those abandoned companies where there is suspected fraudulent phoenixing activity by directors, resulting in employees being unable to access their entitlements through GEERS.”
22 May, 2012
SCAM watch dark
SCAMwatch is warning consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for carbon price scams.
on carbon scam
SCAMwatch is a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.
It warns that carbon price scams could occur in a number of forms, targeting consumers and businesses.
“Beware of phone calls seeking your personal banking details to pay carbon ‘tax’ compensation into your bank account,” SCAMwatch said.
“Scammers may also set up fake websites which look very similar to official Australian Government websites.
“The sites may ask you to enter your personal or financial details, or offer to sell you fake carbon credits.”
It urged people to take action to protect themselves.
“The Australian Government will never call you to ask for your bank account details or to offer you carbon price compensation,” it said.
“Government services are never paid via wire transfer.”
SCAMwatch encourages the public to be alert to scam survey calls which ask for personal, business or financial details.
“Hang up immediately if you receive a phone call out of the blue asking for your bank account or personal details; claiming you need to pay or transfer money to receive a compensation payment or tax payment; or offering to sell you carbon credits or permits for a carbon pricing mechanism or emissions trading scheme,” it said.
“Never provide or confirm your personal or business details over the phone unless you made the call using contact details you found yourself and you trust the information.
“If you think that a call might be a scam hang up and check by using official contact details which you have found independently.”
It said people should never enter credit card or banking details on a website unless they had checked it was authentic and secure.
“If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.”
SCAMwatch can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 May, 2012
New research from Sydney University has suggested that gambling may not be an addiction after all.
not in the race
Education and Training Officer at the University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment Clinic, Fadi Anjoul said the idea that gambling was an addiction was widely held, but inaccurate.
Dr Anjoul said problem gambling had been consistently grouped with drug and alcohol addiction but symptoms such as tolerance or withdrawal, which were central features of addiction, were rarely seen in gamblers.
“Problem gambling is better thought of as a misguided obsession which means we are dealing with habitual and poorly informed choices rather than biological processes that are beyond individual control,” Dr Anjoul said.
“The difference has important implications for treatment.
“Poorly informed choices and behaviours can be treated with what is known as cognitive therapy, which helps people understand the story of their gambling, of how they ended up where they are, and to change how they think about their involvement with gambling.”
He said he had developed an innovative brand of cognitive therapy that generally resulted in much better outcomes than traditional therapies based on the disease or addiction model of gambling.
“Traditional therapies tend to focus on ways to help people deal with their urges when they occur and show high rates of relapse after therapy ends,” he said.
“However, with the model we are working with, we often find that by the end of treatment, people are experiencing very few urges.”
Head of the University’s School of Psychology, Alex Blaszczynski said the results being achieved at the Gambling Treatment Clinic with the new cognitive therapy were extremely exciting.
“It is early days but at this point it appears we are seeing better treatment outcomes and much lower relapse rates than have been found elsewhere,” Professor Blaszczynski said.
22 May, 2012
Tough tax line
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) prosecuted more than 1,500 people for tax and superannuation offences so far this financial year.
Commissioner for Tax, Michael D’Ascenzo released the ATO’s third quarter update of prosecution results saying the figures showed there were significant risks and consequences for people who did not properly fulfil their legal and civic responsibilities in relation to tax and superannuation.
“The year-to-date results to 31 March reveal that the ATO successfully prosecuted 1,106 individuals and 400 companies for tax and superannuation offences,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“We have a range of measures in place to ensure we detect and deal with those who evade their obligations.
“This includes information sharing and working with other government agencies, and also with overseas counterparts.”
He said the ATO pursued tax cheats to the full extent of the law to ensure honest taxpayers had their interests looked after.
“Australians don’t want to face an unfair burden when dishonest people avoid their tax obligations, and they expect the ATO to provide a level playing field,” he said.
Mr D’Ascenzo said with the quarter’s figures largely on trend, it was important to note the ATO’s commitment to encouraging willing and proper participation in the tax and superannuation systems.
“Prosecution is often a last resort, but it’s there to protect the vast majority of taxpayers who do the right thing from being disadvantaged by those who don’t,” he said.
“People who are unclear of their tax or superannuation obligations, or are struggling to meet their obligations, should contact the ATO on 13 11 42 to discuss their situation.”
The ATO’s prosecution results are available in more detail from this PS News link.
22 May, 2012
A new report from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has revealed a record number of illicit drug seizures in 2010-11.
hits new high
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the Illicit Drug Data Report was compiled using data from Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies as well as information from the health system and universities.
Mr Clare said there were 69,595 illicit drug seizures in Australia in 2010-11, the highest in a decade
“Intelligence is the key to seizing drugs on the street and at the border,” Mr Clare said.
“Ninety-six per cent of drug seizures come from intelligence from law enforcement agencies before the parcel or container even arrives in Australia.”
Chief Executive of the ACC, John Lawler said intelligence was helping law enforcement target organised criminals.
“Intelligence leads to seizures of illegal goods and arrests of criminals,” Mr Lawler said.
“The increase in seizures is a direct result of increased intelligence and information sharing between jurisdictions in Australia and with our overseas partners.”
He said that was the power of intelligence and the more information law enforcement had about serious organised criminals and their methods, the better chance it had of breaking down their syndicates.
“As we continue to expand the information included in this report, we are able to form a more robust picture of the illicit drug market, which enables us to increase our understanding and inform critical decision making and set priorities to harden the Australian community against illicit drugs,” he said.
Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Tony Negus said that forensic analysis provided law enforcement with more information on the source of drugs.
“Drug profiling allows for comparisons within and between seizures to identify distinct batches of drugs or potential links between groups involved in manufacture or trafficking,” Commissioner Negus said.
“It can also identify other harmful chemicals that the end user may be surprised to find in their drugs.”
The ACC report can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 May, 2012
Three Indonesian sailors convicted of people smuggling in Australia are to be released from prison and returned to Indonesia following a review of their cases by the Attorney-General’s Department.
dug out of jail
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the review focused on claims the prisoners were minors when their offences were committed.
“Minors don’t belong in adult gaols,” Ms Roxon said.
“Further information has raised sufficient doubt that these three individuals may have been minors at the time of the offence which warrants granting them early release on licence.”
She said their release did not constitute a pardon.
“These three individuals crewed people smuggling vessels that came to Australia, all three pleaded guilty to that, and they were convicted of that offence,” she said.
“This is a decision to give these three individuals the benefit of the doubt about their age when intercepted, based on further information now available.
“The return of these three individuals to Indonesia will be facilitated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.”
Ms Roxon said under Australian law, the offence of people smuggling applied to both adults and minors.
“The Government’s policy is that minors are only prosecuted with people smuggling offences in exceptional circumstances on the basis of their significant involvement in a people smuggling venture or multiple ventures,” she said.
Ms Roxon said that in addition to the three prisoners who were released, three others had completed their non parole period and been returned to Indonesia.
“The cases of the 22 individuals still in Australian jails will continue to be reviewed,” she said.
22 May, 2012
Maths and science
School students are to be given access to interesting and engaging maths and science lessons as part of the response to the Chief Scientist’s report on Mathematics, Engineering and Science in the National Interest.
add up for schools
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said $54 million would be allocated for the initiative, with $16.9 million specifically allocated for schools.
Mr Garrett said the response acknowledged Australia’s needs for more students to study the vital subjects.
“Announced as part of the 2012 Budget, the Maths and Science Package focuses on developing new and exciting ways to teach the subjects, to engage students and ensure there are skilled workers to meet future job demands,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the package for schools included $6.5 million for the CSIRO to expand the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program and take interesting maths and science lessons to schools across Australia, particularly rural and regional schools.
He said it also included $5 million for Science Connections to support the Science by Doing and Primary Connections projects, providing extra online teaching resources with leadership from the Australian Academy of Science.
Mr Garrett said another $3 million would fund National Support and Advice for Teachers, a new service for maths and science teachers to help them deliver stimulating and safe lessons; and $2.4 million had been allocated to support the participation of Australia’s most talented science and maths secondary students in the International Science and Mathematics Olympiads.
22 May, 2012
Franchisors sign up
The Fair Work Ombudsman has welcomed a surge of strong interest being shown in a new workplace rights program by Australian franchising companies.
for workplace rights
About 40 franchisors have expressed interest in participating in the Ombudsman’s National Franchise Program (NFP) after calls for volunteers to join up were made in February.
Eight have now been selected for inclusion in the first intake: Subway, Boost Juice Bars, Just Cuts, Barry Plant, Bank of Queensland, Pizza Hut, Terry White Chemists and Just Better Care.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) will provide free advice on how best to promote compliance with workplace laws across their networks through the NFP.
Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson welcomed the interest in the program, saying further placements might be offered later this year.
Mr Wilson said that in the meantime, a dedicated web page had been developed with information and resources specifically tailored for the franchising sector.
“The NFP is an initiative of the Agency’s Major Employer Branch, which won a commendation at the 2011 Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management for its National Employer Program (NEP),” Mr Wilson said.
“Through the NEP, the FWO has adopted an innovative approach to regulation, fostering compliance with the Fair Work Act by working collaboratively with large employers.
“More than 50 employers have now taken part in the NEP including Jenny Craig, Lincraft, JB Hi-Fi, Richo, Darrell Lea, Ramsey Health Care, Pretty Girl Fashion Group, Super Retail Group, Pacific Brands, The Reject Shop, Telstra, Cotton On, Payless Shoes and Amalgamated Holdings Limited.”
The NFP website can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 May, 2012
Gulf narrows with
Parts of the Gulf of Carpentaria have been protected with the declaration of the Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).
Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon said the protected area stretched across 130,000 hectares and took in the Sir Edward Pellew Islands which were of world conservation significance and supported a large number of nesting sites for green and flatback turtles and seabirds.
Mr Snowdon said the declaration was a celebration of the Yanyuwa people’s connection with country.
“The Yanyuwa rangers, known as li-Anthawirriyarra or ‘people of the sea’, do invaluable work in looking after this spectacular country – bringing conservation benefits to all Australians, as well as significant spin-off benefits for the health and wellbeing of local Aboriginal communities,” Mr Snowdon said.
“That’s why the Government is providing more than $2 million over two years to the Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area and li-Anthawirriyarra Working on Country rangers to support the work they do.
“Together, Indigenous Protected Areas and Working on Country rangers form one of Australia’s most successful conservation stories, protecting biodiversity while providing training and employment for Aboriginal people doing work that they love on their own country.”
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke congratulated the Yanyuwa people, thanking them for their commitment to managing their natural and cultural heritage.
“The Yanyuwa rangers are doing vital work to protect culturally important dugong and green turtles, monitoring marine mammal populations and protecting the seagrass beds by removing debris like ghost nets,” Mr Burke said.
“They are actively managing feral cats and pigs on the islands of this IPA, where a wide range of habitats provide important refuges for native mammals threatened on the mainland.”
18 May, 2012
Disability campaign to
A campaign to change attitudes towards disability in the Australian Public Service (APS) has been launched by the Australian Public Service Commission.
beat APS attitudes
The As One strategy was officially unveiled by the Special Minister of State for Public Service and Integrity, Gary Gray in Canberra earlier this week.
To be implemented over the period 2012–2014, As One aims to renew and refocus the attention of the APS and ensure a consistent approach is adopted.
Its focus is in two parts: changing the way people think about disability and providing the opportunities and know-how to create a diverse workforce.
Mr Gray said every agency, leader and employee in the APS would need to work together to build a culture that was inclusive of people with disability.
“The As One initiative represents a significant change in how we approach people with a disability in the public service,” Mr Gray said.
“The Australian Public Service needs this new approach.”
“Transforming the APS workforce, and more broadly the working landscape for all Australians, is fundamental to addressing social inclusion issues that face many people with a disability.”
He said the As One strategy was “evolutionary and revolutionary”.
“Fostering an inclusive culture is an imperative that clearly shines through in both of these principles,” he said.
“And it almost goes without saying that we need to improve leadership across the APS with respect to progressing a more inclusive agenda.”
Mr Gray said there was also an economic imperative from a capability and a talent management perspective.
“It is a fact that people with a disability in Australia are currently an underutilised part of our potential workforce,” he said.
“As much as the As One Strategy is a key action in creating an equal and engaging workplace for all, it is also a call to action for all of us.”
The As One strategy can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 May, 2012
Needy to lap up
The Department of Human Services is to sell 800 of its old laptops to families in need.
The initiative is part of a partnership between the Department and the not-for-profit organisation WorkVentures.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said the Department would supply laptops to WorkVentures to be refurbished and then sold at a discount price.
“WorkVentures will sell the computers to Centrelink concession card holders, low income earners, schools and not-for-profit organisations,” Senator Carr said.
“This is a win for everyone.
“To provide the best service the Department constantly updates its technology but that means a lot of old computers need new homes - making them affordable for the people who need them most makes good sense.”
He said the program also helped people access services such as Centrelink, with software loaded on the computers for that purpose.
“The first lot of 800 computers are expected to be followed by many more in the years to come,” he said.
“WorkVentures has spent 33 years helping people at risk of social and economic exclusion improve their lives using the benefits of technology.”
Chief Executive of WorkVentures, Arsenio Alegre said the new contract was a vote of confidence in the program.
“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are almost 1.5 million Australian households without a computer,” Mr Alegre said.
“WorkVentures is committed to helping those households access government and business services online, search for jobs and get connected with family and friends using technology.”
He said ensuring a consistent supply of computers was the organisation’s greatest challenge.
“This new partnership helps to strengthen our supply and achieve economies of scale - meaning lower prices,” he said.
“Laptop computers with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and a laptop bag are priced from $319, including delivery.”
More information on the program is available at this PS News link.
18 May, 2012
Online career tool
The Australian Public Service Commission has launched a new online tool for people from diverse backgrounds looking to start or enhance a career in the Australian Public Service.
for diverse staff
My Career, My APS has been developed to assist people identify and follow a career path in the APS and is expected to be of particular value to people with disability.
The new resource contains information for people working in the APS and for those considering a career in the public sector.
“This site has been developed to assist you to identify and follow a career path in the Australian Public Service,” the site says.
“It can help you if you want to start a career, or build on your existing career.”
The site outlines a number of topics including information on the type of work available in the APS, where to find job opportunities and possible career paths.
It has links to other resources including the career and information exploration service, MyFuture; the Your Career Guide website, which offers students information and guidance on career choices; and Graduate Careers Australia, which produces a range of publications and research on industry and salary trends, graduate employment opportunities and career development.
My Career, My APS also has links to specific resources for Indigenous workers and for people with disability.
The new website can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 May, 2012
Parks for sale to
Australia may need to consider selling off some of its National Parks to pay for the conservation they were reserved for according to a professor from the University of Queensland (UQ).
save the parks
Director of the UQ’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), Professor Hugh Possingham said Australia was facing some very tough decisions in protecting its most important landscapes and species for future generations.
“For all our present nationwide investment in conservation, we are still losing both species and ecosystem integrity,” Professor Possingham said.
“We clearly need better ways to decide what we can afford to save, because the current system plainly isn’t working as well as we’d hoped.”
He said evidence indicated that Australian native species were still disappearing at a rate 100 to 1,000 times faster than normal.
“Over the past 200 years, 22 mammal species have become extinct, over 100 are now on the threatened and endangered species list, and six more bird taxa were recently declared extinct,” he said.
“Fourteen species of frogs are on their last legs.”
Professor Possingham said that with limited funds in both the government and private sectors the nation may have to look at a new system for allocating funds for conservation where both the need and the prospects of success were greatest.
“While 12 per cent of the continent is enclosed in National Parks, few have sufficient resources to manage their biota intensively,” he said.
“As funding at this level is unlikely to become available in the short run, we should look at putting resources into those National Parks and species where we have the best chance of achieving something - and that may mean selling off smaller parks that are not viable.”
He said however, selling national parks did not need to mean their loss in a conservation sense because many well-off Australians now had a strong desire to look after native bushland and its species on a private basis.
“If we have to refocus public investment on the National Parks where we can achieve the best conservation results, then maybe we should also find ways to encourage more Australians to take care of their own landscapes and endangered species privately,” Professor Possingham said.
18 May, 2012
A comprehensive register of Australia’s major public-private infrastructure projects has been officially launched by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese.
Mr Albanese said the launch of the National Infrastructure Construction Schedule (NICS) meant for the first time, the details on every economic and social project valued at $50 million or more being planned or delivered by governments around the country - Federal, State and local - were available at one location.
He said the NICS was developed by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to “level the playing field”.
“This new web-based tool removes a major impediment to the proper functioning of the market, namely a lack of comprehensive, complete and accessible information about the projects pending as well as those coming down the pipeline,” Mr Albanese said.
“Right now, 56 projects worth over $50 billion are listed, from the new hospital planned for Palmerston in the Northern Territory to the Midlands Irrigation Scheme in Tasmania.
“Previously, those interested in financing or building infrastructure had to rely on ‘word of mouth’ or scour countless websites and newspapers to find what was available, a process which inevitably advantaged larger investors and the big construction companies.”
He said irrespective of where in the country or even the world they happened to be, investors and infrastructure providers now had equal access to the same information about both the immediate and longer term opportunities which existed in Australia.
“Over time, this will open up and attract more participants into the sector, which in turn will be good for competition and the price taxpayers ultimately pay to build the modern, well-planned infrastructure Australia needs for the future,” he said.
“It is hard to over-state the value of this new schedule.
“Investors, both local and international, will have the knowledge and clarity they need to invest in Australian infrastructure.”
The new National Infrastructure Construction Schedule can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 May, 2012
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is about to launch a new training program on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Awareness.
in train at DIAC
The program is the result of almost a year of research, consultation and collaboration by DIAC’s diversity team, its Indigenous Employee Network and Reconciliation Ambassadors.
The training module includes topics on reconciliation, culture, communication, past government policies, living standards, and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
DIAC’s Belinda Berry said the Department was proud of the new training program which was mandated for all staff.
“It is one way in which the Department is following through on our commitment to reconciliation and ending Indigenous disadvantage,” Ms Berry said.
“The development of the course was a result of an action item from our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
“This plan was developed in consultation with our Indigenous Employee’s Network and a RAP Working Group.”
She said the course was expected to take about 30 minutes to complete and because it had been developed in the Department’s eLearning environment, participants could do it in one session, over a number of sessions, or even from home,.
“It will form part of the learning packages for Induction and Fundamentals of Supervision and Leadership to ensure that all new employees undertake the training,” Ms Berry said.
“It will also be compulsory for all existing employees and this will result in approximately 6,000 employees completing the session,” she said.
18 May, 2012
Youth Parliament not
Fifty Indigenous leaders of the future are to meet in Canberra this month at the first National Indigenous Youth Parliament.
Australian Electoral Commissioner (AEC), Ed Killesteyn said the Youth Parliament would consist of six representatives from each State and Territory and two from the Torres Strait Islands.
“The National Indigenous Youth Parliament is being run by the AEC in conjunction with the YMCA to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Indigenous right to vote in Federal elections,” Mr Killesteyn said.
“It is also a major event in the AEC’s Year of Enrolment.”
He said the Youth Parliament was the centrepiece of the Year of Enrolment campaign and would see Bills addressing Indigenous issues debated on the weekend of 26–27 May.
“Participants were selected on the basis of their community involvement, interest in the Parliamentary system and the leadership skills they can contribute,” he said.
“Youth Parliament members will spend a week in Canberra learning how government works, how laws are made and have workshops in public speaking and honing their media skills.
“The members will meet with Members of Parliament and Senators and there will be opportunities to meet with political leaders.”
Mr Killesteyn said any Bills agreed to by the Youth Parliament would be presented to the Government and Opposition to provide a youth perspective on some of the major challenges facing Australia.
“The Youth Parliament is designed to help close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage in electoral participation,” he said.
“There are some estimates that less than half of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be enrolled to vote.
“An important aim is to promote youth-led advocacy, active community leadership and the development of a group of future Indigenous leaders,” Mr Killesteyn said.
18 May, 2012
Aboriginal workers are
More than 100 Aboriginal workers have been employed at Ayers Rock Resort Yulara since the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) took over ownership less than a year ago.
Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Julie Collins said since the Government Agency took control more Indigenous Australians were working at Ayers Rock Resort than ever before.
“This milestone is a demonstration of the Australian Government’s commitment to assisting Indigenous people to develop skills, gain real jobs and benefit from economic development,” Ms Collins said.
She said the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) was providing $5 million in funding to help the ILC increase the number of Indigenous employees at the resort.
“The innovative IEP is all about creating business-led projects and increasing job opportunities.”
She said since the IEP project began on 1 July last year, the resort had made great gains in sourcing and placing Indigenous employees and trainees.
“The target is to place Indigenous people into 200 jobs by 2015 and 340 by the end of 2018 - or more than half of the resort’s workforce,” she said.
“Under a comprehensive, 12-month training program, new trainees receive pre-employment support, accredited, paid on-the-job training and on-going mentoring through the National Indigenous Training Academy.
“The resort is run by ILC subsidiary company, Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.”
Ms Collins said the ILC guaranteed a job for all trainees graduating from the IEP program at either Ayers Rock Resort, another ILC business property or at one of the many hotels in the ACCOR hotel network across Australia.
“The objective is that all participants will continue being employed by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia or another employer in the field by the end of the project,” she said.
“Since July 2009, the IEP has achieved 83,300 placements in employment and training related activities – including 38,800 job placements and 44,500 training placements.”
18 May, 2012
And in other news...
More to go from Climate Change
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is to cut more jobs than originally thought.
Staff have been told that a further 60 may be lost after the 300 or so identified in April.
According to the Canberra Times, the Department might have to introduce forced redundancies to meet its job cut targets since fewer than 300 staff had volunteered to leave following the first round.
The extra cuts come just a week after ACT Senator and Minister, Kate Lundy said she did not expect any forced redundancies in the APS.
Year Book launch
The 2011-12 ABS Year Book Australia is to be launched at the National Library in Canberra next week.
The 2011-12 edition features articles on the National Year of Reading; the Australian Year of the Farmer; and the International Year of the Co-operatives,
AFP officers graduate
Twenty new officers have been sworn in to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
The officers are graduates of the Federal Police Transition Program, designed to train Protective Service Officers (PSO) to transition to sworn AFP officers.
They will now work as uniformed police officers providing safety and security for Australia’s major airports after completing an intensive 17 week training course in addition to their training as PSOs.
Better rescues for Sydney
Four high visibility Mk8 fire rescue vehicles have been commissioned for aviation rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) operations at Sydney Airport.
The Mk8 vehicles will replace fire vehicles that were up to 20 years old.
Log supplies to increase
Supplies of logs from Australia’s timber plantations is set to increase substantially, according to a new report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
The report, Australia's plantation log supply 2010-2054, predicts the volume of available logs will increase from around 26 million cubic metres per year in the 2010-14 period to reach an annual peak at 33 million cubic metres in the 2030-34 period.
The report can be found at PS News link.
Previously this week...
Defence drops top job
The position of Associate Secretary for Capability in the Department of Defence is to be abandoned.
The position was one of two Associate Secretaries created for the Department following a review of accountability last year.
The other position was filled in February.
IP Australia is seeking expressions of interest from people considering a position on the Plant Breeder’s Rights Advisory Committee (PBRAC).
Individuals with a sound knowledge and experience in plant breeder’s rights are encouraged to register their interest.
More information is available at this PS News link.
Lodge contract awarded
A consultant has been appointed to assist with refurbishing the Prime Minister’s Lodge in Canberra.
HBO+EMTB Architects (ACT) Pty Ltd has been awarded the design services contract for the refurbishment and will be responsible for preparing tender documentation for slate required for the roof replacement; designing the scope of works; and developing cost plans.
IP portal launched
A secure electronic business portal has been launched by IP Australia.
The eServices portal allows businesses to register, login and conduct selected transactions when and where it is convenient for them.
It is available at this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
APS census to take
The first ever census of Australian Public Service (APS) employees has been launched by the Australian Public Service Commission as part of its State of the Service (SOTS) reporting program.
pulse of the Service
The APS-wide census will be conducted instead of the sample survey of staff used for the SOTS report in past years.
Launching the survey, the Commission said the Your Views Count 2012 employee census was an opportunity for APS employees to provide feedback about the Service.
“We want to find out what is working well, what we need to work on and/or do differently so that we can improve the experience of working in the APS,” the Commission said.
“This information will also allow your agency to assess how well it is tracking against other agencies, the APS more generally and some international organisations.”
It said it was also interested to hear what employees thought about working in each agency and the APS overall.
“The APS employee census collects anonymous information on important issues including health and wellbeing, learning and development, job satisfaction, leadership, innovation and your general impressions of the APS,” it said.
“The more people who respond, the more representative and useful the results will be.”
It said while participation in the survey was voluntary, it encouraged everyone to have their say.
“Your responses will be confidential.”
The Commission said questionnaires would be submitted directly to the contractor responsible for analysing the information.
“Completed surveys will not be seen by anyone at the Commission,” it said.
“Demographic information you provide (such as where you work) will not enable your responses to be linked back to you.”
The survey closes 1 June and more information can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
A crackdown on planning and performance measures in Australia’s national cultural agencies has been announced By the Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean.
to get new culture
Mr Crean said reforms to the institutes’ procedures and systems would be phased in from 1 July this year, designed to improve their financial management, the way they managed and cared for collections and ensure more consistent reporting.
Mr Crean said the reforms reflected a commitment to strengthening the agencies and assisting them in benchmarking their performance and planning.
He said that among the agencies to be affected would be the Australia Council, the National Archives of Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery, National Library, National Museum of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery and Screen Australia as well as the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Australian National Maritime Museum and the Museum of Australian Democracy.
“These agencies hold our national treasures, tell our national stories, and play a vital role in the education of our people, and of visitors to our shores,” Mr Crean said.
“This new framework is the culmination of nine months work by the institutions and the Government, to develop a consistent, best practice approach to strategic planning and reporting.
“This will assist these institutions benchmark their performance and planning, not only with each other, but also with similar institutions domestically and internationally.”
He said a series of common performance indicators would be adopted across all agencies.
“This will see a far greater level of information available about the individual and collective impact that these agencies have,” he said.
“The new framework will ensure there is a consistent approach to measuring and reporting on a range of activities and achievements including attendance levels, regional outreach programs, education programs, collection status, funding from private sources, and numbers of local artists supported or displayed.”
15 May, 2012
Funding surge for
New funding has been announced to boost the capacity of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to respond to severe weather events.
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said recent weather events like the floods in Queensland and Victoria, bushfires in Western Australia and tropical cyclone Yasi had highlighted the growing demands on forecasting services.
“At times like this, it’s critical Australians have access to up to the minute weather information and world’s best forecasting,” Senator Farrell said.
He said that was why the recent Federal Budget provided additional funding of $4.8 million in 2012-13 to increase the Bureau’s frontline capabilities.
“This will involve the employment of up to 20 expert meteorologists, recruitment and training of up to 10 new local meteorologists and recruitment and training of up to 10 additional flood forecasters,” the Senator said.
He said the new measures would provide the Bureau with better access to the skills and expertise it needed to respond to extreme weather.
“Last year, the Government initiated an independent review into the Bureau’s capacity to provide seasonal forecasting services and to respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters,” he said.
“The strengthening of frontline staffing capacity is one aspect of the Government’s response to the review, which will be released shortly.”
Senator Farrell said the Bureau of Meteorology would also trial a recommendation from the review proposing it host advertising on its website.
“The one-year trial will involve strict guidelines about the type of advertising permitted on the site,” he said.
“Revenue raised from this trial will contribute to the improvements in forecasting.
“At the end of the trial the Government will make an assessment as to whether advertising will continue on the Bureau’s website,” Senator Farrell said.
15 May, 2012
Antarctic runners to
Expeditioners on Casey station in Antarctica are to take part in the 24-hour Cancer Council Relay for Life later this month.
star in snow business
On 19 May the team of 19 wintering expeditioners will walk, run and ski a 400-metre track of snow and ice around Casey station.
Calling themselves the Very Long March of the Penguins, the group aims to raise more than $20,000 for the Tasmanian Cancer Council.
Event organiser and Casey Meteorological Observer, Craig George said the 24-hour relay would be both a physical and mental challenge for those who take part.
“At this time of year the sun sets at 3:00 in the afternoon and it doesn’t rise again until 10:00 the next morning, so it will be dark for 19 hours of the 24 hour walk,” Mr George said.
“On top of this, May is the coldest month at Casey and we could experience temperatures well below minus 20 degrees overnight.
He said the team hoped to cover about 120 kilometres during the 24-hour period and would have a treadmill set up inside the accommodation building in case of bad weather.
“Since Mawson departed Hobart for the Antarctic 100 years ago Tasmania has had a special connection with the continent and we feel very privileged to be down here, so we want to be able to give something back to the Cancer Council of Tasmania and the Tasmanian community,” Mr George said.
Donations to help the marchers on their way can be made at this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
War veterans win
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has launched a new website offering war veterans a more immediate way of conducting business with the Department.
with new website
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon said the MyAccount website was a new innovation in service delivery for the veteran and Australian Defence Force communities.
“MyAccount is an online service centre where clients can engage with the Department anytime, anywhere and all they need to get started is a computer and internet connection,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said MyAccount offered a variety of services including ways to view and request forms and factsheets; book transport to medical appointments; view payments and card information; request replacement cards; lodge travel claims; request additional entitlements; change contact details; and view the status of claims.
“This website responds to the evolving needs of our veteran community, offering clients choice, control and convenience when contacting DVA, without the restrictions of physical location or business hours,” he said.
Mr Snowdon said the service would not replace traditional means of communicating with the Department but provided another channel in which to engage with it.
“Change can be a good thing,” he said, “and I assure the veteran community that this service is not the end of traditional ways of communication – you will still be able to contact DVA via phone, face to-face, fax, email or mail.
“The Department will also continue to contact you using these channels.”
He said the service was optional and veterans who wished to set-up an account could phone 1800 173 858 to receive a personal registration number.
“Our priority is to make sure we look after those who have sacrificed so much for this country - Australia’s 350,000 veterans and their families,” Mr Snowdon said.
“That means those who have served and those currently serving, including forces now deployed in Afghanistan, will be cared for today and into the future by our Government.
He said MyAccount was an evolving service and additional features would be added over time.
The new website can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
Privacy week no
Privacy Week 2012 has been judged a success with the Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim saying the annual event promoted by the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) had ended on a high note.
longer a secret
Mr Pilgrim said privacy would continue to remain an important issue for some time after the week saw a record number of 145 Australian campaign partners, up from 80 in 2011 and more than three times that of the year before.
He said the week had also seen a growing level of interest and engagement from all sectors of the community along with the announcement of major privacy law reforms.
He said the new privacy reforms were scheduled to be introduced into Parliament in the Winter sitting period.
“This includes many of the changes we have been anticipating since the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review into privacy laws,” Mr Pilgrim said.
“It was great to see all our partners putting their commitment to privacy into practice.
“We saw many businesses and government agencies hold privacy training for staff to ensure that they value and respect the personal information held by the organisation.”
He said as part of the week, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner had held a business event to address the issue of what to do when faced with a data breach and launched a guide to handling such breaches.
“Retaining consumer trust was identified as a key issue for business during the discussion and the importance of leadership in promoting a strong privacy culture was also a recurring theme.
He said the 2012 edition of Data breach notification: A guide to handling personal information security breaches was now available. It can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
Planning display off
A new exhibition to mark the centenary of the winning design for Australia’s national capital has been officially opened by the Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean.
the drawing board
Mr Crean said the exhibition, Grand Visions - Centenary of the Capital Plan, was developed by the National Capital Authority (NCA), in partnership with the Parliament of Australia.
He said it told the story of the international design competition that shaped the national capital.
“The Griffin Plan provided a bold and contemporary vision for the national capital that reflected our democratic ideals,” Mr Crean said.
“Canberra is the seat of power for a nation that has become a strong and respected middle power, but it is also a city territory, home to around 360,000 people.”
He said as the hundredth anniversary of the naming of Canberra approached, it was appropriate to review the nature of that relationship.
“We commissioned Dr Allan Hawke to conduct a review into the NCA and we are responding to the recommendations,” he said.
“We are working closely with the ACT Government, through the NCA, to simplify and clarify the shared planning system in Canberra, develop a clear plan to inform and educate Australians about the significance of their national capital and improve the NCA’s interaction with the ACT Government and the community.
“That is why we have committed, in one of the toughest budgets, $11.9 million in funding for the NCA.”
Mr Crean said Grand Visions - Centenary of the Capital Plan included reproductions of the winning plans and renderings produced by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, and an ‘original copy’ of the report accompanying their entry.
“It also includes the original wooden box which contained the competition kit sent to cities across the world and reproductions of the designs from other finalists,” he said.
The exhibition is open until 27 June 2012 in the Presiding Officers’ Gallery, Parliament House, Canberra.
15 May, 2012
A draft national curriculum for Year 11 and 12 students has been released for public comment.
to pass the grade
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said all Year 11 and 12 students would study and be assessed against the same curriculum under the first national Senior Secondary Curriculum.
“The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has released the draft curriculum for English, Mathematics, Science and History, for consultation before a final curriculum is agreed by all education ministers at the end of this year,” Mr Garrett said.
He said releasing the draft curriculum for public consultation was a milestone in the rollout of the Australian Curriculum.
“We’re delivering the first ever national curriculum, meaning students from Tasmania to the Top End will learn the same things and be assessed against the same achievement standards,” he said.
“The first four subjects for Foundation year to Year 10 are being taught in schools across the country, with curricula currently being developed for the Arts, Geography and Languages.
“Now we are taking the next big step towards ensuring Australian students are studying a common curriculum, no matter which school they attend.”
Mr Garrett said the content in the national curriculum would align as much as possible with the current content being taught in senior high schools.
“State and Territory authorities will continue to be responsible for certification, assessment and examination for senior secondary years,” he said.
“The national curriculum is one of the Government’s key education reforms.
“It provides every Australian student with a common learning entitlement, makes clear what they need to learn as they progress through school and lays the basis for high quality teaching in every classroom.”
Submissions close 20 July and the draft curriculum can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
The Murray–Darling Basin Authority is to establish an Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences.
is bold experiment
Chair of the Authority, Craig Knowles said the Authority was committed to an ongoing discussion about the science and socio-economic knowledge which was needed to support the adaptive management of the basin over the next few years.
“I see this Committee as an essential part of assisting us with that endeavour,” Mr Knowles said.
“We are keen to establish this independent advisory committee to help us focus our future science and knowledge priorities over the next few years.”
He said the Authority was looking for the best and brightest minds in the fields of hydrology, ecology, social sciences and economics.
“If you believe that you fit this description let us know,” he said.
“The Committee will be up and running in mid-2012 so we can build its advice on the priorities for future work into the implementation phase and the Committee can contribute to the review of sustainable diversion limits in 2015.”
Mr Knowles said the recommendations of the CSIRO-led review of the science behind the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan would be part of the work of the Advisory Committee.
“The CSIRO review found that draft Basin Plan represented a sufficient basis to begin an adaptive process of managing the Basin,” he said.
Applications for positions on the Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences close 2 July.
More information is available from this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
New funding has been announced for 11 organisations to encourage healthy relationships among young people as a way of reducing violence against women.
to push respect
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said the recipients of the grants would share in $3.7 million worth of funding as part of the third round of the Government’s Respectful Relationships initiative.
“Educating young people on how to engage in respectful relationships is an important way of working towards breaking the cycle of violence against women,” Ms Collins said.
“We’ve already delivered Respectful Relationships education to more than 33,000 young people across Australia and this new $3.7 million in funding will make it possible to reach thousands more.
“Sadly, there is still a great need in Australia for programs such as Respectful Relationships - nearly one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence and one in five has been the victim of sexual assault.”
She said changing entrenched attitudes was a long-term challenge, but some great work was being done through Respectful Relationships projects.
“Since the program started in 2009, we have invested $9.1 million in 32 projects to help equip young people with the skills to engage in respectful relationships,” she said.
“These programs cover a range of approaches, showing the diversity of initiatives the Government has put in place in this important area.”
Ms Collins said the funding was part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
“The National Plan brings together all governments and the non-government sector to co-ordinate efforts to reduce violence against women,” she said.
“The Australian Government is supporting other significant prevention initiatives under the National Plan, including Community Action Grants and The Line campaign.”
The National Plan can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 May, 2012
Taxation review for
A review of taxation measures in place in the Australian Capital Territory has seen the ACT Government accept 26 of the review panel’s 28 recommendations noting one and rejecting another.
Among the review’s recommendations were proposals to abolish stamp duty on real estate conveyancing; abolish duty on general insurance and life insurance policies; progress a road user charge system through a national agreement between all the States and Territories; and pursue the introduction of parking fees in Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle.
The review also recommended allowing the deferral of rates for some ratepayers; adopting ‘site value’ of land as the basis for valuations; expanding the Home Buyer Concession Scheme; abolishing residential land tax; and reviewing the administration of the ACT’s Ambulance Levy.
Releasing its response to the review, the ACT Government said the report by the Taxation Review Panel confirmed that the ACT’s taxation mix was not unusual when its circumstances were taken into account.
“When compared to the size of the economy and incomes, the Territory is not a high taxing jurisdiction,” the Government said.
“Overall, the ACT’s taxation system has relatively higher economic efficiency compared to other jurisdictions.”
It said the Panel had noted that the States and Territories had to resort to inefficient taxes due to the history of Commonwealth-State financial relations.
“The need for joint Commonwealth and State/Territory action on long-term reform has been recognised by the Panel,” it said.
“The Government notes the Panel also suggests that measures could be taken that would improve the efficiency of the current system.”
The Government said the Panel had also argued for the nation’s system of allocation of GST revenue to not be a disincentive for tax reform.
“Overall, the Panel’s work provides a very useful starting point for the Government to consider improvements.”
It said roundtable discussions would be held with the community over the next few months seeking feedback on the ACT Taxation Review and its recommendations.
15 May, 2012
TGA website upgrade
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has launched an improved interface for its publicly accessible e-Business Services (eBS) website.
the right medicine
eBS is an online portal that provided separate functions for consumers, health professionals and industry.
TGA said the eBS hosted the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) and provided publicly available information about current medicines and medical devices.
It said the changes were to make it easier for health professionals and industry to find information in the ARTG, store search results and analyse them.
TGA said several changes and improvements had been made.
It said the changes included separating proprietary ingredients from other ingredients on public menu items; presentation of a single search box and explanation of what could be searched for on the search pages; and changes to the format of search pages.
“New search pages will present a single search box and an explanation of what can be searched for and how to do so for each of the ARTG, ingredients and proprietary ingredients,” the TGA said.
“The resulting search will be in the format that is now common for public information.
“The search results can be further filtered using the section at the top of the screen and sorted using any of the column heading in the results view.”
It said the portal view export function had also been expanded to support exporting to Excel and XML, along with HTML.
“The values exported are consistent with the current view filter criteria and sort selection,” it said.
“This functionality will be common across all portal views.”
The eBS can be accessed at this PS News link.
11 May, 2012
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called on the Government to guarantee its decision to cut jobs from the Australian Public Service won’t involve forced redundancies.
as job cuts mount
National Secretary of the Union, Nadine Flood said that last November the Minister for Finance, Senator Penny Wong had indicated the Government held a “strong expectation” that the 4 per cent efficiency dividend would be met without the need for forced redundancies.
“We welcomed Minister’s Wong’s statement at the time,” Ms Flood said.
“Now that the budget position is finally known, we are seeking confirmation from the Government that there will be no forced redundancies.”
She also warned cuts to the public sector would hit regional areas hard, pointing out that two thirds of APS staff were located in Centres outside Canberra.
“Some of the biggest cuts were in agencies with the largest regional footprint such as Tax, Defence and Human Services,” Ms Flood said.
“We are concerned that Public Servants in regional centres such as Toowoomba, Wagga Wagga, Newcastle, Nowra, Darwin, Townsville, Hobart and other towns will struggle to find other work if there are redundancies in their offices.”
She said in many parts of regional Australia the Commonwealth was one of the biggest employers.
“It is vitally important that every effort is made to maintain public sector employment in regional areas where good jobs are hard to find,” she said.
“The public sector is not an inexhaustible source of savings for Governments.
“In many Departments there is little or no fat left to cut, all that is left are the staff that run vital programs.”
She said customers would feel the impact of the budget cuts through reduced services and increased waiting times.
“We are already seeing the impact of previous cuts on ordinary Australians and these measures will only make the situation worse,” Ms Flood said.
11 May, 2012
Airline fatigue rules
Proposed changes to the rules covering fatigue management for Australian airline flight crew and air operators have been released by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for comment.
a wake-up call
In a statement, CASA said the proposed rules would introduce a graduated approach to fatigue regulation so air operators could use the most appropriate set of standards for their type of operations.
“Some air operators, such as those conducting aerial work, may elect to operate under a basic set of flight and duty time limitations,” CASA said.
“This would limit flight crew to no more than seven hours flight and eight hours duty in a day.”
It said others engaged in more complex air operations may choose to work under a set of detailed flight and duty time limits that took into account factors such as acclimatisation to time zones; split duty; augmented crew; and late night operations.
“These operators would have the flexibility needed for the demands of daily operations, such as passenger transport, while safely managing fatigue,” it said.
“Other operators such as large airlines would be required to implement an approved fatigue risk management system instead of meeting prescriptive requirements.”
CASA said under the proposed new rules the shared responsibilities of both air operators and flight crew in the management of fatigue risk were clearly defined.
“Flight crew would be required to use off duty periods to obtain enough sleep; to use in-flight rest appropriately; and to disclose anything that may prevent them from meeting applicable fatigue risk management policies and limitations,” it said.
“Operators would be required to provide flight crew members with sufficient time away from work to enable restorative rest and sleep.
“The proposed standards were developed taking into account the need to improve the current rules, human performance limitations and International Civil Aviation Organisation standards.”
Public comment closes 12 June and details of the proposed changes can be accessed at this PS News link.
11 May, 2012
A report on a review of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme has been released by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
to get more bite
Senator Conroy said the report was the result of extensive consultation between the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy; a wide range of industry stakeholders; consumer interest groups; and the broader community.
“The telecommunications environment has changed substantially over the past 20 years,” Senator Conroy said.
“It is essential that the TIO can continue to provide high-quality dispute resolution services, especially as Australians increasingly make use of new technologies and services.”
The report’s main recommendation is that legislative amendments be made to provide greater clarity around the TIO’s role and expected standards of operation.
According to the Minister, this includes the establishment of framework principles under the Telecommunications (Consumer Protections and Service Standards) Act 1999 based on the Benchmarks for Industry-based Customer Dispute Resolution Schemes.
Senator Conroy said other recommendations included new incentives to encourage participants to comply with the TIO scheme; an improved governance structure; and improvements to assist the TIO to quickly identify and respond to problems affecting groups of consumers.
He said it also recommended implementing improved reporting requirements and improvements to the TIO’s policy for escalating complaints.
“These recommendations will make the TIO more effective, more transparent, and more in touch with the expectations of the Australian people,” Senator Conroy said.
“The report complements the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) Reconnecting the Customer Inquiry and the Communications Alliance’s review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code, which is under consideration by the ACMA,” Senator Conroy said.
The report can be accessed in full at this PS News link.
11 May, 2012
Reforms to help Federal courts and tribunals deliver more efficient and timely resolutions have been announced by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon.
courts to reform
Ms Roxon said changes to court fees and reforms to the native title system would add to the court reform agenda which has been designed to provide more certainty around the role of each of the Federal Courts and the establishment of a new one, the Military Court of Australia.
“These reforms form part of our wider court reform package that focuses on improving judicial transparency, accessibility, and timely resolution of disputes,” Ms Roxon said.
“We want the courts and associated tribunals to cooperate and work together to deliver a more efficient and effective justice system.”
She said changes to court fees would better reflect the capacity of regular court users, such as big corporations, to contribute more to the cost of courts.
“The changes will also appropriately reflect the resource intensive nature of some matters,” she said.
“The Government currently only recovers around 15 per cent of the cost of running the courts and believes, where possible, there should be a greater contribution from those using the courts.”
Ms Roxon said the final package of fee measures would be announced later this year and would commence on 1 January 2013.
She said the effectiveness and efficiency of the native title system would also be improved with mediation over native title claims moving from the National Native Title Tribunal to the Federal Court of Australia.
“By drawing on the Federal Court’s case management powers and expertise, this reform will contribute to a more effective native title system that delivers quality outcomes in a timely manner,” Ms Roxon said.
“This reform refocuses the resources of the Tribunal on its areas of strength, enabling greater focus on crucial functions relating to future land uses affecting native title.
“The Tribunal will continue to play a crucial role in the effective functioning of the native title system.”
11 May, 2012
The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is to launch a new national free-to-air Indigenous Television service later this year.
for SBS TV
The network is working with the nation’s Indigenous television service, National Indigenous Television (NITV), to create the new service.
Managing Director of SBS, Michael Ebeid said SBS was “honoured and delighted” to be delivering the new service which would vastly increase opportunities for telling stories from and by Indigenous communities.
Mr Ebeid said the new service would make those stories accessible to audiences across the country.
“The creation of this channel marks a new stage for Indigenous broadcasting in Australia, and SBS is excited to be working with NITV to develop the service,” Mr Ebeid said.
“SBS acknowledges and respects the importance of maintaining Indigenous editorial responsibility in the delivery of the new channel.
“We also acknowledge the pioneering role that NITV has played in forging the way for a national Indigenous broadcasting service.”
Chair of NITV, Ken Reys said the service was proud of the work done by its staff over the past five years in establishing and securing an Indigenous broadcasting service.
“Having a dedicated channel for Indigenous television on a public broadcasting platform will be an exciting further step for Australia,” Mr Reys said.
“It will be the first time that all Australians from remote communities to the metropolitan areas will have access to Indigenous programs free to air.
“It brings Australia to the forefront in worldwide steps to promote Indigenous broadcasting.”
He said the partnership would give NITV staff the opportunity to share their skills, knowledge and expertise.
SBS is to take responsibility for the service from 1 July and until then will maintain the existing NITV service distributed by Foxtel and satellite.
11 May, 2012
US talks open up
The Australian and United States Governments have agreed to increase intelligence sharing to make travel between the two countries easier.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, and the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare, met with the United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to sign four joint statements on enhanced cooperation to combat transnational crime; strengthen the security of international cargo; and ease travel hassles.
Ms Roxon said the four statements (Joint Statement on Countering Transnational Crime, Terrorism and Violent Extremism; Joint Statement on Supply Chain Security; Joint Statement on Collaborative Targeting; and Joint Statement on Frequent Traveller Facilitation) re-affirmed the partnership between the two nations and committed both to improving the flow of intelligence to combat crime and counter terrorism.
“Australia and the United States are bolstering efforts to combat transnational crime and terrorism,” Ms Roxon said.
“We know that sharing information and resources is vital and these joint statements will see a strengthened and more effective response from both countries.
She said criminal and terrorist organisations operated across borders and in cyberspace so it was crucial to work globally to combat them.
Mr Clare said the joint statements also committed the two countries to looking at ways to link the United States Global Entry Program with Australia’s SmartGate program.
“Smartgate currently allows eligible Australians and New Zealanders with e-passports to simply use their passport to clear Customs instead of waiting in line,” Mr Clare said.
“The United States has a similar trusted traveller program called Global Entry that allows eligible passport holders to be screened faster at their borders.
“We have committed to working together to investigate if we can link the two systems to make it easier for Australians and Americans travelling between our countries to get through Customs.”
He the SmartGate system at Australian international airports would also be expanded over the next two financial years.
“An additional 20 Smartgate terminals will be installed at Australian international airports,” he said.
“About 50 per cent of eligible Australians and New Zealanders arriving from overseas currently use Smartgate.
“These extra SmartGates will enable us to increase that to up to 80 per cent of eligible users by the end of 2015,” Mr Clare said.
11 May, 2012
Improved and systematic monitoring of water plans was needed to provide confidence they were effective according to the National Water Commission (NWC).
for water plans
Chief Executive of the NWC, James Cameron said environmental water management had been evolving well in all Australian States and Territories but there was still a way to go.
“Getting the appropriate monitoring arrangements in place, focussing on clearly articulated planned ecosystem outcomes, is critical to determining the extent to which water plans are delivering real benefits to the environment and to build community confidence in how well we are using our environmental water,” Mr Cameron said.
“The improved knowledge and lessons learned as a consequence of monitoring are also fundamental to the effective review of plans.”
He made the comments when releasing two new reports identifying priorities and resources for improving environmental water performance.
According to Mr Cameron, the Australian Environmental Water Management Review 2012 and its companion framework report presented a comprehensive roadmap of Australia’s current environmental water management arrangements and charted progress since the publication of the Commission’s 2010 baseline report.
“To get the best environmental outcomes most efficiently we must also look beyond our water specific management arrangements and consider how water and broader natural resource management policy frameworks can be better coordinated,” he said.
“This action was a key recommendation in the Commission’s 2011 Biennial Assessment and requires the identification of priority actions that can work with environmental watering to achieve ecosystem outcomes.”
He said the report highlighted the need for effective coordination between the multiple agencies involved in managing environmental water and complementary actions, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“This will ensure that our management of environmental water fully integrates environmental objectives with social, economic and Indigenous water objectives,” Mr Cameron said.
The Australian Environmental Water Management 2012 Review and the Australian Environmental Water Management Framework Criteria can be accessed at this PS News link.
11 May, 2012
ACMA film shines
The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s short film Tagged has been awarded a gold award at the World Media Festival in Hamburg.
in film awards
Tagged took out the Web: E-Learning and Education category ahead of more than 580 entries from 29 countries.
The film follows the story of a group of high-school friends who post a rumour about a rival online which then sparks a chain reaction of cyberbullying, sexting, fights and police action.
Deputy Chairman of ACMA, Richard Bean said the film aimed to bring common cybersafety issues to light and it was at the forefront of cyber-education for teenagers.
“This award is confirmation that while portraying some tough aspects of teenage behaviour, Tagged is a pertinent and realistic film that highlights the importance of educating young people about their digital citizenship,” Mr Bean said.
“The characters in Tagged deal with problems that young people around the world are facing daily.”
He said the award in Hamburg followed last month’s silver medal at the New York Festival’s International Television and Film Awards.
He said Tagged had become a key resource for Australian teachers and parents since its launch in September 2011 and since then, more than 10,000 copies of the film and posters had been distributed nationwide, with more than 46,500 views on YouTube.
“Cyberbullying and sexting don’t just affect the victim; they can have a significant effect on whole communities,” Mr Bean said.
“Tagged explores the impact of these behaviours through characters and a storyline that young people can relate to, in a medium that will reach them.”
The film is available to watch online at this PS News link.
9 May, 2012
PS jobs deficit for Budget in surplus
Job cuts of up to 3,073 full-time equivalent positions have been forecast for the Australian Public Service next year as the APS plays its part in returning the Federal Budget to surplus.
Hardest hit will be the Australian Tax Office (ATO) which is to lose 1,039 positions following internal restructures and efficiency gains while Education, Employment and Workplace relations will farewell 1,145 mainly through transfers to Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
The Defence Materiel Organisation is set to lose 432 positions (including contractors) while other cuts will effect the Departments of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (344); Defence (192 civilian staff); and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (112).
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is to lose 196 positions primarily allocated to the now-complete 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the transfer of arts and sports functions to the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport.
Up to 160 positions will go from the National Native Title Tribunal when they are transferred to the Federal Court of Australia which is to assume the Tribunal’s mediation functions as part of court efficiency measures.
Other changes will see 155 staff of the Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) transferred to the new Office of the Fair Work Building Industry which is to replace the ABCC and 680 Australian Bureau of Statistics staff are to go as work on last year’s Census of Population and Housing winds up.
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service is to lose 190 FTE positions following the introd uction of savings measures, including increased use of the SmartGate capability and efficiencies in the Illegal Foreign Fishing in Northern Waters program.
Other proposed large-scale job cuts in the 2012-13 Budget include 149 positions from the Department of Health and Ageing; 116 from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); and 108 from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.
A full list of staff losses and gains across all Departments and Agencies can be accessed at PS News link.
9 May, 2012
Budget adds up for workers
The 2012-13 Federal Budget will realise $33.6 billion in savings and redirected funds while strategically position Australia for future growth, according to the Treasurer, Wayne Swan.
Delivering his fifth Budget, Mr Swan said the Budget would deliver a $1.5 billion surplus in 2012-13 with the biggest savings coming from cuts to Defence funding ($5.5 billion over four years) and slower growth in Official Development Assistance (OAD) from a one-year deferral of the Government’s commitment to increasing ODA to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income.
He said while the 2012-13 Budget was predominantly about discipline and restraint, economic growth was expected to increase over the coming two years and solid growth in real Gross Domestic Product (GPD) of 3.75 per cent was predicted for 2012-13.
He said a further 3 per cent growth was forecast for 2013-14.
Among the main Budget measures are:
Mr Swan said the Budget was also about giving more Australians a stake in future prosperity and spreading the benefits of the mining boom.
- a tripling of the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,200;
- a tax cut for those earning under $80,000 with most receiving at least $300 a year;
- a new Schoolkid bonus for families providing a lump sum payment of $820 for secondary school students and $410 for primary schools students;
- an annual increase of up to $4,208 per child to the Family Tax Benefit Part A for parents of school children aged 16-19;
- funding for the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme;
- a dental health package to improve access to services for those who can’t afford it; and
- an increase in the number of home care packages available for older people.
“The deficit years of the global recession are behind us,” he said.
“The surplus years are here.”
9 May, 2012
Budget budgets on commercial sales
While deferring, transferring and suspending PS programs are at the heart of the 2012-13 Budget’s $1.5 billion surplus, the opportunities for commercial gain have also been prominent in the Treasury strategy.
Among the announced measures to make money instead of spending it, the Budget incudes a range of new “PS products” due to come on line in the next few years.
Highest on the list of potential money spinners is the Bureau of Meteorology, opening up its popular website to advertising for a 12 month trial.
“The Bureau’s website is one of the top 10 visited websites in Australia with more than 3.3 billion page views recorded in 2011,” the Budget Papers say.
“Revenue from the trial will contribute to meeting the costs of the services provided by the Bureau.”
Also heading for the market is the Attorney-General’s Document Verification Service (DVS) which is to be set up to service the private sector and “help reduce the incidence of identity fraud and improve the integrity of consumer identification used by the banking and finance, telecommunications, aviation and maritime services industries.”
By charging a ‘transaction fee’, DVS is expected to raise $6.9 million over three years, almost covering the $7.5 million it will take to set it up for the market.
In addition, such agencies as CrimTrac will be expected to increase sales of criminal history checks; the Human Rights Commission will be required o conduct media training for a fee; and the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra is to become a statutory authority and look after its own affairs.
9 May, 2012
Programs put off for Budget balance
The Government’s return to surplus owes much to the reprioritising of existing or proposed programs and policies with the Treasurer saying that delaying the planned growth of Australia’s Overseas Aid program would save $2.9 billion, the second biggest contributor to the savings challenge.
“The largest savings include further efficiencies and targeted reductions in Defence funding ($5 billion over four years) along with slower growth in Official Development Assistance (ODA) ($2.9 billion over four years),” Mr Swan said.
According to the Treasurer, other programs to be postponed to save money include:
Other programs to be cut or suspended include:
- A recruiting program for 500 new Australian Federal Police deferred to 2015-16 (saving $25.9 million over three years);
- Putting off the National Trade Cadetships to 2013-14 (saving $12.5 million over two years);
- Deferring the expansion of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality Health Care (saving $15.5 million over four years);
- Postponing the expansion of the Australian Nurse Family Partnership Program trial (saving $23.2 million over four years);
- Deferring the Australian Baccalaureate program to 2015 or 2016 (saving $8.5 million over three years.)
A range of other programs and policies have also been deferred or reduced and full details are available in Treasury’s Budget paper No. 2 which can be accessed at PS News link.
- The Rewards for Teachers scheme in which a proposed 10% payrise ‘reward’ has been reduced to a $10,000 one-off payment;
- The Rewards Payments for Schools Improvement program have been reduced to $50,000 and $75,000 returning savings of $37.5 million over two years;
- The Teach Next program for career-change professionals is to engage fewer participants and be run at a lower cost to save $2 million over five years; and
- The Indigenous Youth Leadership Program is to be suspended, releasing $22.8 million in savings over four years.
11 May, 2012
And in other news...
Secretary to sleep out
Acting Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Martin Bowles is to sleep rough for a night as part of this year’s Vinnies CEO Sleepout fundraiser.
The Sleepout involves chief executives, senior business representatives and community leaders experiencing a night out in the cold, with only a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard as shelter.
Last year the Australia-wide Vinnies CEO Sleep-out raised $4.2 million.
More information about Mr Bowles’ challenge, including how to donate, is available at PS News link.
New embassy in Senegal
A new Australian embassy is to be established in Dakar, Senegal.
The embassy will be Australia’s first resident diplomatic representation in French-speaking West Africa where at least six ASX-listed companies have projects, largely in gold and mineral sands.
Australia on show at Expo
The Australian pavilion at the Yeosu Expo 2012 in Korea is to open this weekend (12 May).
The international expo focuses on balancing the preservation of ocean and coastal areas with economic development and runs to 12 August.
The Expo is expected to attract eight million visitors from all over the world with a large number expected at the Australian pavilion.
More information is available from PS News link.
Two new vessels for Customs
Two new vessels are to be provided for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
Defence’s 6,500 tonne Offshore Support Vessel, Skandi Bergen, which will accommodate up to 100 people is to be transferred to Customs and Border Protection in 2016 and a dedicated surveillance and response vessel is to be purchased and located at Ashmore Reef.
Record company failures
New figures from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) reveal the March 2012 quarter as the third consecutive quarter in this financial year in which more than 2,500 companies have gone into external administration.
According to ASIC there has been a rise in Queensland with the two other largest States of New South Wales and Victoria remaining relatively steady.
More information is available from PS News link.
US shipwrecks protected
United States shipwrecks from Battle of the Coral Sea are now protected under Australian law.
The warships the USS Lexington, USS Sims and USS Neosho which were sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea have been officially declared as protected historic shipwrecks.
PS News covers Budget
A special updated edition of PS News will be published tomorrow (Wednesday) following the Federal Budget.
Subscribers can expect an advisory notice outlining the coverage and regular readers can log on from mid-morning.
AS usual, the PS news reports will be comprehensive, accurate and directed solely at how the Budget impacts on PS staff.
40 go from PM&C
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is to shed 40 jobs as a result of funding pressure.
Secretary, Ian Watt announced the cutbacks last week.
New paper for Defence
A new Defence White Paper is to be delivered in the first half of 2013.
The new White Paper will address a number of significant developments that have occurred internationally and domestically since the 2009 White Paper which have influenced Australia’s Defence posture, future force structure and Defence budget.
Korea to trade emissions
The Republic of Korea is to adopt a national emissions trading scheme (ETS).
The South Korean ETS is similar to Australia’s carbon pricing mechanism and will start in 2015.
Australia is now among 34 countries around the world, including South Korea, which will use emissions trading as the primary vehicle to drive carbon pollution reduction.
Legal aid reviewed
A consultant has been chosen to review the legal aid and assistance sector.
The Allen Consulting Group will conduct the independent review of Commonwealth-funded legal assistance services which is to be completed by 30 June 2013.
The terms of reference for the review can be accessed at this PS News link.
Technology comp now open
Entries are now open for the 2012 Australian Clean Technologies Competition.
Through the Competition, entrants will link with business mentors and access training opportunities to showcase their capabilities to potential customers, investors and the media.
Competition finalists will be given access to the Cleantech Business Accelerator Program.
More information can be accessed at this PS News link and entries close 26 June.
300 projects funded
The first round of the Biodiversity Fund is to benefit 317 projects around the country.
The projects will help revegetate, rehabilitate and restore around 18 million hectares of the Australian landscape over the next six years.
More information about Biodiversity Fund, including a list of successful projects, is available from this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
Ex-Secretary pays out
A prominent Public Service leader has come out in opposition to PS performance pay.
on performance pay
Former Secretary of three Departments, Allan Hawke has declared performance pay bad for staff morale, at odds with the Public Service culture and ignorant of the complexity of how the PS works.
Writing in the Canberra Times’ Public Sector Informant, Mr Hawke said it also gave senior leaders an excuse to avoid real leadership.
“In my view, performance-based pay experiments in the Australian Public Service have all been abject failures in the eyes of the people affected by them,” Mr Hawke said.
“Responsibility for meaningful bundles of work can rarely be made coincident with individual responsibility.
“This factor alone bedevils performance pay”
He said he believed the vast majority of APS staff would not see performance pay as in their self-interest.
“The rewards (even for Secretaries) are relatively small, the ranking system rankles because many good performers not given the top rating think they have been short changed, and the system is not regarded as fair,” he said.
“Performance pay acolytes (usually in an unstated or unrecognised manner) consider that a reservoir of withheld effort must be coaxed or coerced out of people.
“This is the underlying premise for incentive pay schemes and/or a manager’s efforts to motivate and control their staff.”
Mr Hawke said the reality was that there were not many bad people in the workplace and performance pay had first been introduced as a back-door way of lifting remuneration for senior staff.
‘The practice remains widespread in the APS because so many managers believe in it...despite the fact that 90 per cent of managers consider the approach to be unsuccessful,” he said.
“Performance pay can lead to patronage, subordinate sycophancy, playing and paying favourites, oiling the squeaky wheel and other inappropriate practices,” Mr Hawke said.
His full article can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
Guide opens curtain on
New guidelines on performance auditing have been published by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
The Guidelines for the Conduct of Performance Audits outline the expectations on Agencies when a performance audit is being conducted.
The guide says that in addition to ANAO’s mandate to conduct performance audits of Australian Government entities, authorities and owned and controlled companies, it can also examine a Commonwealth partner (both an individual or organisation, including contractors) that receives Commonwealth funding for a particular purpose.
It says the law empowers the Auditor-General (or an authorised official) to have unfettered entry to Commonwealth premises or those of a Commonwealth partner, along with full and free access to documents and other property.
“Each entity or body is required to provide the ANAO with full and free access at all reasonable times to any premises, documents or other property that it may wish to examine, and make copies of, or take extracts from, any document,” the guide says.
“The conduct of an audit is facilitated when the entity or body provides all reasonable facilities and assistance to aid the conduct of an audit.
“Responding in a reasonable timeframe to requests for access to relevant staff and information will also assist in the efficient conduct of the audit.”
It says with regard to confidentiality that the recipients of a proposed report must not disclose any of the information in the report, or extract, except with the consent of the Auditor-General.
“As a general rule the Auditor-General provides entities or bodies with consent to disclose the contents of a proposed report to staff of the entity or body who can assist the entity in providing comments on the proposed report or extract,” it says.
“Any feedback to inform the audit or concerns on substantive issues should be raised with the relevant ANAO contact officer so the issue can be resolved in a timely manner.
“Any unresolved issues should also be brought to the attention of senior management in a timely manner.”
The Guidelines for the Conduct of Performance Audits can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
Retirees put faith
A new executive team has been announced for the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers Association (SCOA), the body representing retired APS staff.
in new Executive
John Coleman has become the new Federal President of the association and Anne Willenborg has been appointed Federal Secretary.
Mr Coleman has served as SCOA’s Federal Secretary, Vice-President and Indexation Campaign Manager while Ms Willenborg previously worked at the Australian Reward Investment Alliance (now the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation) and helped establish the Public Sector Superannuation accumulation plan (PSSap), introduced in 2005.
Ms Willenborg said from modest beginnings (starting in NSW in 1922) SCOA had evolved as a non-political, not-for-profit organisation that represented the retirement interests of 600,000 Commonwealth/Territory Public Servants in areas such as superannuation, taxation, concessions and a number of other retiree related issues.
“It is one of the oldest retiree organisations in Australia,” Ms Willenborg said.
“SCOA’s work is done almost entirely by volunteers and funded primarily by member fees and donations.”
She said with the new executive team in place, SCOA was embarking on a process to become a truly national body which would be able to speak with a louder voice in Canberra to work for the benefit of members.
She said SCOA’s current priorities were working to achieve fair indexation of pensions; fairer taxation of pensions; and fairer eligibility criteria for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and other seniors’ benefits.
More information on SCOA, including how to become a member, is available at this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
Finalists in the 2012 Australian Government ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Awards have been announced by the Special Minister of State, Gary Gray.
into ICT awards
Mr Gray said it was always good to get a positive response to the call for nominations and this year 56 had been received across the three Award programs: 2012 Excellence in eGovernment Awards, ICT Professional of the Year Award and the Government 2.0 Innovator Award.
He said that among the finalists was the Bureau of Meteorology, with both its Australian Hydrological Geospatial Fabric and Next Generation Forecast and Warning System Project progressing to the next round of judging in the Excellence in eGovernment Awards’ Geospatial category.
He named the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) as finalists in the Project and Management category, while the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Fair Work Ombudsman both advanced in the Service Delivery category.
Mr Gray said the APS was also well represented among the ICT Professional of the Year finalists, with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Entry Assessments Project Team progressing to the next stage of judging along with the Department of Defence’s Network Infrastructure Development Team.
“What is particularly pleasing to hear was that the number of nominations received from across all the three levels of government was relatively evenly balanced,” Mr Gray said.
“We received 20 nominations from Commonwealth agencies; 21 nominations from State agencies; and 15 from Local Government bodies.
“I think these figures show that Australia’s pool of ICT talent crosses all government sectors.”
He said the winners would be announced on 23 May and a full list of finalists was available from this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
Public hearings for
A Parliamentary Committee has been asked to hold public hearings into intelligence and security issues to inform a review of national security legislation.
The Government is proposing reforms to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, the Telecommunications Act 1997, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Act 1979 and the Intelligence Services Act 2001.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security would consider potential reforms to the national security legislation aimed at ensuring that security capability could evolve to meet emerging threats, while also delivering the right checks and balances for a civil society.
Ms Roxon said the Committee would seek diverse views through public hearings before determining which legislative reforms to pursue.
“We must stay one step ahead of terrorists and organised criminals who threaten our national security,” Ms Roxon said.
“At the same time, we need to have the right checks and balances in place to ensure that those who enforce our national security laws do so responsibly.”
She said national security legislation was important but so was the trust and confidence that Australians had in those laws.
“Lawful access to telecommunications will be reviewed to ensure that vital investigative tools are not lost as telecommunications providers change their business practices and begin to delete data more regularly,” she said.
“Strengthening safeguards and privacy protections within national security legislation will also be considered, including clarifying the roles of the Commonwealth and State ombudsmen in overseeing telecommunications interception by law enforcement agencies.”
Ms Roxon said changes to be examined by the Committee included an authorised intelligence operations scheme for ASIO officers.
“Such a scheme would see ASIO officers afforded the same protection from criminal and civil liability for authorised operations that Australian Federal Police currently receive,” she said.
“The Committee will also consult on measures to address security risks posed to the telecommunications sector, and whether the Government needs to institute obligations on the Australian telecommunications industry to protect their networks from unauthorised interference,” Ms Roxon said.
8 May, 2012
A new project has been announced to create a tailored Australian tourism website based in China.
website to China
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said going online in China was important if Australia was to remain attractive to Chinese visitors.
“Over 500 million Chinese citizens are online, meaning if Australia is to continue to attract Chinese visitors to our shores, then we need to ensure our online presence is as good as it possibly can be,” Mr Ferguson said.
“China is our third largest source market by number of visitors and our largest source market in terms of value, and basing Tourism Australia’s Chinese consumer website in China will greatly improve our direct engagement with future travellers.”
He said the project was a priority under the Tourism 2020 Strategy and would provide Chinese travellers with tailored, Chinese language Australian tourism information, on a platform free from connectivity and usability issues.
He said that would essentially make booking an Australian holiday even easier for Chinese travellers.
“The website will be tailored to carry safety, security and consumer information for prospective Chinese travellers,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The project is currently in the scoping phase, with Tourism Australia and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism investigating a number of hosting options.
“This project supports a range of Tourism 2020 Strategy marketing activities targeted at Chinese visitors including Tourism Australia’s $13 million advertising campaign; a $1 million project to translate tourism businesses information on www.australia.com; and the $600,000 Welcoming Chinese Visitors Project.”
8 May, 2012
Audit has answers to
An audit into the management of complaints and feedback at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) has found that sound procedures management were in place but under-reporting was a problem.
In his report Management of Complaints and Other Feedback by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said DVA had adopted a well-designed framework for managing complaints and other feedback, which had been in place since1 July 2010.
Mr McPhee said that to date however, DVA had undertaken little analysis of its feedback data to identify and address the main causes of complaints and further improve client service.
“While DVA is planning to conduct such analysis in the near future, the effectiveness of the process will be limited by the data currently recorded on the Complains and Feedback Management System (CFMS), which does not indicate the main cause of the complaint or its exact nature,” Mr McPhee said.
“There would be benefit in DVA reviewing the recording of complaints and other feedback data on the CFMS, to better support the information needs of DVA business groups.”
He said further opportunities to improve the administration and integrity of the framework could be considered to overcome under-reporting and to better protect the privacy of complaints records in the CFMS.
“While there has been a significant increase in the level of awareness among DVA staff of the Department’s complaints management policy and the importance of recording complaints and compliments, not all instances are recorded in the CFMS,” he said.
“While DVA considers that the risk of privacy breaches is low, there is scope to improve the protection of complaints records in the CFMS by introducing an effective audit trail of staff access to records.”
The Auditor-General made three recommendations directed at supporting DVA’s service delivery by improving the Department’s administration of the framework for managing complaints and compliments as well as improving the efficiency of the CFMS.
The full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Andrew Morris and Mark Rogala.
8 May, 2012
Productivity report on
Reforms aimed at improving teacher quality have been recognised in a new report on Australia’s schooling workforce.
The report by the Productivity Commission also acknowledged the work done to reduce teacher shortages and overcome educational disadvantage.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the Commission’s work confirmed that the national education reforms introduced since 2007 were benefitting Australian teachers and students.
“Giving every Australian student access to a great education is at the heart of this Government’s agenda,” Mr Garrett said.
“One of the most important things we can do to lift the standards of our schools is to focus on supporting our teachers and ensuring that our classrooms are staffed with dedicated and high-quality professionals.”
He said the Productivity Commission’s report made a number of recommendations to improve the schools workforce, but recognised that important changes were already being made.
“The report emphasises the need to reduce teacher shortages through alternative pathways into teaching, which we are delivering through the Teach for Australia and Teach Next schemes,” he said.
“The report says that we need to introduce measures to enhance school leadership.
“The Government has already acted to do this through the development of National Professional Standards for Teachers and School Principals, which will be implemented next year.”
Mr Garrett said the report also noted the importance of school leadership and autonomy in helping to improve student results.
“We’re implementing the Empowering Local Schools initiative across the country this year, giving greater decision-making powers to up to 1,000 schools,” he said.
The Productivity Commission’s report Schools Workforce can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
Online training for
An updated online training package for suicide prevention professionals has been launched by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler.
Mr Butler said the package had been updated and expanded to ensure health workers had the right skills to support people who had attempted (or were at risk of) suicide or self-harm.
“It comprises a foundation training module, which introduces suicide and suicidal behaviour, and three advanced modules that cover risk assessment and crisis intervention, working with particular populations at high risk of suicide, and referrals and self-care,” Mr Butler said.
“The revised training is now available online and can be accessed through the Australian Psychological Society (APS), which developed the original version of the package in 2008 and oversaw its recent revision.
“The training is mandatory for allied health professionals engaged to deliver services under the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Suicide Prevention Service initiative and is provided free of charge for these providers.”
He said around $40 million in funding had been allocated over the five years from 2011-12 to provide suicide prevention services through ATAPS to more than 40,000 people referred by their doctor or the local hospital accident and emergency department.
“The funding is part of $2.2 billion the Australian Government committed over five years for new and expanded initiatives to reform the mental health system,” he said.
“The Government has also funded the APS and the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association to develop culturally appropriate suicide prevention training for allied health professionals and administrators delivering and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention services in the Kimberley region.”
8 May, 2012
A new, online survey has been launched to allow the public to have their say on the nation’s first Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
on mental health
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler said the Report Card marked a new chapter for mental health in Australia.
“The Report Card is an initiative of this Government to improve transparency and performance, over the long term, in mental health services in Australia,” Mr Butler said.
“It will be published annually and will be focused squarely on the perspective of people living with mental illness, their families and their carers.”
He said the consultation process would help to create the best possible product that could effectively deliver the information that Australians needed and wanted about their mental health system.
Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Professor Allan Fels said the Commission was committed to consulting and working with the community to make sure the Report Card was a useful and constructive document.
“We are producing this Report Card for all Australians,” Professor Fels said.
“That’s why we are consulting people with lived experience of mental health issues, their carers, families, and those who work and provide services in the sector.
“They will all bring their experiences to the development process and play a significant role in designing and informing the final product.”
The survey is open until 31 May 2012 and more information can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
The second annual report on a framework for child protection has shown how reforms can make a real difference on the ground according to the Minister for Community Services, Julie Collins.
on child protection
Releasing the 2010-2011 Second Annual Report on the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, Ms Collins said it tracked the progress and achievements made during the second year of implementation of the National Framework.
She said the report showed interstate co-operation was on the increase through vital information sharing between the various child protection systems and Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency.
“This is all about child protection case workers having access to information about vulnerable kids and families to help them do their work,” Ms Collins said.
“There were almost 10,000 requests for information from child protection agencies to Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency between October 2010 and October 2011.
“Since the protocol began in 2009, there have been over 24,000 requests for information.”
She said such information assisted in investigations of suspected cases of abuse and neglect and ensured better care for children.
“This is a Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) level reform having a real impact on the ground and the Government is working with the States and Territories about ways to expand it to other Commonwealth agencies,” she said.
“Reducing child abuse and neglect is not an easy task and it will take time – the National Framework provides the foundation for long term change.”
Ms Collins said Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments would also continue to work with the non-government sector, through the Coalition of Organisations Committed to the Safety and Wellbeing of Australia’s Children to implement the National Framework.
“The Second Annual Report has been endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers through the Standing Council on Community, Housing and Disability Services,” she said.
It can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
Defence review finds
The final report of the Defence Force Posture Review has been released by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith.
defences in place
The Review was undertaken by the Department of Defence and overseen by an expert panel comprising two of Australia’s leading national security experts, Allan Hawke and Ric Smith, both former Secretaries of the Department of Defence.
The publicly available report is unclassified but has some redactions related to sensitive and classified national security material.
In a joint statement, the Ministers said the report found that the changing strategic environment did not require widespread changes in the location of Defence Force bases, but that some adjustments should be made to meet future needs.
“It finds that there are some weaknesses and risks associated with the capacity of Australian Defence Force (ADF) bases and training areas as well as our ability to sustain high-tempo operations in Northern Australia and our neighbourhood and region,” the Ministers said.
“The Review also examined logistics support requirements, training areas for large-scale and joint training exercises, demographic and economic factors, public communications strategies, and engagement with industry, particularly the minerals and petroleum resources industries in Australia’s North and West.”
They said the Review concluded that the ADF needed “a force posture that could support operations in Australia’s Northern and Western approaches”, as well as operations with the nation’s partners in the wider Asia Pacific region and the Indian Ocean Rim.
“While permanent Navy bases in the North West are not operationally necessary, the Review recommended that Defence examine options involving investment to enhance Broome, Darwin and Cairns as naval bases,” they said.
“The Review also found that while Air Force bases are well-located, many currently lack the capacity to fully support new platforms, and some air bases in Northern Australia face significant logistics constraints.”
The public report can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 May, 2012
More details on the Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan have been made public by the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, and the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare.
come to surface
In December the Ministers announced the Defence Materiel Organisation would develop a Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan.
In a joint statement they said the Future Submarine Project was the biggest and most complex Defence project Australia had ever embarked upon.
“It will involve hundreds of companies and thousands of workers,” the Ministers said.
“It will involve Federal and State Governments, Defence, industry, universities and the Australian public working together for generations to come.”
They said the skills needed would include systems design; naval architecture; propulsion and combat system engineering; production engineering; project planning and control; production scheduling; material procurement; and risk management.
They said expertise in budget control; financial accounting; contract management; systems integration; and trade skills including those of welders, boilermakers, and electricians would also be needed.
“The Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan will identify what is required to build and sustain the skills required to successfully deliver Australia’s Future Submarine capability,” they said.
The Ministers said the Plan would also determine the size and profile of the workforce required; assess the current capacity, capability and productivity of the Australian shipbuilding industry; establish comparable international benchmarks; analyse the naval shipbuilding projects currently in the Defence Capability Plan; and analyse current education and training programs for the industry.
They said alternate scenarios for sequencing Defence projects would also be proposed by the Plan, as would improvements to education and training programs; other actions required to deliver the capacity and capability; and a management arrangement within Defence.
“The Plan will be developed by a team led by the Chief Executive Officer of the Defence Materiel Organisation, Warren King,” they said.
“It will be supported by an Expert Industry Panel headed by David Mortimer.
“The Panel will commence their work this month and the Plan will be presented to Government by the end of the year.”
4 May, 2012
Sharper teeth for
Further crackdowns on Public Service corruption have been announced by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare with more agencies to be subject to integrity testing.
Mr Clare said that to make Australia’s law enforcement agencies more “corruption resistant” the resources of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) would be boosted and its stable of Agencies it oversights expanded.
The new Agencies to face ACLEI probing will be the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Biosecurity Staff (formerly the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service); the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC); and
The resources allocated to ACLEI to oversee the Customs and Border Protection Service will also be doubled.
“I am serious about tackling organised crime and corruption wherever it exists,” Mr Clare said.
“Our enforcement agencies do a very good job but it is a fact that officers are targeted by criminals because of the nature of their work.
“Where we find corruption we have to weed it out.
“These reforms will help weed it out.”
Mr Clare also announced new powers for the Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission and Customs Service, including the ability to authorise drug and alcohol testing; the power for the Chief Executive to terminate the employment of an officer for serious misconduct; and the introduction of mandatory reporting requirements for Customs officers who will be required to blow the whistle on any misconduct or corruption activity.
He said a review of the first year of ACLEI’s oversight of Customs by former senior PS staffer Peter Hamburger was received last week and made a series of recommendations including transferring funds from Customs to ACLEI to undertake further activities.
“The Government has agreed to all of the recommendations made in the report,” Mr Clare said.
“Implementation of these recommendations will improve communication, operational efficiency and information management within Customs and ACLEI, and ensure that corruption risks are mitigated and minimised,” Mr Clare said.
The Executive Summary, General Conclusions and Recommendations of the Hamburger report can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 May, 2012
PS environment guide
A new guide for reducing the environmental impact of public sector operations has been published by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
given green light
The guide, Public Sector Environmental Management: reducing the environmental impacts of public sector operations, outlines principles to guide executives establishing and maintaining an integrated strategy for environmental management within their organisations.
It also includes practical implementation advice, case studies and checklists to assist environmental managers meet monitoring and reporting requirements as well as introduce improved practices.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said over recent years there had been an increasing focus on improving the environmental performance of public sector entities.
Mr McPhee said that included growing expectations from Governments and the community for more sustainable approaches to the delivery of goods and services.
“At the same time, there has been a greater awareness, in both the public and the private sectors, of the opportunities for improved business outcomes, such as greater productivity and lower costs that can accrue from reducing environmental impacts,” Mr McPhee said.
“Against this background, the Australian Government has progressively introduced legislative, regulatory and policy requirements to improve the environmental sustainability of public sector operations.
“Within this environmental management framework, public sector entities are expected to better monitor and regularly adapt their environmental policies and practices.”
He said the development of the guide was informed by a review of current environmental management requirements, relevant literature and developments in environmental management practices.
“We also consulted with key policy agencies such as the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; and the Department of Finance and Deregulation,” he said.
“Discussions with a number of other Government entities provided valuable insights into successful implementation strategies and lessons learned based on experience and on-the-ground expertise.”
The new guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 May, 2012
Audit buys into
An audit of the use of procurement panels across the Australian Public Service has found that too few Departments and Agencies were calling for competitive quotes from panel members and thereby missing out achieving better value for money.
According to Auditor-General Ian McPhee in his audit Establishment and Use of Procurement Panels, there was “considerable scope for the agencies to employ more competitive arrangements.”
“Procurement of property and services is central to the delivery of programs by Australian Government agencies,” Mr McPhee said.
“In undertaking procurement, agencies are required to adhere to the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (CPGs), including principles to be applied to all procurement processes.
“Panel arrangements are one of the fundamental management approaches used by agencies for procurement and provide agencies with ready access to a suitable group of suppliers”
He said agencies must report on the procurement information system AusTender, all Commonwealth contracts, including those from panels, which met the contract reporting criteria.
“Nevertheless, under Finance’s current guidance, it is not mandatory for agencies to report on AusTender whether the procurement was made under a particular standing offer,” he said.
“As a consequence, there is a lack of information.”
Mr McPhee said overall, the audited agencies generally established panels through sound open tender processes.
“However, in selecting preferred suppliers to undertake work under panel arrangements, there was considerable scope for the agencies to employ more competitive arrangements,” he said.
“Obtaining multiple quotes is one way in which competition can be used to promote value for money when procuring from a panel.
“In this respect, the agencies should have more often sought multiple quotes when selecting a supplier.”
The Auditor-General’s full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link and his audit team was Grace Guilfoyle, Rowena Hayman and Stuart Turnbull.
4 May, 2012
Public the winner in
Australia’s privacy laws are to be reformed to give the Privacy Commissioner new enforcement powers as well as protect personal information better and simplify credit reporting arrangements.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon announced the reforms during Privacy Awareness Week saying that in an increasingly digital world, both consumers and Governments had a role to play in protecting privacy.
“In introducing these changes, the Government is doing its bit to protect the privacy of Australian families,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the powers of the Privacy Commissioner would be increased to improve his office’s ability to resolve complaints, conduct investigations and promote privacy compliance.
She said key changes to benefit consumers included clearer and tighter regulation of the use of personal information for direct marketing; an extension of privacy protections to include unsolicited information; as well as easier ways for consumers to access and correct information held about them.
Ms Roxon said tighter rules on sending personal information outside Australia would also be introduced and credit reporting arrangements would be modernised to benefit consumers.
“There have been big changes to the way we access finance since 1990 when the existing credit reporting provisions came into effect,” she said.
“Many consumers have expressed their frustration at not being able to understand their credit rating.
“These changes will provide much more power to consumers to be able to access and, if necessary, correct their credit reports.”
Ms Roxon said she expected the credit industry to benefit from the reforms as they would provide a more accurate picture of an individual’s credit situation to help creditors assess risk.
She said that was expected to lead to lower credit default rates.
“The changes will be achieved through amendments to the Privacy Act 1988, which will be introduced into the Parliament in the winter sitting period,” Ms Roxon said.
4 May, 2012
New age paper for
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released an Issues Paper for public comment to inform its inquiry into the legal barriers to mature age participation in the workforce.
old age problem
The paper, Grey Areas: Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws, outlines a number of issues to be examined by the ALRC relating to superannuation law; family assistance, child support and social security law; employment law; insurance law; and compensation laws.
President of the ALRC, Rosalind Croucher said there was often a complex interaction between things that were ‘barriers’ to workforce participation and things that were ‘incentives’ to leave the workforce.
“Leaving the paid workforce may also mean people are able to make a valuable contribution in other productive work - like the hugely important role of volunteers in our community,” Professor Croucher said.
“The ALRC considers that six interlinking principles should guide reform in this area: participation; independence; self-agency; system stability; system coherence; and fairness.”
She said a key question asked in the Issues Paper was whether there were any other principles that should inform the ALRC’s deliberations.
“Other questions refer to changes that should be made to remove barriers in the various areas of law under review,” she said.
“This Issues Paper forms a basis for consultation.
“It is intended to encourage informed community participation in the Inquiry by providing background information and highlighting the issues so far identified by the ALRC.”
Professor Croucher invited both individuals and organisations to make submissions on the questions contained in the Issues Paper, or to any of the background material and analysis provided.
“This community input will help inform the development of draft recommendations for reform to be released in a Discussion Paper later in the year,” she said.
The Issues Paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 May, 2012
A National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is to be launched in Australia from July 2013.
enabled by PM
Announced by Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, the NDIS would initially be implemented in four locations across the country and see about 10,000 people with significant and permanent disabilities begin to receive support.
“By July 2014, that figure will rise to 20,000 people,” Ms Gillard said.
She said this timeframe meant the first stage of the NDIS would be delivered a year earlier than that proposed by the Productivity Commission.
“For the first time in Australia’s history people with significant and permanent disability will receive lifetime care and support, regardless of how they acquired their disability,” she said.
“A new National Disability Transition Agency, funded by the Australian Government, will be established to run the delivery of care and support to people with disability, their families and carers in the select locations.”
Ms Gillard said she wanted Australians with disability to start benefiting from the fundamental reform as quickly as possible.
“The initial launch locations will be determined in consultation with the States and Territories who have all agreed their shared responsibility for the fundamental reform of disability care and support,” she said.
“The work done at these launch locations will give the Government vital information on how best to progress the national roll-out.
“An NDIS will give all Australians with a significant disability the peace of mind to know that their care and support needs will be addressed, no matter where they live or how they acquired their disability,” Ms Gillard said.
4 May, 2012
The Attorney-General’s Department is to conduct a review of Indonesian nationals convicted of people smuggling.
face AGs probe
The Department will examine 24 convictions following concerns raised by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that some individuals sentenced to Australian jails may be minors.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the cases to be reviewed included 22 raised by the AHRC and another two identified by the Indonesian Government.
“It is important to take a look at these cases and ensure these individuals have been dealt with appropriately by our justice system,” Ms Roxon said.
“Minors don’t belong in adult jails and I am taking seriously the concerns of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Indonesian Government.”
She said under Commonwealth policy, minors should only be prosecuted for people smuggling offences in exceptional circumstances.
“The individuals who are part of this review were all legally represented, 14 of them pleaded guilty, and only three contested age in court proceedings,” she said.
“Ultimately, it is the courts which determine the age of people smugglers – but, age determination is not an exact science, which is why I’ve asked for this review.
“If this review identifies new information casting doubt on the age of offenders in any of these cases, I will carefully consider the options available which could include release from prison and return to their country of origin.”
Ms Roxon said the review was not looking to pardon the individuals convicted of people smuggling but would only consider new information about their age against the evidence presented in the prosecutions.
She said she had requested the review be completed as quickly as possible.
“However, because of the complexity of some cases, the Department is unable provide an accurate estimate of time to complete review of all cases,” she said.
“Consideration to each case will be given as promptly as the assessment is provided.”
4 May, 2012
More than 7,500 schools across the country are taking part in Australia’s most comprehensive collection of information about the development of the nation’s children.
gets high mark
Minister for Early Childhood and School Education, Peter Garrett launched the second data collection for the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) saying Australia was the first country in the world to have collected comprehensive and population based data on young children across the entire nation.
“The second national AEDI data collection is ground breaking because, for the first time, Governments and communities will be able to track progress in their work to improve the health, education, social competence and emotional development of children across Australia,” Mr Garrett said.
“It’s a vital tool for educators, Governments and the community, as it helps us understand the importance of early intervention and provides information about the support children and families need.
“It’s time to get the basics of early learning right, because we know that by supporting children in the years before school we greatly increase their chance of a successful transition to school as well as being happy and productive in their later years.”
He said both Government and non-Government schools were participating in the AEDI which measured five key areas of young children’s development: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge.
He said the first AEDI was conducted in 2009 and the Government had committed to collecting such data every three years.
“We’re already seeing some incredible programs being delivered across Australia as a direct response to the 2009 results, including the Early Links to Learning playgroup in Canberra, which offers literacy and numeracy support to children before primary school at no cost to parents,” Mr Garrett said.
“The 2012 AEDI data collection will occur from May to 31 July 2012, during which time teachers in schools across Australia will complete the AEDI Checklist for all children in their first year of full-time school.
“Results of the data collection are expected in 2013.”
More information is available at this PS News link.
4 May, 2012
And in other news...
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has publicly apologised to the former husband of magazine editor, Ita Buttrose, over claims made in the mini-series Paper Giants.
Alasdair Macdonald was issued a full apology by the ABC together with its partner in the series (production company Southern Star) and while further details of the settlement remain confidential, DVDs of Paper Giants have been withdrawn from sale.
ASIC register emission traders
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has released details of registration and licensing requirements for the suppliers of carbon emission units as financial
From 1 July 2012, emissions units will be regarded as financial products and registration will be required for advising, dealing, making a market, or providing a custodial or depository service for them,
More information is available from PS News link.
Previously this week... First data centre deal signed
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has signed its first lease through the whole-of-government Data Centre Facilities Panel.
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) said the lease was with the Canberra Data Centres in the ACT and was valued at $45.6 million over 10 years.
The lease was entered on behalf of a consortium of Agencies to enable access to the benefits of a modern data centre at whole-of-government pricing.
“Data Centres are secure facilities and to support their physical security, the Agencies involved will not be named,” AGIMO said.
Super funds to publish
Draft legislation which requires superannuation funds to publish specific information on their websites has been released for consultation.
Under the new laws funds would have to publish details of director and executive pay; what assets the fund had invested in; and an up-to-date ‘product dashboard’ to set out target investment returns, past performance, investment risk, liquidity and fees, in relation to each product it offered.
Submissions on the exposure draft legislation close on 16 May 2012 and more information is available from this PS News link.
Satellite off course
The Landsat 7 satellite has manoeuvred out of the path of a piece of space debris that was on a collision course with the spacecraft.
The satellite collects information about Earth through ‘remote sensing’ or specialised digital photographs which enable people to study the continents and evaluate the changes caused by both natural processes and human practices.
The manoeuvre has affected the location of the data imaged with Landsat’s geographic coverage set to drift to the west and the easternmost portion of the scene being cut off.
The westward movement will continue until the satellite can be repositioned which is expected to take about two months.
Weather Bureau launches radar
A new weather bureau radar has been launched to cover south-east Tasmania.
The state-of-the-art Doppler radar will provide coverage to large sections of the State from Mt Koonya on the Tasman Peninsula (south-east of Hobart).
The data feed from the new radar is available at this PS News link.
Australia on women’s board
Australia is to serve on the United Nation’s Women’s Executive Board.
Australia and Solomon Islands will both take up seats on the Board on 1 January 2013 providing a unique opportunity to increase the profile of issues facing women in the Pacific.
Australia will also lend its support to the UN Women’s new Critical Services Initiative which aims to ensure that women and girls who have been subjected to violence can access critical services including emergency hotlines, police protection, shelter and housing, crisis counselling and health care.
Koalas in NSW, Queensland and the ACT are to be classified as vulnerable under a protected listing.
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said koala numbers had dropped by 40 per cent in Queensland and by a third in NSW over the past two decades and had been added to the threatened species list following advice by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
He said developers would have to account for the koala listing when making building applications.
1 May, 2012
New Commissioner for
A new national Children’s Commissioner is to be appointed within the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Children comes of age
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said that the new Commissioner would focus on promoting the rights, wellbeing and development of children and young people in Australia.
Ms Roxon said expressions of interest for the role would be called shortly and legislation to support the position introduced later this year.
She said the new Commissioner was expected to take office by the end of 2012.
“For the first time, Australia will have a dedicated advocate focused on the human rights of children and young people at the national level,” Ms Roxon said.
“The Children’s Commissioner will ensure the voices of children and young people are heard in the development of Commonwealth policies and programs.”
Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin said establishing a Children’s Commissioner was a key part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.
“We want every child to grow up safe, happy and well,” Ms Macklin said.
“The new Commissioner will represent the views of children and young people, particularly those most vulnerable, at the national level.”
Minister for Community Services, Julie Collins said children and young people needed a national advocate to ensure their rights were reflected in national policies and programs.
“The national Commissioner will not duplicate but complement the work of States and Territories, particularly the work of other commissioners and guardians,” Ms Collins said.
Chief Executive of Families Australia, Brian Babington welcomed the announcement saying the Commissioner’s role would be “vitally important” in highlighting the aspirations, needs and interests of young people; standing up when things went wrong; and championing what worked well.
He said among the tasks likely to take the Commissioner’s attention would be child abuse, the numbers of children in out-of-home care and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system.
1 May, 2012
Teachers to pass
Teachers in every Australian school are to undergo a yearly performance assessment under plans released for consultation by the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett.
Mr Garrett said the draft Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework had been produced by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and proposed that teachers set performance goals every year and would be expected to demonstrate how those goals had been met.
Mr Garrett said the final framework would be implemented in Australian schools from 2013.
“Teachers have one of the most important jobs in the country,” Mr Garrett said.
“It’s vital that our teachers have the opportunity to both demonstrate their skills and improve their classroom practice through regular and effective feedback, professional growth and development, and performance assessment, but until now this has not been consistently occurring in our schools.”
He said the draft framework would provide the first national set of guidelines for performance assessments for the teaching profession.
“Teachers will have a clear understanding of what they will be expected to achieve every year, and a clear understanding of how their performance will be measured,” he said.
“This will allow our many terrific teachers to demonstrate how well they are performing and the positive results they are producing, while also providing opportunities to improve their skills where needed.”
Mr Garrett said that under the draft framework, teachers would be able to collect evidence that they were achieving their objectives which could be in the form of improved student results; feedback from students, parents, their peers or supervisor; and direct observations of their classroom teaching.
“Every teacher will receive a formal review of their performance each year by their principal or delegate, as well as regular informal and constructive feedback and support throughout the year,” he said.
“Teachers who regularly do well in their annual assessments will be encouraged to apply for certification under the bonus payments scheme as a reward for their great work,” he said.
The draft framework can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
Big Indigenous reforms
Four employment and community development programs serving communities in remote parts of Australia are to be rolled into one from July 2013.
to spearhead services
In a joint statement, the Ministers for Families, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, and for Community Services, Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Julie Collins, announced the changes which will affect remote employment and community development services and help more people get into jobs and participate in their community.
The Ministers said the four programs operating in the remote areas - Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services, Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and the Indigenous Employment Program – would be rolled into a single new integrated service.
They said that from 1 July 2013 the new Remote Jobs and Communities Program would provide a more integrated and flexible approach to employment and participation services for people in the areas.
They said the program would see jobseekers assisted by a single provider with a permanent presence in their region, ensuring better support to gain the skills needed for employment.
They said it would also ensure that people who were not working were instead participating in activities that would contribute to developing strong and sustainable communities.
“Consultations held last year in remote communities across remote Australia last year found that current services are providing short term help but are not delivering the long term results that are needed,” the Ministers said.
“People told us they want to see one employment services provider in their community, offering better training and support to get local people into jobs.
“A job contributes strongly to personal, social and economic development and is essential to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.”
The Ministers said a ‘No Show No Pay’ rule would be applied in the remote areas and people who failed to participate would have their payments suspended.
1 May, 2012
The Australian Information Commissioner has written to all Government Agencies about an upcoming project to assess Agency compliance with the new Information Publication Scheme (IPS).
to check on agencies
The Commissioner, John McMillan said 12 months had passed since the IPS came in to effect.
“Under the Scheme, Australian Government Agencies are required to publish a range of documents and information on their websites, and are encouraged to publish additional information over and above that required by the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act,” Professor McMillan said.
“The IPS is a central element of the FOI reform objective to drive a cultural shift towards more proactive release and publication of public sector information.”
He said the message had been actively embraced in many Agencies but it was time to take stock of the work undertaken and assess whether there was an equal commitment to the FOI reform process.
“We will conduct two compliance surveys of all Agencies,” he said.
“The first survey – a benchmarking survey – is scheduled to commence in April 2012.
“The second survey – a comparative survey – is expected to occur in early 2014.”
Professor McMillan said the first part of the 2012 survey would assess levels of compliance with criteria set out in the FOI Guidelines and the second part was aimed at building a picture of public sector information held and published by Australian Government Agencies.
“Participation in the IPS surveys will assist Agencies to meet their obligations under the FOI Act,” he said.
“Agencies will be encouraged to use the survey results to complement other compliance review activities undertaken in-house to improve their IPS compliance.”
He said his office would also examine Agency websites for compliance with both the legislative IPS requirements (including Disclosure Logs), as well as recommendations in the FOI Guidelines.
“After this desktop review of your agency website is conducted, my office will provide Agency heads with a short summary report outlining the findings,” Professor McMillan said.
“This will provide the opportunity for agencies to review their IPS and Disclosure Log performance and address any areas or gaps identified by my office.”
1 May, 2012
GST reviewers take
The panel reviewing the distribution of GST receipts between the States and Territories is considering changes to the principle of horizontal-fiscal equalisation (HFE), a central feature of current GST arrangements.
look at equalisation
Treasurer, Wayne Swan said the Commonwealth distributed GST revenue in such a way as to ensure that all States and Territories had the ability to provide broadly equivalent services in areas such as education, health and public transport.
Mr Swan said as a result, States with strong revenue bases received relatively less GST revenue.
“This process, known as horizontal-fiscal equalisation, is an important and long-standing principle of the Australian Federation and will be maintained,” Mr Swan said.
He said the first interim report of the independent GST Distribution Review had been released which outlined the Panel’s current thinking on proposals and sought further submissions from States, Territories and other interested parties.
“The independent Panel is considering whether the current arrangements for implementing equalisation can be improved, in light of the major structural changes shaping the Australian economy both now and into the future,” he said
“The independent Panel is dealing with a complicated and contentious issue and has not made detailed recommendations in its first interim report.”
South Australia has already declared its intention to oppose any moves away from HFE with the State Treasurer, Jack Snelling saying a watered down version of HFE would have a significant negative impact on the State.
“Potentially $1 billion every year is at stake,” Mr Snelling said.
“As we said in our supplementary submission to the panel, the use of broader indicators to measure revenue capacity is likely just to create winners and losers at the expense of the efficient outcome we currently have with HFE.”
The full report of the panel’s review can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
Sports Commission to
The Australian Sports Commission has introduced an improved its annual sport performance review process.
The new process delivers a more transparent and contemporary performance review based on annual evaluation (instead of every four years) as part of the ongoing funding cycle.
Chief Executive of the Commission, Simon Hollingsworth said annual reviews of sports funding would ensure accurate and timely feedback and advice on how they were performing.
Mr Hollingsworth said it would also mean that each sport would be better placed to improve their operations for long-term success rather than short-term results.
“As part of its strategic direction, the Australian Sports Commission remains committed to working closely with our sports partners to collectively achieve sustained international success and increased participation,” Mr Hollingsworth said.
“In developing and implementing this new process the Commission listened to valuable feedback from sports and made a number of changes to make it more open and transparent, including giving sports greater opportunity to review and comment on their assessments during the process.”
He said to complement the new process the Commission had released a new Annual Sport Performance Review document to help all sports to understand the key principles, roles and responsibilities of the Commission.
“The overview aims to balance certainty and continuity with the need to achieve accountability for the Australian Government investment,” he said.
More information, including access to the performance review document, is available from this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
New Finance centre
A national service Centre has been officially opened in Adelaide to provide information and support for consumers on insolvency and personal property security issues.
right on the money
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the Centre would be administered by the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (the Government Agency responsible for the administration and regulation of the personal insolvency system) and would employ over 120 people.
“The Centre provides easy to understand information for people experiencing financial stress so they can make informed decisions about their options,” Ms Roxon said.
“Since it started on 30 January 2012, the service centre has handled more than 75,000 phone calls and 10,000 email enquiries in relation to personal property securities.”
She said the centre was open for 12 hours each weekday and six hours each on Saturday and Sunday.
She said it provided information and support for users of the new national Personal Property Securities Register, which enabled consumers and businesses to register their security interests and check if there was any existing security on used goods available for purchase.
“Instead of checking a number of registers, consumers and businesses can now check just one,” Ms Roxon said.
“The new national register lets you check that the used goods you are buying, like a car, boat or machinery - almost anything except real estate - doesn’t have a security interest over it.”
“It replaces more than 70 different Commonwealth, State and Territory Acts and registers used to regulate personal property used as security.”
She said the simplification of all the different registers would help make secured financing more accessible and reduce transaction costs, which in turn would make lenders more willing to accept different kinds of personal property as security for loans.
The Insolvency Information service can be reached on 1300 364 785 and the Personal Property Securities Register is available at this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
Payday loans paper
A discussion paper on ‘payday loans’ has been released by the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten said ‘payday loans’ were high cost, small amount loans which both consumers and industry had long raised concerns about.
He said many commentators argued that the loans preyed on the community’s most vulnerable and encouraged a damaging cycle of debt.
“Payday lending can be high risk for vulnerable or low-income consumers,” Mr Shorten said.
“People often borrow money from payday lenders in order to meet short-term commitments like rent and groceries.
“The interest charged on the loan is often so exorbitant it only worsens the financial position of the consumer in the long-term, who may need to take out further loans in order to pay off the original loan and the interest.”
He said there was no quick fix to the problems with payday lending but the discussion paper outlined programs and policies which reduced the need for payday loans by improving access to low-cost and/or fairer alternative assistance; encouraging more alternatives; and improving assistance to those in a debt cycle.
Mr Shorten said the paper outlined some initiatives that were already being pursued including the Consumer Credit and Corporations Legislation Amendment (Enhancements) Bill 2011 which has also been released for comment.
He said key reforms introduced by the Bill included caps on costs that could be charged by lenders in relation to small amount loans (including payday loans); greater protections for seniors seeking to use the equity in their homes via a reverse mortgage; and enhancements to specific provisions of the National Credit Code.
The discussion paper can be accessed at this PS News link and the deadline for responses is 4 June 2012.
The new draft Bill can be accessed at this PS News link and the closing date for submissions is 7 May 2012.
1 May, 2012
Strong advice in
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim has reminded all Australians to take care of their personal information as part of Privacy Awareness Week 2012 which is now on.
Mr Pilgrim said a nationwide privacy survey had asked more than 1,100 Australians what they thought about the collection and use of their personal information for commercial purposes online and found many were concerned at the practice.
“These survey results confirm that Australians are very concerned about what companies are doing with their personal information, particularly in the digital era,” Mr Pilgrim said.
“It’s not surprising that at a time when we are constantly asked for our information and where online tracking and data aggregation has become routine practice, people surveyed want to know more about how their information is collected and used.”
He said the survey results indicated that the majority of people were uncomfortable with behavioural based advertising.
“The results show that more than half of the respondents – 56 per cent – do not approve of having advertising targeted to them based on their personal information,” he said.
“In fact, to avoid the collection of their information, 69 per cent of those surveyed say they have refused to use an application or website because it collected too much personal information, with 79 per cent simply refusing to provide personal information.”
Mr Pilgrim said over 140 partners from Government Agencies, the not for profit sector and businesses were joining the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner during Privacy Awareness Week to promote the protection of privacy in Australia.
He said they had put together a range of materials to assist Government and businesses to protect the information they held about their customers and for individuals to protect their own personal information.
“Now is a great time to review your privacy settings and take the time to understand what happens to your personal information when you give it to a business,” he said.
“Think about how much personal information you reveal.
“Once your privacy has gone, it can be extremely difficult to get back.”
More information on Privacy Awareness Week, which runs to Saturday 5 May, can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
Donation guidelines a
New national donating guidelines have been developed to ensure that communities in need of assistance following a disaster know what to expect.
gift for emergencies
The National Guidelines for Managing Donated Goods were produced by the South Australian State Recovery Office with funding from the Commonwealth Government.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the guidelines were created to provide communities with clear advice on the most effective way to support the recovery process.
“After a natural disaster, Australians step up to lend a helping hand and often their first response is to look for goods to donate,” Ms Roxon said.
“While this demonstrates a wonderful Aussie spirit of generosity, it’s not always the best solution in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.”
She used the example of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires to highlight the problems with the donation process, saying more than 40,000 pallets of goods had been donated in the aftermath of the disaster which took more than 50,000 square metres of storage space and cost over $8 million to administer.
“A financial donation is useful and effective as it provides flexibility and choice to meet immediate needs and is spent in the local community, helping to stimulate economic recovery,” she said.
Ms Roxon said the guidelines had already been of great assistance, with a draft version used in Queensland during the January floods this year.
South Australian Minister for Emergency Services, Jennifer Rankine said it was vital that donors checked with registered organisations working with affected communities to determine what people actually needed.
“The generosity of people is always appreciated, however, better planning and coordination across States and Territories will help manage all aspects of disaster response and recovery,” Ms Rankine said.
“The sheer quantity of second-hand goods often stretches resources and infrastructure, diverting efforts from other disaster and recovery responses.
“We know donators would be disappointed if they thought their donation wasn’t helping those impacted by disaster,” she said.
The new Guidelines can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
Job panels expanded
More than 200 organisations have been added to the list of credentialled service providers for Indigenous employment and training.
to find more work
Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Julie Collins said membership of the two provider panels would increase from 441 to 664 suppliers.
“This expansion will result in a greater pool of talent tendering to deliver employment programs for Indigenous Australians and for businesses looking to employ Indigenous job seekers,” Ms Collins said.
“Adding new talent to the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) panels will ensure employers and job seekers can access the best support and services to meet their needs.”
She said organisations became members of the panels after being screened for due diligence and merit.
“Members of the Employment Panel are expected to have the skills, knowledge and expertise necessary to deliver sustainable employment opportunities,” she said.
“Services provided through the Economic Development and Business Support Panel have the capacity to foster and support enterprises from conception and as they grow.”
Ms Collins said the Employment Panel would expand by 174 new members, while the Economic Development and Business Support Panel would add an extra 98.
“The current 441 panel members have been offered an extension of their current IEP Panel Deeds until 30 June 2015,” she said.
“Stronger partnerships are being developed across the country between Indigenous job seekers, communities, employers and service providers.
“These partnerships will help deliver real results as we work towards halving the employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 2018.”
A full list of organisations on the panels is available from this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
Tax review finds room
A review of the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) dealings with small to medium business has been released by the Assistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation, David Bradbury.
Conducted by the Inspector-General of Taxation, the Review into the Australian Taxation Office's compliance approaches to small and medium enterprises with annual turnovers between $100 million and $250 million and high wealth individuals identified a number of areas in need of improvement.
Mr Bradbury said the review was conducted in response to concerns raised following the ATO’s increased compliance focus on small and medium enterprises and high wealth individuals.
He said the Inspector-General made 41 recommendations in his review, some of which reinforced work the ATO had already begun whilst others were more distinct but complementary to that work.
“The Inspector-General in the Report has identified key opportunities for the ATO to improve in a number of areas including its technical capability and support, initial compliance decision making, project management, audit conduct, communication and engagement and information gathering,” Mr Bradbury said.
Other recommendation included initiatives to better match the complexity of case work with officers’ training and experience; clearly define the roles and responsibilities of relevant officers; reinforce the role of Senior Technical Leadership; and strengthen staff training.
“The ATO has agreed in full with 38 of the recommendations, two in part and disagreed with one,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The implementation of the recommendations together with the program of work already commenced by the ATO should result in significant improvements in this area of tax administration.”
He commended both the Inspector-General and the ATO for their work to “improve the compliance approaches to small and medium enterprises and high wealth individuals”.
The Inspector-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 May, 2012
Seed study gets
A two-year, $12 million program involving 50 research projects into invasive plant species has concluded that more studies are needed to overcome the problem.
The Seed Persistence Tool Kit research project was undertaken by a team from the University of Western Australia on behalf of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation’s (RIRDC) National Weeds and Productivity Research Program.
Lead Researcher, Rowena Long said seeds could persist in the soil, long after weeds were removed, and act as a reservoir for re-invasion into crucial agricultural land and environmentally sensitive areas.
Dr Long said the research had been conducted with long-term view to enabling land managers to predict how long weed seeds would persist in soils.
“Inaccurate estimates of seed persistence are costly,” Dr Long said.
“When seed persistence is underestimated, eradication programs end prematurely and weeds reinvade.
“Conversely, when seed persistence is overestimated, time, money and labour are wasted in pursuing a problem that no longer exists.”
She said the research had seen seeds tested for a range of persistence-related properties in a laboratory including germination responses; response to accelerated ageing; and the antimicrobial content of seed coats.
She said that meant some species could now be ranked according to how resistant their seeds were to being eaten by insects or decayed by microbes.
“This is just one of about 30 factors that need to be considered in forecasting weed seed persistence, and much more work is needed to understand how weed seeds respond to their environment,” Dr Long said.
She said further research into seed persistence was needed to identify which of the many seed, species, soil, site and climate characteristics were the key drivers of seed persistence for different weed types and habitats.
“Long-term field trials are needed to verify the accuracy of predictive models to ensure they are robust and informative for policy makers and land managers,” she said.