SearchArchives for October 2006
31 October, 2006
Onus For Safety Pinned
on Federal Government
The Commonwealth has been called on to lead the way in creating safer workplaces across Australia, the newly-formed Australian Safety and Compensation Council saying the necessary change in workplace culture must come from the top.
In a series of events that marked Safe Work Australia Week, ASCC Chairman Bill Scales called on senior management to review systems, adopt accountable measures for safety, communicate safety information and provide incentives for good Occupational Health and Safety measures.
“A culture of safety must be driven from the top,” Mr Scales said.
“Governments have the potential to champion change beyond our organisations.”
He pointed to current Government policy that restricted building contracts of $6 million to OHS accredited construction firms and foreshadowed further initiatives on the drawing board.
“The ASCC’s Government Leaders, Safety Leaders guidance provides a model of best practice with practical recommendations to continuously improve OHS performance,” Mr Scales said.
He identified five priority industries that could expect to attract more Government pressure to lift their OHS game.
“The five industries on our priority action list are:
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries;
Building and Construction;
Transport and Storage;
Health and Community Services
“As a major employer, policy maker, regulator and purchaser of equipment and services, Governments have a leadership role in demonstrating examples of good OHS practice,” he said.
Federal Safety Commissioner, Tom Fisher echoed Mr Scales’s comments saying the Government was seeking to strengthen its capacity to influence OHS outcomes in line with the National OHS Strategy.
“What we need to do is get the industry to change – and more importantly, to
want to change,” Mr Fisher said.
“My Office can be a catalyst for change, but without the engagement of industry, we will struggle to make a difference.” Mr Fisher launched his Safety Principles and Guidance as part of Safe Work Australia Week.
Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews committed the Government to improving workplace safety saying every Australian worker had a right to safe workplace.
“Improving workplace health and safety is a priority of the Australian Government,” Mr Andrews said.
He announced that the OHS accreditation scheme would be tightened.
“The $6 million threshold which currently applies to directly funded Australian Government building and construction projects will be lowered to $3 million.”
31 October, 2006
Pays it Way
The Australian Fair Pay Commission has made its first decision, delivering a $27.36 weekly payrise to more than a million low-paid workers.
The Commission added the amount to the standard Federal Minimum Wage in all pay scales up to $700 per week.
It also awarded an increase of $22.04 per week to all pay scales paying $700 per week and above ($36,000 per year) representing another 220,000 workers, about 2 per cent of the workforce.
Both increases take effect from 1 December 2006.
Chairman of tAustralian Fair Pay Commission, Professor Ian Harper, said the decision was balanced and fair and provided a real increase for low-paid workers.
“The higher increase for workers earning less than $700 per week reflects findings in the Commission’s research and advice contained in submissions that lower-paid workers are more reliant on minimum wages,” Professor Harper said.
He said the decision took into account:
• the period of almost 18 months since the last pay increase for Pay Scale reliant workers;
• he sensitivity of low-paid employment to changes in wage levels as well as the incentives for individuals to seek and remain in employment;
• the fact that the economy and labour market have continued to perform strongly although not uniformly;
• movements in consumer prices;
• the potential impact on unemployment and inflation.
• the requirement to provide a safety net for the low paid.
Professor Harper said extensive consultation and research revealed a number of complicated issues around the wages of juniors, trainees and apprentices and the Commission had undertaken to look more closely at these issues when it hands down its next decision in mid 2007.
The Commission had also made changes to allow more workers with a disability to access the supported wage system and to fill gaps in the coverage of minimum wages for workers with a disability.
The Commonwealth welcomed the Commission’s decision, Prime Minister John Howard congratulating the Commissioners and Secretariat for the work they put in.
“The decision is the final nail in the scare campaign being conducted by the ACTU, Kim Beazley and the Labor Party,” Mr Howard said. “At every possible opportunity Labor and the unions have falsely claimed that WorkChoices would reduce the minimum wage – once again that claim has been proven to be false.”
31 October, 2006
Telstra Sale a Sell-Out for Staff
Staff of Telstra signed up to the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSS) will see their employer contribution fall by 16 per cent once the T3 privatisation of Telstra occurs, according to the Community and Public Sector Union.
While Telstra has decided to pay the productivity component of employer contribution on top of the mandatory 9 per cent (making a total of 12 per cent) the Union said CSS members would still see their employer contribution fall.
The CPSU says this was occurring because Telstra had refused to do as Qantas did when it privatised and set up a clone of CSS within its own system or offer compensation based on actuarial calculations, as it did when it shifted staff to its subsidiary, NDC.
According to a CPSU statement Telstra is abrogating its responsibility to its own employees and was trying to blame the Government for the decision.
The Union said options for CSS members over 55 were also likely to be reduced with the introduction of T3 as the Government was yet to allow the over-55s the preservation option. The Australian Council of Trade Unions had taken up the staff’s cause at the request of Telstra unions and had sought meetings with the Department of Finance.
The CPSU said it offered members a free personal financial referral, the contact number being 1300 137 636.
31 October, 2006
Forum to Expose Rental Illness
The Australian Government Solicitor is to host a forum on the management, procurement and funding of property in Canberra in November
A panel of experts will discuss the current trends and specific Commonwealth requirements that Agencies face in their property dealings which the AGS says are complex and not going to go away.
This forum will include updates on key Commonwealth-specific policy and legal issues relating to property and infrastructure including Finance policies on procurement and property and the National Code of Practice for the Construction Industry together with a case study on the upgrade of the Australian Institute of Police Management.
There will also be updates on current leasing issues including outgoings, fitness warranties, make-good obligations, current practice on rent reviews, procuring fitout and the Green Lease.
The panel of experts brought together by the Solicitor for the forum will include:
• public sector experts who will speak on a range of Commonwealth policy areas
• private sector experts in rent reviews and fitout project management;
• program managers with responsibility for significant Commonwealth property and infrastructure procurement;
• AGS lawyers from the Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide offices.
The forum will be held 16 November and more information is available from the AGS office.
31 October, 2006
Borderline Year for Customs
The Australian Customs Service rose above the problems of implementing its Integrated Cargo System but still delivered a year of solid performance according to its Annual Report for 2005-2006.
The report, which was tabled in Parliament this month, acknowledged that implementation of the import component of the ICS, introduced in October 2005, led to difficulties for some in industry, and caused delays in cargo clearance, particularly at sea ports. It said Customs could have made the implementation smoother, that there were lessons learned in managing major systems developments, and that the Service was meeting appropriate compensation claims.
As a result of these difficulties, a consultant was commissioned to review the ICS and Customs was working closely with industry to address immediate concerns and develop future strategy for trade facilitation.
According to the report, other features of the Customs year were:
• Processing more than 21.7 million people through international airports and seaports compared with 20.9 million the previous year.
• >Clearance of air and sea cargo consignments also increased (6.1 million air cargo consignments compared with 5.5 million and 2.0 million compared with 1.8 million in 2004-05) with more than $5 billion raised in revenue.
• A trial of world-leading biometric technology for border processing – SmartGate - which won the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Management in 2005.
• The introduction of new technology including explosives detection x-ray systems, radiation detectors and chemical detectors to achieve efficiencies and improve screening of high-risk passengers and goods.
• Progressive arming of Customs officers undertaking waterfront patrols, ship boarding and certain investigative operations
• An increase in the number of drug detections up while weights were down.
• Customs also engaged in a number of capacity building exercises in the region to support the development of border activities in countries from which people and goods depart for Australia and elsewhere.
The annual report also outlined increasing responsibilities in maritime and airport security, the Service and Navy apprehending 367 illegal foreign fishing vessels, an increase of 164 over the previous year.
Customs was also one of several Agencies that participated in a review by Sir John Wheeler into airport security and policing which resulted in an expansion of border security teams, enhanced closed circuit television coverage at major international airports and assignment of officers to be members of Joint Airport Investigation Teams.
31 October, 2006
No, No, No to a Bottle of Rum
The Royal Australian Navy has clamped down on alcohol use among its members warning strong disciplinary action awaited Naval personnel caught in the Service’s Blood Alcohol Level testing scheme.
According to Navy News, senior management has reiterated its commitment to the Safe Spirit alcohol testing program, warning that formal censure and even discharge from the RAN could follow if alcohol was found to present a serious problem.
Lieutenant-Commander Morag Ferguson of the RAN Alcohol and Drug Program said all Navy personnel should embrace Safe Spirit as a valuable program because it promoted and supported a safe working environment.
“Often if the alcohol issues are ignored the drinking behaviour becomes more entrenched,” LCDR Ferguson said. “Which is why the Safe Spirit Program assists Navy in early identification of those members with alcohol related issues.”
She said in the interests of safe work environments, breath testing may be either random or targeted, which meant that any RAN member could be tested at any time in a safety critical area.
RAN personnel testing positive to alcohol in the workplace would be referred to Navy Alcohol and Other Drug Program staff for assessment and intervention. Repeat offenders faced a formal warning, a formal censure for a third offence, and termination of service for a fourth or subsequent positive test or other alcohol related incident following intervention.
“Members experiencing alcohol related issues are more likely to respond to early intervention”, LCDR Ferguson said. She said she was impressed by the amount of support in the RAN for the Safe Spirit program.
Although the policy is for all personnel on duty to have a zero Blood Alcohol Level, for practical purposes a BAL of less than 0.02 is considered a negative test.
She said BAL testing was designed as a deterrent and positive tests were dealt with as an administrative issue rather than under the DFDA (although personnel may still be subject to DFDA action when they are unable to perform their duties due to the influence of alcohol).
She said the bottom-line was that intoxication in the workplace was an unacceptable risk.
Navy implemented the Safe Spirit alcohol-testing program in January 2004.
31 October, 2006
CSIRO Diet Book Back for Seconds
The second edition of the bestselling CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, including a new section on exercise, has been launched in Sydney.
Minister for Science, Julie Bishop launched the book saying it would build on the outstanding success of the first edition, contained more than 80 new recipes, a new 12-week menu plan and a six-week illustrated exercise plan designed by CSIRO exercise physiologist, Dr Grant Brinkworth.
“Inclusion of an exercise component is particularly important,” Ms Bishop said. “Because physical inactivity is a known risk factor for a range of diseases and health risks.”
She said the first edition was based on long-term scientific research by two of Australia’s leading nutrition and health scientists – Dr Manny Noakes and Dr Peter Clifton of CSIRO Human Nutrition and proved to be a publishing phenomenon.
“The first edition of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet has set record sales of over 700,000 copies - eclipsing sales of The DaVinci Code and the latest Harry Potter novel.”
Ms Bishop said much of the book’s success could be attributed to the diet being developed by scientists working for Australia’s most widely known and trusted scientific research agency – the CSIRO.
“As a result, the diet has been eagerly adopted by a large number of individuals and has become the basis of something of a well-publicised ‘call-to-arms’ by several communities keen to fight obesity,” she said.
The Minister said the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet’s positive effect on community attitudes to adopting long-term healthy eating habits was of particular interest to the Federal Government, which is concerned about increasing levels of obesity.
31 October, 2006
Government Casts Net Over .au Domain
Public comment has been invited on a discussion paper reviewing the .au internet domain arrangements.
Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Senator Helen Coonan said the current arrangements surrounding the .au domains had been in place for more than five years and it was time for the Government to examine them.
“This discussion paper forms part of a review of the .au internet domain, which I announced in August 2006,” Senator Coonan said. “It will facilitate discussion on issues regarding the structural model for, and administration of, the .au internet domain.”
She said a broad range of issues were considered in the discussion paper, including the administrative structure of the .au internet domain, naming structures, policy development and enforcement mechanisms such as competitiveness and cost effectiveness, international participation and emerging technical issues.
“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that arrangements for the Australian internet remain appropriate, internationally competitive and forward-looking, while continuing to deliver the maximum possible value to Australian business and the wider community,” Senator Coonan said.
Industry bodies and members of the public are invited to make submissions to the .au Internet Domain Review by close of business on Tuesday 28 November 2006.
Senator Coonan said information gathered in the course of the review would be used to ensure the needs of industry stakeholders and the wider internet community continued to be met and would assist the Government in assessing whether any refinements to the current .au operating environment were required.
31 October, 2006
Judge Wrenches $5.5M From Spammer
Breaches of the Spam Act that attracted a fine of $4.5 million against a company and of $1 million against its managing director have been welcomed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The prosecution of the company was the first under the Spam Act and according to ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, underscored his organisation’s vigilance.
“Spam causes significant inconvenience to individuals and businesses: disrupts email delivery, clogs up computer systems, reduces productivity, wastes time, irritates users and raises the cost of internet access fees,” Mr Chapman said.
“This judgement provides a strong warning to Australian spammers that contraventions of the Spam Act can result in substantial penalties being awarded against individuals and organizations.”
On 13 April the Federal Court found that both the company and its managing director were in breach of the Act for sending unsolicited commercial electronic messages, and for using harvested address lists.
Among other matters, ACMA submitted to the Court that the company and its managing director sent out at least 231 million commercial emails in 12 months after the Spam Act commenced with most of the messages unsolicited and in breach of the Act.
Mr Chapman said ACMA had previously demonstrated its determination to pursue important matters vigorously and he promised to maintain that determination as a key attribute in its continuing success across its broad regulatory responsibilities.
31 October, 2006
Heritage List a Picture of Success
A photographic exhibition of Australia’s 16 World Heritage listed sites has been launched to mark the 25th anniversary of the nation’s inclusion on the list.
The first Australian sites - the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and the Willandra Lakes Region in NSW - were inscribed at the fifth session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Australia from 26-30 October 1981.
Australia now has 16 World Heritage properties, well above the average of less than five per member country.
According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt the inclusions have brought international recognition of Australia’s unique place in world heritage.
“We have much to celebrate,” Mr Hunt said. “If all goes to plan, by the middle of next year our amazing list will expand with the inclusion of Sydney Harbour’s ‘jewel in the crown’, the Sydney Opera House.”
A nomination for the site was submitted to UNESCO in January of this year, with a decision due in 2007.
Mr Hunt unveiled the exhibition at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building – Australia’s most recent addition to the World Heritage List - and announced the Government would provide $450,000 to enable the exhibition to be shown at the World Heritage sites around the country.
“The images provide a window into some of the most outstanding places on Earth,” he said. “I hope it fuels people’s drive to explore our great country.”
He said Australia had recognised the importance of preserving its rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage for a long time.
“Over the last 10 years, the Australian Government has provided more than $110 million to the States and Territories towards improving and managing our World Heritage properties.”
Australia’s World Heritage sites: Queensland: Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics of Queensland, Fraser Island, Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh) (/ SA), Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (/ NSW). NSW: Willandra Lakes Region, Lord Howe Island Group, Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (/ NSW), Greater Blue Mountains. Northern Territory: Kakadu National Park, Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Victoria: Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. Western Australia: Shark Bay, Purnululu National Park. Tasmania: Tasmanian Wilderness, Macquarie Island. South Australia: Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Naracoorte) (/ SA). Offshore (Australian Government): Heard and McDonald Islands
31 October, 2006
Cash Checks Making Sense
The money laundering watchdog, AUSTRAC has reported a 44 per cent increase in suspect transactions in 2005-06,
The annual report of AUSTRAC, more formally known as the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, said pro-active industry education programs, increased communication with cash dealers and feedback on the quality of data reported had all contributed to the increase, which had also resulted in improved compliance with Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations.
AUSTRAC received more than 13.8 million financial transaction reports from cash dealers, solicitors and members of the public in 2005-06; an increase of 10.38 per cent from the previous year. AUSTRAC recorded 2.4 million significant cash transactions (5.59 per cent up on 2004-05), and 11.4 million international funds transfer instructions (up by 11.4 per cent over the previous year).
Minister for Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said AUSTRAC played a crucial role in targeting and deterring money laundering, the financing of terrorism and other major crime.
“AUSTRAC has played a crucial role in supporting the Australian Government’s commitment to counter-terrorism financing measures, balancing its role as a financial intelligence unit and regulator with its participation into the review of Australia’s anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing framework,” Senator Ellison said.
On an international scale, AUSTRAC developed exchange agreements with five countries in 2005-06, bringing to 46 the number of countries with which Australia can exchange information and financial intelligence.
“AUSTRAC’s work has contributed to an environment that is hostile to money laundering, the financing of terrorism and major crime. As a result, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to launder money or transfer illicit funds through the financial and gaming sectors without criminals coming under the radar of authorities,” said Senator Ellison.
“The Government is committed to working towards meeting the global standards on countering money laundering and terrorist financing.”
Copies of the AUSTRAC 2005-06 Annual Report and fact sheet are available from the AUSTRAC website www.austrac.gov.au.
31 October, 2006
Warship Gets Sinking Feeling Off Victoria
The Royal Australian Navy’s former Guided Missile Frigate HMAS Canberra has been given to Victoria for sinking as a dive wreck after decommissioning in November last year.
The Victorian Government successfully bid for the wreck and now the Federal Government will contribute up to $2.8 million towards the costs of sinking the ship south of Barwon Heads on the Bellarine Peninsula.
The ex-HMAS Canberra sailed nearly 800,000 miles in her lifetime and saw active service in the Persian Gulf and in other areas of operations as diverse as the Southern Ocean and the Solomon Islands, east of Africa and south of Russia.
At 138metres long, and displacing 4100 tonnes, when in commission, the ex-HMAS Canberra had a crew of 210 including helicopter aircrew and maintainers.
While Victoria has won the right to sink the Canberra, New South Wales also stands to benefit by being offered first right to bid for HMAS Adelaide when she is decommissioned in late 2007. NSW failed to match Victoria’s bid for the Canberra but HMAS Adelaide is a ship of the same class.
The Adelaide is likely to be sunk as a dive site off the NSW Central Coast if its bid is successful.
Tourism projects centred around previously used Navy warships as dive sites report annual revenues ranging from $2.4 million to $23 million.
31 October, 2006
Broadcast Regulator On Beam in First Year
Registering the world’s first legislative code of practice for internet and e-mail service providers was one of the highlights of the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s first year of operation, as detailed in its annual report for 2005-06.
The code, registered by ACMA in early 2006, was developed by the internet industry in support of Australia’s Spam Act 2003 and the fight against spam globally said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman. “Full credit to the industry for doing so,” Mr Chapman said.
The 2005-06 annual report is ACMA’s first since it was formed on 1 July 2005 as the new converged regulator for broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunications.
In his overview of the first year, Mr Chapman said a significant and increasingly demanding aspect of ACMA’s work covered the management of Australia’s radiofrequency spectrum.
“Radiocommunications hasn’t had of late the same visibility as its siblings but it’s a really important input into this country’s future IT and broadband enablement and associated economic prosperity,” Mr Chapman said.
“So spectrum allocation and management will take on new perspectives as demand rises and technologies change.
“Equally, noise and congestion issues continue to have an impact and this will require a deft touch,” he said.
In an important test case for the Spam Act 2003, ACMA completed its first prosecution under the Act in the Federal Court in Perth.
“The clear indication to Australian spammers is that their activities will be vigorously pursued by this organisation. Other successful prosecutions completed during the year sent out the strong message that ACMA takes matters of compliance very seriously,” Mr Chapman said.
In response to spam, ACMA had also launched the user-friendly “one-click” spam reporting tool SpamMATTERS in May this year after an extensive trial period.
Mr Chapman noted that ACMA had begun preparing for possible allocation of two unreserved television channels available across Australia, with its work sure to provide input into the Government’s Digital Action Plan to promote and encourage the take-up of digital television. Under this plan, ACMA’s enforcement powers under the Broadcasting Services Act would be enhanced to allow more timely and proportionate responses to industry activity.
To assist in delivering effective regulation of the communications industry, and in line with its legislative obligations, ACMA has initiated a review of its regulatory philosophy.
31 October, 2006
IMF Puts its Money on Aussie Economy
The International Monetary Fund has commended Australia’s sound macroeconomic management and continuing structural reform, which it says has underpinned Australia’s sustained strong economic performance.
The report followed a detailed review in 2005 and 2006 of the Australian financial sector and its regulatory infrastructure by independent experts under the IMF’s Financial Sector Assessment Program.
As part of the review, the IMF undertook an assessment of Australia’s compliance with a number of international standards and codes, including the Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision and the International Association of Insurance Supervisors Insurance Core Principles. The IMF also conducted stress tests to assess potential vulnerabilities in the Australian financial sector.
“IMF staff have praised Australia’s record in implementing wide-ranging structural reforms despite the difficulties inherent in our federal structure,” said Treasurer Peter Costello. “They have ‘encouraged sustained and determined leadership from the Commonwealth government’ in steadfastly implementing further structural reforms.”
Mr Costello said the IMF had noted the “concerted effort” being made by the Government to expand employment, with labour demand, especially in small businesses, expected to increase under the WorkChoices program, complemented by an increase in labour supply following reforms to the Disability Support Pension and Parenting Payments under the Welfare to Work package.
Mr Costello said Australia was in its 16th year of economic expansion and unemployment had fallen to its lowest level in three decades.
He said the IMF judged that Australia’s economic prospects were bright, with GDP growth expected to be around 3 per cent in 2006 and 3½ per cent in 2007. Increased exports were expected to narrow the trade deficit, as new resources projects increased production. Unemployment, core CPI and wage growth were expected to remain broadly stable.
Mr Costello said the IMF had commended the elimination of net public debt in Australia, and observed that it was an impressive milestone that few countries had been able to achieve.
Chairman of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, John Laker said the IMF’s report provided a strong endorsement of Australia’s regulatory framework and of the effectiveness of APRA’s prudential supervision of banks and insurance companies.
“The IMF concluded that Australia has a high overall level of compliance with the banking and insurance core principles. In addition, the IMF noted that APRA’s risk-focused approach to supervision was ‘leading edge’ and that APRA has ‘a supervisory function that embodies many best international practices’.”
The IMF identified uncertainty in the outlook for commodity prices as a key risk, with other risks associated with the housing sector having further diminished from previous years. In the event of any shock, the IMF noted that macroeconomic policies were well positioned, given Australia’s ‘enviable’ fiscal position, flexible exchange rate and medium-term focus to monetary policy.
31 October, 2006
Policing Pay-Off a Pleasing Plus
The Australian Crime Commission’s Task Force Gordian has again returned strong results, the arrest of five people in Sydney and one in Melbourne on serious money laundering and drug trafficking offences prompting the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, to pay tribute to the value of cooperative policing projects.
“Task Force Gordian is a great example of what can be achieved when we work together,” Senator Ellison said
He said the intelligence and operational focus on attacking the criminal infrastructure that supported money laundering was getting results for the Australian community and was seriously disrupting the activities of major South East Asian money laundering operations.
The Minister said that over the past 3 weeks the Task Force had arrested and charged a total of 57 people for laundering what is alleged to be in excess of $93 million Australian dollars and for drug and other related offences.
Task Force Gordian is led by the Australian Crime Commission in partnership with the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, New South Wales Police, New South Wales
Crime Commission, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Customs Service and USTRAC.
Six search warrants in were executed in Sydney and one in Melbourne with a woman in Melbourne charged with laundering in excess of $1.4 million, whilst in Sydney a man
was charged with money laundering in excess of $1.5 million. Two other men, also arrested
in Sydney, were charged with serious drug offences.
The searches resulted in the seizure of 180 grams of what is believed to be ice, a heroin press, a loaded handgun and $34,000 in cash.
Senator Ellison said Task Force Gordian was a great example of what could be achieved when Australian and State based agencies collaborated in the national interest.
31 October, 2006
Cold Comfort for Antarctic Huts
Critical conservation work to preserve Australia's only heritage listed link to the heroic age of Antarctic exploration is to be carried out by a team of Australian conservation experts who have headed to the isolated region.
For the past 95 years the historic Mawson's Huts at Cape Denison 2,600 km south of Hobart have withstood the extreme Antarctic elements in what is generally considered to be the windiest place on earth.
Renowned explorer and geologist Sir Douglas Mawson set up camp at Cape Denison during the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition and the huts are listed as a National Heritage site, as well as being of international significance
According to Heritage Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, the original timber fabric of the buildings had been gradually eroded by nearly a century of winddriven snow and ice, allowing snow and meltwater to enter the huts and potentially compromise the structural integrity of the buildings.
The Government's aim is to preserve the wooden buildings in perpetuity but without urgent attention they could eventually be destroyed by the strong winds in a region that Mawson himself described as "the home of the blizzard".
"The work being undertaken this summer will finalise a major part of the program of stabilisation and repair and protect the historically-significant artefacts contained in the buildings. This work is being carried out by the Mawson's Huts Foundation with the full support of the Australian Government and is a wonderful example of private enterprise and the Government working together to conserve Australian heritage," Senator Campbell said.
The Mawson's Huts Foundation has been given a $320,000 grant by the Australian Government to help fund the project and the work will also benefit from considerable logistical support provided by the Australian Government Antarctic Division.
Chairman of the Mawson's Huts Foundation, David Jensen, said Mawson's huts were an invaluable part of Australia’s history and the Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914 was a pioneering program in terms of the scientific, environmental and cultural advances.
“It is essential these buildings – and the Cape Denison site as a whole – are preserved for future generations,” Mr Jensen said.
"The cost of conservation work in such an isolated and harsh environment is high. It is pleasing to see such a successful partnership between the private sector and the Australian Government.”
Mr Jensen said the contents of the huts remained largely as Mawson and his men left them in 1913.
“They are an immensely valuable part of Australia's Antarctic history and it's essential they are properly conserved," hesaid.
The six member works party, headed by an expedition field leader and materials conservator Dr Ian Godfrey from the WA Maritime Museum, included three heritage carpenters, a photographer/cook/journalist and an artist and will return on December 24.
October 24, 2006
Centrelink a Blow-In at Safety Awards
Centrelink’s response to tropical cyclones Larry and Monica has won it the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission’s award for Leadership in Injury Prevention and Management.
Announced in Canberra recently by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, the awards cover five categories recognising the importance of injury prevention and injury management, including the best workplace health and safety management system; best solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue; best individual contribution to health and safety; and rehabilitation and return to work.
Nominations were invited from all agencies and organizations under the Commission’s’ compensation jurisdiction.
Centrelink’s award went specifically to its Central and Northern Queensland area for its management of occupational health and safety during the cyclones.
The Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System award went to the private company Visionstream for its Project 5 and Arrive Alive After 5 programs.
The Royal Australian Navy was judged to have the Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue for its HMAS Anzac Pontoon and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Michael Hauptmann won the award for the Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety for his initiatives to reduce manual handling injuries.
National transport giant Linfox and Linfox Armaguard took out the Rehabilitation and Return to Work Category for their innovative strategies to facilitate site engagement in the return to work process and improve outcomes.
In presenting the awards Mr Andrews emphasised that there is no room for complacency when it comes to workplace safety.
October 24, 2006
Sorrow of Parting Sweetened at Defence
Defence families will benefit from a new package of posting arrangements announced by the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson.
According to Mr Billson, the new initiative allows personnel to be posted either accompanied by their family or unaccompanied under the new category Member With Dependants (Unaccompanied).
Intended as part of the Department’s Family Stability Initiative, Mr Billson said the change in policy should lessen the impact postings have on children’s education and spouse’s employment.
“The new ADF Family Stability Initiative gives military personnel who are required to relocate on posting the opportunity to choose geographical stability for their families,” Mr Billson said.
Members with dependants who are being posted for more than six months will now receive the same benefits as the old MWD (Separated).
The new initiative has been welcomed by the forces, the Army for one aware that the posting turbulence associated with Service life could place significant pressure on Army families. Over the past two years, Army Headquarters had played an integral part in shaping the policy governing MWD (S) to secure more flexible workplace arrangements. As a result, ADF Senior Leadership has agreed to broaden the eligibility for members to proceed on posting unaccompanied.
The package includes six reunion visits a year and separation allowance.
October 24, 2006
Airservices Winged by Audit Attack
The Australian National Audit Office has found that Airservices Australia had made non-contractual payments of $2.1 million in its dealings with the Solomon Islands between 18 and 2003.
In May of this year the Audit Office began a performance audit of Airservices Australia’s contract administration with the Solomon Islands Government and its report was tabled in Parliament.
It found that between 18 and 2003, Airservices Australia had made payments totalling $2.1 million of funds collected on behalf of the Solomon Islands that were not authorised by its contracts. The payments were made at the direction of and with the authorisation of Solomon Islands Government Ministers and officials,.
The audit report concluded that this was a departure from sound contract management.
Minister for Transport Mark Vaile said he was committed to the findings of the audit report and had called for more information.
“In addition to accepting the improvements already made by Air Services Australia, I will be writing to the Board requiring them to review the Auditor-General’s report carefully and to provide a detailed report on responses to all aspects of the findings,” Mr Vaile said.
“I expect the Board’s response to address not only these specific issues and the implications for the future administration of Airservices Australia’s contracts and to ensure that they have strategies put in place to ensure similar shortcomings cannot occur in the future.”
The audit report found that there was no evidence to indicate that payments had been made to secure or retain upper airspace management contracts with the Solomon Islands Government. It acknowledged a separate and independent investigation by the Australian Federal Police had concluded that there was no evidence to support a charge of criminal conduct under Commonwealth law by any Airservices Australia employee.
Airservices Australia has accepted the findings of the audit and has already made significant changes to its internal processes and systems for the governance of commercial activities, so as to ensure that such problems do not arise again. This action was acknowledged by the Auditor General.
Mr Vaile said Airservices Australia was internationally recognised as a leader in its field as an aviation navigation service provider and its efforts to assist Australia’s neighbours meet their aviation safety obligations were highly valued within the region and beyond
October 24, 2006
Commissioner Nails Polished Assistants
Senior Public Servants expect much more from their Executive Assistants these days Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs told a meeting of EAs recently, and the old image of a “grey office with typrewriter, telephone and notepad” had long since been overtaken.
Speaking at a lunchtime meeting of Expand, the APS-wide network of Executive and Personal Assistants, Ms Briggs said EAs and PAs performed “extremely important” functions, despite numbering less than two per cent of the Public Service.
“I am pretty confident to speak on behalf of my colleagues and say that we would find it very difficult to do without an Executive Assistant,” Ms Briggs said.
“In fact, we couldn’t do what we do, without you.”
She said advances in technology, the cultural reforms that had swept through the Public Service and changes to classification structures had impacted on Executive Assistants to such an extent that their roles had changed fundamentally.
“While the clerical component is still an important part of what Executive Assistants do, we expect so much more than that today.”
M Briggs identified five “key expectations” for Executive Assistants including a knowledge of their Agency’s business, organisational and interpersonal skills, decision making capability and technical expertise.
“The type of EA that a senior executive has can also impact on how they are perceived by others,” Ms Briggs said. “As the first contact point for internal and external clients you are the face of the executive team.”
She said the old adage “first impressions last” still held true and urged EAs to be approachable, professional and easy to deal with.
Ms Briggs also encouraged EAs to look to their own personal development despite the common expectation that they be “at the ready” at all times.
“Taking some time away from the office to work on your development can assist you to improve your contribution overall,” Ms Briggs said.
“Professional and personal development needs to have as strong a focus for EAs as for other employees.”
She congratulated the Expand network for the opportunities it offered EAs and PAs saying she had been very impressed.
“Expand represents a very strong and far-reaching network throughout the APS and I would encourage you to continue your involvement.”
October 24, 2006
Navy Recruiters Launch New Game Plan
Navy recruiters have adopted an interactive computer game to attract the attention of young, technologically-literate people who might want to join their ranks.
In what is believed to be a world first, the Royal Australian Navy has developed a two-player interactive, internet-based, computer game Extreme Battleships where potential new sailors can test their warfare skills and aptitude against the maritime enemy in an adaptation of the board game Battleship.
The main aim of the game, however, is to give recruiters the edge in attracting potential candidates in the highly competitive job market. Every year, recruiters receive more than 100,000 career enquiries, with 60 per cent of all recruiting inquiries sourced from the internet.
Inspired by the success of the computer game America’s Army, whereby 40 per cent of recruits had played the game prior to enlisting in the US Army, the RAN similarly expects Extreme Battleships will stimulate interest in Navy careers.
Navy is offering 2000 jobs including 700 trade apprenticeships in the 2006-07 financial year.
The game can be accessed on the MSN Messenger website at www.ninemsn.com.au which has 4.2 million registered users in Australia. The majority of MSN subscribers are aged in the 15-26 demographic, a key target for recruiters.
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Shalders said Navy was embarking on a major recruiting exercise to enlist the young people required to crew the next generation of ships – including Air Warfare Destroyers, Amphibious Ships and the Armidale Class Patrol Boats.
“We will be promoting the Navy to young people who express an interest in experiencing the unique and exciting Navy lifestyle,” Vice Admiral Shalders said.
October 24, 2006
Councillors Coming in From the Cold
Local Government is on the way to being formally recognised with the Australian Parliament passing of a resolution from the Minister for Local Government, Jim Lloyd.
This is a significant milestone for Local Government," Mr Lloyd said. "This resolution delivers on a commitment made by the Government in its response to the Hawker Report in 2005. Through the resolution, the Parliament acknowledges the importance of local government in the governance of Australia.”
Mr Lloyd said Local Government was an integral part of the governance task in Australia.
“They are at the coalface of the community as many of the rules and regulations that have most impact on our everyday lives are made by local government," Mr Lloyd said.
He emphasised the Australian Government's commitment to supporting local government.
"Constitutional recognition has been voted down by the public at two separate referendums and the Australian Government does not support the concept," Mr Lloyd said.
"The resolution recognises the vital role that local government plays in the great democracy enjoyed by all Australians."
October 24, 2006
in Tax Attack
Cooperation between the Child Support Agency and the Australian Tax Office has rounded up 125,000 taxpayers who had not lodged tax returns according to the Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey.
Mr Hockey said the crackdown would directly benefit children and single parents.
"Parents who dodge their child support responsibilities need to know they can't escape lodging a tax return now that this new compliance initiative is underway," Minister Hockey said.
He said the CSA had been working with the ATO to issue tax return demand notices to about 6,000 separated parents a week since early July. As a result, CSA customers had lodged 13,006 tax returns by the end of September.
Mr Hockey said as part of its focus on cases where parents were deliberately under-reporting incomes, the CSA had already recovered an extra $5.3 million in child support just three months into the initiative.
He said the tax return lodgement program was part of the Government's previously-announced intensive compliance reforms to the Child Support Scheme. The program would cost $168 million over four years and was expected to result in a five-fold increase in the number of referrals.
Tax returns form the basis for calculating the amount of child support that should be paid or received by separated parents and Mr Hockey said it was also important to note that the CSA was focusing on parents who sought to cheat the system whether they pay or receive child support.
"About 20 per cent of the cases referred to the ATO are child support recipients who the CSA suspects are under-reporting their income in order to maximise their child support and family tax benefit payments," he said.
The Australian Tax Office first issues a notice of demand to lodge. If that failed to get the desired response, it followed up with compliance measures such as penalties and prosecution.
So far 202 cases had been referred for prosecution as part of the tax lodgement program -116 of those have since lodged their tax return while 83 summonses had been issued by the ATO.
October 24, 2006
Week of Celebrations on Safe Ground
The Australian Government’s commitment to reducing workplace death, injury and disease is stronger than ever, demonstrated by its commitment to Safe Work Australia Week, celebrated nationally this week.
The Government, through the Australian Safety and Compensation Council, has established this national week to encourage all Australians to have an extra focus on health and safety in their workplace in the last week of October.
Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews said that Safe Work Australia Week brings into sharp focus the confronting toll of work-related deaths, injuries and disease on the community.
“The estimated cost of work-related injuries and disease each year in Australia is $34.3 billion. Not to mention the cost of pain and suffering for the injured, their families, the workplace and the community,” Mr Andrews said.
“The week is about understanding and reducing the impact that the work related death and injury has on our community. It reflects the commitment of the Australian Government, States, Territories, employers and unions to make Australian workplaces as safe as they can be.”
He said participating in a safety event in your state or territory or conducting a safety activity in your workplace would greatly assist in raising awareness about safety issues as well as boost morale and increase productivity within your business.
“It is up to all Australians, Government, industry, employers and employees, to protect an organisation’s most valuable asset, its employees,” Mr Andrews said.
For more information on the week, or to become involved, visit ascc.gov.au, email email@example.com or call 1800 647 107.
October 24, 2006
ASIO Taps Into Bright Future
The challenges facing the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in 2006 are very different from those of the early 10s, according to Director General, Paul O’Sullivan.
Addressing the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers in Brisbane recently, Mr O’Sullivan said today’s challenges reflected the impact of a security environment in which Australia, Australians and Australian interests continued to be at threat from terrorism and other security threats in a way which was inconceivable in the early 10s.
Mr O’Sullivan said ASIO had undergone strong growth in the years since 2001 and the resources that have been committed Government over the next five years will allow it to grow to around 1860 staff by 2010-11.
“The most effective intelligence officers now and into the future will be those who are able to challenge conventional thinking and to bring imagination and flair to the task at hand,” Mr O’Sullivan told his audience.
“It follows that the challenge for security intelligence officers is to have the intellectual acuity, cultural awareness, and the social proficiency to be able to obtain and assess actionable intelligence about planning for attacks before they occur.”
With the Government’s promise of extra resources in its saddlebags, Mr O’Sullivan said ASIO was in a position to plan strategically for its growth and to develop capabilities to give it the best chance of being able to prevent harm.
A fundamental element of that growth and developing capability is the considerable investment ASIO is making in the expansion of its human and intellectual capital.
By 2011 staff levels will be three times higher than they were 10 years ago with a staffing profile that sought to broadly reflect the diversity in the Australian community.
Mr O’Sullivan said ASIO would continue to seek out and recruit people who may not have previously considered a career in intelligence but who have the skills and qualities required to be effective in the role.
As it happens, he said, ASIO will be advertising for Intelligence Officers in the coming weeks. Further details will be available on ASIO’s web site.
And in Related News
ASIO has had a busy year according to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock who tabled an unclassified version of the organisation’s annual report in Parliament.
According to the annual report ASIO conducted 135,000 personnel security checks in the aviation and maritime sectors in 2005-06 and on people seeking access to ammonium nitrate in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games.
The organisation also continued to protect Australia's security through the provision of advice to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs on border security matters, conducting 53,147 visa security assessments and recommending 12 people be denied entry to Australia on due to security concerns.
It also sought and was granted one warrant to question a person in relation to suspected terrorism offences during the period.
The report noted that in 2005-06, as in previous years, Australians were killed and injured overseas as a result of terrorist attacks, including in the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Iraq.
As part of Australia's commitment toward regional and wider international cooperation on security matters, ASIO delivered counter-terrorism training and capacity-building assistance to partners within our region.
Mr Ruddock said that in order to meet these challenges ASIO was undergoing rapid growth, with the Government committing additional resources in October 2005 that would see the organisation grow to 1,860 staff by 2010-11.
"ASIO is an integral part of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy. It is pleasing that the organisation is on track to meet its recruitment targets, with 247 new staff recruited in 2005-06," Mr Ruddock said.
"ASIO has not had a requirement to seek a detention warrant to date. This is not surprising as the power was always intended to be a measure of last resort and so it shows that the powers are being used as Parliament intended."
October 24, 2006
Green Law Changes Will Cut Red Tape
Proposed amendments to Australia’s environmental laws will reduce red tape according to the Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell.
Senator Campbell, said the common-sense amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 19, would streamline the legislation, while improving the ongoing protection of Australia’s unique natural, cultural and Indigenous heritage.
“The EPBC Act is world-class legislation which has delivered major environmental achievements over the last six years but there is room to make the Act even better,” Senator Campbell said.
“The Australian Government is streamlining the Act with a series of amendments that will improve environmental protection by focusing more on outcomes than process while maintaining our strong commitment to protecting Australia’s unique and iconic natural, cultural and Indigenous heritage.”
He said the improvements to the Act would provide development certainty for major projects by creating long-term certainty and would enable the Government to be more strategic and flexible in protecting the environment and strengthen the Act’s compliance and enforcement measures.
Senator Campbell said the Government would be able to make more timely decisions on projects and there would be less duplication between Federal and State processes.
“Changes to the Act will allow greater strategic consideration of developments – which means that their impact on the environment will be considered not just on an individual project basis, but also in local and regional contexts.”
The amendments would also allow the Minister to take a more strategic approach towards listing heritage places and threatened species.
They will strengthen compliance and enforcement measures by making it easier to take action against people who breach the Act, and establishing new enforcement options as an alternative to expensive court proceedings.
Information about the proposed amendments, including the complete list of amendments is available at: www.deh.gov.au/epbc.
October 24, 2006
Awareness Week is Very PC
This week is National E-Security Awareness Week and the Federal Government has launched a new initiative to raise awareness of online security for online users, for business owners and home users of all ages.
National E-Security Awareness Week was launched by the Minister for Information Technology, Senator Helen Coonan,on Monday 23 October and will run to Friday 27th.
Speaking at the launch Senator Coonan said, “The Internet is increasingly part of our home and business lives, from banking and shopping, to communicating with family and friends. We all need to think about security when we set up our computers and in our behaviour when online.”
She said National E-Security Awareness Week was the result of close collaboration between a number of Departments and Agencies, the IT industry, online retailers and the financial services sector. All have worked together to develop and promote four key messages under the banner Stay Smart Online:
How to protect and secure your computer;
How to identify online security threats;
Transacting securely online; and
Being family safe online.
A range of events and activities will be conducted around the country to highlight the importance of e-security for online users, including seminars for small businesses, and information workshops for seniors groups and community groups.
There will also be virtual events to reach a national audience and the Internet Industry Association’s Get Net Safe initiative in which security software will be made available for a free trial to home users and small businesses.
NetAlert and the Virtual Global Taskforce have formed a partnership with Microsoft to launch a new program, ThinkUKnow which will deliver Internet safety education to children, educators, parents and students.
Senator Coonan thanked the organisations involved in the initiative for their time and commitment. “Their work helps ensure that the Internet remains a useful, productive and safe resource for all Australians,” she said.
Senator Coonan also launched the Government’s new e-security website www.staysmartonline.gov.au which contains simple, step by step information to help internet users protect themselves and their families online. She said the website will serve as an ongoing resource to keep users up to date on online security issues and urged everyone to visit www.staysmartonline.gov.au for practical advice and tips for how to secure their computer, what to do when transacting online and how to keep kids safe online.
There is also a quiz on spam, wireless security and online shopping drawn from the US Department of Homeland Security.
Senator Coonan said the website also boasted a new e-security subscriber alert service that would help users keep up to date with the latest vulnerabilities and provide helpful advice on how to stay smart online.
By subscribing, she said users would get information on new software vulnerabilities and find out the appropriate steps to take to patch their computer and keep security up to date. They would also receive bi-monthly bulletins on emerging issues and e-security activities. The e-security alerts are sourced from ITsafe—the UK Government’s IT security warning service for home users and small businesses.
Senator Coonan said E-security was an international issue and the Government was working collaboratively to share information with its counterparts overseas to address this important issue.
October 24, 2006
Astronomer Sees Way Clear to Winning
The 2006 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year has been awarded to CSIRO astronomer Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths for her research that has re-shaped our knowledge of the galaxy.
Presented by the Minister for Science, Julie Bishop at the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes awards in Canberra, the annual prize – a silver medallion and a tax-free grant of $50,000 – is awarded for outstanding achievement by a scientist aged 35 or less.
Dr McClure-Griffiths, 31, is a Senior Post-Doctoral Fellow at CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility.
She uses radio telescopes, such as CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope and the Australia Telescope Compact Array, to map the distribution of hydrogen gas in our Galaxy.
According to Dr McClure-Griffiths, hydrogen is the most abundant component of galactic interstellar gas and cold hydrogen emitted radio waves that could pass through gas and dust in space to give astronomers a unique view of the full extent of the galaxy.
Dr McClure-Griffiths has led an international team of astronomers in a project to map the hydrogen gas in the half of our galaxy that is visible from the southern hemisphere.
Her research has led to new insights about the galaxy – from the behaviour of the gas between the stars to the large-scale spiral structure of the entire galaxy.
In 2003 Dr McClure-Griffiths discovered a new spiral arm at the outer edge of the Milky Way – a discovery that is forcing astronomers to redraw the map of the Milky Way.
The Malcolm McIntosh Prize commemorates Dr Malcolm McIntosh, who was CSIRO’s Chief Executive from 16 until his death in February 2000
October 24, 2006
Navy on Guard for Lord
The inaugural Admiral Nelson Sword of Excellence has been presented to Navy Commander Justin Jones in recognition of his superior leadership skills.
The Vice Admiral Viscount Lord Nelson, KB Trafalgar Bicentennial Sword of Excellence has been adopted as a permanent reminder of Lord Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar and a tangible historical link between the Royal Australian Navy and its forebear, the Royal Navy.
The award commemorates the life and achievements of Admiral Horatio Nelson and honours the traditions of leadership he created which continue to influence the Navy to this day.
Maritime Commander Australia, Rear Admiral Davyd Thomas, said Commander Jones had demonstrated superior leadership qualities over a sustained and demanding period, during the recent operational deployment to the Middle East.
“His leadership, mentoring and exemplary regard for others make him thoroughly deserving of this award,” Rear Admiral Thomas said.
The Admiral Nelson Sword of Excellence will be awarded annually to recognise and encourage the qualities of leadership excellence in Officers of the Royal Australian Navy.
The award was inaugurated on the initiative of the Nelson Society of Australia in 2005, which with the financial assistance of Barminco Mining Company, purchased a specially crafted Wilkinson Sword, which was dedicated in 2005 at a ceremony in St George’s Cathedral, Perth in October 2005. The sword is now permanently displayed in the Wardroom of HMAS Stirling.
Commander Jones’s rank, name and year of award will be engraved on the blade of the sword and he will also receive a citation certificate, which is equivalent to receiving a Chief of Navy Gold Award commendation.
October 24, 2006
Reserve System Gets Top Land Marks
A National Land Reserve System (NRS) set up by the Commonwealth has been applauded as an outstanding flagship of biodiversity conservation.
An independent evaluation released by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, found that the National Reserve System Programme is based on good science and appropriately targets ecosystems that are poorly protected.
It was conducted by the former Director-General of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Brian Gilligan.
“Since 17 we have invested more than $80 million to build and grow the National Reserve System, adding 21 million hectares to the nation's protected land areas, bringing the total area of protected reserves to almost 11 per cent of the continent,” Senator Campbell said.
“Our unprecedented investment in the NRS has leveraged a further $90 million from conservation groups, private landholders and state and territory governments to purchase properties that are home to a myriad threatened species and precious landscapes.”
He said Mr Gilligan’s report found that the National Reserve System Program was based on good science and targeted poorly protected ecosystems. It also found the program fostered the involvement of non-Government organisations with Governments and declared the system the one of the most ambitious and wide ranging national reserve programs of its type in the world.
Senator Campbell said he had asked his Department to implement relevant recommendations of the evaluation that would strengthen the National Reserve System Program as a priority.
October 24, 2006
Shot in the Arm for
A $300 million redevelopment of the Commonwealth’s propellant manufacturing facility at Mulwala, NSW, has received final Government approval. The redevelopment will now be referred to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Public Works.
The Government announced in last year’s Budget that it would commit around $300 million over eight years to modernise the facility, ensuring Australia retained the ability to produce its own munitions locally.
The modernisation will provide economic benefits to the local Mulwala and Benalla regions during construction and continued long-term employment during its operation.
The Mulwala factory employed around 350 people and the two facilities at Mulwala and Benalla generated tens of millions of dollars of economic activity in the region.
The Mulwala facility is the sole Australian manufacturer of propellant and high explosives for use in Australian Defence Force munitions.
The works will cover the construction of new nitrocellulose, propellant and solvent production facilities, supporting infrastructure and ancillary systems to provide a modernised facility.
The proposed upgrades will allow the facility to meet environmental legislation and to provide a safer and healthier work environment.
Bovis Lend Lease, which has teamed with US munitions technology partner ATK, has been selected as the preferred tender for the project and subject to Parliamentary clearance and the successful conclusion of negotiations, a contract will be signed in the first half of 2007.
October 24, 2006
Questacon and Partner Juggle Science Award
A Special Award for Longevity has been presented to the Shell Questacon Science Circus at the 2006 Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.
Minister for Education, Julie Bishop said the award honoured the very special 21-year association between Questacon, Shell and The Australian National University in running the Shell Questacon Science Circus.
“This prestigious award acknowledges the enduring collaboration between the three organisations to establish the Science Circus as one of the world’s largest and longest running education outreach programs,” Ms Bishop said.
She said the team of young science communicators who travel with the Science Circus have been inspiring and educating school students, their parents, teachers and communities in rural and remote regions for 21 years and reach over 70,000 students in over 500 schools each year.
“This reach into rural, remote and Indigenous Australia would not be possible without the exceptional relationship between Shell, The Australian National University and Questacon,” Ms Bishop said.
The Shell Questacon Science Circus is a portable science centre with interactive exhibitions and professional development workshops for teachers. From its base at Questacon in Canberra, the Science Circus undertakes up to five tours a year across Australia.
The Science Circus is staffed by students from the Graduate Diploma in Science Communication at the Australian National University and 14 to 16 graduates are accepted into the course each year.
Since 1988, more than 250 graduates have completed the qualification and moved on to a wide range of careers in education, industry, public relations and research.
October 17, 2006
Redundancies Not on the Money When Clearing PS Dead Wood
High-achieving Public Servants should not be weighed down and held back by under performers, yet according to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, that’s exactly what’s happening.
In a lunchtime address hosted by the Australian Public Service Commission recently Senator Vanstone said the APS had its share of underperformers but didn’t deal with the problem well.
“When a Government is looking for big cost cuts one traditional method has been to offer redundancies,” the Minister said
“It may be convenient, but I don’t think it’s effective.”
She said if a good officer was offered a package he or she would “take the dollars and run” then set themselves up in the private sector and possibly contract themselves back as consultants.
“The not-so-good and the completely hopeless (but not so hopeless as not to know which side their bread is buttered) stay put.”
Senator Vanstone said that with so many people employed by the Public Service - over all three tiers of Government there were nearly 1.7 million public servants around Australia – “there has to be some under-performers. The Public Service can’t be immune to that.”
She said the Public Service needed a better solution to dealing with underperformers.
“One that protects the integrity of the Service and at the same time protects all the good people.”
During her time in Parliament – Senator Vanstone has been Minister in four portfolios, covering nine different policy areas – she said she’d had the opportunity and privilege of working with some “truly fantastic people”.
“But the percentage of the Public Service I get to work with is a very small one and I can’t say whether everyone down the chain is getting the chance to be as good as they can.”
Senator Vanstone said one solution would be for employees to have a diversity of experience, especially staff in the regions.
“I think State and Territory offices would benefit from a policy of requiring people looking for promotion to senior positions to have at least experience in other States in the same Department or other Departments in the same State,” she said.
“This is not going to be possible if most people spend most of their time in one Department, or worse, in just one part of one Department.”
She said in Canberra there seemed to be some mobility between Departments.
“In the State and Territory offices, where so much of the front line work takes place, this does not seem to be the case.”
Senator Vanstone accepted that in recent times, some Public Servants had made some mistakes.
“But I can assure the community that while the media’s perception of us led to some very, very poor reporting of those cases, for Public Servants a constant diet of unjust or biased criticism can lead to a shutting out of all criticism.”
She said however the Public Service had been “very busy fixing those mistakes.”
October 17, 2006
For the Record It’s Not Good Enough
An audit of recordkeeping in the APS has found that Departments and Agencies are falling short of their legal, administrative and business-related obligations to create and maintain adequate records.
In his third audit of record-keeping since 2001, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee has found the same failings as in past audits and has made eight recommendations to overcome them.
The Auditor is particularly concerned that the problems posed by the electronic messaging age do not impinge upon the Public Service’s obligation to maintain detailed and comprehensive records.
“Recordkeeping is a fundamental function of all Australian Government entities,” Mr McPhee said in his report Recordkeeping including the Management of Electronic Records.
“A systematic approach to the management of records is essential for organisations and society to protect and preserve records as evidence of actions.”
He said the latest audit of three Government Agencies however showed all three were having difficulties living up to the expectation.
“The audit identified that further work was required in each of the entities to complete elements of their frameworks to enable them to fully meet their recordkeeping responsibilities.”
He said in some cases records were being handled in contravention of the Agencies’ own stated recordkeeping policy. This applied particularly to electronic records.
The Auditor found there were two methods for storing electronic records: either electronically or “print to paper”
“A ‘print to paper’ approach is increasingly unlikely to meet an entity’s longer term recordkeeping requirements,” he said, “across the full range of their systems, particularly electronic systems, that are used to create and store records.”
He also found Agencies failed to consider the risks associated with holding inadequate records and of protecting and accessing them in times of emergency.
The Auditor said to improve their recordkeeping practices, Agencies should recognise recordkeeping as an integral part of ‘doing business’; undertake a recordkeeping needs analysis; develop medium to long term strategies that realise the problem is only going to get bigger; ensure policies address all systems, whether paper-based or electronic; determine the information that needs to be created, received and maintained for each major program; and supplement their strategic and policy framework with practical guidance and advice.
He recommended that the National Archives, in consultation with Agencies define their minimum recordkeeping requirements; develop practical guidance to assist entities develop their own recordkeeping material; and coordinate and publish details of legislation, policies, standards, advice and guidance that could impact on recordkeeping responsibilities.
The Auditor accepted that managing electronic records was not an easy task and posed particular issues for Agencies.
“It is only when there are pressing business priorities r something goes wrong that the full implications of not having in place good recordkeeping practices become apparent,” he said.
October 17, 2006
Inquiry Finds Childcare
Playing Field Uneven
Some Government employees are receiving selective treatment when it comes to accessing childcare according to evidence given to a Parliamentary inquiry into balancing work and family.
Chair of the House of Representatives’ Families Committee, former Minister Bronwyn Bishop said the evidence “highlights the lack of a coherent policy with some agencies able to offer salary sacrifice for child care and others not – all on the basis of whether they have child care premises on site”.
She said a ruling of the Tax Commissioner on Fringe Benefits Tax imposed restrictions on the ability of Government Agencies, companies and other businesses to enable their staff to benefit from salary packaging for child care. If organisations did not have employer-provided child care facilities then their staff could not salary package their child care costs.
“The Committee supports employers who assist their staff in making their child care arrangements,” Ms Bishop said.
“This selective treatment, however, hits hard for those parents who work for smaller businesses and companies, in particular, that can’t provide child care facilities.”
Three Government Agencies presented evidence to the Committee on the benefits of allowing their staff to salary sacrifice the cost of child care.
The Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Finance and Adminstration and CSIRO gave their views to the Committee.
These agencies have the highest numbers of staff currently salary sacrificing child care within the Australian Government.
Ms Bishop said the employees in question were paying for child care with pre-tax dollars, which was equivalent to a tax deduction.
At the hearing, the Committee explored how some Government Agencies could offer their staff access to child care facilities and beat the tax ruling.
October 17, 2006
Union Plans Big Day Out
The Community and Public Sector Union has called on Public Sector workers to join forces on a National Day of Union and Community Action.
A year after more than one million people protested against the changes to industrial legislation at similar rallies around the nation the CPSU says the laws continue to have an impact on workers.
“One year later, with these unfair laws in place and many stories of unfair contracts, cuts to pay and conditions, jobs going offshore and workers getting the sack with no means to appeal, November 30 is an opportunity for all of us to show the Government that the battle has only begun,” said a CPSU spokesman.
“As the election year looms, it’s a great opportunity to tell your politicians what you really want: A fair set of industrial laws that protect your rights at work, gives people real choices and treats workers with dignity and respect.”
The spokesman said communities around Australia would link together through a Sky Channel broadcast for the rally. Images from the Melbourne rally at the MCG will be beamed live to major rallies in all capital cities and regional centres plus hundreds of locations around the country.
More information about the rallies and post-rally activities would be circulated before the day.
In Canberra there the rally will kick off at 8am in the CBD with protesters urged to arrive by 7.30. It was expected to be finished by 10am.
In Melbourne the protest will take place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between 8am and 10am - gates open at 7am – and in Sydney two main venues have been identified: Belmore Park near Central Station, and Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour. The Sydney rallies will start at 8.30am, protesters encouraged to arrive by 8.
The CPSU said there would be many other rallies in other Centres, a full list available at http://rightsatwork.com.au/campaigns/nov30rally
October 17, 2006
Agency Pops the Top on Fathers’ Program
A workplace program for recently separated fathers has been launched nationally by the Child Support Agency.
Staying Connected offers employers who are serious about combating the ill-effects of personal separation in a workplace setting the chance to do something about it.
. Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey announced the initiative saying staff turnover, absenteeism, lost productivity and workplace accidents have all been linked to the trauma of separation.
“Every workplace in Australia feels the effect of relationship breakdowns,” Mr Hockey said. “On average, one person in every 15 employees goes through a separation each year.”
Separated fathers from the Melbourne Fire Brigade, Victoria Police, Australia Post, Urban Services ACT, Department of Defence, and the mining community in Kalgoorlie have already taken part in the program.
“The three-hour workshops help men stay positively involved in their children’s lives and reduce the impact of separation on them and the children,” Mr Hockey said.
Staying Connected was evaluated by Macquarie University’s Dr Graeme Russell, an international expert on men, work and fathering, and is to be delivered by community-based organisations trained by the CSA.
Before-and-after workshop research conducted by Dr Russell showed more than half of the fathers who attended subsequently felt better able to form a practical relationship with their ex-partner – for the sake of the children.
Brisbane Dad Brendan Spann, who works for Australia Post and has a 12-year-old son with his ex-wife, credits Staying Connected with improving his career and his personal life. He now has a new partner and is engaged to be married to her later this year.
“Staying Connected came along when I was going through my divorce, and depression was causing me to take time off work,” Mr Spann said.
“The program helped me see things from a different perspective, communicate better with my ex and showed me ways on building a business-like relationship with her,” he said.
Mr Hockey said for many of the men, it was the first opportunity they had to share their story with other Dads.
“It’s good for the whole workplace that employers are recognising how separation affects employees and are doing something to help,” he said.
The program won a gold award in the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management.
October 17, 2006
New News is Good News at ABC
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has overhauled its editorial policies in a move Managing Directior Mark Scott said is the most significant statement of values in 20 years.
Following talks with staff, management and the Board of the ABC, Mr Scott said the new policies would place a greater emphasis on the need for impartilaity in the Corporation’s coverage of contentious matters.
"It is vital as a public broadcaster that the ABC set higher standards for itself than any other media organisation in Australia," Mr Scott said.
"These policies will ensure that ABC audiences can see and hear a broad range of viewpoints on matters of importance.”
Mr Scott said to bring about these changes editorial policy would be changed to require managers to demonstrate impartiality in its coverage of opinion, topical and factual content.
“This means the ABC must provide its audiences a range of different perspectives on the subject under consideration,” he said.
In addition, he said if an opinion was being presented, it would be identified as such and “the requirement for impartiality will mean a range of views must be presented over time.”
Finally, Mr Scott announced that a position of Director of ABC Editorial Policies would be created to assess editorial performance.
The new policies were criticised by staff and media commentators as sounding very much like censorship but Mr Scott said they provided the best means for the ABC to live up to the trust placed in it, and the requirements of the ABC Act.
"Our journalists need to be able to undertake courageous journalism ….. that is fair, accurate, balanced and objective,” he said. “To find the big stories and to hold those who seek to lead us: in Government, in business, in trade unions, to account for the promises they have made and the truths they espouse.”
After briefing staff Mr Scott announced the changes to the right-wing think tank, the Sydney Institute.
He said they would apply to all ABC news and current affairs from 1 March 2007 and staff would be trained in the meantime.
October 17, 2006
Lib Senator Stroppy over
ALP Razor Gang
The Labor Party’s re-establishment of its Expenditure Review Committee sounds an ominous note for Canberra and its Public Servants according to Liberal Senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries.
Senator Humphries said when last established before the 2004 election, the ERC had the task of slashing spending in Canberra to fund the ALP’s promises in other parts of the country.
Federal Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley announced in September that the ERC would be revived with members the shadow treasurer, Wayne Swan, shadow finance minister, Lindsay Tanner, shadow assistant treasurer, Joel Fitzgibbon, and shadow minister for financial services, Senator Nick Sherry. Mr Beazley labeled the team
“Labor’s razor gang” and said it would ensure the Party’s policies were economically responsible and within its Budget rules.
“I have asked the committee to find savings in Howard Government waste and mismanagement and ensure that shadow ministers achieve savings in areas outside Labor’s core policy priorities.”
But Senator Humphries said Australians could expect “a raft of anti-Canberra measures” to be revealed in the lead-up to the next election.
“The cuts Labor proposed last time would have decimated the local economy,” Senator Humphries said. “And it would not have been just Public Servants that copped it; the cuts would have had a disastrous impact on the private sector.”
He said the two Federal budgets since the 2004 election had provided over 8600 Public Service jobs with most of them in Canberra.
Senator Humphries said Canberrans should never forget that in 2004:
Labbor wanted to cut 3000 civilian jobs in Defence;
Canberra-based shadow finance Minister, Bob McMullan MP, was a member of the last ERC; and
·ACT Senator and shadow arts minister Kate Lundy was a supporter of forced mergers of Canberra's national cultural institutions.
“Local Labor won’t make a stand against the ERC because they take Canberrans for granted,” Senator Humphries said.
“I will do everything I can to bring its anti-Canberra policies to light.”
October 17, 2006
Scientists in Spotlight After Camera Calculations
Two CSIRO scientists have won international recognition in the form of the 2006 IgNobel Prize in Mathematics for figuring out how many photographs of a group it takes to be confident there will be one in which no-one is blinking.
Dr Piers Barnes and Ms Nic Svenson accepted their prize (described by the international science journal Nature as “no cash, but much cachet”) at the traditionally unorthodox ceremony at Harvard University.
“We are proud to have made a gross simplification of complex physiological and psychological factors backed up with no empirical data,” physicist Dr Barnes said.
“Like many other theories, if enough assumptions are made, we are confident that our expression holds,” he said.
Ms Svenson aid CSIRO has an ongoing responsibility to help inspire and educate about science
“It’s like Isaac Asimov said: ‘The most exciting phrase to hear in science is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That's funny...’,” the writer and sometime photographer said.
For the record: for groups of less than 20, you divide the number of people by three if there’s good light or a decent flash, and two if the light’s bad.
The Sixteenth First Annual [sic] Ig Nobel prizes honoured research that first makes people laugh, and then makes them think.
More information about the ceremony and other IgNobel laureates is available on the IgNobels website.
October 17, 2006
Police March Off With Awards
Forty Brisbane-based members of the Australian Federal Police have been honoured in an awards ceremony by Deputy Commissioner John Lawler.
The AFP officers were honoured for their achievements in the interception of major drug importations, people smuggling operations and overseas service.
Deputy Commissioner Lawler said the award ceremony recognised members involved in a number of major AFP drug operations that successfully interrupted the importation of more than 340 kilograms of methamphetamine, 1000 kilograms of cocaine and 150 kilograms of heroin between 2002 and 2005.
He said with a combined street value of more than $3 million, the seizure of these drugs demonstrated the AFP’s strong commitment to stopping the importation of drugs into Australia.
Among those honoured at the ceremony were a number of long-serving AFP members, including newly appointed Gold Coast Airport Police Commander Paul Jones who received the National Medal for 15 years of diligent service with the AFP.
Deputy Commissioner Lawler said the ceremony was important as it demonstrated the crucial role police provided to Australian society.
“By formally recognising the work of our members we acknowledge their outstanding efforts and achievements,” Deputy Commissioner Lawler said.
“I’d like to congratulate and thank all award recipients for the difference they make to law enforcement and the valuable role they play.”
The awards included medals, commendations and citations for Bravery, Conspicuous Conduct and Excellence in Overseas Service.
AFP members involved in the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in December 2004 were also honoured, receiving the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal.
The Australian Federal Police honours and awards program was established in 2004 to formally recognise employees making contributions to the organisation, Government and community-at-large.
October 17, 2006
Wildlife Unveiled at Parliament House
A photographic exhibition of predators, prey and threatened species is on display at Parliament House.
The display of amazing wildlife features in the work of the Australian and New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea Nature and Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition which was opened when Parliament resumed this month and according to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt is “stunning.”.
“[The exhibition] showcases stunning photographs of animals, birds, flowers and landscapes from Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea,” Mr Hunt said
“The exhibition attracted over 1100 entries, making this, I am told, the largest nature photographic competition in Australasia. The photographs include a predator from Queensland, a snake from Western Australia and a NSW species eating one of its own.”
The exhibition features winners and runners-up from the second ANZANG Nature and Landscape Photographer of the Year competition, including the winning entry by Kitchner Bain of Western Australia of a pelican taking flight.
Mr Hunt said the Government was pleased to support the exhibition with a $5000 Environment Education Grant.
“This exhibition is a reminder of Australia’s commitment to the environment beyond its own shores,” he said.
“The Regional Natural Heritage Program is helping to conserve biodiversity hotspots in South-East Asia and the Pacific. Priority areas include Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, the Philippines and Pacific Island countries.”
Mr Hunt said the four-year, $10 million program, announced by the Prime Minister in February 2004, had so far funded 23 projects totalling more than $6.1 million.
October 17, 2006
Volunteering Pays Off
for Archives Winner
The National Archives’ 2006 Margaret George Award has been won by Dr Melanie Oppenheimer, a University of Western Sydney lecturer and scholar on the history of the voluntary sector.
Dr Oppenheimer, who works in the university’s School of Humanities and Languages, won the award for her proposal to produce Volunteering: The Australian Experience - a book on the history of volunteering in Australia after 1945.
Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, Ross Gibbs, who announced the award said Dr Oppenheimer’s work would be the first detailed study of volunteering and its relationship with Government that focused on the post-1945 period.
“With a fresh set of eyes and an original perspective, it is hoped that Dr Oppenheimer’s use of the Archives’ unique collection will assist her in charting the journey of volunteers and volunteering in Australia.” Mr Gibbs said.
He said the National Archives collection was rich with holdings on volunteering, encompassing documents about national sporting events such as the 1956 Olympic Games, environmental movements, overseas voluntary aid organisations and social welfare groups such as the Australian Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and Marriage Guidance Counselling.
Mr Ross said the foundations of Dr Oppenheimer’s project originated from her PhD work on the Australian civilian volunteer experience in World War II and her monograph All Work No Pay: Australian Civilian Volunteers in War that examined civilian wartime volunteering from the Crimean War onwards.
Dr Oppenheimer suggests that volunteering after 1945 and its interplay between the Government and the non-profit sector was a “neglected topic in 20th century Australian history”.
The National Archives Margaret George Award was established to encourage and facilitate use of the Archives’ extensive collection of files, photos, films and other records dating from Federation in 1901.
October 17, 2006
in Pilot Study
The Australian Customs Service is calling tenders to evaluate the application of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for civil maritime surveillance.
Minister for Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, announced the tender saying the Government has allocated $9 million over two years in the Budget to evaluate the project.
“The trials will provide Customs with more information about the efficiency and effectiveness of UAV technology for the Joint Offshore Protection Command,” Senator Ellison said..
“This is a maturing capability both within Australia and internationally and it offers the potential to improve the ability of the Joint Offshore Protection Command to monitor high-risk approaches to Australia and to respond to identified threats.”
He said one advantage of UAVs was their ability to remain in the air for long periods.
“This has the potential to reduce the reliance on manned aircraft that would oherwise be required to undertake extended tracking of vessels, increasing the surveillance coverage of individual missions and reducing the time spent returning to their base to refuel,” Senator Ellison said.
Customs trialled a small Aerosonde low altitude, long endurance UAVs in 2005 and was currently involved in Defence trials of more sophisticated UAV technology off the north-west coast of Australia.
“These new trials will allow the Joint Offshore Protection Command to look specifically at the capabilities of mid-sized UAVs. They will test a range of scenarios and equipment configurations, including radar and electro-optical sensor technology and satellite communication.”
“Potential tenderers will be asked to nominate an area of operation for the trials, which is expected to correspond with high priority areas for maritime surveillance activities.”
These areas include the Kimberley Coast in Western Australia, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Torres Strait. Tenderers were also free to nominate alternative trial areas.
Senator Ellison said the trials could involve more than one service provider and close on 9 November.
October 17, 2006
Law Reformers Go
Public on Privacy
The Australian Law Reform Commission has released an issues paper following a major review of Australia’s privacy laws.
The ability of laws to keep pace with technology and whether young people cared as much about privacy as their elders were questions asked by the Commission in the paper Review of Privacy which is available now.
President of the ALRC, Professor David Weisbrot said computers had an amazing capacity to capture, store and match personal information and this was routinely collected.
“Just by surfing the web, you may reveal vast amounts of personal information, often without your knowledge,” Professor Weisbrot said. “For example, your health, education, credit history, and sexual or political orientation.”
Professor Weisbrot said there was potential for this information to be matched with information in other databases, to create comprehensive profiles of individuals and his group wanted to know how concerned Australians are about this and what they want done about it.
“We also want to know if tech-savvy young people who have grown up in a ‘surveillance society’ have different views than their parents.
“They appear to be much more willing to share personal information and photos on the web.”
Professor Weisbrot’s comments coincided with the launch of the issues paper which was the first of several consultation documents to be released.
“These technologies can be powerful tools, for example, in assuring identity and protecting against terrorism, but we are facing a ‘brave new world’ in terms of how technology impacts on privacy.
“We need to think about where to draw the line in safeguarding the privacy of individuals.”
The ALRC Commissioner in charge of the Inquiry, Professor Les McCrimmon, said a major issue was the complexity of privacy regulations.
“Some organisations have to comply with up to six layers of privacy regulation,” Professor McCrimmon said.
“Simplifying the privacy regime will reduce red tape, assist compliance, and ensure privacy obligations don’t place too much of a time and financial burden on organisations, particularly small businesses.”
The issues paper poses 142 questions in the course of the review the ALRC expects to make recommendations to change the law. A final report is due to be completed in March 2008.
The Issues Paper can be viewed at www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/alrc/publications/issues/31
October 17, 2006
TV, Radio on Menu for Competition Watchdog
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission expects to take a close interest in how recently announced changes to Australia’s media laws impact on competition.
Commission Chairman, Graeme Samuel said decisions made about the media’s future were likely to be debunked and replaced by technologies and trends yet to be predicted.
He said the ACCC must ensure “the availability of this new technology is not unduly hindered by the anti-competitive behaviour of incumbents who consider it a potential threat to their market position”.
Mr Samuel said change was coming “whether we like it or not,” and “some of the incumbents will survive and prosper, others will struggle to adapt and find their commercial niche in this new environment.”
“The ACCC will continue to monitor this evolution carefully, but will also be trying to look beyond the technology to the deeper issues of content, services to customers and ensuring new competitors are not locked out of competing by artificially imposed barriers to entry.”
Mr Samuel said it was critical that no single network owner acquired exclusive rights to all that content and effectively locked out the potential competition.
“The Trade Practices Act has been with us for some time now, but it remains a robust piece of law that has stood the test of time. I believe it will be a crucial tool at our disposal as we attempt to navigate our way down the new media highway.”
To ensure live and local content in rural and regional areas the Government has mandated a minimum of 12.5 minutes of local radio news on at least five days a week. It will also mandate minimum levels of local content to be broadcast. This will take effect following a review of local content.
And to respond to concerns that the package may lead to an increase in concentration of ownership in the media industry, the Government has imposed a two out of three rule in all markets in addition to the four/five voices test.
This will prevent mergers of the three media platforms in a licence area – commercial radio, associated newspapers and commercial television – and restrict media mergers to no more than two of those groups.
October 17, 2006
New Life for Dead Hospital
Melbourne’s Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital has been transformed into a state-of-the-art education and training facility for 2,500 students at a cost of $25.6 million.
The Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, Gary Hardgrave, opened the historic refurbished buildings recently.
Mr Hardgrave said the refurbishment included a total refit of 20 buildings, construction of a theatre complex, industry-standard recording studios, a dark room and photography computer laboratories.
He said it had been a “mammoth” task because of the need to preserve the historic hospital’s heritage-listed buildings and trees.
“It is an important and worthy investment as it will significantly expand training opportunities for people in the region,’’ Mr Hardgrave said.
He said the new facility would be a campus of the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE with faculties in Arts and Social Sciences, Engineering and Earth Sciences.
He said the Institute specialised in horticultural, performing arts and animal studies courses and was committed to working with business to ensure courses were developed with both students and employers in mind.
“This way you create a pool of job-ready workers with highly marketable skills ready to be taken on by the businesses that have actually driven the way the training and courses are formulated,” he said.
Mr Hardgrave said the Commonwealth would continue to look at ways of assisting industry and training providers to address the nation’s skills needs.
He said the Goverment had a range of initiatives in mind as part of a $10.8 billion plan that would carry through to 2009.
October 17, 2006
Weather Bureau Sees Clear to Improve Services
The Bureau of Meteorology has improved its weather forecasting services to the South Coast of Western Australia.
Farmers, fishermen and other local residents are set to benefit from the improved services which will now provide separate forecasts for two new districts in the region.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Bureau, Greg Hunt, said the new districts would be created by the splitting the Southern Coastal District with one district centred on Albany and the other onEsperance.
"The former Southern Coastal District extended more than 800 km from west to east,” Mr Hunt said.
“The weather in that region is often complex and difficult to describe clearly as it moves across such a large area.”
He said the smaller districts would allow a better description of the forecast weather and aid community understanding of the forecasts.
Mr Hunt said the changes were first suggested by the Federal MP for Kalgoorlie, Barry Haase, who was contacted by local residents.
Mr Haase said that the improved service was a good outcome for the many people who relied on quality weather forecasts.
Maps showing the new district boundaries can be accessed via the Bureau's web site www.bom.gov.au.
October 10, 2006
Labor Outlines Plans
For Public Service
The Australian Labor Party has signaled its intentions for the Australian Public Service should it be returned to Government at the next election.
Opposition Leader, Kym Beazley, detailed the party’s plan when he delivered the fifth Don Dunstan Oration in Adelaide recently.
According to Mr Beazley, Governments were judged on their interaction with the bureaucracy and measured by their commitment to an independent, vigorous and modern Public Service.
He said if a future Labor Government was to lead the nation to a bright future it would need a “smart, dedicated and independent” Public Service to do some “heavy lifting,”
“The Public Service plays a crucial nation building role, delivering Government economic and social policies,” Mr Beazley said.
“If the Public Service is to do its job effectively, we must make the APS a model employer and skill-up the public sector.”
He said a number of practical measures would be introduced to ensure effective governance and public administration, including:
* support for a merit-based, apolitical and non-discriminatory career public service;
* secure, comprehensive service-wide standards and classifications;
* family friendly working conditions;
* training and career development opportunities; and
* ensuring contracting out is not used to cut the wages and conditions of public servants.
Mr Beazley said he would also ensure that necessary processes like commercial confidentiality and corporatisation were not misused to evade scrutiny of Government and Government funded Departments and Agencies.
“Government cannot demand its Public Servants to embrace standards that it refuses to adhere to, itself,” he said.
Mr Beazley said that in his 25 years in the Federal Parliament – as a Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition - he had been constantly inspired by the Public Servants he had worked with.
In the oration, he said he wanted to address the argument that the character, transparency and integrity of a government directly influence the prevailing culture of the Public Service.
“The character and integrity of a government directly influences the culture of the public service – its independence and its vigour,” he said.
“And a government that sees the Public Service as simply another weapon in its political armoury betrays the national interest.”
He accused his political opponents of misusing and manipulating the Public Service in the pursuit of political interests.
“To me, nation building also means re-building and restoring our great national institutions like the Public Service so the Government I lead will uphold the highest principles of transparency, accountability and accessibility.”
He said Labor would make Ministerial advisers accountable to Government, the Parliament and the public and would reorm the Freedom of Information Act to make it more “open and democratic”.
“The need for reform has been made even more urgent following the recent High Court decision which ruled against The Australian in its bid to access Treasury documents under FOI,’’ he said. Mr Beazley said Government-held information should be made available unless its release would cause public harm.
He promised to reiterate his plans for the Public Service as the election neared. “You’ll be hearing more on these issues from me…. in the lead up to the election”.
Mr Beazley said he was honoured to give the oration as the former South Australian Premier, Don Dunstan was crusader for public sector reform and was determined to “revolutionise” the Public Service.
October 10, 2006
Overseas Soldiers in
Long-term health issues of Army personnel who have been deployed overseas is to be the focus of a new Australian Defence Force research project launched this month.
The Solomon Islands Health Study is the first of a number of health studies to be conducted in coming months that will compare the health of veterans who deployed overseas with those who did not. Other deployments will include Timor-Leste, Bougainville and the Middle East Area of Operations.
The research, to be carried out by the Centre for Military and Veteran’s Health (CMVH) will focus on aspects of the physical and psychological health of current and past Defence personnel.
Professor Annette Dobson, head of the Deployment Health Surveillance Program’s Scientific Research team, said the information would be used to improve health services to ADF personnel operating in overseas locations and to improve the long-term health of veterans generally.
“The result of this research may be new or revised approaches to prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, which can assist the ADF to better understand and deal with the health issues faced by its members,” she said.
Invitation packs would be mailed to members selected to participate
October 10, 2006
Telstra’s Next G
Hits the Spot
Telstra has launched a new “Next G” network which it says will provide improved voice and broadband services to around 98 per cent of the population.
Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan welcomed the launch saying Next G was great news for business and residential consumers, particularly those living and working in rural and regional Australia.
“Any investment that can increase both the speed and availability of broadband in Australia is good news,” Senator Coonan said.
“The productivity benefits for business and the improved ability for consumers to access entertainment and communications services that will flow from this investment are very welcome.”
According to Telstra the new network will cover 98 per cent of the Australian population, is 100 times bigger than any existing 3GSM network in the country and will give users access to Foxtel and BigPond content, music email and Sensis searches, as well as allowing downloads at speeds averaging 550Kbps to 1.5 Mbps now with peak network speeds of up to 3.6Mbps, increasing up to 14.4Mbps early next year.
Telstra predicts the network could deliver up to 40Mbps by 2009.
Senator Coonan said the Government will continue to work with Telstra through a dedicated working group formed to monitor the transition from the current CDMA network to the new 3G network. Telstra has committed to not switching off the CDMA network until coverage is as good, if not better, than the current network.
The working group is made up of representatives of Telstra, Senator Coonan’s Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the regulator – the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
ACMA is currently conducting a coverage audit of the CDMA network and will audit the coverage offered by the new Next G network next year.
The Next G network was switched on by Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo and Ericsson President and CEO Carl Henric Svanberg in a glitzy public ceremony that created its own controversy when fire sprinklers turned on and disrupted proceedings.
The launch will be backed up by a barrage of advertising across all media channels, including outdoor, print, online, direct marketing and in-store promotions.
The advertising blitz will coincide with a $20 million advertising to sell the benefits of buying shares in Telstra as the Government moves towards relieving itself of $8 billion worth of its telco’s interest.
The campaign has drawn criticism from the Labor Opposition, which has described it as a “shameless” bid to sugarcoat the T3 offer.
October 10, 2006
a Million Times
The millionth Australian Workplace Agreement was lodged recently with the Office of the Employment Advocate by a South Australian employer, Comrec Australia Pty Ltd.
Comrec, a disability support provider, introduced AWAs into its family-owned business in 2000 to make it easier to reward employees and assist them to balance work, family and study responsibilities.
Comrec Chief Executive, Lance Jones, said he believed AWAs played an important role in helping his business retain skilled and dedicated staff, in an industry known for its high turnover rates.
“Our staff are delighted with the AWAs we have negotiated with them,” Mr Jones said. “They are able to take extra time for maternity leave, access study leave, enjoy paid mental health days when they need a break, and work with flexibility and improved productivity.”
“We all enjoy the opportunities to discuss working conditions which AWAs have encouraged.”
The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews said lodgement of the millionth AWA was an indication that more employees and employers agreed that AWAs were the best fit for their workplaces.
He said lodgement of the millionth AWA coincided with lodgement of the 100,000th AWA under WorkChoices.
October 10, 2006
Old Hands Take
Two lobby groups representing the interests of Australia’s Seniors have been funded by the Commonwealth to contribute to policy advice.
Minister for Ageing, Senator Santo Santoro, has announced that the Council for the Ageing would receive annual funding of $350,000 and the National Seniors’ Association $200,000, to support national secretariats and assist advocacy and representation.
He said the money, which was made available through the Community Sector Support Scheme, was also in recognition of the growing number and diversity of older Australians.
According to Senator Santoro COTA Over 50s Ltd and National Seniors had good track records representing the interests of older Australians and working with the Federal Government to deliver meaningful policy results.
“As we all know, seniors are a growing group in our community, and will continue to increase in numbers in the years ahead,” Senator Santoro said.
“This funding recognises the role of strong and informed representation in formulating good seniors’ policy.”
National Policy Executive from COTA Over 50s, Gayle Richards welcomed the funding, saying that it would enable her organisation to research widely and network imaginatively and continue providing policy leadership and informed advice to the Government on a wide range of issues for today’s seniors.
“It will also provide our organisation with a wonderful opportunity to further represent the interest of all older Australians, but particularly the disadvantaged and vulnerable,” Ms Richards said.
The Chief Executive of National Seniors, Michael O’Neill also welcomed the funding saying his group already invested a substantial amount of its members’ money into policy and advocacy. And the Government funding would add value to its work.
October 10, 2006
Centrelink Now Has
Centrelink customers can now receive text messages including appointment reminders on their mobile phones.
“SMS is a great way to send quick, simple reminders to customers,” said Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey.
“Since the service began around seven weeks ago, more than 13,800 people have already subscribed, a take up rate of 98 per cent.”
He said Centrelink could send text messages to remind customers to attend an appointment or to provide up to date information or documents. Customers who subscribe to the new service and had an appointment would receive an SMS reminder one business day before they had to attend their local office.
Mr Hockey said the service was voluntary and people could withdraw at any time. The messages won't contain personal information and customers were not required to respond to them.
He said customers could subscribe to SMS by calling their relevant payment numbers or visiting Centrelink.
Mr Hockey also announced that Centrelink would also begin an Online Letters service this month, which will let customers view some of their Centrelink and Family Assistance Office letters over the internet.
“People will be able to view and print the letters, and will have access to them for 60 days,” Mr Hockey said. Centrelink would send customers an SMS or an email to let them know they have a new letter online.
Mr Hockey said SMS and Online letters were two new strategies Centrelink had introduced to reduce the number of letters it sent to customers.
“In 2004-05 Centrelink sent almost 90 million letters to customers around Australia,” he said.
“The Government expects Centrelink to do everything it can to reduce the number of letters it sends, with a special focus on SMS and email correspondence.”
October 10, 2006
ANSTO Invention Under
An invention created by a scientist with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, (ANSTO) has won a weekly heat of the ABC television program, The New Inventors.
Dr Tony Taylor’s invention of a system that makes sewage and waste water clean enough to be reused cheaply took out an episode of the program earlier this month.
A microbiologist, Dr Taylor invented the revolutionary nano-particulate membrane bio-reactor (NMB) that he describes as a simple arrangement of gills using bacteria to operate as a lung and a stomach.
The waste water treatment technology which could also cut water use by 60 per cent was featured on The New Inventors earlier this month and was judged the best invention on the night.
Br Taylor described his system, saying it literally eats waste matter and breathes air, and is therefore self-perpetuating.
“The great thing about the technology is that, firstly, it’s cheap and, secondly, it can be used in a variety of sizes for houses, unit complexes or municipal treatment plants,” Dr Taylor said.
He said that in most similar technologies the biomass (fungi and bacteria) is grown in liquid which means oxygen levels are low and aeration is expensive, but his membrane dealt with these issues cheaply and effectively, allowing the biomass to eat all the rubbish and leave clean water behind.
Dr Taylor said that the working model demonstrated on The New Inventors was the size of a fridge freezer and intended for use in a house. ANSTO is currently looking for business to help with development and manufacture.
According to its inventor, other uses for this technology could include antibiotics and food production; mining; bioremediation and aquaculture.
In the last case, the sludge from the sewage treatment process collected at the bottom of the bio-reactor could feed prawns and yabbies because the NMB delivers so much oxygen to the water that worms and insects appear in the sludge within 24 hours, making it ideal for fish food.
The technology has been patented by ANSTO.
October 10, 2006
Black and White Win
for Film Researcher
The winner of the 2006–07 Frederick Watson Fellowship to conduct research on Australian Archives is Australian National University researcher, Pip Deveson.
The Director-General of the National Archives, Ross Gibbs, announced the award, sayingMs Deveson.would use the fellowship to explore the work of ethnographic filmmaker Ian Dunlop and his 22 documentaries on Aboriginal communities in north east Arnhem Land. He said she worked in the university’s Centre for Cross-Cultural Research
Mr Gibbs said new stories and new aspects of history would emerge as a result of Ms Deveson’s research into the Archives collection.
"These will be of immense interest to students of Australian history and indigenous culture," he said.
The documentary films date from Australia’s first Aboriginal land rights cases and examine the impact of the Nabalco bauxite mine on the Yolngu people of Yirrkala in the Northern Territory from 1970 to when the last film was made in 16.
As researcher, writer, and editor, Pip Deveson was a central figure in the production of these films. Her analysis of the original archival resources will assist other researchers and show how decisions were made during the various production phases.
The National Archives film collection is a unique and important historical record, as the Archives stores both the final production and, in many cases, outcuts.
Researchers can analyse film footage that did not make the final release version.
The National Archives Frederick Watson Fellowship was established to encourage use of the Archives’ extensive collection of files, photos, films and other records dating from Federation in 1901.
October 10, 2006
Pucka Up to Heavy
Puckapunyal has taken delivery of the first 18 Abrams M1A1 AIM Main Battle Tanks and five Hercules Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV).
The tanks were moved by road on heavy transporters to the School of Armour at Puckapunyal, where they will be used for training.
The convoy of 60-tonne-plus vehicles moved via Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge, Western Ring Road and the Hume Highway.
The next shipment of 41 tanks and two ARVs was expected to sail into Darwin next March and be moved by the Army’s 14 heavy tank transporters as required.
A spokesman for the Army said it was well-practiced in deploying tanks by road from Darwin via Katherine to training areas in the south of Australia. The current Leopard tank and transporter exceeded 50 tonnes and was moved through Katherine with the approval of the Northern Territory Chief Transport Inspector without a problem.
Following an extensive rail study, a request for tender will be released shortly for the necessary rolling stock to support the movement of the Abrams family of vehicles in Australia. This rolling stock will also be able to lift a range of other armoured vehicles, artillery and heavy engineering equipment.
The Australian Abrams weighs less than 62 metric tonnes in its combat configuration, which includes a full complement of fuel, rations, ammunition and crew.
The transit weight without these is far less.
It is powered by a gas turbine engine and operates on diesel fuel.
In its current configuration, fuel consumption and engine wear has been reduced by around 40 per cent by improved mechanical efficiency and the use of simulation.
In fact the Army says that by using simulation for basic training, the amount of actual driver on-road training can be reduced by 65 per cent.
According to the Army, the Abrams tanks represent a significant step forward in providing Australia with a stronger Defence Force.
The purchase of 59 tanks was an investment of more than $500 million in Australia’s security and is operating ahead of schedule and within budget, it said.
Prime contractor for the heavy tank transporter is MAN Military Vehicle Systems Australia. Drake Trailers, an Australian-owned and operated Brisbane company, is manufacturing 14 swing-wing trailers, while Brisbane-based MAN Automotive Imports is making final modifications, conducting compliance testing and managing the ongoing repair and maintenance support.
October 10, 2006
Big Bust Does the
Business for Customs
A successful joint operation between Australian Customs and New Zealand wildlife authorities has been recognised with the agencies winning a Trans-Tasman Business Award.
Accepting the award as one of the joint winners in the environmental, social, government and community category, Customs National Manager, Investigations, Richard Janeczko, said the award recognised the effectiveness of international cooperation in attempting to safeguard wildlife.
“Customs work with New Zealand authorities acts as a deterrent to those who may consider flouting the law by distributing and selling protected wildlife products,” Mr Janeczko said.
The operation uncovered an illegal exportation of 25 kilograms of dried seahorse powder from China that was shipped via Australia to New Zealand earlier this year.
Acting on information supplied by New Zealand Wildlife Enforcement Group (a multi-agency Government organisation with representatives from New Zealand Customs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Conservation), Australian Customs executed search and seizure warrants on business premises in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and obtained evidence and other restricted products.
This resulted from the initial interception of the powder, which was made in New Zealand by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Enquiries indicated that the seahorse powder, declared as being a plant extract, was imported from China in May and exported within days to New Zealand as part of an import order for use in manufacturing medicines.
The Customs investigation continues and involves overseas inquiries with charges expected to be laid in the near future.
Seahorses, which are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), are used in the manufacture of various pharmaceuticals and traditional medicines.
The importation and exportation of CITES-listed products without a permit is an offence under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 19 carrying penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and fines of $110,000.
The illegal trade in wildlife is considered to be the third largest illicit market in the world after arms and drugs.
“Customs takes its role of protecting the community and the environment seriously and joint operations with other countries, especially neighbors such as New Zealand, help to make the world a better place,” Mr Janeczko said.
October 10, 2006
the Real Stars
Staff of the Anglo-Australian Observatory have contributed crucial data for the largest full-sky, three-dimensional survey of galaxies ever conducted.
Maps from the survey are now online and represent a decade of work by teams from Australia, Britain and the USA. They show the local cosmos out to a distance of 600 million light-years, quantifying the giant superclusters of galaxies and the voids between them.
According to Dr Will Saunders of the Observatory this is the survey the astronomical community has been waiting for for a decade.
He said astronomers had wanted a detailed map of how the galaxies were distributed, and how they were moving around, to determine how the mysterious dark matter was distributed in the local universe.
He said on large scales, dark matter was distributed almost the same way as luminous matter, so one could be used to help unravel the other.
The new survey, known as the 2MASS Redshift Survey (2MRS) combined two dimensional positions and colours from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), with redshifts of 25,000 galaxies over most of the sky, which give approximate distances to galaxies.
These redshifts were either measured specifically for the 2MRS or obtained from a deep survey of the southern sky, the 6dF Galaxy Redshift Survey (6dFGS), made with the UK Schmidt Telescope of the Anglo-Australian Observatory.
Dr Saunders said the great advantage of using the 2MASS data was that it was an infrared survey, detecting heat rather than visible light. These near-infrared waves are one of the few types of radiation that can penetrate the dust in our galaxy, allowing a clean all-sky map.
“The heat given off by galaxies reflects their real size,” Dr Saunders said . “So for the first time, we have an accurate and detailed picture of the distribution of matter in the universe around us."
October 10, 2006
RAAF Scores Bullseye
with Careers Day
A group of 87 South Australian high school students enjoyed a taste of air force life recently when RAAF Base Edinburgh hosted its annual careers day.
The students and career advisers from 10 schools were treated to a showcase of air force trades and professions.
According to RAAF News, ooccupations difficult to recruit, such as Communication Electronic Technicians and Airfield Defence Guards, were specifically targeted.
Edinburgh’s commander, Wing Commander David Flood, welcomed the visitors to the base and highlighted the range of career opportunities available. He encouraged the students to take full advantage of the day’s activities and ask as many questions as possible.
Activities included briefs and demonstrations from the base staff including mechanical, air traffic and other personnel.
An AP-3C Orion was also on static display.
Where possible, students handled weapons or sat in an aircraft cockpit as part of the ‘hands-on’ experience.
Wing Commander Flood said Edinburgh had been conducting careers days since 2000 and they had proven to be an effective marketing and recruitment tool.
October 10, 2006
Defence Minister joins
The Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson has supported calls for a national schools curriculum saying the States and Territories and teachers’ unions stop thinking of themselves and start thinking of Australia’s children.
“Defence families sacrifice a lot to serve this country,” said Dr Nelson ( a former Minister for Education). “It is time Australia had an education system that better served them.”
Dr Nelson said Defence Force families paid a cruel and high price for inconsistency across the various state education systems.
He said the Australian Defence Force had a highly mobile workforce which had responsibility for about 23,000 children, many of whom experienced multiple moves before finishing their schooling.
“Moving interstate can be difficult enough for a family without them having to adjust to very different school curricula,” Dr Nelson said. “Families who move interstate can often be forgiven for thinking they are moving to a different country when it comes to their children’s education.”
He said Defence Force families will be the greatest beneficiaries of greater consistency in school curricula and in turn, this would help the Army, Navy and Air Force in meeting the challenge of recruiting and retaining good people.
October 10, 2006
Women hit 55 in Local Government Area
The Australian Local Government Women’s Association has celebrated its 55th birthday at its Biennial National Conference in Melbourne recently.
.Established in 1951, the ALGWA is open to all women interested in local government and is a not-for-profit, non-party political organisation with branches in all States and the Northern Territory.
It was congratulated on reaching its milestone by the Minister for Local Government, Jim Lloyd.
“The Australian Local Government Women’s Association has been at the forefront of promoting the interests of women in local government since 1951,” Mr Lloyd said.
“This was very forward thinking for the times when society did not expect women to have careers and roles outside the home.
He said it was important that women be involved in decision-making at all levels in society and this was particularly the case for local government which was the closest level of government to the community.
Mr Lloyd said the Commonwealth Government provided the ALGWA with $20,000 in 2005 to assist with the administrative expenses of establishing a Canberra-based secretariat for the Association.
He said that the Government was a strong advocate and constant supporter for increasing the participation of women in local government.
He said in 2006, the Government announced a $25,000 grant to ALGWA to establish branches in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and a $50,000 grant to review the National Framework for Women in Local Government with funding from the Women’s Leadership and Development Program.
“The Australian Government also formed the Regional Women’s Advisory Council which developed a work plan to encourage informed debate and influence decision making in seven key areas, one of which, Expanding Women's Representation, directly relates to local government,” he said.
“The National Awards for Local Government have also included a category for increasing women’s participation in local government in the last few years,” Mr Lloyd said
October 10, 2006
IP does the Business in Victoria
IP Australia and the Victorian Office of Small Business have signed an agreement that promises to deliver better access to valuable intellectual property information for Victorian small business operators.
Announced recently by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Bob Baldwin and Victorian Small Business Minister André Haermeyer, the agreement will see intellectual property information made available via a range of channels, primarily through the BusinessVictoria website, www.business.vic.gov.au.
The website delivers a one-stop online shop to help businesses just starting out or those looking to improve the value of their business.
According to Mr Baldwin, many business owners need to understand intellectual property, but often they don’t know where to start.
“Often it all becomes too hard and is forgotten about amid pressures of running a business,” Mr Baldwin said. “But not taking the time to understand the IP system and how it can benefit your business is a big risk
“This partnership will provide Victorian small business with better access to important information about IP so that they can make more informed decisions at the right time.”
He said intellectual property described the intangible assets of an organisation and was often the thing that distinguished one business from its competitors.
He said IP protection could include patents for inventions, trademarks and logos as well as designs for the appearance of a product and plant breeders’ rights for new plant varieties.
Intellectual property was administered by IP Australia.
As well as IP Australia, Business Victoria has links to the Australian Tax Office, WorkCover, the State Revenue Office, Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Small Business Commissioner. Additional agencies will be targeted to join the project as part of a planned rollout.
Under the agreement, IP information and customer enquiries management will be integrated through the Victorian Business Line (13 22 15) and ’Ask a Question’ online, and IP Australia transactions will be accessed through a single-login Business Victoria account.
October 10, 2006
$1000 Murray Award for the Write Stuff
The Institute of Public Administration Australia is calling for entries in its annual Sir George Murray Essay Competition.
An initiative of the IPAA National Council, the competition was established in 1939 to promote public administration in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia but has since become a national event, the winner earning the Sir George Murray Award..
Organised by the SA Division of the Institute on behalf of the Council, the award honours the former Patron of the South Australian Regional Group of the Institute of Public Administration, Sir George Murray.
According to organisers, the competition promotes creative thinking, analytical writing and debate on issues in Australian public administration. Entries are judged by a panel of senior administrators and academics across Australia.
The 2006 Competition is now open and entries close at 5pm on Friday 3 November 2006.
First prize is $1000, second is $500 and the winning entry is published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration. More information is available from www.sa.ipaa.org.au.
October 3, 2006
Media Study Shows In Gov We Trust
Government is the most trusted institution in Australia with 24 per cent of respondents to a new study trusting the Government “to do what is right.”
Entitled What Lies Beneath: Stakeholder Expectations of Corporate Australia the study was conducted by Edelman Public Relations and also found that the media was the least trusted institution in Australia, with only 9 per cent of Australians trusting it.
The Asia Pacific research study also found that Non-Government Organisations were trusted by 23 per cent and businesses by 22 per cent.
Media was actually up 6 per cent from last year, with newspapers found to be the most trusted source of news and information.
The study revealed almost half of Australians (49 per cent) turned to newspapers first for trustworthy information and news.
The second most trusted source was web-based media, with 29 per cent of Australians saying they jump online first for news; followed by radio with 12 per cent and television with per cent.
Bloggers were the least trusted sources of information with only 3 per cent turning to blogs first.
“Almost 30 per cent of opinion leaders now turn to web-based media first for trustworthy information and news [but] newspapers are still by far the most trusted mainstream medium with 49 per cent of respondents turning to them first for information,” Edelman’s Asia Pacific president, Alan VanderMolen, said.
“Broadcast media, rated at 22 per cent, continue to be turned to least for trustworthy information.”
Mr VanderMolen said the study also reinforced popular conceptions of the media with less than 10 per cent of respondents trusting the sector “to do what is right”.
He said the high level of trust placed on the Australian Government could be attributed to the country’s prolonged economic growth while low levels of media trust was a reflection of the general decrease in trust of broadcast media.
“There’s a very low rating for broadcast media which reflects the melding of news and entertainment together so levels of trust from TV in terms of getting information about businesses or a particular organisation are low,” VanderMolen told B&T Magazine.
“Meanwhile the popularity of web-based media is mainly driven by convenience and quality of the content from publishers going online.”
October 3, 2006
Serious Business in Trivial Pursuit
The first APS trivia night has been judged a resounding success with over 250 trivia buffs matching wits for prizes and raising funds for seeing eye dogs.
According to co-coordinator, Alex Rankin of the Department of Environment and Heritage, a fun time was had by all, under the watchful guidance of Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs, who acted as Mistress of Ceremonies.
“It was a really good night,” Ms Rankin said.
“Everyone seemed to have a really good time. They were very rowdy”
Teams from more than a dozen Departments and Agencies put their general knowledge, music knowledge and APS knowledge to the test with the Masters of Trivia title taken out by an unaligned table representing the “Whole of Government.” Second place went to the Public Service Commission and Customs came in third.
Ms Rankin said the three bands on hand to provide musical interludes during the evening were all well-received with the only glitch being an unscheduled outburst of dancing during the 1980s music round when contestants should have been preparing their answers.
The outstanding success of the evening has prompted Ms Rankin and her fellow coordinator Michelle Crosby of ComSuper to plan a repeat performance for sometime in the future, but with a larger organising committee. “We’d like to spread the ownership,” Ms Rankin said.
A last minute booking failure at the National Press Club led to a change of venue to the nearby Italo-Australian Club but had little effect on the success of the night, the event going on to raise $10,000 for Seeing Eye Dogs Australia.
The trivia night was sponsored by a number of prominent companies including PS News.
October 3, 2006
Confidence Up as In- Confidence Down
The number of Government contracts that include confidentiality clauses continues to go down according to the latest annual audit by the Australian National Audit Office.
Required to report to the Senate each year on the extent of confidentiality in Government contracts, the ANAO said this year’s audit showed practice was in line with Government policy.
The Government believes that contracting information should not be treated as confidential unless there was a sound reason for doing so.
The audit examined seven Government agencies to assess performance in relation to compiling Internet contract listings as required by the Senate Order on Departmental and Agency Contracts, and the appropriateness of the use of confidentiality provisions in Government contracts.
The audit found that some agencies had given insufficient attention to ensuring the completeness and accuracy of the contract listing, which was provided on agencies’ websites. The ANAO said these agencies needed to strengthen the controls and quality assurance processes for compiling their contract listings.
While the proportion of contracts listed with specific confidential provisions was low, a significant number of the contracts reviewed were considered by the ANAO to be inappropriately listed.
The ANAO reviewed 87 contracts that were listed as containing confidential information or confidential provisions to determine whether they had been appropriately listed.
Of the 45 contracts that were listed as containing specific confidential provisions, the audit found only one was appropriately listed.
It considered that 12 of the 45 contracts (27 per cent) were inappropriately listed as the information identified as being confidential did not meet the required confidentiality criteria.
Of the remaining 32 contracts (71 per cent) the audit also considered were inappropriately listed, the ANAO found it was due to the incorrect recording of the use of confidentiality provisions in the agencies’ listings or the contracts did not identify any specific information that was confidential. Of the contracts listed as containing “other requirements of confidentiality”, the ANAO’s testing identified that 41 out of the 45 contracts were appropriately listed
The seven agencies selected for review were: Australian Federal Police; AusAID; the Family Court, the Department of Education, Science and Training; the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Treasury.
According to the ANAO, the audit uncovered some confusion over the difference between provisions in a contract that specifically identified confidential information and contracts containing “other requirements of confidentiality”. It said this suggested that in addition to some agencies giving more attention to complying with the requirements of the Senate Order, there was likely to be benefit in the Department of Finance and Administration enhancing its guidance about the use of confidentiality provisions in contracts. Finance agreed with this view.
All the agencies audited agreed with the audit’s recommendations.
October 3, 2006
New Office Launched in Water Wash-up
The Prime Minister, John Howard has announced that a new federal Office of Water Resource Management would be established to report to him and his Parliamentary Secretary, Malcolm Turnbull.
The office will be headed by Dr James Horne.
In announcing the new office, the Prime Minister said access to water was a national problem and it was vital to maintain a sense of urgency about water reform.
He said there was a lack of innovative thinking about Australia’s large-scale water challenges and how they might be addressed and a danger that slow action and bureaucratic demarcations within Governments and across jurisdictions could hinder much-needed reform.
He said however that significant progress had been made in relation to water.
Mr Howard said the $2 billion Australian Government Water Fund would deliver practical water projects to improve water efficiency and environmental outcomes and the Government was committed to implementing the COAG National Water Initiative and the Murray-Darling Basin Intergovernmental Agreement.
He said the Australian Government Office of Water Resources would oversee implementation of all these initiatives.
He said it would have the expertise to press forward with developing water trading and sustainable allocation of water entitlements, as well as evaluating proposals for major water infrastructure proposals, including storage, distribution and recycling.
The new office would complement the activities of the National Water Commission, which was established to facilitate implementation of the National Water Initiative.
Recruitment for new staff has begun.
The Prime Minister said the Office was looking for water policy experts who were passionate about improving water management in Australia, who were creative, highly motivated individuals with practical experience in developing and implementing water policy. He said they would be recruited from both the public and private sectors.
October 3, 2006
Ups and Downs on Money-Go-Round
Payrises and increased allowances for public office holders and some politicians have been approved by the Remuneration Tribunal.
In a determination made last month but backdated to 1 July the Deputy President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is to receive $237,620 a year or $1094 a day if part-time, while Senior Members now get $200,730pa or $926 a day if part time and Members $168,850pa or $776 a day if part time.
In the Federal Magistrates Court, the base salary of the Chief Executive Officer has been increased from $174,030pa to $180,570pa.
The new position of Integrity Commissioner is to come with a base salary of $223,130 and a total remuneration package of $317,310.
Senior staff at the Classification Board did not fare as well at the Tribunal however, their payments slashed 20 per cent. The Director of the Classification Board will now be entitled to $139,700 base salary and a $191,370 total package and Deputy Director, a base salary of $120,090 and total package of $164,510.
The current Director and Deputy Director, Des Clark and Paul Hunt, will continue to receive their present rates of remuneration while they remain in office, Mr Clark on $173,930 ($245,000 total package) and Mr Hunt $142,630 (total package of $206,490).
The Tribunal has also varied accommodation allowance provisions for office holders who elect not to use commercial accommodation, but stay with relatives or friends. Payments in this case will be a third of the accommodation allowance that would have been payable.
In addition the Tribunal has increased the maximum number of nights per year politicians may claim travelling allowance for overnight stays within their own electorates when travelling on Parliamentary or electorate business.
October 3, 2006
Unhealthy Fears Over Medibank Sale
Concerns have arisen over the future of Medibank with the Community and Public Sector Union claiming a leaked document shows the Government is about to sell the organisation despite promising to postpone the sale until after the next election.
The CPSU said the document revealed the Government was on the verge of stripping the insurer’s ‘not-for-profit’ status.
The union said the document stated that "although the actual float of Medibank on the stock exchange is not for some time, there are a few steps that need to happen before we can be listed."
It continues "at some point, Medibank will be converted to a 'for profit' business." CPSU secretary and spokesman for the Save Medibank Alliance, Stephen Jones said the plan was an “absolute scandal” and was being rushed through the backdoor despite assurances from the Health Minister that the sale of Medibank Private would not take place until 2008.
"Currently Medibank's operating surplus is returned to members in the form of lower premiums and increased member benefits," Mr Jones said. "But as a 'for-profit' company, how long will that last?"
"Does becoming 'for-profit' before 2008 mean the Government - as the sole shareholder - will demand dividends from Medibank?"
Mr Jones said the move would strip away any entitlements members may have in the future of Medibank Private.
The CPSU said the leaked document also indicates that Government-appointed advisers - bankers, lawyers, accountants and communications experts - would continue to prepare a prospectus and roadshow for potential investors.
Legislation enabling the sale is expected to be introduced in the next session of Parliament and the Save Medibank Alliance has written to politicians asking them to vote against it.
"It would be reckless for politicians to vote on enabling legislation without knowing the form of the sale," Mr Jones said.
The move opens the door for a public float or trade sale without any constraint on majority or foreign ownership, he said.
October 3, 2006
Air Force Promotion Full of Hot Air
The modern face of today’s Air Force literally received a lift with the launch of its new hot-air balloon at Defence Headquarters in Canberra recently.
A foggy morning prevented the new craft making its maiden voyage from Blamey Square despite the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd on the passenger list for the craft’s debut flight.
Despite failing to get off the ground, Air Marshal Shepherd was positive about the new attraction.
“It’s good to see the new canopy up and it’s certainly a positive branding tool for the Air Force,” Air Marshall Shepherd said. “It’s all about promoting the Air Force and these [balloons] are a cost-effective way of doing that.”
After much huffing and puffing of hot air into the balloon canopies, the new balloon took pride of place beside its older, smaller brother, boasting an internal capacity of 105,000 cubic feet compared to the 90,000 capacity of the old one. It can carry a payload of up to five people.
The new-look balloon replaces the Air Force’s badge and motto with new images including the Defence/Air Force website address and a toll-free information number.
The most prominent images are an F/A-18 and the face of Leading Aircraft Woman Amanda Campbell, a photographer from RAAF Base Richmond, whose image is cleverly presented with the left side showing her in Air Force blues and the right side in camouflage dress to portray both faces of the Air Force.
“It’s a powerful new image designed to depict the two faces of the Air Force – the representative and the operational,” Squadron Leader David Worrall of Air Force Reputation Management said.
“Using the face of LACW Campbell helps to portray the people side of Air Force and that it’s not just about the machinery and aircraft; our capability is built on people.”
SQNLDR Worrall said the balloon had the advantage of going places where an aircraft couldn’t, such as into school grounds, an agricultural show or a festival, to get “right in the middle of ground zero where you can talk to the public. It is a very strong visual image”.
The new balloon’s first public airing is planned for the Richmond Air Show later this month as part of a regular touring program of more than 25 events annually.
LACW Campbell, who has been in the Air Force for five years, admitted being a little self-conscious about having her face on the balloon but agreed that it looked “pretty good”.
“It’s a bit embarrassing but my parents are very proud. Not everyone can say that they have their face on the Air Force balloon,” she said.
LACW Campbell has not been aloft in “her” new balloon yet but hopes to do so in the near future.
October 3, 2006
Commission Makes Rights a Gender Item
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has released a discussion paper identifying Commonwealth laws that discriminate against same-sex couples and their children.
The paper is the second to come from a Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Inquiry – the National Inquiry into Discrimination Against People in Same-Sex Relationships: Financial and Work-Related Entitlements and Benefits.
According to HREOC President John von Doussa QC, same-sex partners living in genuine relationships are denied the entitlements most families take for granted, such as carer’s leave when their children are sick, tax rebates for dependants and a guarantee that their partner will receive their superannuation death benefits. He said the research demonstrated how pervasive the discrimination experienced by same-sex couples was.
Human Rights Commissioner, Graham Innes said “Discrimination occurs in many of the fundamental aspects of family life governed by the Commonwealth, including employment conditions, health entitlements, social security, tax, superannuation, family law, aged care and migration.
“This research confirms the compelling personal stories that the President and I have heard from many same-sex couples during recent consultations,” Mr Innes said.
The Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Inquiry received more than 350 submissions in response to its first discussion paper and was now inviting comments on this second discussion paper by 3 November 2006.
The Inquiry aims to finalise its report in early 2007 so that it can be tabled in Federal Parliament by mid-2007.
The discussion paper, including research findings and more information are available from www.humanrights.gov.au/samesex
October 3, 2006
Medicare Centred for Service Trial
A trial of providing Medicare services in Centrelink offices and Centrelink services in Medicare offices is to take place in eight communities across Australia.
Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey, announced the trial saying it would build on the “one-stop shop” model and improve customer service and choice at Centrelink and Medicare offices.
“The Government is committed to making it simpler and easier for Australians to do business with us,” Mr Hockey said. “I am delighted to announce a groundbreaking trial that offers a mix of services across Centrelink and Medicare.”
The six-month trial will take place in every State and see Centrelink services for seniors and carers available through selected Medicare offices. Non-cash Medicare services will be offered through selected Centrelink offices.
Mr Hockey said the trial would be the first of its kind in capital cities and was in keeping with his commitment to offer a range of health and social services in Medicare offices following the introduction of electronic claiming.
“Offering a broader range of services at the Department’s various agencies will make it easier for people to do business with the Government all in the one place,” Mr Hockey said.
“This trial is about better meeting the needs of Australians. It will also test demand for the ongoing expansion of services at Medicare and Centrelink and ensure we can do it in the most beneficial manner.”
He said exmples of the types of Medicare services to be available at the selected Centrelink offices included:
• Claims for payment by EFTPOS or cheque
• Enrol and update personal details
• Register as an organ donor
• Child immunisation statement
The types of Centrelink seniors and carers services available at Medicare offices would include:
• Updating personal details
• Lodging a claim for Age Pension, Carer Payment/Carer Allowance and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
• Registering for Pension Bonus Scheme
• General Enquiries
He said the trial would be conducted across eight offices:
• “Hillarys (WA), Port Macquarie (NSW), Box Hill (VIC) and Marion (SA)
• Earlville, Cairns (QLD), Broome (WA), Sutherland (NSW) and Launceston (TAS)
October 3, 2006
Top Billing for Police Memorial
The first national memorial to fallen police officers was dedicated by the Prime Minister, John Howard, at a ceremony in Canberra on Police Remembrance Day last month.
The memorial recognises all Australian police officers who have died in the line of duty and was installed on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra's Kings Park.
More than 700 police from all States and Territories and the Commonwealth marched across King’s Avenue Bridge to attend the ceremony, highlighting the cooperation of police services around the country over two centuries. The memorial represents qualities such as honour, protection and bravery and is two metres tall, 27 metres long and features 1200 brass plates inscribed with the details of 719 fallen officers.
The plates are distributed randomly across the wall, symbolising the unpredictable nature of loss, with the remainder are reserved for inevitable future sacrifice - a sombre reminder of the dangerous work of police. Night lighting represents a candlelit vigil.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty said the memorial would become a significant part of Australia’s rich policing history.
“This impressive and thought-provoking monument is in honour of those who protect our community, our values and most importantly our way of life,” Commissioner Keelty said.
“We can’t change history, but we can ensure that a memorial is in place to honour all police officers killed, as well as their families who suffer the tragedy of an unexpected loss,” he said.
Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said a key theme of the memorial was the notion of ordinary people doing the extraordinary and making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of their fellow citizens.
“This has been conveyed by a collection of statements from colleagues and loved ones, a moving reminder of the personal cost of policing," Senator Ellison said.
The memorial was a combined project between all Australian police services, the Police Federation of Australia, the National Capital Authority and Police Legacy.
It was designed by Brisbane company, Fairweather Proberts Architects.
October 3, 2006
Excellence Finds Its Own Rewards
Awards for Excellence for Employers of Australian Apprentices have been presented by the Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, Gary Hardgrave.
Mr Hardgrave presented the 2006 Minister’s Awards for Excellence to 22 employers representing a range of industries, from a nature conservation and eco-tourism park, to a multi-media Aboriginal corporation. The presentations were made at a gala dinner at Sydney’s Luna Park.
“The Minister’s Awards employers have taken on the role and responsibility of training and career development of Australian apprentices in their local communities to the highest level,” Mr Hardgrave said.
“These winners are nation builders and they are training and nurturing the talent of young nation builders and both are vital in propelling Australia’s economic growth for decades to come.”
He said companies that were most likely to maximise growth in the future recognised that training was an investment, not a cost.
“They take on Australian apprentices and understand the value of training them to perform well in their company environment,” he said.
According to Mr Hardgrave, employer support for apprenticeships had seen a 161 percent increase in apprentice numbers in the past decade. In March 2006 there were 403,600 apprentices in training, compared with approximately 154,800 in March 16.
He said the statistics showed that in the 12 months to 31 March 2006, there were significant increases in apprenticeship commencements, including higher level qualifications and school-based apprenticeships.
Commencements grew to 271,100, an increase of 5%, apprenticeship completions grew to 142,600, an increase of 6%, and there was a 6% increase in the number of females commencing an apprenticeship.
Mr Hardgrave presented the Minister’s Award for Excellence in Australian Apprenticeships Professional Support Services to Jenny Powell of the Australian Apprenticeships NT, Darwin. Ms Powell was recognised for her efforts in providing information on sign-up and support for employers throughout their apprentices’ training.
Winners received a cash prize of $5,000 from the Government, a specially designed trophy, and a certificate commemorating their achievements.
Border Express, South Albury
ADI Ltd, Mulwala
Challenge Armidale Ltd, Armidale
Broens Industries, Ingleburn, Sydney
PJS Plumbing Pty Ltd, Broadmeadow
C&M Leussink Engineering, Unanderra
Twin City Plumbing, Kambah
A.G. Coombs Group Pty Ltd, Moorabbin
One World Children’s Centre, North Geelong
Phillip Island Nature Park, Cowes
Industrial Conveyancing (AUST) Pty Ltd, Bendigo
Speak Out Ltd, Brisbane
Macmahon Contractors Pty Ltd, Nebo
Bristow Defence Industries, Oakey
Hilton International, Adelaide
S. Kidman and Co Ltd, Adelaide
Macmahon Contractors Pty Ltd, Welshpool
Juluwarlu Group Aboriginal Corporation, Roebourne,
Active Plumbing, Geraldton
CCR Group, Donnybrook
Stepping Stones Children’s Centre, Ulverstone
October 3, 2006
G&A Electrical Pty Ltd, Darwin
October 3, 2006
Trademark Celebrations Cerealised
The Sanitarium Health Food Company’s Weet-Bix has been named Australia’s favourite trade mark following an online vote conducted by IP Australia.
Conducted as part of IP Australia’s Centenary of Trade Marks celebrations, the vote was made from a field of 40 trademarks nominated by business and industry.
“We all have a favourite trade mark or a brand that evokes a memory or can be associated with a particular time of our life,” said Bob Baldwin, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry.
“I know I have many favourites, and Weet-Bix is certainly one of them.”
Mr Baldwin said just about every Australian child has grown up on Weet-Bix which was a product embedded in the Australian culture and instantly recognisable as a great Australian product.
He said the vote to find Australia’s favourite trade mark was managed by IP Australia which was the Government agency responsible for administering registered intellectual property rights including trade marks.
The process was rigorous, he said.
“A panel of eminent Australians including advertising guru Siimon Reynolds; artist and entrepreneur, Ken Done; footballer, businessman and philanthropist, George Gregan; and businesswoman and fashion designer, Carla Zampatti; vetted the 40 and chose their top 10,” Mr Baldwin said.
“From this final list of 10 trade marks, which included the ABC, Arnott’s, David Jones, Penfolds, Qantas, R.M.Williams, Vegemite, the Wallabies, Weet-Bix and Woolmark, all Australians were asked to vote online to nominate their favourite.”
Independent auditors KPMG were responsible for counting the vote to determine Australia’s trade mark after official voting closed on 3 August 2006.
Mr Baldwin said the initiative was designed to highlight the importance of trade marks and intellectual property to all Australians.
“The intellectual property tied up not only in great Australian brands like Weet-Bix, but in the ideas and concepts that we think about everyday, is important and should be protected,” he said.
“These ideas, concepts, designs and brands help foster a culture of innovation and creativity in Australia, and Australia’s high quality intellectual property system helps innovative Australians to succeed and be rewarded for their efforts.”
October 3, 2006
Forgotten Deposits Banking Up
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has urged everyone to check if they have any unclaimed money in forgotten bank accounts.
ASIC holds a record $204 million in money from almost 161,000 forgotten bank accounts, waiting to be returned to its rightful owners.
"The largest new unclaimed amount is for $216,000 in a New South Wales bank account, although that’s still less than the record amount of $405,000 claimed by a Victorian woman in July 15," said ASIC Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Greg Tanzer.
He said the money may have been transferred from a bank, building society or credit union to the Commonwealth (ASIC and consolidated revenue) if the account had not been used for over seven years and contained a balance of $500 or more.
People could find their money easily and for free by visiting the consumer website www.fido.gov.au.
“If you find an amount belonging to you, all you need to do is apply at the local branch of your bank for its release.” Mr Tanzer said.
"Almost half the unclaimed money gets back to the rightful owners, but if everyone took a moment to see if they had a forgotten bank account, I’m sure we’d have more successful claims."
The data on ASIC’s site goes back to 1989 for savings bank accounts, 1959 for some unclaimed trading bank accounts and 2000 for credit unions and building societies, that is, for accounts last accessed in 13–14.
For information on accounts last accessed before 13, contact should be made to State or Territory Government’s offices of State revenue or the State Treasury.
More information was available from FIDO or by calling the ASIC Infoline on 1300 300 630.
October 3, 2006
Tax Office Banks on New GST Deal
The Australian Taxation Office and the ANZ Bank have entered an innovative new arrangement to promote best tax practice and reduce compliance costs for both the business and the Tax Office.
In a first of its kind agreement the banks has struck a Forward Compliance Arrangement with the ATO which will cover its Goods and Service Tax (GST) compliance.
The new deal is designed for large corporates and follows an $8 million investment by the ANZ over the past three years to ensure the effectiveness of its tax compliance processes and systems and to establish a strong GST governance compliance framework within the Group’s Corporate Governance framework.
The arrangement is an alternative to traditional Tax Office audit activities and is viewed as an open and transparent approach to tax compliance. It requires a high standard of taxation self examination and a commitment to continuous disclosure of actual and potential GST and governance risks.
The Chief Financial Officer at the bank, Peter Marriott said that in addition to reducing compliance costs, the arrangement would lower the ANZ’s tax risk profile and institutionalise best practice tax compliance.
“This establishes a new benchmark for our relationship with the Tax Office," Mr Marriott said. "We are now looking to extend the Forward Compliance Arrangement to other forms of tax.”
Taxation Commissioner, Michael D’Ascenzo said the arrangement was a new way of cooperating to promote better practices to manage tax risks for the Tax Office and large companies.
“The aim is to reduce compliance costs for business and the Tax Office and to promote greater integrity and confidence in the tax system," Mr D'Ascenzo said.
"We anticipate the learnings from the ANZ Arrangement will assist in delivering greater efficiencies for managing tax risks across the large business sector more widely,” he said.
The arrangement is effective immediately and will run for a trial period of three years
October 3, 2006
Australia to Float Tougher Fishing Line
Australia is taking a strong stand to protect marine biodiversity at this year's United Nations General Assembly.
In a new proposal, the Australian Government is to call for an immediate ban on bottom trawling in unmanaged areas of the high seas and will seek tougher regulation and scrutiny of fishing practices which could have destructive impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems.
Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, said Australia was concerned about the potential impacts of a range of fishing practices on fragile areas of the high seas, such as seamounts.
He said our new position called on regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to implement and enforce measures preventing destruction of vulnerable marine ecosystems.
"This would include a ban on potentially destructive fishing practices,’’ Senator Campbell said, “unless it can be shown scientifically that the activity will not cause damage to fragile marine ecosystems, such as seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals.
"Under our plan, RFMOs have until December next year to take action."
He said for RFMOs currently under development, States would have until July next year to regulate fishing practices which had a destructive impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems or a ban applies.
In areas where no RFMO currently existed or was being developed, an immediate ban on bottom trawling would apply.
In all cases, states and RFMOs would be required to develop and implement compliance and enforcement measures to give force to prohibitions.
"This means that fishing nations will need to develop and implement national and regional measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems as a matter of priority," Senator Campbell said.
About one-third of the world's marine protected areas are now in Australian waters.
October 3, 2006
Inquiry Gets Art-Felt Welcome
The Australia Council for the Arts has welcomed the decision by the Government to hold a Parliamentary inquiry into the Indigenous visual arts and craft sector.
Chairman of the Australia Council, James Strong, said the issues surrounding the value of Indigenous art to the well-being of Indigenous Australians and to Australia’s national culture had reached a critical point.
“The Australia Council has already expressed its concern about strong evidence of appropriation of traditional imagery and design,” Mr Strong said. “And we will present this and other material to the inquiry.”
He said the Australia Council had launched a report – Indigenous cultural and intellectual property: the main issues for the Indigenous arts industry in 2006 – highlighting areas of concern, including exploitation of Indigenous artists’ works, failure to recognise communal moral rights, unethical practices among some galleries, cheap fakes and other copyright infringements. Mr Strong said the report would form part of the Australia Council’s submission to the inquiry, run by the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee.
The Chief Executive of the Council, Jennifer Bott, said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board had fought for many years to keep Indigenous culture strong.
She said to protect copyright and cultural ownership the Board had published five Indigenous protocol guides in free booklet form, covering song, new media, performing, visual arts and writing. It had also helped establish “Artists in the Black”, the first national legal advice and support service for Indigenous artists.
Ms Bott applauded the Government’s announcement that the inquiry would look to make recommendations on unscrupulous and unethical conduct in the sector.
“Our efforts to support these cultures as part of the contemporary experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a source of pride for all Australians has met with great success in recent years, she said, “Most spectacularly with the Australian Indigenous Art Commission at the new Musée du quai Branly in Paris.
“But troubling issues surrounding royalties and copyright remain.”
Aviation safety sponsorship
Airservices Australia has announced a three-year, $120,000 sponsorship with the Aviation Safety Foundation Australasia to fund projects promoting aviation safety.
Airservices Australia CEO, Greg Russell, said the sponsorship represented an ongoing commitment by both organisations to aviation safety.
“We’re pleased to be working with ASFA to enhance aviation safety,’’ Mr Russell said.
“Airservices Australia and ASFA have aligned commitments to foster and promote aviation safety so the sponsorship is a logical and beneficial fit for both organizations.”
ASFA CEO, Gary Lawson-Smith, said Airservices Australia’s sponsorship would facilitate increased collaborative aviation safety effort.
“Airservices Australia’s sponsorship will enable ASFA to progress a number of initiatives such as our Safety Mentor Development project which provides encouragement and structure for experienced pilots to mentor new pilots,” he said.
October 3, 2006
ABC’s commitment to regional SA
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s refurbished South East Studio was a clear commitment by the national broadcaster to the people of South Australia, according to ABC Managing Director Mark Scott.
“This is the biggest studio upgrade received by the ABC station in Mount Gambier in more than 20 years,” said Mr Scott, when he officially opened the studio recently.
“An ABC Local Radio station dedicated to covering the issues, interests and concerns of a region is a very important part of the community fabric.
“This new state of the art facility in Mount Gambier will allow ABC program makers to continue to provide content that adds to the diversity of opinion and information available to locals in the south east of South Australia.”
October 3, 2006
New opportunities for energy development
Applicants for the $100 million Renewable Energy Development Initiative will no longer have to wait for designated rounds of the program but may submit proposals throughout the year.
Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane and Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, announced the change saying it would provide a significant industry sector with increased opportunities to commercialise their projects.
“REDI has already provided grants totalling more than $33 million for 16 projects being undertaken in renewable energy, including transport fuels, wind farms, solar energy, geothermal and biomass technologies,” the Ministers said.
Mr Macfarlane said the change would streamline applications, allowing companies to apply as they were ready to invest or embark on new projects.
“This change will speed up the turnaround on applications, allowing renewable energy companies to make major project and investment decisions in the knowledge they will have a prompt response on applications for funding,” he said.
October 3, 2006
$16 billion surplus was 05-06 result
The 2005-06 Budget returned an underlying cash surplus of $15.8 billion.
In his Final Budget Outcome document, Treasurer Peter Costello reported that the surplus was a billion dollars higher than expected at the time of the 2006-07 Budget because total cash payments were around $1.5 billion lower than expected. Cash receipts were $566 million lower than expected.
The Treasurer said payments for Cyclone Larry assistance were over-estimated (payments to 30 June 2006 were $173 million) and there were lower than anticipated payments to childcare providers as a result of 12 payments rather than 13 payments in the year. There were also a range of small underspends across other Government programs.
General government net debt fell by $17.7 billion in 2005-06 and was eliminated. Mr Costello said net debt was at its lowest level in more than 30 years.
General government net worth improved by $7.2 billion in 2005-06 to -$23.1 billion or 2.4 per cent of GDP.
October 3, 2006
Canberra residents earn more and own more
Workers in Canberra earned almost $200 a week more than their State and Territory counterparts during 2003-04 according to an analysis of recently released figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The median earnings for the ACT were $1108 per week, while the median earnings for the rest of Australia came in at $915. The ACT also had the highest value of household contents ($69,000), significantly higher than the national average ($47,000).
Net worth - a person’s total assets less any liabilities - in the national capital was the highest of all States and Tterritories (median $400,000), while property assets were similar to the national average.
The principal source of income for Canberra households in 2003-04 was wages and salaries (58 per cent and 68 per cent respectively), followed by Government pensions and allowances (17 per cent).
Property loans were the largest liability ($48,000 per household), followed by credit cards ($2200) and study loans ($1800).
October 3, 2006
Kelly stays with Vaile
The Prime Minister has announced that De-Anne Kelly is to continue as Parliamentary Secretary to Mark Vaile as Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Her role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services will be to generally assist Mr Vaile in that portfolio.
The PM also said that the Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, Jim Lloyd would retain his current responsibilities, including for roads and regional partnerships.
October 3, 2006
Guide to construction OHS
The Federal Safety Commissioner, Tom Fisher has released a practical guide for improving occupational health and safety in the building and construction industry.
Safety Principles and Guidance promotes a level of commitment to safety that went beyond complying with legislative requirements and encouraged industry participants to demonstrate a real commitment to sustained improvement in Occupational Health and Safety outcomes in the industry.
Mr Fisher said the Federal Safety Commissioner was committed to continuing to work with companies and individuals to bring about sustainable cultural and behavioural change in the building and construction industry.
He was appointed in June 2005 to foster improved OHS performance in the industry using the leverage of the Australian Government as a major construction client.
The Safety Principles and Guidance can be downloaded at www.fsc.gov.au.
October 3, 2006
$20 million for Technical Colleges
More than $20 million has been committed to establish Australian Technical Colleges in the Northern Territory and South Australia.
Minister for Vocational and Technical Training, Gary Hardgrave has allocated $8.3 million to establish a college in Darwin and $12.3 million for one in the Spencer Gulf and Outback region of South Australia
The announcement is part of the Government’s $343 million initiative to establish 25 Australian Technical Colleges in 24 regions across Australia to respond to local skills needs.
“Australian Technical Colleges are a win-win situation. Industry-driven training ensures relevant and highly marketable skills so the young people in the region can map out a career path, and employers can be assured they will have access to a pool of job-ready workers,” Mr Hardgrave said.
The Government is delivering a range of initiatives during 2006 to 2009 as part of its $10.8 billion investment in Australia’s future – the biggest ever commitment to vocational and technical education by any government in Australia’s history.
October 3, 2006
Fee increase for Federal Court
The Federal Court has increased its fees by 15 per cent.
The fee increase was foreshadowed in the Federal Budget and took effect on 1 October.