SearchArchives for November 2011
29 November, 2011
Compo coverage to
Employees of the Australian Public Service are to enjoy greater workers compensation coverage following the passage of a new law through the Senate last week.
The Safety, Rehabilitation Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Act (SRCOLA), has now been approved by both Houses of Parliament and extends workers compensation to staff taking ‘recess’ breaks away from the workplace during working hours.
The original recess cover protections were taken away in April 2007 along with protection for PS staff injured while travelling to or from work.
Among other changes, SRCOLA also enables Comcare to access the Consolidated Revenue Fund to pay compensation relating to diseases with long latency periods in cases where employment goes back to before 1 December 1988, but the disease was not manifested until after that date.
It also allows compensation for medical expenses to be paid where payment of other compensation is suspended and extends coverage of the Act to Commonwealth employees working in declared high risk countries or to a class of employees working overseas.
The new coverage was welcomed by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) which said its members had been pushing for the restoration of the protection for many years.
National Secretary of the union, Nadine Flood said it was a positive first step in repairing the damage done to workers’ compensation protections in the APS.
“But this story is not over and there is still some unfinished business,” Ms Flood said.
“CPSU members will continue to campaign for the full restoration of all the protections stripped away in 2007, including journey cover.”
She said the union believed workers travelling to and from work should have some protection and it would continue to lobby the Government and others to make sure it too was restored.
The new laws now await Royal Assent which is likely to be granted in the next few weeks.
29 November, 2011
Commission to judge
The Australian Public Service Commission has revealed a new program of assessing the effectiveness and performance of Departmental Secretaries.
Announced by APS Commissioner Steve Sedgwick in the recently-released State of the Service Report 2010-11, the performance measurement project is part of a wider evaluation of capabilities within the APS to respond to community needs demanding cross-Government service delivery that could involve a number of Departments or Agencies.
“Work has begun to trial new arrangements for accountability which designate a lead Agency or Minister,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“Work is in hand to trial a new approach to assessing the performance of Secretaries.”
He said formal assessments of Secretaries’ performance was suspended in 2007 when performance pay was abandoned but the new arrangements were intended to assess the contribution the Secretary made against the full range of their responsibilities.
Mr Sedgwick said the evaluations were looking at the extent of a Secretary’s collaboration in pursuit of whole-of-Government strategic priorities and initiatives and his or her collaboration in the stewardship of the APS - “a responsibility each Secretary shares with other Secretaries and the Australian Public Service Commissioner.”
“Only a limited trial of the proposed arrangements has been undertaken to date,” Mr Sedgwick said.
The Commissioner also revealed that the APSC would be carrying out a formal examination of the classification structure and work level standards applying to APS positions across the Service below SES level.
“APS Agencies have operated in a highly devolved employment framework for more than a decade,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“While a powerful incentive to drive agency-level efficiency improvements and to manage the workforce in ways best suited to Agency objectives, this has also led to some disparity in pay and conditions across the APS.”
He said the disparities “may not be justified by underlying productivity or work level differences” and concerns had been raised about apparent upward drifts of the classification structure of the APS workforce.
“It is arguable that the observed increases in employees at higher classifications is also justified by the changing nature of work in the APS,” Mr Sedgwick said, “but it remains an open question whether some of this trend also reflects ‘classification creep’.” .
He said the Commission’s examination of work level standards and the operation of pay progression arrangements would be progressed over the next two years.
The State of the Service Report can be accessed at this PS News link.
29 November, 2011
Storms brewing on
The Climate Commission has reported that a new international report on climate change has confirmed its concerns that Australia was facing a “grim” future of extreme weather events.
According to the Chief Climate Commissioner, Professor Tim Flannery, the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reaffirms the potential of climate change to exacerbate extreme weather, especially those events directly linked to rising temperatures, such as heatwaves and bushfires.
Professor Flannery said the report indicated that what was already a hot climate in most of Australia would get hotter.
He said it noted that in south-east Australia the bushfire season was expected to increase in length with very high and extreme fire danger days expected to rise by 15-70 per cent by mid-century.
It said that it was very likely that the average sea level would continue to rise through the century, increasing the risk for flooding and erosion along coasts, especially in those regions that were already prone to such impacts.
And it said it was likely that there would be an increase globally in the number of heavy rain events.
Climate Commissioner Professor Will Steffen said that while there were many uncertainties, the global society was undoubtedly changing the climate through the accelerating emissions of greenhouse gases.
“We just don’t know yet the nature of all the changes that have already happened as a result of climate change, or all the changes that will occur,” Professor Steffen said.
A summary of the IPCC report can be accessed at this PS News link.
29 November, 2011
Water Office to flow
The establishment of a Commonwealth Environmental Water Office as a distinct entity within the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has been announced as part of the Government’s response to a Parliamentary Committee report on the Murray Darling Basin Plan for Regional Australia.
from report response
The Government said it agreed with a number of the measures the Committee proposed.
Other actions arising from the report include the development and publication of a water recovery strategy and further consultation with industry on how best to integrate water purchases with infrastructure reconfiguration.
Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Simon Crean said new measures to build on earlier actions already being implemented included a $10 million commitment towards the cost of investigating environmental works and measures projects; the development of new arrangements for delivering irrigation infrastructure; and changes to taxation arrangements for recipients of infrastructure grants under the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure program.
Mr Crean said they also included changes to provide relief from any capital gains tax that might be payable on water entitlements transferred to the Commonwealth as a result of the water infrastructure investments.
“The Government is taking early steps to deepen understanding of potential impacts and possible responses to living in a future with less water,” Mr Crean said.
“We are building on work through Regional Development Australia committees to encourage the development of industry productivity and strengthen economic diversification and resilience.”
He said a final plan for the Murray Darling Basin would be delivered to Parliament in 2012.
29 November, 2011
The Special Minister of State has tabled the Annual Report on staff numbers and entitlements for Members of Parliament in 2010-11 revealing that up to June 2011, 1,514 staff places were allocated, with 1,283 positions actually filled.
brought to book
The Minister, Gary Gray said the report provided an overview of Members of Parliament Staff (MOPS) staffing, including employee types, salary ranges, salaries above the range and non-salary benefits.
“This is the fourth annual report concerning all staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984,” Mr Gray said.
He said it showed that the demands on Parliamentarians’ staff had continued to increase, reflecting the increasing pressures on Members and Senators.
“MOP(S) staff work often long hours in a wide variety of roles,” Mr Gray said.
“They work as electoral staff for Parliamentarians, personal staff for Government, Opposition, and minor party office-holders, staff for independent Members and Senators, the Presiding Officers of Parliament, Whips and former Prime Ministers.”
He said that this year also saw the launch of a new website for Members, Senators and their staff.
The report said there were two types of employees under the MOP(S) Act - electorate employees and personal employees and within each of these categories there were several classification levels.
It said the Prime Minister allocated personal employee positions at specified classifications to Office Holders.
Each Senator and Member was also allocated four electorate officer positions and a relief staff budget for the employment of additional electorate officers for peak workloads and to fill vacancies due to leave.
The annual report can be accessed at this PS News link.
29 November, 2011
Public warning on
Australian Public Service Commissioner Steve Sedgwick has issued a warning to PS staff to take care engaging in public policy debates, particularly on social networking websites and internet blogs.
He warned that the need to remain apolitical remained paramount.
“APS employees are entitled to their own views like any other citizen,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“However in expressing their views they are held to the standards of conduct laid down in the APS Values and Code of Conduct.”
He said while a broader and more robust debate might lead to more informed decision making in government and across the broader community, there were also significant risks to be managed.
“In providing views, [Public Servants] need also to preserve the trust of the public, the Government and alternative Government(s),” he said.
“An entry in a blog or on a Facebook page is just as real as a letter to the newspaper, a comment made at a community meeting or during a public speech - except that it can be copied and distributed to millions of people with just a few key strokes.”
Mr Sedgwick said maintaining public trust and confidence in the apolitical nature of the APS was fundamental to Australia’s system of government and staff needed to be cautious about departing from established norms.
He said the debate over public involvement also extended to the relationship between individual Public Servants and politicians.
“The role of the APS is to serve the Government of the day,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“This is at the core of the professionalism of the APS and is fundamental to its good standing.
“The relationship of trust between the Government and APS employees is crucial to effective administration.”
He said however that some media commentators had expressed a view that it was
“commonplace” for APS employees to write questions for MPs or otherwise brief them on policy issues without their Minister’s knowledge and that this was in the interest of good governance.
“That is not my experience and is not a view I share,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“There are well-established procedures governing interactions between APS employees and members [of Parliament].”
He said the requirements had been set out in writing by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the APSC and reflected the principles of the APS Values and the Code of Conduct “which all APS employees are bound by law to uphold.”
Mr Sedgwick’s comments can be found in more detail in the recently-released State of the Service Report 2010-11 at this PS News link.
29 November, 2011
Bosses hold key to
Workplace research conducted at the Australian National University in Canberra has found that employees identifying with their workgroup or supervisor felt more supported and in control in their working environment.
The research, conducted by ANU PhD candidate, Suzi Keser is based on survey responses from more than 600 employees, including managers, professionals, and administrative clerks in the ACT.
The research identified that supervisor support as well as work demands and control were key workplace factors in stress and depression risk.
Ms Keser said that supportive supervisors were rated as being effective at promoting team work while being attentive and responsive to the needs of individual employees.
“The study also found that employees were more likely to rate their supervisor as supportive if the supervisor was seen as representing the team’s identity and being a ‘part of the team’, rather than a unique or different from team members,” Ms Keser said.
“Employees’ experience of this identity-based leadership was not only linked to higher ratings of support, but also to lower ratings of stress.”
She said that in addition, ratings of stress were strongly linked to work demands, which were defined as the experience of a reasonable workload with clear expectations.
Ms Keser said that employees’ sense of control at work was related to depression risk, but not stress risk.
She said ‘control at work’ described employees’ opportunities to have a say and make decisions about their work, and maintain their ability to perform by applying and developing their skills.
She said the research also revealed that employees who indicated a stronger bond, sense of satisfaction, similarity and commitment to their workgroups were more likely to indicate higher levels of workplace control and in turn lower levels of depression.
29 November, 2011
Violence program in
A new program to combat violence against women in the workplace has been unveiled by the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.
stand for women
Ms Ellis said $1.1 million White Ribbon Workplace Program was important in creating long-term changes in attitudes to violence in the workplace.
“We need to pull the issue of family violence out of the shadows and challenge the notion that this is a private issue,” Ms Ellis said.
“This means standing up against violence in all spheres of our lives whether it be at home, in our schools, neighbourhoods or workplaces.”
She said the initiative was an awareness, early intervention and prevention program specifically for workplace settings.
The Minister said that in the past year a reference group of 20 members had been established and in August the group met for the first time to endorse a project work plan and terms of reference.
“The new program is structured around three key elements – the appointment of ambassadors for positive workplace cultures, accreditation of workplaces that are safe places for women, and awards for workplaces that introduce prevention strategies and speak out about violence,” Ms Ellis said.
She also announced that the Government would partner with the Australian Rugby League to run a $250,000 campaign in local rugby league clubs to prevent violence against women and promote respectful relationships.
Ms Ellis said the League would work with community clubs across the country to deliver a media campaign and develop educational resources to prevent violence against women.
29 November, 2011
Audit reserved on
An audit of a program that attracts Indigenous land into the Australian system of national conservation reserves has discovered there is some good news and some bad news.
In his audit report Indigenous Protected Areas, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the target of attracting 16 million hectares of Indigenous land into the reserve system by 2013 could almost be exceeded, but the joint goal of requiring traditional knowledge to be used to manage the land was falling behind.
Mr McPhee said the program, under the Caring for our Country (2008–13) initiative was to achieve an environment that was healthier, better protected, well managed, resilient, and provided essential ecosystems in a changing climate.
He said the CfoC was jointly managed by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF ).
“The audit’s objective was to assess the effectiveness of SEWPaC’s management of the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) program in relation to its two primary targets,” Mr McPhee said.
These were an expansion of the contribution of the IPA program to the National Reserve System (NRS) by between eight and 16 million hectares (an increase of at least 40 per cent); and to ensure the continued use, support and reinvigoration of traditional ecological knowledge to underpin biodiversity conservation.
He since 2008, the CfoC target for IPA additions to the NRS had been exceeded in two of the three program years.
He said that at June 2011, there were 38 IPA projects in the consultation phase which could provide further additions of land.
“If the current pattern of movement is maintained, SEWPaC is likely to exceed the primary CfoC outcome,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the second primary target to include traditional ecological knowledge in 32 Plans of Management by 2013 was behind schedule with 19 projects approved against the target of 32.
He said the approval of an additional 13 Plans of Management in newly initiated projects was required by June 2012 if this target was to be achieved.
“As the approval of a Plan of Management is a critical trigger for the declaration of land as a protected area, the target remains an important priority set by the Department,” he said.
He found that overall, SEWPaC’s administration of the IPA program had been effective in achieving increases in land contributed to the NRS with a key aspect being engagement with Indigenous landowners
“Tailored program material and support from SEWPaC staff has facilitated Indigenous communities’ compliance with prescribed grant reporting and acquittal processes,” he said.
“However, the IPA program faces a strategic challenge.
“Although the program runs to 2013, all funds are already committed and no further funding is available.”
Mr McPhee said that the Indigenous protected areas were declared in perpetuity and under the current model, their retention in the NRS required ongoing management which was funded through the IPA program.
“IPA grant allocation post 2013 is uncertain,” he said.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Elizabeth Wedgwood, Adrian Harris and Dr. Andrew Pope.
29 November, 2011
Radio reforms to
Proposed reforms to the advertising and disclosure program standards for commercial radio are open for public comment.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has announced it was seeking consultation on a plan to revoke the current compliance program standard.
The Authority said the changes were intended to require advertising to be distinguishable from other program material at the time of broadcast rather than later in a program or segment generally.
It said the reforms sought to broaden the kinds of commercial agreements which must be disclosed on-air where a current affairs presenter was not a party to the agreement but had an interest in the licensee company which was.
The Authority also sought to remove the six scripted statements for on-air disclosure to allow current affairs presenters to identify sponsorship in a more flexible way.
ACMA said it was also proposing to revoke the Broadcasting Services (Commercial Radio Compliance Program) Standard 2000 which currently provided for compliance education and auditing to be undertaken by commercial radio licensees.
It expected the revised standards and accompanying explanatory statements to be made by 1 March 2012 and registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments and placed on the ACMA website.
ACMA said the proposed new standards could be accessed on its website at this PS News link and written submissions were welcome and could be made to at email@example.com by Friday 16 December.
29 November, 2011
Famers praised for
Farmers and State and Federal primary industry Agencies have been thanked for their vigilance during summer and autumn that resulted in current locust numbers being at low levels.
locusts at bay
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig said that at this time last year there was a fear that the Australian plague locust season would be the worst in 70 years, with a record number of eggs laid.
“Fortunately this year the spring locust populations are much smaller and the forecast is that they are unlikely to produce a significant swarm infestation in any region this summer,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said there were only small, localised populations in minor areas of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.
He credited the favourable forecast to successful locust control activities by the Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC), and the response Governments, as well as the attention of farmers and landholders.
“This is good news for producers who know only too well the potentially devastating impacts a locust outbreak can have through crop and pasture losses or downgraded crops,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said that in March, the Australian Bureau of Resource Economics and Sciences presented the Benefit-Cost Analysis of Australian Plague Locust Control Operations for 2010-11, which clearly showed that for every dollar spent by the Australian and State Government Agencies, an average of $19 of crop and pasture losses were avoided.
“Affected Governments’ investment of $50 million used to control last season’s locust plague has resulted in a sound return, saving a total of more than $950 million in crop and pastures,” Senator Ludwig said.
29 November, 2011
Australian art in the
A partnership that would enable an exhibition presenting 200 years of Australian art to be staged in London has been announced.
frame for London
In a joint statement, the National Gallery of Australia and the UK’s Royal Academy of Arts said the exhibition on the theme of land and landscape would present around 150 outstanding examples of Australian art, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, from 1800 until the present day.
The statement said compelling Australian works would be drawn from the national art collection and other public collections in Australia and Britain.
Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, Charles Saumarez Smith said the Academy was delighted to partner with the National Gallery of Australia for the exhibition.
“Their support in the staging of this long overdue and important survey exhibition of Australian art in the UK will be invaluable,” Mr Smith said
“We believe this exhibition will capture the imagination of audiences here and strengthen the cultural connection between our two nations.”
Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford said the Royal Academy of Arts had an impressive track record of presenting important exhibitions that attracted very large audiences in the centre of London.
“This partnership is a great opportunity to present Australia’s strong visual arts tradition, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in Europe,” Mr Radford said.
“An important role of the National Gallery of Australia is to promote Australian visual arts culture internationally.”
The exhibition is to run from 21 September to 8 December 2013.
25 November, 2011
Report reports on
The Australian Public Service grew by 2,013 employees to 166,495 in the year to 30 June 2011, a 1.2 per cent increase on the 164,500 staff a year earlier.
State of the Service
According to Australian Public Service Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick, this was the smallest increase since 2003-04.
Commenting on the Commission’s State of the Service Report for 2010-11, Mr Sedgwick said the statistics showed a further consolidation of long term trends.
“There is a continuing shift towards a more qualified and experienced workforce, a higher proportion of employees accessing flexible part time work, often after returning to the workforce after retirement, and women account for nearly 58 per cent of the total employment,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“The workforce continues to age with employees in the 45 and over age group who can be eligible for retirement in the next 10 years accounting for 43 per cent of ongoing employees which is up from a third in 1997.”
He reported that, consistent with the trend of recent years, most growth in the APS was in the EL classifications with EL1 numbers increasing by 6.1 per cent and EL2 by 3.9 per cent.
“The number of ongoing SES employees grew by 86 or 3.3 per cent,” he said.
“The APS 6 classification is now the largest in the APS with 20.8 per cent of all ongoing employees.”
Mr Sedgwick said the number of Indigenous employees fell from 3,383 to 3,236, as did staff with a disability, from 4,681 to 4,528.
He said the decline in Indigenous staff numbers was the first since 2007-08 but the fall in staff with disability was the biggest in more than decade.
He said the proportion of APS employees from a non-English speaking background rose slightly to 5.1 per cent continuing a steady annual increase from 4.5 per cent in 2002.
The statistics also revealed that one in six APS staff (18 per cent) reported being subjected to harassment or bullying during the year, a similar result to last year.
Mr Sedgwick said APS employees continued to have strong levels of confidence in the integrity of their workplaces and colleagues with most staff believing their colleagues (90 per cent) and supervisor (89 per cent) ‘always’ or ‘often’ acted in accordance with the APS Values in their everyday work.
“More than half (51 per cent) of employees were satisfied with the quality of formal, off-the-job training and education courses in their Agency and 25 per cent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied,” he said.
He said the skills in most demand in the APS were project management, human resources, information and communications technology, generalist management and accounting/finance.
Mr Sedgwick said the average new starter in the APS in 2010-11 was a 31 year-old woman with graduate qualifications, joining at the APS3 level.
“The typical APS employee was a 42-year-old woman with graduate qualifications working at APS6 level,” he said.
The State of the Service Report can be accessed at this PS News link and PS News will report on other aspects of its findings next week.
25 November, 2011
Changes to the law governing the electoral roll will give the Electoral Commissioner greater powers to amend voters’ address details without their input.
changes on a roll
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said the legislation would help make the roll more accurate.
“The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011 specifically deals with ensuring an elector’s most current and accurate residential address is recorded on the roll,” Mr Gray said.
“Currently, the Electoral Commission receives advice from Government Agencies of changes of address details.”
He said the information was then used to remove a person from the roll but the law did not permit the Commission to record the same elector at his or her new address.
“This has had a detrimental effect on electoral participation through reducing enrolment rates,” Mr Gray said.
“The Bill will permit the Commission to record the elector at the latest address (but) only after the Electoral Commissioner has notified an elector of the proposed new residential address to give the elector the opportunity to object.”
Mr Gray said the Bill was consistent with arrangements that had been operating in Victoria and New South Wales for a number of years and would stop the divergence and inconsistency that was occurring between State and Commonwealth electoral rolls.
“The Bill will assist in meeting the urgent need to arrest the decline in enrolment rates across Australia by ensuring the Federal electoral roll is as current and accurate as possible,” he said.
Mr Gray said the Bill would not provide the capacity to directly enrol new electors so people who were not on the roll would still need to enrol in accordance with the current requirements in the Electoral Act.
25 November, 2011
The Parliamentary Library has published a new manual to assist other Parliamentary Libraries provide high quality research and other services to their clients.
books up manual
Unveiled by the Parliamentary Librarian, Roxanne Missingham, the new manual is based on workshops conducted at an international symposium held in Canberra in March this year.
“The publication is based on three capacity building sessions run in conjunction with the International Symposium - Fundamental to Democracy: Parliamentary library and research services,” Ms Missingham said.
She said the symposium and capacity building sessions aimed to assist in the development of parliamentary libraries and research services; encourage their strengthening; support innovation; build the capacity of staff; and strengthen cooperation.
She said the publication would assist Parliamentary library and research centres communicate well with their clients to enable effective research and references services to support their Parliament; build and enhance their online presence and that of their Parliament; and create an online library catalogue and digital resource management system.
“I would like to thank those who have worked tirelessly to present sessions and prepare papers for this publication,” Ms Missinham said.
“I also thank those who have funded the publication of the manual – the Department of the House of Representatives assisted with funding from the Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships program, a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Australian Region) and the UNDP, with funding from AusAID.”
The manual can be accessed at this PS News link.
25 November, 2011
Phone alert failures
Failures of the telephone-based Emergency Alert warning system during a recent chemical fire in Canberra have been blamed on training standards in the ACT Government.
Responding to questions in Parliament raised by Liberal Senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries, Attorney-General Robert McClelland defended the system which had failed to alert three-quarters of the population potentially at risk.
“The Emergency Alert technology did not fail,” Mr McClelland said.
“The system was not used in accordance with the Recommended Use Guidelines.
He said the alert campaign “expired” after 30 minutes because the ACT operator did not extend the validity time for its operation in accordance with the system design parameters.
“The failure to do so meant that there was only sufficient time for a third of the landlines to be dialled,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the 86,801 landlines in the warning area drawn by the ACT operator exceeded the system’s recommended limit of 50,000 calls for a single campaign by approximately 73 per cent.
Senator Humphries said the response also noted that the ACT had not attended training workshops run by the Victorian operators of the system in 2010 and 2011.
“These are very disturbing revelations,” Senator Humphries said.
“If the incident had been worse and the smoke was toxic, this blatant negligence to use the system correctly could have resulted in serious injury or death.”
25 November, 2011
Fair Work Office puts
The Fair Work Ombudsman has reported that his office website generated an average 16,000 visits a week through the 2010-11financial year.
website to work
The Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said free fact sheets covering topics from minimum wages to unlawful workplace discrimination had been downloaded from the website 633,000 times during the same period.
Mr Wilson said the most popular fact sheet was about employer records and pay slips and had been downloaded more than 72,000 times.
He said a new fact sheet addressing the issue of internships, vocational placements and unpaid work had recently been added to the site, taking the total number to 36.
“The new addition aims to assist employers to understand their obligations and assist businesses to establish whether or not they are creating an employment relationship,” Mr Wilson said.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s free templates – 44 in total and including some specifically developed for industries such as hospitality, security, retail and hair and beauty – were downloaded 448,000 times last year.”
Mr Wilson said a range of Best Practice Guides to assist small business to implement best practice initiatives in areas such as pay equity, balancing work and family commitments and employing young workers were also strongly sought after, with more than 65,000 downloads.
“The guides highlight key aspects of the federal workplace relations system, information on best practice concepts, strategies on how these can be implemented and the benefits for businesses in doing so,” he said.
Mr Wilson said the website delivered a range of valuable, online self-service tools that provided access to advice and information 24 hours a day.
The suite of self-service, online tools are available from this PS News link.
25 November, 2011
Stronger arms for
The enforcement work of Commonwealth law officers and courts has been made easier following changes to a number of laws relating to their powers and capabilities.
Announced by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, the amendments strengthen powers to seize illicit drugs, hold prisoners in jail, share information and confiscate the proceeds of crime.
Mr O’Connor said the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers and Offences) Bill 2011 implemented the recommendations of the 2010 DNA Forensic Procedures, Further Independent Review of Part 1D of the Crimes Act 1914.
“The Bill also proposes important reforms to the sentencing of Federal offenders in response to recommendations made by the 2006 Australian Law Reform Commissions Report, Same Crime, Same Time,” he said.
“There is currently no ability to refuse parole to Federal offenders serving sentences of less than 10 years.”
He said the Bill gave the Attorney-General the discretion to refuse parole and re-affirmed his ability to impose conditions, including requiring an offender to participate in rehabilitation.
Mr O’Connor said the Bill also contained amendments to help combat the emergence of new and illicit substances.
“The amendments will enable law enforcement agencies to capture individuals and organised crime groups involved with substances.”
He said new tools were also included to assist the new Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce.
“A stronger ability to seize ill-gotten gains is designed to hit criminals in the hip pocket,” he said.
“(It) will provide that Australian Federal Police employees and other Government secondees with forensic skills working in the new multi-agency Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce will be able to fully utilise their expertise in proceeds of crime investigations.”
Mr O’Connor said under other changes, Courts would be empowered to prevent the early publication of information that could compromise proceeds of crime investigations or a related criminal investigation.
He said the Bill also established an arrangement under which the Australian Crime Commission could share information with Commonwealth, State and Territory Agencies and international law enforcement bodies for the purposes of investigation and prosecuting crime.
“The Bill will enable the Australian Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner to refer a person to a court to be dealt with for contempt of the Commission,” Mr O’Connor said.
“A contempt procedure will provide a swift and powerful mechanism for the Integrity Commissioner to deal with uncooperative witnesses.”
25 November, 2011
New biosecurity lab is
The world’s most advanced bio-secure laboratory - CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria - has been officially opened.
world’s most secure
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the AAHL Collaborative Biosecurity Research Facility (ACBRF) allowed researchers from across Australia and overseas to work together on projects of national importance.
“Facilities like the ACBRF increase our ability to deal quickly and effectively with emerging diseases which could harm people, animals and crops both in Australia and overseas,” Senator Carr said.
“These threats have economic, environmental and social consequences on agricultural productivity, food security, animal and human health and biodiversity.”
He said the Centre was built with the aid of $8.5 million in Federal funding, through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.
Director of the AAHL, Professor Martyn Jeggo said in addition to identifying and characterising viruses, the new facility would be used to investigate the origin and treatment of animal and ‘zoonotic’ diseases (diseases that could be transmitted between humans and animals).
“There is an urgent need to move forward with a collaborative effort, commonly referred to as a ‘One Health’ approach, which links human, animal and environmental health professionals together,” Professor Jeggo said.
“The One Health approach is becoming crucial with about 70 per cent of emerging diseases affecting humans originating in animals – including Hendra, bird flu and SARS.”
He said the ACBRF was located within AAHL’s high containment facility and incorporated a linked Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility.
He said it was this facility that enabled fundamental research with infectious disease agents that required the highest levels of biocontainment.
Professor Jeggo said AAHL had developed a significant international reputation as one of the world’s finest animal bioscience research laboratories and was the most sophisticated laboratory in the world for the safe handling and containment of infectious micro-organisms.
“The additional high containment laboratory facility at AAHL will provide the necessary bio-secure and bio-safe infrastructure required to undertake vital research to effectively tackle increasing biosecurity threats – in Australia and around the world,” he said.
25 November, 2011
No dropouts from
A new evaluation report on the national rollout of the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY) has been released.
Minister for Child Care, Kate Ellis said the report showed that HIPPY was having a transformative impact on the lives of children and parents and helping bridge the gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers, before they even started school.
“The Government’s investment in the early years is paying off and helping some of our most vulnerable children to develop a solid foundation for future learning and creating a culture of valuing education at home,” Ms Ellis said.
“This report estimates that this program is likely to deliver an ultimate return on investment of up to $4 for every $1 spent because the early years of a child’s life really can shape their future.”
She said the report showed that when compared with the Australian norm, parents involved in HIPPY were 81 per cent more likely to report that their child’s maths ability was better than that of the child’s classmates; three times more likely to be in contact with their child’s school and actively involved in their child’s learning and development; 66 per cent less likely to have concerns about the way their child made speech sounds; and 85 per cent less likely to have concerns about their child’s ability to understand spoken words.
“The benefits to the family unit as a whole from this program are remarkable, with 48 per cent of parents in paid employment after finishing HIPPY, compared with only 33 per cent at the start of the program,” she said.
Minister for Early Childhood, Peter Garrett said HIPPY was an example of a program that had been successful elsewhere in the world and Australia had been able to benefit from what had been learned abroad.
“An estimated 500,000 Australian children are growing up in poverty and may not be accessing the positive learning environment at home that is vital to their development,” Mr Garrett said.
More information about HIPPY is available from this PS News link.
25 November, 2011
And in Other News...
Weather staff win payrise
Staff of the Bureau of Meteorology have won payrises of more than 10 per cent.
An enterprise agreement negotiated between staff, management and unions has been approved by the Government, delivering increases of between 10.15 and 10.6 per cent over three years, while complying with its wages policy.
The agreement comes after members of the Community and Public sector Union staged protected industrial action in support of their claim.
New protections for Antarctic
New legislation to strengthen environmental protection and tourist safety in Antarctica has been introduced.
The Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Amendment Bill 2011 seeks implement three measures agreed to by nations under the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid Protocol.
The new measures will enter into force when approved by all 28 Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty, and will create new offences for unapproved activities; establish a liability regime for environmental emergencies; implement new offences and civil penalties applicable to tourist vessels; and allow the Australian Environment Minister to grant environmental protection approvals.
New disability tables out
Impairment Tables used to assess people’s eligibility for the Disability Support Pension are to be updated for the first time in more than 10 years.
The Impairment Tables are used in Disability Support Pension assessments to measure how a person’s impairment affects their ability to work and the new ones will apply from 1 January 2012.
A Committee review of the recommended the new arrangements which can be accessed at this PS News link.
DAFF reviews foot and mouth
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has released a review of Australia’s ability to manage to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
The reviewwas completed by former Department Secretary, Ken Matthew and according to current Deputy Secretary of DAFF, Rona Mellor Australia had been free of foot and mouth disease for more than 100 years but it was still the most significant biosecurity threat to Australia’s livestock industries.
Ms Mellor said the Minister had written to his State and Territory counterparts seeking their commitment to work together to develop a strengthened approach.
Cooperatives year launched
The UN International Year of Co-operatives has been launched by Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten at Parliament House in Canberra.
The formal launch of the International Year was accompanied by the unveiling of a commemorative $1 coin to mark the occasion.
Australia has over 1,800 co-operatives and 106 customer-owned banking institutions across a range of industry sectors and the International Year of Cooperatives marks the first time the United Nations has awarded a business model an ‘International Year’ designation.
Previously this week...
PS wage growth down
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal wage growth in the public sector has slowed down to its lowest level in more than 10 years.
In its report Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, the Bureau said that an 0.8 per cent rise in wages across the economy in the September quarter was the lowest in almost two years.
It said wages rose by 0.5 per cent in the public sector and 0.9 per cent in the private sector and a bigger increase had been expected because the 3.3 per cent minimum wage rise that affected about 1.4 million workers took effect in the month.
Despite this, the Labour Price Index still pointed to moderating wage growth.
Tax votes for payrise
Staff of the Australian Taxation Office have voted to accept pay increases of around 3 per cent a year for the next three years.
The ballot attracted a 57 per cent ‘yes’ vote despite opposition from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).
The Australian Services Union had campaigned for the ‘yes’ vote.
Work study open
Submissions are open for Australia’s first formal investigation into the rise of insecure work.
The Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work has been commissioned by the ACTU to analyse the increase in casual, contract, labour hire and other forms of insecure work in Australia over recent decades, and the impact it has on workplace rights, household finances, and wider society.
Submissions can be lodged until 16 December, and the Inquiry will hold public hearings early next year.
The terms of reference and more details can be obtained from this PS News link.
Heritage grants open
Applications for grants under the Your Community Heritage program are open until December 20.
Supporting community heritage projects, the program recognises that heritage was not just about places on the World and National Heritage Lists.
Under the program, communities can apply for grants to protect and conserve Australia’s nationally significant sites, repair local historic places affected by natural disasters and to identify, research, preserve and share their local heritage stories.
Information and grant guidelines are available from this PS News link.
22 November, 2011
Reformers called to
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has been called on to get serious about national reforms by showing more commitment and leadership to ensure the changes it wants reach their full potential.
The call to action comes from the Chairman of COAG’s own Reform Council, Paul McClintock.
Speaking at the launch of COAG Reform Agenda: Report on Progress 2011, Mr McClintock said COAG had established a solid foundation for cooperation, through the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations, around its national reform agenda.
“But for COAG to really succeed it must build a culture of trust and cooperation within and between Governments,” Mr McClintock said.
“Put simply, it is critical that COAG throws its full weight behind these reforms.”
He said this would require strong political leadership and a determined effort from all Governments.
He said COAG’s Intergovernmental Agreement aimed to advance collaboration between Governments by fostering greater flexibility in service delivery, alongside a stronger commitment to public accountability for achieving outcomes.
In this second annual progress report on the reforms the Council has found that 20 of the 26 major reform commitments are currently on schedule.
Mr McClintock said that while this was a positive result, there was obviously more work to be done.
“We are disappointed that some reform commitments – such as the national Rental Affordability Scheme, improving the availability of social housing and the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency – are behind schedule,” he said.
“Further progress is needed on COAG’s reform commitments, but we recognise it will take time for COAG to meet its long-term goal.”
He said the Reform Council wanted COAG to know its agenda for change was significant and there was a great deal waiting to be achieved.
“But for it to succeed in the long-term, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and give this your full commitment,” Mr McClintock said.
He said COAG’s reform agenda covered key areas such as health, Indigenous reform, education, skills, disability services, housing, water, and a range of competition and regulatory reforms.
22 November, 2011
The Australian Information Commissioner has published an issues paper explaining the true value of public information to the Australian community.
a national resource
The Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, launched the paper at the recent 2011 Information Policy Conference in Canberra saying all information held by Governments was a national resource.
Professor McMillan said there was a cultural shift underway, with Agencies being urged to move from a default attitude of information control to information sharing.
“The underlying premise of the Freedom of Information Act has been declared in a forthright manner: Information held by the Government is to be managed for public purposes, and is a national resource,” Professor McMillan said.
He believed the benefits of open Government far outweighed the costs.
“It is widely acknowledged that information is a valuable resource,’ he said.
“The right information at the right time can expand knowledge, enable innovation, boost productivity, and even save lives.”
The issues paper asks a series of questions including whether sharing of information by government with the community had produced measurable economic, social and democratic benefits and could Government information be shared more efficiently?
“We are not able to answer those questions, but we should be asking them,” the paper says.
“The place to start is to treat Government information as a national resource that should be valued.”
It says Government Agencies and researchers around the world were wrestling with the need to develop a methodology for valuing public sector information.
The issues paper says that unlike other valuable resources, information was not diminished by use. Indeed, it could be enhanced when it was openly accessible and reused frequently.
It also says a key objective in Government information management must be that public sector information is made available to the community and is both discoverable and reusable.
“Agencies must be supported in gathering the necessary data, so that a methodology for evaluating that data can be applied.”
It proposes that Agencies complete a survey form tied to the eight Principles on Open Public Sector Information the Information Commissioner launched in May 2011.
“The principles reflect the information lifecycle in Government information management and, as the title conveys, work from a premise of open public sector information,” the paper says.
It says the survey should be administered by the Information Commissioner in May 2012, following public consultation on the ideas presented in this paper.
The issues paper Understanding the Value of Public Sector Information in Australia can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close on 31 January 2012.
22 November, 2011
Carbon Regulator to
The Clean Energy Regulator is to begin operations on 2 April 2012.
start work in April
The Regulator, the administrative body for the carbon pricing mechanism, will be responsible for the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System, the Renewable Energy Target and the Carbon Farming Initiative.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet said the timeframe adopted will allow administrative, financial and governance arrangements to be developed before the initial carbon price liability period begins on 1 July 2012.
Mr Combet said work was already underway to find a Chair and members of the Board for the Regulator.
“The Government will engage with them early to achieve a smooth transition for the establishment of the Regulator and the carbon price,” Mr Combet said.
He said that until the establishment of the Clean Energy Regulator, the regulatory functions for the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme, the Renewable Energy Target and the Carbon Farming Initiative would continue under existing arrangements.
Mr Combet said he was committed to working closely with companies that would be covered by the clean energy legislation.
“We want to ensure companies understand their obligations and have the information they need,” he said.
“The Government will continue consulting with liable entities as we develop the processes and procedures for the administration of the carbon price mechanism,” Mr Combet said.
22 November, 2011
The Minister for Local Government, Simon Crean, has ordered a national review of funding arrangements for Local Government infrastructure projects in a bid to find efficiencies and savings as well potential new sources of funds.
to make inroads
Speaking at the first meeting of the Local Government Ministers Forum in Canberra, Mr Crean said it was important to focus efforts on the areas of greatest need to ensure communities could access opportunities and make every dollar count.
“It’s essential that with a growing population, the demands on local services and the need to secure our future prosperity, we build on existing local, State and Federal programs and leverage all opportunities for funding,” Mr Crean said.
“To drive this, the Australian Government is commissioning Ernst and Young to conduct a review of regional infrastructure financing.”
He said the accounting company would work closely with State, Territory and Local Governments to identify additional sources of capital for future local infrastructure such as Public Private Partnerships and accessing superannuation capital.
“The terms of reference are to assess how effectively and efficiently local infrastructure needs are prioritised and subsequently funded by Local Government,” Mr Crean said.
“The Review will also identify the sources of capital for future local infrastructure needs and identify the opportunities, best practice models and principles for the regional prioritisation and financing of Local Government infrastructure.”
Mr Crean said the review would be led by an expert on infrastructure projects and procurement, Darrin Grimsey and would report in March 2012.
22 November, 2011
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is seeking community comment on possible changes to Australia’s telephone numbering system.
gets the numbers
Among the suggestions in the review of the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) is whether all Australian telephone numbers could include users’ social networking details.
The Department said the IPND was in need of a review due to developments in the telecommunication industry since the database it was first established in 1998.
It has released a discussion paper.
According to the Department, the paper recognises that the importance of traditional land-line numbers was beginning to wane in comparison to social media, email and instant messaging.
Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said the IPND was a database of all Australian telephone and subscriber information and was a critical part of delivering life saving services such as the Triple Zero emergency call
Senator Conroy said the IPND also supported a range of other important services such as the publication of public phone number directories.
He said the information in the IPND was also used to provide operator assistance; direct customer calls to the closest location (such as when ordering pizza or a taxi) and conduct health, electoral and Government research.
“Market and technological changes are placing pressure on the IPND to remain effective,” Senator Conroy said.
“In particular, the discussion paper is looking at how the IPND can adapt to a changing telecommunications market, including the impact of the National Broadband Network rollout.”
He said community input through the discussion paper would contribute to the formal review of the IPND, which was due to report to Government at the beginning of 2012.
The discussion paper Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) review can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until 16 December 2011.
22 November, 2011
The Royal Australian Air Force has received international recognition for its lifesaving role in the natural disasters that hit three States earlier this year.
for Air Force
The RAAF has received the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators Grand Master’s Australian Medal presented to its Air Mobility Control Centre (AMCC) in Brisbane recently.
The AMCC coordinated the Australian Defence Force’s air lift responses to the disasters.
Acting Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Neil Hart congratulated the AMCC saying the award was hard-earned recognition for one of the busiest Agencies in Air Force.
“Without their efforts, Defence would not have been able to respond as effectively to natural disasters this year, much less to our other standing commitments,” Air Vice-Marshal Hart said.
He said the AMCC played a critical role all year round, and was frequently confronted with complex problems of high national importance, to be solved at short notice.
“A wide number of Defence and external stakeholders rely on the missions that the AMCC coordinates, making its efforts during times of crisis more extraordinary,” Air Vice-Marshal Hart said.
The AMCC is located at RAAF Base Richmond, west of Sydney and had 35 staff responsible for coordinating all the Air Force’s air mobility aircraft.
The Grand Master’s Australian Medal is presented to an Australian individual or organisation which has made a meritorious contribution to any aviation activity.
22 November, 2011
A finance report on the profitability of the Australian university sector has revealed “strong” performances across the board with 18 universities returning annual surpluses of $50 million or more in 2010.
The report shows the operating surplus of Australia’s 39 universities increased to $1.95 billion in 2010, an increase of 8.1 per cent compared to the 2009 result.
Revenue for the sector increased from $19.9 billion in 2009 to $21.5 billion in 2010, with Australian Government funding, including loans to students, increasing 8.9 per cent to $12.4 billion.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, said the report showed universities were well placed for the start of the demand-driven funding system in 2012.
“Universities have shown strong financial growth since coming out of the global financial crisis, supported by major injections of Australian Government funding in response to the Bradley Review of Higher Education in 2009,” Senator Evans said.
“What is remarkable is that this financial growth has occurred despite the well-documented slowdown in international education which started to bite in 2009.”
He said universities had now returned record operating surpluses six times in the past seven years, recordingd nine surpluses totalling $9.2 billion since 2002.
“I expect that 2012 will be an even stronger year for universities,” Senator Evans said.
“Next year will also see the restoration of funding for student amenities and services, delivering substantial additional revenue to universities in 2012.”
He said universities also stood to gain considerably from new streamlined visa arrangements which would underpin sustainable growth in their international operations.
A full list of universities and their surpluses in 2010 can be found at this PS News link.
22 November, 2011
Fairest of honours for
Group Manager of Corporate and Strategic Development in the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman, Su Kearns, has won a prestigious national leadership award from the Australian Human Resources Institute.
Fair Work manager
Ms Kearns was named the Dave Ulrich HR Leader of the Year at the Institute’s 2011 National Awards which acknowledges outstanding human resources practitioners and their contribution to business outcomes.
Judge of the Award, Dave Ulrich, said it was decided after considering each finalist’s contribution on a range of criteria, including commitment, impact, innovation and credible activism.
“Su’s work seems to be specific and pragmatic and she has a sense of how to turn HR practices into business realities and to build an organisation that has both a heart and soul and also financial results,” Mr Ulrich said.
Ms Kearns was congratulated by the Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson who said she was an active and inspirational advocate within his office for the contribution that really good human resources management could make to its overall performance and wellbeing
“Su is also a role-model for flexible working arrangements, showing it’s possible
to successfully advance your career while maintaining a four-day working week,
including one of those days at home,” Mr Wilson said.
“This Award is well deserved recognition for Su’s enormous contribution to the
Fair Work Ombudsman and her field.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman was also a finalist in the Sir Ken Robinson Award for
Workforce Flexibility, which recognised organisations that provided flexible staff
Mr Wilson said the Fair Work Ombudsman supported a modern, flexible and high
performing workplace where individual, team and organisational achievements
“The ethic of service among our staff is very strong,” Mr Wilson said, “as is their highly held value of independently assisting both employers and employees.
22 November, 2011
Radio rules to
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has reviewed a range of reforms for the Australian commercial radio industry.
be fine tuned
Following the review, the Agency has proposed changes to the Commercial Radio Standards which would strengthen both the Advertising and Disclosure Program Standards, and replace its Compliance Standard.
According to ACMA, if the industry developed an appropriate code of practice for dealing with advertising, it would also consider revoking its Advertising Standard.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the Agency would broaden the existing Disclosure Standard by requiring disclosure of not only ‘presenter agreements’ (where the presenter had a commercial agreement with a sponsor) but also of some ‘licensee agreements’ (where the presenter had an interest in the licensee company which in turn had a commercial agreement with a sponsor).
Mr Chapman said ACMA would also require clarification that advertising must be distinguishable from other program material at the time of broadcast rather than later in a segment or program generally.
He said these and other reforms would provide better insights and clarity for listeners while materially lessening the administrative burden on licensees.
“The proposed reforms follow a comprehensive review incorporating extensive research, draft discussion papers and submissions from citizens, industry and public interest advocates,” Mr Chapman said.
He said the current standards were being redrafted, with the new Regulations due to come into effect on 1 March 2012.
He said public comment would be invited soon on the draft instruments.
22 November, 2011
Observance Day to
A new national day of observance has been announced to commemorate the bombing attacks on Darwin and other northern Australian towns during World War II.
Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack, when on 19 February 1942, the war reached Australia’s shores.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the Government intended to recommend to the Governor-General that 19 February be proclaimed as Bombing of Darwin Day to ensure the attacks across Australia’s north were appropriately remembered and commemorated every year.
She said that in two air raids, 242 fighters and bombers carried out a pattern bombing of Darwin Harbour and surrounding areas.
More than 240 people alone died during the first attacks on Darwin including civilians, Post Office workers and service personnel from Australia and the United States.
Ms Gillard said the anniversary could join Anzac Day and Remembrance Day as dates Australians paused to remember those who served and sacrificed their lives in defence of this country.
She said Darwin endured 64 bombing raids by the Japanese over 18 months destroying numerous civic and military buildings, boats and aircraft.
Many other towns across Australia’s north were also bombed including Broome, where as many as 100 people lost their lives, Wyndham, Katherine, Townsville and Cairns.
Ms Gillard said the proposal was supported by the Northern Territory Government and Federal Government MPs and Senators from the Territory.
She said the Commonwealth would also commit funding and work to a partnership with the Northern Territory Government to establish a Defence of Darwin Museum.
22 November, 2011
Industry and the public are being asked for their views on a review of Australia’s anti-foreign bribery laws.
to pay off
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor said Australia had a strong framework to combat all types of corruption, including the bribery of foreign officials but it was important to re-consider it in light of international developments.
Mr O’Connor said that under Australian law, individuals could be jailed for 10 years and fined $1.1 million for offering bribes or bribing foreign public officials in order to obtain business or an undue business advantage.
He said companies could also be liable for a fine of up to $11 million, or three times the value of benefits obtained, or 10 per cent of annual turnover.
However, he said individuals and companies could claim a defence if the money paid constituted a facilitation payment; if the value of the benefit was of a minor nature; if its sole or dominant purpose was to secure a routine Government action of a minor nature and if the conduct was recorded.
“The Government is reviewing whether small value payments to expedite or secure routine government action should continue to be allowed under Australian law,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The Government wants to hear the views of interested stakeholders about removing these facilitation payments as a defence to foreign bribery.”
He said the consultation paper also covered tax deductions for facilitation payments and other possible amendments to Australian law to strengthen Australia’s bribery laws.
Mr O’Connor said the consultation paper was available at this PS News link and comments addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to his Department would be accepted until 15 December 2011.
22 November, 2011
Visa sponsors win
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has invited large Australian businesses to apply for special accreditation and priority processing of their applications for Temporary Business (Long Stay) - Standard Business Sponsorship Visas, otherwise known as 457s.
The Department said the accreditation initiative recognised that many Australian businesses had a long history of good dealings with DIAC.
It said the accredited status would qualify them for priority processing for all subclass 457 nominations and visa applications.
Businesses applying would have to demonstrate several characteristics in addition to the standard sponsorship requirements at the time of application.
DIAC said however that if a business did not meet the characteristics for accredited status, it could still proceed with a standard business sponsorship that would be assessed in the usual way.
The Department set out the criteria the businesses who wanted to be approved for accredited status would have to meet.
It said they would have to be a Government Agency, a publicly-listed company, or a private company, with a minimum of $4 million turnover.
They would have to have been an active subclass 457 visa sponsor for the past three years and have no adverse information known about them by DIAC or the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relation.
They would also have had at least 30 primary subclass 457 visa holders granted in the previous 12 months; to have lodged a high level of decision-ready applications over the previous two years; have a non-approval rate of less than three per cent for the previous three years and have Australian workers comprising at least 75 per cent of their workforces.
22 November, 2011
The National Museum of Australia has opened a new exhibition dealing with Children’s Homes and Institutions in the 20th Century.
The Museum, located in Canberra, focuses on the half million or so children who lived in Australia under institutional care.
Director of the Museum, Andrew Sayers said Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions was part of the Museum’s role to tell all Australia’s important stories, including those that weighed heavily on the national conscience.
“The voices in this exhibition come through loud and clear; these are stories that should be heard by all Australians,” Mr Sayers said.
“For many of the children, for good or for bad, although they left the homes, the homes never left them.
He said their experiences remained part of who they were and affected them for the rest of their lives.
Mr Sayers said the stories told in the exhibition came from the children who lived in the homes and institutions and their voices were at the core of the exhibition.
“It covers personal stories and experiences at a time within living memory – from the 1920s to the 1980s,” he said.
Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions will be on display at the National Museum of Australia until 26 February, 2012. Admission is free.
18 November, 2011
Bill payments at
Departments and Agencies have been congratulated on surpassing a goal of paying invoices to small businesses within 30 days.
According to the Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry, agencies met the target 97.7 per cent of the time in 2010-11, well above the goal of 90 per cent.
Senator Sherry said it was the highest on-time payment level on record.
“Small businesses shouldn’t have to face long waiting periods for receiving payments when they deal with any level of government or other businesses,” Senator Sherry said.
“Steady cash flow is vital for small business survival and the Australian Government continues to set the standard for paying small business on time.”
He said the latest Dun & Bradstreet Trade Payments Analysis for the September 2011 quarter showed businesses took an average of 53.4 days to pay their accounts.
“If an organisation as vast as the Commonwealth can pay its bills on time, there is no reason why big business and other levels of government can’t do the same,” he.
“The Australian Government is supporting small business by setting an example and assisting in strengthening business cash flows.”
He said a key benefit of tax reform policies was the boost to cash flow for small businesses as a result of the increase of the instant tax write-off from $1,000 to $6,500.
“Businesses will be able to claim the write-off on as many new assets they wish to invest in,” he said.
Senator Sherry said that while the payment results set a new milestone for on-time payments, he expected agencies to continue to set the benchmark for paying businesses on time.
He said the summary report of the payments survey was available at this PS News link.
18 November, 2011
New Office to keep
A new Office for Learning and Teaching is to be established to promote excellence in Australia’s universities.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the establishment of the new Office was in response to the review into support for higher education learning and teaching led by UK higher education expert, Alison Johns.
Senator Evans said the review, which included extensive consultation with the higher education sector, recognised the significant contribution that grants and awards programs had made to improving quality in learning and teaching.
He accepted all the review’s 17 recommendations, which included the creation of a Strategic Advisory Committee to help set directions for the Office for Learning and Teaching; a focus on commissioned work to address strategic priorities in the Grants Program; and the introduction of academic secondments to the new Office to work on key priorities.
“The new Office will continue to strengthen learning and teaching in Australian higher education,” he said.
Senator Evans announced the membership of the Strategic Advisory Committee as Professor Margaret Gardner from RMIT University (Chair), Professor Jane den Hollander, Deakin University; Professor Deborah Terry, University of Queensland; Professor David Sadler, University of Tasmania; Professor Judyth Sachs, Macquarie University; Professor Tim Brailsford, Bond University: Professor Steve Larkin, Charles Darwin University; Jeannie Rea from the National Tertiary Education Union; and Jesse Marshall of the National Union of Students.
Senator Evans said Ms Johns report was available from this PS News link.
18 November, 2011
The Document Verification Service (DVS) has processed its milestone 200,000th document, making a major contribution to the fight against identity theft and fraud.
check in at milestone
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the DVS provided an electronic validation platform that allowed authorised Government Agencies to cross-check identity documents to identify their clients.
“The new national system strengthens the identity security environment for all Australians,” Mr McClelland said.
“It helps protect people’s identity and their privacy by allowing documents commonly used as evidence of identity to be checked electronically, quickly and directly by the document’s issuing authority.”
He said through the DVS it was possible to verify the validity of Australian-issued passports, visas, as well as birth, marriage and change-of-name certificates as well as driver licenses from the States and Territories.
He said the value of the system was able to be demonstrated due to the full commitment of State and Territory Governments now in place.
“A wide range of State, Territory and Commonwealth government agencies is making commitments to adopting the DVS as part of their client registration process, including revenue, superannuation, electoral, land title and service delivery agencies,” Mr McClelland said.
“This scheme also assists service agencies collecting evidence of identity to reduce the amount of paperwork and personal data needed to identify their clients as well as receive confirmation in a more secure manner reducing the types of privacy risks seen with manual and paper-based client enrolment processes.”
He said the national implementation of the DVS would help Australians keep their personal information secure as they conducted their everyday business with Government.
He said the DVS was a signature initiative of the Council of Australian Governments’ National Identity Security Strategy.
18 November, 2011
New phones engaged
Ministers for Police and Emergency Management from around Australia have agreed to new, standardised, phone numbers for emergency assistance.
for emergency calls
The new agreement will see 132 500 used as the national number to call for emergency help and 131 444 for non-emergency Police Assistance.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the decision would improve the way the emergency call service operated in all States and Territories.
“Having one nation-wide number to call when you need assistance in non-life threatening or non-time critical situations will make it easier for people to remember and use wherever they are in Australia,” Mr McClelland said.
He said Ministers had also agreed to improvements in the national Triple Zero service.
“Triple Zero plays a crucial role in managing disaster response and it will now be better equipped to deal with increased demand during disasters,” Mr McClelland said.
He said recorded voice announcements (RVAs) would be introduced directing people to State or Territory Emergency Services, or Police Assistance national numbers, if they didn’t require urgent assistance from police, fire or ambulance.
“As nearly half of all calls to Triple Zero are non-urgent or people seeking information, these measures will go a long way to help ease the burden on Triple Zero,” Mr McClelland said.
“Triple Zero should only be dialled in emergencies that are life-threatening or for time-critical situations requiring a rapid response from police, fire or ambulance services.”
He said the new agreements would work towards ensuring that people with genuine needs were able to access emergency assistance swiftly whilst people who required access to appropriate sources of information and non-emergency assistance were also accommodated.
He said Ministers had agreed to build on progress by looking at setting up an all hazards Emergency Information hotline.
“This telephone hotline would give people a single number to call about information for floods, bushfire and other serious events,” he said.
“All of these initiatives will ultimately see an improved service for the public during what can be very distressing times,” Mr McClelland said.
18 November, 2011
Flood definition rises
A new ‘common sense’ definition of a flood is to be offered to homeowners seeking to take out home and contents insurance following a review of the natural disaster insurance that covered the Queensland, NSW and Victorian floods of earlier this year.
from summer floods
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten and Attorney-General, Robert McClelland announced the move as part of their response to the 47 recommendations in the final Natural Disaster Insurance Review report.
“The devastating floods in Queensland, NSW and Victoria last summer showed how vital it is to get flood and other disaster insurance right,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Review’s recommendations are a good place to start in mitigating the risk of disasters and making sure everyone has the appropriate insurance arrangements to set them on the path towards recovery after disaster strikes.”
He said standard definition of ‘flood’ would be introduced to ensure there wasn’t a repeat of what happened after last summer’s floods, where people with insurance policies with one definition of ‘flood’ received compensation while people living next door, with a different policy and different definition, received nothing.
“Many families and individuals affected by the 2010 and 2011 floods were not even aware their insurance did not cover flood,” Mr Shorten said.
“All policies that offer flood insurance will be required to contain the standard definition and this will end the confusion.”
He said draft regulations about the standard definition would be released for consultation by the end of the year and the Government was also consulting on a proposal that all insurers must offer flood cover as part of home building and home contents insurance policies, while giving consumers the opportunity to ‘opt-out’ of that cover.
A consultation paper has been prepared.
“This proposal will increase the availability of flood insurance across Australia, while improving transparency and choice for consumers,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr McClelland said funds would to committed to establish a flood risk information portal, hosted by Geoscience Australia and providing a single access point to existing flood mapping data.
He said the Review highlighted the need to improve availability and consistency of flood risk information.
“The portal will be complemented by the development of national guidelines covering the collection, comparability and reporting of flood risk information,” Mr McClelland said.
“Once endorsed, these guidelines will contribute to improved data quality and consistency.”
The consultation paper and full list of recommendations from the review with the Government’s responses are available at this PS News link.
18 November, 2011
Watchdog dirty on
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published guidelines for the introduction of carbon pricing, threatening to come down hard on businesses falsely claiming an impact on the price of their goods and services.
carbon price cheats
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury said the ACCC’s Carbon Price Claims – Guide for Business provided information for businesses to refer to when they sought to make claims about the impact of the price on carbon on the price of their goods and services.
“Using these guidelines, the ACCC will be helping to educate businesses on their obligations to not make false or misleading statements about the impact of the carbon price on the prices they charge consumers,” Mr Bradbury said.
“While business costs change frequently and prices can increase at any time, the carbon price is expected to have only a modest impact on most prices.”
He said the guidelines made it clear that businesses could not make misleading representations about price increases which were attributed to the impact of the carbon price.
“The Government has provided $12.8 million for the ACCC to guide, educate and where necessary crackdown on businesses that seek to mislead their customers about the impact of putting a price on carbon pollution,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The ACCC will use its powers under the newly introduced Australian Consumer Law to investigate and prosecute any such business with the power to seek penalties of up to $1.1 million.”
He said that while the Government recognised that the vast majority of businesses would do the right thing, it had provided funding to help stop the small number of businesses that may try to take advantage of their customers with false and misleading claims about the impact of the carbon price.
The new ACCC guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 November, 2011
Energy report shows
A report from the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics’ (BREE) has revealed that energy producers in Australia have already begun moving towards renewable energy sources.
shift in power mix
According to the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, BREE’s annual publication, Major Electricity Generation Projects shows that the transformation of Australia’s energy mix had commenced.
Mr Ferguson said 36 per cent of committed new investment for electricity generation was for gas and 41 per cent for wind.
“BREE’s report showed that there are 19 major electricity generation projects at an advanced stage of development – either committed or under construction – expected to deliver 2,668MW and investment of $4.839 billion, and a further 167 projects at a less advanced stage of development,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Coal-fired power generation, which currently accounts for around 75 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation, will continue to provide much of Australia’s electricity requirements in the period ahead, with 17 per cent of the committed new investment in upgrades to existing black coal-fired power stations.”
He said while the new investment was welcome there was a need for more projects to move to the committed stage if Australia’s energy demands were to continue being met in the future.
“While these figures are encouraging, we still haven’t seen the actual investment on the ground in terms of the construction and operation of new plants in recent years that is going to be needed to meet demand,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The fall in the number of completed electricity projects over the 12 months to October 2011 highlights the need for investment certainty in the electricity generation sector.”
He said a reliable supply of electricity was fundamental to the nation’s standard of living and economic wellbeing, and Australia’s energy security depended on new investment in electricity generation.
The full report is at this PS News link.
18 November, 2011
New chemical laws are
New laws reforming the regulation of agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals promise to cut Government red tape and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of controls, according to the Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, and Deregulation, Senator Nick Sherry.
the right formula
Senator Ludwig said the reforms aimed to encourage the development of modern and safe chemicals by removing barriers for companies to invest in cutting edge technologies and improve access to chemical products for users.
“These measures provide for great outcomes all round,” Senator Ludwig said, “for manufactures and farmers, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the public and the environment.
“We are making these changes to ensure we have the most efficient and effective systems for the future while improving the protections for human health and the environment.” He said the reforms would result in a more straightforward assessment process that would be easier to understand and more cost effective to administer.
Senator Sherry said the new measures would allow the regulator, the APVMA, to better focus on protecting human health and the environment while providing better outcomes for business certainty.
He said the reforms would improve the operation of the APVMA.
“This will ensure that chemical companies deal with a professional regulator that has transparent and efficient processes in place to register and review chemicals, while end users such as farmers will have timely access to new chemicals,” Senator Sherry said.
The Ministers said draft legislation would be open for public comment until the end of February 2012.
They said further reforms were also in progress under a decision by the Council of Australian Governments to develop a single national framework for the regulation of agvet chemicals.
More information, including access to the draft laws, was available at this PS News link.
18 November, 2011
And in Other News...
National agreement on DVOs
State and Territory Police Ministers have agreed to a new nationally coordinated scheme for domestic and family violence orders (DVOs).
Under the agreement all States and Territories will automatically recognise each other’s DVOs, allowing people protected by a DVO to move across State and Territory borders and remain covered.
MoU for transnational crime
The United States and Australia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to cooperate in the fight against transnational crime.
Under the MoU entitled Enhancing Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Crime both countries will be able to crosscheck biometric data such as fingerprints associated with the prevention, detection or investigation of a crime punishable by more than one year’s imprisonment and request further information from the other country on any individual of interest.
Research grants announced
480 research grants and fellowships have been announced by the Australian Research Council.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the grants would help Australia grow its vital research workforce and keep Australia’s researchers here.
“This support for our researchers is crucial if we want to keep Australia ‘the clever country’, one which continues to come up with solutions to the big problems and issues facing Australians and the world every day,” Senator Carr said.
Victoria Cross hearings
Public hearings are to be held around Australia as part of the Victoria Cross Inquiry.
The hearings will allow the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal to receive evidence in relation to specific acts of gallantry or valour performed by 13 naval and military personnel.
Those interested in attending can register their interest by contacting the Tribunal on (02) 6266 3486 or by email to DHA.Tribunal@defence.gov.au
Previously this week...
Award for APSC
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) Graduate Development Team has won the award for best Graduate Development Program at the Australian Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) Graduate Recruitment Industry Awards
Australia Post and the Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy were finalists in the award for Best Print Marketing Strategy, while Australia Post was also a finalist in the Best Online Marketing Strategy.
Ashleigh Gosman from the Department of Finance and Deregulation was a finalist in the award for Graduate Recruiter of the Year and the Australian National University and University of Canberra were among the finalists in the award for Best Careers Service for Employers which was won by Monash University.
The list of winners can be accessed at this PS News link.
ANSTO invention a breakthrough
An Australian invention which monitors the behaviour of starches as they are cooked could revolutionise food manufacturing processes.
The neutron Rapid Visco Analyser or nRVA was developed by Scientists at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and will allow manufacturers to establish the best way to cook and process starches.
The ANSTO scientists worked with manufacturer Perten Instruments to develop the nRVA.
Guide for film producers
Screen Australia has released three marketing guides for feature film producers.
The guides cover working with a unit publicist, briefing a unit photographer and all the elements that make up a first-rate electronic press kit.
The guides can be downloaded from this PS News link.
Alcohol a growing problem
More Australians are seeking treatment for alcohol use according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The report Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2009-10: report on the National Minimum Data Set shows that alcohol was the principal drug of concern reported in almost half (48 per cent) of the 147,000 community-based drug treatment episodes provided across Australia in 2009–10.
The report also shows that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of all treatment episodes for alcohol were for males.
The AIHW report can be accessed at this PS News link.
Community workers win payrise
More than $2 billion is to be provided by the Commonwealth to deliver an historic pay rise to 150,000 of Australia’s lowest paid workers in the social and community services sector – the vast majority of them women.
The jobs receiving pay rises include working with people with disabilities, counselling families in crisis, running homeless shelters, and working with victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
The Government is to join the Australian Services Union in a submission to Fair Work Australia on equal pay.
Protection for Southern Ocean
Marine protected areas are to be established in the Southern Ocean as a significant advance in Antarctic protection.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) reached the historic agreement which will establish a representative system of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean.
The measure will guide countries, including Australia, on the preparation of individual marine protected areas proposed for adoption by the Commission in 2012 and beyond.
15 November, 2011
Housing audit lifts
An audit of a house-building and renovating program in the Northern Territory as a ‘Close the Gap’ initiative for Indigenous Australians has found that after a slow start, it is now exceeding targets.
roof on partnership
In his audit Implementation of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing in the NT, Auditor-General Ian McPhee found that in May 2010 just six new houses had been completed and 146 rebuilt or refurbished under the NPARIH but by June 2011, 324 new houses had gone up and 1,592 had been rebuilt or refurbished.
He said joint arrangements entered by the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth to progress the partnership introduced in August 2009 had been effective.
“The establishment of the joint management arrangements served to increase the program’s implementation capacity,” Mr McPhee said.
As had “embedding Australian Government officers into the Northern Territory Government’s program management structure, and establishing a joint management approach.”
He said however that the joint approach was “atypical in management arrangements across jurisdictions” and that implementing it had led to shortcomings in administrative requirements.
“Less attention has been given to the articulation of the operational role of the Australian Government, and to the development of robust program management systems and processes in the areas of master planning, risk management, budget control and financial reporting,” the Auditor-General said.
“Accordingly, further work is required to clarify the responsibilities and accountabilities of the Australian Government in this arrangement, and to fully develop key financial management and reporting processes to support the effective implementation of the program.”
He accepted that some work had commenced in those areas.
The Auditor-General also found that the costs of essential infrastructure services to support the housing initiative had been significantly higher than forecast and that the overflow was to be sourced from ‘out-year funding’.
“Drawing down funds from the NPARIH to pay for infrastructure in the early packages will reduce the funding available in the later years for other packages,” he said.
He also expressed doubts that occupancy targets for the improved housing would fit within the program’s forecasts.
Mr McPhee made three recommendations calling on the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to clarify its role in the management and delivery of the program and that the public reporting of progress be strengthened.
The Full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Andrew Huey, Michael DeMamiel, Nicki Amarathithada, Nikol Jepson and Dr Andrew Pope.
15 November, 2011
Workplace safety is
A national system for workplace occupational health and safety has moved another step closer with seven of the nine State and Territory Governments approving new Work Health and Safety Regulations and Codes of Practice.
job almost done
Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, said the Victorian and Western Australian Governments were the only two yet to sign up.
“The vast majority of State and Territory Governments have approved these laws which will deliver tangible economic benefits and ensure that workers enjoy the same decent safety standards no matter where they live and work,” Senator Evans said.
He said the seven jurisdictions had committed to meeting the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) deadline of 1 January 2012 and urged the remaining two to come on board.
“These reforms will make Victoria and Western Australia safer and businesses more productive.”
He said the reforms and timetable had the support of the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia as well as the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
“This is fundamental economic reform which has the potential to deliver up to $2 billion per annum in productivity improvements in addition to a national benefit of $250 million per annum by cutting red tape for businesses,” Senator Evans said.
He said that under the Seamless National Economy National Partnership, the Commonwealth would make $450 million available as reward payments to those States and Territories who met the agreed timetable for the implementation of occupational health and safety (OHS) reform.
He said Victoria was eligible to receive more than $111 million and had already factored $50 million into its budget forward estimates.
“Reward payments should certainly be a consideration for the States and Territories,” Senator Evans said.
He said that transitional arrangements for the model OHS laws had been developed by Safe Work Australia to assist businesses to move to the new harmonised arrangements.
15 November, 2011
Reproduction aid a
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has reported that the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) to help women conceive babies in Australia and New Zealand had increased by almost 50 per cent over the five years to 2009.
The report, Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand 2009, shows that there were 70,541 ART treatment cycles in Australia and New Zealand in 2009 – a 14 per cent increase on 2008 and a 48 per cent increase on 2005.
Spokesperson for the AIHW, Associate Professor Liz Sullivan said the numbers of ART treatment cycle births grew steadily each year, with recent estimates showing about three per cent of all women who gave birth in Australia received some form of ART treatment.
Professor Sullivan said that in the vast majority of ART cycles in 2009, women used their own fresh or frozen eggs, while the remainder used either donor eggs or other forms of ART, such as surrogacy.
She said of the 70,541 cycles in 2009, almost 23 per cent (15,975) resulted in a clinical pregnancy and about 17 per cent (12,127) resulted in the birth of at least one liveborn baby.
She said the rate of multiple birth deliveries for ART treatment dropped to 8.2 per cent in 2009 compared with 8.4 per cent in 2008 and 14.1 per cent in 2005.
“This reduction is due to the continuing uptake of single embryo transfer by clinicians and patients,” Professor Sullivan said.
“Importantly, this substantial decrease in the multiple delivery rate was achieved while clinical pregnancy rates remained stable at around 23 per cent.”
She said about eight per cent of all deliveries resulting from ART in 2009 resulted in the birth of twins and 0.2 per cent resulted in triplets.
The average age of women undergoing ART treatment using their own eggs was 35.8, with almost one in four being 40 or over.
President of the Fertility Society of Australia, Associate Professor Peter Illingworth said advancing women’s age was associated with a decrease in live delivery rates.
“Of those who used their own eggs, the live delivery rate was almost 27 per cent for cycles in women aged 30-40 years, but decreased to less than one per cent for cycles in women aged over 44.”
The full report from the AIHW can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 November, 2011
Minister onboard for
A draft marine bioregional plan and proposed marine reserves network for Australia’s Temperate East Marine Region have been released by the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke.
Mr Burke said the Temperate East Marine Region covered about 1.47 million square kilometres of temperate and subtropical ocean, and was made up of Commonwealth marine waters starting from the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to Bermagui in southern New South Wales, and also included the waters surrounding Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands.
He said the Temperate East Marine Region had many unique features and was home to a large number of protected species and others that occurred nowhere else in the world.
“It is home to the east coast population of the critically-endangered grey nurse shark and includes the southernmost extent of many reef building coral species,” Mr Burke said.
“Several significant seamount ridges run parallel to the coast in this region, including the extensive Tasmantid Seamount Chain.
“The Taupo Seamount rises roughly 4,700 metres from the ocean floor - twice as tall as Mount Kosciuszko.”
He said scientists had recently discovered that these features supported hundreds of species, including some previously unknown.
“We know that Australians need our oceans to be healthy if they are going to keep providing us with fish to eat, a place to fish, sustainable tourism opportunities and a place for families to enjoy,” Mr Burke said.
He said the marine reserves network being developed would have no impact in State waters as they were in Commonwealth waters which start 5.5 kilometres off the coast.
“Now there will be a further opportunity for communities to have their say in this important process and I encourage people to get involved,” Mr Burke said.
“We extended the 60-day consultation period to 90 days to ensure people have every opportunity to provide feedback.”
He said there were nine proposed marine reserves in the Temperate East Marine Region and they were broken down into six types of zones to secure conservation benefits and where possible minimise impact on industries and people who liked to fish.
He said officers from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities would visit coastal centres in the Temperate East Marine Region during the three-month public consultation period and public information sessions will also be held.
The consultation period closes on 21 February 2012.
Access to the draft plan and information on making a contribution is available on this PS News link.
15 November, 2011
Weather Bureau has
The Bureau of Meteorology has launched its 2012 Australian Weather Calendar.
date with calendar
Calendar project manager with the Bureau, Robert Kershaw, said the calendar showcased a carefully selected portfolio of images representing the diversity of Australia’s highly variable weather and climate.
Mr Kershaw said the calendar was published by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and was in its 28th year. It attracted leading photographers from around the world.
He said each month had detailed information on the calendar’s broader theme ‘A Wider Environmental Perspective’ which reflected the Bureau’s expanded role as a provider of environmental information across oceans, air, land, water and space.
“It’s always an extremely challenging and rewarding task to select the images which capture the breadth of our vast country and the Bureau’s expanded role in forecasting services to meet the needs of business and the community,” Mr Kershaw said.
“This year’s cover shows a broad swathe of green light at Australia’s Mawson base in Antarctica, a space weather phenomenon known as aurora australis.”
Mr Kershaw said other highlights included a double rainbow over Wombarra beach on Australia’s east coast, a dust storm in remote northwest Australia, an aerial view of flood plains in Queensland, and a storm approaching the coast in southeast Victoria.
“Of the more than 700 images received this year, often it comes down to some tough decisions in selecting those that are visually stunning, but also represent the broadest possible range of weather phenomena across our land, sea, rivers and skies,” Mr Kershaw said.
The calendar is available from the Bureau.
15 November, 2011
Defence capable to
The Department of Defence is to make public the details of its Industry Capability Plans in future for all its major acquisition projects.
in capability show
Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare said the Australian Industry Capability Plans (AICPs) set out the arrangements by which Defence companies could maximise opportunities for the involvement of Australian industry in major Defence projects.
“This is an important reform for Australia’s Defence Industry,” Mr Clare said.
“It will ensure the commitments made by major Defence companies to Australian industry are public and they are held accountable for them.”
He said a number of reforms had been introduced earlier this year to strengthen AICPs including reducing the threshold for mandatory AICPs from $50 million to $20 million; removing the ability of a company to arbitrarily reduce the level and type of work included in an AICP; and including a new clause in the Conditions of Tender allowing a company to be excluded from a tender if they had previously failed to meet their AICP obligations.
Mr Clare said other reforms included the addition of AICP performance in the Company Scorecard used by Defence to assess a company’s performance; and putting AICP performance in the Defence Materiel Organisation Project Manager’s Charter to make project teams accountable.
“This is the next step. It is a common-sense idea,” Mr Clare said.
He said the Australian Defence Industry Network and a lot of Australian small and medium enterprises had asked for it.
Mr Clare said AICPs were also required for major sustainment contracts and the details of AICPs for major sustainment contracts signed after 1 January 2012 would also be publicly released.
He said the detail published on each acquisition or sustainment AICP would depend on a range of factors including security classifications and commercials restrictions.
15 November, 2011
A report by the Council of Australian Government’s Reform Council (CRC) into the National Education Agreement has found that Australian students were improving their standards of literacy and numeracy.
passing the test
The CRC report found that the national goal of 90 per cent of students attaining Year 12 or equivalent was on track to be achieved.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the report showed there was still work to do in some areas.
“Literacy and numeracy are the essential foundation skills for a good education,” Mr Garrett said, “which is why we’re investing $540 million to fund more than 1,000 schools across the country under the Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership.
He said the report also showed the proportion of 20-24 year olds with a Year 12 or Certificate II qualification or equivalent nationally was 85.6 per cent in 2010, up from 84.5 per cent in 2009.
He said however that while progress was being made towards COAG’s Closing the Gap targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, more effort was needed.
“The report finds that Indigenous students are improving in their reading and writing, with interim targets being met for students in Years 3, 5 and 7,” Mr Garrett said.
“Unfortunately the results for maths aren’t as strong and more attention is needed in this area.”
He said the report also made clear that overall school attendance by Indigenous students, particularly high school students, was still at an unacceptably low level.
“We all share a responsibility to improve this,” the Minister said.
“While schools have to support and better accommodate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, it is crucial that parents ensure the importance of schooling is communicated very clearly to their children.”
Mr Garrett said that while Australian students recorded some of the best results in the OECD by performing above the OECD average in 2009 for literacy, maths and science, their scores in international testing in reading and maths declined between 2001 and 2009.
“Australian students deserve access to a quality education regardless of their family background or where they live,” Mr Garrett said.
The full report of the COAG reform Council can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 November, 2011
Attorney buys into
The Attorney-General has launched a series of ‘Know your customer’ training DVDs to help retailers in the pharmacy sector and the pool and spa industry identify suspicious purchase behaviour.
The Attorney-General’s Department has been working closely with industry to raise awareness of the security risks posed by some everyday household chemicals.
Acting Assistant Secretary of the National Security Policy Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, Natalie Pearse said the training DVDs would serve to inform industry that the household chemicals they sold could, and had, been used by terrorists internationally, such as in the London 2005 and Mumbai 2006 bombings, to make powerful home-made explosives that rivalled commercial explosives.
Ms Pearse said the training DVDs also illustrated some examples of suspicious purchase behaviour.
“Retailers in the pharmacy sector and pool and spa industry know their customers and know their products, so they are best placed to notice when something just isn’t right,” Ms Pearse said.
“That is why the Australian Government is working with the chemical industry, and State and Territory Governments to encourage vigilance across the sector.”
She said the training DVDs had been produced in consultation with industry, including the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of NSW, the Hardware Association and the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, as well as in partnership with intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
She said the training DVDs would be distributed to businesses with supporting materials, including a chemical security factsheet, a suspicious transaction reporting card and a cover letter from the Attorney-General which encourages pharmacies, and pool and spa retailers to help safeguard Australia from terrorism by making the training DVDs a part of staff training programs.
More information is available from this PS News link.
15 November, 2011
Historic Post Offices
The Commonwealth Heritage List has seen the addition of 43 historic post offices from around Australia.
stamp on heritage list
Minister for Sustainability, Tony Burke said historic post offices from Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia had been placed on the List.
Mr Burke said the heritage listing recognised the important role that post offices and the postal service had played in the development of towns and communities throughout Australia.
“The local post office has often been the heart of towns and communities, it reflects the history and stories of a region,” Mr Burke said.
“The local post office was often the most prominent and substantial building in town and they quickly became important meeting places.”
He said having a post office signalled a town and community’s prosperity and permanency.
As an example he said the building of the Albury Post Office in NSW in 1880 reflected the town’s strategic location on one of the main inland access routes between Melbourne and Sydney.
“By looking at the individual history of our local post office we can see the impact of national historic events for a local community,” Mr Burke said.
“Momentous occasions in Australia’s history such as the gold rush, Federation and advances in telecommunication influenced where, when and how a post office was built.”
He said the Mudgee Post office was established in 1861 as a result of a gold rush in the region and was regarded as one of the first major country post offices in New South Wales.
He said Camperdown Post Office which was constructed in 1863 was one of Victoria’s oldest post offices incorporating telegraph facilities.
Mr Burke said after Federation the Commonwealth took over the design and construction of post offices and the South Perth Post Office - built in 1901 - was likely to be one of the first post offices completed in Western Australia following Federation in January 1901.
“The inclusion of these places on the Commonwealth Heritage List will ensure that these important local places are recognised, celebrated and protected for future generations,” Mr Burke said.
15 November, 2011
UN documentary puts
A new documentary that explores the challenges of protecting civilians in times of crisis has been produced by the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
civilians in the picture
The Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade, AusAID, and the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York also contributed to the project.
The documentary entitled Mandated to Protect: Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations was designed as an educational tool to introduce peacekeepers, policy makers and other interested people to some of the complexities involved in protecting civilians.
Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gary Quinlan said the documentary was introduced by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and included interviews with UN mission planners, leaders, military commanders, police and civilian personnel.
Mr Quinlan said it was produced in consultation with notable academics and representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN humanitarian agencies, the African Union and non-government organisations.
He said it would form an important component of the UNITAR online training program and would be used as an educational tool for personnel deployed on United Nations peacekeeping missions.
It was also envisaged that the documentary would be used by Australian Government agencies in training courses to promote awareness about the protection of civilians and to strengthen relationships with international stakeholders.
More information is available from this PS News link.
15 November, 2011
New business app
The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has launched a new iPad application for business entitled MyBizShield.
applies to business
According to the Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry, the new MyBizShield app would give business owners access to emergency planning information anytime, anywhere.
“MyBizShield makes it easier for small business owners to protect their livelihood from any emergency, whether it’s a bushfire or burglary,” Senator Sherry said.
“Most small businesses are too busy with the demanding day-to-day task of running a small business to think about planning for unpredictable events.”
He said the interactive tool used prompts and handy tips to help small business owners create an emergency plan tailored to their business.
He said the application helped small businesses prepare for the worst, rather than hope for the best.
“MyBizShield will help small businesses before, during and after an emergency,” Senator Sherry said.
“It includes practical steps such as backing up data and maintaining accurate insurance claim records.”
Senator Sherry said the iPad app followed the success of business.gov.au’s iPhone app, which was launched in late 2010 and had been downloaded more than 5,000 times.
He said these tools were also important in keeping the Australian Government connected with small business.
“From web conferencing to running meetings ‘on the go’, small businesses are embracing new technologies to improve the way they operate,” Senator Sherry said.
To download the MyBizShield iPad app, visit this PS News link.
He said small business owners who did not own an iPad could create an emergency plan by downloading the template and guide at this PS News link.
11 November, 2011
Regional agency to
A new Agency has been established to promote and develop better access to information about Commonwealth regional health and ageing programs for people living in regional Australia.
push health needs
The Agency, Rural and Regional Health Australia, is to be run out of the Department of Health and Ageing and will give people in rural and regional a stronger voice on funding priorities for health and ageing services.
The Minister responsible, Nicola Roxon said that in the past, access to information about regional health and aged care programs had been difficult to obtain.
“This new approach will make all that easier,” Ms Roxon said.
“With more than six million people living in regional Australia, the availability and access to current and local information about Commonwealth health or ageing programs is very important.”
Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean said the new Agency would also oversee significant rural health policy development and act as a strong advocate within Government to ensure health programs catered to working Australians living in rural and regional areas.
“Rural and Regional Health Australia will play an important role in linking regional Australians to the Government’s record investments in regional health, such as telehealth, regional cancer centres and regional workforce incentives,” Mr Crean said.
Ms Roxon said resources had been reallocated within her Department to establish and maintain the Agency.
She said the website for the Agency was now online and would act as a portal for Commonwealth health and aged care information and provide clear links to existing program information.
The new website is available from PS News link.
11 November, 2011
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has developed a new online tool and publication on money management to assist Australians planning for their retirement.
put to work
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten said the new publication, Financial Decisions at Retirement, clearly explained the financial choices available to people at retirement and the pros and cons of each retirement income option.
Mr Shorten said along with the additional tool on ASIC’s MoneySmart.gov.au website, the guide was developed to complement professional financial advice.
“This new online tool and information guide will help to give people more direction about their retirement decisions,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Government wants to ensure that Australians have a better income when they retire.”
He said the compulsory superannuation guarantee was being increased from 9 per cent to 12 per cent as part of changes associated with the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.
“For someone aged 30 today earning around $70,000 that will mean an additional $108,000 in superannuation when they retire,” Mr Shorten said.
“This will give all working Australians a fairer income and a better standard of living in their retirement.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury said the new resources would help to improve awareness of the need to plan early for retirement.
“People often put off planning for their retirement, but the earlier you start, the better off you will be,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Estimating how much superannuation you will have in 20 or 30 years’ time gives you the chance to do things that will boost those savings now.”
He said MoneySmart was part of a commitment to improving the financial literacy of all Australians.
“Financial literacy plays a central role in encouraging people to think about the importance of planning for their retirement from a young age, to set goals for their long-term savings and to take an active interest in the investment decisions they make and that are made on their behalf,” he said.
Both the online tool and copies of Financial Decisions at Retirement are available at this PS News link.
11 November, 2011
Data centres to
A plan by the Department of Defence to centralise 280 data processing centres into 10 has received Government approval.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the Department could now begin consolidating its data centres under its Centralised Processing Project.
“This is a significant Defence project and a critical part of the wider Strategic Reform Program, transforming the way Defence uses information and communications technology,” Mr Snowdon said.
“It means the 280 locations in Australia currently used by Defence data centres will gradually be brought together into fewer than 10 modern facilities.”
He said the decision enabled real progress on the Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy set out in 2009.
“The project will lead to savings on support and equipment costs, enhancing delivery of information and communications technology services and reducing energy consumption,” he said.
“It is expected almost $250 million in savings will be made over the coming decade.”
Mr Snowdon said the Department would increase engagement with industry in order to develop the best solution and deliver the best value for money.
He said the aim was for Defence’s data centres to be more sustainable, resilient and survivable in the long term, delivering increased efficiency and savings.
“It will match other information and communications technology investments across Defence, reducing the cost of ‘business as usual’ and enabling faster delivery of information, whilst decreasing risks within the existing systems,” he said.
“The project is expected to have positive industry outcomes, and reduce energy consumption in Defence.”
11 November, 2011
A new, dedicated security hotline has been launched to allow industry and members of the public to report suspicious activities to the Customs and Border Protection Service.
the safe option
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the Customs Watch hotline was a valuable next step in Customs and Border Protection’s capabilities for protecting Australia’s borders.
“The Customs Watch number - 1800 06 1800 - is answered by experienced Customs and Border Protection officers 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mr O’Connor said.
“No matter what time it is, your information could be the key to the seizure of drugs, weapons or other prohibited imports.”
He said callers did not have to leave their name, as Customs could take information anonymously.
He said the hotline was an amalgamation of two existing community participation programs, Frontline and Hotline, and the integration of the two programs would better support Customs’ intelligence-led, risk-based intervention approach to detecting and preventing threats at the border.
“Customs and Border Protection officers do a fantastic job at our ports, airports, mail centres and patrolling Australia’s vast coastline,” Mr O’Connor said.
“But they can’t be everywhere.
“By building strong partnerships with industry and the community, Customs and Border Protection is better equipped to deter criminal behaviour, identify vulnerabilities at the border and prevent them from hurting Australia’s national interests.”
He said information from industry and the public had led to the detection of hundreds of kilograms of illicit drugs and precursors, illegal weapons and other prohibited items that endangered community safety.
“Already this financial year we have seized in excess of a tonne of illicit drugs and precursors,” he said.
“Now with one direct number to call we are making it easier for industry and members of the public to provide information about suspicious activities to Customs and Border Protection.”
11 November, 2011
Book report makes
A report into the Australian book industry that makes 21 recommendations to deal with the fast-changing commercial landscape has been presented to the Government.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the Government would give detailed consideration to the recommendations made in the report by the Book Industry Strategy Group.
Senator Carr said the Group, chaired by former Federal Minister Barry Jones, had consulted widely with the book industry, librarians, educational institutions and consumers in the preparation of its report.
He said the Government was committed to addressing the ongoing challenges faced by the book industry, including those arising from emerging digital technologies.
“As an immediate action I have established a Printing and Publishing Network as part of Enterprise Connect within my Department,” Senator Carr said.
“Printing and publishing are distinct industries, but the close relationship between the two is reflected in overlapping issues and challenges, and this requires a shift in business models for both.”
He said a new network, Enterprise Connect, would help support the sharing of sector intelligence, liaise with industry representatives and help individual businesses to survive and thrive.
He said the total value of books sold in Australia in 2010 was estimated at about $2.3 billion, from both bricks-and-mortar and online bookshops.
“The industry directly employs more than 25,000 people - many in regional areas - and indirectly contributes to the livelihood of thousands more,” he said.
“A strong book industry is essential to ensuring the prosperity of Australian culture and creativity.”
Senator Carr said it was clear that advances in new digital technology were having a major impact on the industry in Australia and around the world, and the industry needed to adapt if it was to remain competitive.
“Central to that adaptation will be deeper and enduring collaboration between the various book industry sectors,” he said.
“The Government will respond to the Group’s recommendations over coming months.”
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
* PS News is doing what it can to support the local book industry by introducing an ordering service to go with its popular book review section.
PS News book reviews can be accessed and the reviewed books ordered at this PS News link.
11 November, 2011
Australia’s first National Threat Assessment (NTA) on money laundering which outlines the threats to business and government from transnational crime has been published by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor said Money Laundering in Australia 2011 presented the nation’s first consolidated picture of money laundering.
Mr O’Connor said the Assessment included the indicators and activities involved in money laundering; the sectors and professions that were vulnerable; a range of new and emerging threats; and the general framework within which business and government operated to identify and prevent the crime.
“Organised crime relies on money laundering to legitimise or hide the proceeds of crime,” Mr O’Connor said.
“It is the one activity which is common to virtually all forms of organised crime.”
He said money laundering was not only a major threat to the nation’s financial systems but also one of law enforcement’s best opportunities to detect and disrupt organised crime.
“This public report will assist businesses to keep up to date with emerging money laundering threats and assist them to develop appropriate preventative strategies,” Mr O’Connor said.
“This report will also increase wider public awareness of these threats so that the community can understand why anti-money laundering measures are in place.”
He said a regular assessment of money laundering threats was an important contributor to the continued strengthening of Australia’s anti-money laundering regime against the most serious and emerging threats.
“While criminals use increasingly sophisticated methods to launder money, wider public awareness of regulatory measures is vital for maintaining a robust anti-money laundering regime,” he said.
The assessment Money Laundering in Australia 2011 could be accessed at this PS News link.
11 November, 2011
A forum hosted by the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council in Canberra this week saw staff scholarships presented to eight students and elder awards presented to five others as the Council celebrated indigenous participation in higher education.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the scholarships were part of a commitment to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in higher education.
Recipients of the Indigenous Staff Scholarships were:
Ann-Maree Hammond from the University of Southern Queensland;
Luke Halvorsen from the Wollotuka Institute, University of Newcastle;
Catherine Taylor and Wayne Applebee from the University of Canberra;
James Charles and Elizabeth Cameron from the University of Newcastle;
Cheree Dean from Charles Sturt University; and
Jonelle Green from La Trobe University.
Senator Evans said the Elders awards recognised Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Elders who had made an outstanding contribution to the higher education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
He said the 2011 Elders awards were presented to:
Aunty Ruth Hegarty from the Australian Catholic University;
Aunty Rosmund Miriam Graham from Griffith University;
Aunty Joan Vickery from Monash University and the University of Melbourne; and
Rose Guywanga and Reverend Dr Dinyini Gondarra from Charles Darwin University.
Waymamba Gaykamangu, a retired lecturer from Charles Darwin University, was presented with the 2010 Elders award.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the Awards also coincided with the forum of Indigenous PhD holders.
Senator Carr said the forum explored student experiences in gaining doctorates, research training and research careers.
“Participants are sharing ideas on how to improve university access and participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Senator Carr said.
“The Forum provides an exciting opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander PhD holders, a unique group who have experienced the entire Higher Education system from start to finish, to share their experiences.”
He said the discussions would help inform the Australian Government’s Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People being chaired by Professor Larissa Behrendt and due to report in early 2012.
11 November, 2011
The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service has celebrated 70 years of finding employment for people with a disability, injury or health condition.
Now known as CRS Australia, the Service was congratulated on its many years of dedicated community work by the Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek.
“Initially established during World War II to assist returning veterans, CRS Australia has throughout its history focused on helping people achieve independence through employment,” Ms Plibersek said.
“CRS Australia is driven by a belief that a job is more than just employment.
“A job can provide hope, belonging, confidence and independence; and lives can be changed by getting a person facing personal barriers into employment.”
She said CRS Australia had an established presence in over 180 communities across the country and its disability employment services had continued to adapt and respond to the needs of stakeholders and changes in social policies and labour markets.
“In the early days, ‘live in’ rehabilitation centres treated clients with a range of disability and health conditions, such as tuberculosis and polio,” Ms Plibersek said.
“By the mid-1980s, rehabilitation services moved away from centres to focus on community-based programs, which increased access for women, Indigenous Australians and people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.”
She said the core work carried out by CRS Australia today was helping people overcome barriers to finding employment and helping them keep meaningful and satisfying jobs.
“CRS Australia also actively supports employers to manage worker injuries and keep workplaces safe,” she said.
11 November, 2011
Energy agency created
The new Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has been established as part of the Clean Energy Future package that was passed by Parliament this week which included a price on carbon.
ARENA is designed to bring together a number of important bodies, such as the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy and the Australian Solar Institute, into a single agency.
The new Agency is to start work on 1 July 2012 and will be made up of an independent Board and Chief executive with staff from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism supporting their work.
G20 coming to Australia
Australia is to host the G20 meeting in 2014.
According to Prime minister, Julia Gillard, the G20 will be the most significant gathering of international leaders Australia has ever hosted.
Ms Gillard said it was the world’s pre-eminent forum for global economic cooperation and decision-making and contained the world’s largest economies, accounting for around 85 per cent of global GDP, and all of Australia’s major trading and investment partners.
A decision on which city will host the G20 will be made in due course.
30 honoured for women’s policies
Thirty Australian businesses have been recognised in the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency’s Business Achievement Awards.
The awards acknowledge workplaces committed to improving equal opportunity for women in business.
The former Government agency, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL Limited) was among those recognized when it won the Minister’s Award for “its commitment to creating and sustaining a diverse and flexible work-based childcare service for its employees”.
Tender process terminated
A tender process to provide the Australia Television service to overseas countries has been terminated on the advice of the Australian Government Solicitor.
The Solicitor’s advice was sought following significant leaks of confidential information to the media which saw the tender process compromised to such a degree that a fair and equitable outcome was in doubt.
In the interim, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has had its service contract extended to August 2012.
Gallipoli volunteers called
Volunteers have been invited to be part of Anzac Day 2012 in Gallipoli.
Those interested have a week to nominate for the Conservation Volunteers (CV) program with applications closing on 15 November 2011.
The program runs from 18-29 April, with up to 30 places available.
Volunteers must be over 18 years of age and more information is available from 1800 032 501 or the website PS News link.
Health insurance simplified
Australians covered by private health insurance are to find it easier to make informed choices about their level of cover with new tools now available on the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman’s website.
Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon said better access to private health insurance information and a strongly performing sector was a good outcome for consumers.
Ms Roxon said the new online tutorials would make it easier for consumers to navigate their way through the 20,000 private health insurance products available in Australia and make a choice that best suited their needs.
The new tools can be accessed at PS News link
TV recycling a step closer
A national recycling scheme for televisions and computers is a step closer following the making of Regulations under the new Product Stewardship Act.
The regulations will support the industry-led scheme which aims to boost the recycling rate for televisions and computers to 80 per cent by 2020-21.
The commencement of the regulations means the television and computer industry can now apply for approval of their recycling arrangements and get credit for them.
The industry’s first recycling target is 30 per cent.
RAAF to redevelop Point Cook
A proposal to significantly redevelop RAAF Base Williams at Point Cook in Victoria has been announced.
The base is the oldest continually operated military flying base in the world and the redevelopment proposal involves replacing obsolete engineering infrastructure and making the museum and heritage areas more accessible to the public.
A public consultation process will be conducted during the design development stage and construction is expected to commence by the end of 2014.
Privacy deadline extended
The deadline for submissions on a proposed statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy has been extended.
The extension of 10 working days was granted following requests for more time from a number of interested organisations.
Submissions were due to close last Friday (4 November) but are now due by Friday 18 November.
The Paper and details about how to make a submission are available at PS News link
PS Books online
A new book-buying service has been launched by PS News this week.
Faced with growing numbers of enquiries for orders of books appearing in its Book Review pages, PS News has introduced the new scheme as a convenient online service for readers.
Almost every book subject to review will be available for purchase under a cooperative arrangement with the Australian Institute of Management’s Management Books service.
The PS News book reviews can be accessed at this PS News link.
Consumer law eased
The Australian Consumer Law is to be amended to allow a supplier under an unsolicited consumer agreement to deliver goods with a price of up to $500 to a consumer as soon as an agreement is entered into.
The decision, entitles consumers to a 10-day cooling off period during which neither goods nor services can be supplied or payment made.
The amendment means that consumers can immediately take receipt of goods they have consented to buy but still has cooling off period to pay for them.
If the consumer terminates the agreement during the cooling off period, suppliers have an obligation to collect the goods within 30 days or the goods become the consumer’s property.
Aboriginal voice for health
The new national voice for the health interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been welcomed by the Close the Gap Campaign.
The National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF) will be the representative voice to Governments on Indigenous health.
It is part of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
Leadership program open
A leadership program to help people with disability become leaders in business, the community and Government is open for applications.
The Leaders for Tomorrow program is to be delivered by TAFE NSW Hunter Institute, leading a consortium with E-QUAL (Enhancing Quality).
More information can be obtained from this PS News link.
Green development OK
The Commonwealth has endorsed the ACT Government’s proposed new ‘s residential development in the Molonglo Valley following the ACT’s agreement to a Plan for the Protection of Matters of National Environmental Significance.
The Plan minimises the footprint from development on the natural environment and gives the green light to the development which would involve the construction of housing for up to 55,000 people.
8 November, 2011
Minister defends PS so
The Special Minister for State for the Public Service, Gary Gray, has gone into bat for the Australian Public Service (APS) against irresponsible and inaccurate reporting in Sydney’s usually responsible Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
media gets message
Following what Mr Gray described as ‘weeks’ of irresponsible reporting by the newspaper, he has accused it of holding up “unsubstantiated allegations” of corruption in the APS and of seeking tougher watchdogs.
Mr Gray said that ethical behaviour was a cornerstone of any quality public administration and the Sydney Morning Herald had made several irresponsible claims about the integrity of the Public Service and questioned the ethical behaviour of its employees.
“It has held up unsubstantiated allegations as examples of endemic corruption; suggested that the Public Service has neither capacity nor mechanism to deal with corruption, and seeks the establishment of a further oversight body,” Mr Gray said.
He said all of this had made for disquieting reading when in truth, existing detection and response mechanisms were demonstrably working.
“Indeed, the claims are based in issues identified by the Agencies’ own internal audit arrangements.”
He said the most common type of misconduct in the APS was improper use of the internet or email (313 employees investigated in finalised cases in 2009-10) not fraud or theft.
He said of around 151,000 ongoing APS employees, only 33 were determined to have committed fraud and eight to have committed theft.
“The APS Code of Conduct and APS Values set high and enforceable standards for employee behaviour,” Mr Gray said
“The evidence shows that APS employees are held to account against these standards.”
He said new Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines were issued in March this year making clear that Agencies must refer all allegations of serious or complex fraud involving Commonwealth interests to the Australian Federal Police.
“There is a range of independent expert bodies to oversee and support Agencies in their approach,” Mr Gray said.
He said these included the Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Public Service Commissioner and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.
“The Sydney Morning Herald cannot argue that an ‘unknown number of corruption cases lie undiscovered inside the vast Commonwealth bureaucracy’ as the basis for dumping the existing world-class systems used to detect, investigate and report on misconduct,” Mr Gray said.
The full text of Mr Gray’s comments can be found in this week’s PS Features section at this PS News link.
8 November, 2011
Water account takes
Australia’s first National Water Account, produced by the Bureau of Meteorology, has been described as a landmark achievement in the accurate reporting on one of the nation’s most important natural resources.
water into account
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said the National Water Account brought together more than 30 Water Agencies and reporting partners to provide the most comprehensive snapshot of water information available in Australia.
“It is recognised around the world that water plays a key role in prosperity and well being,” Senator Farrell said.
“The National Water Account gives Australia the ability to accurately monitor, assess, and forecast the availability, quality and use of water resources.”
He said the National Water Account had been designed to be easily accessible and publicly available online and opened up a wealth of opportunities for enhanced interactivity and real-time information.
Acting Director of Meteorology at the Bureau of Meteorology, Rob Vertessy said the Account aimed to build confidence in water management across Australia through transparent, independent and rigorous annual reporting of the amount of water available, traded, accessed and used for various purposes, through scientific data and analysis.
Dr Vertessy said the National Water Account captured a nationally comparable set of water accounting reports for eight key water management regions across the country (Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Murray-Darling Basin, Ord, Perth, South East Queensland, Sydney) and could be accessed at this PS News link.
In a related development, the CSIRO has launched a new book designed to inform business, Government and the community about the importance of water.
Water: Science and Solutions for Australia provides the latest information on the status of Australia’s water resources, their future prospects and the potential for using water more effectively to meet the growing demands of cities, agriculture, heavy industries and the environment.
Chief Executive of CSIRO, Megan Clark said the 178-page publication drew upon the scientific literature to provide a broader audience with a clear picture of the water challenges and prospects facing Australia.
8 November, 2011
Audit lifts roof
An audit of the Housing Affordability Fund managed by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) has found “serious shortcomings” in the administration of the program.
on housing fund
In his audit report Implementation and Management of the Housing Affordability Fund, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said FaHCSIA did not apply assessment and selection arrangements for proposals under the Fund consistently; failed to approve some proposals according to merit; approved others without merit and did not advise its Minister adequately to allow informed decisions.
“These shortcomings have detracted from the performance of the program by not treating all applicants equitably and by providing the responsible Minister with advice that, at times, was incomplete,” Mr McPhee said
He said that the audit found despite positive early signs of assistance to home buyers and their associated communities, there were administrative failings in the program.
“In particular, the assessment and selection arrangements were not applied consistently,” Mr McPhee said.
“This meant that some proposals that were approved were not selected on a merit basis in accordance with the Government’s policy and the program’s guidelines; conversely, a number of meritorious proposals missed out on being funded.”
He said the Department did not advise the then Minister for Housing about a range of considerations to inform her decision-making properly in relation to funding projects under the program.
“As a result, several formulaic errors ... affected the accuracy of the calculated scores. In turn, these errors affected the accuracy and completeness of the shortlist of proposals.”
Mr McPhee said that as a consequence, two applications, worth $1.8 million, were incorrectly recommended for advancement to the second funding stage and a further seven applications, worth $13.6 million, should have been shortlisted.
“FaHCSIA had provided advice to the then Minister that was inconsistent with the stated intention of the Housing Affordability Fund (HAF),” he said.
“Specifically, FaHCSIA decided to seek the then Minister’s approval to fund three public housing redevelopment projects, worth $24.4 million, outside of the arrangements established for the HAF’s first funding round.”
He said that in addition, the funding agreements did not always record the level of savings required to be delivered and the number of affected dwellings.
“Funding agreements for some projects did not make clear the level of savings to be passed on to home buyers.”
The Auditor-General’s report found that arrangements for monitoring progress of approved projects against the performance were generally sound.
Mr McPhee said the audit highlighted the importance of Agencies assessing the quality of work done on their behalf by third parties and providing comprehensive advice to a grant program’s decision-maker.
The audit made three recommendations including that future grants funding recommendations include an overview of the approach used to assess the merits of projects that performance management arrangements for the HAF be strengthened.
The full text of the report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Bill Bonney, Graham Smith, Amin Bangun, Matt Tolley and Nathan Williamson.
8 November, 2011
Aboriginal plan to
A new national health plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is to be established as another step on the way to closing the gap between health outcomes in the ATSI community and the broader population.
‘close the gap’
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan will give effect to the Government’s undertaking to close the gap in life expectancy and infant mortality.
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the plan was an important step in providing a road map for action across Australia.
The plan would map the way forward for Government, health care and service providers, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, in ensuring positive health outcomes.
“By working together, we can further reduce barriers, waste and duplication, and further enhance the services provided by Commonwealth and State and Territory health services,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council, chaired by Ian Anderson, would provide strategic policy advice on the plan.
An advisory group co-chaired by the Department of Health and Ageing and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples would inform the plan’s development and content.
Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon said the cooperative approach to the plan would help ensure its objectives were clear and address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“It is important this plan is thorough and inclusive, covering not only health but also factors which impact on health, such as education, housing, employment and early childhood development,” Mr Snowdon said.
8 November, 2011
Fair workload for
A survey of calls to the Fair Work Infoline has shown that wages and conditions were the main reason people called for assistance in the past financial year.
Fair Work infoline
The Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, said a total of 37 per cent of the 825,219 callers raised questions about wages and a further 21 per cent sought information on conditions of employment.
Mr Wilson said 11 per cent of inquiries related to termination of employment and nine per cent were about leave entitlements.
He said the accommodation and hospitality industry generated the most calls (five per cent), followed by retail and hair and beauty, accounting for four per cent each.
“Call volumes averaged 68,768 a month in 2010-11, peaking at 113,573 in July 2010, coinciding with the start of Modern Award transitional arrangements and an increase in the minimum wage,” Mr Wilson said.
He said 62 per cent of callers identified themselves as employees and 37 per cent indicated they were employers.
He said the State and Territory breakdown for calls was NSW 24 per cent, Victoria 22 per cent, Queensland 17 per cent, Western Australia six per cent, South Australia five per cent, Tasmania two per cent, the ACT and Northern Territory one per cent each.
Calls from mobiles where the origin could not be ascertained totalled 22 per cent.
8 November, 2011
Culture on parade
A report of the review into the treatment of women at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) has been released.
in ADFA report
Prepared by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, the report details the findings and recommendations of an examination of the current culture at ADFA and its impact on the treatment of women.
Ms Broderick said the review had found that generally, the treatment of women at ADFA had improved significantly.
“We heard that most women have a positive experience at ADFA, with many of the female midshipmen and cadets saying that ADFA is a good place to work, study and live,” Ms Broderick said.
“However, the review also found widespread low-level sexual harassment, inadequate residential supervision, particularly of first-year midshipmen and cadets, and cumbersome complaints processes.”
She said recommendations ranged from high level proposals about the Defence Force’s commitment to ADFA, to targeted proposals that included better education around gender relations and healthy relationships; more streamlined complaints handling; and better recruitment practices for the selection of staff with skills in supervising women and young people.
She said recommendations relating to greater residential supervision and the establishment of a 24-hour toll-free advice and referral line for cadets, staff and families were also made.
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith welcomed Ms Broderick’s report.
“I have asked the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force to determine the best way forward in formally adopting and implementing the Review recommendations,” Mr Smith said.
He said implementation of the review’s recommendations would be considered alongside those of other reviews being undertaken including a review of the use of alcohol in the ADF; a review of the use of social media in Defence; a review of personal conduct of Australian Defence Force personnel; a review of the management of incidents and complaints and a review of Defence Australian Public Service women’s leadership pathways.
“The issues canvassed in these various reviews are complex and a comprehensive response is required,” Mr Smith said.
Ms Broderick report can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 November, 2011
Treasures added to
The National Library of Australia has added more than 100,000 digital records from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum into its online discovery service ‘Trove’.
Director-General of the Library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich said the integration was an illustration of how two of the country’s leading cultural institutions could work together to ensure all Australians had free online access to treasures from the national collections.
“Trove offers a single place where users can discover the rich wealth of information that is held in the collections of more than 1,000 Australian libraries, galleries, museums, archives and universities,” Ms Schwirtlich said.
“We are delighted that the Powerhouse’s museum collection of more than 100,000 items has been added to this vast resource that people can use anywhere in Australia and throughout the world.”
Director of the Powerhouse Museum, Dawn Casey said the museum was honoured to have items from its collection integrated into Trove.
“This greatly enhances access for academic research and for family historians,” Dr Casey said.
“Having made the Powerhouse collection available in detail on our own website since 2006, we are excited that the National Library of Australia chose to use the Powerhouse Museum’s open public application programming interface to build a technical bridge to our collection records.”
Ms Schwirtlich said Trove was launched last year by the National Library as a free online search service, about Australia and Australians that allowed users to find everything from books to maps to journal articles, along with millions of digitised newspaper articles, at the press of a button.
It can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 November, 2011
Proposed guidelines for the introduction of Australia’s new adult category for computer games have been released.
all in the games
The new guidelines amend the draft guidelines, which were released for consultation in May.
According to the Minister for Justice, Brendan O’Connor, Law Ministers from all jurisdictions except NSW gave in-principle support to the amended Guidelines in July and agreed to take them to their Cabinets for approval.
In August, NSW agreed in-principle to the introduction of an R18+ classification.
Mr O’Connor said that for the first time in the history of computer game classification in Australia, there was unanimous, in-principle support for the introduction of an R18+ category for computer games from all Law Ministers.
“Introducing the new classification will give parents better advice about what games are suitable for their children, while allowing adults to view material designed for adults,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the amendments reflected concerns expressed by the public, stakeholders and Governments about the draft guidelines with bans on violence, sexual violence and drug use strengthened at all levels.
“Games with high impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted in the R 18+ category,” He said.
“And I want to make it clear that sexually explicit games, or games with very frequent and unduly repetitive strong and realistic violence, will not be classified under the MA15+ category.”
Mr O’Connor said that a national telephone survey of more than 2,200 people found that 80 per cent of Australians supported the introduction of an R18+ category for computer games.
The proposed Guidelines can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 November, 2011
Defence fires up new
A new 10-year partnership agreement has been signed between the Australian National University and the Australian Command and Staff College (ACSC) to provide educational courses and programs to mid-career Defence Force officers to enhance their military education.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the ACSC had delivered a Command and Staff Course for mid-career military officers and Australian Public Servants for the past 11 years.
“The Command and Staff Course focuses on the operational and strategic interface, preparing graduates for operational command roles or challenging staff officer roles,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Whilst providing an excellent education package, the part-time nature of such university involvement has not allowed course members to gain university postgraduate qualifications, without putting in extra work outside the course curriculum.”
He said the new partnership arrangement would take the course from part time university involvement to a learning model based on the ANU’s Masters of Military Studies program.
“The ANU will fully integrate with course military, civilian teaching and support staff to provide world’s best practice mid-career military and university education.”
He said four academics and two administrative staff from the ANU would be permanently on campus at the Australian Command and Staff College, ensuring those undertaking the course received support throughout the year.
Mr Snowdon said topics for the new course included strategy, operational art, expeditionary operations, complex operations, joint operations, Australian strategic policy, Defence organisation and military capability.
More information about the course was available at the ACSC website this PS News link.
8 November, 2011
Reaction sought to
Public comment has been invited into a review of the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).
The review is investigating how regulation of industrial chemicals can be improved to achieve better public and environmental health outcomes, and enhance the competitiveness of the Australian chemical industry.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King said the role of NICNAS was to provide scientific assessment of the risks to public health, occupational health and safety and the environment from industrial chemicals.
“It is important that we get the regulation of these chemicals right so that the Australian community, as well as our environment, is safeguarded from the potential risks associated with these substances,” Ms King said.
“The review of NICNAS comes in response to calls from both industry and community sectors to improve the regulation of industrial chemicals in Australia.”
Minister Assisting on Deregulation, Senator Nick Sherry said public submissions would contribute to the development of reform options to be included in a consultation paper to be published early next year.
“According to the most recent data from 2007-08, the chemicals industry represented $11.8 billion of value added and accounted for around 11 per cent of the manufacturing sector,” Senator Sherry said.
He said submissions should be provided to the Department of Health and Ageing by 14 December.
They could be sent via email to NICNAS.email@example.com
8 November, 2011
Lessons learned in
An audit of the National Partnership on Early Childhood Education (NP ECE) managed for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) found it has been effective.
In his audit report Administration of the National Partnership on Early Childhood Education, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found the Department had planned the strategy soundly, managed it well and laid a good foundation for future phases of the program.
“Overall, DEEWR’s administration of the initial phases of the NP ECE has been effective,” Mr McPhee said.
“Initial planning was generally sound.”
He said however that the preparation of an Indigenous universal access strategy was slower than desirable but despite this, continuing administration had been well managed.
“This provides a good foundation for DEEWR to further develop its administrative approach as the NP ECE moves into the main expenditure and delivery phase in the next two years,” he said.
The audit recommended that DEEWR strengthen assessment of the delivery risks to help inform advice to the Minister on the achievement of anticipated outcomes or possible policy responses to any emerging issues and related communications between the Minister and State and Territory counterparts.
A further recommendation urged DEEWR to provide access to timely, consolidated and clearly?presented NP ECE performance information at national, State and Territory levels, in order to support improved information to stakeholders and accountability.
The full text of the report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Richard Lansdowne, Shona Virdi, Rowena Hayman and Stuart Turnbull.
8 November, 2011
Australia Post has announced the release of its 2011 Remembrance Day commemorative stamps.
Managing Director and Chief Executive of Australia Post, Ahmed Fahour said this year’s issue had a very significant time and date sequence.
“One minute’s silence will be observed at 11am on 11.11.11 – a sequence which only occurs every 100 years,” Mr Fahour said.
“It is fitting for Australia Post to commemorate Remembrance Day in Australia given the observance of silence was originally proposed by Melbourne journalist and World War I veteran, Edward George Honey in 1919.”
He said the two stamps in the Remembrance Day 11.11.11 issue captured the essence and origins of Remembrance Day.
He said a silhouetted shadow of two soldiers featured on one design and a bugler on the other, each in combination with a Flanders poppy and the first stanza of John McCrae’s famous poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915.
Mr Fahour said Melbourne-based designer, Tim Hancock was commissioned to illustrate the stamp issue which draws attention to the shadow cast by history of those who were affected, injured or lost during their wartime service.
“As part of the issue, Australia Post will also release a limited edition stamp and coin cover (11,111 units in total), with a $5 pad printed coin specially made by the Royal Australian Mint.”
Mr Fahour said the stamp was available at participating Australia Post retail outlets, via mail order on 1800 331 794 or online at this PS News link.
8 November, 2011
A consultation paper on future arrangements for the allocation and funding of non-research, Commonwealth-supported postgraduate student places has been released.
win degree of support
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the number of Commonwealth-supported postgraduate places had doubled over the past four years – from 16,500 in 2007 to 33,000 in 2011.
He said the number of postgraduate places was anticipated to increase further to 35,000 next year and 36,000 in 2013.
Senator Evans said that while the Government would continue to allocate postgraduate student places, it was important that the higher education sector had a say in the processes for allocating the places.
He said submissions were now being sought to inform a longer term approach to supporting postgraduate study.
“In particular, the Government is keen to fully understand the impact of possible approaches on the way in which universities deliver postgraduate programs, on students and employers.”
He said it was anticipated that a report and recommendations on Commonwealth supported postgraduate places would be finalised for consideration in time to be considered in conjunction with its base funding review.
The consultation paper and details of the consultation process, including how to make a submission, are available at this PS News link.
Submissions close on 16 December.
4 November, 2011
PS making progress
The Australian Public Service Commission has released its Annual Report for 2010-11, revealing progress on APS-wide workforce planning, more support for PS leadership, consultations on new APS Values and advances in creating a new APS culture following the Ahead of the game blueprint.
says APSC report
In his second annual report, APS Commissioner Steve Sedgwick said the APSC had continued its transition towards a new organisational structure, business model and workforce capability in response to demands that it become more outward-looking and client-focused.
Mr Sedgwick said that when he looked back on the year of transition two things deserved attention.
“First, that rapid and significant progress has been made in developing a Commission capable of delivering the quality and level of services demanded.
“Second, we have made substantial progress in taking up the broader, central role in providing expertise, guidance, performance monitoring and some centralised services envisaged by the Blueprint, while continuing to develop and deliver our core services.”
He said the transition to the Commission’s new role was based on a shared understanding with portfolio secretaries about Commission-led APS reforms that were expected to yield the highest returns over the next year or so in addressing key APS workforce risks.
Mr Sedgwick said portfolio Secretaries and agency heads had agreed to invest in the Commission to deliver a program of reviews of work-level standards, the classification structure and workforce planning to help establish a workplace bargaining framework for 2014.
“Agencies rightly have an expectation that the Commission will deliver high-quality services that reflect the new paradigm,” he said.
“We also have an important evaluation role in working with agencies to ensure that the APS is performing effectively and consistently with the APS Values.”
He said other highlights from 2010–11 included the establishment of the Strategic Centre for Leadership, Learning and Development; documenting the concept of human capital and the benefits of a human capital framework; and developing a methodology and model for conducting agency capability reviews and conducting a pilot at the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
Mr Sedgwick said the Commission had also take significant steps towards transforming the Commission and its governance arrangements, people and systems support its new and ongoing activities.
The full text of the Australian Public Service Commission’s annual report 2010-11 is available at this PS News link.
4 November, 2011
Video network sees
A new national video conferencing network has been unveiled to reduce government travel, improve PS productivity and cut greenhouse emissions.
way to PS savings
Announced by the Special Minister of State for the Public Service, Gary Gray, the system was given a thorough work-out in the lead up to the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM.
“The system simulates face-to-face meetings, using high quality spatial audio and high definition video on a secure network,” Mr Gray said.
“Since its launch in October 2009, the TelePresence system or NTS has expanded to 36 video conferencing sites across Australia.”
He said it was estimated to have already reduced travel and staff costs by $12 million, reduced carbon emissions by 2,330 tonnes and greatly increased productivity because of the time-savings involved.
“The NTS is part of the Australian Government’s strategic vision of increasing national productivity through Information and Communications Technology,” Mr Gray said.
He said the system was used for inter-jurisdictional meetings, including the Council of Australian Governments and Ministerial Council meetings.
He said plans for the National TelePresence System were announced in February 2009 as a joint initiative with Telstra and Cisco, deploying Cisco TelePresence units operating over the Telstra Next IPTM network.
“Federal, State and Territory governments have held 1,031 official meetings over a total of 1,660 hours,” he said.
“The greatest savings from a single meeting to date has been the Budget Review Committee Working Group meeting on August 30 held over 12 different locations which lasted 3.75 hours with calculated savings of $100,600 and 17.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide avoidance.”
Mr Gray said that over four years, it was anticipated the National TelePresence System would save at least $24 million.
“There’s a golden thread that runs through the Government’s ICT strategy and that is about being effective, efficient and lowering costs,” he said.
“The day-to-day benefits of being able to stay in your own state yet still undertake effective and collaborative decision-making brings significant improvements in productivity.”
4 November, 2011
Tourism sees red
The recent Qantas lock-out that grounded the airline’s entire fleet sparked an emergency meeting of the tourism industry’s Central Incident Management Group (CIMG) which declared the situation as “Red: High Risk” demanding a major incident response.
in Qantas crisis
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said it was the first time a category red incident had been declared since the National Tourism Incident Communication Plan came into operation in 2004.
“The Plan has been reviewed twice since 2007 and was updated in August this year to ensure optimal effectiveness and extend the range of actions likely to trigger a response beyond just natural disasters,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said the Plan was authorised by the Australian Standing Committee on Tourism which acted on behalf of all Federal, State and Territory Tourism Ministers.
“Today’s CIMG meeting was chaired by the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and included representatives of that Department as well as from State and Territory Tourism Organisations, Tourism Australia and the tourism industry,” he said.
“The CIMG provides leadership and advice to governments during major incidents and informs key stakeholders of developments, ensuring clear lines of communication and assisting in the decision-making process for responding to major incidents.”
Mr Ferguson said that as a result of the meeting, procedures were activated to closely monitor the impact of the unfolding events on the tourism sector and to implement other practical measures such as increasing staffing levels in frontline tourism organisations to support travellers.
The Management Group said it was clear that the tourism industry was being gravely impacted by the dispute at a time when it could least afford additional pressures.
“This issue must be resolved at the earliest possible opportunity,” it said.
Mr Ferguson said that if the crisis had continued, the CIMG would have met regularly until the issue was resolved.
4 November, 2011
The Commonwealth Parliament Offices (CPO) in Sydney are to move.
in Sydney CBD
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray has announced that the CPO are to be relocated from 70 Phillip Street to 1 Bligh Street.
Mr Gray said the CPO provided office and meeting facilities for the Prime Minister and Cabinet, office-holders and visiting Senators and Members.
“It has become clear that the existing premises are not capable of serving the needs of Senators and Members into the future,” Mr Gray said.
“Over the past 15 months, the Department of Finance and Deregulation has been managing a search for alternative premises and a number of prospective tenancies have been considered.”
He said subject to due diligence processes, (the obtaining of necessary Public Works Committee approval and the negotiation of appropriate leasing arrangements) the relocation would take place in 2012.
Mr Gray said the move would deliver operational savings through the building’s unique 6 Star Green Star energy rating.
“1 Bligh Street is a new building, and we would expect it to be the site of the CPO for at least the next 25 years,” he said.
“The Phillip Street building, even if it were renovated, has inherent negative features in relation to access and egress, security, parking and flexibility.
“There’s also very little flexibility in floor plans, limited ICT capabilities and it cannot provide live broadcasts directly from the premises.”
Mr Gray said that the current arrangement for live broadcasts was to lay a TV cable from the building to an outside broadcast van parked in the street.
“The new building is jointly owned by DEXUS Property Group, DEXUS Wholesale Property Fund and Cbus Property,” Mr Gray said.
“The Department is currently in negotiation with the owners on the terms of a lease.”
4 November, 2011
Police combine to put
Police forces around the nation will have a new weapon in the fight against firebugs this bushfire season with a national criminal database to include references to known and suspected arsonists.
heat on arsonists
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the new National Arson Notification Capability would allow arson warning flags to be added to criminal record information held on the National Police Reference System.
“As we head into another bushfire season, this new capability will arm police with another tool to protect Australian communities from the threat of arsonists,” Mr McClelland said.
“This capability will be expanded by December, to include an extra search capability which will allow police to search for any person of interest with an Arson Warning Flag by specific location – suburb by suburb.”
He said it was a sad fact that up to half of the estimated 54,000 bushfires in Australia each year were either deliberately lit or started in suspicious circumstances.
“Arson, in all its forms, is estimated to cost the Australian community approximately $1.6 billion per year,” he said.
“However, it’s the human toll that is most devastating.
“Bushfires are one of the leading causes of death from disaster and have accounted for more people injured than all other natural disasters combined.”
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor said with the new facility, police services would be aware of persons who had been convicted or charged with arson-related offences anywhere in Australia.
“The warning flags will assist police in identifying arsonists and alert their counterparts around Australia whenever they are aware of a convicted or suspected arsonist,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The Capability will capture both new and existing offences - its development involved updating over nine million existing criminal records to include Arson Warning Flags where appropriate.”
He said the Commonwealth Government was working together with Police Ministers from every State and Territory to help catch arsonists.
“This new capability has the strong support of law enforcement agencies from across the country,” he said.
“It means different record systems between States and Territories won’t be an issue in keeping track of arsonists this summer.”
4 November, 2011
Travel warning for
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has warned people planning to travel during the summer holidays to take care with their travel bookings in the coming weeks by staying ‘Smart Online’.
The warning comes after an International and National Visitor Survey, conducted by Tourism Research Australia in 2010, found more Australians were planning and booking holidays online.
Deputy Secretary of Digital Economy and Services at the Department, Abul Rizvi said that in 2010 nearly half of all domestic travel was booked online.
Mr Rizvi said the increased use of the internet for bookings and reservations highlighted the importance of online security and how best to support Australians to explore online travel options safely and confidently.
He said Australians were embracing the ease of making travel arrangements online and comparing the best holiday deals.
“It’s now normal to research and book online, and that’s a great change in how we manage our whole lives, not just travel,” Mr Rizvi said.
“We’re seeing the world become smaller and smaller and, while the convenience is obvious, we can also inadvertently place ourselves at risk of fraud when making holiday bookings.”
He said the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy provided some simple tips for Australians planning this year’s summer holiday online.
“Be wary of travel websites that look suspicious, unprofessional or make unrealistic promises,” he said.
“Read all the fine print when making flight bookings, including refund and cancellation policies, and make bookings via secure websites beginning with ‘https’ and look for a locked padlock in the browser.
“Check the currency for international bookings and be aware of any additional charges, use a secure payment method for reservations, avoid money transfers and direct debit, and never provide your bank details via email.”
Mr Rizvi said it was also a good idea to always print and keep a copy of any receipts for flight bookings or accommodation.
He said more information was available from this PS News link.
4 November, 2011
Back pay backs up for
The Fair Work Ombudsman has revealed the Commonwealth is holding more than $1.6 million in back-pay for missing workers who have been underpaid by their employers.
The Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said that although his Agency had managed to locate 168 underpaid staff during the year and reimburse them $145,783, over 6,500 employees could not be located.
“More than 300 workers are owed amounts greater than $1,000,” Mr Wilson said.
“Four hundred and thirty two workers are owed amounts between $500 and $1,000, 2,065 are owed amounts between $100 and $500 and 3,769 are owed amounts less than $100.”
He said his Agency continued to liaise with overseas embassies and other Government Departments to try to locate people no longer living in Australia.
He said the Agency had also developed a search facility on its website for individuals to check themselves.
“Users need to enter their family name and either the business name, entity name or ABN number of a former employer and the Fair Work Ombudsman will cross-match the information on its data base to determine if there is a potential match,” Mr Wilson said.
He said in 2010-11, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered more than $26 million in outstanding wages and entitlements for a total of 17,360 employees as a result of its investigations and targeted auditing.
He said since March 2006, it has recouped more than $140 million for over 100,000 underpaid workers.
More information is available at this PS News link.
4 November, 2011
Fisheries scales up
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has launched a special operation to ensure that fishers in Commonwealth fisheries complied with the rules for sustainable fish stocks.
Chief Executive of AFMA, James Findlay said Operation VMS Crackdown made clear that AFMA was taking a zero tolerance approach to non-compliance with vessel monitoring system (VMS) requirements.
Dr Findlay said that since 2007 it had been mandatory for all Commonwealth fishing boats to have VMS which worked as the Authority’s “Eye in the Sky” to allow boats to be tracked via GPS and satellite in real time.
“The vast majority of Commonwealth fishers responsibly adhere to the VMS rules, however a small number are not doing the right thing,” Dr Findlay said.
“This crackdown on VMS compliance aims to ensure that all Commonwealth fishers use their VMS properly so that we know they are fishing where, and when, they’re meant to be.”
He said VMS was an essential tool for the sustainable management of Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries and helped maintain necessary fisheries management closures, which in turn ensured healthy fish stocks and protected the rights of operators.
He said during the crackdown, any boat with a VMS unit that stopped reporting would be ordered to stop fishing immediately and ran the risk of being sent to its home port until AFMA was satisfied that the fishers’ VMS was working and that it was being ey are using it responsibly,” he said.
“In line with AFMA’s standard practise, if any fishers are found to be operating illegally they may be fined and prosecuted.”
For more information visit this PS News link.
4 November, 2011
Information report out
The inaugural Annual Report of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has been tabled revealing that the 176 applications were received under Freedom of Information laws raising 250 review issues.
Eighty-eight FOI complaints were also received of which 39 were finalised.
The report showed the majority of complaints about breaches of privacy were about the private sector with the OAIC Privacy Compliance Branch receiving 1,222 complaints, a small increase over the 1,201 received in 2009–10; the Privacy Commissioner receiving 56 data breach notifications, a 21 per cent increase from the 2009-10 figure.
The OAIC annual report is available at PS News link.
Koala decision delayed
The Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke has extended the due date for his decision on whether to add the koala to the list of nationally threatened species to February 2012.
Mr Burke’s decision was due at the end of October and the extension follows the receipt of new information and recommendations from a Senate inquiry which found evidence of more significant population declines than previously identified and more severe threats to the national koala population.
Treaty talks with EU
Australia and the European Union have opened negotiations on a treaty-level agreement.
The agreement would provide a firm basis for expanding Australia’s practical collaboration with the EU in areas such as foreign affairs and security, development assistance, climate change, research, science and education.
The goal is to conclude the negotiations in 2012.
Negotiations have also been opened on a separate Crisis Management Agreement.
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland has called on people to update their mobile phone service address so they can receive Emergency Alert disaster warning text messages this summer.
Mr McClelland said if a person’s service provider did not have up to date information about their current home address, a warning about an emergency in their area could not be sent to them.
He said a factsheet describing when people may need to update their service address details with their phone provider is available by visiting PS News link.
Small business is backbone
A new report has confirmed that the nation’s two million small businesses are
the backbone of the Australian economy.
Compiled by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, the report used data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and found that at June 2009, small businesses accounted for nearly 98 per cent of all businesses in the agriculture sector, about 96 per cent in the services sector, about 91 per cent in the mining sector and just over 88 per cent in the manufacturing sector.
The report Small Business Key Statistics is available at PS News link.
Ombudsman pays way
The Fair Work Ombudsman initiated court proceedings that resulted in $2.1 million of penalties in the last financial year.
The courts also ordered the return of more than $2 million in unpaid wages and entitlements to more than 2,400 workers.
The Ombudsman reported that since 2006, penalties arising from the Agency’s legal activity have exceeded $7.7 million.
Infection rates hit website
Hospital infection rates for the Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia (SAB) have been released on the MyHospitals website.
There are approximately 7,000 SAB infections each year and the MyHospitals website can be visited at this PS News link.
Conferences push infrastructure
A series of conferences is to be convened by Infrastructure Australia to encourage public debate on Australia’s infrastructure needs.
Entitled Meeting the Big Challenges to Australia’s Infrastructure, the six conferences will bring together industry, academics and policy-makers under the topics: Joining the Dots: Indigenous Infrastructure; Ports and Cities; User Pays: Ideology vs. Economics; Do Australians Deserve Quality Drinking Water?; Roads: Who Pays?; Road Safety.
Canberra lands radar
A temporary radar for Canberra airport has been commissioned by Airservices Australia.
The transportable terminal area radar (TAR) is at Sandra’s View, near Hume, and will provide air traffic surveillance while a permanent radar at Mt Majura is upgraded.
Once the upgrade at Mt. Majura has been carried out, the transportable radar will be decommissioned and buildings and equipment removed from the site and transported to Brisbane.
Spatial tool upgraded
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has published the third version of its Multi-Criteria Analysis Shell for Spatial Decision Support (MCAS-S).
MCAS-S is a free technical tool designed for land use decision-makers, agricultural scientists, policy makers, national resource management groups and researchers.
It has been used by State, Federal, and international Government Departments, and catchment management authorities to support policy development and planning.
1 November, 2011
Customs looks set
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has reported a breakthrough in pay negotiations at the Customs and Border Protection Agency following weeks of industrial unrest.
to seize pay deal
The proposed new deal delivers average pay increases of 10.94 per cent for Customs staff as well as improvements to some employment conditions.
Union members are to consider and vote on the details shortly.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said the breakthrough meant the end of the dispute so Customs staff could get back to doing their important work and there were no further disruptions to the travelling public.
“This package delivers average pay increases of just under 11 per cent and bigger increases for the lowest-paid Customs staff,” Ms Flood said.
“It also recognises the difficulties faced by shift workers and introduces a new package of conditions for Marine Unit staff on the frontline, patrolling our northern borders.”
She hoped the Government would now move quickly to resolve other outstanding agreements.
“While Customs is settling we have industrial action in train in Quarantine, Defence, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Communications and Media Authority,” she said.
The Australian Electoral Commission and AusAID staff were currently voting on action.
In a separate arrangement, Defence Force personnel are to receive a nine per cent pay increase across the next three years.
The Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal has approved a new Workplace Remuneration Arrangement which will see a four per cent rise this year, followed by two increases in the next two years of 2.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent.
The compounding effect of the salary adjustments is a 9.26 per cent increase over three years.
1 November, 2011
The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has launched a new display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collected from Australian Government Agencies responsible for Aboriginal affairs over the past 40 years.
to office artefacts
The exhibition, Off the Walls: Art from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Agencies 1967-2005, draws from a collection of more than 2,000 objects including bark paintings, water colours, carvings, basket and fibre work, spears, sporting trophies and posters.
The art works were collected by Agencies including the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Aboriginal Development Commission and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
Director of the Museum, Andrew Sayers, said Off the Walls was not just an art exhibition, it presented art in the context of cultural politics over four profoundly important decades for Indigenous Australians.
“The Off the Walls exhibition takes a journey into a world of Indigenous identity, politics and history at a time of considerable social change in Australia,” Mr Sayers said.
He said full understanding of the collection had been hampered by a lack of detailed documentation about many of the artists and where and when the works came from.
He said to help fill the gaps, the National Museum was encouraging people with memories of the works to join a website conversation to help Museum staff document the collection.
Off the Walls: Art from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs agencies 1967-2005 will run until 10 June, 2012 and more information is available from this PS News link.
1 November, 2011
A study of Australian fisheries being managed or partly managed by the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry has found measurable improvements in sustainability and performance.
let off the hook
The report, prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), assesses the status of 96 fish stocks across 22 fisheries.
Acting Deputy Executive Director at ABARES, Terry Sheales said the fisheries contributed 15 per cent ($316.7 million) of the gross value of production of all Australian fisheries in the 2009–10 financial year.
“These reports provide industry, the community, and Governments with a measure of the performance of Commonwealth fisheries, in 2010 and over time,” Dr Sheales said.
He said of the 96 fish stocks assessed, 71 were ‘not subject to overfishing’, which meant they were being harvested at an appropriate level.
The report also found that 56 of the 96 stocks were also ‘not overfished’, meaning the number of fish, or biomass, was adequate to sustain the stock in the long term.
Dr Sheales said there was also increased certainty about the state of fish stocks, with fewer stocks classified as uncertain in terms of their biomass and the level of fishing in 2010, compared with previous years.
He said some challenges remained though, with six fish stocks classified as both ‘overfished’ and ‘subject to overfishing’.
“For overfished stocks, fishing needs to be managed at a rate that enables the stock to rebuild to a more sustainable level,” Dr Sheales said.
The ABARES report Fishery Status Reports 2010 can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 November, 2011
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has applauded the combined efforts of Government Agencies whose prompt service saved the life of a newborn baby girl in East Timor.
save baby’s life
The baby, Santa Mandalena Rebelo, was recovering in Canberra Hospital’s Paediatric Unit after being born with her bowel and most of her stomach outside her body.
A spokesman for DIAC said the Department was notified in the East Timor capital of Dili by the Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC) of the baby’s need for medical help and within 24 hours visas had been issued to both the child and her mother to board a flight to Darwin.
The spokesman said ROMAC, the Department’s staff in Dili, Careflight, Royal Darwin Hospital and the medical team at Canberra Hospital, all contributed exceptional services in a short space of time to help give baby Santa a chance at life.
“The Department wanted to publicly acknowledge the various people and organisations who have contributed to this excellent outcome, including the East Timorese Embassy in Canberra, the local Timorese community and Ronald McDonald House who have all supported the baby’s mother, Maria while she is staying in Canberra,” the spokesman said.
He said baby Santa was one of several dozen children from Oceanic countries throughout the region who are brought to Australia each year for life-saving medical treatment by ROMAC, assisted by the Department.
1 November, 2011
Partners link up
A new partnership has been announced to develop an anti-racism strategy for Australia.
to beat racism
The $1.7 million National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy is to be headed by Race Discrimination Commissioner, Helen Szoke.
The partnership is a key initiative of the national multicultural policy, The People of Australia, and brings together existing expertise on anti-racism and multicultural matters covered in three Departments - Attorney-General’s, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
The arrangement also involves the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council, and the Australian Human Rights Commission as well as the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia (FECCA) and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples which will participate in Partnership meetings as non-Government representatives.
Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy said the national anti-racism strategy affirmed a commitment to strengthen social inclusion and built on the positive initiatives in the new national multicultural policy.
“Racism discounts the contribution made by culturally and linguistically diverse Australians and undermines social cohesion,” Senator Lundy said.
“Racism and discrimination have no place in our society.”
She said the Anti-Racism Partnership would consult widely with community organisations, business groups and Government Agencies before launching its Anti-Racism Strategy in July 2012 with implementation to be rolled out over a three-year period.
1 November, 2011
Paper is first course
A White Paper is to be prepared as part of the process of developing Australia’s first National Food Plan.
in national food plan
The plan will ensure that the Government’s policy settings are right for Australia over the short, medium and long-term.
Announcing the paper, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig said it would help achieve the vision of a sustainable, globally competitive, resilient food supply that supported access to nutritious and affordable food.
Senator Ludwig said consultation would be a key to that process.
He said an issues paper released in June was followed by 10 weeks of public consultation and the next step, a Green Paper, would provide stakeholders with a chance to contribute before a White Paper was prepared.
“The Government is analysing and considering the full extent of issues raised in response to the issues paper, and has already begun work developing the Green Paper,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The Green Paper will outline the Government’s vision and approach to food policy and canvas potential changes to policy, programs and governance arrangements.”
He said feedback on the Green Paper would inform the National Food Plan, to be released as a White Paper.
He said the Food Plan would be a significant policy statement that served as a platform for better informed and more strategic policy directions for the food sector.
Senator Ludwig said the objectives of the National Food Plan would include identifying and mitigating potential risks to Australia’s food security; reducing barriers to a safe and nutritious food supply; supporting long-term economic, environmental and social sustainability of the food supply chain; supporting global competitiveness and productivity growth; and reducing barriers to food businesses accessing international and domestic markets.
“We need to be ready to meet emerging risks and opportunities such as a changing global food market, population growth and climate change,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The development of Australia’s first ever National Food Plan will ensure we are ready to meet these challenges and maximise our opportunities over the decades to come.”
1 November, 2011
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has reported that spending on goods and services in the health sector exceeded $120 billion in 2009-10.
The AIHW report, Health Expenditure Australia 2009–10, shows that total health expenditure was $121.4 billion during the year - up $7.9 billion on 2008–09.
According to the report this was 9.4 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and averaged out at $5,479 per person in Australia.
“Health expenditure as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product has continued to grow, increasing from 7.9 per cent in 1999-00 to 9.4 per cent of GDP in 2009-10,” the report says.
It says that between 1999-00 and 2009–10, Australia’s expenditure on health in real terms (after adjusting for inflation) grew at an average of 5.3 per cent a year, compared with average real growth in GDP of 3.1 per cent a year.
The largest component of the increase in expenditure in 2009-10 was a $1.5 billion rise in spending on public hospitals, followed by spending on medications, which grew by $1 billion.
The report says that the area of expenditure with the highest percentage growth was health research—which grew by 10.8 per cent in real terms, followed by dental services—up 7.5 per cent.
It says almost 70 per cent of total health expenditure during 2009-10 was funded by governments, with the Australian Government contributing $52.9 billion (43.6 per cent), and State, Territory and Local Governments contributing $31.9 billion (26.3 per cent).
The remaining $36.6 billion (30.1 per cent) was funded by individuals, private health insurers, and other non-Government sources.
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 November, 2011
Carers to share in
A new online resource has been launched to give out-of-home carers better access to information about Government and non-Government support and services.
The resource will improve carers’ awareness of the supports and services available to them by bringing together information on Federal, State and Territory Government payments, support and services and non Government services on one website.
According to the Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins the new service would make it easier for people to find what out what assistance was available to them.
Ms Collins said the online resource was supported by brochures, magnets and posters distributed to General Practitioners throughout Australia.
She said carers devoted a great deal of their time and made considerable sacrifices to raise children who could no longer live with their birth parents and she was committed to making sure they were recognised and supported, and that included ensuring they were aware of the wide range of services they were eligible for.
“The resource is part of the Government’s commitment to improving support for carers under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children,” Ms Collins said.
“It will offer carers more certainty about the services they are eligible for and provide information about who they can speak to for help and advice.”
She said the resource was developed in partnership with all Australian Governments and the non-government sector.
The new resource can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 November, 2011
A new website that will provide comprehensive career information for prospective students of agriculture, has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Mike Kelly
harvested on site
Dr Kelly said the website, CareerHarvest, would provide practical information about agriculture career paths and links to job and education search portals.
He said it also highlighted the importance of agricultural productivity to Australia’s economic growth and population health.
According to Dr Kelly, the agriculture, fishing and forestry industry had the third-highest share of workers with no tertiary qualification and it was estimated that the number of graduates in the field was less than half of that required to satisfy the job market.
He said the website was an important tool to encourage interest in agricultural science at university level, an area where there was a recognised shortfall of graduates.
“Our ability to overcome labour and skills challenges is critical to boosting agriculture productivity and competitiveness,” Dr Kelly said.
He said a number of factors inhibited the industry’s ability to satisfy the demand for skilled workers, including labour competition from other industries, poor promotion of the industry, an ageing population, low numbers of agricultural graduates, poor awareness of agriculture career pathways and limited workforce planning capabilities.
“Farmers and agribusiness managers need to become increasingly sophisticated in their approach to management issues in order to operate in a competitive international market and continue to meet demand,” Dr Kelly said.
“Australia’s primary and agricultural industries have a strong tradition of being innovative, resilient and adaptive to challenges”.
The website can be found at this PS News link.
1 November, 2011
Tax Office warning
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has issued a warning to taxpayers to beware of scams supposedly representing the ATO.
on phone scams
Commissioner for Taxation, Michael D’Ascenzo said there had been an increase in the number, creativity and sophistication of scams being reported to his Office.
“With the 31 October deadline now with us for people completing their own tax returns, ‘scammers’ are ramping up their efforts and we are seeing a range of sophisticated scams,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
These included phone calls that played a legitimate-sounding recorded ‘training and monitoring’ message at the start of the call and calls from people posing as tax officers who provided fraudulent ATO call-back details.
In addition he said, emails were sent about the recipient’s tax refund, special deals and donations that were made to appear to have come from the ATO and used ATO or Government in the email address.
Some emails contained a dangerous virus, which when opened or downloaded would crash the recipient’s computer.
“It is important that the community stays mindful and vigilant as scammers are increasing their efforts to make their scams appear genuine,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“We rely on the community to alert us to suspicious behaviour. Your report can help us investigate and have the illegal behaviour stopped.”
He said people who suspected email scams could forward them to ReportEmailFraud@ato.gov.au or call during business hours on 1800 060 062.
1 November, 2011
A partnership between the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart and the local Calvin Christian School has won a $25,000 private sector grant to expand its Antarctic studies classes.
The classes, coordinated by the school’s science teacher David Dieckfoss have been running for almost two years, allowing Year Nine and Ten students the opportunity to visit the Division to spend time with scientists, attend science seminars, and tour the laboratories and other facilities.
‘This funding will allow us to continue developing our relationship with scientists at the Antarctic Division, but also start to involve support staff, such as tradespeople,’ Mr Dieckfoss said.
“There’s been a huge improvement in students’ performances across all their subjects as a result of this program because they can see the real-world application of their studies.”
He said students interacted with scientists who were passionate about their research and were doing significant work.
He said each student had an area of interest that they researched and presented their findings on a website and to fellow students.
They also wrote reports about what they had learned during their visits.
Post-doctoral researcher with AAD, Rebecca McWatters worked closely with the school for the past year and contributed her expertise to the development of the program.
As a geo-environmental engineer and analytical chemist, she is involved in the clean-up of fuel-contaminated soils at Casey station, in Antarctica, using novel biopile technology.
Dr Watters said one of the projects the funding would assist was the construction by the students of a model biopile, which would be displayed at the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Hobart in June next year.
1 November, 2011
Defence takes aim
The Department of Defence’s new Youth Development Framework has been launched at the University of Melbourne.
at youth program
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney said Defence ran a number of youth engagement and development programs across Australia, especially through the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Cadets programs.
“Such programs not only engender an interest in Defence but also help young Australians deal with the challenges and choices of adolescence,” Senator Feeney said.
“This Framework brings together more than 400 reports and best practices from around the world.”
He said now that the Framework was complete, Defence and the University of Melbourne would continue to collaborate and create a Cadet-specific Youth Development Framework.
“This will involve extensive survey and focus group work at Cadet camps and meetings in 2011,” he said.
“It is anticipated that the Cadet Framework will be produced in 2012.
“Defence is looking forward to creating closer ties with other community youth organisations both nationally and internationally and sharing this cutting-edge research.”
Senator Feeney said the Framework had been cited by the university’s Youth Research Centre as perhaps the most contemporary study of its kind since the development of the AusYouth Good Practice in Youth Development: a Framework of Principles, 2001.
He said the new research had already been shared with the Scouts, Girl Guides, NSW State Emergency Services, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, the Canadian Department of National Defence and the New Zealand Ministry of Defence.