SearchArchives for November 2009
24 November, 2009
PM presses APS to
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has urged the Australian Public Service to “do more” to ensure Australians receive the “highest quality service delivery.”
prepare for change
Delivering the 50th Sir Robert Garran Oration at the Institute of Public Administration’s national conference in Brisbane, Mr Rudd used his speech to comment on future challenges and reforms facing the APS.
He said changing technologies, demands and public expectations meant that reforms to the APS were needed which was why the Advisory Group on Reform of the Australian Government Administration had been established to develop a blueprint to address the issues.
“Many parts of the APS are distinguished by excellence in policy advice and program and service delivery,” Mr Rudd said.
“Nevertheless, the APS also has some gaps that will constrain its capacity to help the Government meet some of the nation’s most difficult challenges in the years ahead.”
He said the APS needed to improve in three key areas: service delivery, developing policy advice and planning to meet future challenges.
He said there was a widespread view that Government Agencies were “bureaucratic and unresponsive to individual needs.”
“A poor interaction with a Government Agency is one of the most frustrating experiences anyone can have,” he said.
“Because while Public Sector Agencies often describe citizens as ‘customers’, the truth is that they can’t just wander down the street and choose to deal with a different Government.”
Mr Rudd praised APS staff for their response to the global financial crisis, saying it showed the sector performed well under pressure, but said the day-to-day work of the APS was just as important as crisis control.
“If the Public Service wants to be the world’s best, it must measure itself against the world’s best,” he said
“That is why the Advisory Group has commissioned a report from KPMG measuring the performance of the APS against eight of the world’s best Public Services.
“It compares the APS to the Public Services of eight other nations: the United States, Britain, France, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore.”
The Prime Minister said there was “no doubt” the APS measured well against overseas bureaucracies but that there was room for improvement.
The report found the APS was less adept than Public Services in other countries at incorporating non-Government and citizen views into policy development.
“This is something that the Government has been addressing since we came to office through measures such as community cabinets, reforms to Freedom of Information laws, the 2020 Summit and the development of a Web 2.0 plan,” he said.
Mr Rudd said the report showed the best Public Services were exploring how to encourage smart, bold thinking from employees and citizens and that the APS needed to attract and retain high quality employees.
“The challenges ahead for the Australian Public Service are substantial,” he said.
But I have every confidence that the APS has the capacity to meet those future challenges, through the reform process we are now undertaking.”
The Prime Minister’s speech could be accessed at www.pm.gov.au
24 November, 2009
PS comparison shows
A report commissioned by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to compare the performance of the Australian Public Service with its overseas counterparts has found it “performs soundly” but “has some way to go if it is to realise the ambition to be the best in the world.”
work to be done
The report, conducted by accounting firm KPMG, found the APS was challenged by “persistent, complex and inter-related policy problems”, not unlike other overseas Public Sectors.
“It must manage high expectations from the public and Government, facilitate a greater role for citizens and users in the design and delivery of services and adjust its operations to accommodate an ageing workforce and tight fiscal environment,” the report says.
“A high performing Public Service of the future is likely to require a broader range of skills, ideas and tools.”
The report, entitled Benchmarking Australian Government Administration, was commissioned by the Department to advise the Advisory Group on Reform of the Australian Government Administration, which was established in September 2009.
The Advisory Group has been tasked with developing a “blueprint for reform of the Public Service” and creating the “best Public Service anywhere in the world.”
The report highlights programs and approaches from other countries which could benefit the APS and suggests areas which could require further consideration.
It says the APS performed highly in areas of independence, the economy and gender equality but it noted there were few women in senior executive positions.
It says the APS is ‘in the mid-range’ of all Public Services when ranking skills and leadership development, performance based budgeting, providing online services and across-Government collaboration.
It found the APS performed “comparatively poorly” and could strengthen its capabilities in informed and strategic policy, the use of external expertise and citizen views in developing policies and its understanding of Government priorities.
The report suggested the Advisory Group explore Denmark’s online citizen portal which allows the public to access services and participate in policy debates and Singapore’s customer service initiatives.
Five key performance areas identified by the Advisory Group were used as the framework for the review and included the desire for a values-driven APS culture, high quality policy advice, services that place the citizen first, flexible responses to changing Government priorities and effective operations.
The report also looked at how well the APS attracted and retained staff of the highest quality compared to other countries.
KPMG, in discussion with PM&C, selected eight countries as comparators based on their social and economic conditions being similar to Australia’s.
The countries were: Canada, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Singapore, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The report could be accessed at www.pmc.gov.au
24 November, 2009
Public sector wages have outpaced the private sector, according to the latest average weekly earnings figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
shows PS on top
Economists said the Public Sector had experienced its fastest wage growth in five years at 4.6 per cent, while private sector wage growth was at its slowest in seven years at 3.2 per cent for the year to September.
The increases for the quarter were 3.2 per cent for the Public Service and 0.7 per cent in the private sector.
The ABS figures showed average weekly earnings for August in the Public Sector were $1,320.10 (full-time adult total earnings, which includes overtime), a 5.4 per cent increase from the same time last year.
In the private sector, average weekly earnings for the month were $1,228.30, representing a 4.4 per cent increase from the same period in 2008.
The national average full-time adult total earnings rose by 5.2 per cent for males and 4.2 per cent for females in the 12 months to August.
Economist with the Commonwealth Bank, James McIntyre was reported in the media as saying the Public Sector wage increases could be inflationary.
“It would seem surprising that in an environment of rising unemployment and deteriorating fiscal positions that Public Sector wage rises have not eased back somewhat,” Mr McIntyre told Australian Associated Press.
“This would suggest a lack of flexibility in Public Sector wage setting.”
24 November, 2009
Bureau counts down
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is to conduct the 16th national Census on 9 August 2011, marking 100 years of national census-taking.
to 2011 Census
Announced in a joint statement from the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry, the Census will be the largest data collection ever undertaken by the ABS, which has been allocated $440 million over seven years to conduct it.
“Involving every household in the nation, the conduct of the Census is logistically the single largest peacetime operation conducted by the Australian Government,” Mr Rudd and Senator Sherry said.
They said providing a statistical snapshot of Australia, Census data was used by all sections of the community, all levels of Government, town planners, community groups, students and businesses.
“The Census provides a wealth of information for informed decision-making throughout the community,” they said.
“Information from the Census is critical in developing policy and in planning the delivery of services to the community, such as health and human services, and facilitates a better understanding of vulnerable sections of the population.”
The PM and Minister said the information would be used for estimating population figures; determining electoral boundaries; calculating the number of members to be elected to the House of Representatives from each State and Territory; determining the distribution of Federal Government funds to the States; and helping plan basic services such as housing, social security, transport, education, industry, shops and hospitals.
They said the Public Service would use the information to support planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities, while the private sector would use it to help make business planning decisions.
“Census 2011 will build on the successful deployment of internet technologies to assist in the completion of Census forms with householders able to complete their Census form easily and securely online via the use of eCensus, in addition to the traditional paper Census form,” Mr Rudd and Senator Sherry said.
“The ABS has also developed a wide range of strategies to considerably improve the engagement and involvement of remote, rural, regional and Indigenous communities in the Census.”
The Prime Minister and Assistant Treasurer said the Census would also have a positive impact on jobs and the economy.
They said a temporary workforce of 40,000 would be employed at the peak of the Census across Australia in a range of roles including Census field operations.
Recruitment is to commence in early 2011 and positions will run until the completion of data processing in late in 2012.
24 November, 2009
APSC guide logs into
New guidance for Public Servants participating in online and Web 2.0 media has been released by the Australian Public Service Commission in conjunction with the Australian Government Information Management Office.
Web 2.0 participation
The Ethics Advisory Service division of the APSC announced the guide via Circular 2009/6, Protocols of online media participation, which supersedes Circular 2008/08.
In the Circular, Group Manager for the Ethics Advisory Service, Karin Fisher said the new guide encouraged Public Servants to become involved in “robust policy conversations” in a professional and flexible manner.
The guide says when participating online, Public Servants should embrace the opportunity to contribute ideas on “sound, sustainable policies and service delivery approaches.”
“Employees should also consider carefully whether they should identify themselves as either an APS employee or an employee of their Agency,” it says.
The guide lays out a number of ground rules for online participation, and reminds employees to adhere to the APS Values and Code of Conduct.
It says Public Servants should be apolitical, impartial and professional; behave with respect and courtesy; and deal appropriately with information, including confidential data.
It says they must deliver services fairly and impartially, remain sensitive to the diversity of the public, take reasonable steps to avoid conflicts of interest, use resources properly and uphold the good reputation of the APS.
“APS employees need to ensure that they fully understand the APS Values and Code of Conduct and how they apply to official or personal communications.
“If in doubt, they should stop and think about whether to comment and what to say, refer to the Code of Conduct, consult their Agency’s policies, seek advice from someone in authority in their Agency, or consult the Ethics Advisory Service in the Australian Public Service Commission.”
The guide says Agencies could find it beneficial to provide IT guidance and training to employees.
“It would be particularly helpful to workshop scenarios around some of the more complex or ‘grey’ issues that arise for employees in deciding whether and how to participate online.”
Ms Fisher said further guidance for Agencies on the management of online media, including ways of engaging with clients, would be released by the Australian Government Information Management Office.
The Circular was available from www.apsc.gov.au
24 November, 2009
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has called for lawmakers to recognise the unintended consequences of new Government programs.
whistle on loose laws
The Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan said it was difficult to predict circumstances that may arise as a result of policy decisions.
“Despite good intentions, Governments will sometimes develop legislation that results in unforseen, unfair or even harsh consequences. Mistakes will also occur in applying the legislation,” Professor McMillan said.
“As legislation becomes more complex and detailed, and Agencies have less room to move to accommodate people in unusual situations, we need to consider safety net mechanisms that will ensure deserving individuals are not disadvantaged.”
He said there were a number of recent examples of legislation which had unexpected or inequitable outcomes, including people becoming ineligible for grants because they were unable to meet application cut-off dates, even if deadlines were missed due to wrong advice.
Other examples included cases in which visa holders became unlawful citizens and were held in detention centres, and social security recipients who had their entitlements or benefits reduced or cancelled.
Professor McMillan said all Agencies, regardless of the limitations in the legislation they administer, had at least three options available to them to overcome a defective decision or unwelcome outcome—administrative self-correction or ‘workarounds’; discretionary compensation payments; and debt waiver and write-off powers.
“But I’m not convinced that these options are enough,” he said.
To overcome the problem of unintended policy consequences, the Ombudsman said he was examining what measures Agencies use when an error has been made or a policy has had harsh and unforeseen consequences.
Among the questions being explored by Professor McMillan in an issues paper on the topic were whether Agencies monitored the administration of legislation to assess whether a safety net power should be used, and what limitations or safeguards should be placed on the exercise of power under such a provision.
Also being examined were the issues of Agencies being able to vary decisions or actions to comply with recommendations of the Ombudsman, and to what extent they made people aware of relevant safety net discretions.
Professor McMillan is conducting targeted consultations to focus on these issues.
The paper, Mistakes and unintended consequences—a safety net approach and information on making a submission were available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
Interested parties can make written submissions by 29 January 2010.
24 November, 2009
Timely warning in
Calls to address the amount of unpaid overtime being undertaken by Australian workers have followed the release of a think tank survey that found Australians were putting in an average of eight hours unpaid overtime every week.
Executive Director of the Australia Institute which undertook the survey, Richard Denniss, said the results showed overwork was an “obvious area for Government to address.”
Dr Denniss said the survey, Something for nothing – unpaid overtime in Australia, found the typical full-time employee was working 70 minutes of unpaid overtime a day, which is equal to 33 eight-hour days per year, or six and a half standard working weeks.
“The amount of unpaid overtime worked in Australia is the equivalent of 1.16 million full-time jobs,” Dr Denniss said.
“Given the dangers to health, families and communities posed by overwork, we should be looking to the success that other countries have had in capping overtime.”
The survey examines the nature, extent and consequences of Australia’s heavy reliance on unpaid overtime.
He said while Australians had a reputation for taking ‘sickies’ and ‘smokos’, the evidence suggested otherwise.
He said across the workforce, 2.14 billion hours of unpaid overtime per year gave a $72 billion ‘gift’ to employers.
Dr Denniss said the figures meant six per cent of the economy depended on free labour and that the economic value of unpaid overtime was enormous but largely unacknowledged.
The report shows 45 per cent of Australian workers and more than half of all full-time employees work more hours than they are paid for on a typical workday and that 44 per cent of people who did so said it was ‘compulsory’ or ‘expected.’
Another 43 per cent said it was ‘not expected, but also not discouraged.’
In response to the findings, the Institute has nominated 25 November as national ‘Go Home On Time Day’, which has been supported by the Community and Public Sector Union.
The Institute and the CPSU are encouraging workers to postpone all last minute tasks and register for an online ‘leave pass’ at www.gohomeontimeday.org.au to allow them to leave work on time.
24 November, 2009
Report lifts lid on
An international paper co-authored by two CSIRO scientists has found carbon dioxide emissions from human activities rose two per cent in 2008 despite the economic effects of the global financial crisis.
Published in Nature Geoscience, the paper was written by scientists from the Global Carbon Project (GCP), including the CSIRO’s Dr Mike Raupach and Dr Pep Canadell.
More than 30 experts from major international climate research institutions contributed to the paper, the annual Global Carbon Budget report.
The paper found emissions rose to an all time high of 1.3 tonnes of carbon per capita per year.
Dr Raupach said the paper found rising emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were caused mainly by increased use of coal, although there were minor decreases in emissions from oil and deforestation.
“The current growth in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is closely linked to growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” Dr Raupach said.
“CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are estimated to have increased 41 per cent above 1990 levels with emissions continuing to track close to the worst-case scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”
He said there would be a “small downturn” in emissions because of the global financial crisis but that emissions would continue following the economy’s recovery unless people stepped in.
Executive Director of the GCP, Dr Pep Canadell said the production of manufactured goods consumed in developed countries could be partly responsible for the increase in emissions from developing countries.
The paper found atmospheric CO2 growth was about four billion metric tonnes of carbon in 2008 and global atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached 385 parts per million – 38 per cent above pre-industrial levels.
Dr Canadell said the findings also indicated natural carbon sinks, which play an important role in buffering the impact of rising emissions from human activity, have not been able to keep pace with rising CO2 levels.
“On average only 45 per cent of each year’s emissions remain in the atmosphere,” Dr Canadell said.
“The remaining 55 per cent is absorbed by land and ocean sinks. However, CO2 sinks have not kept pace with rapidly increasing emissions, as the fraction of emissions remaining in the atmosphere has increased over the past 50 years.
He said this was concerning as it indicated the vulnerability of the sinks to increasing emissions and climate change, making natural sinks less efficient “cleaners” of human carbon pollution.
24 November, 2009
Women targetted in
An action plan to attract more women into the Defence Forces has been launched by the Minister for Defence Personnel and the Chief of the Defence Force.
Defence recruit drive
Minister, Greg Combet and CDF, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said the Chief of the Defence Force Action Plan for the Recruitment and Retention of Women aimed to make the ADF more representative of the community by boosting female participation rates.
The new initiative comes after nearly 18 months of consultation with The Chief of the Defence Force Reference Group on Women and 17 roundtable discussions involving 200 ADF women across Australia.
Mr Combet said the Action Plan would improve workplace flexibility, career management, accountability, mentoring and communication across Defence and would raise retention rates and Defence’s profile as an employer.
“The Plan has at its heart a cultural change program that will impact on everyone in Defence at every level and workplace,” Mr Combet said.
“While much has been done to improve the recruitment and participation rates of women, Defence recognises there is more to do.”
He said over the next few years there would be changes to the performance appraisal system, career management philosophies and practices, and personnel policies in a bid to achieve a more sustainable and representative workforce.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said the initiative built on achievements and programs already in place and introduced new measures to increase the options and attractiveness of an ADF career.
“Defence wants to be recognised as an employer that values its members and provides them with conditions of service that support, enable and encourage their personal circumstances whatever they may be,” he said.
24 November, 2009
Babies no bonus in
A recently released survey has found most women believe falling pregnant will hurt their career progression.
The research by employment agency CareerOne revealed almost two thirds of female respondents thought becoming pregnant would have a negative impact on their career, while three quarters believed it was difficult to be in a highly paid executive role and raise a family.
In contrast, the majority of men (73 per cent) did not think parenthood would have any impact on their chance for promotion.
Conducted by CoreData for the company, the research also found 48 per cent of women believed they had been overlooked for job opportunities/promotions because of their gender.
When asked why there were more men in senior ranks than women, most respondents said it was because women weren’t perceived as “tough” enough for a senior role, and women were more likely to value assertiveness training than men.
In other findings, more than half the women surveyed said they wished they had a mentor compared to only 29 percent of men.
CareerOne’s Kate Southam said the results were a message for employers who did not value family friendly policies, urging them to do more.
“Some of Australia’s biggest employers are striving for that female-friendly tag yet the perception amongst employees is that parenting is career poison for women,” Ms Southam said.
“Employers also need to look at their workplace culture to ensure it is not biased towards male success.
“Nearly half our female respondents believed they were passed over for promotion because of their gender.
“That might not be the case but perception is everything when it comes to developing a strong employer brand.”
She said a positive message from the survey was that more female employees were willing to develop new skills through training and mentoring compared to men.
“In our rapidly changing world of work it appears from the survey women are most open to developing new skills – another reason for employers to look at their family policies if they want to retain their female employees,” Ms Southam said.
“For women, the message is also clear: develop skills around positioning yourself for promotion. It is up to each individual to make career development a priority.”
24 November, 2009
Australia has improved its status as one of the world’s least corrupt countries, rising to eighth place on the international index that measures corruption.
shows value of values
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index confirmed Australia was one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
Mr O’Connor said the Index ranked countries by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and surveys.
“Australia is now ranked eighth out of 180 countries, rising from ninth position in the 2008 survey,” Mr O’Connor said.
“This consolidates Australia’s standing as one of the 10 least corrupt countries in the world, and represents a continued improvement over our position in 2007 when Australia had
dropped to the 11th position in the rankings.”
He said Australia’s poor performance in 2007 was described by Transparency International Australia as a response to the Australian Wheat Board oil-for-food scandal and that it was encouraging to see the nation’s position on the index improve.
Mr O’Connor said the Government had introduced a number of measures aimed at preventing corruption and promoting high ethical standards in the Public Sector.
These included new codes of conduct for Ministers, ministerial staff and lobbyists; the introduction of merit-based selection processes for most Public Service Agency heads; new guidelines and procedures for Government advertising; an inquiry into measures to protect Public Service whistleblowers; and reforms to Freedom of Information legislation.
“The Australian Government recognises the destructive effects that corruption has on society, and remains committed to combatting corruption and its effects,” Mr O’Connor said.
24 November, 2009
Audit reports bring
Two new performance audit reports have been completed by the Office of Evaluation and Audit division of the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
programs to book
Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, announced the audit reports, saying they looked at the performance of Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) and the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC).
The performance audit of ICV, a non-profit organisation aimed at enhancing the skills of Indigenous communities through volunteers, found it had successfully delivered its volunteer projects but had not measured their impacts.
Mr Tanner said at the time of the audit, ICV was transitioning from an organisation focused on skills transfer to a broader role of community and human development.
He said the audit recommended a range of actions to enable ICV to develop a stronger strategic approach to defining what it sought to achieve and measuring its outcomes for Indigenous communities.
ICV welcomed the report, saying it was a useful tool in assessing its performance and alerting it to areas needing improvement.
The second audit evaluated the Capacity Development Program of the ORIC.
The evaluation examined the design and delivery of capacity building efforts undertaken by the Program, which was aimed at building the independence and capacity of Indigenous individuals, groups and corporations.
The evaluation found the ORIC primarily focused its efforts on placing individuals in corporate governance training programs.
It says the approach was likely to contribute to the development of individual capacity, but found it could not be quantified.
The Office of Evaluation and Audit (OEA) said it was less likely that providing governance training to individuals in isolation would lead to improved capacity at the group or corporation level.
The OEA recommended ORIC review the reliance it placed on providing corporate governance training to individual participants.
In response, the ORIC said it was committed to reviewing and improving its corporate governance training program, and that the evaluation would support it while doing so.
Mr Tanner said both reports were available from www.finance.gov.au
24 November, 2009
Drug Agency pushes
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has launched an online resource to help athletes check if their medications are permitted or prohibited in sport.
new online resource
Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis said ASADA’s new website would help maintain Australia’s reputation of taking a tough stance against performance enhancing drugs in sport.
“This website is another way we’re promoting that message and educating Australian sportspeople,” Ms Ellis said.
She said the online resources would help Australian athletes, doctors, coaches and support personnel to anonymously and immediately find out if their medications and substances were acceptable.
“These resources will give Australian athletes, and international athletes visiting Australia, the means to feel confident about what they put into their bodies,” Ms Ellis said.
“We know that understanding what is and isn’t allowed can be confusing for some athletes and the people who advise them.
“This is a way we’re educating and informing sportspeople so that they can make well-informed decisions.”
She said the website launch coincided with the lead up to major international sporting events such as the Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
Ms Ellis said the ASADA website was the most popular way for athletes to find anti-doping information and that according to recent research, 77 per cent favoured the internet for checking drug information.
She said the new online resource was created in response to athletes and the sporting industry who wanted a streamlined way to access reliable anti-doping information.
“The new-look website caters for our younger tech-savvy athletes who are at an age where getting the anti-doping message is important,” Ms Ellis said.
The website could be accessed at www.asada.gov.au
24 November, 2009
Law reform papers
The National Legal Profession Reform Taskforce has issued two discussion papers proposing the establishment of a national Legal Services Ombudsman and ways of reducing overcharging in the law industry.
are well writ
The first paper outlines a range of functions for the proposed Ombudsman including receiving and investigating complaints; making determinations in relation to complaints and unsatisfactory professional conduct; conducting internal reviews of some decisions; and educating the public and the legal profession on ethical issues and the complaints process.
In the second paper the Taskforce examines ways to prevent vulnerable consumers of legal services from being exploited.
Proposals include the disclosure of legal costs to clients; regulating the making of costs agreements and the billing of costs; a mechanism for assessing legal costs; and setting aside certain costs agreements.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland praised the Taskforce for tackling complaints and costs in the papers, two areas he said were in need of regulatory reform.
“We need to ensure that consumers of legal services across Australia are afforded consistent protection and remedies, and they can obtain all necessary information to make informed decisions about the conduct of a matter, and that legal costs are fair and reasonable,” Mr McClelland said.
The National Legal Profession Reform Taskforce has been charged with developing uniform legislation to regulate the legal profession across Australia and is due to report to the Council of Australian Governments in April 2010.
Copies of the discussion papers were available from www.ag.gov.au
24 November, 2009
Australia is to host the first negotiating round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement early next year.
plan is big deal
Minister for Trade, Simon Crean welcomed the announcement that the US would participate in the talks, saying it would allow for the TPP negotiation – comprising Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam - to move forward.
Mr Crean said while the eight participating countries all had quality Free Trade Agreements, the group would help define what was needed for a modern 21st century trade agreement.
“The intention is that the agreement will expand to include other countries willing to sign up to the same principles,” Mr Crean said.
“The US announcement is a significant statement of its intent to the Asia Pacific region. Importantly, it provides the critical mass essential for this initiative to go forward.”
He said the TPP could be the basis for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.
“The negotiation will be conducted in a way that supports both our Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation objectives and the multilateral system of the World Trade Organisation,” Mr Crean said.
“It is not a replacement for concluding the Doha Round, but a complement to it.”
He said the agreement would also be geared to addressing the needs of business and promoting development and sustainability.
“Behind the border regulatory barriers will be a priority,” Mr Crean said.
“We will look for new approaches in areas like services and the promotion of trade and investment.
“This will include new technologies and emerging economic sectors such as green technology and the digital economy.”
He said the Commonwealth would consult with relevant stakeholders as progress continued, following initial TPP stakeholder consultations held in October 2008.
24 November, 2009
Product information about prescription and consumer medicine is now being published on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website.
put drugs online
Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mark Butler said the reform meant consumers would have easy access to information about prescription medicines included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
“Consumers and care givers will be the big winners in this latest reform as they will now have easy access to these documents at a single point and know where to go to find authoritative and reliable information about a prescription medicine,” Mr Butler said.
The online Product Information and Consumer Medicine Information documents will start with over 200 prescribed medicines, with the rest being added progressively until completion early next year.
Mr Butler said the TGA was considered one of the top medicine regulators in the world, but that some of its activities had been criticised as being constrained and lacking transparency.
He said with the support from the Government, the TGA was now actively implementing reform initiatives to “enhance the regulatory framework for therapeutic goods.”
Mr Butler said other TGA reforms included improving timelines for the registration of prescription medicines and increasing the transparency of the regulatory process.
“This is an exciting time in the transformation of the TGA and I look forward to industry, health professional and consumer bodies working closely with the TGA and Government to advance transparency and accountability,” he said.
The information was available from www.tga.gov.au
24 November, 2009
Court attack attacked
The Law Council of Australia has labelled a reported attack on the High Court by the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission as “extraordinary” and “disappointing.”
President of the Law Council, John Corcoran said if Senator Steve Hutchins’s comments had been accurately reported, they revealed an “alarming support for unchecked executive powers.”
In a speech to the Australian Federal Police Association, Senator Hutchins reportedly accused the High Court of acting with disregard for the interests of public order and justice following a High Court decision on 12 November to disallow the NSW Crime Commission to apply for a restraining order over a person’s assets without first alerting them.
Concern over Archives closures
The Community and Public Sector Union has written to the Director General of the National Archives, Ross Gibbs, calling for him to reconsider closing State offices in Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart.
The CPSU said it was concerned about the impacts of the closures on staff, public services and the archived documents.
It said it had met with NAA management to look at alternatives to closing the sites.
AFP joins crime centre
Australian Federal Police and the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security have teamed up to establish a Joint Transnational Crime Centre.
The Vietnam-Australia Joint Transnational Crime Centre will facilitate information and intelligence sharing between the countries on illicit drugs, money laundering and child sex tourism.
The Centre is expected to open next year and will be located within the Vietnamese General Department of Police Premises in Ho Chi Minh City.
Similar Joint Transnational Crime Centres have been established in Cambodia and Columbia.
Navy backs boat race
The Royal Australian Navy will again sponsor the longest open sea boat race, the George Bass Surfboat Marathon.
Head of Navy People and Reputation, Commodore David Letts said the Navy was proud to once again sponsor the George Bass Surfboat Marathon in 2010.
“The Navy supports the Australian Surf Rower League and the George Bass Surfboat Marathon because of an alignment of many of the attributes of surf rowing and the Navy itself,” Commodore Letts said.
Honour for Director
Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford has received the French Honour, L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, for his contribution to Australian arts.
The accolade is in recognition of Dr Radford’s significant achievements in his work with the National Gallery and earlier, the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Established in 1957, L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres recognises significant contribution to arts and literature or to the propagation of these fields.
Dr Radford will be presented with the award at an official decoration ceremony early next year.
Shipwrecks for Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is to receive all the videos and photographs showing the underwater wrecks of HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran.
The Finding Sydney Foundation is donating the data to the AWM to make the 1,400 photographs and 50 hours of film publicly available for future research
The Foundation said the AWM was the images’ rightful home as they were the only objective evidence of the result of the battle between the two ships.
New safety standards for trailers
New safety standards have been introduced to crack down on importers and local manufacturers of unsafe trailers and caravans.
Importers and manufactures will now need to comply with a new national code of practice, and face fines of up to $66,000 if they are found to be non-compliant.
The new rules apply to all imported and locally produced trailers up to 4.5 tonnes, with further information available from www.infrastructure.gov.au
More funding for heritage
Australia’s World Heritage sites are to receive additional funding in the latest round of the Caring for our Country program.
Over $38 million will be spent on preserving the 17 World Heritage sites, with projects such as eradicating pests on Macquarie Island and protecting the biodiversity of Shark Bay in Western Australia to be undertaken.
Other World Heritage places to receive funding include the Gondwana Rainforests, home to 200 rare and threatened plant and animal species, and Willandra Lakes Region in NSW.
Museum to buy relics
The Australian National Maritime Museum is to purchase the Omai relics – three rare clubs collected during Captain Cook’s second exploration of the Pacific - from the Tobias Furneaux collection.
The two Tongan clubs and a Maori whalebone club represent an era of trade between explorers and Pacific indigenous peoples during the 18th Century.
The Omai relics are to become a key focus of the Museum’s Exploration and European Settlement collection.
17 November, 2009
Over 500 Commonwealth superannuants attended a public meeting in Canberra recently to address pension indexation arrangements in Australian Government Civilian and Military Superannuation Schemes.
finger at index
ACT Senators Kate Lundy (Labor) and Gary Humphries (Liberal) addressed the meeting, giving their views on Trevor Matthews’ review into superannuation indexation for APS and military employees.
Both Senators criticised the Matthews Report, with Senator Lundy saying she had intended meeting with the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner to show him why the report was flawed.
The mass meeting of retirees was organised by the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association (SCOA) and the Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) to tackle what they say is an “outdated” indexation system for PS superannuants.
Indexation Campaign Manager for the SCOA, John Coleman said the Government had “created strong expectations of a fairer pension indexation” prior to the last Federal election, and that the organisations were frustrated by it “betrayal” and failure to deliver.
Mr Coleman said the 2008 independent review conducted by Trevor Matthews had been commissioned by the Government to look at the method used to index Commonwealth superannuation pensions.
“The review, conducted by Mr Matthews for no fee, recommended no change from the obsolete CPI indexation methodology, despite three separate Senate Committees all recommending wage-based indexation,” Mr Coleman said.
He said the meeting condemned the Government’s acceptance of the Matthews report recommendations and committed to continue campaigning for fairer pension indexations in line with percentage movements in the married rate of the Age Pension.
“The average Commonwealth superannuation pension is less than the married rate of Age Pension, so those affected are not exactly at the top end of superannuation town,” he said.
Mr Coleman said SCOA and the DFWA had received numerous letters, emails and phone calls from angry Commonwealth superannuants who were disappointed with the Government’s decision.
“Former Public Servants and former serving members of the Defence Force are tired of being treated as second class Australians,” he said.
“They are seeking no more than to have their pensions increased by the same percentage as that for married Age Pensioners.”
17 November, 2009
Ombudsman picks bone
An Ombudsman’s investigation into delivery of an economic stimulus payment has found that valuable lessons could be drawn from complaints from people who missed out on the payment.
over bonus payments
The Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan looked into the Economic Security Strategy Payment, finding the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ (FaHCSIA) could have better informed the public of the scheme, which was delivered by Centrelink.
“It is important to identify clearly who is eligible for a bonus scheme, how eligibility is determined, and when a payment will be made,” Professor McMillan said.
“The content, targeting and timeliness of FaHCSIA’s information about the ESSP was inadequate, leading to some erroneous assumptions and adverse consequences for many people.”
The Ombudsman said the ESSP was a widely publicised lump sum, tax-free payment to people who held an eligible concession card or received an eligible social security payment, veterans’ payment or family assistance payment on 14 October 2008.
He said most payments (to 7.7 million people) were made in December 2008, but were expected to continue until June 2011.
In his report, Administration of the ESSP: An examination of the implementation, monitoring and review of the scheme, Professor McMillan said the scale of the ESSP payment scheme was immense, there was a short time frame for implementation and there was extensive publicity about ESSP payment criteria.
He said it was challenging but essential for Government to provide ready access to information to all people affected by a scheme.
“In this case, because the positive aspects of the ESSP were so widely communicated, FaHCSIA had an obligation to inform those groups of people it could predict would wrongly think they were eligible, that they were in fact not eligible,” Professor McMillan said.
He used as a ‘case in point’, the experience of a ‘Ms H’.
“A lump sum Family Tax Benefit recipient, Ms H anticipated a December 2008 payment, but was not in fact eligible to receive the ESSP until she lodged her 2008-09 tax return,” the Ombudsman said.
“As a result, Ms H was not able to pay Christmas bills that she would not have accrued had the information campaign made clear her ESSP would be delayed.”
Professor McMillan also identified a need to improve the use of administrative mechanisms to deal with unusual problems thrown up by the scheme.
“The ESSP legislation does allow for the establishment of an administrative scheme to address unforeseen problems,” he said.
“But because FaHCSIA and Centrelink did not put in place a comprehensive system to collect, record and analyse feedback and complaints about the ESSP, there is little and incomplete evidence to support doing so.”
Professor McMillan recommended FaHCSIA conduct a rigorous analysis of complaint data in response to the report findings and advise relevant Ministers that insufficient consideration had been given to establishing an administrative scheme.
The full text of the Ombudsman’s report was available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
17 November, 2009
2009 Privacy Awards
The Victorian Department of Justice has taken out the major accolade at the Australian Privacy Awards 2009.
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis said the Department won the Grand Award for a range of privacy projects that impressed judges for the “scope, level of creativity and the impact they had in promoting privacy awareness”.
“The Department’s initiatives have seen high levels of staff participation and have led to a decrease in privacy incidents,” Commissioner Curtis said.
She said the Department’s Taking Responsibility Framework encompassed a range of privacy-enhancing initiatives including a ‘Whoops Sorry’ campaign to educate staff about the dangers of sending an email to the wrong person, a privacy blog for the Victorian Public service and the production of an animated ‘privacy wheel’ with tips for protecting personal information.
Other winners from the Public Service included the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service which was named winner of the Government category for its Australian-European Union Passenger Name Record Agreement.
Commissioner Curtis said the agreement – one of only three of its kind in the world - was groundbreaking and ensured the sharing of passenger data accorded with strict privacy standards.
She said the agreement allowed airlines that housed their passenger name record data in the EU to share relevant data with Australian authorities to help prevent terrorism and other crimes.
“Privacy standards are the focus of the agreement, which provide the EU with an assurance that the Australian handling of the data conforms to the requirements of the Privacy Act,” Commissioner Curtis said.
Cabinet Secretary and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig presented the awards at a gala dinner in Sydney.
Other finalists in the Government category were CrimTrac, the Human Services Portfolio (Highly Commended), Mildura Rural City Council (Highly Commended) and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
The awards were sponsored by the Child Support Agency, Symantec, Clayton Utz, Google and Microsoft.
17 November, 2009
Uni course to tame
The University of Western Australia is offering courses in a new field – Integrated Human Studies – which will have particular relevance to public service.
Professor Neville Bruce from the University developed the courses due to his dissatisfaction with the way tertiary institutions were responding to the world’s problems.
Professor Bruce said Integrated Human Studies directly addressed 21st century challenges.
He said he believed science and technology had contributed rapidly to human development in the 20th century, but that their effects had ruinous consequences.
“Massive, complex problems like resource depletion, climate change, poverty and inequity threaten the very survival of humans and the planet – and many universities continue to deliver the same old discipline-based or vocationally focused education,” Professor Bruce said.
Professor Graeme Martin, also of UWA, said Integrated Human Studies delivered a transdisciplinary perspective and methodologies that drew on science, the arts, humanities, law and economics.
“We get some of the brightest minds in the country, and they come in wanting to change the world – and we teach them maths,” Professor Martin said.
“Of course the world needs mathematicians, but if you want to change the world and address complex problems, you need broad understandings, and a sense of how your disciplinary specialty fits in with others.”
He said the new course drew on a range of subject areas to consider local and global issues and “wicked problems” that defied narrow analysis.
Professor Bruce said the course’s starting point was the idea that in order to consider human futures, it was necessary to understand human nature and culture, evolutionary and historical origins and value and belief systems.
He said it was also imperative to understand the current status of humans on
“Australia needs to formulate policies relating to immigration, welfare, housing, land management and more,” he said.
“Policy makers need to understand the global issues and pressures, and leaders and voters all need to make informed decisions.”
Professor Bruce pointed to the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), which recognised the need for a different approach to solving complex policy problems known as “wicked problems.”
He said former Australian Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs said wicked problems “require thinking that is capable of grasping the big picture, including the interrelationships among the full range of causal factors underlying them.”
Ms Briggs said they often required broader, more collaborative and innovative approaches.
Professor Bruce said the curriculum design team at UWA’s Centre for Integrated Human Studies had built these skills into their course content and delivery.
More information about the course could be accessed at www.ihs.uwa.edu.au
17 November, 2009
Archives files away
The National Archives of Australia has announced it will close its State offices in Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart in a bid to cut costs.
Director General of the Archives, Ross Gibbs said the offices would be closed over the next two-and-a-half years as building leases expired.
“The decision to close these particular offices was difficult, but is, I believe, a responsible one,” Mr Gibbs said.
“Canberra will bear budget cuts to achieve the savings, and there would naturally be a flow-on to all State offices.
“The decision to close the Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart offices was based on the knowledge that they could not endure any more budget cuts while still maintaining the high level of service that they are known for.”
He said as part of the Government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the National Archives and other Agencies were required to find “significant budget savings.”
“For the current forward estimate years 2009–10 to 2012–13, the savings are $700,000 in the first year and $1.4 million each year thereafter.
Mr Gibbs visited Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart to inform staff of the changes.
He said the timing of the office closures would allow the Archives “to deliver a planned approach” and help the 19 affected staff adjust.
“We are developing an employment transition plan for affected staff and an employment assistance service will also be made available to them,” Mr Gibbs said.
He said the Darwin office would close on 30 September 2010; the Adelaide office would close on 30 March 2011; the Melville Street office in Hobart would close on 31 August 2010; and the Macquarie Street office in Hobart would close on 30 April 2012.
“I want to reassure our users that meeting their needs into the future is a key concern,” Mr Gibbs said.
“As well as ensuring the ongoing provision of the National Archives’ service – both locally and online – in Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart, we are considering the future of the records in these locations.”
He said some records could be relocated to repositories in Sydney or Melbourne, while others could be relocated locally with “sympathetic local cultural heritage institutions.”
“These arrangements are being negotiated with National Archives staff in each office,” he said.
Director of the Brisbane, Darwin and Adelaide offices, David Swift said the decision was unexpected but economically sound.
Mr Swift said the three offices were the smallest and least-used collections compared to other States.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called for further information on the closures and how they will effect staff.
CPSU said it was working to ensure information about the impact of the cuts on service delivery to residents was forthcoming and that directly affected staff received their rights as per the union-negotiated NAA collective agreement.
It said indirectly affected staff should not be burdened with “unrealistic and unmanageable workloads.”
17 November, 2009
Defence responds to
The Defence Materiel Organisation has released its plan to establish a more business-like and commercial culture in response to David Mortimer’s 2008 Defence Procurement and Sustainment Review.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said the plan was a sign of progress in implementing the recommended reforms and included an overview of initiatives that would transform the DMO’s culture.
“The strong focus of the plan is on further improving the support that the DMO provides each and every day to the Australian Defence Force,” Mr Combet said.
“This plan provides a transparent view of what is to be done, and how it will be measured.”
Chief Executive Officer of DMO, Stephen Gumley said the organisation would become more business-like and commercial by responding to Government direction and being responsive to the needs of customers and suppliers.
Dr Gumley said the DMO would adapt to changes in external circumstances, have a performance-driven culture and work with the defence industry to reduce overheads throughout the procurement system.
“Whilst Acquisition and Sustainment Reform Division has been given the overall coordination responsibility for DMO reforms, all of our senior managers are actively engaged in making these reforms a reality,” he said.
“In particular, Industry Division will continue to analyse defence industry capacity and work to reduce overhead costs.”
Dr Gumley said better contracting solutions and assistance with achieving value for money outcomes for procurements would be provided by the Office of the Special Counsel.
“Managing the impacts on our people and enhancing DMO’s ability to deliver our services in a sustainable way will be particularly important to future success,” he said.
Mr Combet said the Government had agreed to all but one of Mr Mortimer’s recommendations and would continue to push for their implementation.
“These are vital reforms to ensure that Government makes the right choices on major investments in ADF equipment, and that the DMO and industry can deliver them on-time, on-budget and to the required specifications,” he said.
The plan was available from www.defence.gov.au
17 November, 2009
The Fair Work Ombudsman has encouraged school-leavers to be aware of their workplace rights if they decide to take jobs over the summer holidays.
warns new starters
Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said knowledge was the best defence to ensure young workers were not ripped off.
“When you’ve just left school, every dollar counts,” Mr Wilson said.
“Often the excitement of the first pay packet and a lack of understanding of the laws that protect them can leave young workers vulnerable to unacceptable workplace practices.”
He said there were several facts young workers should be aware of, for instance that every worker should receive a payslip and unpaid trial work was generally against the law.
He said having money deducted from wages if the cash register was short was also against the law.
“Entering the workforce should be a positive experience, and we’re here to help empower young people to ensure that is the case,” Mr Wilson said.
“It’s as simple as picking up the phone and calling our national Infoline on 13 13 94 to speak with one of our Fair Work advisers.”
He suggested keeping a work diary to record shifts and pay, noting the start and finishing time, meal breaks and the names of supervisors.
“A record of events such as this can be extremely helpful in resolving issues that may arise down the track,” Mr Wilson said.
He said over the next month his office would distribute tens of thousands of post-cards to areas populated by young people, including cafés, cinemas and shopping centres, alerting students to their workplace rights.
Last year the Fair Work Ombudsman audited 400 businesses primarily employing young workers and recouped $634,000 for 1,700 underpaid young employees.
Further information for school-leavers was available from www.fairwork.gov.au
17 November, 2009
Centrelink book a
A book tracing the establishment of Centrelink and its impact on Australian social policy has been authored by academics at the University of Canberra.
The Centrelink Experiment was written by the University of Canberra’s Professor John Halligan and Dr Jules Wills.
In a review of the book, Professor John Wanna of the Australian National University said it described the Government’s decision in 1997 to establish Centrelink as a “bold experiment in re-framing social policy and re-shaping service delivery.”
“Centrelink was the embodiment of a key tenet of the Howard vision for public service: a specialised service delivery ‘provider’ Agency separated from the policy functions of the ‘purchaser’,” Professor Wanna said.
He said while there had been a real “buzz” around Centrelink during its first few years, the Government eventually reined in the experiment, placing the Agency under closer Ministerial control.
“Carved out of a monolithic Department of Social Security, Centrelink was established along ‘business lines’ operating 320 service centres and delivering payments to 10 million Australians,” Professor Wanna said.
“Although enjoying ‘monopoly provider’ status, the organisation was required to deliver services to many different clients on behalf of its ‘purchasing departments’ (up to 25 in total) under the terms of quasi-contractual service agreements.”
He said Centrelink was supposed to demonstrate a greater level of transparency and accountability for the administration of payments which amounting to over $60 billion.
Professor Wanna said while the experiment continued, its trajectory reflected the different pressures on service delivery Agencies.
He commended the book and recommended it to anyone interested in policy innovation, change management and the realpolitik of Public Service reform.
The Centrelink Experiment was published by the Australian National University and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
More information about the book can be obtained from http://epress.anu.edu.au
17 November, 2009
Energy overhaul for
A national scheme to boost the energy efficiency of commercial and Government-owned office buildings has been announced by the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett.
Mr Garrett said from the second half of 2010 building owners would be required to provide up-to-date energy efficiency information when selling or leasing space covering over 2,000 square metres.
“This means all parties - the building owner and potential buyers or tenants - will have access to consistent, credible and meaningful information about a building’s energy efficiency and make informed decisions when they buy or rent office space,” he said.
“Greener offices are not only more comfortable to work in, they can also boost productivity, bring down sick leave, support green building industry jobs and have the potential to deliver savings of 20 to 40 percent on energy bills.”
Mr Garrett said the disclosure scheme would encourage building owners to invest in energy efficient upgrades.
He said the scheme would require owners to disclose a valid Building Energy Efficiency Certificate, including a National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) Energy base building star rating.
He said an assessment of the lighting energy efficiency of tenancies and some suggestions on how to improve the building’s energy efficiency would also be included.
He said owners who did not comply would risk a fine or prosecution.
“If you are planning on selling or leasing office space, the first NABERS Energy base building star rating can take time,” Mr Garrett said.
“I encourage building owners to start now to prepare for the introduction of this measure.”
Ministers for Energy at the Federal, State and Territory levels recently approved the parameters of the new scheme and Commonwealth legislation was currently being developed.
Mr Garrett said businesses would be informed about the new rules through upcoming seminars to be hosted by the Department of the Environment and the Property Council of Australia.
More information was available from www.environment.gov.au
17 November, 2009
Comcare has been recognised for excellence at the Australian Human Resources Institute award ceremony, taking out the Human Resources Impact Award.
for HR impact
Comcare won the accolade for its work in collaborating with internal stakeholders and building their capability.
Director of HR at Comcare, Shona Moloney said the Agency had achieved significant results through a range of initiatives.
Ms Moloney said the judging panel was impressed with the positive survey results achieved by Comcare and in its comments highlighted the way senior and line management staff gave their team positive feedback.
The panel also said Comcare’s People Plan showed a good long term approach to people priorities and strong performance measurement practices.
The panel said a strong focus on workforce planning had set Comcare apart from other applicants.
Ms Moloney said Comcare was pleased with its ACT Finalist status in 2008 but to take out a prize in this year’s awards was a real credit to the HR Team.
She said the award showed the work of the HR Team was relevant to Comcare and that it was effective.
Finalists for the award included private sector national and multinational organisations such as Luxottica, Corrs Chambers Westgarth and BUPA Australia.
17 November, 2009
Government shuts book
Parallel importation restrictions on books will not be removed by the Commonwealth after it decided not to accept a recommendation by the Productivity Commission to do so.
on PC book report
Minister for Competition Policy, Dr Craig Emerson said while the Government would not change the regulatory regime, competition in the book printing and publishing industry would increase as a result of online booksellers and new technologies such as electronic books.
“The Productivity Commission report acknowledged that removing these restrictions would adversely affect Australian authors, publishers and culture,” Dr Emerson said.
“In the circumstances of intense competition from online books and e-books, the Government judged that changing the regulations governing book imports is unlikely to have any material effect on the availability of books in Australia.
“If books cannot be made available in a timely fashion and at a competitive price, customers will opt for online sales and e-books.”
Dr Emerson said the Commission recommended extra budgetary funding for authors and publishers to compensate them for this loss but that the Government would not commit to such a spending program.
He said other suggestions, such as imposing a price cap along the lines of the Canadian system, would increase regulation with questionable effects on book prices.
“The Australian book printing and publishing industries will need to respond to the increasing competition from imports without relying on additional Government assistance,” Dr Emerson said.
17 November, 2009
Audit wants change
A performance audit report on income management schemes being conducted by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has been released.
in income management
The Performance Audit of Money Management Service Strategies, which examined the Department’s Family Income Management (FIM) and MoneyBusiness programs, was conducted by Department of Finance and Deregulation’s Office of Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programs).
The Office of Evaluation and Audit (OEA) said the FIM and MoneyBusiness Programs were supporting Indigenous people and helping them improve their money management skills.
However, the audit found the limitations of FaHCSIA’s performance frameworks and the qualitative nature of outcome data made it difficult to conclusively measure the programs’ outcomes.
The OEA said FaHCSIA’s risk and grants management processes could be improved and that service providers’ information security and financial controls could be strengthened.
“Enhancing financial controls around the provision of grant funding to service providers and further developing its performance framework to support the assessment of FIM outcomes would also improve FaHCSIA’s overall administration of the program and support informed management decision making about investment in and the future directions of the program,” the report said.
“FaHCSIA also needs to continue to build effective working relationship with the key service provider to ensure FIM service delivery remains consistent with broader Government policy.”
The report said MoneyBusiness’s ability to assess client progress against key performance measures could be improved and the program’s risk management strategies could be updated.
“FaHCSIA should also consider entering into longer term funding arrangements,” it said.
“The short term nature of funding has resulted in a high level of administration for service providers and created uncertainty of employment for MoneyBusiness staff, making it difficult for service providers to attract and retain suitably skilled staff.”
The report also recommended further consideration be given to the most effective way of providing culturally appropriate training to MoneyBusiness workers.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said FaHCSIA generally agreed with the findings and recommendations of the report and advised it had taken steps to strengthen its management of FIM and MoneyBusiness.
The full report was available from www.finance.gov.au
17 November, 2009
Defence fires off
The 2009 Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy has been released by the Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner.
Senator Faulkner said the ICT Strategy contained initiatives to increase efficiency and effectiveness within the Defence portfolio.
“The Defence ICT Strategy will strengthen the relationship between Defence’s strategic objectives and enabling ICT capabilities,” Senator Faulkner said.
“Through enhanced strategic planning processes and transparent portfolio-based resource allocation, the ICT Strategy will improve Defence’s ability to conduct forward ICT capability planning.”
Her said the Strategy was consistent with recommendations made in the
Gershon Review on ICT in Government and that some elements had been included in the 2009 Defence White paper.
He said the Government was seeking to improve the content, quality, presentation and utility of publicly available information relating to the future direction of Defence ICT.
Defence is to conduct annual reviews of its ICT Strategy.
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Mike Kelly said the Department of Defence had also transitioned its Regional ICT Support services to private industry.
“Defence Regional ICT Support services in 12 regions are covering over 100,000 desktop computers at 460 Defence bases and sites are now managed by Unisys Australia after an 18-month transition period,” Dr Kelly said.
“I am pleased to officially welcome Unisys on board as a strategic partner to Defence and the Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG).”
He said cooperation between Defence and Unisys meant the transition was carried out with minimal disruption to services and service levels.
Chief Information Officer at Defence, Greg Farr said the decision had led to improved service delivery and a 45 per cent reduction in the number of outstanding jobs.
“I am confident significantly more benefits will flow through as we work with
Unisys,” Mr Farr said.
Under the contract, Unisys provides a range of IT support services, including network security and infrastructure support and server and desktop support.
The contract is valued at around $240 million, has an initial term of five years following the transition period and the potential for two future contract extensions, each of two years duration.
The Defence ICT Strategy was available from www.defence.gov.au
17 November, 2009
A new framework to improve communications delivery services to Indigenous communities has been agreed to by Federal, State, Territory and Local Governments.
for Indigenous areas
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the framework had been agreed to at the Online and Communications Council (OCC) of Australian, State, Territory and Local Governments in Alice Springs.
Senator Conroy said better communications services would help reduce the disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians.
“The OCC has developed a strategic framework for collaboration by all levels of Government to improve communications service availability, affordability and use,” he said.
“Indigenous communities, particularly those located in remote and very remote parts of Australia, have much to gain from better communications, including improved access to health, education, safety and business services.”
In March, the Commonwealth responded to the Regional Telecommunications Review with measures such as an additional $3.7 million contribution to the Indigenous Communications Program to improve essential communications services, basic public internet access facilities and computer training for remote Indigenous communities in partnership with States and Territories.
“The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Public Internet Access is now being implemented,” Senator Conroy said.
“The first payment under the agreement has been made to South Australia.”
Also agreed to at the OCC meeting was the development of data sets to track the growth of Australia’s digital economy and help maximise the potential of the National Broadband Network.
“All OCC members recognise the fundamental importance of improved communications for all Australians, no matter where they live or work,” Senator Conroy said.
“Jurisdictions represented at the meeting strongly endorsed the concept and implementation of the National Broadband Network.”
Further information on the framework was available from www.occ.gov.au
17 November, 2009
New phone service for
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is to pilot a new program that provides free telephone interpreting services to selected real-estate agents helping to house new migrants.
migrant estate agents
Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson said use of the Translating and Interpreting Service would make it easier for migrants to find secure housing.
Mr Ferguson said he was excited about the initiative and the opportunity for positive partnerships between the Government and non-Government sectors in supporting the settlement of new arrivals to Australia.
“A key factor is the limited English skills of many new arrivals,” he said.
“Access to free interpreting services will provide valuable support that will enable real-estate agents to communicate more readily with these clients.
“Secure housing is an important foundation for fully participating in Australian society.”
Mr Ferguson said 13 housing-related projects being delivered under the Department’s Settlement Grants Program (SGP) in locations of high migrant and humanitarian settlement would participate in the pilot.
The projects are taking place in areas such as Blacktown in Sydney, south-east Perth and outer south-east Melbourne.
Mr Ferguson said linking the pilot with the housing projects would support recently arrived migrants and humanitarian entrants in areas where assistance was needed most.
He said the outcomes of the pilot would be used to evaluate the possibility of broadening and extending the service.
17 November, 2009
A taskforce to provide additional support for jobseekers has been established as part of a plan to help the economy recover following the global financial crisis.
to help recovery
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said the taskforce would focus on innovative ways to strengthen Government service delivery for job seekers and employers through better utilising Centrelink and employment services such as Job Services Australia.
“The collaborative approach of this taskforce involving the Departments of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Human Services and Centrelink is critical to its people-focused and innovative view of Government service delivery,” Mr Bowen said.
Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib said the Taskforce for Strengthening Government Service Delivery for Job Seekers would help job seekers capitalise on the employment opportunities expected to arise as the economy recovers.
“History tells us that unemployment can go up quickly, but takes a long time to come down,” Senator Arbib said.
“Figures from the 1980s downturn show that unemployment doubled in two years from 5.4 to 10.4 per cent, but took 10 years to fall.”
The taskforce’s findings are expected to inform the Department of Human Services and Centrelink’s work on service delivery reform.
The taskforce will examine strategies and processes to enable jobseekers to find employment as quickly as possible; look at the success of an approach from New Zealand; and explore international experience on best practice in organisational responsibility for policy and delivery of unemployment benefits, labour market programs and employment services.
The taskforce will also consider how to prevent jobseekers from becoming unemployed for the long-term; a collaborative approach to support mobility of workers seeking jobs; and consider how to help employers access Job Services Australia providers across Australia.
Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Graham Carters will head the taskforce
Senior staff from both Departments and Centrelink will form the taskforce, which is due to report back to Secretary of DEEWR, Lisa Paul; Secretary of the Department of Human Services, Finn Pratt; and Mr Bowen in six months.
17 November, 2009
Moran rejects TV claim
The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran has released a statement refuting claims he asked the Governor General, Quentin Bryce to focus on regional and rural Australia.
Mr Moran said reports on the ABC’s Insiders program on the 8 November were “baseless.”
“The Governor General determines her own program,” Mr Moran said.
CSA crackdown finds $18.7M
Investigations into income minimisation by the Child Support Agency have resulted in almost $18.7 million being received in payments that would otherwise have been withheld.
Almost 3,500 investigations led to a 50 per cent increase in child support payments during the last financial year from parents who had understated their capacity to financially support their children.
Anyone suspecting someone of under reporting their income to unfairly advantage themselves for child support purposes has been urged to report it to the CSA on 131 272.
Safe guides issued
Safe Work Australia has released three guides on safety in the stevedoring industry.
Working Safely on the Waterfront, Working Safely with General Cargo – Steel products, and Working Safely with Containers aim to offer a national approach to improving safety in the Australian stevedoring industry by providing guidance on the best occupational health and safety practice for the industry.
The booklets are available from www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
Christmas tax fact sheet
The Australian Tax Office has created a fact sheet to help organisations understand the fringe benefits tax rules for the festive season.
The ATO said while staff Christmas parties could attract fringe benefits tax (FBT) there may be exemptions depending on the venue and cost per employee.
It said the two main exemptions to FBT that could apply to Christmas parties are exempt property benefits and exempt minor benefits.
The fact sheet was available at www.ato.gov.au
Visa help for foreign students
Overseas students affected by the closure of international education providers are to be protected by new visa measures.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans said from 1 January 2010, overseas students who require a new visa to complete their studies at another school or college would not have to pay the $540 student visa application charge.
Twelve education providers closed in 2009, affecting about 4,700 students.
NRM honour closing soon
Nominations for the McKell Medal for excellence and achievement in natural resource management close on 20 November.
The annual award commemorates the outstanding contribution made to the fields of soil and land conservation by Sir William McKell, Premier of NSW (1941-47) and Governor-General of Australia (1947–53).
The McKell Medal is open to individuals and partnerships and is Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council initiative.
To nominate, visit www.daff.gov.au
Human rights shortlists out
Shortlists for the 2009 Human Rights Awards have been announced by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Over 200 entries were received, with finalists including journalists, community groups and authors.
A list of the Awards shortlists could be found at www.humanrights.gov.au. The winners will be presented with their awards on 10 December.
Long Tan bursaries announced
Over 5,800 secondary students from 2,328 schools across Australia have been awarded Australian Defence Force Long Tan Leadership and Teamwork Awards.
Students were selected by their schools for contributing to the local community and for their personal development and community spirit.
Students in Years 10, 11 and 12 were recognised with awards of $100, $250 and $500 respectively, along with a certificate of merit.
The Awards have been running since 2006 and were established to encourage leadership and teamwork in school aged students.
Sailors win honour rights
An independent Inquiry by the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal into Recognition for Service with the United States Army Small Ships Section has recommended Australian civilian personnel who served in ships operated by the Section between 1942 and 1945 be eligible for Australian or Imperial recognition.
The Inquiry found there should be no requirement for those personnel to relinquish any US awards they may have received for their service.
Former Australian members of the Section and their families who believe they could be entitled to recognition have been invited to apply to the Directorate of Honours and Awards at www.defence.gov.au
Coin commemorates expedition
The Royal Australian Mint has released the first coins for 2010, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Burke and Wills Expedition from Victoria to Queensland.
The 20 cent and $1 coin designs highlight the beginning and the end of the Burke and Wills expedition.
The 20 cent coin design shows Burke and Wills departing on their journey while the $1 coin shows the sole survivor of the exhibition, John King, resting under the iconic carved dig tree.
ABC broadcasts to Burma
Radio Australia has started broadcasting to Burma, the first new language service for the program in 15 years.
Two broadcasts will be transmitted to Burma seven days a week on shortwave frequencies 12010 and 17665.
Chief Executive, Hanh Tran, said the decision to start the new service was prompted by the recent increased international focus on Burma and the fact that elections had been scheduled for 2010.
Comment call on APRA info
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is seeking industry and stakeholder comment on a discussion paper on what life insurance data could be released publicly by APRA.
As part of the consultation, APRA has released two proposed new statistical publications, a Half Yearly Life Insurance Bulletin and an Annual Friendly Society Bulletin.
The discussion paper and accompanying draft publications were available from www.apra.gov.au
10 November, 2009
New efficiency measures being introduced across the Australian Public Service are expected to save the Commonwealth another $850 million over the next four years.
Announced jointly by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and Minister for Finance and Deregulation Lindsay Tanner, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) reported that Departments and Agencies had identified a range of money-saving measures including removing duplication and overlap, reducing corporate overheads, rationalising accommodation arrangements and scaling back resources.
The Ministers said these savings would allow the Government to offset all of its new spending since the 2009-10 Budget and deliver a net saving for the first time in any MYEFO.
“The Government has now delivered more than $7 billion in savings from its own operations,” Mr Tanner said.
“The Government’s ongoing commitment to drive efficiencies in its own operations is a central part of the strategy to return the Budget to surplus.”
Mr Swan said the MYEFO forecasted lower unemployment, higher growth, lower deficits and lower debt than expected at Budget, and underscored Australia’s position as the strongest performing advanced economy in the world.
“The improved economic outlook reflects the effectiveness of monetary and fiscal stimulus in Australia, and the stronger global recovery,” Mr Swan said.
“Fiscal stimulus and low interest rates have bolstered confidence by more than expected and set a solid platform for recovery.
“The Australian economy is now expected to grow by 1½ per cent in 2009-10 and 2¾ per cent in 2010-11 and the unemployment rate is forecast to peak at 6¾ per cent in the June quarter 2010.”
He said the additional $850 million savings identified in the MYEFO included:
Mr Tanner said Government Departments had identified a range of efficiency measures to deliver their savings of $383.5 million.
- $383.5 million over four years from whole of Government Departmental efficiencies;
- $47.6 million over four years from the Government’s new property management framework which sets an accommodation target of 16 square metres per employee across all Government Agencies; and
- $131.3 million over four years from reducing the use of paper correspondence and moving towards more online and electronic lodgement by Centrelink.
He said the new property management framework (see PS News 3 November 2009 would yield savings of $47.6 million over four years and be achieved through more efficient and effective management of property, including the new target to limit the average workspace per worker to 16 square metres.
“A responsible Government must continually strive to do its core business more efficiently, to deliver greater value for money to taxpayers,” Mr Tanner said.
“The nature of the $850 million in efficiencies identified by the Government illustrates what can be achieved when a Government takes doing its core business better seriously.”
He said full details of the MYEFO were available at www.budget.gov.au
10 November, 2009
Equal pay case
The Government’s decision to support the first Federal test case on equal pay under the new Fair Work industrial relations system has been welcomed by the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.
on the money
Ms Broderick said the case, being brought by the Australian Services Union on behalf of workers in the social and community services sector, promised to be a major step forward for low-income women.
“The caring and community industries are traditionally low paid occupations and they are also highly feminised, so this action is to be loudly applauded,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“If it succeeds, it will be a major step forward for the women who carry out this incredibly important work, which provides such critical support to our society as a whole.”
She said about 200,000 women working in homeless and domestic violence shelters, aged care and other community services stood to win a 30 per cent pay rise under the gender equity test case.
“This is an issue of pay equity between the sexes,” Commissioner Broderick said, “of paying men and women equally for work of comparable value.
“It is also about ending the penalty of low pay that women have always suffered simply because they choose to work in providing care.”
She said that pay equity issues faced by people, largely women, who worked in the provision of care had been one of her focal points in discussing and addressing sex discrimination issues since she was appointed Commissioner.
“Caring work, whether paid or unpaid, is something that is vastly undervalued in our society,” she said. “So a positive outcome here would not only be a triumph for pay equity, but would also provide valuable reinforcement to care workers by trumpeting the value of the work they do for the community as a whole.”
10 November, 2009
Possible uses for Government information in the era of Web 2.0 were the focus of a weekend “Govhack” event held in Canberra recently.
is hit and mish
The Govhack, conducted in support of the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s MashupAustralia contest, brought web designers and developers together with Government data providers to investigate possibilities for reusing Public Sector information in new applications.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the event was an Australian first and demonstrated the innovative approach the Government 2.0 Taskforce was taking.
“The Government 2.0 Taskforce has been tasked with identifying how we can make Public Sector information more accessible and usable,” Mr Tanner said.
“Events such as Govhack allow us to explore the possibilities and help identify barriers to open access.”
He said more than 150 participants gathered at the Australian National University to discuss and develop working examples of Public Sector information mashups.
Participants formed teams to develop and demonstrate their applications, with a panel presenting awards to the most useful and unique creations.
The winner of the best mashup was a project that combined data on contract notices, business names, postcodes and electoral boundaries, to produce visual representations of relationships between Government organisations and businesses
Other notable creations were a service to report damaged public facilities; another which provided statistics on Sydney suburbs based on their postcodes; and another that identified and appraised public toilets across the ACT.
Mr Tanner said through MashupAustralia, the Government sought to make developers more aware of the data available and for Agencies to increase access to the pool of public sector information.
For more information on GovHack see http://govhack.org or the MashupAustralia Contest http://mashupaustralia.org
The Mashups created as part of the event could be accessed at
10 November, 2009
The second round of reductions in the Government’s Information and Communication Technology “business as usual” activities has returned savings of $430 million, taking the combined benefit of both rounds to more than $1 billion.
keyed into computers
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said that in his independent review of the Government’s use of ICT, Sir Peter Gershon had noted that savings of around $1 billion could be achieved by reducing Agencies’ ‘business as usual’ ICT costs.
“In April this year, phase one of the program was completed with savings of approximately $570 million being identified,” Mr Tanner said.
“The completion of the second phase of this program means the savings foreshadowed by Sir Peter Gershon have now been realised.”
He said the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) had been working with Agencies over the past 12 months to identify where savings could be made.
“AGIMO has been assisting Agencies to reduce their ICT business as usual costs by up to 15 per cent annually.
“Importantly, these cost reductions have not come from cutting service delivery capability, but from more efficient use of ICT.”
Mr Tanner said half the savings achieved in the process would be reinvested in programs that drive further ICT efficiency improvements.
“The process of assessing their ‘business as usual’ practices and identifying savings has made Agencies much more aware of their ongoing ICT expenditure,” he said.
“Agencies are now looking at how they can make further efficiency improvements and have already begun putting forward proposals to utilise funds from the savings pool.
“I expect to be able to announce the first group of projects in the coming months,” he said.
10 November, 2009
Sports stars onside
A gathering of Australian sporting heroes at Parliament House, Canberra, later this month is to look into the big issues facing Australian sport.
for policy meet
Convened by the Government in partnership with the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, the inaugural Captains’ Forum is being held to develop national responses to some of the most significant challenges facing sport and the broader community.
Sport Australia Hall of Fame Chairman and Yachting great John Bertrand said the Captains’ Forum was a unique concept that built on Australia’s reputation as a global pioneer in sport.
“This is the first time Australia’s leading athletes from a wide cross section of Australian sports and Olympic disciplines have come together to debate and discuss as peers, issues facing Australian sport and the community at large,” he said.
“From the Forum, the captains and leaders will determine a theme to take to Australians through sport in 2010, to address the issue they feel is most important to the community today.”
Federal Minister for Sport Kate Ellis said the Forum would show the power that sport has to make a positive difference on the challenges confronting sport and Australian society as a whole.
Sporting heroes attending the inaugural Captains’ Forum include: Geelong premiership captain Tom Harley; world champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker; rugby league’s Preston Campbell; basketball captains Jason Smith and Kristi Harrower; wheelchair basketball captain Tina McKenzie; netball captain Sherelle McMahon; rugby union’s Nathan Sharpe, V8 SuperCar champion Mark Skaife; tennis’s Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald; Libby Trickett and Patrick Murphy from swimming; and winter paralympian Cameron Rahles-Rabula.
Rugby legend John Eales, the original architect of the Captains’ Forum, said he was excited about this milestone event in Australian sport.
“The Captains’ Forum provides the opportunity for Australian captains to speak with one voice to drive cultural change from within,” Mr Eales said.
“We hope that the Captains’ Forum becomes an annual event, bringing together captains to reflect on the year past and plan for the year ahead.”
10 November, 2009
Australia Post has revealed plans to introduce new technology to allow Post Office staff to take fingerprints, biometric scans and digital signatures from customers applying for services such as bank accounts and passports.
nailed at Post Office
The new Identification Services Program Project is expected to be adopted at all 4,443 retail Post outlets, but is currently being tested at 25 Australia Post-owned outlets across NSW and Western Australia.
If approved by State and Federal Governments, Australia Post would become the first non-law-enforcement organisation to take digital fingerprints for commercial purposes.
The power is currently limited to law enforcement Agencies, the Courts, spy Agencies and the Defence Force.
Spokesperson for Australia Post, Alex Twomey was reported in the press as confirming fingerprinting capabilities would be introduced over the next two years and that staff would be trained in protocols for storing and transmitting customer information.
“Fingerprint information will be stored for six hours at the outlet and then transferred for storage at a central Australia Post database,” Mr Twomey said.
“Under Agency agreements, we would then be required to wipe the information after it was sent to Government Departments or other corporate clients.”
According to reports, Australia Post plans to install the data capture equipment at 375 of its own outlets by the end of June 2010, followed by another 400 in 2011 and then 2,000 privately managed post offices nationwide.
Funding for the Identification Services Program project trial was approved in March 2009.
Chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation, Dr Roger Clarke said he was concerned over the lack of public discussion surrounding the new system.
“These types of initiatives are just too important to introduce without public discussion,” Dr Clarke said.
He said securing fingerprints and other data across such a large retail network was a major concern as it would be difficult to design a system to protect all information.
10 November, 2009
Immigration signs in
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has updated its educational resource kit on citizenship to give school children across Australia a greater understanding of civic responsibilities and what it means to be an Australian citizen.
The school resource book – I am Australian: Exploring Australian Citizenship – is designed to assist teachers to deliver more in-depth lessons on Australian citizenship and civics to upper primary and lower secondary school students.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said the school resource book would be a valuable learning tool for all students, not only for those who have come here from other countries, but also for those who have lived all their lives in Australia.
“Knowledge of Australian citizenship and civic responsibilities is important for all Australians, no matter how they became citizens,” Senator Evans said.
“It will also help students appreciate the contribution made to Australia by people from diverse backgrounds, whose journey to Australia was completed when they became citizens.”
The school resource book contains classroom activities which were linked to the curricula of each State and Territory and were specifically designed for upper primary and lower secondary school students. The activities related to Australia’s democratic beliefs, Australian citizen case studies and what it means to be an Australian citizen.
Senator Evans said the Department had been producing citizenship resources for schools since 2001 and the updated school resource book coincides with the 60th anniversary of Australian citizenship.
He said since the first citizenship ceremony in 1949, more than four million people from more than 200 countries have become Australian citizens.
10 November, 2009
Safe Work Authority
Safe Work Australia has begun operations as an independent statutory agency.
opens on safe ground
It replaces the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC), which operated within the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
According to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, Safe Work Australia would continue to play a pivotal role in realising the harmonisation of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws across the country.
“Harmonised OHS laws will remove the current fragmented and inconsistent approach to workplace safety and provide greater certainty and protections for employers and employees respectively,” Ms Gillard said.
Ms Gillard said the Australian Government would contribute $36.3 million over four years to fund 50 per cent of Safe Work Australia: the remaining 50 per cent would be funded by the States and Territories in proportion to their population.
“As revealed in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the abolition of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council and the transfer of functions to the new body will result in a net saving of $17 million over four years,” she said.
The establishment as a statutory Agency gives effect to the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety, agreed by COAG on 3 July 2008.
Ms Gillard said the importance of harmonised OHS laws had long been recognised as a critical area for regulatory reform.
“Currently, there are 10 principal OHS statutes across Australia; six State, two Territory and two Australian Government and over 400 OHS regulations and codes of practice,” she said.
“Harmonisation of OHS will ensure that equal standards and protections apply across the nation which is vitally important for the safety of workers in an increasingly mobile labour force.”
She said Safe Work Australia would comprise 15 members, including an independent Chair, nine members representing the Commonwealth and each State and Territory, two members representing the interests of workers, two representing the interests of employers and the Chief Executive Officer of Safe Work Australia.
For further information on Safe Work Australia and model OHS legislation, visit www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
10 November, 2009
Scott casts broad
The Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Mark Scott, has outlined his vision of the ABC’s international future and called for its radio and television services to be unified under a strong brand.
In delivering the annual Bruce Allen Memorial Lecture, titled A Global ABC: Soft Diplomacy and the World of International Broadcasting, Mr Scott called for a revaluation of the importance of Australia’s diplomatic efforts and renewed investment in international broadcasting.
“Australia has played a crucial role in creating the G20 as the preeminent global institution for economic policy making and problem-solving,” Mr Scott said, “and we are proving adept at promoting frameworks for co-operation that stem from Australian interests, values and perspectives.
“We have an important role to play and we have to use all the tools at our disposal to continue to do so.”
He said one of those tools was “soft diplomacy,” using the media to put our nation’s culture, values and policies on show.
Mr Scott said the past 12 months had demonstrated how hard-nosed the competition could be in the sphere of soft diplomacy with the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle launching its second television channel DWTV Asia Plus; the Chinese announcing an international media program worth $8 billion and the Japanese and French launching new services into the Asia Pacific region.
“The UK spends $868 million on the BBC World Service and BBC World News; France over $600 million on international television and radio services, Germany ranks next with $532 million; China currently commits $380 million, and Japan spends $226 million,” Mr Scott said.
“Australia, with $34 million covering the cost of Australia Network and Radio Australia, is at the other end of the table, about the same spend as Mexico and Brazil and 50 per cent smaller than Singapore.”
He said Australia may be a significant, strategic player in the G20, but its investment in broadcasting was meagre in comparison.
Mr Scott said a fully funded plan to combine the ABC’s two international broadcasting arms, Australia Network and Radio Australia, into one strong brand, such as the BBC or CNN could spearhead a more vigorous approach to broadcasting in the region that met the demands of this new era of globalisation.
“The ABC proposal is not just about expanding our influence in our own back yard but protecting it,” he said.
“We cannot abdicate our role as an independent credible voice in the region.”
He said reflecting Australia to the world, without conflicting commercial objectives, required credibility, a track record of effective engagement, and an ability to be diplomatically def, without sacrificing key attributes and values of quality journalism.
“In my view, the mission can only be delivered by your ABC,” Mr Scott said.
10 November, 2009
ACCC gets dirt on
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has examined the early results of its recent International Internet Sweep and has concluded that an ongoing need exists for consumer vigilance.
Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Peter Kell released the preliminary findings saying that online ticketing had emerged as an “area of concern.”
“During the Sweep, Australian consumer protection Agencies reviewed more than 1,400 websites and flagged more than 400 for further analysis,” Mr Kell said.
“In this year’s Sweep, the ACCC identified an unauthorised site offering tickets for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa at www.worldcupticketing.com
“The ACCC is working with FIFA and MATCH Services to protect Australian consumers from such sites.”
He said MATCH Services was FIFA’s agent for Cup ticketing and looked after the ticketing enforcement program.
“The only way consumers can buy a ticket is through the FIFA ticket allocation or from a licensed tour operator authorised to sell tickets on FIFA’s behalf as part of a travel package,” Mr Kell said.
He said while ticketing sites had ended long queues, they had also opened up a new avenue for fraudsters.
Secretary General of FIFA, Jérôme Valcke said the organisation appreciated the ACCC’s initiative to protect consumers from unauthorised ticket sales.
“We have a common goal to protect true fans who are being cheated by unauthorised ticket touts who are purporting to sell legitimate tickets they do not have,” Mr Valcke said.
Mr Kell said the annual Internet Sweep highlighted other areas of concern including business opportunities marketed as ‘recession proof’, unsubstantiated health claims and investment sites promising easy returns.
He said the ACCC coordinated the Internet Sweep as part of its work with the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) which involves over 40 countries.
“The Internet Sweep highlights the importance of cross border cooperation to combat these types of online scams,” Mr Kell said.
“Enforcement agencies from around the globe are increasingly working together through organisations like ICPEN to combat internet fraud.”
Mr Kell urged consumers to remain vigilant when providing payments or personal information online.
10 November, 2009
Rewritten tax law
One hundred and forty-nine pages of the Australian income tax law have been rewritten and released for public consultation as part of a project to produce a single Income Tax Assessment Act.
is give and take
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the drafts continued the process of rewriting the income tax law from the 1936 Act into the 1997 Act.
“This process was begun back in 1993 during the Keating Government, and as part of our commitment to slash red-tape, reduce tax complexity and make the tax system generally easier for everyone, we’re going to see it through to completion,” Senator Sherry said.
“For example, the rewrite I am releasing today cuts by 25 per cent the number of pages of law across the five areas it covers.”
The rewrite would move 149 pages from the 1936 Act and simplify it to 110 pages under the 1997 Act, a 25 per cent reduction in pages.
He said the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 to be rewritten included:
“While the rewrites have been undertaken with no intention to change the interpretation of the law, these modernisations will provide certainty around some areas following Court decisions,” Senator Sherry said.
- Part VI – collection and recovery provisions;
- Schedule 2C – forgiveness of commercial debts;
- Schedule 2E – leases of luxury cars;
- Schedule 2G – farm management deposits; and
- Schedule 2J – general insurance.
The full text of the rewrites and explanatory material is available at www.treasury.gov.au and submissions should be lodged by Friday 18 December 2009.
10 November, 2009
Report puts argument
A report into Alternative Dispute Resolution opportunities in Australia has found that many people don’t consider it ahead of traditional services in the civil justice system because they don’t know what it is.
for dispute reforms
The report The Resolve to Resolve: Embracing ADR to Improve Access to Justice in the Federal Jurisdiction, was produced by the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC) and released by Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
In June last year, the Attorney asked NADRAC to enquire into and identify strategies to remove barriers and provide incentives to promote the greater use of appropriate dispute resolution options as an alternative to formal litigation.
The report found that alternative dispute resolution remained significantly underutilised and that a key barrier was a lack of knowledge and understanding among the profession, litigants and the general public.
The report contained 39 recommendations aimed at improving the ADR system and encouraged its greater use. Recommendations included:
NADRAC undertook an extensive consultation process and evaluated submissions from Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, dispute resolution providers, courts, tribunals and the public.
- Imposing a legislative obligation on prospective litigants to seek to resolve disputes before they go to court;
- Developing a National ADR Protocol to promote the consistent application of ADR principles and processes;
- Requiring lawyers and the courts to provide appropriate information or advice to consumers in relation to ADR processes;
- Developing a standards framework to improve the quality of ADR services;
- Developing judicial case management courses focussing on ways in which judges can identify matters suitable for ADR techniques and processes;
- Supporting the development of strong community and private ADR services;
- Providing a model dispute resolution clause as a template that may be voluntarily adopted in contractual documents;
- Requiring Commonwealth agencies to include dispute resolution clauses in contracts; and
- Improving data collection, evaluation and research to inform an evidence-based policy approach.
The Government would closely examine the report’s recommendations, which complemented and built on its commitment to improve access to justice.
A copy of the report was available at www.nadrac.gov.au or at www.ag.gov.au
10 November, 2009
Waste strategy a
A new national policy for dealing with waste has been endorsed by State and Territory environment Ministers.
The first national framework charts a 10-year vision for resource recovery and waste management and includes a free scheme for recycling computers and televisions.
According to the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, the new scheme would see 80 per cent of all TVs and computers recycled by 2021.
He said Australia produced 43,777,000 tonnes of waste in 2006-07 - a 31 per cent increase in five years - and with waste levels projected to continue to grow, national leadership in this critical issue was overdue.
“It has been 17 years since these issues were looked at in a national context and we now have a clear path for future action and a huge step up on existing efforts,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the National Waste Policy sets out a comprehensive agenda for national coordinated action on waste across six key areas: taking responsibility; improving the market; pursuing sustainability; reducing hazard and risk; tailoring solutions; and providing the evidence.
“This is a fundamental shift in our approach to waste complementing broader action on climate change and sustainability,” Mr Garrett said.
“It will lead to less waste and better management of waste as a resource, to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits, while ensuring that we continue to manage waste in a safe and environmentally sound manner.”
The Minister said the new approach had been developed in consultation and with the support of industry as well as key non-Government organisations and he acknowledged their involvement and support in negotiating these crucial breakthroughs.
10 November, 2009
Students’ rights win
The Human Rights Commissions of all States and Territories in Australia and New Zealand have spoken out on the rights of international students.
national pass mark
Meeting at their annual Roundtable in Sydney, the Commissioners said they viewed recent instances of racial harassment, abuse and violence directed at international students as symptoms of a whole range of human rights issues that needed to be addressed, including their rights to non-discrimination, equality of treatment, security of the person, access to justice, housing, information, freedom of religion and culture, and labour rights.
The Commissioners heard directly from international student representatives, researchers, education providers and Government Agencies.
They were told that while student safety had received the most attention, it was a symptom of other issues including racism and discrimination, the lack of accessible and affordable accommodation, poor employment conditions, transport costs, lack of student support services, variable quality of education, and social isolation and exclusion.
At the end of their Roundtable, the Commissioners resolved to:
- highlight the treatment of international students as a major current human rights and race relations issue and stress the importance in any response of addressing it from a human rights perspective;
- note that the harassment and abuse of international students could not be adequately addressed if the existence of racism as a significant factor was denied;
- call for more research into the actual experience of discrimination and harassment of international students in specific communities and contexts, including regular surveys of students by education providers to provide a better evidence base for policy decisions;
- call on the police to record complaints and incidences of racially motivated crime, and for education providers, local Government and other stakeholders to provide accessible reporting systems for racial harassment and discrimination, including web-based systems;
- encourage the provision of reliable and accessible web-based information to prospective international students, including about their human rights and support available;
- monitor progress in addressing the human rights of international students and support students’ organisations in their advocacy and support for an improved experience for international students in Australia and New Zealand;
- increase public awareness of the rights of international students, their contribution to the Australian and New Zealand economies and societies, and the importance of speaking out when they witness instances of harassment, discrimination and abuse;
- continue to engage with stakeholders on the rights of international students’ networks and forums.
10 November, 2009
Way ahead cleared for
Arrangements for single national regulator for rail, maritime and heavy vehicles have been agreed upon by the State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers for Transport.
Federal Minister, Anthony Albanese, said the Australian Transport Council (ATC) had considered a range of reforms and initiatives to change the way Australian regulates its transport sector and had settled on a number of single regulators.
Mr Albanese said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) in Canberra had been chosen as the national regulator for maritime safety, with responsibility for regulating all commercial vessels and South Australia would host a new national rail safety regulator.
He said the offices of the rail regulator would be established in each State and Territory to manage the day-to-day regulation of local urban systems and interstate freight operations.
“On heavy vehicles, Transport Ministers agreed to recommend to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) that a host jurisdiction for the national regulator be agreed, noting that New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have expressed an interest,” he said.
“The regulator will be responsible for aligning the rules and regulations applying vehicles over 4.5 tonnes, helping to improve the safety and productivity of the trucking industry.”
In a communiqué, the Ministers said they also considered a work plan to enable pricing elements of COAG’s Road Reform Plan.
“The work plan provides a framework which ensures a full understanding is obtained of the necessary elements and implications of any proposed new pricing framework on the heavy vehicle sector,” they said.
The ATC also endorsed core National Taxi Driver Competency Units and the implementation of a National Minimum English Standard.
Mr Albanese said a new, consistent Australian Disability Parking Permit had also been endorsed and a new National Road Safety Strategy for 2011 to 2080 had been proposed to improve road safety.
He said the recommendations made by the ATC would be considered by COAG at its next meeting.
10 November, 2009
Survey finds managers
An international study commissioned by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has found that the managers of Australian manufacturing companies need to lift their game.
not in control
Conducted by a team led by the Dean of Business at the University of Technology Sydney, Professor Roy Green, the survey, Management Matters in Australia, analysed results from a survey of 439 medium and large firms and compared Australia’s performance with 15 other countries.
According to the Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, the report shows a direct link between management practices and productivity in companies and the more skilled and educated the managers were, the better their businesses performed.
“Australia rated sixth out of 15 in the survey of management performance,” Senator Carr said.
“We lag behind other advanced economies, and over half our firms are outperformed by many of their competitors in India and China.
“There is clearly considerable room for improvement.”
He said the results showed multinational firms were the best managed and larger operations were often better managed than small and family-owned businesses.
This was a challenge for Australia, he said, because we have a disproportionate number of smaller firms, and few multinationals.
“Of the three areas assessed, Australia performs well in operational management, but is less strong in people and strategic management,” Senator Carr said.
“If Australian manufacturing and other businesses are to thrive, we must lift the standard of everything we do - from the shop floor to the front office.
He said given the rigour of international competition, being average wasn’t good enough.
“We wouldn’t accept an average result in any other race, and we can’t accept it in this one.”
He said the race to the top – “the race to secure our place at the high-value, knowledge-intensive end of the global value chain” – was the most important Australia would enter.
“If we don’t put in a strong run, we can kiss the living standards and the way of life we cherish goodbye.”
He said the Government’s Enterprise Connect had already made a good start helping businesses to improve the way they operated, providing comprehensive business reviews plus access to targeted Government financial assistance programs.
For more information on the opportunities available call the Enterprise Connect hotline on 131791 or visit www.enterpriseconnect.gov.au
The report is available at www.innovation.gov.au
10 November, 2009
Airservices survives audit
The Australian National Audit Office has reported on a follow-up audit of Airservices Australia’s administration of the Solomon Islands’ and Nauru’s upper airspace.
An earlier audit had found problems with the arrangement.
The follow-up audit found Airservices had implemented the recommendations from the previous audit and as it did not intend entering any similar arrangements, the likelihood of administrative problems reoccurring had been reduced.
The audit found Airservices’ processes and procedures for managing the Solomon Islands contract had been improved. The arrangement expires in 2013.
More info on workspaces
The Community and Public Sector Union has asked the Minister for Finance for more information about new Commonwealth property guidelines, which outline an occupational density target of 16 square metres per employee.
The CPSU is seeking information on which Agencies will be affected and when; which Departments currently exceed the 16 square metre allocation; and where savings will be redirected. The union is looking for guarantees that affected staff will be properly consulted prior to any changes being made.
The CPSU said employees currently had between 15 and 25 square metres and that the guidelines would only apply to major fit-outs or when Agencies entered new tenancies.
Memorial goes digital
The Australian War Memorial has undertaken a major digitisation project to enable the diaries and notebooks of Australia’s first official war correspondent to be made available to the public.
Correspondent, Charles Bean was the official historian of World War I and one of the founders of the War Memorial.
Mr Bean’s 286 diaries have been published on the memorial’s website, www.awm.gov.au
TV sports attract 300 submissions
More than 300 public submissions have been received on the future of television’s sports anti-siphoning scheme and they are now online.
In August 2009, the Government invited public consultation on the discussion paper, Sport on Television: A review of the anti-siphoning scheme in the contemporary digital environment.
Submissions to the review closed on 16 October and more information and the submissions are available at www.dbcde.gov.au/sportontvreview
Women’s supporters named
Australia’s outstanding organisations for supporting women at work have been shortlisted in the lead-up to the 2009 Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) Annual Business Achievement Awards.
The Business Achievement Awards recognise organisations that provide excellent workplace initiatives and conditions, as well as individual leaders who are setting the scene for diversity and the advancement of women in their workplaces.
A full list of all the finalists and a brief summary of their initiatives can be found on the EOWA website; www.eowa.gov.au
Safe Work Week a success
The Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips, proclaimed Safe Work Australia Week 2009, very successful in raising awareness of safety in the workplace.
Mr Phillips said throughout the Week, Safe Work Australia led the way in promoting safety in the workplace by running a series of inter-office events.
He said for one of these events a guest from St John Ambulance Australia, Christine Barber delivered a presentation to Safe Work Australia staff on an initiative to reduce sudden cardiac arrest.
This project involves the deployment of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in workplaces around Australia.
Digital forum planned
The Department of Broadband Communication and the Digital Economy is to host a forum to explore Australia’s potential in the digital economy.
The Realising Our Broadband Future forum will be held in Sydney on 10-11 December and will be opened by the Prime Minister.
It will include key industry participants as well as public interaction and keynote speakers include the CEO of NBN Mike Quigley and the Director of the Centre for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, Jeff Cole.
More details can be found at www.broadbandfuture.gov.au
Farmers grants available
The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke has urged organisations to apply for grants of up to $50,000 through Next Gen Farmers to support the development of young people in primary industries.
Mr Burke said the median age of farmers was now over 50 and the Government recognised that it needed to keep supporting young leaders who wanted to pursue careers in agriculture.
He said Next Gen projects funded earlier this year included a career opportunities showcase for senior high school students in North Queensland; a study tour of agribusiness in Tasmania and conferences; mentoring programs and other capacity building activities.
One stop Super shop
Eligible small businesses (those with less than 20 employees) will soon be able to pay their superannuation contributions for staff at a single place.
A new superannuation clearing house service is being set up by the Commonwealth and will start work in July 2010. It will be trialled for three years.
Clinic for Indigenous urban health
An Institute for Urban Indigenous Health has been established in Brisbane.
The Commonwealth has provided $312,600 toward the establishment and implementation of the initial phase of the Institute which aims to integrate health planning and servicing within Brisbane and the surrounding regions to meet the health needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
The Institute’s key focus would include strengthening and maintaining key service relationships such as those with the local Indigenous health services, local Divisions of General Practice, private practitioners, allied health service providers and hospitals.
3 November, 2009
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has published new guidelines for Commonwealth property management setting out revised standards for staff accommodation.
attract a crowd
Announced by the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, the guidelines pay particular attention to the amount of space Agencies occupy.
Mr Tanner said property costs were one of the largest recurrent expenses for Government and it was committed to ensuring the most efficient, effective and ethical use of Commonwealth resources to achieve the best outcome for the taxpayer
“Office accommodation currently varies considerably across Agencies, with between 15 to 25 square metres of space allocated per person,” he said.
“For the first time, the Australian Government will now apply an occupational density target across Agencies set at 16 square metres per occupied workpoint.”
He said the new Commonwealth Property Management Guidelines recommended the occupational density target.
“Over time, the application of these guidelines is expected to result in net savings to the Budget of around $20 million in the next few years increasing to around $100 million per annum by 2025.”
Mr Tanner said in recent years there had been little guidance available to assist Agencies with property management which had resulted in waste and inefficiency and the Government was continuing its reform strategy to ensure better value for money in property services.
He said the new guidelines did not propose the centralisation of leasing arrangements or any change to Government policy in relation to ownership.
He said this was consistent with allowing Agencies to make decisions that best supported delivery of Budget-funded outcomes and the devolved financial management environment of the Government.
Mr Tanner welcomed the collaborative approach taken by the Department Finance and Deregulation with more than 100 other Agencies across the Australian Public Service to develop the new guidelines.
“This is another example of Commonwealth Agencies working together on whole-of-Government approaches to improve the efficiency of their operations,” Mr Tanner said.
The Commonwealth Property Management Guidelines were available at www.finance.gov.au
3 November, 2009
PS advertising to be
Public Servants have been called on to be more innovative and creative in Government advertising.
Lecturer in Advertising and Marketing Communication at the University of Canberra, Sally Webster has told Parliament’s Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit that while accountability and transparency were crucial in Government advertising, there was “little point” in running the campaign if it was not value for money.
The Joint Committee is looking into the role of the Auditor General in assessing Government advertising compliance.
According to Ms Webster, current advertising guidelines produced by the Department of Finance stress the need for research, clear campaign objectives, understanding and reach of target audience, campaign approach, and evaluation.
“However, I also add that without a bold approach to innovation and creativity in communication campaigns and the ability to take a risk with the creative concepts so it talks to the target audience, there is little point in producing the campaign,” Ms Webster said.
She said by emphasising the auditing and approval processes, the guidelines were discouraging Public Servants from being bold and innovative in their choice of creative campaigns.
“Accountability and transparency is crucial in Government advertising, but these should not be the only aspects that are taken into consideration,” she said.
“The advertising focus should not be just about the spend; it must reach the target audience in a creative way that informs and persuades.”
Ms Webster said there was a culture of caution in the Public Service which made it difficult to take risks.
“It is a challenge – I applaud accountability and transparency in the process. I just think it has gone too far,” she said.
Ms Webster highlighted Queensland Tourism’s The best job in the world campaign, saying it was a successful creative campaign that ran on a small budget of just $1.5 million dollars.
However, she said because the campaign was risky and nothing like it had ever run before, it was unlikely to be approved by the Commonwealth.
She NSW’s Pinkie campaign that targeted speeding on the roads was also highly creative and effective, but had been originally knocked back by the Roads and Traffic Authority in 2004.
Under Finance’s Guidelines on Campaign Advertising by Australian Government Departments and Agencies, advertising campaigns in excess of $250,000 must be referred to the Auditor General to ensure they comply.
The Guidelines and further information on the inquiry was available from www.finance.gov.au
3 November, 2009
Tax take tumbles in
The Australian Taxation Office has reported Government income down $20 billion last financial year, due primarily to the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.
crisis of collection
Tabling the ATO’s Annual Report in Parliament, Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said total cash receipts collected were $264.5 billion for the year, seven per cent lower than the 2008 Budget forecast.
“The figures contained in the Tax Office Annual Report show how hard the global recession has hit revenues,” Senator Sherry said.
“This is the biggest fall in tax revenue since 1930-31.”
The Report says company tax collections came in 15.8 per cent below Budget forecasts and were responsible for half the shortfall. GST collections were 9.1 per cent below Budget forecasts.
Senator Sherry said the main revenue collections for 2008-09 were $116 billion PAYG from individual taxpayers, $60.4 billion in company tax, $41.2 billion from the GST and $24.4 billion in excise.
The Report highlighted the role the global recession had played in the reduced collection levels, saying that “lower than originally forecasted collections were driven primarily by the sharp downturn in economic conditions over the year.”
Senator Sherry said the ATO’s activities during 2008-09 provided important support for jobs and businesses as it implemented significant parts of the economic stimulus plan.
He said the ATO delivered 8.43 million tax bonus payments with a total value of $7.4 billion and had supported business investment through the Small Business and General Business tax break.
“In direct response to the impacts of the global financial recession on small business, the Tax Office provided practical assistance to more than 101,000 small businesses,” Senator Sherry said.
“This assistance which included cash flow and debt relief measures as well as enhanced contact with business helped to ensure viable businesses survive the economic downturn.”
The Tax Office Annual Report was available at www.ato.gov.au
3 November, 2009
Civilian army to
A new rapid-response force of civilian experts willing and available to fly into overseas disaster or conflict zones is to be set up by the Commonwealth.
wage war on disasters
Announced by Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and expected to cost $52 million, the force would draw on a register of up to 500 specialists able to be deployed overseas at short notice.
The new initiative is expected to have an interim capability by mid-2010, and to be fully operational by early 2011.
Mr Rudd said the civilian specialists would be used across a wide range of roles and could help restore essential services and infrastructure such as health services, electricity and water and help rebuild core Government institutions to support economic and social stability.
He said the civilian specialists would help with early recovery and reconstruction efforts after initial emergency response operations had concluded.
The specialists are to be chosen for their technical expertise and their ability to work in challenging environments.
Mr Rudd said they would come from public and private sectors and complement, rather than replace, existing humanitarian response mechanisms and longer-term development assistance.
He said the civilians could work alongside the Australian military and police, foreign military, United Nations peacekeepers, police and civilian experts from other countries or in a stand-alone capability.
A new Office of the Deployable Civilian Capability is to be established within the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to implement the initiative.
The Office of the Deployable Civilian Capability will also build strategic partnerships with civilian organisations overseas, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
3 November, 2009
The Australian Crime Commission is the first organisation in Australia to be fully Green ICT Certified by the energy-conserving educational group, Computers Off Australia.
comes clean on IT
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the ACC was a leader in Government and non-Government sectors in achieving IT sustainability.
Mr Tanner said sustainable ICT was an important part of the Government’s ICT Reform Program.
“Across Government, Agencies are implementing low-cost measures to realise energy efficiency savings,” he said.
“It is very encouraging to see the Australian Crime Commission taking a lead in this area and being recognised for it.”
Mr Tanner said the ACC had implemented hardware and software solutions to manage power consumption better and had adopted server virtualisation by reducing the physical number of servers by 45 per cent.
By purchasing carbon offsets, the ACC has obtained carbon neutrality for its entire IT infrastructure.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said in addition to significant energy and cost savings, the ACC’s green initiative included increased productivity efficiencies, increased security, improved data management and improved service delivery for users, including partner Agencies using the Australian Criminal Intelligence Database.
“Every individual and organisation should be taking steps to improve power management and reduce green house gases,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Through this achievement, the ACC will now save 435 tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum, which equates to 75 passenger vehicles.
“The ACC will also save approximately $80,000 per annum in power and $43,000 per annum in licensing and maintenance fees.”
Computers Off Australia (COA) is a not-for-profit educational and awareness campaign aimed at helping raise awareness of the amount of power used when computers are left on or idle.
COA aims to allow consumers and businesses manage their power and make savings in greenhouse gases and money.
It has developed a three-tick labelling system that identifies individuals and organisations that use power saving devices with their home and work computers.
3 November, 2009
New Energy Centre
A new Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, to be known as ACRE, has been launched to help Australia meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets.
is cooking with gas
Announced jointly by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan and the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, the new Centre would be enshrined in law this month and an interim Advisory Board would commence work immediately.
Mr Swan said the Centre was part of the Government’s $4.5 billion Clean Energy Initiative and included more than $560 million of renewable energy investment to help commercialise renewable energy.
“The Government is providing the energy sector with the certainty it needs to support long-term investments in the low-pollution technologies of the future, through the expanded Renewable Energy Target Scheme and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme,” he said.
Mr Swan said ACRE would help Australia meet its targets of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020 and greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 60 per cent by 2050.
Treasury modelling has projected that by 2050 Australia’s renewable energy sector output will be 30 times larger than it is today, with the expanded Renewable Energy Target and Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
Mr Ferguson said ACRE’s first task would be to make funding recommendations to his Department before the end of the year on the most prospective solar applications received under the original Renewable Energy Demonstration Program guidelines.
The solar applications have already been assessed by the Renewable Energy Committee and the most prospective are now be considered by ACRE for funding.
“Another of ACRE’s initial tasks will be to develop and implement a funding strategy capable of supporting projects along the innovation chain, including a venture capital strategy,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said the accelerated development, commercialisation and demonstration of renewable energy technologies through ACRE aimed to complement Government investment in research through the Australian Solar Institute and industrial-scale demonstration through the Solar Flagships Program.
Mr Ferguson said further information on the Solar Flagships Program was available from www.ret.gov.au
3 November, 2009
New taxation board
A new national Tax Practitioners Board has been launched to replace the six State-based Tax Agents’ Boards.
right on the money
The body will regulate the provision of tax agent services across Australia, including the new Business Activity Statement (BAS) agent services, from 2010.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the Board was the next step towards implementing a national streamlined system to oversee all tax agents’ services.
“The tax agents’ services regime is a major piece of red-tape reducing national reform – it will see one, clear, straight-forward national regime put in place for the first time,” Senator Sherry said.
The chair of the Tax Practitioners Board will be former Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Government Solicitor’s Office and former partner and general counsel at Minter Ellison Lawyers, Dale Boucher.
The remaining members of the Board will be Matthew Addison, Cynthia Coleman, Professor Gordon Cooper, Roger Cotton, Chris Doogan, Michael Evans, George Fox, Miriam Holmes, Professor Dale Pinto and Russell Smith.
“This team of individuals brings with them a broad range of experience and qualifications,” Senator Sherry said.
“(They represent) all corners of the tax and BAS agent community, including current tax practitioners, representatives of the book-keeping industry and members of existing State-based boards.
“In addition, the Board is further enhanced by the inclusion of tax academics and legal professionals with extensive experience in management and in administrative law.”
He said the Board was launched following public consultation on the new tax agent services regime, including the release of the final Tax Agent Services Regulations.
“After 66 years of the current system, a new regime, more suited to Australia’s dynamic, modern commercial environment, is long overdue,” Senator Sherry said.
“With this new system, consumers can be sure tax agent services meet the appropriate professional and ethical standards.”
He said as a part of the new regime, tax and BAS agent customers would, for the first time, be protected by landmark safe-harbour provisions.
“This means a taxpayer will not be hit with a penalty for lodging late or misleading returns caused by the negligence of the tax agent – eliminating the need to take the agent to court for compensation,” Senator Sherry said.
Mr Boucher was appointed as chair in a full-time capacity and all other members were appointed in part-time capacities. All appointments are for renewable three year terms.
3 November, 2009
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has called on the Australian Crime Commission to improve the way it handles sensitive information following an investigation into a leak to the media from the Commission’s offices last year.
crime watchdog guilty
The Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, said the ACC suffered from conflicting and out-of-date information handling policies, inconsistent security standards across multiple databases and low staff morale, all of which combined to increase the risk of confidential intelligence falling into the wrong hands.
The review was prompted by a request from Chief Executive of the ACC, John Lawler after an ACC document detailing conversations at a Ministerial dinner was leaked in September 2008.
“The review established that the Australian Crime Commission performs its intelligence gathering role in accordance with its legislation and that it does not appear to hold improper or unauthorised records,” Professor McMillan said.
“The creation of the document in question was entirely inappropriate, but seems to have been an anomaly. However, the ACC does need to improve the way it handles sensitive information.”
Professor McMillan said central to the issue were the conflicting policies, procedures, guidelines and other documents, such as staff emails from senior management, that the ACC had in place.
“Staff can be confused about whether the organisation endorses a need-to-share or a need-to-know policy,” he said.
“This problem is compounded by a lack of clarity in the ACC’s definition of what constitutes unauthorised access to information, while a lack of transparency in censuring officers found to have breached policy has led to resentment and threatens staff morale.”
Professor McMillan said the ACC’s main record keeping database had a default that allowed anybody to look at any record, unless the creator had remembered to change the setting to restrict access.
He acknowledged the ACC’s recent efforts to build a culture of integrity and improve information handling and made several recommendations.
Among these he suggested the ACC develop an overarching information governance policy; review guidance given to consultants in relation to the use of ACC information; develop and enforce a definition for unauthorised information access; and consider improving audit and incident reporting systems.
The ACC has accepted the recommendations, which were included in the Ombudsman’s report, Australian Crime Commission - Review of collection, storage and dissemination of information, which was available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
3 November, 2009
Funds but no games
The Future Fund reported a loss of $2.4 billion in 2008-09, taking its assets to $61.04 billion on 30 June, a reduction it said of 4.2 per cent on the $64.18 billion it opened its second year with.
in Future Fund report
The end-of-year outcome was hailed as a ‘good result” by the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner.
“During the 2008-09 financial year there was unprecedented turmoil in the global financial markets,” Mr Tanner said.
“In this context, the Future Fund’s negative return of 4.2% (excluding Telstra holdings) represents a good result for the fund.”
He said the Fund’s investments in the first three months of the new financial year (excluding Telstra) generated a return of 5.6% which completely reversed the losses of 2008-09.
Chairman of the Fund, David Murray, said the assets were made up of $54.12 billion worth of portfolio investments and 2.04 billion shares in Telstra Corporation valued at $6.92 billion.
“Since the effective start of the investment program on 1 July 2007, the Future Fund (ex Telstra) has generated a nominal return of minus 1.3% per annum,” Mr Murray said.
He said The Board’s mandate for the Future Fund is to target an average return on the Fund of at least the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 4.5% to 5.5% per annum.
He said although some staff received salary increases in 2008/09 the changed market conditions mean there will be no pay increases for senior executives and most other staff during the current financial year.
“Absolute performance during the year was negative and as a result no payment was made for this element of the framework,” Mr Murray said.
“At the same time, management delivered superior performance against the Board’s policy benchmark, which significantly enhanced the portfolio’s position in extremely challenging investment conditions.”
Mt Tanner said the Future Fund had taken responsibility for investing the assets of three new Nation Building Funds - the Building Australia Fund, Education Investment Fund and the Health and Hospitals Fund.
“By the end of the year the balances of these funds were $9.95 billion, $6.49 billion and $4.83 billion respectively,” he said.
The Future Fund’s Annual report can be found at www.futurefund.gov.au
3 November, 2009
Dose of access for
Parents accessing the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register for their children’s health records would now be able to do so for children up to 14.
The access rules previously limited the information to seven-year-olds and under.
Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon said the increased age limit was “great news for parents.”
“It means that if there is an outbreak of a disease, parents can easily check if their child’s immunisations are up to date,” Ms Roxon said.
“Until now, immunisation history information has not been readily available during disease outbreaks of school-aged children because many of these children are aged seven or over.”
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said Medicare Australia’s enhancements to the service would provide peace of mind for parents.
“Parents will be able to confirm that their child has been vaccinated against a particular disease, or will be made aware of gaps in their child’s immunisation history,” Mr Bowen said.
“These immunisation statements can also be used as proof of immunisation for school entry or childcare purposes, and can help with eligibility requirements for the Child Care Benefit and Maternity Immunisation Allowance.”
Ms Roxon said parents could access the statements through Medicare Australia’s Online Services and those registered for Online Services would have immediate access to view and print a statement.
“This is an important step forward in the Government’s e-health agenda,” she said.
“These online immunisation statements will be a valuable tool right now, and are an example of the type of future benefits that could flow from a person controlled electronic health record.”
Ms Roxon said parents could also request a copy of their child’s immunisation history at their local Medicare office.
Medicare Australia’s Online Services were available from www.medicareaustralia.gov.au
3 November, 2009
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has called for urgent action to record the songs, language and cultures of Indigenous people before 2025 or they could be lost forever.
go on the record
Principal of AIATSIS, Russell Taylor said the Agency had more than 100,000 hours of recorded materials and hosted the world’s premier collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiovisual materials.
He said however that most of the recordings were collected during the 20th Century on magnetic tape.
“By 2025, no amount of money will preserve the remaining magnetic material yet to be digitised and we have an ethical imperative to save these endangered recordings to digital forms while it is still possible,” Mr Taylor said
Audiovisual documents, such as films, audio and video recordings, contain the primary records of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
He said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared 27 October as World Day for Audiovisual Heritage to raise awareness of the need to save audiovisual documents.
He said with digitisation funding from the Australian Government to the end of 2011, AIATSIS had already preserved 13,000 audio objects, 42,000 pictorial objects, 2,100 films and 1,200 videos.
He said the Institute had also returned over 20,000 digitised Audio Visual items to Indigenous communities.
“Every picture, every story, every song, enriches us,” Mr Taylor said.
“Without this preservation, productions such as award-winning documentary, The First Australians (SBS TV), which was exhaustively researched at the AIATSIS archives couldn’t have contained such remarkable footage.”
He said the majority of people who accessed the photographs, film and audio material at AIATSIS were Indigenous people looking to reclaim their language, trace family history, revive cultural practices, enhance Native Title claims, create Indigenous documentaries or establish local archives or keeping places in remote communities.
“I join the global community in sending a strong and urgent plea for all of us to recognise that our future generations have a right to this resource and unless we work together now to restore and preserve it, it could be lost forever,” he said.
3 November, 2009
Resources pooled for
A new DVD promoting water safety for young children has been produced by the Department of Health and Ageing and is to be distributed to thousands of families.
water safety DVD
Starring water safety advocate, Laurie Lawrence the Living with Water DVD - a Comprehensive Guide to Water Safety for Under 5s will be distributed to new parents through the Bounty New Mothers Bag - which reaches about 83 per cent of new mothers in Australia each year.
Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth, Kate Ellis said it was a tragedy that 32 children under five drowned in 2008, with 19 deaths in swimming pools.
“We can change that and we will,” Ms Ellis said.
“This DVD for parents is just one way we’re putting a focus on water safety and working hard to make sure young lives aren’t lost in the water.”
She said the Living with Water DVD promoted water safety messages for newborns, crawlers, toddlers and pre-schoolers.
She said it included essential information about familiarising children with water, eliminating water hazards, pool fencing, constant supervision of children around water and learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills.
“This DVD will help remind parents and carers to be vigilant supervising their children around water and to review the adequacy of safety measures like pool fences,” she said.
“Water safety is everyone’s responsibility. You never know when you might be in a position to save a life.”
The Living with Water DVD is to be distributed to new parents through the Bounty New Mothers Bag and will also be available free of charge from www.kidsalive.com.au
3 November, 2009
Top class teachers in
Awards for teaching excellence have been presented by the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard.
On the eve of World Teachers Day, Ms Gillard presented 64 Australian teachers, Principals and school support staff with awards.
“Teacher quality is the single greatest in-school influence on student engagement and achievement,” she said.
“The Australian Awards for Teaching Excellence showcases the pivotal role teachers and school leaders play in delivering quality education to Australia’s young people.”
Ms Gillard said the Government was investing $550 million in quality teaching and school leadership as part of the Education Revolution.
“The Smarter Schools National Partnership on Quality Teaching targets the critical points in the teacher lifecycle to ensure that we attract, train, place, develop and retain quality teachers and school leaders,” she said.
Best National Achievement awards went to:
The full list of winners and citations was available from www.teachingaustralia.edu.au
- Melissa Gould-Drakeley of the Macarthur Anglican School in NSW (Teacher Leadership);
- Lisa Brock, Australian Technical College, Spencer Gulf and Outback, SA (Support Staff Member);
- Jane Dobson, Claremont College, Tasmania (Beginning Teacher);
- Andrew Syme, Scotch College, WA (Principal);
- Helen Brown, Majella Catholic Primary School, WA (School and its Community); and
- Tracey Anthony, Aranmore Catholic College, WA (Teacher).
3 November, 2009
New alcohol plan
A package of resources that help war veterans manage their alcohol consumption issues has been updated, improved and launched by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin.
has the right mix
Mr Griffin said it was timely to reinforce healthy lifestyle messages in the lead up to the Spring racing calendar and festive season.
“A healthier life involves the right mix of sensible alcohol use, good nutrition and exercise,” he said.
“There is an estimated 12,300 Australian veterans with drug or alcohol dependence or abuse, and alcohol has been a major contributor to both mental and physical health problems in the veteran community.”
Mr Griffin said the Right Mix Program would help veterans and the wider community better understand and moderate their drinking.
“Understanding the effects of alcohol on the body and how it can interact with certain medications will help veterans make sensible choices about their drinking,” he said.
“By moderating their consumption, veterans can avoid the problems associated with heavy drinking that can lead to illness, injury and even premature death.”
The Right Mix - Your Health and Alcohol program includes a website and resources such as fact sheets, questionnaires and practical tips to moderate drinking.
The initiative was originally launched in 2001 as part of a project to reduce alcohol-related harm in the veteran community.
Mr Griffin said it had since been updated to reflect the recently published Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.
“My Department’s update of The Right Mix involved consultation with veterans and members of the ex-service and Australian Defence Force communities, with the aim of making it more relevant and appealing to these groups,” he said.
“An education program is also underway to ensure key health professionals are aware of the revised guidelines and updated resources are available.”
Mr Griffin encouraged Australians to access The Right Mix website, www.therightmix.gov.au, and use the interactive tools to assess their drinking behaviour.
3 November, 2009
Industry targetted in
A project to improve the delivery of information to industry about Defence’s $60 billion capability upgrade is to be conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Ministers for Defence and Defence Personnel, Senator John Faulkner and Greg Combet announced the plan saying it would improve the content, quality and utility of publicly available information in the Public Defence Capability Plan (DCP).
Foreshadowed at the 2009 Defence + Industry Conference in July this year, the review seeks to improve the content, quality and utility of publicly available information in the Public DCP.
Senator Faulkner said the review would be undertaken by Mark Thomson from ASPI and the former Executive Director AiG Defence Council, Leigh Purnell.
“The review of the Public DCP will look at ways of helping companies to plan for the long-term investment and skilling necessary for Australian industry to support the ADF,” he said.
“It is aimed at helping industry to prepare tenders for upcoming Defence capital equipment projects and to contribute to the Government’s Strategic Reform Program.”
Mr Combet said the review, which is expected to be completed in two months, aims to identify options for the way planning information was presented to industry in the future.
“It will take into account the need to balance between the investment needs of industry, the commercial position of the Commonwealth and the level of detail with which future plans can be reliably forecast,” he said.
“The review will make special provision for the information requirements of small-to-medium sized enterprises including their ability to interpret and access Defence planning data.”
Mr Combet said it would also include an assessment of the detail that was provided to industry on the Priority Industry Capabilities.
“Small and Medium Enterprises provide vital support to the ADF, directly and through major prime-contractors,” he said.
“The review will investigate ways of helping these companies to better access and understand Defence plans, including the links between projects.”
He said the Government would consider public release of the report once it has been received.
3 November, 2009
Crime pays for
The winners of the 2009 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards have been announced.
The awards are a joint initiative of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and reward outstanding community-based projects which reduce or prevent crime and violence.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said each winning project had achieved outstanding results, such as drops in crime rates or offending of more than 80 per cent.
“A common theme among nominees was groups and organisations working together in partnership to tackle crime and violence,” Mr O’Connor said.
“It is inspiring to see communities coming together to achieve sustainable changes in combating violence and crime.”
He said the winning projects for 2009 highlighted the importance of breaking the cycle of domestic and family violence, working with vulnerable young people, and the importance of partnerships between Government agencies and community groups.
Among the 2009 national winning projects, which each received a certificate and $10,000 or $15,000 was Strike Force Piccadilly, a partnership between NSW Police and the private sector which halted the spread of automatic teller machine ram raids.
Other Public Service winners were It All Starts At Home, a project led by Melbourne’s Inner South Community Health Service which works with abusive adolescents and their parents to break the cycle of inter-familial violence; and Promoting Peace In Families, a community partnership in Melbourne’s City of Casey uniting Government, public health services and faith leaders from various denominations and ethnic groups to stop domestic violence.
A full list of winners was available from the Australian Institute of Criminology website www.aic.gov.au
3 November, 2009
Preventative Health Agency prevented
The establishment of Australia’s first ever Preventative Health Agency, as reported in last week’s PS News, has been stalled in the Senate.
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon urged the Senate to reconsider the legislation and put the health of the nation first.
Ms Roxon said the establishment of the Agency by 1 January 2010 would be a key weapon in the fight against obesity, chronic disease and alcohol and tobacco addiction.
Board membership revised
The selection process for members of the ABC and SBS boards is to become more independent.
In a Bill before Parliament, a new system for appointment to the Boards would see candidates considered and short-listed by an independent panel convened by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and applications to join the Boards would be accepted from any Australian.
The changes included in the Bill reinstate the position of staff-elected director.
An inquiry is to be conducted into the way Australia Post treats its injured workers.
According to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, the Inquiry would examine the process whereby injured workers must visit doctors nominated by Australia Post to be eligible for compensation.
Senator Conroy said it would also examine claims Australia Post’s management bonus schemes were linked to minimising worker’s compensation claims.
Detector Dogs turn 40
Customs and Border Protection celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Detector Dog Program on 30 October.
The Program helps protect Australia from prohibited imports such as drugs, firearms and explosives.
In 2008 the Customs and Border Protection detector dog teams attended more than 17,000 tasks and directly contributed to the detection of 380 illicit imports and exports.
Christmas stamps of approval
With only weeks until Christmas, Australia Post has released its traditional Christmas stamp series.
This year’s Christmas stamps will feature three themes: iconic figures from the Nativity, familiar symbols of the Christmas season and creatures from Christmas Island. Designed by Mike Heine, the Nativity issue features the Virgin Mary cradling her newborn son and the the three Wise Men offering gifts to the baby Jesus.
Other stamps feature Christmas candles, a Christmas tree, presents, Christmas baubles and bell, candy canes and the endemic Christmas Island Frigatebird.
CPSU adds funeral support
The Community and Public Sector Union Governing Council has endorsed the establishment of the Union Family Bereavement Benefit (UFBB).
The UFBB provides financial support to the immediate family of any financial CPSU member who passes away while still on active duty.
The benefits consist of a payment of $1,000 to the immediate family of the deceased member for the purpose of assisting with immediate expenses.
Ombudsman advises on tax complaints
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has advised taxpayers not to despair if they run into problems with the Tax Office at tax time.
Commonwealth Ombudsman and Taxation Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan said the ATO would inevitably make some mistakes - especially given that it would have to process millions of tax returns.
Professor McMillan said complaints that could not be resolved with the ATO could be passed on to his office, with further information available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
Archive search for PM info
The National Archives is urging Australians to find letters or objects connected to Ethel Bruce, the wife of the nation’s eighth Prime Minister, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, whose story forms part of an exhibition opening at the National Archives in Canberra in December.
Ethel Bruce played an important part in supporting her husband’s political career and was influential in the interior design of The Lodge, however little original material about her appears to have survived in Australian collections.
The exhibition, Stanley Melbourne Bruce: Prime Minister & Statesman opens on 11 December 2009.
Fire fighters join forces
Airservices aviation fire fighters have been deployed in support of bushfire fighting efforts nationally over the past week.
Stations at Rockhampton, Broome and Mackay have assisted local brigades deal with off-airport emergencies in their regions.
Crews from Rockhampton worked on fire containment when fire threatened suburban homes and a primary school, Broome crews worked alongside the local brigade as fires threatened homes and in Mackay crews responded to a cane field fire next to the airport.
Tax Agent Bill passes
The final Bill of the of the new tax agent services regime has been passed in Parliament.
The Bill will provide a transitional period in which those providing Business Activity Statement (BAS) services for a fee could seek registration without necessarily meeting the qualification or relevant experience requirements.
It will also allow tax agents and nominees registered under the current law to continue to provide their services with little disruption when the new regime commences.
Call for whistleblower comment
An options paper exploring strategies for improving protections for corporate whistleblowers has been released.
While corporate whistleblowers are protected under Part 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001, only four people have felt safe enough to use them to provide information to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission since the protections were put in place in 2004.
Submissions to the paper close on 21 December 2009, with further information available from www.treasury.gov.au
More Nick Cave at library
Opening hours for the National Library of Australia’s Nick Cave: the Exhibition have been extended until 9pm on Thursdays.
The exhibition features insight into the imagination of iconic Australian musician, songwriter and author, Nick Cave, and allows visitors to discover his vision through original lyrics, notebooks, works of art, photographs and books.
The NLA is the final Australian venue for the exhibition, which is open daily from 9am to 5pm and Thursdays until 9pm until 29 November.
FTA for Asian region
The largest Free Trade Agreement Australia has ever concluded will come into force on 1 January 2010 following discussion between leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Agreement establishes the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area which spans 12 economies, more than 600 million people and a combined GDP of $3.1 trillion.
The deal would eliminate tariffs on 96 per cent of Australia’s current exports to ASEAN nations by 2020.