SearchArchives for October 2007
30 October, 2007
Publications Rise To PS Challenges
Australian Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs has launched four publications in a new series called Contemporary Government Challenges.
The publications discussed and offered solutions to challenges facing Australian Public Service Agencies, Commissioner Briggs said.
"We are recognised as having one of the best public services in the world, but we can only keep this reputation if we are constantly striving to improve," she said.
“To stay in front, we need to be working together on reform directions and challenging each other to do better. I expect this series to stimulate considerable debate and discussion."
Commissioner Briggs said the four publications launched in the series were:
* Building Better Governance: case studies showing what APS agencies had done to improve their governance arrangements.
* Tackling Wicked Problems: A public policy perspective: ideas to stimulate debate around tackling 'wicked', or seemingly intractable, problems.
* Changing behaviour: A public policy perspective: how democratic governments could most effectively influence their citizens' behaviour.
* Agency Health: Monitoring agency health and improving performance: ways to assist agencies to monitor their corporate health.
Commissioner Briggs said the four publications were available on the Commission's website www.apsc.gov.au.
She said the next publications in the series would tackle devolved Government arrangements - the benefits and risks of APS agencies contracting out the delivery of services to non-government organisations.
30 October, 2007
Study Blows Whistle On PS Whistleblowers
A study by Griffith University has found that about 380 public servants ‘blow the whistle’ every day on matters of potential public interest.
Part of the largest multi-jurisdictional study on public integrity issues undertaken in Australia, the study found that up to 460,000 public servants may have formally reported wrongdoing within or by their organisation over the past two years.
The Whistling While They Work project, which was funded by the Australian Research Council, surveyed 23,000 public servants in 2006-2007 across 118 Agencies of the Commonwealth, NSW, Queensland and Western Australian Governments.
Senior Research Fellow at Griffith Law School and leader of the survey project, Dr AJ Brown released the findings at the Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference in Sydney.
Dr Brown said that of the 460,000 who had reported wrongdoing, around 197,000 could be regarded as public interest whistleblowers.
“Assuming each of these officials only reported on one type of relevant wrongdoing once in the two year period, these percentages suggest that each weekday in Australia, possibly about 380 public servants might blow the whistle on a matter of potential public interest,” Dr Brown said.
He said that up to now, the best Australian studies had indicated that only five to six per cent of public officials reported serious misconduct internally.
Dr Brown said the study also disproved the age-old belief that PS peers shunned and tormented most public sector whistleblowers by reporting that only 22 per cent of the whistleblowers surveyed said they were treated badly by management or co-workers, with 78 per cent saying they were treated either well or the same.
"The figure is still too high, but fortunately is much lower than expected," Dr Brown said.
"Those that reported bad treatment felt most of it came from management, rather than colleagues or co-workers,” he said.
Dr Brown said the research showed that whistleblowers could “blow the whistle on serious wrongdoing without necessarily suffering, but only if they do it internally and carefully, have realistic expectations, and organise their own support".
He said the fact that whistleblowing was not confined to rare acts of ‘troublemaking’ created an obligation on Agencies and Governments to ensure that effective systems for managing and protecting whistleblowers were adopted.
“Far from showing that wrongdoing is necessarily rife in the public sector, the results suggest that whistleblowing should be accepted as a healthy and positive element of organisational life, helping ensure that government operates with integrity.”
Other key results include that:
* 71 per cent of respondents had observed at least one instance of wrongdoing in their organisation in the previous two years;
* 61 per cent regarded the wrongdoing they observed as serious; and
* 28 per cent formally reported the most serious wrongdoing they observed.
The report is the first from the Whistling While They Work project.
The survey had attracted 7,663 responses, the largest on public integrity issues ever undertaken in Australia.
30 October, 2007
Leading Edge Guide For Fringe Benefits
The Australian Taxation Office has issued an advisory on fringe benefits tax for Public Sector staff.
Designed to assist them understand how Fringe Benefits Tax and entertainment works, and to decide whether or not they have to pay FBT, the advisory refers staff to the Guide on the ATO website.
It says that the tables and examples it includes would also provide assistance to Government sector staff who provided employees with food and drink, or leisure activities.
”They will need to know if these activities may be classified as entertainment and possibly incur an FBT liability,” the ATO said.
The Guide helps staff identify when an event is likely to be classified as entertainment; decide whether their organisation has an FBT liability; calculate the taxable value of entertainment benefits using the actual method; and keep records needed to calculate FBT payable.
“We also explain how you can reduce your organisation’s FBT liability, possibly to nil, and provide examples of common situations in which entertainment is provided by Government Departments.”
According to the ATO, the FBT treatment of entertainment provided by Government entities depends on their income tax status.
“Your organisation will be either income tax-exempt, income tax-exempt but paying income tax equivalents, or income tax paying in accordance with the taxation laws.
As most Government organisations are income tax-exempt, the Guide has been written with them in mind as well as for those paying income tax equivalents.
Organisations paying income tax are referred to the ATO’s web guide Fringe Benefits Tax and Entertainment for Small Business.
The Guide can be accessed by visiting the ATO website at www.ato.gov.au
30 October, 2007
Super Returns On ARIA Investments
The Australian Reward Investment Alliance (ARIA) has reported a net return of 16.7% for the CSS Superannuation Fund in 2006/07 and 17.7% for the PSS Fund.
The schemes finished the year with over $18 billion in funds under management in the CSS, PSS and PSSap and more than 325,500 members.
Chief Executive of ARIA, Steve Gibbs said it was the fourth consecutive year of double digit returns.
In line with changes to the Earning Rate Policy, ARIA also reported a move to monthly allocation of earnings, beginning this financial year, to distribute returns more equitably among members who left the schemes and those who stayed during periods of negative earnings.
Mr Gibbs said the scheme also expected further significant change arising from the 2007/08 Federal Budget.
According to its annual report, ARIA was working together with ComSuper to member
Services and conducted regular reviews of all aspects of its scheme administration.
It said that during 2006/07 the focus had been on improving customer service for both
members and employers, enhancing systems as a result of the ‘Better Super’ changes and
implementing ARIA’s Fund allocation project and related changes.
“In the 2007/08 Budget, the Minister for Finance and Administration announced additional funding for ComSuper, over a number of years, to allow it to modernize IT systems and meet ongoing regulatory requirements,” the Report said.
The Report said the returns on the CSS and PSS funds were well in excess of long term targets of 7% per annum with CSS achieving an average of 14.5% over the past three years and PSS 14.9%.
The PSSap also performed well, with the Trustee Choice default fund achieving 16.7%.
30 October, 2007
No Complaints In Ombudsman’s Report
Complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman rose by nearly 6,000 to 33,322 during 2006 - 07, the Ombudsman's annual report has revealed.
More than 100 Australian Government Departments and Agencies had complaints lodged against them. “Around three quarters of those complaints focused on five agencies with high volume public contact - Australia Post, the Australian Taxation Office, Centrelink, the Child Support Agency, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship," the Report said.
The Ombudsman said highlights for 2006/07 included handling the 18 per cent increase in workload and finalising the 17,934 approaches and complaints that fell within his jurisdiction as well as the 5,319 approaches that related to out-of-jurisdiction matters and requests for information.
In addition, he finalised 247 immigration detention cases, completed 13 own motion and major investigations, consolidated the Immigration Ombudsman function, implemented the Law Enforcement and Postal Industry Ombudsman functions, conducted 116 outreach activities and inspected the records of the Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission and other agencies who used phone taps, surveillance devices and other controlled operations.
The Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan said that in its 30-year history his office had dealt with over 600,000 complaints and had stimulated many improvements in Government administration.
"The office has dealt with nearly every kind of complaint made against Government," Professor McMillan said.
"We continue to work with agencies to address and prevent systemic problems and to improve public administration."
He said few public institutions survived three decades with their core functions virtually unchanged.
“As an important independent arbiter in a system of government undergoing constant change, the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Ombudsman have expanded over 30 years to cover areas of specific expertise such as Defence, Immigration, law enforcement, taxation and the postal industry," Professor McMillan said.
He said it was a privilege being the Ombudsman during the 30th Anniversary of the office.
"Much has been achieved over the past 30 years, but a lot still needs to be done to ensure the fundamental right of all Australians to good public administration."
30 October, 2007
Audit Delivers on Indigenous Delivery
An audit of the way four major Departments deliver services to Indigenous Australians has found areas that could be improved.
In a report entitled Whole of Government Indigenous Service Delivery Arrangements, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee has found that after three years of a Whole of Government program to provide services to Indigenous Australians, opportunities existed for streamlining administrative functions and reporting on performance.
His audit examined a series of policy priorities known as Indigenous Affairs Arrangements (IAAs) adopted in 2004 to address long term, entrenched Indigenous disadvantage and set in train major changes to service delivery.
The audit assessed how the the key Departments of of Education, Science and Training; Employment and Workplace Relations; Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; and Health and Ageing were implementing the IAAs.
“Because the IAAs involve participation of multiple Ministers and portfolios and may involve other jurisdictions, the governance arrangements are necessarily complex,” Mr McPhee said. “But it is apparent that there are opportunities to streamline the administrative arrangements.”
He said areas identified for improvement included the role of the lead agency, Whole of Government governance and accountability arrangements; collaborative efforts to support service delivery which included joint funding agreements and ‘programs responding flexibly to Indigenous need.’
He said there was little in the way of overall performance information to assess progress and a stronger collective focus was needed to compare results with the priorities set out by the Government at the time the IAAs were introduced.
“Under current reporting arrangements it is not possible to obtain a clear picture of Whole of Government Indigenous expenditure, and performance information relating to Whole of Government initiatives is either absent or poorly developed,” The Auditor said. “Insufficient attention has been given to policy implementation to reflect the original intention of the Government that service delivery to Indigenous people involves the flexible use of funds.”
He said there was also a need for FaCSIA as the lead agency, to have clearer authority to escalate issues for resolution.
Mr McPhee made two recommendations in his report which were accepted by all the Departments as well as Prime Minister and Cabinet.
30 October, 2007
DVA Makes Big Bang At ATOM Awards
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has received two awards at the annual Enhance TV Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) Awards for an interactive education resource for Australian secondary students.
The Department won Best Educational Multi-Modal production and Best Secondary Education Resource for their multimedia production Australia and the Vietnam War.
Secretary of DVA, Mark Sullivan said the Department produced a range of resource materials for schools and established links with curriculum authorities and teacher associations around the country.
“The initiatives recognised in these awards highlight DVA’s work in helping to educate
younger generations about our wartime heritage and honouring those who serve or
have served in defence of our nation,” Mr Sullivan said.
“Each year we produce an education resource that is distributed to all schools, which
aims to tell the story of Australia’s wartime history.
“Australia and the Vietnam War is a dynamic and informative interactive education resource and I’m pleased that it has been recognised as part of the ATOM awards.”
He said it was important to continue educating younger generations so that the legacy of Australian soldiers would not be forgotten.
The Awards, which were established in 1982, recognise excellence in more than 30 categories of film, television, animation and multimedia and are open to students, production companies, independent filmmakers, educational bodies and educational producers.
The education resource Australia and the Vietnam War is available from the DVA website at www.dva.gov.au
30 October, 2007
Library Books Digital Deal
The national libraries of Australia, Britain, the United States and Canada have united to implement a new bibliographic standard for a digital environment.
Assistant Director-General, Collections Management at the National Library of Australia, Pam Gatenby, said the standard would cover the description and access to library resources.
The four libraries - the NLA, the US Library of Congress, the British Library and Library and Archives Canada - have agreed on the coordinated implementation of RDA - Resource Description and Access - which would succeeded the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules.
Ms Gatenby said the national libraries, together with the professional library associations in Canada, Britain and the United States, were represented on the Committee of Principals which oversaw the work of the Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA, which was responsible for developing the guidelines.
"We welcome the move to RDA," Ms Gatenby said.
"The guidelines will be easy to use and the functionality that the RDA web product will provide will make the cataloguing process more efficient."
She said RDA addressed the needs of the future by providing a flexible framework for describing all types of resources of interest to libraries.
"The guidelines will be compatible with internationally established principles, models and standards," Ms Gatenby said.
“In addition, RDA will maintain continuity with the past, as data created using RDA will be compatible with existing records in online library catalogues."
The libraries planned to implement RDA by the end of 2009.
To ensure a smooth transition, Ms Gatenby said the four libraries would work together on training, documentation and national application decisions.
They would issue regular updates to keep library communities informed on progress and policy decisions.
30 October, 2007
Award Doors Open For Centrelink Builder
Centrelink's Eddie Mitchell has received a Special Commendation Award in recognition of his contribution to the Canberra community.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Chris Ellison congratulated Mr Mitchell at a special ceremony in Canberra as part of Centrelink's 10th birthday celebrations.
As the project director for Centrelink's new national support office building in Tuggeranong, ACT, Mr Mitchell was recognised for playing a major role in ensuring the highest standards were met in design and operations.
The building had already been singled out for recognition at the 2007 ACT Master Builders' Association awards, taking honours for environmental design, technical innovation, and occupational health and safety.
Senator Ellison, said Mr Mitchell had been with Centrelink for more than 11 years and had extensive experience with both private and public sector projects.
Another member of Centrelink’s Canberra team, Andrew McGee, won Centrelink's national award for Environmental Management.
Mr McGee, 41, led major workplace initiatives to encourage environmental sustainability and reduction in waste to landfill.
"Whether it be through recycling or replacing office fittings with energy efficient lighting, it all adds up to make a huge difference," Mr McGee said.
"Our efforts from more than 280 sites have saved about eight million kilowatt hours of electricity.”
“That was equivalent energy to power the whole of Tuggeranong Office Park for eight months."
Senator Ellison said other award winners were recognised for their contributions on a wide range of projects, including involvement with the Australian Government's Drought Buses and emergency responsiveness during the North-East Victorian bushfires.
30 October, 2007
DIAC Reaches Out For Outreach Visit
Officers from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship will be in Newcastle in November for a regional outreach visit.
The Department said the outreach trips were "a great way for people in regional areas to sit down and talk about immigration-related issues face-to-face with DIAC officers".
It said appointments attracted a range of people, from small business owners to farmers, community groups to individuals, who might want information or just someone to talk them through a complex matter.
"While the Department has a great deal of information available over the phone or on the Internet, some people prefer to speak to officers face-to-face, and these visits are about meeting that need."
In the past, the most popular topics related to citizenship, work visas, visas for family members and how to propose and sponsor refugees.
The DIAC team would be at the Northern Settlement Services Office, 8 Chaucer Street, Hamilton on 14 November.
30 October, 2007
Australia Listed On Heritage Committee
Australia has been successful in winning a seat on the 21-member United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Committee.
The four-year term would enhance the nation’s ability to be a leading manager of world heritage property, the Department of Environment and Water Resources said in a statement.
It was one of nine successful candidates announced at an assembly in Paris.
"As the Asia-Pacific focal point for world heritage matters, Australia continues to provide technical support and practical advice to more than 20 countries," the Department said.
It had 17 world heritage-listed sites, including Kakadu National Park and the Sydney Opera House.
The Department said that during its four-year term, Australia would work to advance the principles and integrity of the World Heritage Convention.
"Under the Convention, nations have a duty to protect places with outstanding universal value to all mankind because once lost, they are lost forever."
"With a strong track record and a keen interest in building a sustainable future for all sites, this broader role in world heritage matters will enhance Australia's ability to be a leading world heritage property manager and an active partner in the Asia-Pacific region."
Australia's Committee team would be lead by Dr Greg Terrill, Department of the Environment and Water Resources, with Dr Anita Smith, Heritage Victoria and Deakin University, and Jon Day of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
30 October, 2007
Aboard Marine Body
The Australian Institute of Marine Science has appointed one of the world’s leading microbiologists to lead and develop its Marine Microbiology Research effort.
Professor Linda Blackall is to join the Institute in February 2008.
Chief Executive of AIMS, Dr Ian Poiner welcomed Professor Blackall’s appointment saying she would provide visionary leadership for the Institute in the field of microbial sciences.
“She will build on our existing international profile and reputation as her experience brings substantial strategic leadership in research with a record of innovation and excellence,” Dr Poiner said.
Profesor Blackall is to join AIMS from the Advanced Water Management Centre at the University of Queensland.
She is listed in the top one per cent of researchers in microbiology, is a member of the
Australian Biotechnology Advisory Council, Chair of the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee and a Boardmember of the International Society for Microbial Ecology.
She was a recipient of the Smart Women-Smart State award for Excellence in Science and has also received a Women in Technology Research Science Award.
Professor Blackall said she looked forward to the challenges of the position.
“The vast unseen microbiota of the oceans comprise a major player in global climate control and the practical applications of knowledge from this immense field will ensure that our globe has a sustainable future,” Professor Blackall said.
She said marine science could not continue to overlook the unseen world of microbes and Australia must build capacity in the area.
30 October, 2007
Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty has acknowledge the commitment and dedication of 61 members of the AFP in a ceremony at Brisbane's Customs House.
Commissioner Keelty presented medals to members for their outstanding achievements with 26 also recognised for 20 and 25 years of service to the AFP.
Federal Agent Larissa Morley was presented with the Commissioner's Group Citation for Conspicuous Conduct "in recognition of her exceptional commitment, dedication and professionalism displayed in 2006".
Mr Keelty said that working as part of a team, Federal Agent Morley had assisted in the apprehension and prosecution of an organised crime group which had attempted to import 342 kgs of methamphetamine into Australia from Hong Kong.
Four protective service officers and a federal agent were awarded the Commissioner's Group Citation and Conspicuous Conduct medal for their actions during the 2006 Honiara riots in the Solomon Islands.
"The recipients operated in a dangerous environment and their selfless actions, dedication and discipline aided in the protection of people and property, and helped to quickly restore order to Honiara, Commissioner Keelty said.
He also presented:
* 29 Commissioner's Group Citations for Conspicuous Conduct
* 26 AFP Service Medals with 20 and 25-year clasps to members
* 18 National Medals and 1st clasps, and
* Individual medals for community policing, hazardous overseas service, bravery and operational excellence.
Commissioner Keelty said the ceremony was important for staff morale as it symbolised the great efforts members make to ensure the protection of others before their own safety.
"These awards are a reflection not only of outstanding professional behaviour, but of individual acts of bravery by our officers," Commissioner Keelty said.
He said the Australian Federal Police’s honours and awards program was established in 2004 to formally recognise employees who make outstanding contributions to the organisation, Government and community.
30 October, 2007
Radio Australia Makes Waves at Awards
Radio Australia programs have been shortlisted in three categories for this year's Association for International Broadcasting Media Excellence Awards.
The station’s Breakfast Club was nominated in two categories following a live to air road trip taking in China, Singapore and Malaysia.
Host, Phil Kafcaloudes received a nomination as "International Radio Personality of the Year" and its current affairs program, "Pacific Beat" was nominated for "Best Program dealing with a topical issue".
A statement from Radio Australia said that in China, the Breakfast Club conducted the first-ever ABC broadcast from Guangzhou.
It said the Breakfast Club was fast becoming a regional benchmark in interacting with wide audiences ranging across physical borders and cultural boundaries.
The Pacific Beat program was shortlisted for "best program dealing with a topical issue, radio" for its segment titled, 'Blogs Challenge', a look at bloggers in the Pacific.
The awards would be announced in London on 20 November.
30 October, 2007
ACCC Sees Red Over Green Marketing
Enquiries and complaints about 'green' marketing were growing according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
ACCC Commissioner John Martin said the trend was consistent with the growing interest in business to ‘green market’ their goods and services.
Speaking to consumer and specialty products representatives attending the ACCORD National Conference on the Gold Coast, Mr Martin said that whether a business was promoting their 'green' motor vehicles, 'green' flights, or 'green' toilet paper the Trade Practices Act 1974 consumer protection provisions still applied.
"In light of the growing number of complaints, the ACCC is taking a closer look at a number of the green claims that are being made at the moment, and all businesses need to ensure they are not misleading their customers with such claims,” Mr Martin said.
"Many incorrectly believe green marketing refers solely to the promotion or advertising of products with environmental characteristics."
He said terms like phosphate free, recyclable, eco-friendly, ozone friendly and environmentally friendly were associated by consumers with green marketing and were now being applied to consumer goods, industrial goods, services, corporate activities, Government activities, and so on," Mr Martin said.
"If there is a green-edge to be found, it will be exploited.”
He said consumers were becoming more concerned and aware about the natural environment and businesses marketing goods with environmental characteristics would have a competitive advantage over businesses that did not.
He said businesses had long recognised the competitive advantage of appealing to the new green awareness of customers.
He said the ACCC intended ramping up its green compliance activities with a combination of business and consumer educative initiatives and targeted enforcement action.
30 October, 2007
Postal Dress Design Is Package Deal
Australia Post has launched new uniforms for its retail staff designed by fashion designer Carla Zampatti.
Managing Director, Graeme John said 8,000 retail staff working in over 4,000 Australia Post outlets nationally would wear the new wardrobe.
Mr John said he had invited Ms Zampatti to design the new collection because "her signature style had the look and feel Australia Post needed".
Over the past 12 months, Australia Post had launched initiatives aimed at bringing people up to date "with the modern, progressive business it is today", Mr John said.
"These have included the launch of a new brand advertising campaign 'Part of everyday', and investment in a more contemporary look and feel in its retail outlets.
He said the new clothing collection reflected the changing focus of Australia Post's retail offering
"We needed to ensure that our retail collection reflected our staff's professionalism in dealing with an ever increasing number of high end business transactions," he said.
Australia Post's new wardrobe was designed in a colour palette of navy, red and white and the collection included tailored suits in classic navy or pinstripes. Shirts feature bold red striping or navy spots on white and bold accents were created with spotted or striped ties for men and neck scarves for women.
Mr John said there was also a range of knitwear combining sophisticated navy and sand tones.
He said the final collection of 80 pieces was developed in close consultation with staff.
30 October, 2007
Farr in at Defence
Greg Farr has been appointed Chief Information Officer at the Department of Defence.
Mr Farr joins Defence from the Australian Taxation Office where he led reform of the ATO's information and communications technology operations.
He will take up is position in November.
Joint Operations Chief
Lieutenant-General David Hurley has been appointed the first Chief of Joint Operations at Joint Operations Command near Bungendore NSW.
Lt-Gen Hurley will take up the three-star position after his role at the Chief Capability Development Group.
New Head at ABC
Amanda Duthie has been appointed Head of Arts, Entertainment and Comedy at ABC TV.
She has been a Commissioning Editor and an Executive Producer for Arts, Entertainment and Comedy for the past four years and will report to Courtney Gibson, the Executive Head of Content Creation.
Pair to Arts Board
Patrick Corrigan and Annette Larkin have been appointed to the Committee on Taxation Incentives for the Arts.
Mr Corrigan is a businessman and art collector and Ms Larkin is the founder of Annette Larkin Fine Art.
The Committee on Taxation Incentives for the Arts oversees the administration of the Cultural Gifts program
Both Mr Corrigan and Ms Larkin have been appointed for three years.
Appointments have been announced to a number of boards of the Australia Council.
Kim Mooney has been appointed to the Music Board, Stephen Peoples to the Dance Board, and Steven Alderton and Michael Zavros to the Visual Arts Board.
Mr Mooney is a former musical director at the Australian Opera Studio; Mr Peoples is a policy maker at the Tourism and Transport Forum; Mr Alderton is a regional art gallery director and Mr Zavros is a visual artist who has reached the finals of the Archibald Prize in each of the past three years.
All have been appointed for three years.
Negus to Deputy Commissioner
Assistant Commissioner Tony Negus has been appointed as the second Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.
Deputy Commissioner Negus will assume responsibility for the AFP’s National Operations, which includes the organisation’s border, economic and special investigative activities.
A career police officer of 25 years, Deputy Commissioner Negus has worked in numerous disciplines within the AFP, including community policing, major fraud and drug operations, protection activities and human resources.
Murray Proctor has been named as Australia’s new Ambassador for HIV/AIDS.
Mr Proctor will take up his role as Ambassador on World Aids Day, 1 December 2007 following the departure of inaugural Ambassador, Annmaree O’Keeffe, to work on global indigenous issues.
As Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, Mr Proctor will coordinate efforts in combating HIV, as well as promoting collaboration and innovation.
He is concurrently Deputy Director General, Asia Division at AusAID.
Callinan to Council
Former High Court Judge, Ian Callinan QC has been appointed to the National Gallery of Australia Council for three years.
Mr Callinan has been Honorary Chairman and Trustee of the Brisbane Community Arts Centre and Chairman of the Trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery and is a published novelist. He has had several plays produced in Brisbane.
Griggs to DG
The Royal Australian Navy’s Commodore Ray Griggs has been appointed Director General of Navy Strategic Policy and Futures.
He will now be responsible to the Deputy Chief of Navy for the development of policy, planning and guidance on military strategies and assessments.
His role as Deputy Fleet Commander has been assumed by Commodore Simon Cullen.
Dr Richard Russell has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
He is the Managing Director of RAR Investments Pty Ltd and brings a wide range of skills and expertise to the Advisory Board, including his extensive experience in public health and occupational health and safety.
The APVMA was established in 13 as the national overseer of pesticides and veterinary medicines and regulates chemicals that are, or could be, used in Australia, to make sure that the health and safety of people, animals and the environment are protected.
30 October, 2007
Awards for Sport
The Australian Institute of Sport has picked up two awards from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, including the prized Canberra Medallion for its Aquatic Testing and Training Centre.
The AIS also won a Public Architecture Awards for its Service Hub complex which provides a range of sports science, training, testing and support services to AIS athletes and coaches.
CSS Statements online
2006/07 Member Statements for the CSS superannuation scheme are now available for viewing through Member Services Online
CSS said members would need an access number to use the service but those without one could contact 1300 000 277.
Retirees make electoral waves
The Superannuation Commonwealth Officers’ Association is hosting public meetings across Canberra and Queanbeyan in the next week to draw attention to the case for an improved indexation system for Commonwealth and Defence pensions.
Candidates in the coming election are expected to attend the meetings, the last one of which will be held at the Ainslie Football Club at 10.30am on Wednesday, 31 October.
Review for Defence Honours
A review is to be held into Defence honours, awards, and commendation policies.
The Chiefs of Service Committee said the review would consider how uniformed and civilian personnel were to be recognised.
Human Rights Ceremony
The 2007 Human Rights Medal and Awards Ceremony is to be held in Sydney on 10 December.
President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, John von Doussa, said the awards were a once-a-year chance to recognise people who made a difference by taking action.
Former winners of the Human Rights Medal include Phillip Adams and Father Chris Riley (joint 2006 winners), Justice Michael Kirby, Deborah Kilroy, Elizabeth Evatt, and Malcolm Fraser. Mr von Doussa will deliver the human rights oration at the ceremony.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has upgraded its product recalls website www.recalls.gov.au to include product images and other details of recalled items.
According to ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel, the move should encourage improved responses to recalls to remove these goods from the market.
Emergency mobile block
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is inviting public submissions on its decision to block calls to the emergency 000 service from mobile phones whose SIM card had been removed.
ACMA said its decision followed escalating numbers of non-genuine calls made from SIM-less mobile phones to the ECS and the adverse impact they had on the emergency services sector.
Grant for heroism
The Federal Government is to provide a one-off grant of $350,000 to the fund established to provide financial support to the widow and three young children of Brendan Keilar.
Mr Keilar was murdered in the Central Business District of Melbourne when he went to the aid of a woman being assaulted on 18 June 2007.
Treasurer, Peter Costello said Mr Keilar's intervention showed remarkable bravery.
October 23, 2007
Whistleblower Study Hits High Note
The Griffith University in Queensland has discovered that Public Service whistle blowing is a far bigger phenomenon that initially thought.
A major national study undertaken by the university has discovered that tens of thousands of PS employees have admitted reporting wrongdoing in their ranks, although not all have gone to the media or law-enforcement authorities.
Leader of the university project, Dr A J Brown of the Griffith Law School estimated that up to 100,000 public officials per year could be ‘blowing the whistle’ across Australia, a figure far higher than previously believed.
Dr Brown unveiled his findings in the lead-up to the first Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference in Sydney.
He said the study was conducted as part of the Whistling While They Work project funded by the Australian Research Council.
Dr Brown said the best Australian surveys of the past had uncovered a rate of whistleblowing in the public sector less than half of the new estimate.
“Many public impressions of whistleblowing are also dominated by the stereotype of the whistleblower who appears in the media, but in fact the vast bulk of whistleblowing occurs within Government and receives far less attention,” Dr Brown said.
“Now we know that internal and regulatory whistleblowing is a very frequent event, and a vitally important part of the way that public integrity is maintained.
He said hundreds of Public Servants helped bring wrongdoing to light by reporting it, either internally or externally, every working day of the year.
The APSAC conference is a joint initiative of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission and the Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission.
October 23, 2007
ASIO’s new rules Are No Secret
The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation is subject to new guidelines.
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, announced the new ground rules which cover covert national security operations and procedures for handling investigations into acts of terror.
Under the revised guidelines, ASIO operatives must respect the “cultural values, mores and sensitivities of individuals of particular cultural or racial backgrounds."
Spokesman for Mr Ruddock, Steve Ingram said the guidelines made it “very clear that ASIO does not investigate people on the basis of race or religion”.
The guidelines replace orders issued in the early 10s.
Mr Ruddock said the new rules stem from:
* changes in legislation that affects ASIO
* a changed security environment and the ongoing threat of terrorism
* changes in ASIO”s internal policies and procedures
* the need to make best use of new and advanced analytical and investigative methodologies to assist in preventing terrorism; and
* the need for the guidelines to be more readable and easily understood.
"The Guidelines clearly do not broaden ASIO’s powers beyond what the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 already allows," Mr Ruddock said.
"They enhance accountability by providing clearer guidance in a range of areas.
"The revised guidelines have been the subject of extensive review which has included consultation with the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security," he said.
The new Guidelines may be viewed at www.asio.gov.au.
October 23, 2007
Managing Challenge Is Projecting Ahead
The Australian Public Service has not ‘turned the corner’ on adopting the principles of professional project management but the practice is receiving greater recognition nowadays than it did in the past.
That’s the view of Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, who addressed a meeting of the Australian Institute of Project Management recently.
According to Mr McPhee, project management is important to the APS due to the ever-increasing complexity of programs and a growing interconnectedness and interdependency with internal and external organisations.
“How well projects are managed and implemented is an important issue for the Public Sector,” Mr McPhee said. “It goes without saying that Government programs or policies need to be delivered on time, on budget and to expectations.”
He said audit reports over the past 30 years had uncovered a “spectrum” of outcomes on the delivery of large projects ranging from successful implementation to “some belly flops to projects not getting off the ground despite the investment of significant amounts of taxpayers’ funds.”
“While project management may be the centrepiece, governance arrangements, people skills, stakeholder involvement and ‘score-keeping’ systems that give visibility to the status of major projects are key variables in the equation as well.”
He said not paying attention to any of those variables had been shown to put projects at risk.
Mr McPhee said it was good news that the importance of project management was receiving greater recognition in the APS. He said this was particularly evident in the separation of the Defence Materiel Organisation from the Department of Defence; the establishment of the Cabinet Implementation Unit; the focus on Gateway reviews; and the joint publication between his office and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet of a Better Practice Guide on implementing programs and policy initiatives.
“Developments such as these recognise that effective project management is a key driver for success in the delivery of public services,” he said.
Mr McPhee said it was important that Chief Executives take a close interest in the implementation of major projects, not only “because of the risks to delivery and reputation but also because the leadership of CEOs has been demonstrated to have a very positive effect on project and program performance.”
He identified four influences on shaping project management in the public sector:
* Greater recognition of the importance of project management in delivering outcomes for government;
* Methodologies better designed to manage the risk to successful delivery;
* Making a greater investment in developing project management skills to staff; and
* Better understanding of the success factors in managing projects.
October 23, 2007
Office Survey Is Energy Efficient
An Advanced Engineering Centre at the University of Sydney is conducting a comprehensive survey of office buildings to explore ways of improving energy efficiency by non-technology means.
The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering is hoping to sample around 180 private and public building owners and their tenants to understand the barriers to achieving better energy performance for existing office buildings.
According to Craig Roussac from the Investa Property Group which is working with the Centre, the challenge is not technology, but rather how the technology is used.
He said the survey was therefore being conducted to identify the technical performance of existing office buildings as well as the management practices of everyone involved in running buildings.
“We are all under pressure to make buildings work better,” Mr Roussac said. “Refurbishment today needs to address the building’s efficiency as well as its presentation.
“We want to know what the non-technical solutions are to achieve better energy efficiency results.”
He said the Centre was looking for high rise office buildings, particularly older buildings at both the premium and lower grades that were heading towards refurbishment in their life cycle.
He said the goal was to make the survey the most comprehensive ever undertaken of energy performance and management.
Participation in the survey is confidential and participants will receive a copy of the research report.
Greg Johnson from developer, Stockland, which is also participating in the survey, said the Warren Centre had pulled together a significant group of industry leaders to collaborate on its Low Energy High Rise Project.
“Existing buildings represent a major environmental challenge for our industry if we wish to reduce our greenhouse impact,” Mr Johnson said.
“The results of this survey will help us and other owners of existing office buildings to better understand what non-technical solutions are required to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings,”
More information about the survey is available from www.warren.usyd.edu.au or by calling Sue Salmon at the Project on 0412 295 660
October 23, 2007
Race the Winner in HREOC Sports report
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has released a survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian sport.
The report, entitled What’s the Score? reports that incidents of racial abuse and vilification were prevalent across all major sporting codes, and among professional sportspeople, amateurs, coaches and spectators,.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma said the fear of racism in Australian sport was also a barrier to participation for Indigenous people and those from various ethnic and cultural groups.
“If participants find their involvement in sport safe, enjoyable and welcoming then they will be much more likely to continue this sport from childhood into their adult lives,” Commissioner Calma said.
“As such, our sporting organisations need to ensure that their policies and programs are focused on making sport inclusive and fulfilling to those who take part – then everyone is on a winning team.”
He said the report highlighted how Australian sporting organisations and Government and non-Government agencies were working in practical, effective ways to make this happen.
What’s the Score? lists strategies and programs adopted by 17 national sporting organisations, Federal and State Governments, various non-Government sporting agencies and human rights institutions to combat racism within sport.
It also looks at the steps taken to develop an inclusive, non-discriminatory culture within sport by players, spectators and the broader viewing public.
Commissioner Calma said What’s the Score? would provide the basis for organisations to consider future policy for addressing racism in sport, and promote an inclusive and non-discriminatory attitude
Sports covered include cricket, Australian Rules, Netball, Rugby League, Basketball, Hockey and Soccer, and their respective national, state and local sporting organisations.
The Australian Sports Commission, which contributed to the development of the report said that well managed sport could help bring people together and assist with social inclusion and community cohesion.
ASC Chief Executive, Mark Peters said that in order to remind and focus people on the fundamental principles of sport, the ASC has worked with National Sporting Organisations to develop a charter, The Essence of Australian Sport.
“This charter reminds us that sport is ultimately about fairness, respect, responsibility and safety,” Mr Peters said.
“If we all follow these guiding principles, then we can ensure sport will be more welcoming, inclusive and enjoyable for all.”
Mr Peters said the ASC’s Indigenous Sport Unit “provides a national network of sports development officers employed to improve community access to sporting opportunities and to assess the sport participation and development needs of Indigenous people.
“In addition, we have recently updated our Cross Cultural Awareness program, which is mentioned throughout the report, and will be increasing the number of workshops conducted around the country.”
What’s the Score? can be accessed at www.humanrights.gov.au, and The Essence of sport at www.ausport.gov.au
October 23, 2007
Tax Back ScamAttacked at Tax
The Australian Federal Police are investigating fraudulent emails offering false tax refunds.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) notified authorities of the scam.
The emails use the Tax Office logo and words such as Australian Taxation Office – Notificationor Australian Taxation Office – Please Read This in the subject.
According to Acting Tax Commissioner, Greg Farr the email carrying the ATO logo asks people to click on a link, which redirects them to a bogus website looking similar to that of the Tax Office.
It asks for credit card and personal details in order to receive a refund.
“Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 15-30 days in order to process it,” the email said.
Delete the email immediately, Mr Farr said.
“With the 31 October deadline for tax returns approaching, people should be particularly wary of any unsolicited emails claiming to be from the Tax Office.
“The Tax Office will never send an email to people asking them to provide personal information or credit card details.”
Mr Farr said that as an extra precaution, people should not click on hyperlinks embedded in emails.
“People who have entered their credit card information through this email should contact their credit card provider immediately and report a possible compromise,” he said.
October 23, 2007
New Phone Prefixes Have the Numbers
New local phone number prefixes that could see Canberra dialing 51 and 52 numbers in the next 10 years are on the way as the Australian Communications and Media Authority makes plans for 38 areas in need of new telephone numbers.
ACMA’s proposals are open to public comment.
The Authority intends making the changes via a single variation to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 17 but the new prefixes would only be available when there were no existing numbers available to meet an applicant’s request.
According to ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman the 38 regions that may require additional numbers included 10 in the (02) region, 10 in the (03) region, seven in (07) and 11 in (08).
Mr Chapman said the 10-year lead-time would allow both industry and users to plan ahead.
He said the proposed changes were made in consultation with ACMA’s Numbering Advisory Committee and would have no impact on the cost of calls or existing numbers.
He said however that some equipment such as PABX systems would require reprogramming.
“ACMA will contact equipment programmers approximately 12 months before the release of the new number ranges so that they can update programmable customer equipment,” Mr Chapman said.
“ACMA will also conduct public education campaigns to notify the public when the new numbers are first issued in an area.”
Full details of the plan are on the ACMA website at www.acma.gov.au and public comment would be accepted until 16 November 2007.
Other new prefixes likely to appear included 73, 74, 75, 77 and 78 in Sydney; 70, 75, 77 and 78 in Melbourne; and 90, 91 and 94 in Brisbane.
October 23, 2007
DSD Interrogates Security Platform
The Defence Signals Directorate is assessing Passlogix’s V-GO Sign On Platform as a new security system for Government and Defence information technology.
As Australia’s national authority for information security, DSD is looking at a suite of Passlogix programs which allow consumers to access multiple applications using a single login mechanism securely.
According to the Director of DSD, Ian McKenzie the company’s products have been formally accepted into the Directorate’s Australasian Information Security Evaluation Program (AISEP).
Mr Mackenzie said it was important that the Passlogix products were evaluated under AISEP.
"The single sign-on platform is an emerging technology which has potential for use on Government systems,” Mr McKenzie said. “DSD’s successful evaluation of these products provides assurance that government will have greater choices available in securing their information and systems to meet their individual business requirements."
He said as new developments in technology and electronic threats to networks were significantly changing the information communications technology environment, the Government needed assurance that there were appropriate levels of protection for their information and communications technology systems.
Mr McKenzie said one of DSD’s principal functions was to provide Information Security (Infosec) products and services to the Australian Government and its Defence Force.
October 23, 2007
IT Frog Award Is Leap into Unknown
A new award to identify the fastest-rising ICT companies supplying Government has been launched by IT market information company, Intermedium.
To be known as the “Froggies,” the award recognises companies that ‘leap-frog’ others to take prominent positions in the market, giving an indication of market leaders of the future.
Director of Intermedium, Judy Hurditch said the award was not designed to go to the biggest players, just the fastest growing.
Ms Hurditch said her company published an annual top 100 of ICT suppliers to Government based on sales, and delivered a ‘State of the Market’ report.
This year the report would be made in Canberra on 31 October and Sydney on 2 November.
“I think people will be surprised to see who makes it into the Froggy Top 5 this year,” Ms Hurditch said.
“While they may not be anywhere near the overall size of the current market leaders, The Froggies finalists will provide a clue as to the solutions that are on the rise in the Federal Government market.”
She said to be eligible, ICT suppliers needed to achieve a minimum of $100,000 in ICT contracts in the Federal government market in each of the 3 years 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07.
Ms Hurditch said the Federal Government ICT spend was $3.5 billion in 2005-06, a 1 per cent increase on the year before.
Defence accounted or 39 per cent of the market and 73contracts were for more than $5 million.
She said preliminary data suggested the number of contracts entered in 2006-07 was down about 30 per cent but the total value was up.
October 23, 2007
Nuclear Graduates Get Green Light
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has accepted its first 14 graduates as part of a program offering opportunities in the Australian nuclear industry.
Four of the successful candidates are from Wollongong University, four from the University of Sydney, two from the University of Technology Sydney, and one each from the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, Flinders and Swinburne Universities.
The four-year program will commence in February 2008.
According to ANSTO’s Chief Executive, Dr Ian Smith, the first two years will be working at ANSTO and the final two at either ANSTO or overseas with a leading international nuclear organisation.
“The four-year career development program is designed to attract and retain key
talent to alleviate identified skill shortages as well as give these talented young people
the chance to understand and use the benefits of nuclear science,” Dr Smith said.
“The program offers a unique opportunity to develop a solid career in nuclear science and technology which can be applied to a multitude of platforms to benefit the
Australian community in area such as medicine, the environment, engineering and
He said a key focus of the program would be on the potential for progression with the offer of overseas secondments and professional development opportunities.
“The program is a totally new approach for nuclear science and technology education and will help to further increase Australia’s expertise in this field,” Dr Smith said.
He said on completion of the program the graduates would have the skills necessary to either continue working at ANSTO or finding work in the nuclear industry overseas before returning to Australia.
He said the program had a strong mentoring aspect and the successful candidates would get an opportunity to work in a variety of areas across ANSTO.
October 23, 2007
Security Agencies Lock Onto Meeting
Leading researchers in protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats have met in Melbourne, the first conference of its type in Australia.
The inaugural Individual Protective Equipment Conference (IPE 2007) drew 117 Defence and emergency services personnel from Europe, North America, and South East Asia, including Britain and the United States.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation hosted the three-day conference in conjunction with the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
The conference provided participants with direct access to the world’s leading researchers as well as an overview of individual protection programs from countries around the world.
DSTO”s Deputy Chief Defence Scientist for Platform and Human Systems, Dr Ian Sare, told the conference Australia was in a unique position to put an Asia-Pacific perspective on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.
He said the conference was a springboard for greater collaboration between privately funded research organisations and DSTO.
This could provide the Australian Defence Force and emergency services with the knowledge and equipment to reduce threats.
October 23, 2007
Suicide information Brought to LIFE
New information for health workers and the public on the prevention of suicide and self-harm has been released by the Government.
The revised Living Is For Everyone (LIFE) framework aims to reduce the loss of life through suicide.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said more than 2,000 Australians die each year from suicide, including a farmer every four days.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Brett Mason, said the LIFE framework “outlined how the community can best help people at risk of suicide, as well as families and friends affected by suicide.
“The framework defines the vision and purpose of suicide prevention in Australia, as well as clearly stating the action areas that need to be addressed and the outcomes we are working towards,” Senator Mason said.
The framework follows extensive consultation with all levels of government, academic and research professionals, peak bodies, health and community service professionals, and people affected by suicide.
It contains the latest national and international research into suicide prevention.
Senator Mason said the updated framework was part of the Government’s $1.9 billion commitment over five years to improved mental health services, including an additional $62.4 million to expand suicide prevention programs.
He said the Government was committed to supporting people working in suicide prevention and related programs.
The framework can be viewed at www.livingisforeveryone.com.au and www.mentalhealth.gov.au
October 23, 2007
Blind Get Look-In On Disabled Media Study
An investigation into access to electronic media for the hearing impaired is to include the blind and vision impaired.
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan said she had decided to broaden the inquiry after discussions with organisations representing people with disabilities.
“I have decided that the investigation is also a timely opportunity to examine access to electronic media for blind and vision impaired people, such as the availability of audio description technologies,” Senator Coonan said.
“There is no doubt that the advent of digital technology is revolutionising the communications landscape and it is crucial that we thoroughly investigate some of the new and innovative services becoming available internationally.”
She said the investigation would include consultations and examination of the work undertaken in captioning by free to air TV, subscription and national broadcasters, internet broadcasters, film producers and cinema operators.
She said in November 2006, the Government launched ‘Ready, Get Set, Go Digital – A Digital Action Plan for Australia’ and created Digital Australia, a dedicated body to coordinate Australia’s transition from analogue to digital television.
The investigation is due to report by 30 April 2008.
October 23, 2007
History Book Makes History
A book on civilian internment during World War II is this year’s winner of the NSW Premier’s History Award.
The author Dr Klaus Neumann received the John and Patricia Ward History Prize award for his book, In the Interest of National Security.
The National Archives of Australia published it in February 2007 after commissioning Dr Neumann to write the book from the Archives’ records of 15,000 civilians interned in Australia during World War II.
Director-General of the National Archives, Ross Gibbs said the book shed light on a compelling Australian story.
“We are proud that the book has been selected for this prestigious award and congratulate Dr Neumann on his achievement,” Mr Gibbs said.
He said the book told the stories of seven men and three women considered security risks and interned in camps during the war and the impact on their lives.
The 10 included fascists and anti-fascists, Nazi supporters and Nazi resisters, and some with no political allegiances.
The History Prize judges said that Klaus Neumann “deftly combines his examination of the policies themselves with an examination of how internment affected individuals.”
The announcement of the NSW Premier’s History prize for In the Interest of National Security, followed closely on the book’s selection for another award.
In August 2007, the Dr Neumann’s work was highly commended in the Mander Jones Awards of the Australian Society of Archivists in the category “Best finding aid to an archival collection”.
Last week PS news reported that National Museum of Australia researcher, Libby Robin won the Australian History Prize in the same awards
October 16, 2007
Liberals Free Up Their PS Vision
A greater emphasis on policies to influence community behaviour, further streamlining of the Public Service Act and positioning the APS as an employer of choice are among the coalition Government’s plans for the Public Service according to ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries.
Representing the Minister for the Public Service at an address to the Institute of Public Administration Australia in Canberra recently, Senator Humphries outlined the Government’s plans after a similar address was given by the Opposition’s spokesperson on the Public Service, Senator Penny Wong.
Senator Humphries said the Government had confidence in the professionalism and leadership of the APS but looming problems would create significant administrative challenges.
“Getting Government structures right is only part of the answer to the complex policy problems that face us,” Senator Humphries said. “We also need to challenge the conventional wisdom about how the Government delivers its services.”
He said recent years had seen a shift in the delivery of services away from the APS alone to third parties such as State Governments, not-for-profit organisations and private sector companies and that trend was likely to continue.
“In managing these relationships, the Public Service will need to navigate in some previously uncharted waters and answer some difficult questions,” Senator Humphries said.
He said a key response to the policy challenges would be to encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own negative or harmful behaviours.
“This is the case in a range of policy issues, for example, welfare dependency, public health, indigenous disadvantage, crime, employment, education and the environment.
“Making significant progress in tackling these problems requires the APS to put a greater emphasis on policies that can influence behaviour.
“This is a very different way for the APS to operate.”
Senator Humphries said rising to these challenged would require more that the traditional skills of public administration, regulation and policy development.
“The APS will need to invest in further developing its strategic thinking, innovation, and creative thinking capability as well as its adaptability and agility.
“Greater collaboration across Government and outside government will also mean that the APS will need people with strong communication skills, the willingness and ability to listen to the view of others, and conflict resolution and negotiation skills.
“These are not necessarily the skills that the Public Service has traditionally looked for or rewarded.”
He said the Public Service would need to attract and hold staff by making the most of the modern employment framework.
“Considering the current highly competitive employment market, it is imperative that we position the APS as a modern, flexible and attractive employer,” Senator Humphries said.
“Although the Public Service Act has operated well, and has greatly improved the ability of agency heads to manage their agencies, there is some potential for further streamlining.”
He said the APS had “come a long way” over the past decade but improving efficiency and effectiveness was an ongoing process.
“There is still much more to be done,” he said.
October 16, 2007
ABC In Vote for Election Debate
The traditional election leaders’ debate has returned to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation which is to cover the event on radio, TV and the internet from 7.30pm on Sunday 21 October 2007 for 90 minutes.
Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott said the proposed debate would be hosted by the National Press Club in the Great Hall of Parliament House and be one of the key events of the election campaign.
“We are delighted that the Leaders’ Debate is returning to the National Broadcaster,” Mr Scott said,
“The ABC has a long standing relationship as host broadcaster of National Press Club Events.”
He said ABC radio and television reached the entire Australian population, free of charge, a claim that could not be made by any other Australian broadcaster.
In addition, he said, no other broadcaster could match the ABC for credible and in-depth coverage of news and current affairs.
“Broadcasting the Leaders Debate on ABC Radio and Television will mean all Australians, regardless of where they live, will be able to see the two men vying to lead
the country go head to head across a range of issues.
“In addition the ABC will stream the debate live on the internet, on abc.net.au.”
Mr Scott said the ABC had also made it clear to both major parties that it was willing to host further debates during the campaign.
October 16, 2007
Mistaken Identity In Centrelink ID Audit
An audit report of Centrelink’s system for checking client IDs has found that up to 750,000 people could be receiving payments intended for someone else.
In his audit entitled Proof of Identity for Accessing Centrelink Payments, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found that old paper-based records inherited by Centrelink were sometimes inaccurate or incomplete, raising questions about the eligibility of some people to receive Centrelink payments.
“Based on the results of a sampling exercise conducted for this audit, it is estimated that there is a 95 per cent probability that 15.5 per cent (±2.1 per cent), or between 573,778 (13.4 per cent) and 751,798 (17.6 percent), of the approximately 4.3 million Centrelink customers who are required to provide Proof of Identity before they are granted a payment, have insufficient POI on their paper file to meet the POI guidelines in place at the time a payment was granted to them,” the Auditor-General said.
“If the POI for a current Centrelink customer is insufficient, then the customer’s record does not accord with relevant Agency policy for the collection of POI.
“Accordingly, the results of the sampling exercise conducted for this audit indicate a weakness in Centrelink’s control framework for social security payments and a risk to the integrity of outlays.”
The Auditor-General made three recommendations which Centrelink agreed with.
General Manager at Centrelink, Hank Jongen said while the Agency accepted the Auditor’s findings it was important to note that the audit covered documents spanning 50-year period.
"The ANAO has recognised we've worked hard to improve our legacy systems and processes that were passed on to us from our predecessors," Mr Jongen said.
He said the “vast majority” of discrepancies arose because photocopies couldn't be found in the correct place on files, or weren’t ‘crisp and sharp,’ or were the result of transcription errors.
"We've already conducted a detailed review of all these cases and we're satisfied the appropriate proof of identity documentation has now been provided in every case.”
He said the audit was an extremely beneficial exercise for Centrelink.”
October 16, 2007
Minister Reminds On Mental Health Kits
The Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone has issued a reminder that free Mental Health First Aid Kits were available from the Government for all Australian workplaces.
In marking World Mental Health Day, Dr Stone said about one in five Australian adults would experience some form of common mental health problem in any one year.
“So it’s likely employers will employ someone with a mental health problem reasonably frequently,” he said.
The Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace e-learning course has been developed to give employers and managers, employees and their co-workers a greater understanding of mental illness and how people with mental illness could be supported in the workplace and the wider community.
“It’s unfortunate that, because of the stigma that is often associated with mental health issues, people who have a problem are often reluctant to ask for help,” Dr Stone said.
“Just as traditional first aid teaches the basic steps to take when dealing with common injuries and illnesses, this course provides practical advice and training in identifying common mental health symptoms and responses that can help support the person in need.”
The Kit identifies the basic steps anyone could take to support a client or work colleague with a mental illness. The course is a joint effort between the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Mental Health Council of Australia.
To get a copy of the Mental Health kit visit www.jobaccess.gov.au or phone 1800 464 800.
October 16, 2007
Red Letter Day For Australia Post
Australia Post and similar postal agencies around the world celebrated World Post Day on Tuesday 9 October.
The day has been celebrated each year since 1969, to mark the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union’s establishment in 1874. The UPU has 191 member countries, including Australia, and is the second oldest international organisation after the international telecommunication union.
Postal services employ close to 5.5 million people world wide, making it one of the largest employers in the world. Australia Post employs almost 35,000 people. Its extended family of licensed post office operators, community postal agents, mail and parcel contractors swells the population by a further 10,000 people.
Australia Post released some interesting facts to mark World Post Day:
* The first known postal document was found in Egypt and dates from 225BC. In Australia, postal services began in 1809 when a former convict called Isaac Nicholls was appointed postmaster to the colony of NSW.
* 82 per cent of the world’s population benefits from home mail deliveries. Australia Post delivers to just more than 10 million address points around the country.
* Each day, 1.2 billion letters are posted, representing 431 billion domestic items per annum handled by postal administrations around the world. Six billion parcels are sent by post annually – around 16 million each day. Australia Post staff process around 21 million items of mail each day – 5.42 billion mail articles each year.
* There are more than 665,000 permanent post offices worldwide, making postal institutions one of the most extensive networks on the planet. Australia Post has 4462 post offices across Australia – 2563 in rural and remote areas. The retail network – the largest in Australia – serves 1.1 million customers each business day.
* Australia’s basic postage rate is one of the lowest in the world. The US rate is equivalent to 51 cents, the UK 67 cents, Japan 88 cents and Switzerland $1.17.
Australia Post has a long history of innovation and world firsts – the first country to introduce pre-paid postage (1838); the world’s first pictorial stamp issue called “Sydney Views” was issued in 1849; the first country to implement a four digit postcode system (1967); the first country to launch Personalised Stamps (19).
October 16, 2007
Fate Worse than Debt For Taxation Panel
The Australian Taxation Office has appointed a panel of debt collectors to assist with the recovery of outstanding taxes and superannuation guarantee payments more than two years old.
Four agencies have been selected, Dun & Bradstreet, Baycorp Collection Services Pty Ltd, National Credit Management Limited, and Recoveries Corporation Group Limited.
Acting Tax Commissioner Jennie Granger said the appointments followed a successful three-month trial conducted in 2006 that resulted in $21 million in outstanding debt being collected.
“We do understand there are situations when it can be difficult to pay an outstanding debt. What is really important is that people contact us as early as possible so we can agree on a suitable arrangement to get them back on track,” Ms Granger said.
“The panel will help us follow up more quickly and encourage people and businesses to pay their debts. Some of the debt to be referred for collection will be superannuation money owed to employees so will help protect retirement savings,”
The Tax Office was allocated an additional $42 million over four years in this year’s federal budget to establish and pay for the services of the panel, and expects to commence referring parcels of debt for collection activity towards the end of 2007.
The panel is required to adhere to strict privacy and professionalism guidelines and will have to report back to the Tax Office monthly on their progress and adherence to these guidelines. They will also need to meet all Commonwealth secrecy and privacy requirements.
“Our debt collection strategies, including the establishment of this panel are about fairness and creating a level playing field for everyone.
“I encourage anyone experiencing difficulties to contact us as soon as possible on 13 11 42 and we will work with them to clear any tax debt before it becomes unmanageable.”
October 16, 2007
Vietnam Medal Hopes Pinned on Review
An independent review of recommendations for bravery awards stemming from the heroic wartime activities of Australian soldiers at Long Tan, in the Vietnam War, has been announced by the Prime Minister, John Howard.
Mr Howard said the review would examine the documentary evidence available, consider the nature and context of the Battle of Long Tan and the process that followed concerning individual and collective recognition, and seek to arrive at a fair and sustainable response to claims for further recognition.
He said it would have regard to the Imperial gallantry awards recommended at the time as well as claims for the award of the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation.
The review panel would comprise former serving military officers:
* Major General Peter Abigail AO, former Deputy Chief of Army, Vietnam veteran, currently Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute;
* Major General Steve Gower AO, former General Officer Commanding Training Command, Vietnam veteran, currently Director of the Australian War Memorial; and
* Brigadier Gerry Warner AM LVO, former Chief of Staff Land Headquarters, former Military Secretary to the Governor-General, currently a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The panel would interview relevant key individuals.
The Battle of Long Tan was the first significant engagement of the Vietnam War. It has come to be considered a defining event in Australia’s history. On 18 August 1966, during sweep operations in a rubber plantation, Delta Company, 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (D Coy 6 RAR) was attacked by a regiment of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Although outnumbered by more than 10 to one, the Company held its position for more than three hours until a relief force of infantry mounted in armoured personnel carriers arrived. The enemy fled, leaving 245 dead on the battlefield. D Coy lost 17 members who were killed in action; another 21 were wounded.
The review would commence as soon as practical and report by 28 February 2008. Secretariat and other support would be provided by the Prime Minister’s Department.
October 16, 2007
Fit and Proper Trial Is Fit and Proper
A decision by the Government to limit funding only to non-Government organisations run by fit and proper persons has led to new systems and rules being trialled by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
The 12-month trial seeks to provide greater assurances about the propriety of senior leaders in non-government organisations to manage public funds and would apply to funding of more than $80,000.
Organisations seeking funding through programs participating in the trial would receive information about the new requirements at the application stage of a funding round. Only organisations that were offered funding would be asked to complete the forms at the time they received their offer. Where funding was direct and no application process took place, organisations would be advised in writing of the new requirements.
Further information relating to the Fit and Proper Person requirements can be found at www.ag.gov.au
October 16, 2007
New Boat Ships In To Marine Institute
The Australian Institute of Marine Science has added a new research vessel to its fleet, the RV Solander.
Funded in part by a $5.5 million grant from the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, the RV Solander would improve the Institute’s capacity to conduct research in the open waters offshore Northern and Western Australia.
Designed and purpose built for multi disciplinary marine science, the steel hull of the vessel is 35 m in length, making the RV Solander the largest in the AIMS research fleet. The spacious vessel allows for a capacity of 18 people, who have the use of 20.6 sq. m of dry laboratory space and 12.5 sq. m of wet laboratory space, as well as scientific office space. This capacity would allow larger teams from AIMS to work together on multidisciplinary problems. It would also provide more opportunities for training students and collaboration with scientists from other organisations.
Unique design features of the RV Solander include a diver access platform on port side to ease diver entry into one of the vessels three tenders, a walk-in freezer for increased frozen sample storage capacity, and a hydrographic A frame mounted on the side of the vessel for oceanographic instrumentation. An internal moon pool, a feature unusual to a vessel of this size, would be used for mounting a range of instruments on the underside of the hull while at sea.
RV Solander was built by Tenix Marine Pty Ltd of Henderson, Western Australia, who had previously built AIMS’s other large vessel, the RV Cape Ferguson.
Tenix CEO, Greg Hayes, said the ships consolidated the company’s capability in building smaller research and patrol vessels.
“The construction of the two research vessels has generated significant economic benefits for Western Australia, whilst also supporting the work of the institute,” Mr Hayes said.
“Tenix is proud to have been chosen to build these two vessels, which will play an important role in increasing the scientific community’s understanding of Australia’s marine environment.”
AIMS CEO, Ian Poiner, said the new vessel significantly increases AIMS ability to explore and study Australia’s vast tropical marine territory which houses much of Australia’s unique but poorly understood biodiversity and hosts some of the most iconic marine life and marine habitats on earth. It also supports some of Australia’s key marine industries including offshore oil and gas and tourism.
“The launch of the RV Solander is an important milestone in both AIMS’s history and the development of Australian marine science.”
The boat was named after Dr Daniel Solander, an 18th-century Swedish naturalist, student of Carl Linnaeus and naturalist on board the H.M.S. Endeavour. During Cook’s voyage of discovery along the east coast of Australia he made a pioneering contribution to the scientific study of the continent.
October 16, 2007
Hearing Award Makes Big Noise
The Chief Finance Officer of the Statutory Authority, Australian Hearing, Stephen Patterson, has been named Public Sector Finance Manager of the Year in the Australian Financial Review’s CFO awards.
The awards recognise the very best in Australian finance over the past year and acknowledge the work done by CFOs and their teams.
Mr Patterson said winning the award demonstrated Australian Hearing’s ability to operate a Government business on a fully commercial basis.
He said since his arrival, Australian Hearing’s revenue had grown from $112 million to $154 million and the profit before tax from $2.1 million to over $15 million.
He said those returns placed Australian Hearing in the best performing group of Government Business Enterprises at State or Federal level.
Mr Patterson’s award is the second honour for Australian Hearing whose Managing Director, Anthea Green was named a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s
Awards in the Community and Government category.
Mr Patterson said Australian Hearing was a unique business inasmuch as it was a Government agency that provided free hearing services to people under 21 and Indigenous Australians.
“It also competes in the private market against almost 200 competitors for aged pensioners and veterans.”
He said Australian Hearing had more than 92 permanent hearing centres and 220 visiting sites. Its research arm, the National Acoustic Laboratories, also provided research and innovations used throughout the world.
October 16, 2007
Joint Paper Gives Elbow to Regulation
A joint discussion paper has been released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on a proposed online breach reporting system for institutions regulated by the two organisations.
The plan is to simplify the reporting process for dual-registered bodies and to reduce duplication.
APRA member John Trowbridge said APRA and ASIC were working closely to reduce the breach reporting burden for dual-regulated institutions and improve supervisory effectiveness.
“This online system will allow all APRA-regulated institutions to report breaches in an efficient and low-cost way,” he said.
“Additionally, it will save them the requirement to report breaches separately to both regulators.”
ASIC Deputy Chairman Jeremy Cooper said the cooperation between APRA and ASIC on this initiative demonstrated the joint regulatory effort to achieve better outcomes for regulated entities.
“Breach notifications provide APRA and ASIC with valuable information to help identify emerging trends or issues, as well as alerting APRA and ASIC to specific breaches of the law.
The proposed system would:
enable all APRA-regulated institutions - authorised deposit-taking institutions, general insurers, life insurance companies, friendly societies and superannuation licensees - to report breaches to APRA online; and
enable those institutions regulated by both APRA and ASIC to report online breach notifications required to be lodged with both regulators through a single breach report to APRA, thereby eliminating the requirement for jointly regulated institutions to provide separate breach reports for the same incident to both regulators.
The proposal follows the recent passage through Parliament of the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Regulation and Review) Act 2007. The Act introduces a consistent definition of reportable breaches across all institutions in APRA-regulated industries and all ASIC-regulated Australian Financial Services licensees.
APRA and ASIC invite interested parties to comment on the proposals by 31 October 2007. The discussion paper is available on the APRA website at www.apra.gov.au/Policy/Home.cfm and the ASIC website at www.asic.gov.au.
October 16, 2007
Austrade Expects No Change from Dollar
Research by the Australian Trade Commission, Austrade, has revealed that most Australian businesses would be unaffected by the dollar’s high exchange rate on the international money markets.
Austrade’s Chief Economist, Tim Harcourt said that some export sectors were doing it tough, but noted that while the dollar’s 23-year high made exports more expensive for some overseas buyers – many Australian exporting businesses also imported products and equipment.
“The impact of the negative affects of the increased Australian dollar is reduced because many exporters also import a large variety of products such as capital equipment or fabrics to produce their export goods,” Mr Harcourt said.
“Austrade and DHL research has found whilst most exporters regularly monitor the exchange rate, only 20 per cent believe that it will affect their decision to further invest or expand their overseas operations.”
Mr Harcourt said businesses in the agriculture, services and manufacturing sectors would be the hardest hit by the increased value of the dollar.
“The survey found that around 72 per cent of businesses involved in agriculture expect to be negatively affected by exchange rates, 51 per cent in the manufacturing and services sectors, 47 per cent in mining and 35 per cent in tourism,” he said.
Mr Harcourt warned that it was still quite difficult for some export sectors even though exporting overall did benefit the majority of businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises.
“There’s no doubt about it, exporting is a tough game, but it’s also commercially rewarding as exporters on average earn high profits, are more productive and grow faster than non-exporters,” he said.
Mr Harcourt said surveyed exporters saw the moving exchange rate as a fact of life of operating in a global economy and made their decisions based on long-term plans and building strong relationships with clients, customers and business partners.
“Some exporters also undertake ‘hedging’ in their contacts to mitigate against changes in the exchange rate – that is, they take out insurance ahead of time,” Mr Harcourt said.
“Around 24 per cent of large and 25 per cent of medium-sized exporters engage in some form of hedging in case the exchange rate moves against them, compared to only five per cent of small exporters and four per cent of micros. So if you’re a medium-sized exporters, hedging is clearly an option.”
Mr Harcourt said the research showed many potential exporters had all the right attributes economically speaking, yet they didn’t have the confidence or attitude to take the first step.
“This is when export coaching and marketing advice can turn these potential exporters into fully-fledged global businesses,” he said.
October 16, 2007
Children’s Service Grows Up at Stats
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has unveiled a new online statistics service that improves access to information about Australia’s children.
Designed as a valuable and useful resource for researchers, Government Agencies, families and others, the new service - Children and Youth Statistical Portal - is available on the ABS home page www.abs.gov.au and includes information from the Bureau as well as other Government and private sector sources.
“We want statistics to be widely available, and for Australians to be able to use or benefit from, their use,” said Steve Matheson, Branch Head, National Statistical Service Leadership Branch, “and we encourage people to try the portal and work with us to help decide its future direction.”
Other agencies contributing to the Children and Youth Portal included the Health Insurance Commission, the Australian Drug Foundation, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Institute of Criminology, the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
The portal is a pilot project for the National Data Network, an online research and collaboration tool developed by an ABS-led consortium of Federal Government, state bodies and research organisations.
The NDN aims to improve the accessibility and use of all Australian statistics - the Children and Youth Portal is just one of a number of similar, topic based portals planned under the NDN.
The Children and Youth statistical portal is accessible from http://portals.nationaldatanetwork.org/childrenandyouth
October 16, 2007
Museum Writer Brought to Book
Dr Libby Robin, Senior Research Fellow at the National Museum of Australia’s Centre for Historical Research, has won the 2007 NSW Premier’s Australian History Prize for her book How a Continent Created a Nation.
Drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, Dr Robin’s book examines the complex and shifting ways in which the natural world has been envisioned by people with keen interest in it – amateur and professional scientists, educationists and farmers – whose research and experience complement Aboriginal knowledge and cultural understandings.
Dr Robin’s work brings together the histories of nature and nation, showing how they are intertwined in the search for an Australian identity in a land of environmental exceptions. The history of science is rarely treated as “cultural”, but the book recognises the significance of natural history in shaping national politics.
Dr Peter Stanley, Head of the National Museum’s Centre for Historical Research, said the award demonstrated that within nine months of its establishment, members of the Centre were gaining the recognition of their peers for the quality of their research and writing in Australian history.
The NSW Premier’s History Awards were established in 17 to honour distinguished achievement in history by Australians. They remain the only comprehensive set of history awards to be offered by an Australian state government. The primary focus for these awards is the promotion of excellence in the interpretation of history, through both the written word and non-print media.
October 16, 2007
Competition Watchdog Has Eye on Main Game
The Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Graeme Samuel, has moved to clarify the role of the Commission, saying it was not in the business of protecting competing companies.
“The role of the ACCC was the promotion of competition, not the protection of competitors,” Mr Samuel said.
“However, protecting competition and competitive markets does not mean taking a hands-off approach. Exploiting economies of scale to deliver lower cost products to consumers is pro-competitive, exploiting market power to eliminate competitors is anti-competitive.”
Mr Samuel said the ACCC played significant role in promoting competition and protecting small businesses from being driven out of a market where they could provide a truly competitive dynamic.
“The Trade Practices Act is replete with provisions which, while not specifically referring to small business, have the impact of protecting small business from anti-competitive activity,” he said.
Mr Samuel said specific provisions in the Act were designed to protect small businesses from harsh and oppressive or misleading and deceptive conduct by more powerful industry players. The ACCC viewed these provisions as providing powerful tools for dealing with misconduct by businesses that has the effect of significantly damaging small industry players and as a consequence, the Australian economy.
“Drawing the distinction between the two is one of the toughest tasks that the ACCC faces on a daily basis,” Mr Samuel said.
Mr Samuel said one of the most referred to provisions of the Act relating to the interaction between big business and small business was section 46, directed towards misuse of market power.
“This provision of the Act is among its most contentious, debated and misunderstood. But the provision is an important element of effective competition law and sits alongside restrictions that prevent businesses from accumulating excessive market power through mergers and acquisitions and those that prohibit anti-competitive agreements between competitors,” he said.
Mr Samuel said it was pleasing to note that the latest amendments to s46 provided the court with some guidance to assist it in determining when a corporation might possess a substantial degree of market power.
The ACCC would certainly be taking these amendments into account when assessing potential action for breaches of section 46, he said.
Mr Samuel said that the ACCC’s commitments to the basic principles of promoting competition would benefit all Australians.
October 16, 2007
Whirlybirds Fly In To New Home
HMAS Albatross, at Nowra in NSW, has been selected as the location of the Australian Defence Force’s joint helicopter school.
The school would train up to 60 pilots, 40 aircrewmen/loadmasters and 12 Observers per year and would help create about 100 civilian positions for maintenance, support and training roles.
The school was established under the Helicopter Aircrew Training System announced in February. HATS is a $500 - $700 million project to replace aircrew training on Navy Squirrel and Army Kiowa helicopters and is part of a broader integrated training strategy.
The project will deliver advanced training systems and better equip ADF aircrew to fly more operationally-advance helicopters such as the Seahawk, MRH-90 Multi-Role Helicopter, Seasprite, Black Hawk, Chinook and the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter.
Nowra was selected as the most suitable location because it could provide the broad range of training environments required for the ADF’s aircrew. It has varied terrain to the west of the base where overland skills such as low level navigation could be practiced without undue noise impact. To the east, Jervis Bay and the Eastern Australian Exercise Area were ideal for maritime training and provided an opportunity to work with the Navy’s warships.
Development of the facilities, worth approximately $100 million, would provide an opportunity for the aviation industry to grow in the Shoalhaven which could result in an increase in aviation jobs and training opportunities in the region.
Helicopter aircrew graduating from their initial HATS training would undertake operational flying conversion to other aircraft types. Seahawk and Seasprite training would remain at Nowra, with MRH-90 and Tiger training at Oakey and Chinook training at Townsville.
The Government said it remained committed to ADF aircrew training at Oakey, evidenced by the $135 million investment for Tiger and MRH-90 training facilities.
October 9, 2007
Pension Penchant Paying Off
The Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association has welcomed an election promised from the Greens that they would press for improved indexation arrangements for APS and Defence superannuants.
The promise was made by ACT Greens Senate Candidate, Kerrie Tucker and reported in last week’s PS News.
Manager of the SCOA’s Indexation Campaign, John Coleman said the major political parties needed to be reminded that this was a matter that would ‘weigh heavily’ on the minds of 300,000 voting Australians.
“Two Senate Inquiries have recommended that the Government adopt a
wage-based index for these pensioners but the Government refuses to do so,” Mr Coleman said.
“Those affected rightly say that they are tired of being treated as second-class Australians.”
He said the unfairness of the current system was made clear when Public Service pensioners received no six monthly pension increase in July due to a negative movement in the CPI, despite most other Government-funded pensioners receiving a 2.5 per cent increase.
“The Government is unsuccessfully attempting to convince those affected that this is a fair way to treat people who have proudly served their country and what it stands for.
“Many thousands of Canberra voters are likely to express their frustration with the major parties when choosing a Senate candidate because their standard of living is being significantly eroded compared to other groups of senior Australians.”
He said in addition to the many PS pensioners affected in Canberra, there were an additional 87,000 living in marginal seats throughout the country with about 2,000 in the Prime Minister’s seat of Bennelong and almost 7,000 in the election bellwether seat of Eden Monaro.
Sitting Liberal Senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries said he was also a strong lobbyist for better indexation arrangements for PS pensioners and would continue his efforts if re-elected.
“This is a matter of ongoing concern to me,” Senator Humphries said. “Since entering the Senate I have taken every opportunity presented to lobby the Government regarding the declining position of Commonwealth superannuants in relation to other retirees.”
He said his continued lobbying might be beginning to produce results.
“Although the Government has to date maintained its opposition to changing the indexation formula, there has recently been a small breakthrough,” he said.
“I have lobbied the Minister for Finance to have Government actuaries re-cost the impact of changing the indexation of Australian Government superannuation benefits from CPI to Male Average Weekly Earnings.
He said he was hopeful that the review would lead to a re-assessment of the situation.
“I am determined to keep on fighting for the many Commonwealth retirees who live in my electorate,” Senator Humphries said.
October 9, 2007
Aviation Review to Set High Standards
The Minister for Transport has ordered review of the relationship between the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, in an effort to improve cooperation and aviation safety outcomes.
The Minister, Mark Vaile said the review was part of the Government’s response to the Queensland Coroner’s Inquest into an aircraft crash at Lockhart River.
Senior partner with law firm Minter Ellison, Russell Miller a has been asked to undertake the review.
“In bringing down his findings on the Lockhart River crash, the Coroner raised concerns about the working relationship between the safety investigator, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, and the safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority,” Mr Vaile said. “He recommended that the Minister for Transport consider engaging an external consultant to assess whether high-level intervention is required.
“I am pleased to announce the appointment of an eminent aviation figure and legal expert to implement the Coroner’s recommendation.”
“Russell Miller will undertake a review into the potential areas for improved relationships between the ATSB and CASA so as to enhance the safety of passenger transport operations."
Mr Vaile said Mr Miller had extensive experience in aviation and administrative law and in working with aviation agencies. He was a founding Commissioner of the International Air Services Commission, a former Chair of the International Bar Association’s Aviation Committee and had held a series of directorships and Government appointments.
Mr Vaile has asked Mr Miller to report in December.
“The Australian Government has announced that it will do whatever it can to ensure that the Lockhart River tragedy is not repeated. The review is part of a series of measures aimed at ensuring improved safety outcomes,” Mr Vaile said.
October 9, 2007
Workplace Watchdog Is Licking Backlog
The Workplace Authority expects to catch up with a backlog of fairness assessments for workplace agreements, with Chief Executive, Barbara Bennett saying the Authority had “turned the corner” in dealing with the huge workload.
According to its latest statistical report on the Fairness Test and its first quarterly report on agreement making, the Authority had completed more than 25,000 Fairness Test assessments in the past month – more than double that of the previous month.
“In the next couple of weeks we will have caught up and will be processing agreements as they come in,” Ms Bennett said.
“We are also seeing a positive trend in employers providing the required information to enable assessments to be completed more quickly.
She said the reports were part of the Workplace Authority’s commitment to provide clear, factual information about agreement making and the Fairness Test.
“The information requested is what businesses are already required to keep regarding a person’s job classification and their hours of work.”
Ms Bennett said, of 150,443 agreements lodged since the Fairness Test was announced, 145,814 had been actioned and 38,050 assessments completed.
“The reports … confirm that the Fairness Test is working,” she said.
“This is highlighted by the fact that where an agreement was found not to be fair, most employers have changed it to pay a higher hourly rate and supplied their undertaking within the required 14 days.”
“If employers do not do the right thing, and the agreement ceases to operate, we refer the case to the Workplace Ombudsman, to ensure workers receive what they are entitled to.”
The first quarterly report on agreement making showed that agreement lodgement continued apace and was 4 per cent up overall on the previous quarter.
October 9, 2007
CSIRO Division Gets Industry Working
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has set up a new Division to support Australia’s manufacturing industry.
The CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE) Division is the result of the amalgamation of Melbourne-based Manufacturing and Materials Technology and Sydney-based Industrial Physics and according to the Chief of the new Division Dr Calum Drummond, its aim is to transform segments of the Australian manufacturing sector into sustainable and globally competitive industries.
“CMSE provides a coordinated approach to materials design, creation, characterisation and application, particularly for the manufacturing industry,” Dr Drummond said.
“Our goal is to be the provider of choice for innovative research and development in materials science and engineering to Australia’s manufacturing industry.”
CMSE is CSIRO’s fourth-largest Division with 310 research staff. It is spread across six sites in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and the ACT.
Dr Drummond said CMSE’s ancestors had a long track record of applying world-class science to benefit local industry. He said for example that CSIRO’s lightweight concrete, HySSIL, creates building panels that were half the weight of conventional material but just as strong. Under a joint venture between CSIRO spin-off company HySSIL Pty Ltd and Westkon, one of Australia’s premier precast concrete companies, a pilot plant was being constructed in Sunshine, Victoria, to complete large-scale process development and supply panels to projects earmarked to use HySSIL.
He said CSIRO’s magnesium casting technology, T-Mag, was also about to go full-scale under a joint venture with spin-off T-Mag Pty Ltd and three Adelaide-based companies. Dr Drummond said T-Mag was a highly energy- and metal-efficient process producing strong, lightweight castings without the flow lines or internal porosity defects typical of existing technology. In a five-year partnership with Electrolux, CSIRO also designed the direct drive, switched reluctance motor and the power and control electronics for the Westinghouse SensorWash washing machine. He said these top-of-the-range, large capacity machines carried a AAAA water efficiency rating.
October 9, 2007
Maritime College Sinks Into Uni
The Australian Maritime College is to be amalgamated with the University of Tasmania.
Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, De-Anne Kelly said the Maritime Legislation Amendment Act 2007 had received Royal Assent last month, clearing the way for the amalgamation which would take effect from 1 January 2008.
“The integration … will ensure that the Maritime College continues to function as the national centre for maritime education, training and research,” Mrs Kelly said.
She said that managing the legislation through the Parliamentary process within a very tight time frame had been a key achievement, given the number of significant issues that were before the Parliament.
“The Australian Government accorded the integration high priority in recognition of the potential benefits to flow from the integration,” Mrs Kelly said.
“The building blocks are now in place so that from 1 January 2008 the AMC can continue its operations as an institute of the University. This is consistent with the agreed timeline worked out between the AMC, the University and the Government to ensure a smooth transition.”
Mrs Kelly said the Government was negotiating an agreement with the University on the mechanism to deal with land assets transferring to the University on integration.
October 9, 2007
AIATSIS staff Hold Arty Party
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has opened its first Staff Art Exhibition featuring more than 40 artworks by 20 staff members.
The Institute is holding the exhibition to bring attention to the artistic talents of staff members, many of whom are young Indigenous artists and photographers.
“Walking through this foyer today, you would never know this was a Staff Art Exhibition. It looks like a professional exhibition of professional artists,” AIATSIS Principal, Steve Larkin said.
“This is exciting, challenging and beautiful work, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of staff representing just about all areas of the Institute.”
Works on display ranged from sculpture in plastics, wood and Hebel to glass, ceramics, photography, lithographs, pastels and acrylics.
Indigenous Curator at the National Museum of Australia, Barbara Paulson, judged the exhibition, along with Acting Senior Indigenous Curator, Tina Baum and AIATSIS Deputy Principal - Research, Dr Luke Taylor.
First Prize was $500, Second Prize, $250 and $100 would be awarded to the “Too Deadly” People’s Choice.
Mr Larkin said AIATSIS was the world’s largest institute devoted to studying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures. It has just more than 100 staff including two cadets and six trainees with just over 30 per cent of staff being Indigenous.
The Institute is governed by a council of nine people, a majority of whom were Indigenous.
October 9, 2007
AEC Shows Form For Election Enrolments
The Australian Electoral Commission has reported that voter enrolment forms for the coming election were more widely available throughout the community this year than in past years.
The Commission said electors and potential electors were now able to pick up forms from any Centrelink, Medicare or Australian Taxation Office and selected Rural Transaction Centres.
Electoral Commissioner, Ian Campbell said the increased accessibility of enrolment forms was just one way the AEC was working to encourage everyone to be correctly enrolled before the 2007 Federal election.
“The deadlines for enrolling to vote for Federal elections have changed,” mr Campbell said, “and I urge everyone to make sure their address details are up to date on the electoral roll.”
“Otherwise you may risk not being able to vote in the 2007 election.”
Mr Campbell advised elector who moved house since the 2004 election to check they were correctly enrolled.
“You can check your enrolment details online on the AEC website at www.aec.gov.au, by calling 13 23 26 or visiting an AEC office.”
Mr Campbell said if electors needed to update their enrolment details, they could simply complete an enrolment form available from the many locations or on the AEC website.
“As the 2007 federal election will be held very soon, act now to ensure you don’t miss out,” Mr Campbell said.
October 9, 2007
Scammer Scan To Net Net Scammers
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced it will take part in the 10th annual international internet sweep to rid the internet of websites with false and misleading testimonials, guarantees and endorsements.
Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Louise Sylvan said it was a matter of who could you trust when faced with a glowing testimonial or endorsement.
“Testimonials, guarantees and endorsements can be positive online marketing tools – all used to gain consumer trust,” Ms Sylvan said.
“However, in the hands of unscrupulous traders, these tools can be used to mislead and disappoint.
“Traders who exploit consumer trust are the official target for the 2007 International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network’s Internet Sweep.”
She said the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network was an international network of Government Agencies involved in the enforcement of fair trading laws and other consumer protection activities.
Thousands of websites and emails would be examined by consumer protection agencies from more than 20 countries in a worldwide sweep for online traders illegally misleading consumers.
She said this year, the ACCC would be aiming to expose Australian based e-commerce websites and spam that made “too good to be true” and absolute claims which appeared to be genuine because of the use of testimonials, guarantees/trustmarks and endorsements.
“Australian sweepers will look very closely at questionable green or environmental claims, weight loss, body enhancement, work from home, online dating and complementary medicine related websites,” Ms Sylvan said.
“Traders associated with websites that raise concern will be asked to verify their claims. For example they will be asked to provide the details of the customers who have provided the testimonials.”
The sweep topic is decided by the members of ICPEN. Each agency then tailors the topic to suit its own priorities.
Sweepers use predetermined search terms to come up with a list of websites to check. Each website is then inspected and suspicious sites flagged for further investigation.
The ACCC will coordinate the joint action from its sweep headquarters in Canberra. ACCC regional offices will also host internet sweep activities.
The ACCC gave this advice for consumers wanting to foil traders ready to betray their trust:
* Guarantees, trustmarks and logos can be decoys. Check that telephone numbers and contact details are true, from phone books, industry associations and internet searches.
* Check that the use of trustmarks, guarantees and logos is genuine. Contact the provider to confirm.
* Testimonials can provide useful information, but they can also be fake. Match what is being said with the product. If the claims sound too good to be true they probably are.
* Note the names attached to a testimonial to see if they could be real. An initial and a country may not be enough.
* Endorsements by celebrities can add glamour to a product. Check if the endorsement is true eg via the celebrity’s official website or the manufacturer.
* Avoid money transfers and direct debit as these are the scammer’s favourite tools.
* Pay safely – only use a secure site and pay by credit card or similar.
October 9, 2007
Ombudsman Does Job On Industry Dept
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has found that a division of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources was guilty of “defective administration” by failing to record adequate reasons why a start-up grant for research and development was rejected.
The Ombudsman found that while the Industry Research and Development Board had the final say on grant applications, the DITR division, AusIndustry, played a central role in the grant application process. He said the division provided applicants with feedback on draft applications and recommended them to the Board. It also provided applicants with written notice of the Board’s decision, including the reasons why unsuccessful applications had been refused.
According to the Ombudsman, the complainant had applied twice.
The first application was had been ranked highly by AusIndustry and recommended for approval but the Board refused it. The Ombudsman said that neither the Board’s minutes, nor the decision notice, identified what it was about the complainant’s particular situation that led to this conclusion.
The complainant then submitted a second application which AusIndustry once again scored highly and recommended be granted. The Board again refused the application.
According to the Ombudsman, the second application appeared to be rejected for substantially the same reasons as the first.
He said it was well established in the relevant case law, and supported by the Administrative Review Council’s Practical Guidelines for Preparing Reasons for Decisions, that reasons for decisions be set out. He said this did not happen in this instance.
In his view, failure to ensure that the substance of the Board’s reasons for decisions were recorded in the Board’s minutes and communicated to the complainant put the complainant at a significant disadvantage.
“This justifies this Office recording an outcome of administrative deficiency in this case, and amounts to ‘defective administration’,” the Ombudsman said.
The Secretary of DITR, Mark Paterson rejected the Ombudsman’s conclusion but offered to review the matter.
The Ombudsman also recommended that AusIndustry review its recordkeeping and decision making processes and ensure that details of reasons for decisions were clearly recorded in a form suitable for communication to complainants.
He recommended that staff of the Division receive appropriate training.
Mr Paterson agreed to implement the recommendations.
October 9, 2007
Source Guide Spices Up AGIMO’s Service
The Australian Government Information Management Office has released a Guide to help APS Departments and Agencies source information and communications technology.
Ann Steward, the Australian Government Chief Information Officer, said the Guide provided options and strategies for decision making about ICT sourcing.
“It describes how agencies might manage ICT sourcing based on a four-phase lifecycle, which starts with a decision about whether to change the current sourcing strategy and concludes with an approach for transitioning to, and managing, a new sourcing solution,” Ms Steward said.
“The Guide emphasises Phases I and II of the lifecycle – establishing the case for change and developing a sourcing strategy – because these have been identified as priorities for Agencies, and because there are several Australian Government publications that address the other phases.”
This is the second edition of the Guide and Ms Steward said it reflected legislation, frameworks, publications and initiatives released by the Australian Government since the original was published in May 2004.
“Instead of detailing step-by-step instructions for every sourcing scenario an Agency might encounter, the Guide provides practical frameworks to help Agencies resolve the key challenges and questions they are likely to confront,” she said.
Ms Steward said there were supporting tools and information in the Guide to help agencies work through this lifecycle. The Guide describes a tool that was developed to help agencies determine the economic value of an existing or proposed sourcing arrangement; an essential requirement during the first two phases.
“Before agencies begin any ICT sourcing process, including the one presented in this guide, it is important that they are aware of the principles and policies that underpin Australian Government procurement,” Ms Steward said.
The Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines outlined these requirements and were available, along with other supporting material, on the Finance website at www.finance.gov.au/procurement/australian_government_agencies.html.
She said Agencies could also refer to the AGIMO ICT Sourcing website at www.sourceIT.gov.au for up-to-date information about ICT sourcing, ICT Model Contracts, user guides, tools and checklists.
Ms Steward said this guide would be reviewed periodically to ensure it continued to address Agencies’ needs and expectations and reflect developments in the marketplace.
October 9, 2007
Defence Scores Points From Basketball Push
The Australian Defence Force has decided to renew its sponsorship of the Womens National Basketball League.
Assistant Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson officially launched the new League season saying the decision to sign up as naming rights sponsor for a second year was a great opportunity to highlight the potential for women to achieve great things in both sport and the ADF.
“The women in this league show where teamwork, drive and a healthy lifestyle can take you,” Mr Billson said.
Several members of the Australian Defence Basketball Association took on the likes of Dandenong Ranger, Emily McInerny; Bullen Melbourne Boomer, Desi Glaubitz; and Bendigo Spirit’s Kathleen MacLeod at the launch, in a display that highlighted the skills of both ADF and WNBL representatives.
Mr Billson said ADBA players, Flight Lieutenant Fiona Harris, Petty Officer Narelle Ponder, Corporal Heather Marsh and Private Kelly Nelson were not new to the game, having an Australian Basketball Association Championship between them along with several seasons in the elite league, and numerous seasons in Australia’s State leagues under their belt.
“These ADF members share a passion for basketball, and have chosen careers in the ADF because they too value teamwork, drive, and an active lifestyle,” Mr Billson said.
“What’s more, none of them have given up their civilian participation in the sport because of their Defence careers; Flight Lieutenant Harris as recently as last season walked away with an ABA championship.
Mr Billson said the women also worked in such diverse fields as Submariner to Public Relations Officer and had achieved on the job. “Petty Officer Ponder recently became the first female Senior Sailor in her trade, in the Submarine Fleet.”
He said that with more than 90 per cent of ADF jobs available to women, Defence certainly employed a diverse and talented group.
October 9, 2007
Aged Employee Guide Turns Tables on 45s
A practical guide to employing mature age staff 45 and over has been launched by the Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone.
The Guide is designed to address the needs of small and medium-sized businesses and includes information on how to find and keep experienced, older workers and what HR policies and practices employers needed to implement to respond to the smaller, older workforce.
“The country can’t afford to retire its most experience workers,” Dr Stone said. “We simply do not have queues of similarly experienced workers waiting in the wings.”
“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, unemployment is set to fall below 4 per cent as the economy continues to boom and businesses cry out for more workers.”
Dr Stone said as the population aged, and the generations following the baby boomers continued to shrink, Australian businesses needed to reassess their attitudes to mature age workers.
“Successful businesses will be those who retain older workers,” she said.
“Businesses must appreciate the importance and financial benefits of keeping or recruiting mature age staff to meet their skills needs.
“New IR reforms also give flexibility to the workplace, not seen before, so mature age can ease into retirement through part-time work, working from home, or job sharing.”
The Mature Age Employment Practical Guide is available at www.jobwise.gov.au.
October 9, 2007
Austrade Jazzes Up New Orleans Office
Austrade has opened an office in New Orleans to assist Australian businesses with exports and investment opportunities on the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Minister for Trade, Warren Truss, said that the Gulf Coast region – which extended from eastern Texas to Florida, including the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama – presented significant commercial opportunities for Australian business.
“Australian companies are already very active throughout the Gulf Coast region particularly in areas such as oil and gas, infrastructure, construction, building products, and marine,” Mr Truss said.
“The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast has created an urgent need for businesses with experience and capabilities to contribute towards the massive reconstruction effort.”
He said Australians, particularly those from the northern States, had a long history of coping with such severe weather events so it was not surprising to see Australian companies supplying innovative solutions towards the rebuilding effort – from hurricane-resistant construction to water management systems.
“Austrade is already working along the Gulf Coast to promote Australian capabilities and to ensure Australian businesses with appropriate skills are well placed to bid for work as part of this massive task.”
He said the new trade office in New Orleans was a good example of the Government’s commitment to maximising the ability of Australian business to take up commercial opportunities in the United States.
“Austrade has expanded its United States network since the introduction of the Australia-US Free trade Agreement and now offers Australian businesses significant geographic reach in the United States as well as advice from industry specialists, including dedicated Agribusiness and Selling-to-Government teams.
“Even niche markets in the United States offer substantial market opportunities to Australian enterprises so we are increasing the support we provide in key regional hubs such as New Orleans, not just in the commercial centres such as New York and Los Angeles,” Mr Truss said.
He said the new Gulf Coast District Trade Office in New Orleans would provide a good foundation for Austrade’s ongoing efforts to help promote awareness of Australian capabilities, highlight trade opportunities, and create long-term business partnerships.
October 9, 2007
Flying Doctor Lands Grants and Gear
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is a safer and more efficient service following the donation of aircraft surveillance technology by Airservices Australia and funding for an eHealth for Remote Australia project under the Government’s Clever Networks program.
Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, announced the donation of equipment saying the surveillance technology, Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, enabled aircraft to be accurately tracked by air traffic controllers without the need for conventional radar.
“ADS-B is particularly beneficial in rural and remote areas of Australia where the RFDS operates and where aircraft surveillance coverage is poor, or non-existent,” Mr Vaile said.
“An aircraft equipped with ADS-B determines its position using a Global Positioning System receiver. An on-board transponder automatically broadcasts that position at rapid intervals. Dedicated ADS-B ground stations across Australia receive the broadcasts and relay the information to Airservices Australia for precise tracking of the aircraft.”
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan also announced the Royal Flying Doctor Service would be the beneficiary of $2.7 million in Clever Networks funding for its eHealth for Remote Australia project.
“eHealth for Remote Australia, will give the Flying Doctors access to the essential medical history information of more than 750,000 Australians living in remote and isolated areas of New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia,” Senator Coonan said.
“The project will make medical histories, allergy, immunisation, current medications and other health information available to all Royal Flying Doctor Service clinicians or other authorised health professionals helping to treat people in rural and remote areas.”
She said the Flying Doctor would lead the project in partnership with SingTel Optus Pty Ltd, Alphawest Services, Intel Australia and Cisco Systems.
“The Australian Government recognises it is not what broadband ‘is’ but what it can deliver that is important for Australia,” Senator Coonan said.
“Through the $113 million Clever Networks program the Government is stimulating the creation of broadband-enabled technologies and applications that have the potential to improve in a very significant way the health and education outcomes in rural and remote Australia.”
October 9, 2007
Computers Drive Disaster Program
A computer program that prepares the Australian community for natural or man-made disasters has been declared “open for business”.
The world-leading Critical Infrastructure Protection Modelling and Analysis program identifies any areas of vulnerability within critical infrastructure and gauges the flow-on effects if one part of it is compromised.
According to Attorney general, Philip Ruddock, program represents a unique collaboration between Government and industry, and would concentrate initially on the four sectors of communications, energy, water and banking
Mr Ruddock said the announcement meant that these sectors could now “task” the program to examine a scenario or potential disaster, and advise on the flow-on effects across the sectors.
“These ‘virtual insights’ will feed into the decision-making processes of business and government and will contribute to more targeted and cost-effective policies,” Mr Ruddock said.
“The success of CIPMA relies on the supply of data and information from the four business sectors and their willingness to participate is a testament to the relationship that has been built between Government and industry.”
He said that ultimately CIPMA would help build a more resilient business sector which could bounce back in the face of adversity, ensuring less disruption to our way of life.
Mr Ruddock said his Department led the CIPMA initiative and worked closely with technical development agency Geoscience Australia and also the CSIRO.
October 9, 2007
Policy Program Is Young at Heart
The young people of Australia are to be asked to put forward policy ideas under an $80,000 program to be run by the United Nations Youth Association.
Minister for Community Services, Senator Nigel Scullion said the Youth Speak: A Conversation for the Future survey was more than a data collection exercise, it was a process to generate and develop ideas.
“It will involve a series of workshops and a National Summit in order to flesh out the ideas of young Australians into practical policy proposals,” Senator Scullion said.
“Due to UNYA’s international networks we could see other countries follow Australia’s lead and use this survey as a prototype for an investigation into the policy ideas of their young people.”
He said the survey would gather information on issues determined by young people and provide an insight into what strategies they believeed would assist their journey through adolescence and help them maximise their potential.
“The Australian Government values the contributions of young people to the community and this survey will highlight how all levels of Government can continue to improve services and opportunities for young people,” Senator Scullion said.
“By providing financial support for this UNYA initiative, the Australian Government is demonstrating its strong and ongoing commitment to young people and to consultation with young people.”
He said UNYA was a national, non-profit, community-based organisation run by young people for young people, which aimed to foster youth awareness and participation in international issues and political processes.
It provided opportunities for youth participation, development and engagement with the international community, Government and society.
October 1, 2007
Law Reformers Inform on FOI
The Australian Law Reform Commission has been asked to scrutinise the nation’s Freedom of Information laws with a view to standardising them across the nation.
Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock said the move was partly in response to the Right to Know campaign, launched by the country’s major newspapers, television and radio networks in May.
“Since the media organisations started their campaign we have carefully considered existing laws and are concerned by the inconsistencies between jurisdictions,” Mr Ruddock said.
“The Australian Law Reform Commission’s report will provide us with the advice we need to fix this problem. Greater consistency between access laws in the Commonwealth, States and Territories will promote best practice in all jurisdictions.”
Mr Ruddock said the move demonstrated the Government’s commitment to better national administration.
He said it would also examine the impact of technology on existing access laws.
“The existing legislation was developed in an era of paper documents, and its implicit assumptions and processes are still locked in that era,” Mr Ruddock said.
“Once information was contained in relatively few paper documents. Today information takes myriad forms and can be overwhelming in its volume.”
The Commission is to undertake widespread consultation with the public and key stakeholders in conducting its review and has been asked to complete its work by 31 December 2008.
October 1, 2007
Paper Weighs Rights Of Legal Privilege
The difficult issue of legal privilege in Federal investigations has been addressed by the Australian Law Reform Commission in a discussion paper: Client Legal Privilege and Federal Investigatory Bodies.
The paper contains 42 proposals aimed at addressing the length and cost of disputes over the extent of legal privilege available to defendants in matters involving Government Agencies.
President of the ALRC, Professor David Weisbrot said the Commission recognised the need for a clear and consistent approach to privilege.
“Client legal privilege is a fundamental principle of common law,” Professor Weisbrot said.
“It encourages clients to speak fully and frankly with their lawyers, so that they can receive the best possible legal advice — including advice on how to comply with the law.”
He said however that the recent Royal Commission into the Australian Wheat Board saw privilege used as a tactic to delay or frustrate proceedings.
“There are many cases in which disputes over privilege have taken many years to resolve — and that is before the court can even consider the merits of the case.”
Professor Weisbrot said the main thrust of the ALRC proposals was that Australia needed a simple, less costly process for resolving disputes over privilege.
Commissioner in charge of the Inquiry, Professor Rosalind Croucher said much of the confusion and uncertainty stemmed from a lack of legislative clarity and transparent processes.
“Our research has identified 41 Federal investigatory bodies — as well as Royal Commissions that are established from time to time — that have coercive information-gathering powers. Many of the laws governing these bodies provide no guidance about whether client legal privilege applies wholly or in part. In those laws that do address privilege, there is no consistency of language or approach.”
Professor Croucher said the ALRC proposed that where privilege applied, there should be a consistent legal framework.
“Where Parliament determines that privilege should be abrogated, this should be on the basis of clear principles — that is, where there is a significant public interest, and where legal advice is central to the matters being investigated,” she said.
“Where it is abrogated, appropriate safeguards should be put in place about the subsequent use of the information disclosed.”
October 1, 2007
Labor Takes Pains To Outline PS Vision
An emphasis on the ethics of Public Administration, more recruitment of young people, greater staff mobility between Agencies and new structures to deal with whole-of-Government issues are the main features of the Australian Labor Party’s plans for the Public Service should it win the coming election.
Shadow Minister for Public Administration, Senator Penny Wong, outlined the ALP’s views to the ACT Chapter of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, saying Labor regarded a strong Public Service as crucial to the governance of the nation and that policy objectives could only be met if every public servant felt “safe, respected and appropriately remunerated in the workplace.”
“The Public Service should be a model employer,” Senator Wong said, “and a place where Australians wanted to work.
“It should be strong, unified, and apolitical; a repository of knowledge for developing Government policy and of expertise in implementing it.”
She said under a Labor Government the Public Service would be expected to uphold the APS Values and the Public Service Commissioner would be called on provide public ethics advice and training for staff to help them do so.
“Enabling Public Servants to obtain formal ethics advice is consistent with the policy objectives contained in the Public Service Act,’ Senator Wong said. “Ethics advice would enhance the legal and policy framework which emphasises the Values.”
She said Labor supported a merit-based, apolitical and non-discriminatory career Public Service with family friendly working conditions and training and development opportunities.
“Labor will place particular emphasis on the recruitment of young people to the APS workforce and ensure that older Australians who wished to remain in the APS were able to do so.”
She said Labor would also encourage staff to move between Agencies as a way of developing skills across the PS.
“An element of addressing the skills shortage within the Public Service is exposure to other areas,” she said. “There is immense value in increasing inter-agency mobility.”
She foreshadowed reorganisations of Departments and Agencies, reallocations of staff and possible new structures to deal with a growing number of whole-of-Government issues.
“We recognise that our institutions and systems of Government need further improvement to manage issues such as climate change which do not neatly fall into a single portfolio area,” she said.
“We recognise the need for institutional reform.”
She said the reorganisations would occur in a “planned way with proper consultation.”
“There will be no targeting of individuals.”
In another address, the IPAA has invited Government Senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries to address it on what the Government has in store for the APS after the election.
October 1, 2007
Greens Show Colour Of PS Pension Policy
The Greens Party has promised to press for a better deal for Public Service pensioners if it wins seats in the coming election.
ACT Greens Senate candidate, Kerrie Tucker, has pledged her party to an overhaul of the PS pension indexation system, which currently ties movements in the pension to the Consumer Price Index.
She has noted that indexation to the CPI alone has led to falling standards of living for PS pensioners.
Her promise follows repeated calls over many years by retired Public Servants for a more generous indexation system.
“For years now, retirement incomes of Commonwealth and Defence force personnel have been falling behind those of other Australians" Ms Tucker said.
"Many of us think people on superannuation are really well off. But for a couple, the average Commonwealth Superannuation pension is about $21,000, which is well behind the aged pension.”
She said in order to keep pace with rising costs, pensions should be indexed to the better of the CPI and a wage-based index.
She said most were, except for pensions applying to retired Commonwealth and Defence force personnel.
“They are indexed to the lower CPI figure,” she said, “So they a falling further and further behind average wages, and further and further behind other indexed pensions."
Ms Tucker pointed out that Commonwealth and Defence pensioners received no increase in July due to a zero movement in the CPI whereas other Government-funded pensioners received a 2.5 per cent increase.
“Government MPs received a 6.7 per cent increase on top of the seven per cent they received last year,” she said.
"The Greens believe that Commonwealth and Defence force personnel are entitled to the same rights as other Australians. Their pensions should be indexed in the same way."
Ms Tucker pointed out that two Senate reports had recommended that a wage-based index be used for PS pensions but the Government had refused to move.
She said the Labor Party seemed willing to consider such a change and a Green Senate would “keep them to it.”
October 1, 2007
New Guide Just What The Doctor Audited
The Auditor-General has released a Better Practice Guide for Internal Audit.
Entitled Public Sector Internal Audit: An Investment in Assurance and Business Improvement, the 100-page Guide replaces a 18 version and complements the Auditor’s 2005 Better Practice Guide for Public Sector Audit Committees.
According to the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, internal audit can pay a key role in the governance arrangements of Public Sector Agencies.
“By providing assurance on the effectiveness of an entity’s internal control environment and identifying opportunities for performance improvement, internal audit can make a valuable
contribution to achieving an entity’s objectives,” Mr McPhee said.
“It is our experience that better practice entities consider an appropriate level of investment in internal audit to be an essential business decision.”
Divided into three parts, the Guide includes a model internal audit charter and a toolkit and identifies 15 key characteristics of a Better Practice internal audit function.
Mr McPhee said the Guide was intended as a reference document for Chief Executives, Boards, members of Audit Committees, managers with responsibility for internal audit activities, and internal audit staff.
“The aim of the Guide is to provide guidance relevant to Public Sector entities operating
under both the Financial Management and Accountability and the Commonwealth
Authorities and Companies Acts,” he said.
“As with all the ANAO’s Better Practice Guides, each entity is encouraged to use the Guide to identify, and apply, better practice principles and practices that are tailored to its particular circumstances.”
Among the key characteristics of Better Practice internal audit the Guide lists operational independence from the activities it audits; a business focus with audits linked to risks; adherence to audit standards; sufficient finance and resources; and an appropriate position within an entity’s governance framework.
Mr McPhee said that the roles and responsibilities of internal audit, consistent with other elements of Public Sector administration, should be determined within the context of each entity’s governance and risk profile.
The Guide can be downloaded from the Auditor-General’s website www.anao.gov.au
October 1, 2007
Gov’t Blogs Onto Consultation Plan
A discussion paper exploring the possibility of a “Government Consultation Blog” has been issued by the Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn.
The paper canvasses public views on the use of new technologies to foster citizen-Government interaction.
According to Mr Nairn, the consultation blog would enable people to post their own comments on opinion articles provided by Government.
“A consultation blog could also make it easier for people to find, be informed about and to provide feedback on issues on which the Government is consulting,” Mr Nairn said.
He said the Government recognised that the advent of e-Government and the changes in the way people communicated online, presented new opportunities to engage and involve citizens in consultation processes.
He said the Government invited citizens to provide feedback on the proposed Australian Government Consultation Blog discussion paper, which was available at the online entry point, australia.gov.au.
Mr Nairn said the discussion paper outlined how the consultation blog might operate.
He said it focused on citizens and how they would prefer to use an online consultation website and what features and functionality they would wish to include in a Government consultation blog.
“The success of this initiative is dependent on participation by people, so the paper asks for citizen’s opinions on important issues that will affect the way people can contribute to and participate in online government consultation processes,” Mr Nairn said.
He said feedback received on the discussion paper would be summarised in a public report and would be used to inform the requirements for a new Australian Government Consultation Blog.
The Australian Government Information Management Office, which is part of the Department of Finance and Administration, was managing the consultation process.
October 1, 2007
Doggone: Another Canine Bites Dust
Another Army Explosive Detection Dog has been killed in Afghanistan. The death of Razz, in Oruzgan Province last week, follows that of Merlin who was killed in a vehicle accident four weeks ago.
During a patrol in southern Afghanistan, a Special Operations Task Group vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device, wounding two soldiers. The wounds were assessed as slight but during a later route clearance task, an explosive detection dog and his handler encountered a second IED that detonated on discovery, resulting in the slight wounding of the handler and the death of the dog.
Defence Spokesperson Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said Razz was a veteran of the 2002 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He joined Defence after beginning his career with Customs.
Brigadier Nikolic said the actions of Razz and his fellow EDDs had saved lives.
“Improvised devices placed on public roads are designed to kill and maim people. Razz helped identify where the bomb was placed and sadly paid the ultimate price for his actions,” Brigadier Nikolic said.
The dogs are to be honoured with a memorial at the School of Military Engineering in Sydney. The Australian Army has employed working dogs since World War I but in 1981 the Royal Australian Engineer Corps ceased training of mine detection dogs and began training EDDs. Since then, the explosive detection dogs have played a varied role supporting operations in many operational environments.
The families of all wounded soldiers have been informed of the incident but soldiers will not be named and further details of the incident not made public for operational security reasons.
October 1, 2007
DITR Renews Uni Links To a Degree
The Department of Industry Tourism and Resources has renewed its contract with the Australian National University to provide the Master of Public Policy (Industry Strategy) for a further five years.
Signing the new contract, Secretary of DITR, Mark Paterson enumerated the benefits to Australia of ITR’s involvement with the ANU.
“The Public Service must have the capacity to provide the most accurate and robust advice to Government as possible,” Mr Paterson said, “especially in an area like industry policy where the decisions can involve billions of dollars and the livelihoods of thousands of Australians.”
“It is therefore vital that the advice we give as a Department is at the cutting edge of economic practice and policy design.”
He said the program helped ensure that his Department’s staff had the skills to provide the highest quality policy advice possible. He said course content included contemporary economic policy theories, developing industry policy, corporate strategy, and managing people and organisations.
“While the Masters is heavily focused on economics, modules such as corporate strategy illustrate the real-world challenges faced in the corporate world and brings an understanding of the private sector to the public sector,” Mr Paterson said.
“The managing people and organisations course aims to make students better managers,”He said that since 19 the ANU had delivered the Masters program to more than 140 DITR staff and others from across the Australian Public Service.
The program is delivered by ANU’s Crawford School of Economics and Government.
October 1, 2007
Experts In Tune On Broken Records
The challenge of preserving Government records and other information into the future would depend on greater levels of cooperation across international borders, according to global experts who met in Canberra last week.
Hosted by the National Archives of Australia, the Digital Futures Forum at Parliament House attracted archival experts from nine countries who shared their expertise in the hopes of finding joint solutions to global problems.
Speakers from Great Britain, the United States, Malaysia, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia emphasised a common theme: that world-wide challenges would be overcome only if organisations cooperated across borders and across sectors.
“It is vital for archives and libraries across the world to collaborate with each other to get the most from emerging technology,” said Ross Gibbs, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia.
“Archival organisations need to forge closer working partnerships with digital content creators such as e-researchers, e-Government, e-publishing and e-business – both at the big end of town and at the grassroots community and regional levels.”
The Forum also recognised that more work needed to be done to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors in the field of digital information management.
“Both sectors stand to reap huge benefits by learning from and working with each other,” Mr Gibbs said.
He said it was heartening to know that many ‘top minds’ were working on the shared challenges across the world.
“By collaborating across sectors and across nations, and by sharing our findings we can ensure the citizens of the future are not left with a black hole in their history books” he said.
The Forum noted that substantial investment in the creation of digital content was not matched by proportional investments in preserving and providing appropriate access to it.
October 1, 2007
Father Program Wins Daddy of Awards
A support program for separated fathers has won an award for the Child Support Agency.
The Agency’s “Staying Connected” program won the Public Sector Award from Suicide Prevention Australia for its success in promoting awareness, education and information on suicide and suicide prevention.
In accepting the award, CSA General Manager, Matt Miller said the Agency was honoured by the recognition that it was working hard to meet parents’ needs after separation.
“There are few life events that come with as many knocks as separation,” Mr Miller said. “It can affect you emotionally, financially and physically.”
He said CSA had changed from being concerned only with collecting child support to recognising the importance of broader financial and emotional challenges often afflicting separated parents.
“We need to collect child support for the children in separated families, but we also need to be mindful of everything impacting on the parents and support them if they are genuine in their commitment to their child support responsibilities,” Mr Miller said.
“We offer support services such as Staying Connected, parent referral lines, our free Me and My series of helpful booklets, our online Community Services Directory and have established an effective referral network with other support services.”
He said the CSA recognised that men who were struggling to come to terms with losing daily contact with their children might appreciate guidance and support to build a new relationship with them, and a more practical relationship with their “ex”.
Mr Miller said the half-day Staying Connected workshop helped separated fathers take care of themselves and take control of their lives and it supported business through helping improve the productivity of workers affected by separation.
He said CSA encouraged businesses to consider running Staying Connected in their workplace. Information was available at www.csa.gov.au/stayingconnected
Suicide Prevention Australia is a national non-profit, non-government public health organisation active in suicide prevention.
October 1, 2007
Defence Runs Out Cricket Challenge
The Department of Defence is to take on the world … at cricket.
Defence media has unveiled plans for an International Defence Cricket Challenge in Canberra in November which could eventually develop into a Defence World Cup.
The challenge, to be held in Canberra from 19 to 23 November, has already attracted teams from Britain and New Zealand as well as local teams.
The Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Services Cricket Association President’s XI will represent Australia, while the Royal New Zealand Air Force, New Zealand Army, the Royal Engineers (United Kingdom) and the Adjutant General’s Corps (United Kingdom) will also compete.
The tournament will involve 170 players and officials in a series of one-day matches at various Canberra grounds before a grand final at Manuka Oval on 23 November. Other grounds to be used for the Challenge include Canberra Grammar, Kingston Oval, Stirling Oval, Chisholm No. 1 and ANU North Oval with a back-up plan in case of wet weather.
Tournament organizer, Lieutenant-Colonel James Brownlie said cricket was universally acknowledged to be a game of fair play, teamwork, social interaction and fierce rivalry between nations, especially Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.
He said the Australian Services Cricket Association could boast some cricket talent of its own, with the Australian Army side including Lieutenant Matt Pascoe, a former Shield player for Queensland and Navy’s Warrant Officer, Gary Fuss a former one-day player for Western Australia.
Teams are due to arrive in Canberra on 15 November 15 with practice matches the day after.
October 1, 2007
Defence Jumps on Kangaroo Plan
The Australian Defence Force plans to implement a kangaroo management plan in the Australian Capital Territory designed to promote sound ecological management and a responsible approach to animal welfare.
The ADF has recognised that large populations of kangaroos on Defence land had grown into a sensitive community issue and that it had to take measures to ensure it was dealt with in a responsible way.
The new plan is to use a mix of translocation, fertility control and – where necessary – euthanasia to bring the kangaroo population into balance with the ecosystem at the Belconnen Naval Transmitting Station in Canberra.
According to the Department, it had convened an expert panel in August to assess the environmental impact of the kangaroo population at BNTS and to recommend actions that would achieve a sustainable balance between kangaroo numbers and the local ecology.
It said the panel comprised some of Australia’s leading specialists on kangaroos, native temperate grasslands, reptiles and on responsible wildlife management.
In a statement the Department said BNTS was a fenced site and the kangaroos were a captive population. It said that a key requirement was that Defence manage the site to protect the area’s biodiversity and landscape values.
The independent panel concluded that the structure of the grass swards and soil condition at BNTS showed very heavy grazing which threatened the long-term sustainability of the grassland.
The panel advised that Eastern Grey kangaroos were the only significant grazing species on the site and therefore a reduction in the density of the kangaroo population was essential to allow the grassland to regain its structure and soil condition.
The panel found that the kangaroo population was in good condition and that there were no animal welfare considerations. Supplementary feeding would be introduced as a measure to save grass and soils.
The optimum number of kangaroos for the site was about 100. Fertility control would be used to keep the population at about that number.
The Department would call tenders for a specialist contractor to implement the panel’s recommendations.
October 1, 2007
Theories Wash Up On Drowned PM
The National Archives of Australia has reopened controversy over the disappearance of Prime Minister, Harold Holt by placing on-line a collection of letters from the time, putting forward a myriad of conspiracy theories to explain the tragedy.
Prime Minister Holt disappeared into the sea off Cheviot Beach, Victoria, in December 1967 and according to Archives, everyone had their pet theory, from espionage to kidnapping.
“These theories came from around the world,” said National Archives curator Tracey Clarke. “It’s surprising to see how many people took the time to write and express their views on the matter.”
The day after the Prime Minister’s disappearance an American attorney-at-law wrote to Australia, outlining his own ideas. He believed Mr Holt’s death “resulted from expert sabotage”. He requested that his letter be viewed as “top secret” and passed to the Australian government’s “top investigative agency”.
“The people of Australia also had their views on the matter and weren’t afraid to put them in writing,” said Ms Clarke. “Many clung to the view that Mr Holt was still alive somewhere.”
Retired school teacher Miss W. Shonham of Randwick wrote expressing her concern about the “disappearance of our dear Mr Holt”. Her view was that Mr Holt had been “kidnapped and taken away by submarine and is being brain-washed for political information”.
But others assumed the worst.
A Ceylonese astrologer D. Dharman wrote to the acting Prime Minister, John McEwen: “Most respected and honoured sir”, expressing his sympathy to the Government of Australia. He also advised that he was “in a position to announce the present position and the whereabouts of the body”.
In January 1968 a joint report by the Commonwealth and Victoria Police concluded that Mr Holt’s disappearance was accidental, but the report did not determine the cause of his death. Nor did it quash the rumours, which continued to circulate.
It was not until 2005, when a Victorian coronial inquest found Mr Holt accidentally drowned in heavy surf, that the myths surrounding his disappearance were finally dispelled.
More information about the letters can be found on the NAA website at Find of the Month on www.naa.gov.au . Visitors to the Archives Canberra head office can also see a display of items relating to Mr Holt’s disappearance.
October 1, 2007
Blue Day for Police Recalling Comrades
Police officers across the nation have remembered their fallen colleagues on National Police Remembrance Day.
The Day was marked with an evening ceremony in Canberra.
A focal point of the ceremony was the addition of seven names to the National Police Memorial, the first time names have been added since it was officially opened last year.
The seven Australian officers killed on duty in the past year included two AFP members, Commander Brice Steele and Federal Agent Mark Scott, who died in the March plane crash in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Other officers killed on duty included Senior Constable Ann Brimblecombe from Victoria Police; Detective Sergeant Stewart Kerlin and Constable Brett Irwin from Queensland; Constable Damien Murphy of Western Australia; and Senior Constable Peter Wilson of NSW.
The additions bring to 726 the number of Australian police whose names appear on the memorial.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said National Police Remembrance Day was a day to reflect on the contribution of all Australian police officers who had died in the line of duty and to recognise the tremendous sadness felt by friends and colleagues at their loss.
“It was in tragic circumstances earlier this year that the AFP lost Commander Brice Steele and Federal Agent Mark Scott but it is a fitting tribute to have their names inscribed forever on the National Police Memorial,” Commissioner Keelty said.
“Their contribution to the AFP was significant and their memories will live long in the hearts of their friends and colleagues.”
Commissioner Keelty said the day was also an opportunity to recognise that all police officers – including officers deployed overseas in dangerous environments – were putting their lives on the line every day to protect not only Australian, but international communities.
October 1, 2007
Set Tongues Wagging
The workplace relations information campaign has been expanded to target non-English speaking communities.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey has announced that the Workplace Authority would be writing to employers in a number of languages explaining the workplace relations system.
“The Australian Government is committed to protecting all working Australians, including people with little or no English and those who have migrated here and entering the workforce for the first time,” Minister Hockey said.
“The Government is serious about providing genuine protections and ensuring that everyone knows where they stand.”
Mr Hockey said his Department would be collaborating with non-English speaking community agencies and foreign language media to explain the workplace relations system.
“We will also be working closely with businesses from these communities to ensure they are aware of their obligations,” he said.
“It is important employees know their rights at work, including the protection of penalty rates under the Fairness Test. If people have questions about their working arrangements, they can contact the Workplace Infoline.”
As part of the information campaign, the Workplace Authority was writing to employers in a number of languages.
Recent changes to the law require employers to give existing employees a copy of the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet by 20 October 2007 and new employees within seven days of starting work. The fact sheet contains important information on employee entitlements, including the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard, support services and basic protections for working Australians.
The fact sheet is available in a number of languages.
October 1, 2007
Broad Brush View
Of Broadband Use
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a report into the nation’s use of telecommunications services, revealing high levels of reliance across the board.
Nearly 90 per cent of Australians have both a fixed landline and mobile phone and 80 per cent of households have access to the Internet, mostly through broadband.
The findings are part of ACMA’s Telecommunications Today report into consumer attitudes towards the take up and use of telecommunications services in Australia.
Telecommunications Today draws on results from consumer focus groups and a national survey targeting adult Australians in April, 2007.
It found that while Australians depended highly on telecommunications services, reliance was significantly influenced by socio-economic factors, with age and having children particularly shaping attitudes towards uptake of mobile phones and broadband Internet.
In line with Australia wholeheartedly embracing telecommunications services, the research also showed that Australians were becoming increasingly aware of new and emerging telecommunication services. Thirty per cent of mobile phone users reported having a 3G mobile phone, while 81 per cent of Internet users were aware of a Voice over Internet Protocol service, with 21 per cent of them having used one.
Over coming months ACMA planned to publish additional research reports with further analysis on other issues covered in Telecommunications Today.
These issues include take up and use of communication services by small business and farms, the level of substitution and complementary usage between mobile and landline services, and more detailed consumer attitudes to the potential take-up of new emerging services and technologies.
The full Telecommunications Today report can be found at www.acma.gov.au