SearchArchives for November 2012
30 November, 2012
APSC report reports
The Australian Public Service grew by 2,328 employees to 168,580 in the year to 30 June 2012, a 1.4 per cent increase on the 166,252 staff a year earlier.
on State of Service
According to Australian Public Service Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick, the public service had expanded over several years to support initiatives designed to counter the effects of the global financial crisis.
“The focus has [since] shifted to managing the withdrawal of those initiatives and the implications of a more uncertain and less robust global economy and slowing revenue growth as we enter the next phase of the ‘resource boom’,” Mr Sedgwick said in his overview in the Commission’s State of the Service Report for 2011-12.
He said the proportion of employees with disability and Indigenous employees had continued to decline.
The report said the number of Indigenous employees fell 2.1 per cent from 3,314 to 3,229 and the number of ongoing employees with disability dropped 2.9 per cent from 4,632 to 4,501.
Mr Sedgwick said the fastest growing segment was for employees aged 55 years and over which made up 5.9 per cent of all ongoing employees in June 1997 but was now 14.8 per cent of the workforce.
He said the long-term growth in representation of women in the APS had slowed.
“The total number of women increased by 1.4 per cent, from 95,773 to 97,100, while the number of men increased by 1.4 per cent from 70,479 to 71, 480,” he said.
“Despite this, the APS is still quite a feminised workforce.
“At June 2012, women comprised 46.5 per cent of ongoing EL employees (up from 46.0 per cent in 2011) and 39.2 per cent of ongoing SES employees (up from 38.2 per cent in 2011).”
Mr Sedgwick said the EL1 ranks showed significant growth which was consistent with the trend in recent years.
“Numbers of ongoing EL1 employees increased by 4.3 per cent,” he said.
“SES employee numbers grew by 91, or 3.4 per cent.”
Mr Sedgwick said the APS 6 classification was the largest in the APS, making up 21.3 per cent of all ongoing staff.
He said employees continued to have strong levels of confidence in the integrity and ethical behaviour of their leaders and agencies generally.
“In 2011-12, most employees agreed that their supervisor (87%) and their senior leaders (68%) often or always act in accordance with the APS values.”
He said described the typical new starter in the APS in the past year as 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 2012 State of the Service Report can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 November, 2012
Working from home
Members of the Community and Public Sector Union have responded positively to the plan to increase the number of PS staff “tele-working” from home.
a popular plan
Almost 90 per cent of 1,500 members who took part in a union poll on the subject said they were interested in tele-working if there were proper guidelines and technology in place.
Under the plan for the PS announced by Prime Minister, Julia Gillard on 13 November, 12 per cent of the APS is expected to be tele-working at least one day a week by 2020.
Assistant National Secretary of the CPSU, Louise Persse said the union had sought more information about the plan and proposed trial from the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC).
“We have requested more details about how the trials would work and what information members would need to participate,” Ms Persse said.
“While the APSC has yet to pick which agencies will take part, it has agreed to consult fully with the union during the trial and at the review stage.”
She said many members saw advantages in working remotely.
“Our members are keen to know more about how it will work,” Ms Persse said.
“Clearly they can see the benefits, not least providing some flexibility for those who have caring responsibilities,” she said.
“And, by taking many of those who commute to work off the roads, tele-working could also deliver a green dividend.”
But Ms Persse said that there was also a need to address other issues that could arise during the trial.
“In exploring this change we must not lose sight of the fact that we are social animals and working from home might lead to social exclusion,” she said.
“We are also very aware that being connected to work in your home can lead to workers being unable to switch off.
“We would not want to encourage an ‘always on’ culture,” Ms Persse said.
30 November, 2012
Fair Work Australia is to be renamed the Fair Work Commission and have two Vice-Presidents following new laws approved by Parliament in its last week of sitting for 2012.
gets sharper teeth
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten welcomed the change saying it was another step forward in workplace relations and superannuation reforms.
He said the amended Act implemented a number of recommendations from the independent Fair Work Act Review as well as other changes arising from consultation with stakeholders such as the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council, small business representatives, the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Australia.
“The Act also implemented the response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into default superannuation in modern awards, which was initiated in January 2012,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the new name more accurately reflected the office’s functions as Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal and the role it played within the Fair Work system.
He said the process for selecting the two Vice-Presidents would be open and transparent, and the positions would be publicly advertised.
“Appointments to these senior positions within the Fair Work Commission will follow a merit based selection process,” the Minister said.
He said the amendments also improving the integrity of the unfair dismissal application and hearing process; implemented recommendations relating to costs orders; and provided the Fair Work Commission with discretion to dismiss applications in certain circumstances.
He said the changes reflected a commitment to providing a superannuation system that operated to maximise the retirement incomes of Australian workers, and a strong and stable modern award safety net.
Mr Shorten said several technical matters raised by the Fair Work Act Review were also included in the amendments such as prohibiting opt-out clauses in enterprise agreements; clarifying that statutory enterprise agreements could not be made with a single employee; making clear what could be included in a notice of representative rights to employees; prohibiting an individual union official being a bargaining representative of an employee where the union does not have coverage; clarifying when a modern award variation application could be struck out; and clarifying how protected action ballots can be conducted.
30 November, 2012
Finance instructs on
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has released the latest versions of its model instructions for the proper use and management of public money, public property and other resources of the Commonwealth.
The Department’s Model Chief Executive’s Instructions (CEIs) seek to improve consistency across agencies and help staff members understand and comply with the key requirements of the financial management framework.
The Department said it developed its Model CEIs in consultation with Financial Management and Accountability (FMA) Act agencies.
It said the Model CEIs covered the core topics applicable to the majority of officials in most agencies under the Act but were not designed to be prescriptive or exhaustive, as individual agency requirements differed, as would CEIs
The Department produced 11 CEIs and a glossary.
It said its November 2012 versions of the Model CEIs included one on Procurement and updated others to reflect recent changes made to the FMA Act.
A second version of the Model CEIs highlighted the changes since the release of the Model CEIs on 7 July 2011.
The topics covered in the update include Managing risk and internal accountability, Committing to spend public money, Grants, Commonwealth credit cards and credit vouchers, Making payments of public money, Managing public money, Managing debt, Managing public property and Working with other Commonwealth Agencies
Finance said the Model CEIs should be used in conjunction with Finance Circular 2011/05: Chief Executive’s Instructions (CEIs).
The model CEIs with the changes marked can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 November, 2012
A smartphone app has been developed to help parents whose children go missing to work with law enforcement agencies to find them.
to help find kids
A joint initiative of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the Australian Police Child ID app allows families to store photographs and vital information about their children on their mobile phone.
Commissioner of the AFP, Tony Negus said that in the event that a child went missing, the information could be immediately provided to authorities.
He said the app was a welcome initiative to help build a safer community for children.
“With the busy holiday period just around the corner, the likelihood of a child going missing increases,” Commissioner Negus said.
“In the unfortunate event that a child does go missing, families can immediately provide their child’s information to police.
“By receiving this information so quickly, police will have an enhanced ability to find missing children and remove them from potentially dangerous situations,” he said.
The app, which was free for iPhone and Android phone users, included safety advice, checklists for parents and emergency contact phone numbers.
US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey L. Bleich said he was pleased to see such strong collaboration between the FBI and the AFP with the development of the Australian application.
“US law enforcement will continue to work closely with Australian counterparts on future projects, especially those with the aim of keeping our children safe,” Ambassador Bleich said.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare congratulated the AFP and the FBI on the development of the app.
“The smartphone application is a new way for parents to keep their child’s information on hand so it can be immediately given to police if their son or daughter goes missing,” Mr Clare said.
“When a child goes missing, every second counts.
“This app is a great example of Australian and US law enforcement working together to save lives and protect children,” Mr Clare said.
He said the app was available to download from local application providers.
30 November, 2012
Heritage jobs fail
An audit of a jobs scheme in which heritage projects were included in its funding has been found to have failed to meet expected governance standards.
In his audit Establishment, Implementation and Administration of the Quarantined Heritage Component of the Local Jobs Stream of the Jobs Fund, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found the two responsible Departments had insufficient regard to the scheme’s policy objectives and were unable to produce reliable data to reveal on actual employment outcomes.
He said that in 2009, the integrated $650 million Jobs Fund was established in response to the global financial crisis with $60 million quarantined for heritage-related projects.
In his report, Mr McPhee said administration of the Fund was shared across agencies, with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) the lead agency and central point for the submission of applications.
“For the majority of the life of the program, administration of the quarantined heritage component was the responsibility of the then Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts,” Mr McPhee said.
In September 2010, that department became the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC).
He said the guidelines for the projects included requirements that they be in areas experiencing high unemployment; be viable and ready to start; and that the heritage component of the funding would not extend past 30 June 2010.
He said quarantining the funds for heritage-related projects was seen as an opportunity to address a funding backlog for a range of heritage assets.
“While delivering positive heritage benefits, the responsible department’s implementation of this component of the Local Jobs stream of the Jobs Fund had insufficient regard to the Government’s policy objective of giving priority to employment outcomes and did not meet appropriate standards of governance for a grant program of this nature,” Mr McPhee said.
“The primary purpose of the Jobs Fund as reflected in the program guidelines approved by the Government, was to fund projects that would support and create jobs and employment opportunities in areas experiencing high unemployment or significant rises in unemployment or vulnerability.
“However, the Department focused on the selection of projects that would achieve positive heritage outcomes with considerably less attention being given to whether candidate proposals would provide desirable employment outcomes in the areas of identified greatest need,” he said.
Mr McPhee also said the Department did not follow through on its planned approach.
“As a result, there is no reliable data available on actual employment outcomes achieved through heritage component projects; and delays with contracted projects commencing and progressing were masked by payments being made in advance of need.,” he said.
“This represented a failure in the department’s program governance,” Mr McPhee said.
The Auditor-General made two recommendations relating to DSEWPaC’s role in the program.
His full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Tina Long, Amanda Ronald, Ben Siddans and Brian Boyd.
30 November, 2012
Mental health to be
The Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers needed to have the courage to respond ‘tenaciously’ to the first national report card into mental health and suicide prevention, according to the Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Professor Allan Fels.
‘front of mind’
Professor Fels said Australia could improve the lives of millions of Australians if its leaders reaffirmed their commitment to mental health.
The independent Commission’s report A Contributing Life: the 2012 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, was its inaugural annual report card and was a world first.
Professor Fels said the report was built on the personal stories of people who were not often heard “people with a lived experience of mental health difficulty, their families and supporters”.
“Its theme, ‘A Contributing Life’, recognises that people with mental health difficulties need the same things as everyone else a stable home, a decent education, a job, family, friends and healthy relationships, good treatment and access to services and rights,” he said.
Launching the report card, Professor Fels said it was important the Prime Minister gave mental health a “seat at the top table, making it a matter for Premiers and Chief Ministers, and putting mental health in her portfolio”.
“The Commission has been given the independence and permission we need to ‘tell it like it is’,” he said.
“This report uncovers some difficult truths that it will be very difficult to walk away from.”
Professor Fels said Australia led the world in progressive mental health policy, but fell down in delivery.
“The report card paints a big reform picture, makes 10 specific recommendations, and calls for change in a range of areas where the Commission believes action can and must start now,” he said.
“One in five Australian adults experience a mental health difficulty in any given year, and an estimated 7.29 million Australians aged 16 to 85 have a lived experienced of mental illness.
“The statistics related to physical illness and early death among people with a mental health difficulty are appalling,” Professor Fels said.
The report A Contributing Life: can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 November, 2012
The Assistant Treasurer has reported a nine-fold increase in the number of lodgements made by Australian businesses signed up to the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) system.
The system allows businesses to lodge forms and reports directly with APS Agencies via their own software.
The Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said that more than 100,000 lodgements had been received through the system since the beginning of July, about nine times the number for the same period in 2011.
“Standard Business Reporting helps to drive productivity by removing unnecessary or duplicated data in business reporting obligations,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Under the SBR system, businesses can use a single secure log on (AUSkey) when sending reports to agencies and business to government reporting requirements are streamlined.
“SBR makes it simpler, easier and faster for businesses to meet their reporting obligations,” Mr Bradbury said.
Minister for Small Business, Brendan O’Connor said the recent surge in SBR use showed that efforts to make it easier for businesses to report to Government were working.
He said there was a commitment to reducing the compliance costs of dealing with government agencies.
“SBR allows small businesses to significantly cut the time involved in submitting forms, and time is money,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The number of AUSkey authentications performed has grown significantly in the past year from 2.8 million per month to a peak of nearly 4.4 million in August 2012.”
He said SBR was one of the deregulation reforms implemented under the Seamless National Economy agenda.
The Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said the SBR was a practical example of helping to cut red tape for Australian business.
“This is part of the Australian Government’s plan to improve productivity by reducing the reporting burden on business,” Senator Wong said.
She said the Business Advisory Forum Taskforce would also be reporting to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in early December on ways in which the increased use of online reporting can benefit business.
“Work is underway to identify opportunities for the expansion of SBR to other areas of reporting beyond the financial and payroll reporting currently in scope,” Senator Wong said.
30 November, 2012
Australians in frame
The National Australia Day Council has announced its candidates for the Australian of the Year Awards to be presented as part of Australia Day celebrations next year.
for annual honour
The nominated achievers from all States and Territories are in the running to be named Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year or Australia’s Local Hero at an event on Australia Day eve in Canberra.
Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, Tam Johnston said the finalists for the 2013 national awards had been nominated for their achievements or contributions.
“The State and Territory award recipients are extraordinary people following their passions and making the world a better place for it,” Ms Johnston said.
“These remarkable Australians have made an impact on many levels some working tirelessly in the local communities, others at an international level - but they are all Australians we can be very proud of.”
Among the high profile PS names in the running for the awards are former Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Tom Calma; Dr Jim Peacock, who was head of the CSIRO Plant Industry division for 26 years; and Professor Ian Maddocks from South Australia, one of Australia’s pre-eminent palliative care specialists and peace advocate.
The Young Australian of the Year finalists included Canberra’s Julie McKay, 29, who is Executive Director of UN Women Australia, and Tasmanian Holly Barnewall, 27, a decorated teacher.
The Local Hero category finalists include police Sergeant Dimitrios Bellos who is Queensland Police Service’s cross-cultural liaison officer for southern Brisbane.
The full list of candidates:
Australian of the Year 2013 - Finalists
Australian Capital Territory - Dr Tom Calma AO
New South Wales - Ita Buttrose AO OBE
Northern Territory - Mark Grose and Michael Hohnen
Queensland - Professor Adθle Green AC
South Australia - Sonya Ryan
Tasmania - Andrew Hughes
Victoria - Harold Mitchell AC
Western Australia - Kerry Stokes AC
Senior Australian of the year 2013 - Finalists
Australian Capital Territory - Dr Jim Peacock AC
New South Wales - Ron Allum
Northern Territory - Dr Sadhana Mahajani
Queensland - Laurie Lawrence
South Australia Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks AM
Tasmania - Anna Crotty
Victoria - Emeritus Professor T John Martin AO
Western Australia - Lorraine and Barry Young
Young Australian of the Year 2013 - Finalists
Australian Capital Territory - Julie McKay
New South Wales - Corey Payne
Northern Territory - Jessica Mauboy
Queensland - Sally Pearson
South Australia - Vanessa Picker
Tasmania - Holly Barnewall
Victoria - Hayley Bolding
Western Australia - Akram Azimi
Australia’s Local Hero 2013 - Finalists
Australian Capital Territory - Francis Owusu
New South Wales Shane Phillips
Northern Territory - Peter Fletcher
Queensland - Sergeant Dimitrios Bellos
South Australia - Anna Kemp
Tasmania Gwen Egg
Victoria - Pam Adams
Western Australia Caroline de Mori
30 November, 2012
And in other news...
Finance laws changed
Draft legislation to protect consumers from unqualified financial planners and advisers has been announced by the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten said the move would ensure that only persons authorised to give personal financial advice to people could call themselves “financial advisers” or “financial planners”.
“The measure will help to protect consumers from “product spruikers” who might hold themselves out to be authorised financial advisers when they are not,” Mr Shorten said.
Previously this week... Faulkner conference speaker
The final list of speakers for the Integrity in Government A Work In Progress conference on 4 December in Melbourne has been announced.
It includes keynote speaker, Senator John Faulkner.
The conference will explore the general theme “Public Office as a Public Trust” and participants include Professor John Uhr, of the Australian National University, and Dr Meredith Edwards and Howard Whitton, both of the ANZSOG Institute for Governance, University of Canberra.
Admission is free but registration must be made by email to Amanda Currie at «click here»@unimelb.edu.au
Living longer, living better
A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that older Australians are living longer and, on average, getting more years of life without severe limitations to their basic daily activities.
The report, Changes in Life Expectancy and Disability in Australia 1998 to 2009, shows that between 1998 and 2009, life expectancy at birth had risen from 75.9 years to 79.3 years for males, and from 81.5 years to 83.9 years for females, and almost all of this increased lifespan was disability-free.
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
Tourism award for Questacon
The National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon has been awarded the 2012 Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Award in the Tourist Attraction category.
Director of Questacon, Professor Graham Durant said the award recognised the quality of the hands-on science activities and the high standard of the visitor experience at the centre.
“This honour is highly valued and each year we work hard to improve our offering,” Professor Durant said.
The annual Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards showcased the region’s tourist industry organisations.
Questacon will now represent the Canberra and Capital Region at the 2012 Australian Tourism Awards in Hobart on 15 February 2013.
Literary awards open
Entries are open for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2013.
Now in their sixth year, the Awards recognise and reward excellence in Australian literature and history. The 2012 awards saw 509 individual entries.
The total prize pool for the awards is $600,000 with the winner of each category adult fiction, non-fiction, Australian history, poetry, young adult fiction and children’s fiction awarded $80,000 and shortlisted entries each awarded $5,000.
Pricing rules reviewed
An exposure draft of proposed amendments to reform Australia’s transfer pricing rules has been released.
The reforms are aimed at modernising Australia’s transfer pricing regime, aligning the domestic law with international best practice.
Transfer pricing refers to the prices charged when one part of a multinational group buys or sells products or services from another part of the same group in a different country.
The draft amendments and explanatory material can be accessed at this PS News link.
Submissions on the exposure draft legislation close on 20 December.
Trans-Tasman Super savings
A new law that allows superannuation to be portable between Australia and New Zealand has been introduced into Parliament.
The Superannuation Legislation Amendment (New Zealand Arrangement) Bill 2012 will establish the trans-Tasman retirement savings portability scheme, allowing Australians and New Zealanders working in Australia to take their superannuation with them when they permanently leave Australia.
27 November, 2012
Support for family
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has issued a Circular encouraging a consistent, respectful and supportive approach to APS staff affected by family violence.
Circular 2012/3 Supporting Employees Affected by Domestic or Family Violence, follows the national launch of a workplace toolkit for dealing with family violence issues reported in PS News last week at this PS News link.
According to the Circular, domestic or family violence can have a negative impact on the workplace.
It said such violence can affect the performance, productivity and safety of those affected and the workmates of someone affected.
“Providing support, understanding and flexibility to employees is crucial and all staff should ensure that this is provided,” the Circular said.
“Employees should be made aware that the support available will be treated in the utmost confidentiality.”
The Circular said that as a model employer, the Australian Government was committed to supporting employees experiencing difficulties with domestic or family violence.
It said people who were affected by domestic or family violence should be allowed to use their personal leave entitlements for reasons such as attending medical or counselling appointments; moving into emergency accommodation and seeking more permanent safe housing; attending court hearings or police appointments; accessing legal advice and organising alternative care and educational arrangements for their children.
“In circumstances where personal leave does not apply, or if employees have exhausted their personal leave entitlements, understanding should be shown and reasonable allowance made,” the Circular says.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) welcomed the Circular.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said the union had been working with the APSC on the issue and believed it was a good first step in tackling a serious and difficult problem.
The APSC Circular can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 November, 2012
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has published a position paper on plans to overhaul the Government’s financial framework.
a one-Act plan
The plans would see the Financial Management and Accountability Act (FMA) merged with the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act (CAC).
Announcing the position paper as part of the Commonwealth Financial Accountability Review (CFAR), the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said the current financial framework was nearly 20 years old and reform was necessary to meet future needs.
She said an extensive consultation process had been conducted which established a clear consensus that improving the financial framework was long overdue.
“A modern and effective public sector should be underpinned by a modern financial framework,” Senator Wong said.
She said the position paper set out a number of proposed changes to the Commonwealth financial framework that aimed to boost productivity, efficiency and performance.
“It seeks to modernise the Commonwealth’s financial and performance framework and touches all aspects of Government operations,” Senator Wong said.
“The basic premise is to develop a framework that is simple, adds value to all and is easy to use.”
She said the key legislative proposal of the paper was that a single Act that sets out the fundamental elements of the financial framework should replace the current two-Act model.
“Legislation should articulate the role of Departmental Secretaries in advising responsible Ministers on the performance of portfolio bodies,” she said.
“The financial framework legislation should better reflect the roles of Chief Executives and Directors in providing estimates to support Government decision-making and in meeting reporting obligations.”
She said the Department of Finance and Deregulation should enhance the training it provides and improve the quality of its guidance material.
“The concept of public money should be clarified with generic rules applying to all public expenditure,” Senator Wong said.
“Consideration should be given to centralising the holding of public money, but allowing entities that have a clear business need to hold money on their own account to do so.”
The Position Paper can be accessed at this PS News link and comments mailed to email@example.com before 15 February 2013.
27 November, 2012
Archives looks back
An exchange of gifts between the National Archives of Australia and the Chinese Ambassador, Chen Yuming have marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and the People’s Republic of China.
at ties with China
On 21 December, 1972, ambassadors from both countries signed a joint communique on mutual recognition and the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Formalising the recognition of China was one of the first moves by then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who had taken office on 5 December.
At the time Mr Whitlam said that while it had been long recognised that Australia’s geographical position gave it special interests in the Asian region, up until then it had not come to terms with one of the central facts of that region, the People’s Republic of China.
“This serious distortion in our foreign policy has now been corrected.” Mr Whitlam said at the time.
Director-General of the National Archives, David Fricker said the high value Australia placed on its continuing relationship with China indicated the importance of the initial agreements 40 years ago.
“We were honoured to receive Mr Chen and delighted to present him with facsimiles of the original documents,” Mr Fricker said.
He said the exchange also highlighted the importance of the Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper.
“This important policy announcement sets a clear objective for cultural diplomacy and exchange to drive a stronger, deeper and broader engagement with Asian nations,” he said.
“It provides a further imperative for the National Archives of Australia to deepen the ongoing positive relationships we share with many archival institutions across Asia.”
27 November, 2012
Complaints scheme has
Laws aimed at improving the way complaints against federal judges are handled have passed Parliament.
judges being judged
The Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012 and the Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012 are part of a reform package for courts.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said the reforms ensured complaints against Federal judicial officers were handled fairly and transparently while maintaining the constitutional independence of the judiciary.
She said the legislation supported and augmented existing complaints pathways, both within the Federal courts and before Parliament.
Ms Roxon said the Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012 provided a mechanism that would assist the Parliament’s consideration of the potential removal of a judge from office.
“The changes enable Parliamentary Commissions to be established to investigate the most serious of allegations where a judge’s misbehaviour or capacity may warrant their removal from office,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012 would implement measures to assist Chief Justices of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the soon-to-be Federal Circuit Court of Australia, when managing complaints within the courts.
“The Australian Government has put Federal courts back on a firmer financial footing, with an additional $38 million over four years, changing court fees structures, and introducing legislation to merge the administrative functions of the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the new laws were part of a broad reform agenda that also included expanding the diversity of judicial appointments, establishing the Military Court of Australia and introducing a new name for the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia that better reflected its modern role in the Federal judicial system.
27 November, 2012
Too hot heat packs
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued a warning on the risk of burns from using wheat or grain-filled heat packs.
pack a punch
The TGA said it had received reports of personal injury caused by overheating.
It said the incidents had occurred through a variety of reasons including the heat packs being heated and placed on or in bedding; being heated in microwaves for longer than the time specified by the manufacturer; being reheated before being allowed to cool properly and from aged heat packs where the fillings had dried out and become combustible.
The TGA warning reminded consumers to carefully follow manufacturer’s instructions, and recommended the purchase of heat packs that were listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
“The heat pack should clearly identify the manufacturer and batch or lot number,” the TGA said.
“Heat packs purchased from cottage industry sites such as markets, fairs and craft stalls may not be listed on the ARTG, and we advise caution.
“Avoid buying packs with flammable casings or covers.
“Wool and cotton-covered packs are recommended as they are non-combustible, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully, especially instructions for heating.”
The TGA said heat packs should only be used for direct application to body aches or pains and they should not be used in situations where the heat was confined such as inside a bed or in bedding.
27 November, 2012
A final Murray Darling Basin Plan, aimed at restoring the rivers to health, supporting regional communities and sustainable food production, has been released.
is final plan
Minister for Water, Tony Burke said the Murray Darling Authority’s recommendation that the Basin Plan return 2,750 gigalitres of surface water to the environment had been accepted.
Mr Burke said an additional $1.77 billion would be spent to relax key operating constraints and recover an additional 450GL of environmental water.
“For decades the Murray Darling Basin was treated as though it ended at State borders,” Mr Burke said.
“It doesn’t, and consistent over-allocation and mismanagement seriously degraded the health of the system.”
He said that only a national plan was going to address the many problems fragmented administration brought.
“We have done everything we can to minimise the impact on communities, short of saying we will make a compromise on the health of the system because history has shown that if you negotiate too hard against a river, it negotiates back in a completely uncompromising way,” Mr Burke said.
He said the foundation and reason for the reform was unequivocally and unapologetically to “restore the system to health”.
“And wherever we could do that in ways that are sensitive to communities then that’s the pathway we have chosen,” He said.
Mr Burke said the plan would deliver vital additional water to the Basin including some 40,000 hectares of iconic vegetation such as the River Red Gums.
“The plan will also flush an average of two million tonnes of salt from the Basin each year,’’ he said.
“Discharging salt through the Murray Mouth, which will now be open more than nine years out of 10, will significantly improve water quality and prevent land degradation,” Mr Burke said.
The final Basin Plan can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 November, 2012
Tourism red tape
The first report card on tourism reforms has revealed that Federal, State and Territory Governments were making progress in cutting red tape to make investment in the Australian tourism industry easier.
The Investment and Regulatory Reform Report Card was aimed at tracking the progress of red tape reduction in all Australian jurisdictions across various fields - from planning regulations to labour supply constraints.
According to the Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson the Report Card showed substantial progress in a number of areas including national collaboration and investment facilitation services, and areas where more work remained to encourage new and improved tourism attractions and accommodation across the country.
Mr Ferguson said investing in new developments had become easier due to Tourism Ministers working together to implement regulatory reform at both the national and State levels.
“We are committed to ongoing regulatory reform to remove the regulatory challenges for investors and operators across all industry sectors,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Tourism planning and labour supply initiatives align with the Council of Australian Government’s broader agenda to cut red tape and reduce the regulatory burden on investment.”
He said the initiatives also supported the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, which highlighted the importance of foreign investment in the national tourism industry.
“To achieve the Tourism 2020 goal of increasing overnight visitor expenditure up to a total $140 billion by 2020, an additional 40,000 rooms are needed,” he said.
“The further investment required includes more capital city accommodation, rejuvenated accommodation in regional areas, new business event facilities and innovative leisure attractions,” Mr Ferguson said.
The Report Card can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 November, 2012
VAST increase in
An expanded range of ABC radio services is to become available to people in rural and remote Australia.
range for ABC
The service has been made possible through the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) platform.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said that for the first time, people living outside capital cities would be able to listen to the ABC’s digital-only radio channels, Dig, ABC Country, ABC Jazz, ABC Digital Extra, ABC Grandstand and triple J Unearthed.
“The VAST platform will deliver Tasmania Local Radio to listeners for the first time, and the ABC’s Mt Isa Local Radio in regional Queensland,” Senator Conroy said.
“The new ABC services, along with the existing SBS radio services, mean people will have access to more radio stations on VAST than they do on the Optus Aurora satellite service.”
He said the gap in radio and TV services that had long existed between the cities and the bush was closing.
“By the end of 2013, all Australians will have made the switch to digital television, meaning no matter where they live they will have access to the same number of TV channels,” he said.
Senator Conroy said the ABC’s VAST radio services would be broadcast from the ABC’s own transmission sites, and would be used for retransmission by self-help community groups and for people who had installed a VAST set-top-box in their home or caravan.
He said the Aurora satellite was due to be decommissioned, along with analog TV, at the end of next year.
27 November, 2012
DAFF shuts door
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has introduced a biosecurity compliance plan designed to enable Australia’s importers to make informed decisions while helping ensure goods destined for Australia meet stringent biosecurity requirements.
on dodgy imports
First Assistant Secretary of Border Compliance at DAFF, Tim Chapman said a strong and sustainable biosecurity system protected our natural assets, enabled faster border movements, facilitated international trade and underpinned Australia’s reputation as a reliable exporter of high-quality food and fibre.
“In 2012-13 DAFF will continue compliance initiatives offshore, on shore and at the border with about 5,000 audits of quarantine approved premises, more than 5,000 sea container inspections and nearly 900 compliance agreement audits planned,” Mr Chapman said.
“These activities provide DAFF with assurance that imported goods meet Australia’s biosecurity import conditions and that importers are meeting their regulatory obligations.”
He said the compliance program was complemented by increasingly sophisticated profiling, expanded surveillance activities and targeted inspection operations.
“Compliance operations last financial year, such as Operation Abercorn, targeted non-compliance with regulations,” Mr Chapman said.
“Operation Abercorn focused on temperature-controlled shipping containers and found risk material including undeclared finfish, ice cream and trade samples of fresh ginger and chilli from non-compliant importers.”
He said DAFF would continue its work with importers to help them meet requirements and avoid delays.
“Compliant importers can expect to have their goods released quicker and with less intervention, saving them money,” Mr Chapman said.
27 November, 2012
The University of Canberra (UC) is to receive a $26 million funding boost to offer more courses, new entry pathways and the latest learning technologies.
lift for university
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said students with lower entry qualifications would be supported to achieve their potential with specialised pathways to bachelor degrees, as well as programs offered through study hubs to be created in regional NSW.
“Working with the Canberra Institute of Technology, UC will develop pathways to university and develop new qualifications to give students more options for a rewarding career,” Senator Evans said.
“The funding will also help UC redesign its programs and incorporate the latest learning technologies to support flexible learning.”
MP for Fraser which is home to the University, Andrew Leigh said the funding allocation would help attract more students from around the region and overseas to study at the UC.
Senator Evans said the investment was part of an overall plan to give more students across the country access to first-class facilities.
He said the aim was to ensure every Australian who was capable of achieving success at university had the opportunity to do so.
He said the funding for UC was part of a $377 million Structural Adjustment Fund, allocated to higher education institutions in regional and outer metropolitan areas.
27 November, 2012
Reforms aim for
Reforms to superannuation laws have been introduced into Parliament in a series of Bills.
a super Super
The reforms include those aimed at delivering superannuation capital gains tax relief and implementing Stronger Super to improve the efficiency of the superannuation system.
The package of reforms are contained in the Superannuation Laws Amendment (Capital Gains Tax Relief and Other Efficiency Measures) Bill 2012 and the Superannuation Auditor Registration Imposition Bill 2012.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the measures built on the Government’s existing reforms to improve the efficiency and integrity of the superannuation system, which would, in turn, increase the retirement outcomes for Australians
He said the reforms restored the temporary tax relief in the form of loss relief and asset roll-over for mergers of superannuation funds, with some changes.
“From 1 October 2011 to 1 July 2017, superannuation funds that merge can roll-over unrealised gains or losses on revenue and capital assets and allow the transfer of realised revenue losses and capital losses,” Mr Shorten said.
“This taxation relief removes certain tax impediments to superannuation funds merging to achieve efficiencies and cost reductions for members in response to the Stronger Super reforms.”
He said the legislation would also establish a new registration regime for self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) auditors beginning on 31 January 2013.
“As part of SMSF auditor registration, all auditors of SMSFs will be required to meet initial and ongoing requirements relating to their qualifications, competency and independence,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the reforms would expand the reported requirements by superannuation providers, would improve the quality of information in the superannuation system, and facilitate fully effective electronic processing of transactions.
27 November, 2012
Winning student meets
A Queensland primary school student who three years ago was the joint winner of a competition to name the CSIRO’s new Marine National Facility research vessel has been invited to tour the current research vessel, Southern Surveyor.
Clare Cameron’s entry, The Flinders Investigator, linked the planned $120 million research vessel to Australia’s maritime history Matthew Flinders first circumnavigated the continent in the sloop Investigator.
The new state-of-the-art 93.9-metre vessel has been named Investigator and is under construction.
It is designed to be used in marine and atmospheric research for Australian scientists when it is commissioned in late 2013.
Ms Cameron and her family are to tour the Southern Surveyor while the vessel is in Brisbane for a short port period before its next research voyage.
She is scheduled to meet the team of Australian and international scientists who will have returned from their research voyage in the Coral Sea.
Chief Scientist on board, Maria Seton said her team had been working in a little explored region between the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia taking rock samples from the ridges and plateaus at depths of up to 3.5 kilometres.
Dr Seton said they had also mapped about 8,000 kilometres of seafloor under their voyage track and taken gravity and magnetic data.
“These data will help us to better understand the type of crust that underlies the region and the age of these basins and will give us a more complete geologic and tectonic history of the area during the last 100 million years,” she said.
“We are trying to understand what’s going on with the Earth’s crust in this part of the world by mapping what we call hotspots, which are a series of extinct underwater volcanoes, and this fundamental research helps us to determine how the Australian continent has moved,” Dr Seton said.
23 November, 2012
Retirees caught in
Retired Public Servants have warned that changes to the private health insurance rebate would “hurt” anyone on an Australian Public Service pension.
Federal President of the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association (SCOA), John Coleman said the Government’s recently announced changes to the way the private health insurance rebate was calculated would progressively reduce the annual increase of the rebate because it would be CPI indexed.
“This will hurt many senior Australians with private health insurance including Commonwealth superannuants who are already hurting due to the inadequate CPI indexation of their pension,” Mr Coleman said.
“Their pension average is less than the combined couple rate of the Age Pension.”
He said that for some time the annual increase in private health insurance premiums had ranged between five per cent and 10 per cent.
“CPI increases are mostly well below these figures.
“So, under this new method, with the increase in the rebate linked to movements in health costs which are well above CPI increases, the rebate will be reducing and will fall well short of premium increases.
He said Commonwealth superannuants were “again being short-changed”.
“The ever-continuing increases in the cost of private health insurance premiums combined with the reducing indexation of the rebate means that Commonwealth superannuation pensions will be even less able to pay for essential living expenses.
“The last increase in these pensions was a tiny 0.1 per cent.”
Mr Coleman said it would not be a surprise if many people, including Commonwealth superannuants, opted out of private health insurance at a time in their lives when they would be more likely to be needing health services.
23 November, 2012
A new toolkit has been launched to help unions, employers and business groups support employees experiencing domestic violence.
for family violence
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins has launched Safe at Home, Safe at Work saying it was also designed to help the employees remain in work.
“Domestic and family violence is, unfortunately, more common in Australia than many people would like to think,” Ms Collins said.
“It is also much closer to most people than they might think.”
She said almost two-thirds of women who reported domestic violence were in paid employment.
“Women who are experiencing domestic violence may find it hard to concentrate at work, or they may take a lot of time off, or often be late to work.
“The perpetrator may also be harassing them while they are in the workplace.”
Ms Collins said it was vitally important the women were supported in the workplace and the toolkit provided practical advice and support for employees and employers.
She said research conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated that one in three Australian women would have experienced physical violence from the time they were 15 years old - and one in five would have experienced sexual violence.
She said accounting firm KPMG had estimated the cost of domestic violence to the Australian economy at more than $13.6 billion, with that figure likely to rise to $15.6 billion by 2021.
Ms Collins said returning to or staying at work is critical to women finding a safe way out of a violent relationship.
“A job provides them financial security and a safe haven,” she said.
“Yet, the negative impact on a women’s work performance can put their job at risk.”
She some of the positive influences that could help affected workers included paid leave to attend urgent court matters, flexible working arrangements, confidentiality and safety measures.
An initiative of the University of NSW, the Safe at Home, Safe at Work toolkit can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 November, 2012
Travelling smarter is
A new campaign has been launched to remind Australians of the health and financial risks of travelling overseas without travel insurance.
just the ticket
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr said many hospitalisations, accidents and illnesses happened ‘on the road’ and Australian embassies and consulates helped more than 14,000 Australian families in distress each year.
Senator Carr was accompanied at the campaign launch by young Australian, Erin Langworthy, who fell more than 100 metres into a river in Zambia in 2011 after her bungee cord broke.
Ms Langworthy’s insurance covered treatment in a high-quality hospital and saved around $50,000 in medical bills.
Senator Carr said Australians without travel insurance risked poor local hospital care and high medical bills if they were sick or injured while overseas.
“The message of this campaign is to take care overseas and take out insurance before you leave,” he said
The $2.6 million Smartraveller campaign began this week with electronic advertisements and postcards featuring Ms Langworthy.
The Minister said the campaign was expected to include a Smartraveller iPhone app, offering location-aware travel advice and the ability to register travel plans without an internet connection, a new Facebook page, providing a chance to share views with other travellers on how to travel more safely and a “Travel Tales” competition offering travel vouchers in return for safety-related travel stories, photos or videos.
The Smartraveller service is provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and details can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 November, 2012
IPAA to develop new PS
The Institute of Public Administration Australia is seeking to appoint a project manager to develop a new set of professional standards for Australian public services.
Executive Director of IPAA (ACT), Tamara Cutcliffe said the Institute planned to produce a framework of Professional Standards of Competence on behalf the IPAA nationally.
“In order to do this the IPAA is looking for a part-time project manager or contractor to assist with the national project of developing national standards for the public sector,” Ms Cutcliffe said.
She said this was an ACT initiative that was supported at a national level.
She said the IPAA believed the public expected a high-performing Public Service that was ethical, cost-effective and efficient.
“A well-managed organisation with strong and effective leadership is a necessary precursor for high performance,” Ms Cutcliffe said.
“However, the attributes and competence of individual Public Servants is also an essential ingredient for delivering on public expectations.”
The Institute warned however that current work in developing such frameworks was resulting in a significant duplication of effort.
“Developing such frameworks is well beyond the resource capacity of most medium and small agencies,” it said.
“A professional standards competence framework, freely available to public sector organisations and focused on particular professional functional areas, could provide improvement opportunities.”
It said the framework could include precisely defined competencies that reflected the performance required in a particular professional area; better supported recruitment, training and development; better information sharing between individuals across agencies; and better mobility within the public sector and with other industries.
Ms Cutcliffe said applications for the project manager position would close on Monday 3 December and that applicants should provide a one-page expression of interest and CV.
Details of the project manager position can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 November, 2012
Flood of information
An online tool for information about flood risks has become available to help planners, insurers and the community to find out about likely flood impacts in particular local areas.
for those at risk
Minister for Emergency Management, Nicola Roxon said the National Flood Risk Information Portal would be a critical addition to Australia’s disaster readiness toolkit.
“The Portal will be a valuable resource for helping communities better prepare for flood disasters,” Ms Roxon said.
“Easy access to flood risk information will give communities and planners a better understanding of their exposure to floods, as well as assist insurers in developing fair and reasonable policies.”
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the Portal was part of a four-year National Flood Risk Information Project initiated in response to the Natural Disaster Insurance Review.
He said the Portal would use satellite imagery to map floods and be supported by national guidelines to assist holders of flood risk information make their flood studies and maps available.
“These guidelines, in conjunction with the recently announced agreement between Geoscience Australia and Engineers Australia to finalise the revision of the Australian Rainfall and Runoff guide, will drive improvements in the consistency and quality of flood studies,” Mr Ferguson said.
Minister for Financial Services, Bill Shorten welcomed the Portal as another step to providing information to help consumers make informed decisions about insurance.
“The Government has already introduced a standard definition of flood for insurance and a one-page key facts sheet to help Australian consumers understand what they are insured for,” Mr Shorten said.
“This Portal will provide even more information for consumers and help them make more informed choices.”
Geoscience Australia is to host the Portal which will be developed over four years, with updates in November each year in time for the summer season.
The first phase of the Portal development includes an updated Australian Flood Studies Database with enhanced search functionality and a “Google maps” style interface.
More information on the National Flood Risk Information Portal can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 November, 2012
Australia’s leading higher education teachers have been recognised at the 2012 Australian Awards for University Teaching.
to top of the class
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the Awards recognised quality university teachers and their contributions to student learning
“This year’s award recipients have provided a rich and rewarding experience for thousands of students across Australia who will carry that experience into their own careers,” Senator Evans said.
“Top rate university teaching goes hand in hand with a world-class higher education sector.”
He said the quality of teaching students received was pivotal to the overall quality of their experience at university.
Announced at the at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Award for Australian University Teacher of the Year was presented to Dr James Arvanitakis, a humanities teacher at the University of Western Sydney, for his work supporting first-year students and developing teaching materials.
Professor John Hay was awarded the Career Achievement Award for his services to higher education.
A further 10 awards were presented for teaching excellence and 10 for programs that enhanced learning.
Each recipient received $25,000 for their educational activities.
23 November, 2012
Bureau finds Aussies
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that Australians value a “fair go”, a robust economy and recreation.
value a fair go
Australian Statistician, Brian Pink said the Bureau’s landmark report Measures of Australia’s Progress - aspirations for our nation: a conversation with Australians about progress was the result of a two-year consultation process between the ABS and the Australian community.
“We found that Australians feel that having equal opportunity, or a fair go, is an essential element for progress,” Mr Pink said.
“They also want an economy that meets Australia’s needs today, tomorrow and into the future.”
He said people felt that the non-material aspects of life, such as recreation, sport, popular culture and the arts, were also important for progress.
“The consultation also revealed that Australians think having a say in the decision-making that affects their lives, and having institutions that are accountable for their decisions, is crucial.”
Mr Pink said Measures of Australia’s Progress, or MAP, was one of the Bureau’s flagship publications and had used key statistical indicators to report on the nation’s progress since its initial release in 2002.
“We wanted to check that we’re still measuring what Australians believe is important,” Mr Pink said.
“Holding a consultation for MAP has allowed us to listen and reflect on the aspirations that Australians hold for national progress.”
He said the report highlighted ABS’s use of social media to engage new audiences and provided a record of consultation with a wide range of people including everyday Australians, experts, and well-known Australians such as entrepreneur Dick Smith and basketballer Lauren Jackson.
“The ABS would like to thank everyone who participated in this consultation process,” Mr Pink said.
“We now look forward to using these aspirations as the basis for refreshing MAP for our November 2013 release,” he said.
23 November, 2012
Uniform approach for
New laws that consolidate Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation have been released as an exposure draft.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said that the anti-discrimination laws currently spanned five different Acts, with varying standards, definitions and rules making the system unnecessarily complex and difficult to navigate.
Ms Roxon said that by consolidating the five Acts into one, the laws would provide better protections with a simpler regime for business, organisations and individuals.
“Making protections and obligations clearer for individuals and organisations will help everyone understand what behaviour is expected and will provide certainty for all users of the system,” Ms Roxon said.
“There will be no reduction in existing protections and the highest current standards will be consistently applied and enforced across the full range of discriminatory practices.”
She said it was ridiculous that some female migrants who had been discriminated against, needed to make separate complaints of sex and race discrimination.
“It will be easier for individuals to seek redress when they’ve been discriminated against, but simpler provisions enabling a single ‘justification’ defence for such behaviour and the ability of the Commission to dismiss unmeritorious complaints will give business and service providers certainty as well,” Ms Roxon said.
“This project also fulfils our election commitment to introduce sexual orientation and gender identity as protected grounds of discrimination, heralding a significant and overdue reform in this area.”
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said the consolidated legislation would allow the Commission to dismiss unmeritorious complaints, providing business with certainty.
“Consolidating anti-discrimination laws will make compliance easier, reduce costs and shift the focus from redressing wrongs to preventing discrimination from occurring in the first place,” Senator Wong said.
“This is particularly good news for small business.
“Business will also benefit from the ability of the Australian Human Rights Commission to certify codes or standards that will act as a full defence to claims of discrimination,” she said.
The exposure draft of the legislation can be found at this PS News link.
23 November, 2012
And in other news...
ABC cuts in Tasmania
The ABC is to close its Hobart television production unit at the cost of 16 jobs.
Managing Director of the ABC Mark Scott said the broadcaster could no longer afford large production teams around the country.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has criticised the closure as a breach of the public broadcaster’s charter.
Asian trade agreement
Prime Minister Julia Gillard joined the leaders of 15 Asian countries negotiating a new trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
RCEP would bring together the 10 ASEAN countries as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand
It would support a more open Australian economy, integrated with Asia and help improve the flow of goods, services, capital and ideas.
Chief of Navy honoured
Australia’s Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs has been honoured by Indonesia.
He has received the Indonesian Navy’s Meritorious Service Star in recognition of the Royal Australian Navy’s increasing ties with the Indonesian Navy.
Survey to help families
The Australian Institute of Family Studies is calling for input into a study to improve understanding of how groups are meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
The information collected will be published by the AIFS on its website in March 2013 and the related survey can be accessed at this PS News link.
Super fund warning
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has warned trustees of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) to be cautious when investing in property.
Acting Commissioner Bruce Quigley said he was concerned people were using their SMSF to invest in property without fully understanding their obligations under the law.
He urged trustees to get reliable, independent advice when making investment decisions.
Hands-on musical attraction
A new exhibit at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra allows visitors to play and remix the music of pop music chart-topper Gotye.
Fractured Heart is an interactive sound and light sculpture that was first presented as the backdrop to a live performance at the 2011 ARIA Awards.
Fractured Heart will be open from 1 December, for at least six months.
Grain of truth on weeds
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has developed a new fact sheet to help grain growers control summer weeds.
The Summer Fallow Spraying Fact Sheet includes information such as application volumes, nozzle types and spray quality required for different herbicides and situations and can be accessed at this PS News link.
Previously this week... Union fears for Customs
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has warned that reductions in Customs operational staff would heighten security risks.
The union said it had learned that Customs was proposing to cut up to 20 frontline staff in Sydney, as well as 38 positions nationally in the agency’s intelligence division, as a response to budget cuts.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said Customs staff were already working harder with fewer resources.
“Now is not the time to be taking away resources from Customs,” Ms Flood said.
“In the current environment Customs workers need all the backing they can get,” she said.
IMF thumbs up
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has delivered a tick for the Australian economy.
In two new reports the IMF praised Australia’s “well co-ordinated response” to the crisis, saying that as a result, “five years on, both the economy and the financial sector continue to outperform most of their peers”.
The IMF said that this “adept handling of the fallout from the GFC, prudent economic management, and strong supervision of the financial sector” had kept Australia “on the dwindling list of AAA rated countries”.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said the reports projected a solid outlook for the Australian economy in the face of ongoing global headwinds, reiterating its forecast of 3.25 per cent real GDP growth in Australia in 2012 faster than any major advanced economy.
Reading program expanded
A $1 million expansion of the National Let’s Read program would give children across Australia greater access to books, songs and nursery rhymes according to the Minister for Early Childhood, Peter Garrett.
Mr Garrett said the extra funding would enable the program originally created to give low income families with young children access to reading materials to be rolled out to all families.
The funding will be provided to the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
“At the heart of this project is a simple concept to give the gift of reading,” Mr Garrett said.
Grants worth $12 million to 62 advice services are expected to help tens of thousands of small businesses around the country.
The successful organisations are to receive funding offers from the Small Businesses Advisory Services initiative for up to two years, to provide services in areas such as business management, financial management, business planning, networking and other general business advice.
20 November, 2012
UN in search for
Nominations for the 2013 United Nations Public Service Awards (UNSPA), recognising excellence in public service institutions, are now open.
The UNPS Awards are judged in five categories including one for promoting gender-responsive delivery of public services.
This category was added in 2011 to recognise exemplary efforts of public sector institutions around the world towards delivering services for women
According to the UN in a statement, equitable public service provision to women and men continues to be a great challenge, especially at a time when there is severe pressure on Governments to reduce public expenditure, due to the global economic downturn.
“It is therefore extremely important to recognize and encourage public sector actors who are working hard to make sure that services reach men and women equally in these difficult times,” the statement said.
Public sector initiatives that can be nominated in this category could range from innovative service-delivery mechanisms such as mobile health clinics or e-services that address mobility, security or time-burden challenges faced by women, to participatory planning and monitoring that have a focus on service delivery for women.
Other eligible areas include the implementation of policies that facilitate the participation of women in the public sector workforce (such as housing facilities for female school teachers in rural and remote areas).
Nominations are being accepted at: this PS News link and the deadline is 7 December, with winners announced on 23 June 2013, United Nations Public Service Day.
20 November, 2012
A special fund has been set up by the Commonwealth Government to help redundant State Public Servants in Queensland start up a business.
for State PS
Start-Up QLD, an initiative funded under the Small Business Advisory Services program, will provide advice and assistance to retrenched Queensland Public Servants in addition to other Government support available for workers who have been made redundant.
Minister for Small Business, Brendan O’Connor said the $200,000 funding would help ex-Public Servants start their own business or open franchises.
“Starting a business from scratch can be a stressful experience` and it is easy to get lost in unforeseen expenses and the challenges of successfully building a solid client base,” Mr O’Connor said
“Our services will help people navigate the unfamiliar territory of small business ownership including providing advice on business and financial planning, business management and networking.”
He said that since it was established in the 2008 Budget, the Small Business Advisory Service has provided more than 392,000 advisory services to more than 207,000 small businesses around the country.
“These services are vital to help small businesses grow and succeed.”
He said other support for small business included changes to the tax system that would directly benefit the bottom line of small businesses.
“These include increasing the asset tax write-off threshold so that all small businesses - incorporated or not - will be able to immediately write off assets valued at under $6,500 in the year they buy them.”
20 November, 2012
The Government’s target of having women occupy 40 per cent of positions on its boards by 2015 has almost been reached.
in the pink
Currently, the figure stands at 38.4 per cent.
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said this was an increase of 3.1 per cent on last year’s result and a significant achievement over a short time.
“It remains a disappointment that in the private sector, women make up only 15.2 per cent of ASX 200 board positions,” Ms Collins said.
“While women represent half the Australian population, and are just as skilled and educated as their male counterparts, they are still under-represented on high-level board and decision-making bodies.”
She said that earlier this month, the Government launched BoardLinks, a network to provide more opportunities for women to be appointed to their first board.
“BoardLinks’ focus on appointing women to their first Government Board role will expand the pool of women who can be appointed to board positions in the corporate sector,” Ms Collins said.
“One of the most significant hurdles facing women being appointed to boards is a requirement for previous board experience.”
Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Helen Conway, said that while the figures showed that 41 per cent of new Government board appointments during 2011-12 had been filled by women, in the private sector it was a different picture with only 23 per cent of new appointments being filled by women.
20 November, 2012
Emergency alerts to
Almost $60 million is to be spent to allow emergency services to send out world-first location-based text messages to mobile phones when emergencies strike this summer.
have txt appeal
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said getting emergency warnings out effectively during a disaster was “absolutely critical”.
“Emergency text messages will be sent out to mobile phones based on where that phone is, as well as its registered address,” Ms Roxon said.
“After all, mobile phones are mobile.
“This update will help emergency services to get warnings to the right people at the right time in the right place.”
She said Telstra was completing its final testing of the system, which is expected to be ready for use in December.
She said Telstra customers would have access to the system this season and Vodafone and Optus customers next year.
Queensland MP Bernie Ripoll said the upgrade to the Emergency Alert system would pay dividends for communities for years to come.
“The Queensland floods taught us all about the importance of getting the right information out to people as soon as possible,” Mr Ripoll said.
“This upgrade will mean mobile phone users will be able to get these warnings if they’re in a disaster area this system won’t only rely upon their registered address.”
Ms Roxon said the upgrade to the Emergency Alert system would add to its existing capacity to deliver voice messages to landline phones and text messages to mobile phones based on the user’s registered address.
She said Emergency Alert had delivered 7.5 million warning messages for more than 500 emergencies across Australia so far and the location-based capability would enhance this system further.
She said emergency service agencies took a multi-modal approach to warnings, and the public should not rely on receiving any single warning.
Ms Roxon said the public should tune in to the radio, watch television, check emergency services websites and stay aware of local conditions.
20 November, 2012
Treasurer puts his
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan has described the Australian Treasury as one of the strongest in the world.
money on Treasury
In a letter to the editor of The Australian newspaper deflecting criticism from some of its contributors, Mr Swan said Australia wouldn’t have built one of the strongest economies in the world without a Treasury that was up to the task.
“Treasury can and should be applauded for its vital role in our undeniable economic success amid the worst global conditions since the Great Depression,” Mr Swan said.
“It is regrettable that some commentators misunderstand the facts about the proper activities of Treasury, such as costing of policies in the public domain which took place under Peter Costello and were quite legitimately published
as a useful way of advancing the public policy debate.”
Mr Swan said a trip to Washington, DC, had elicited complimentary views of the Australian economy from people such as the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, Secretary of the US Treasury, Tim Geithner, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.
He said the compliments were in contrast to “attacks on our economy mounted by prominent figures in our own public debate”.
“I welcome contributions to the public debate from all quarters,” Mr Swan said.
“It is a fact that Australia has avoided huge job losses and social destruction seen among our peers, and that our economy is 11 per cent larger than before the global financial crisis and will be 18 per cent larger by 2014.
“Given that [Australian columnist] Judith Sloan suggested that GDP growth should be the sole criterion of economic success, it is regrettable not to see this latter fact about our GDP performance under this Government acknowledged,” he said.
“More importantly, achievements like this are a remarkable endorsement of the fine men and women in Treasury, which is why I’ll always defend their hard work in the face of unfair attacks.”
20 November, 2012
A study into the accuracy of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) forecasts for key macroeconomic variables in the national economy has found a low success rate.
don’t bank on bank
In their report Estimates of Uncertainty around the RBA’s Forecasts, the Bank’s Peter Tulip and Stephanie Wallace used past forecast errors to build a picture of confidence levels that could be applied to the Bank’s estimates.
“Uncertainty about the Bank’s forecasts is high, particularly for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth,” the report found.
“Forecasts of the unemployment rate outperform a random walk only for a few quarters ahead.”
A random walk can be defined as the results from a series of random steps, or estimates.
“RBA forecasts of inflation have been marginally more accurate while forecasts of GDP growth have been less accurate,” the report found.
“We calculate forecast errors over the past two decades, measure their dispersion and hence construct confidence intervals.
“Seventy per cent of the RBA’s forecasts for underlying inflation one year ahead have been within half a percentage point of actual outcomes.
It said that if future forecast errors were similar to those in the past, then there is a 70 per cent probability of actual underlying inflation falling within half a percentage point of the current forecast.
“The RBA has regularly emphasised the difficulties of forecasting and the considerable uncertainty about the economic outlook,” the report said.
“In contrast to the approach of some foreign central banks, the RBA has responded to this uncertainty by placing relatively less emphasis on forecasts and more on analysis of current economic developments in its leading publications.”
The report concluded that uncertainty about RBA forecasts was similar to that about private sector forecasts.
“RBA forecasts of inflation have been marginally more accurate than the average of private sector forecasts, while RBA forecasts of GDP growth have been less accurate. The differences are not large, however,” the report found.
The full paper can be found at this PS News link.
20 November, 2012
The sharing of criminal history checks between Queensland and New Zealand is to be extended following a six-month trial.
Minister for Justice, Jason Clare and the New Zealand Minister of Justice, Judith Collins have agreed to extend the six-month trial, due to end in December, to July 2013.
Mr Clare said the trial allowed Queensland and New Zealand employers to request criminal history checks relating to potential employees.
“New Zealand is our closest neighbour and that closeness brings great economic benefits, however, it also makes it easier for criminals to move between our two countries,” Mr Clare said.
“The trial is progressing well and will continue to help employers to make decisions about who they hire and will protect our communities from people who may pose a risk.”
Ms Collins said the Queensland trial formed part of a wider program of work on reciprocal information sharing to support border control and law enforcement, consistent with the free movement of people across the Tasman.
“Both Governments are working toward a more automated process and are considering how this arrangement can be extended to criminal history information requests from employers across Australia and New Zealand,” Ms Collins said.
The trial followed an agreement reached in January this year between the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand to improve the exchange of criminal history information.
The extension of the trial coincided with the public release of an Australian Privacy Impact Assessment of it to ensure it complied with requirements of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).
The assessment is available on the Attorney-General’s Department at this PS News link.
20 November, 2012
A researcher who discovered that the Australian Public Service suffered serious shortcomings from the behaviours of its leaders in 2009 has launched a second project to examine the impact of APS leadership styles on bullying, harassment, stress and burnout.
in search of leaders
Derek Ambrose, whose 2009 study into transformational leadership earned him a PhD, found that APS leadership behaviour, as measured by the outcomes in achievement, motivation, satisfaction with leadership, stress and commitment was very low.
“Some APS employees were disenfranchised, demotivated, dissatisfied with leadership and had low levels of commitment,” Dr Ambrose said.
“The research also identified that in general APS leaders were inaccessible, unapproachable and did not understand what motivated employees.”
He found that leadership effort and skills had not improved or changed, since they were last independently measured in 1997.
“I suggested that in general the APS now needed to change and articulate a more modern leadership vision, address its leadership problems, and engage a more enlightening leadership paradigm or style if it was to meet future challenges,” Dr Ambrose said.
He is now undertaking another research project which is a flow-on from his previous research, in which he sets out to measure the relationships between bullying, harassment, stress and burnout against the modern transformational leadership style.
Dr Ambrose said he would provide a branch, division or organisation a report on their statistics and outcomes, as measured against the whole of the data for no cost.
People who wish to take part in the new survey can access it at this PS News link.
20 November, 2012
The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith and the US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the establishment of a jointly operated radar space surveillance installation at the Harold E. Holt naval communication facility in Exmouth, Western Australia.
Taking part in the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Perth, Mr Smith and Mr Panetta also agreed to progress a proposal to transfer a highly advanced space surveillance telescope to Australia.
“These two activities build on the Australian-United States Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Partnership Statement of Principles signed at AUSMIN in Melbourne in 2010,” Mr Smith said.
“The increasing congestion in space from over 50 years of space activities and a significant rise in space debris present a rising threat to our assured access to space.
“The hosting of SSA facilities in Australia will improve the overall performance of the global network of sensors forming the US Space Surveillance Network, through which the US provides a warning service to all satellite operators, and publicly available information on the orbits of satellites and space debris,” he said.
“The C-band radar facility will be operated by the Royal Australian Air Force on behalf of the United States, and will provide accurate warning of potential collisions in space, and tracking of objects falling to earth over Australia or our immediate region.”
Mr Smith said work covering the transfer of the space surveillance telescope will be progressed by Australia and the US, with the location of the facility to be considered in the coming months.
“Consistent with long-standing policy, all activities at these facilities will take place with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Australian Government,” he said.
20 November, 2012
The final rules governing the economic regulation of electricity and gas companies in the energy market have been unveiled by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC).
in power play
The rules are aimed at enhancing the way the Commission would assess network revenue requirements, and according to the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson should lead to better outcomes for consumers.
Mr Ferguson said that in recent years consumers had faced significant increases in their electricity bills due largely to the need to upgrade and replace ageing network infrastructure in order to ensure a continued reliable supply of electricity.
“The new rules make important changes to the way these costs are managed and balance the need to provide sufficient investment to maintain reliability while minimising costs to consumers,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The rules will better equip the regulator to set network prices to make sure that consumers don’t pay more than is necessary for a reliable supply of electricity.”
He said the changes included giving the regulator greater powers to question submissions and undertake benchmarking and reporting on the relative efficiency of electricity network businesses.
“Importantly, this has been an independent process that has undergone extensive stakeholder consultation and conducted at arms’ length to Government,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said the new rules would apply to the next round of network determinations, beginning in NSW and the ACT in mid-2013, and were expected to flow through to the price consumers pay for electricity from mid-2014.
The new rules can be accessed at the AEMC website this PS News link.
20 November, 2012
Mint all smiles over
Bindi the crocodile, favourite of late wildlife warrior Steve Irwin, is to be immortalised on a coin from the Royal Australian Mint and EMK Coins and Precious Metals.
The coin is part of a new series featuring Australia Zoo’s saltwater crocodiles.
Terri Irwin said it was special to have the coin, featuring her late husband Steve’s favourite crocodile, launched on Steve Irwin Day (15 November).
“It is a day to celebrate what Steve was so passionate about, especially wildlife and wilderness conservation,” Ms Irwin said.
“Steve also loved Bindi the crocodile so much that he named our daughter after her.”
“We’re grateful for the generous donations from The Royal Australian Mint and EMK to help us continue Steve’s legacy.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll said the coin series would help carry on Steve Irwin’s legacy.
“Crocodiles are an important part of our ecosystem and Australia Zoo plays a very important role in helping us better understand them,” Mr Ripoll said.
“This will help reach a global audience, with the assistance of EMK, and further educate them about wildlife conservation.”
Those wishing to buy the 2013 Bindi Australian Saltwater Crocodiles $1 Silver Frosted Uncirculated coin, retailing for $80, can contact the Royal Australian Mint at this PS News link.
20 November, 2012
Air passenger movements throughout Australia are predicted to double to 279 million within the next two decades according to a new report.
set to take off
The report from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) found that passenger numbers in capital and non-capital city airports were forecast to increase by 3.7 per cent a year, from 135.1 million in 201011 to 279.2 million in 203031.
The report said that domestic and international air passenger movements were projected to increase by 3.3 and 4.9 per cent a year, to 207.1 and 72.1 million, respectively in 203031.
It said that the number of air passenger movements through capital city and non-capital city airports was expected to grow by 3.8 and 3.2 per cent a year, to 230.5 and 48.8 million, respectively in 203031.
Gold Coast Airport and Perth are expected to experience the greatest increases with 4.4 per cent a year growth forecast by the report.
The full list of forecasts for 203031 ¬is: 4.4 per cent a year in Perth to 25.7 million; 4.4 per cent a year in Gold Coast to 13.1 million; 4.2 per cent a year in Brisbane to 45.1 million; 4.2 per cent a year in Darwin to 4.2 million; 3.9 per cent a year in Melbourne to 60.4 million; 3.7 per cent a year in Cairns to 8.0 million; 3.7 per cent a year in Townsville to 3.4 million; 3.6 per cent a year in Sydney to 72.0 million; 3.3 per cent a year in Canberra to 6.1 million; 3.1 per cent a year in Adelaide to 13.5 million; 3.1 per cent a year in Newcastle to 2.2 million; 3.0 per cent a year in Hobart to 3.5 million; 2.7 per cent a year in Launceston to 2.0 million; and 2.3 per cent a year in all other airports to 20.1 million.
It is the first time non-capital city airports have been included in the report.
The report said the numbers were important for planning airport infrastructure.
“The growth is largely due to a positive economic outlook for Australia and its trading partners,” the report found.
The full report Air passenger movements through capital and noncapital city airports to 203031 can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 November, 2012
Few complaints from
An audit of a new complaints scheme for aged-care recipients has found the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) to be making good progress implementing the four-year program but with some opportunities for improvement.
In his report Managing Aged Care Complaints, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the new scheme began in September 2011 and had dealt with around 3,200 complaints by 1 July 2012.
“DoHA has changed the focus of complaints management away from a concentration on the investigation of non-compliance with accreditation standards to a focus on the resolution of complainants’ concerns,” Mr McPhee said.
“In particular, DoHA has delivered an extensive, nationally-coordinated training program to complaints staff.
“Stakeholders, representing both industry and consumers, have provided generally positive feedback about the implementation and administration of the Aged Care Complaints Scheme,” he said.
He said there had been a reduction in the time taken to resolve complaints but pointed out there was room for improvement in the way the Department compiled relevant data and performance measures.
There was also scope for improvement in the areas of promotion of and access to the complaints scheme, he said.
“While the Department has generally promoted the scheme effectively, it should consider options to improve access, particularly for isolated care recipients who generally do not have someone available to represent them in a complaint,” Mr McPhee said.
“There is scope for DoHA to increase the coverage and response rates for the satisfaction survey sent to the relevant parties after the finalisation of each complaint.”
Phases 3 and 4 of the Aged Care Complaints Scheme are scheduled for completion by the end of June 2013 and June 2014 respectively.
“It will be challenging for DoHA to successfully conduct the systemic analysis of aged care complaints that is required to complete Phase 3 of the Scheme by 30 June 2013,” Mr McPhee warned.
He said his report made two recommendations.
“The first is aimed at improving access to the Scheme for isolated care recipients and the second is aimed at increasing the level of confidence in feedback obtained from complaints satisfaction surveys.”
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Elizabeth Cusack, Sue Sheridan, Anne White and Andrew Morris.
16 November, 2012
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) database of unclaimed money has risen to a record $677 million this year.
hit record level
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll has encouraged Australians everywhere to check if they were entitled to unclaimed money by doing a free search on ASIC’s MoneySmart website www.moneysmart.gov.au
“There is a total of $677 million waiting to be claimed, including a dormant bank account with over $990,000 in Western Australia,” Mr Ripoll said.
“Across Australia, over one million people could be sitting on a windfall without even knowing it.”
He said a simple change of address could lose people money.
According to Mr Ripoll, people may have unclaimed money if they hadn’t made a transaction on their cheque or savings account for over seven years; stopped making payments on a life insurance policy; moved without leaving a forwarding address; had noticed that regular dividend or interest cheques had stopped coming; or were the executor of a deceased estate.
Mr Ripoll said ASIC could access unclaimed money from bank, credit union or building society accounts, shares and life insurance policies.
He said that last year Australians recovered $56 million using ASIC’s Unclaimed Money Service and reforms had been announced in this year’s mid-year Budget update that would help reunite lost accounts with their owners sooner, and prevent them from being eroded by fees and inflation.
He said under the changes, most inactive bank accounts and life insurance policies would be transferred to ASIC after three years of inactivity, rather than seven years, better protecting the account owners from erosions by fees and charges.
Mr Ripoll said that for the first time, interest would be paid on unclaimed moneys held by ASIC at the rate of CPI inflation.
This would occur from 1 July 2013 with the interest earned being tax-free.
16 November, 2012
Health data in
A study by the University of Sydney has found that a lack of national data on health-care complaints was a major obstacle to improving the Australian health-care system.
Lead author of the study, Sydney Medical School’s Professor Merrilyn Walton, said it was time to for Governments to agree on a national data set for complaints.
“All States and Territories collect data on health complaints but there is no consistency about what is collected and how the terms are defined,” Professor Walton, a former head of the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, said.
“Any meaningful comparison and national analysis about health-care complaints, a highly valuable source of information, is currently impossible.
“This means that it is not possible to benchmark complaints, make definitive State-by-tate comparisons or establish best practice in relation to time frames for assessment, conciliation or investigation,” she said.
The study, published in The Australian Review of Public Affairs, compares complaint statistics from the published annual reports of all State and Territory health-care complaint commissions (HCCs) over five years.
The analysis found that comparisons between Commissions were possible only for the most basic data.
Professor Walton said that despite the shortage of national data the study was able to identify certain trends in complaint reporting.
“Unsurprisingly, given they are the largest type of health service organisation, public hospitals were the most complained about group,” Professor Walton said.
She said Queensland received the highest percentage of complaints about public hospitals (59 per cent) with the remainder of the HCCs receiving between 13 per cent and 25 per cent.
The study found that while trends in complaints about public hospitals were fairly stable in most places, there was a noticeable decrease in Victoria (from 31 per cent in 200506 to 14 per cent in 200910) and in the Australian Capital Territory (from 30 per cent to 13 per cent).
16 November, 2012
Seniors plug in
A new Broadband for Seniors website has been launched.
to new website
Acting Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Brendan O’Connor unveiled the revamped web resource saying it would provide seniors with more online learning tools to help them use the internet, as well as give kiosk hosts and volunteer tutors additional resources.
“Broadband for Seniors is helping older Australians to stay connected to family and friends, learn new skills and be more involved in their community,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The new website will build on this and ensure our seniors are getting the full benefit of the digital age.”
He said about 250,000 older Australians had been accessing the internet in about 2,000 Broadband for Seniors internet kiosks across the country.
“These kiosks are located in community hubs like senior citizens centres and bowls clubs, and provide seniors with free access to computers with broadband internet, as well as training in basic computing, internet browsing and email skills from teams of dedicated volunteers,” Mr O’Connor said.
Senator for New South Wales, Doug Cameron said the Government had allocated $25 million to the program, which was being delivered by NEC Australia, in partnership with Adult Learning Australia, Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association and University of the Third Age Online.
“A recent survey showed that more than 80 per cent of participants said their computer and internet skills, as well as their confidence in using new technology, had increased since visiting a Broadband for Seniors kiosk,” Senator Cameron said.
The new Broadband for Seniors website can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 November, 2012
The Australian Government has accepted all the recommendations relating to it from the Final Report of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry (QFCI).
to QLD floods wash up
Minister for Emergency Management, Nicola Roxon announced the Commonwealth’s response which has been tabled in Parliament.
“The Australian Government has undertaken a detailed analysis of the Commission’s final report and its 177 recommendations and has accepted the three recommendations directed to it, either in full or in part,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the three recommendations directed to the Commonwealth related to working with Queensland to improve access to flood data; locating telecommunications facilities to minimise exposure to flooding; and working with the State to improve the monitoring of contaminants in marine environments potentially affected by mine discharges.
“The Australian Government is working with States and Territories to progress a range of initiatives under the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, which draw on the work of the QFCI,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the initiatives included establishing a National Flood Risk Information Portal a single access point for flood mapping data that would enhance awareness of flood risk and improve decision-making in emergency management, land-use planning, and insurance.
She said the initiatives also included the introduction of a standard definition of ‘flood’ for insurance purposes; the provision of a key fact sheet for insurance consumers; and implementation of the National Work Program for Flood Mapping, which would improve the quality of flood mapping within Australia.
The QFCI was established by former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh on 17 January 2011 to examine events leading up to the 2010-11 Queensland floods, as well as the response and aftermath.
Ms Roxon said the Commonwealth continued to provide funds to Queensland under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements for successive natural disasters, with its contribution to Queensland’s disaster bill since 2009-10 estimated to be $9 billion.
The Commonwealth response to the QFCI report can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 November, 2012
MoU leads way to
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support Reservists of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in the State Public service has been signed by the Government of South Australia.
Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney said the State was now leading the way in the development of agreements which managed the relationship between ADF members and their civilian employers.
“Today’s MOU will form the basis for managing a highly-skilled shared workforce,” Senator Feeney said.
“A significant number of South Australian Public Servants also serve the nation as members of the ADF.
“This MOU will make it easier for them to balance their Public Service employment and their Defence service.”
South Australian Minister for the Public Sector, Michael O’Brien said the MOU would reassure public sector workers in the Defence Reserves that they had their employer’s full support and encouragement.
“It also highlights the Government’s commitment to making South Australia a national leader in defence industries,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Defence industries are vital to the South Australian economy, so it’s important we do all we can to encourage and assist the ADF.”
Senator Feeney said South Australia had a proud history in supporting ADF personnel.
“Reservists from South Australia have deployed on many operations in recent years, in particular on operations to East Timor and the Solomon Islands,” he said.
“Whenever there is a disaster or we need to undertake rescue and recovery work, our Reservists are ready, capable and trained to support the community.”
16 November, 2012
CSIRO buoyed by
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has developed a sensor to detect undetonated explosives on the sea floor.
Electrical engineer with CSIRO, Dr Keith Leslie said the method for finding the unexploded material underwater was similar to that used to detect underground mineral deposits.
“The sensor provides data on the location, characterisation and magnetic qualities of a target whether it is a gold deposit or an explosive,” Dr Leslie said.
“Our highly sensitive sensor the high temperature superconducting tensor gradiometer delivers significantly more information about the target’s magnetic field than conventional sensors used for this type of detection.”
He said the sensor was developed as part of a project with the US Government agency, the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and US-based research organisation Sky Research.
According to SERDP, over 10 million acres of coastal waters were contaminated by undetonated explosives.
It said that the small explosives typically rusted and corroded at sea, making them even more dangerous.
Dr Leslie said the CSIRO sensor could provide valuable geological information that discriminated between prospective and non-prospective areas or targets.
He said it avoided unnecessary drilling and minimised the risk of overlooking valuable mineral deposits.
“Our sensor has a critical advantage for small targets such as undetonated explosives, where only one or two measurements may be near the target,” Dr Leslie said.
He said that eventually, the technology may renew exploration efforts at abandoned sites where drilling programs were based on insufficient or inaccurate information.
It also has the potential to help clear landmines.
The sensor has been proved in a stationary laboratory environment and trials had been conducted to prove it in motion, in preparation for anticipated underwater trials.
16 November, 2012
Science backing for
Awards for the best paper, second best paper, and best scientific poster at the 2012 Land Warfare Conference in Melbourne, have been presented.
The best paper award was won by Mohammad Hossny of Deakin University for Low-cost Multimodal Facial Recognition Kinect Sensors.
The second best paper was awarded to Paul Phillips and Stephen Cimpoeru from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, for A Systems View of Vehicle Landmine Survivability and R. Orr, from Bond University, won the best poster award for Load Carriage: Reductions in Soldier Task Performance and Risks Posed.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon congratulated all the winners saying the awards recognised the excellent contributions of scientists and academics undertaking leading edge research to support the capability of Australia’s land forces.
He said more than 50 papers and posters were presented at the Land Warfare Conference and were judged on their value to defence capability, the quality of the research, presentation and delivery.
“Competition for the awards has attracted a wider selection of research contenders and raised the already high standard of the contributions,” Mr Snowdon said.
He thanked the Defence Materials Technology Centre for sponsoring the awards.
The Land Warfare Conference is organised every two years by the Army and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation to discuss new developments in capability and technology for the land force.
The 2012 conference attracted more than 1,500 delegates from Australia and overseas.
16 November, 2012
And in other news...
PM announces Royal Commission
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia.
“The proposed terms of reference and proposed Commissioner will be submitted to the Governor‑General in due course, pursuant to the Royal Commissions Act 1902,” Ms Gillard said.
“The Attorney-General and the Minister for Families will co-ordinate this work on behalf of the Government in coming weeks.”
Magnets deemed unattractive
Small, high-powered magnets marketed under names including BuckyBalls and Nanodots, have been permanently banned from sale in Australia.
The products contain numerous small, high-powered magnets sold in multiples of two or more marketed as toys, games, puzzles and even jewellery.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said there had been reports of serious injury and even death after children had swallowed the magnets.
Tax talks with US
Australia has started formal discussions for an intergovernmental agreement with the United States to minimise the impact for Australians of the United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
FATCA will impose certain due diligence and reporting obligations on foreign (non-US) financial institutions including Australian institutions.
A key objective of the agreement being negotiated is to facilitate Australian compliance with FATCA in a way that reduces its overall burden on Australian business.
The agreement would also improve existing reciprocal tax information sharing arrangements between the Australian Taxation Office and the United States Internal Revenue Service.
Inventions exhibition for Sydney
An exhibition of inventions sponsored by IP Australia is to open in Sydney in December after a successful season in Melbourne.
Wallace & Grommit’s World of Invention first opened at Melbourne’s Scienceworks in May this year, and will transfer to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney for a 15 December opening and will run until 31 May 2013.
Showcasing innovation and creativity in everyday life, Wallace & Grommit’s World of Invention also highlights the important link between invention and protection for intellectual property.
Indigenous graduates in NT
Twenty-two young men and women have graduated from the 2012 Defence Indigenous Development Program in Katherine, NT, after a seven-month residential program.
The program provides young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults with the life skills and confidence to secure opportunities and sustain continuous employment of their choice.
A number of graduates will continue to serve as reserve members of NORFORCE, one of Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Units, while they pursue full-time employment within the civilian sector.
Questacon opens ocean exhibition
A joint exhibition between Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre – and the Australian Museum is to showcase the ‘monsters of the deep’.
Deep Oceans was launched at Questacon in Canberra this week and includes pressure, chemo-luminescence and crush demonstrations designed to involve and engage children in the dark and dangerous world of giant sea creatures and bizarre fish.
Tourism seeks ad agency
Tourism Australia has called for tenders for its world-wide advertising program.
The agency is required under procurement rules to periodically review its partners to ensure they provide the best service, value and fit with its marketing objectives and goals.
Incumbent Agency, DDB Worldwide’s original three-year contract was due to run until July 2011 but was extended to 30 June 2013.
The new arrangement will run for three years, with an option to extend the contract for two further periods of 12 months.
Comment on baby formula
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions on a proposed change to infant formula requirements in the Food Standards Code.
FSANZ is considering an application to reduce the minimum required level of L-histidine in infant formula products from 12 mg/100 kJ to 10 mg/100 kJ.
The proposed change provides consistency with international and overseas food standards, and reduces trade barriers.
The closing date for submissions is 20 December.
Tropics to be heritage listed
National recognition has been extended to Indigenous heritage and culture in the Wet Tropics of Queensland under the existing Wet Tropics of Queensland National Heritage Listing.
The extension will cover the stories, traditions, songs and dances of the Aboriginal people of the region.
Archaeological evidence suggests Aboriginal people have been living in the Queensland rainforest for at least 5,000 years.
The Wet Tropics were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1988 and were added to the National Heritage List in 2007.
Spanish Armada on the way
An arrangement between the Australian and Spanish Navies will bring the Spanish Armada Ship, SPS Cantabria to Australia from mid-February until November 2013.
The Cantabria will augment the capabilities provided by HMA Ships Success and Sirius in providing support to the RAN during domestic and international training and exercises.
It is a modern auxiliary oil replenishment ship, similar to HMAS Success, which is capable of supplying fuel, food, stores and ammunition to ships at sea.
It will be the longest deployment undertaken by Cantabria and will allow the Spanish Armada to trial the ship’s full range of capabilities.
Police enlist Duchess
The Duchess of Cornwall has been appointed inaugural Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police.
The appointment builds on the traditional link between the Australian Army and the Royal Family.
The Royal Australian Corps of Military Police was initially formed in April 1916 as the ANZAC Provost Corps.
The Corps was reformed during World War II and was granted the ‘Royal’ prefix in 1948, adopting its current name in September 1974.
13 November, 2012
PM homes in on plan
The Prime Minister has announced that 12 per cent of the Australian Public Service (APS) would be free to work from home or elsewhere by 2020.
to work from home
Officially opening Telework Week in Canberra, Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed the APS to the goal saying it was part of the National Digital Economy Strategy.
She said staff would use broadband and digital technology to perform their work either at home or at other locations with a number of Departments and Agencies to conduct trials in the first half of next year.
“Leading companies such as Cisco, Telstra, Westpac, Medibank Health Solutions, Microsoft and KPMG are already using telework to retain and attract skilled staff and make cost savings by reducing pressure on office accommodation,” Ms Gillard said.
“The Government’s investment in the National Broadband Network will give more employees and employers the confidence to engage in telework by delivering reliable, affordable high-speed broadband to all Australian homes and businesses.”
She said the NBN would help unlock the potential for telework to boost productivity in the workplace; reduce commuting time and urban congestion; and allow employers to compete for the best employees, no matter where they were located.
Ms Gillard said the expansion of telework would be of particular value to people with disability who were not in the labour force but would take up telework if it was available; to carers and people with family responsibilities; to people nearing retirement age; and to those living in regional or remote Australia.
She said it would also be of benefit to many people forced to make long journeys to their workplaces.
“Australians in capital cities spend on average between 40 and 70 minutes a day travelling to and from work,” the Prime Minister said.
“That’s lost time with family and friends, lost time doing things that people would prefer to do rather than being in a long commute to work.
“Teleworking gives us some options. It means that people can do some or all of their work from home,” she said.
13 November, 2012
Public gives PS
The Public Service, police and armed forces enjoy the highest levels of public confidence in Australia according to a survey conducted by the Australian National University (ANU).
The ANU survey found, however, that almost one in three Australians believed the Federal Government to be corrupt with only one in five believing that Governments could usually be trusted to do the right thing.
The poll, Perceptions of Corruption and Ethical Conduct, measured public confidence in Government and institutions, perceptions and experiences of corruption and the ethical conduct of elected representatives, as well as taking stock of the political mood.
It confirmed that incidences of bribery involving public officials in Australia were rare, yet at the same time revealed that the public believed corruption was on the rise.
Australians’ satisfaction with democracy remained among the highest in the world suggesting the public distinguished between the broad institutions of the political system, in which confidence was high, and the individuals who occupied elected positions within that system, in whom confidence was low.
Other key findings included:
The survey report can be accessed at this PS News link.
- Satisfaction with democracy in Australia was high by international standards, although it was lower in 2012 than at any time since 1998.
- Judged over more than a decade, the largest increases in confidence have been in the Public Service and the legal system, and the largest decreases have been in the Federal Government and political parties.
- Satisfaction with the direction in which the country was heading remained positive, and had been virtually unchanged over the past year.
13 November, 2012
CSIRO puts energy
CSIRO has released a new website to allow visitors to compare possible future energy scenarios.
into future website
According to the Director of CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship, Alex Wonhas the new website, titled eFuture would help people understand some of the possible pathways for Australia and what it could mean for technology development, the economy and the environment.
“Australia will undergo a huge transformation in the energy sector over the next 35 years where a greater number and more diverse mix of electricity sources are likely to be powering our homes, businesses and industry,” Dr Wonhas said.
He said eFuture brought together extensive data about Australia’s energy sector in a readily accessible and interactive tool.
“Users are prompted to make choices on electricity demand, fuel price and technology type and see how that impacts Australia’s energy future,” he said
Dr Wonhas said eFuture used information based on the Australian Government’s newly released Energy White Paper with its release timed to coincide.
“The tool is a snapshot of CSIRO’s complex modelling research that Government and industry uses to inform decisions about energy investment and policy,” he said.
“We anticipate that industry, Government and research organisations will find eFuture really useful.
“However anyone can use it we want as many people as possible exploring Australia’s energy future.”
The new site can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 November, 2012
Defence sees point
A new commemorative pin has been issued to provide official recognition to Defence Force families whose members are often away for long periods of time serving the nation.
in family pin
Announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard the pins would be provided to families across the Navy, Army and the Air Force.
“This is a small but important way of recognising the family members that go through the emotional and at times difficult experience of having a loved one deployed overseas,” Ms Gillard said.
“As a nation, we appreciate the bravery and service of our military personnel; however, we should also remember the sacrifices of their families, going for long stretches without their loved ones, and the heightened anxiety knowing they are deployed in a conflict zone.”
She said the Department of Defence had worked on the pin’s design with family support organisations including Defence Families Australia.
“This is the first time that a universal and official pin of recognition has ever existed to recognise the contribution made by the families of Defence Force members,” the Prime Minister said.
She said the pin was suggested by a former United Nations peacekeeper who served in Rwanda, who brought it to the Government’s attention through his local Member of Parliament.
The MP suggested it to the Prime Minister saying the families of Defence Force members deserved official recognition.
13 November, 2012
Australia warms to
Australia is to sign up for a second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.
The Protocol’s first period of commitment ends on 31 December and a second to restrain greenhouse gas emissions is to begin a day later.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet said Australia was joining at a time countries around the world were taking action to combat climate change.
“Joining a second commitment period will ensure Australian businesses have access to international credits under the Clean Development Mechanism, helping Australia reduce emissions at the lowest cost to the economy,” Mr Combet said.
“All countries that are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are working towards a new global agreement that will have legally binding commitments for all major emitters.”
He said the new agreement which would include China, the United States, the European Union, India, Japan, Brazil and South Korea was to be finalised by 2015 and would start in 2020.
Mr Combet said Australia’s preparedness to join a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol at the United Nations climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar later this month would be conditional, among other things, on continued progress in international negotiations towards the new 2015 agreement; the second commitment period ending in 2020 in line with the start of the new agreement and access to the Kyoto market mechanisms, including the Clean Development Mechanism, from 1 January 2013.
“In Doha, Australia will commit to limiting its greenhouse gas emissions from 2013 to 2020 with a Kyoto target consistent with the bipartisan target of reducing emissions to five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020,” Mr Combet said.
“In no way does this rule out the option later of moving up Australia’s 2020 target range of five to 15 per cent, or 25 per cent, below 2000 levels if Australia’s target conditions relating to the extent of global action are met,” the Minister said.
13 November, 2012
A plan to establish a national network of wildlife corridors to protect the environment has been announced by the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke.
Mr Burke said that at present the map of reserved areas seemed like someone had dipped a toothbrush in paint and splattered different unconnected dots across the land.
“Corridors are about connecting those dots,” Mr Burke said.
“It’s a way of improving resilience and ensuring that we are protecting nature in a way that preserves it for generations to come.”
He said that under the network plan, communities would be able to nominate areas for recognition and declaration as National Wildlife Corridors.
“Over time, a network of wildlife corridors will be established across Australia, benefiting our biodiversity, and our agricultural and built environments,” Mr Burke said.
He thanked the National Wildlife Corridors Plan Advisory Group who undertook the consultation process on the draft plan with stakeholders across the community.
“The consultation undertaken by the independent advisory group was essential in ensuring the community had input into the National Wildlife Corridors Plan.
“The insights provided by regional natural resource management organisations, environment groups, Local and State Governments, scientists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, tourism organisations, planning organisations and agricultural and mining peak bodies were all considered by the Advisory Group during the consultation on the draft plan.”
He said the plan would help guide future Government investment through a range of initiatives, such as Caring for our Country and the Biodiversity Fund.
13 November, 2012
ISPs get orders
Australia’s major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been ordered to block some of the worst websites for child abuse listed by INTERPOL.
on child abuse
Minister for Broadband and Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy gave the order saying there was now no need for mandatory filtering legislation.
“In 2010, the Government announced that the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) would review the refused classification category after community concern that it didn’t reflect community standards,” Senator Conroy said.
“Following public consultation, the ALRC recommended that refused classification should be narrowed into a prohibited content category, which includes illegal content like child abuse material.”
He said that in line with that recommendation, Australia’s largest ISPs had been issued with notices requiring them to block the illegal sites in accordance with their obligations under the Telecommunications Act 1997.
“Telstra and Optus agreed to block the INTERPOL list in 2010, with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) subsequently issuing the relevant notices,” Senator Conroy said.
“They have reported that this has had no impact on internet speeds or congestion and they have had no reports of people being denied access to legitimate web content.”
He said the AFP would now begin issuing notices to smaller ISPs and would work closely to assist them in meeting their obligation under Australian law to prevent their services being used for illegal activities.
“The INTERPOL process for identification of websites for this list is rigorous and transparent. The criteria for websites to be included on the list and the complaints procedure for owners of blocked domains are all available on the INTERPOL website,” Senator Conroy said.
13 November, 2012
Beekeepers get buzz
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has distributed a manual to Australia’s 12,000 registered beekeepers showing how they can help protect the nation’s agriculture and horticulture industries from pests.
on pest protection
The manual was produced by the Department in conjunction with Plant Health Australia (PHA), the agricultural industry and other Governments and organisations.
The Biosecurity Manual for the Honey Bee Industry is aimed at guarding against the pests that had severely damaged agriculture and horticulture industries overseas.
It will specifically protect the honey bee industry and the crop industries that rely on pollination services.
The manual says that every beekeeper, from commercial enterprises to hobbyists, has a role to play in protecting honey bees from established and exotic pests and diseases.
“Awareness and good biosecurity practices are vital to protect the honey bee as well as crops with around 65 per cent of Australia’s horticultural and agricultural crops requiring pollination to produce fruit, vegetables, crops and seeds,” it says.
The manual was funded by the Pollination Program, through Horticulture Australia, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council.
The Federal Council of Australian Apiarists’ Association and the Wheen Bee Foundation funded printing and postage.
In addition to the manual, bee keepers, apiarists and hobbyists also have access to a free online training module on keeping honey bees healthy. The module is part of PHA’s Biosecurity Online Training program.
13 November, 2012
Wind-up policy key
A guide to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) new power to wind up an abandoned company has been released.
to worker support
Deputy Chairman of ASIC, Belinda Gibson said the guidance provided clarity to insolvency practitioners about how the Commission would be using the powers.
‘The provision of guidance about how we will use our power to wind up companies is important to assist employees of those companies who are owed certain entitlements,” Ms Gibson said.
“We are making clear our approach to facilitating access for employees affected by corporate failures to the Federal Government’s General Employee Entitlements Redundancy Scheme (GEERS).”
She said GEERS was a Government-funded scheme to assist employees of companies that had gone into liquidation and who were owed certain entitlements.
She said however that companies were sometimes abandoned by their directors without being put into liquidation which could result in the employees being unable to access GEERS.
Ms Gibson said ASIC now had a discretionary power to order the winding up of an abandoned company where it would facilitate employee access to GEERS.
She said ASIC had also taken the opportunity to expand its policy to assist liquidators wishing to pursue a recovery action where they suspected fraudulent or unlawful activity.
“This will further increase the transparency of our approach to enforcement’, Ms Gibson said.
She said that in order to do this, ASIC had updated its guidance on funding liquidator investigations and reports out of the Assetless Administration Fund (AA Fund).
The AA Fund finances preliminary investigations and reports into the failure of companies with few or no assets.
The scope of the AA Fund has been expanded so that it may also provide funds to a liquidator to recover assets in certain circumstances.
13 November, 2012
White Paper for a
The 2012 Energy White Paper, setting out the strategic policy framework for transforming Australia into a cleaner and more productive energy economy, has been released.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the central objective of the White Paper was to provide the settings to deliver secure, reliable, clean, competitively priced energy to consumers, while building the nation’s wealth through the safe and sustainable development of its energy resources.
“The Energy White Paper is about laying the foundation for sound energy policy development in this country for years to come,” Mr Ferguson said.
“It faces up to major challenges such as rising energy prices, pressures in Australia’s gas markets, remaining competitive in the development of our energy resources, maintaining our liquid fuel security and bringing new clean energy technologies to market.”
He said that in order to meet these challenges, the Australian Government was committed to open and transparent markets that allowed competitive pricing, efficient resource allocation and innovation.
“It is also important that all Governments maintain an attractive investment environment through efficient, timely and consistent national planning, approval and regulatory processes,” he said.
“The Australian Government recognises that rising energy prices are hurting households and businesses and that, while there are no quick-fix solutions, carrying out the energy market reforms outlined in the Energy White Paper will help to ease price pressures over the longer term.”
He said the Federal Government could not do this alone.
“Governments at all levels must embrace key reforms, including improving the efficiency of electricity networks, establishing effective competition and removing retail price caps,” Mr Ferguson said.
“We must also provide for greater demand-side participation and move towards cost-reflective pricing.”
The Minister said the key to the reform agenda and locking in the benefits to consumers would depend largely on the agreements that could be reached by the Standing Council on Energy and Resources followed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
13 November, 2012
Interns get insight
The Australian National University (ANU) has called for applications for internship positions in the offices of United States Senators.
into US politics
Under the American Australian Association-Australian National University National Parliamentary-Congressional Internship Program, Australian honours and postgraduate students are placed in the offices of the Senators who serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with an adjunct appointment to a relevant think tank.
The appointments begin in January and last for three months.
The ANU’s North American Liaison Office and American Australian Association (NY) provide financial and in-kind assistance to help interns with travel and accommodation expenses.
One intern who completed an internship with a Senator from Indiana as part of the 2012 program was student Beth Shaw.
“Interning for a United States Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, with an adjunct appointment to a relevant think-tank, provides an unrivalled opportunity to view the leading issues of the day from the US perspective,” Ms Shaw said.
“By understanding the nuances of the US approach, the internship ultimately fosters a deeper understanding between policy-makers in our two countries.”
Ms Shaw said the internship not only provided an opportunity to learn about US politics and the functions of a political office, it also provided the opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the public policy environment in Washington DC, with its innumerable think-tanks, interest groups and world-class universities.
Applications for the positions must be received by 18 November with the successful applicants be notified in late November.
The selection criteria and application forms can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 November, 2012
Curatorship to mark
An endowed curatorship has been established to mark the first anniversary of the National Library of Australia’s Treasures Gallery.
The endowment will be known as the James and Bettison Treasures Curatorship.
Director-General of the Library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich said she was delighted that philanthropists Helen James and Jim Bettison had recognised the significant place that the Library’s collections had in the research, creative and cultural life of all Australians.
“Helen James was a great supporter of the Treasures Gallery project from the outset until, sadly, she passed away a few months before the opening of the Treasures Gallery,” Ms Schwirtlich said.
“Helen and Jim Bettison gave generously to the Treasures Gallery project, recognising early the significant impact the gallery would have on Australia’s cultural life.”
She said the announcement of the curatorship was a fitting commemoration to both philanthropists.
It was anticipated that the new curator would start work in the New Year.
She said since the Treasures Gallery opened in October 2011, it had received more than 120,000 local, interstate and international visitors.
The gallery showcases many of the National Library’s greatest treasures, ranging from James Cook’s Endeavour Journal to the papers of Edward Koiki Mabo and the first document printed in Australia a 1796 theatre playbill.
Ms Schwirtlich said that early next month the gallery would be refreshed with new treasures, including a rare copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painted by Australian-born artist, Mortimer Menpes.
13 November, 2012
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and India’s Public Broadcaster, Prasar Bharati.
Minister for the Arts and Regional Development, Simon Crean welcomed the arrangement saying that one of the most important goals for the Australia-India relationship would be to understand each other better.
“The ABC and Prasar Bharati will share program content by utilising the extensive Doordarshan and ABC networks, allowing audiences in India and Australia to develop a more accurate and up-to-date appreciation of contemporary developments in the other country,” Mr Crean said.
“This MOU will advance the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper’s commitment to build stronger, deeper and broader cultural links between Australia and India, including through collaboration between our arts, cultural and media organisations.”
He said it would also build on Oz Fest, the biggest Australian cultural festival ever staged in India.
With over 100 events in 18 cities across the country, Oz Fest is currently exposing Indians to contemporary Australia.
“I’m delighted that Doordarshan has supported Oz Fest by filming and broadcasting the Oz Fest opening concert in New Delhi on 16 October and a major concert in Bhubaneswar on 20 October, giving Indian audiences the chance to see some of Australia’s best Indigenous performers, Gurrumul Yunupingu and Mark Atkins,” Mr Crean said.
He said Australia and India were working together to take cultural and people-to-people links to another level in other areas.
He said Prime Minister Gillard and India’s Prime Minister Singh had directed officials to pursue an Audio-Visual Agreement to facilitate greater investment in film-making in both countries.
“The ABC-Prasar Bharati MOU promotes co-production - with both parties to explore the possibility of executing television co-productions - programming and content exchange, the supply of English language learning programs by the ABC to Doordarshan, and the possible co-production and sharing of digital content,” Mr Crean said.
Oz Fest would run in India until February 2013.
9 November, 2012
Plan broadened for
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has launched a new initiative to appoint more women to Government Boards and Committees as way of supporting their advancement into leadership positions.
women on boards
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said the initiative called BoardLinks would give more women more opportunities to be appointed to their first board as a way of launching and furthering their directorship careers.
Senator Wong said the scheme would also facilitate training, mentoring and support.
“We know that women are as equally skilled and educated as their male counterparts,” Senator Wong, said, “yet they continue to be under-represented on high-level boards and decision-making bodies.”
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said one of the most significant hurdles facing women being appointed to boards was a requirement for prior board experience.
“However, this can be self-perpetuating because too few women hold board positions to begin with,” Ms Collins said.
“That’s why BoardLinks’ first focus will be on appointing women to their first Government board role, thereby expanding the pool of women who can be appointed to board positions in the corporate sector.”
Senator Wong said the members of BoardLinks would include senior Public Service leaders and current female members of Government boards, as well as female directors who attended last year’s Women on Boards Forum.
“It is important that the public sector officials who advise on board appointments within Government are also a part of BoardLinks, to increase visibility of potential candidates,” she said.
“Current female members of Government boards will also play an important role in mentoring, and providing support to candidates.”
At the launch, Senator Wong announced five business leaders who had put their support behind BoardLinks.
They are the Chief executive of the ASX, Elmer Funke Kupper; Chair of Coca-Cola Amatil and the Future Fund, David Gonski; Westpac CEO, Gail Kelly; Telstra Chair, Catherine Livingstone; and Chair of Women Leadership Institute of Australia, Carol Schwartz.
Senator Wong said a number of organisations would also be affiliates of the network, including the Australian Institute of Company Directors; ASX; Chief Executive Women; Women on Boards; and the Women Leadership Institute of Australia.
She said that in instances where the Government was unable to identify an appropriate candidate for a board role from within the BoardLinks network, it might approach the affiliates to consider their own networks for a suitable candidate.
A factsheet on the Boardlinks scheme can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 November, 2012
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has called for comment on the proposed content and procedures for the 17th national Census to be held in 2016.
The ABS has released its proposals for the Census in its document 2016 Census of Population and Housing: Consultation on content and procedures.
Director of 2016 Census Data with the Bureau, Jenny Telford said the review was being undertaken to ensure its largest statistical collection remained relevant in a constantly changing society and that it produced the highest quality data possible.
Ms Telford said the ABS had identified a number of current topics it would review for inclusion in the 2016 Census.
“This is a unique opportunity for Census data users and the public to have their say on the types of questions to be asked on the next Census,” Ms Telford said.
She said the ABS would review topics such as Australian citizenship, ancestry, need for assistance and Internet access to assess their ongoing relevance while looking for ways of improving the data that was produced.
“The ABS is researching new topics such as second residence, educational institution address, method of travel to educational institution, long-term health conditions and sources of income to better reflect today’s social and economic landscape,” Ms Telford said.
“Census data assists Government, business, researchers and the community to make informed decisions and plan for a brighter future.”
The proposals for the Census can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until 31 May 2013.
9 November, 2012
An inquiry into consumer concerns about mobile phone apps is to be conducted by the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC).
has app appeal
According to the Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury the Council decided to hold the inquiry after consumers raised issues about mobile commerce and apps.
Mr Bradbury said new mobile devices like smartphones and tablets had changed the way consumers engaged in commerce in a very short period of time.
“The pace of this technological innovation is driving entrepreneurs to use these new devices to come up with more and better ways to sell their wares to consumers,” Mr Bradbury said.
“At the same time though, some consumers have raised concerns about aspects of mobile commerce, particularly where purchases can be made without much difficulty using stored credit card data.”
He said CCAAC would look at the current app markets in Australia, the adequacy of information disclosed to consumers about the costs associated when downloading and using digital content, including apps, and actions that could be taken by consumers, industry and Governments to help improve consumer experiences.
“More and more people are downloading digital content like books, music, magazines and movies directly to their devices, while ‘apps’ are being used as virtual shopfronts to acquire goods and services,” he said.
“Apps are also increasingly relying on ‘in-app’ purchases and subscriptions, particularly common in games that may be played by children.”
Mr Bradbury said some of these apps were causing consumers great frustration and cost, and the inquiry would help name and shame some of the worst offenders.
He said that under its terms of reference, the inquiry would examine the characteristics, features and trends of app markets in Australia; consumers’ experiences when downloading and using content, including by children; and the adequacy of information being disclosed to consumers about the costs associated when downloading and using content before and after it was downloaded.
Mr Bradbury said an issues paper would be published on the CCAAC website this PS News link soon and submissions would be accepted until 31 January 2013.
9 November, 2012
Disability portal to
A new web portal has been launched for parents and carers of children with disability to help them navigate the range of available information on disability services.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas said the website, diSAbility connect, was a collaborative project with the South Australian Government in readiness for a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Senator McLucas said the website launch was timely given South Australia’s involvement in the first stage of an NDIS, beginning in July next year.
“diSAbility connect is an information gateway that will help families to easily identify and access relevant information,” Senator McLucas said.
“It will be the first port of call for parents where they can be linked to the information they are seeking.”
She said an NDIS would deliver fundamental change to the way disability care and support was provided in Australia.
“The portal is a work in progress, and its designers are keen to receive feedback so that it can ultimately be as comprehensive and helpful as possible,” she said.
The South Australian Minister for Disabilities, Ian Hunter said the priority of the project was to find better ways of supporting and strengthening families and giving every child the chance to reach their full potential.
“We will be focusing on children aged 0-5 years who have significant and permanent disability in the first year,” Mr Hunter said.
“By 2015, we’ll see the age limit expand to include children aged 0 to 14, with a total of around 5,000 children set to benefit from the scheme.”
Senator McLucas said that critical to the success of the NDIS was getting the preparations right and the systems in place to support it.
“That is why we are working closely with the States and Territories to lay the foundations of this fundamental reform.”
The diSAbility connect portal can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 November, 2012
Easier visas is
The requirements for people applying for specialist temporary work visas in Australia have been simplified.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen said that as a result, the number of specialist temporary work visa sub-classes had been cut from 17 to eight.
Mr Bowen said the initiative was part of the Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership: Simpler Visas.
“This initiative seeks to make it easier for people to understand and engage with Australia’s visa requirements,” Mr Bowen said.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Deregulation, David Bradbury said the visa reform was part of a broader deregulation agenda.
“This visa reform is aimed at reducing the costs imposed on business and the not-for-profit sector by unnecessary or poorly-designed regulation,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Criteria across these visas have been standardised to provide a more consistent approach to requirements to reduce unnecessary complexity for applicants and decision-makers.”
He said specialist temporary work visas included religious workers, diplomats, visiting academics and entertainers and the 457 visa program would be unaffected by the changes.
“The Skilled and Business Migration program has been simplified under skilled migration visa reforms, including the introduction of SkillSelect, a consolidated skilled occupations list, and a reduction from 28 to 11 visa sub-classes,” Mr Bradbury said.
“The Government also plans to halve the total number of visa sub-classes by 2015.”
9 November, 2012
TV audio trial to
The trial of a new audio system that assisted vision-impaired people watch ABC television has concluded.
be sounded out
Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said the ‘audio description’ system, which provided an additional verbal commentary explaining what was happening during television programs, would now be evaluated.
“This trial was the first test of audio description on Australian television, and I thank the ABC for conducting it,” Senator Conroy said.
He said the 13-week trial was designed to test how broadcasters captured audio description, how it was transmitted in the broadcast signal and how it was received in the home.
“I would also like to thank those people with a vision impairment who participated in the trial, and those who have provided feedback to me and the ABC,” he said.
“It’s clear that audio description is a service that is strongly desired by the vision-impaired community, and the trial was embraced with real enthusiasm by participants.”
Senator Conroy said, however, that there were significant technical concerns raised during the trial, with more than 1,000 complaints from viewers whose reception of ABC1 was disrupted because of the audio description broadcast.
He said the ABC would report on the trial before the end of the year.
“The audio description trial is an important first step on the pathway to establishing a permanent audio description service on Australian television,” Senator Conroy said.
9 November, 2012
Mint cashes in on
The Royal Australian Mint is to sponsor the 2012 Read2Remember Coin Design Competition.
The national competition encourages children to submit a design for a coin which reflects the courage of Australia’s service men and women.
The Read2Remember campaign is an initiative of Sunshine Coast-based organisation SunnyKids.
SunnyKids CEO and founder of Read2Remember, Chris Turner said the campaign, to improve literacy skills and wellbeing among children, was free for all schools to register.
“It has clearly struck a strong chord, with 1,480 schools and up to 295,000 school children across Australia participating,” Mr Turner said
He said schoolchildren were encouraged to read Rupert McCall’s poem Pledge of Remembrance, written especially for the occasion.
“The Royal Australian Mint’s involvement provides a lot of credibility for the Read2Remember program as well as much needed funds to ensure we can reach as many schools as possible across Australia,” Mr Turner said.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll, said such partnerships were valuable to developing young people.
“In the lead-up to the Anzac centenary, this is a great initiative from the Royal Australian Mint and Read2Remember to encourage young Australians to understand the significance of Remembrance Day through developing their literacy skills,” Mr Ripoll said.
Mr Turner said the winning designer would receive the same special graphics tablet used by Royal Australian Mint designers to create new coins and his or her school would also receive an invitation to the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra.
Entries for the 2012 Read2Remember Coin Design Competition close on 16 November with the winner announced on 7 December on the Mint’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed
More information can be found at this PS News link.
9 November, 2012
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has launched program of meeting people who work in the maritime sector to explain upcoming changes to the rules.
awash with reforms
AMSA is encouraging the workers to talk to its staff about the core areas of the Authority’s business and how it may impact on their businesses or lifestyles.
It said a number of reforms were to be introduced next year, including the overhaul of century-old laws and the establishment of a national system for commercial domestic vessel safety, replacing eight existing sets of regulations.
AMSA is the national regulator responsible for shipping safety and management, protection of the marine environment, and land and sea search and rescue.
It is also responsible for search and rescue including case studies of recent rescues.
T said the maritime reforms on the way included changes applying to every commercial vessel sailing in Australian waters.
The Authority has embarked on a series of Community Information Days to provide an overview of its activities, including marine environment protection including oil spill response; ship safety and shipping management including aids to navigation and vessel tracking.
According to AMSA, as Australia is an island nation, maritime activity impacts on everyone’s everyday life including imports and exports, fishing and tourism, search and rescue and marine environment protection.
It said the Community Information Days would be held around the country in areas which relied on the maritime industries for the economic and social benefits they provided.
9 November, 2012
And in other news...
Fund advice costs $1B
The Future Fund has spent almost $1 billion in fees in the past year.
Managing Director of the Fund, Mark Burgess said a decision to make the fund more transparent led to it revealing the figure.
Mr Burgess said the level of fees paid by the Future Fund was a reflection of its diversification strategy but keeping fees down was critical.
Ombudsman allegation dismissed
Allegations concerning Ministerial intervention in the content of a recent annual report from the Ombudsman’s Office have been dismissed as baseless by the Special Minister of State, Gary Gray.
The allegations were reportedly raised by former Ombudsman, Allan Asher.
A spokesman for Mr Gray said it would be highly inappropriate for the Minister to seek to influence the independent Office of the Ombudsman and at no time did Mr Gray or his office seek to do so.
PS houses to Trust
Two historic public service houses in Darwin’s Myilly Point heritage precinct have been transferred from the Federal Government to the NT National Trust.
Officially exchanging contracts for the transfer of Mines House and Burnett House, Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said they had been built in 1939 and marked the evolution of residential building in Australia and design adaptation for tropical climates.
The houses were designed by B.C.G. Burnett, an architect in the Commonwealth Department of the Interior and intended for occupation by Commonwealth PS staff.
Malaysia in exchange program
A joint Australia-Malaysia cultural exchange program has been announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr.
Senator Carr said the program would allow young Australians and Malaysians to travel to each other’s countries and develop a stronger understanding of other cultures and faiths.
Under the program, six young leaders from the Australian Muslim community would travel to Malaysia to meet national and community groups and six young Malay community leaders would travel to Australia for a similar exchange in Australian values and national culture.
Fraser archive published
A guide to archival records of Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, has been published by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and University of Melbourne Archives.
The NAA said the guide Malcolm Fraser: Guide to Archives of Australia’s Prime Ministers, would assist researchers and members of the public find records relating to Mr Fraser and his wife Tamie.
The publication is available from the NAA office in Canberra or can be accessed at this PS News link.
Science week grants open
Applications are open for grants to take part in National Science Week 2013.
Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans said the Inspiring Australia initiative would provide grants of between $2,000 and $25,000 to organisations and community groups to design and develop events for next year’s National Science Week.
Applications close 26 November and information and guidelines can be accessed at this PS News link.
$100 million for malaria
Australia is to spend more than $100 million over the next four years to reduce deaths and illness from malaria in the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2010, there were more than 30 million malaria cases and about 42,000 deaths in Australia’s region, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The first $10 million will be provided for malaria research under the aid program’s new Medical Research Strategy.
Clearing customs easier
Australia’s automated border processing system, SmartGate, is to be extended to United States travellers for a trial period.
It will be the first extension to non-Australians using the self-processing system since SmartGate was opened to New Zealand ePassport holders in 2007.
The trial is expected to last four months and the results used to guide planning for the progressive introduction of SmartGate to other foreign holders of ePassports.
Vaccine for Hendra virus
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has approved a vaccine to protect horses against the Hendra virus.
Limited supplies will soon be available to horse owners and to the Australian equine industry through accredited veterinarians under strict conditions.
The vaccine will help protect people from contracting the potentially lethal virus by preventing transmission from bats to horses.
6 November, 2012
Setting up new units in Departments to drive cuts to government red tape and linking senior PS managers’ salaries to the extent they succeed are just two proposals unveiled by the Federal Opposition as part of its deregulation plans for business and community organisations.
red tape assault
Announced by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, the new policies are set out in a discussion paper released for public comment.
Mr Abbott said the proposed policies would save $1 billion a year and were based on nationwide consultations by a special Red Tape Reduction Taskforce.
He said that under the plans, every Department and Agency would be required to reduce red tape every year and record how well it did so in its annual report.
He said they would also be required to quantify the compliance costs to business and individuals of the regulations they administered and the “remuneration of senior public servants” would be linked to the “quantified and proven reductions in red tape.”
Mr Abbott said annual red tape reduction targets would also be included in the performance criteria for determining whether Departmental Secretaries should be re-appointed.
“Stronger economic growth, greater investment, more innovation and higher productivity can be generated if Australia changes the way it addresses regulation,” Mr Abbott said.
“Australia has been caught in the vice of over-regulation.”
He said the Office of Best Practice Regulation would be transferred to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to tackle red tape across the whole of Government and future Cabinet submissions would be required to quantify the financial impact on businesses, individuals and society of any new regulations.
He said a single Commonwealth procurement panel would be established to administer a centralised register of service providers and a national benchmark scheme for Local Councils set up to measure approval processing times and promote efficient administration and regulatory management practices.
Mr Abbott said if the Opposition won government it would take “immediate action” to reduce the red tape burden and lift productivity.
The Deregulation Reform Discussion Paper can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions have been invited from business, community groups, State, Territory and Local Governments as well as the broader community.
6 November, 2012
Legislation to enable retail trading of Commonwealth Government Securities (CGS) has been passed by the Senate and welcomed by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan.
to be loosened
Mr Swan said the reform was another step in the process of developing a more efficient bond market.
“The global financial crisis highlighted the importance of Australian companies having a diversity of funding sources to mitigate funding liquidity risk,” Mr Swan said.
“A vibrant corporate bond market is also critical to increasing competitive pressure on bank lending rates to business.”
He said the reforms would mean that national superannuation savings could be used to fund more productive investment in the domestic economy, reducing Australia’s reliance on borrowing from offshore funds.
“An active retail CGS market will provide a low-risk way for retail investors to familiarise themselves with fixed-interest securities,” Mr Swan said.
He said this would be a significant development as CGS were currently almost exclusively traded among institutional investors.
“The legislation provides a legal framework enabling retail investors to participate in the CGS market and applies the investor protection regime in the Corporations Act to retail trading of CGS,” Mr Swan said.
He said the Australian Office of Financial Management would be working with commercial partners, including financial market operators, to ensure that trading of CGS would be made accessible to retail investors in the near future.
“A competitive and sustainable banking system is an important part of the Government’s broad economic agenda, and developing our local corporate bond market is an important part of this,” Mr Swan said.
6 November, 2012
Green light for new
A new framework has been developed by the Commonwealth to raise the standard of environmental regulation in the States and Territories.
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said the draft Framework of Standards for Accreditation underpinned the Federal Government’s approach to the reform process and was released so feedback could be obtained from stakeholders.
“I have released the draft standards so that there is opportunity for people to see the approach the Government is taking as we negotiate with the States and Territories on streamlining environmental regulation,” Mr Burke said.
“This is about lifting the States up to the level of environmental protection provided by the Commonwealth, not letting Commonwealth standards drop.”
He said that since the Government’s response to the Hawke Review, it had been working to deliver a simpler environmental protection system that had clearer standards and gave faster decisions.
“This will help ensure our nation has both a resilient environment and a strong economy,” Mr Burke said.
“Not one clause of existing environmental law is altered. This is about removing unnecessarily duplicative and time-consuming processes.”
He said the Commonwealth had been working cooperatively with all States and Territories to provide a basis for developing bilateral agreements that delivered a streamlined assessment and approval process based on high environmental standards.
“Environmental standards will provide the basis for the Government’s consideration of whether to accredit State and Territory environmental approval processes.
“Discussions are progressing well and the release of the draft standards is an important step in this process,” the Minister said.
6 November, 2012
UNESCO in frame
The Australia Council for the Arts has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to promote cultural diversity across the Asia-Pacific.
with arts council
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said the MOU would build on strong cultural links that already existed with Australia’s Asia-Pacific neighbours by supporting new international collaborations between artists, partnerships and research.
“Relationships built on cultural understanding and a shared appreciation of the arts and creativity are the basis for building economic, political, security and trade links,” Mr Crean said.
He said the memorandum would assist in the implementation of UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression, signed by Australia in 2009.
“Australia is proud to be a signatory to an international agreement that seeks to ensure artists and citizens worldwide can create, produce, disseminate and enjoy a broad range of cultural goods, services and activities,” Mr Crean said.
Chair of the Australia Council, Rupert Myer said the agreement was a significant milestone, providing Australian artists and cultural leaders with a platform to collaborate with and support the work of UNESCO in Asia.
He said the first project under the MOU was the Diversity of Cultural Expression Project in partnership with the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) at the University of Western Sydney and UNESCO Bangkok.
“The project will research, analyse and promote up to six significant Australia Council-funded projects, exploring the intersection of diverse cultural expressions across a range of art forms and practices,” Mr Myer said.
6 November, 2012
A special forum to look at the better management of asbestos and a deeper understanding of its impact on Australian workplaces is to be held in Melbourne later this month
to clear the air
Organised by the federal work health and safety regulator Comcare, the forum is aimed at promoting broader community awareness, education and understanding of asbestos and its risks.
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said the event would highlight the continuing dangers of asbestos and the best ways to deal with the problem.
He said it was part of a national effort to manage asbestos, reduce people’s exposure to it and better care for people affected by it.
“Sadly, more than 640 people died from asbestos related conditions in 2010 and more are expected to die each year”, Mr O’Connor said.
He said the Forum would feature a keynote address from the Chairman of the Asbestos Management Review, Geoff Fary who led a recent government review into asbestos and its impact.
Mr Fary’s address will describe the recommendations for the development of a national strategic plan to improve asbestos awareness and management in Australia.
Mr O’Connor said the forum would also hear of Government plans to establish a new Office of Asbestos Safety (OAS) with the head of the Office, Steve Kibble explaining how the Government was looking at implementing the recommendations of the Fary Review.
Establishing the OAS was one of its recommendations
Mr O’Conner said that health experts would also contribute to the program, including Dr Geza Benke from Monash University and Associate Professor Deborah Yates from Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital.
He said they would discuss the latest in assessment, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care for sufferers of asbestos related conditions.
“The forum will also include disease sufferers who will share insights and lived experiences to enhance asbestos awareness, education and collaboration,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the Forum would also look at the impact of asbestos disease with advice from specialist actuaries with extensive experience in the valuation of asbestos liabilities.
Finity’s David McNab and Comcare’s Chief Actuary, Bruce Watson will examine the financial impacts of asbestos related diseases on business and the community.
“This is a wide ranging Forum, relevant to support groups, medical professionals, legal representatives and those with an interest in the continued development of workplace health, safety and rehabilitation”, Mr O’Connor said.
He said registrations to attend could be made by the end of this week (9 November) at this PS News link.
The Forum is to be held at the Intercontinental Hotel, 495 Collins Street Melbourne on Monday 26 November 2012.
6 November, 2012
Lost super plan
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has reported that about 1.1 million lost and unclaimed superannuation accounts, worth more than $3.2 billion, were returned to their owners during the past financial year.
According to the ATO, it was the first time the amount of unclaimed superannuation had fallen.
The balance now stands at $17.7 billion after reaching a peak of almost $21 billion at 30 June 2011.
Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, said the success of ATO programs like SuperSeeker had reunited people with their lost super and returned more than $3 billion to workers’ superannuation balances.
“As part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Government announced that it will help protect more small lost superannuation accounts from being eroded by fees and charges,” Mr Shorten said.
He said this would be done by increasing the account balance threshold below which lost accounts were required to be transferred to the ATO from $200 to $2,000, where the account had been inactive for five years or the member was uncontactable.
“The Government also announced a separate reform in relation to accounts where the member is ‘unidentifiable’,” he said.
“These are accounts where the superannuation provider is satisfied that it will never be possible for the provider to pay an amount to the member - for example, they are missing both the member’s name and tax file number.”
He said those accounts would be transferred to the ATO after 12 months of inactivity rather than five years as is currently the case, but they represented less than 0.1 per cent of superannuation.
Mr Shorten said people could reclaim superannuation accounts transferred to the ATO at any time.
He said that in addition, interest would be paid on all superannuation accounts reclaimed from the ATO at the rate of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from 1 July 2013.
More information about reclaiming lost super is available from the ATO’s website at this PS News link.
6 November, 2012
Defence off range
An audit of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) services to the families of personnel killed or injured while on duty has found a range of shortcomings.
in family support
In his audit report Delivery of Bereavement and Family Support Services Through the Defence Community Organisation, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said that while the management and delivery of family support services through the Defence Community Organisation (DCO) were “broadly successful” there were aspects that could be improved.
Mr McPhee said these included DCO’s management of client confidentiality when providing bereavement support and counselling services to ADF families and its administration of some bereavement entitlements.
He said that in providing bereavement support, Defence needed to better inform bereaved families and significant others of any limitations to client confidentiality which might result from their acceptance of assistance from DCO.
“DCO has not consistently explained to bereaved families all of the purposes and uses for which it collects personal information from them,” Mr McPhee said.
“There remains scope for Defence to improve the information it provides to bereaved families.”
He said another issue affecting families was the way in which Defence had structured its bereavement support arrangements, and DCO’s implementation of those arrangements, which gave rise to a risk that bereaved de facto partners might not receive Defence and DCO bereavement support services if their relationship was not officially recognised before the member’s death.
“Official recognition relies on the member informing Defence, which is not always done as members may forget to do so, or may choose not to do so for a variety reasons,” Mr McPhee said.
He said his audit found the current guidance made available to ADF members and their families did not fully inform them of the counselling services they could expect.
He made four recommendations including a review of the definition of ‘next of kin’; improving guidance to ADF members; improving the management of privacy; and clarifying and communicating the eligibility criteria for DCO family counselling services.
The Defence Force agreed to all four recommendations.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit Team was Brett Goyne, Michael Kozakos and Fran Holbert.
6 November, 2012
How global consumers view Australia is the subject of a major international tourism research project has been commissioned by Tourism Australia.
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy said the research was aimed at identifying how global consumers viewed Australia as well as the barriers and the “triggers” for travelling here.
Mr McEvoy said that by better understanding what motivated consumers in Australia’s key target markets, tourism agencies would be in a much better position to craft their message.
“It also gives Australian tourism operators valuable insights into how to adapt and develop their business to best attract new visitors,” Mr McEvoy said.
He said that major findings from the research, carried out in 11 of Australia’s key tourism markets, included that Australia’s biggest strength was its world class nature; the greatest drivers of international visitor demand to Australia were beaches, aquatic and wildlife experiences and a rating of No. 1 for safety among those who had visited.
“Perceptions of Australia’s food and wine offering are mixed across markets, although rankings are very high amongst those who have visited and sampled, presenting significant future international marketing opportunities,” Mr McEvoy said.
“Aspiration and intention to visit is very high across the board, however, awareness of experiences within Australia and converting interest into actual visits for leisure or holiday travel is lower.”
He said the findings would contribute towards the industry achieving its Tourism 2020 goal of increasing tourism spending by up to $140 billion by the end of the decade.
6 November, 2012
Boat people’s plans
Legislative changes are to be introduced to remove the incentive for asylum seekers to undertake risky boat journeys to the Australian mainland.
to be scuttled
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen said The Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012 gave effect to a recommendation of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers that boat arrivals should have the same legal status regardless of where they entered Australian territory.
Mr Bowen said he was committed to implementing the recommendations of the Expert Panel and giving asylum seekers better options than risking their lives at sea.
“The proposed amendments mean a person will be subject to regional processing based on their status as an unauthorised maritime arrival, rather than the place of entry in Australia,” Mr Bowen said.
“The changes ensure there is one rule for all boat arrivals, as the Expert Panel recommended,” he said.
The Minister’s plan has drawn criticism however with the Australian Human Rights Commission saying the proposed amendments undermined Australia’s obligations under the Refugees Convention and other human rights treaties.
President of the Commission, Gillian Triggs said the legislation discriminated against some of the most vulnerable people in our region.
“Australia is obliged to implement the Refugees Convention in good faith,” Professor Triggs said.
“The proposed amendments to the Migration Act undermine the Refugees Convention because they penalise asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat.
“States cannot avoid their international law obligations by transferring asylum seekers to a third country,” she said.
6 November, 2012
The international Commonwealth Foundation has been relaunched with a new mandate to put participation by the people at the heart of accountable governance.
Director of the Foundation, Vijay Krishnarayan said its new direction would have an impact on the international development community.
“After 12 months of intense consultation, the organisation has responded to the mandate to mobilise civil society in pursuit of Commonwealth principles and priorities by focusing on citizens’ participation,” Mr Krishnarayan said.
“The Foundation’s new mission is to develop the capacity of civil society to act together and learn from each other to engage with the institutions that shape people’s lives.”
He said the relaunch was ordered by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at its meeting in Perth in October 2011 (CHOGM).
He said CHOGM agreed the Commonwealth Foundation was a development organisation with an international remit and reach throughout the member countries.
He said the Foundation’s approach to improving governance focused on equipping civil society with the knowledge it needed to engage with Governments and other organisations.
“The Foundation will also help Governments and institutions so that they can improve the way that they respond to the growing demand to participate from civil society,” Mr Krishnarayan said.
“This determination to improve participatory governance stems from a desire to see better development outcomes achieved and to embed a culture of sustainable democracy,” he said.
6 November, 2012
The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science have been awarded to five scientists and science teachers.
in science awards
The major prize was bestowed on Professor Ken Freeman of the Australian National University, for his work as an astronomer.
Judges said that in 1970, Professor Freeman overturned the contemporary understanding of what made up the Universe by discovering that what could be seen of galaxies stars, gas and dust was only a small fraction of their mass, and he determined that the rest was ‘dark matter’.
“Today he is exploring the archaeology of the Milky Way, mentoring the next generation of astronomers and helping to develop world-leading telescopes,” the judges said.
The Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools was awarded to Michael van der Ploeg, from Table Cape Primary School in Wynyard, Tasmania.
Judges said Mr van der Ploeg was inspiring his students to continue to study science at secondary and tertiary levels through practical experiences exploring beaches and fossil cliffs on the State’s north-west coast and interacting with robots.
A teacher at Adelaide’s Salisbury High School, Anita Trenwith, was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.
“Mrs Trenwith recognises that every student deserves a science education and has created a unique hands-on program for special education students,” the judges said.
“The program includes a hands-on agriculture subject, where students plant and manage crops, drive tractors and look after livestock.
University of Western Australia Professor Eric May received the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.
Judges said the young engineer was making the cleanest fossil fuel, liquefied natural gas, even cleaner through his analytical understanding of gas behaviour.
They said his work would save billions of dollars in processing costs.
Mark Shackleton, from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, received the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.
“During his PhD, Dr Shackleton demonstrated for the first time that an entire solid organ, a functioning breast, could be grown from a single cell a stem cell,” judges said.
“Now he is redefining our understanding of melanoma tumours and opening up new pathways for treatment.”
Each prize winner received $50,000 except for Professor Freeman whose major prize came with $300,000.
6 November, 2012
Big truck approvals
More than 1,000 heavy vehicles have been approved since a scheme to encourage the take-up of safe higher-productivity heavy vehicles was introduced in 2007.
rumble past 1,000
Chief Officer Projects for the National Transport Commission (NTC), George Konstandakos, said the scheme was crucial to boosting not only the performance of Australia’s freight transport, but of the entire transport system.
Higher productivity vehicles were typically B-doubles up to 30 metres in length.
They were required to meet safety and performance standards and were restricted to travel on certain rural roads and some metropolitan freeways.
Mr Konstandakos said the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme had been experiencing a surge in applications over the past 12 months.
“In 2013, PBS becomes part of the new Heavy Vehicle National Law,” Mr Konstandakos said.
“This means that, for the first time, industry will have certainty of access to a defined network under the scheme,” he said.
“PBS applications have nearly doubled in the last 12 months and we expect to see even greater demand once the changes to the scheme, announced in March, are fully implemented.”
He said encouraging the use of higher productivity vehicles on designated roads meant less heavy vehicles were required to service the freight, resulting in fewer vehicle emissions and reduced traffic congestion on roads.
“Importantly, PBS vehicles are assessed against some of the most stringent road regulations in the world,” Mr Konstandakos said.
He said PBS trucks and buses were tested against 16 stringent safety standards and four infrastructure standards to ensure that they could start, stop, turn and travel safely.
6 November, 2012
Tour of duty for
A new exhibition of archaeological treasures from Afghanistan is to tour Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane in 2013 and 2014.
art from Kabul
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr said the exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures of the National Museum, Kabul resulted from a partnership between Australian and Afghan State Museums and Galleries.
Senator Carr said the exhibition would comprise more than 230 artefacts dating from sites along the Silk Road between 2200BC and 200AD.
He said the exhibition attested to the role Afghanistan had played as a crossroads of the ancient world.
He said many of the items were feared destroyed in the country’s recent wars but were kept hidden by museum staff.
“The exhibition illustrates the motto of Afghanistan’s National Museum “a nation stays alive when its culture stays alive,” Senator Carr said.
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said the exhibition would highlight the important role cultural diplomacy and exchange played in strengthening Australia’s engagement with the rest of the world.
“Arts and culture are the essence of our identity and how we understand each other people-to-people, country-to-country and region-to-region,” Mr Crean said.
“As home to one of the oldest cultures on earth and also welcoming to greater diversity of cultures, we are thrilled to bring the Hidden Treasures exhibition to Australia.”
He said diplomatic and financial support had been provided to bring the exhibition to Australia, following successful tours to the United States and Europe.
The exhibition will tour to the Melbourne Museum, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Queensland Museum and the Museum of Western Australia.
2 November, 2012
PS to take lead in
The public sector is to take a major leading role in implementing the new Asian Century policies, according to the Minister for the Public Service and Integrity, Gary Gray.
Asian policy push
Mr Gray said that by 2025, one-third of board members of Commonwealth bodies and one-third of the senior leadership of the Australian Public Service (APS 200) would have deep experience in and knowledge of Asia.
He said the Federal Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper was a roadmap for the country to capitalise on strong economic growth in the region and this would require a whole-of-Public-Service leadership effort.
“Both the public and private sectors have significant roles to play if Australia is to make the most of the Asian century,” Mr Gray said.
“Like the top 200 companies, we will boost Asia-literacy on the boards of all Commonwealth bodies as well as among the Senior Executive leadership group.”
He said a deeper understanding of the region meant better integrated policy analysis, problem solving and implementation across domestic and international matters.
Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Ian Watt, and Australian Public Service Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick are to develop a strategy to ensure the Government can build on existing capabilities to meet future needs, he said.
“In developing this capability strategy, the APS will aim to embed practices that deepen Asia-relevant knowledge and expertise,” Mr Gray said.
“At the Minister level, we’ll build stronger relationships through more regular bilateral and regional engagement with our counterparts in Asia to pursue policy outcomes.
“The Australian Public Service and the corporate sector will need to work together to build on our skills and understanding of the region with more effective interaction at all levels - political, cultural, social and business - to improve policy development and implementation,” Mr Gray said.
2 November, 2012
Freedom the focus
A review of the Freedom of Information laws has been announced in a bid to reduce the costs of administering them.
of FOI review
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, announced the independent review saying it would be undertaken by former Secretary of Defence and other departments, Allan Hawke.
Ms Roxon said about $41 million in taxpayers’ money was spent across the Australian Public Service in 2011-12 processing FOI requests.
She said more than 22,000 FOI requests were determined during the year at an average cost of $1,876 a request.
Ms Roxon said the review would consider how the costs could be reduced, including the Information Commissioner’s recent recommendations regarding the current charging regime.
“The review will consider how these Acts and related laws continue to provide an effective framework for access to Government information,” Ms Roxon said.
“Importantly, the review will also assess the impact of reforms to Freedom of Information laws in 2009 and 2010.”
She said a wide range of stakeholders and users of Freedom of Information laws would be consulted as part of the review, which was expected to be completed within a six-month timeframe.
The terms of reference for the review include examining the role of fees and charges in the FOI system; the desirability of minimising the administrative burden on APS agencies; the range of agencies covered; protection of sensitive Government documents; and the effectiveness of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
A full list of the terms of reference can be accessed at this PS News link and Dr Hawke is to begin work on the project this month.
2 November, 2012
Post Office plugs
Australia Post has launched its Digital Mailbox.
into digital mail
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said the new service had the potential to revolutionise the mail industry.
Senator Conroy said it would provide Australians with a way to manage all their information online securely.
“For over 200 years, Australia Post has connected Australians with each other and the rest of the world through letters,” Senator Conroy said.
“They are now embracing the digital world, realising that 21st-century technology provides them with exciting opportunities.”
He said the Digital Mailbox had been designed as a closed and secure communications channel, hosted in an Australian cloud.
“It will have bank level security, with all communications being encrypted,” he said.
“Unlike email, only certified providers will be able to connect to the service, meaning customers can control who they receive communications from.”
He said the new Mailbox would also make it easier for Government Agencies to provide services to the Australian people and the Department of Human Services and Australian Taxation Office were to take part in a proof-of-concept trial to see how it could be used to connect to and communicate with people about Government Services.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr, said the Digital Mailbox would expand and modernise the delivery of Government Services.
“More than four million people currently use online services to access Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support services and some 28 million letters will be sent to Centrelink recipients online this year alone,” Senator Carr said.
“The trial means the two agencies can assess the full range of benefits of the Mailbox for peoples’ digital transactions with Government.
“It will help us develop better, and more secure, online services.”
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury, said the Australian Taxation Office had led the transition to online transactions with its Etax program, which was first introduced in 1999.
“Australians are increasingly turning to online resources to interact with Government agencies like the ATO,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Last year 2.6 million Australians lodged their tax returns using Etax and this number will continue to grow,” he said.
Australia Post customers can set-up their Digital MailBoxes at this PS News link.
2 November, 2012
New radio channel in
A dedicated radio channel has been set aside for emergency services to provide greater access to effective communication during disasters.
tune for emergencies
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon and the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy announced the decision saying it followed a request to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for a dedicated emergency services spectrum.
“Ensuring authorities can communicate effectively on a reliable network during a disaster is critical,” Ms Roxon said, “and the decision by ACMA to dedicate part of our communications network to emergency services is a welcome one.
“The Commonwealth will now commence negotiations with the States and Territories to reach agreement ahead of the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management in November.”
She said the long-term project would allow State and Territory emergency services to respond faster and more effectively to disasters.
Senator Conroy said ACMA had identified 10MHz of spectrum in the 800 MHz band for the dedicated channel.
“The Government considers the allocation of spectrum from the 800 MHz band to be the best option to meet the communication needs of our public safety agencies,” Senator Conroy said.
He said the Government’s offer of the spectrum to the States would be at a negotiated price.
Senator Conroy said the deal would be conditional on a number of factors, including
the capability being nationally interoperable and the States and Territories fund the costs of designing, building, equipping, maintaining and operating the capability.
2 November, 2012
Red tape flagged
Government red tape and bureaucratic processes that interfere with business operations are to be targeted as part of the move towards the Asian Century.
for Asian century
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong, said less red tape and better regulatory frameworks were needed if Australia was to become one of the world’s top five places for doing business by 2025.
“We recognise that Australia’s economic growth in the Asian century will be increasingly tied to the growth of our region,” Senator Wong said.
“That’s why it’s important to find ways of ensuring all Australians will be able to benefit from and participate in Australia’s growing prosperity and engagement in the Asian region.” She said Australian businesses needed to be competitive and needed well designed regulation that allowed them to be flexible and innovative.
“Our aim is, that by 2025, Australia will be in the world’s top five when it comes to ease of doing business,’’ Senator Wong said.
She said the Federal Government would enter into a National Productivity Compact with the States and Territories, focused on regulatory and competition reform.
“The will build on the Business Advisory Forum held in April this year where business groups met directly with the Prime Minister and First Ministers,” she said.
Senator Wong said that following the Business Advisory Forum, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a new regulatory and competition reform agenda.
She said priority areas for major reform were identified to lower costs for business, including rationalising carbon reduction and energy efficiency schemes and addressing duplication of environmental assessment and approval processes.
2 November, 2012
An international award for achievements in archival preservation won by the National Archives of Australia will assist the Agency share its expertise with the next generation of archival conservators.
on the record
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Jikji Memory of the World Prize comes with US$30,000 which the Director-General of the Archives, David Fricker, said would help fund a six-months internship for conservation student Carolyn Milne who had started work in the conservation laboratory.
Mr Fricker said the Archives would match the funds provided by the prize to enhance the preservation and management of archival resources in the region.
He said the 2011 award acknowledged the National Archives as a world leader in many areas, notably that of digital preservation.
“It also recognised the National Archives’ research into preserving documents written in iron gall ink, which can present significant preservation challenges,” Mr Fricker said.
“This result of the ongoing cultural collaboration between Australia and the Republic of Korea aligns well with the Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper.”
He said the prize was a great compliment to the National Archives and to the work of the conservators, who ensured that the most at-risk items in the collection were preserved for the future.
“We thought it appropriate for the prize funds to be put towards the development of the next generation of conservators who will continue to share their research and findings with archival institutions around the world.
“This internship is an important contribution to helping sustain the profession and ensure that the expertise developed by our current conservators is carried forward,” Mr Fricker said.
He said the UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize is named in honour of the Jikji, a Korean Buddhist text printed in 1377 the oldest surviving book in the world made with movable metal type.
2 November, 2012
Fair result for
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s third annual report reveals that online visitors to his website increased 51 per cent to 3.6 million over the past financial year.
Fair Work site
The Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, said the Agency continued to find better ways for Australians to be aware of their workplace rights and obligations.
“In the past year, we have been working to reframe our services in a way that helps more people, more significantly,” Mr Wilson said.
“The more time we can direct towards industries or regions with greater compliance issues or vulnerable employees, the closer we can align our services to our goal of promoting harmonious, productive and cooperative workplaces.”
He said that was why an education phase was introduced before every wage audit campaign, and the culture of voluntary complaint resolution was strengthened.
“It is also why we trialled a new mediation program, with 83 per cent of 608 workplace disputes resolved in first four months of the 12-month pilot,” Mr Wilson said.
“The number of complaints finalised through Assisted Voluntary Resolution, where inspectors work directly with employees and employers to reach a fair and acceptable result without formal investigation, rose 19 per cent to over 9,750.”
Mr Wilson added that of the 28,412 complaints that were finalised, only 51 proceeded to court.
He said almost 70,000 visitors a week sought free educational information and advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website in 2011-12 and that more than a million fact sheets, templates and best practice guides highlighting workplace rights and responsibilities were downloaded.
He said his Office recovered $6.2 million in unpaid wages for 6,574 workers through four national and 22 State/Territory targeted audit campaigns in 2011-12d.
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s 2011-12 Annual Report can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 November, 2012
And in other news...
Whistleblower law reform
A Private Member’s Bill designed to protect Public Service whistleblowers has been rejected by the Government because it failed to meet the necessary safeguards and balance.
Minister for the Public Service, Mr Gray said the Government would introduce its own legislation by the end of the year which would build on the foundations of the February 2009 Dreyfus Report (Report of the Inquiry into Whistleblower Protection within the Australian Public Sector).
ABARE awards open
Applications are now open for the 2013 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Run by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) the awards are open to people between 18 and 35 and could be worth up to $22,000.
More information and applications can be accessed at this PS News link.
Telecom complaints down
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has reported a drop in consumer complaints in the past financial year.
According to the TIO annual report, it received 193,702 new complaints in 2011-12 - a two per cent reduction compared to the previous year.
Complaints made against the three major telecommunications companies (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone) also declined in the last quarter of 2011-12 and consumer satisfaction with the TIO was at more than 90 per cent.
Scholarships for Myanmar
Australian scholarships are to be offered to 30 Myanmar political and economic leaders to study in Australian universities in 2013.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Bob Carr said the Award recipients would be drawn from key Government and non-government Agencies to study in courses including public health, education, public administration and economics.
Firearms paper updated
An updated consultation paper on the rules governing the importation of firearms for legitimate purposes has been issued.
The paper has been made available in the Government’s final consultation phase on firearm importation rules.
The consultation paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
Tassie sacks PS Commissioner
The Tasmanian Government has abolished the position of Public Service Commissioner.
New laws do away with the role of an independent regulator for the State Public Service with Premier, Lara Giddings saying the regulatory functions of the Commissioner would be divided between the State’s Auditor General and the Tasmanian Industrial Commission.
Territory election decided
The Australian Capital Territory Electoral Commission is to declare the recent Territory poll this week with the 17 Legislative Assembly seats divided 8 Liberal Party, 8 Australian Labor Party and one Greens.
The new Government replaces one that was 7 Labor, 6 Liberal and 4 Greens.
Comment invited on food
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for comment on a proposal to change the Food Standards Code.
The change would allow food derived from a genetically modified soybean that made it tolerant to three herbicides.
Busy year for EFIC
The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) has provided a record number of export facilities in 2011-12.
According to the agency’s annual report, the record was achieved amid continued volatility in financial markets
EFIC provides tailored finance solutions to help Australian businesses overcome the financial barriers they face when expanding their export activities.
ACC caught in scam
The Australian Crime Commission’s (ACC) name and logo are being used by scammers to urge consumers to pay thousands of dollars into fraudulent bank accounts.
The Commission has revealed that a fraudulent email purporting to be from the Chief Executive of the ACC, John Lawler asks consumer to pay $900 into the bank account to receive $5 million.
The Commission said it was the second time in the past month the ACC had been alerted to a scam using its name in an attempt to defraud Australians.
PC to assess Access Regime
The Productivity Commission is to conduct an inquiry into the National Access Regime.
The National Access Regime promotes efficient investment in infrastructure and ensures its efficient operation and use.
The PC will hold public hearings and issue a draft report for public comment, before delivering a final report in 12 months.
No fees sweet for charities
Many Australian charities are to benefit from the removal of annual fees charged by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
This will result from moving oversight of the charities from ASIC to the newly established Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
The Commission will not charge fees.
The change-over occurs on 1 July 2013.
Archives in the picture
The National Film and Sound Archives’ Arc Cinema is to play an important part in Canberra’s International Film Festival running from 31 October to 11 November.
This is the fifth year running that the cinema has been involved in the festival. And highlights in 2012 are to include two outdoor screenings in the courtyard; introductions to screenings by cult star Laurene Landon and director Justin Dix; the closing night screening with director Boyd Hicklin, and a special series of music films.