SearchArchives for October 2009
27 October, 2009
Board probes to be
Appointments to Government Boards and Authorities are to be reviewed as part of an exercise announced by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation to improve their management and performance.
new plank in policy
The Minister, Lindsay Tanner said while the Government was “fortunate” that many talented and prominent people were prepared to serve on the boards and bodies it set up, the Government faced the challenge of bringing consistency to their structure and governance arrangements.
“Although the Government endeavours to appoint the most qualified and appropriately skilled people to board positions, the process can be ad hoc at times,” Mr Tanner said.
“There is potential to improve how we make our appointments.”
He said a more strategic and structured approach would improve board appointments and in turn improve outcomes for the Government.
He said the administrative structures of Government bodies were “extremely varied” and that Departments had been asked to examine every body in their portfolio to highlight those that might otherwise “fall below the radar.”
“A number have evolved in what you could describe as an ill-thought out manner over time,” Mr Tanner said.
“A challenge that we as a Government face is to bring some consistency to their structure and their governance arrangements.
“To achieve this it is crucial that we regularly review the governance structures of bodies to determine whether they continue to be appropriate as circumstances change, and government policies and functions evolve.”
He said the newly-released List of Australian Government Bodies and Governance Relationships revealed that at 1 October 2009 their number had fallen from 1,153 to 932 since the previous List was published.
Mr Tanner said the indiscriminate creation of new bodies, or the failure to adapt old bodies as their circumstances change, increased the risk of having inappropriate governance structures.
“This in turn jeopardises policy outcomes and poses financial risks to the taxpayer.”
He said the Government would be looking at a number of ways of improving the management and performance of Government entities.
27 October, 2009
A new initiative to deliver Government services to rural and regional communities around the country has been announced by the Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen.
New Australian Government Mobile Offices are to be introduced as a travelling outreach service to be led by Centrelink, aimed at bridging service delivery gaps in isolated areas.
Unveiling the new scheme, Mr Bowen said the delivery of Government services to rural Australia had always been a challenge due to distance and isolation.
“Traditionally, people have had to travel to larger towns to access services,” Mr Bowen said.
“Others may be reluctant to approach the Government for help or are unaware that assistance is available.”
He said the Mobile Offices would allow people to access the services of Centrelink and Medicare in one place, while in some places people would also be able to have their hearing tested by Australian Hearing.
“These Mobile Offices will travel to small communities throughout rural Australia and offer friendly, face-to-face discussions with local residents and businesses about their assistance options,” Mr Bowen said.
“Seniors, students, families, farmers and agriculture-dependent small businesses can talk with experienced rural servicing specialists.”
He said the staff in the Offices would live and work in the communities they served and understood local issues.
He said the Mobile Offices built on the success of the Drought Bus program, which provided drought assistance to farmers.
Mr Bowen said the Drought Bus had demonstrated the benefits of taking services to the people rather than requiring people to come to the service.
“The Mobile Office builds on this servicing model,” he said.
“It’s physically much larger and offers many of the facilities you’d find in a Centrelink office, such as waiting areas, private interview rooms and information stands.”
He said as an Australian first, the Mobile Offices were designed with fully-flat floors to allow for wheelchair access and staff would have freedom to move around the vehicle thanks to wireless technology, while there would also be self-service facilities available.
Mr Bowen said in the event of bushfires, severe storms and floods, the Mobile Offices would be able to relocate quickly to provide emergency assistance.
27 October, 2009
The Australian National Audit Office has found shortcomings in the administration of grants by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Auditor General, Ian McPhee said the NHMRC played a key role in providing grants to support health and medical research, and last year alone administered 3,843 new and continuing grants totalling $595 million.
The Auditor General said while the NHMRC had been adjusting to its new responsibilities as a statutory Agency since 2006 and had made some progress in improving grant administration, there were still “several shortcomings”.
“In particular, there is a lack of consistency in applying guidelines and procedures for specific aspects of the NHMRC’s selection process, including conflict of interest provisions, which leaves the Agency exposed in terms of the transparency and defensibility of grant selection,” he said.
“In addition, poor compliance in managing grants post-award diminishes the Agency’s ability to provide sufficient assurance that grant funds are used for their intended purpose.
“Furthermore, the grant management systems do not adequately support the Agency’s administration of grants or allow sufficient collection of information to report against program outcomes.”
Mr McPhee said the report found the selection process for grants, which involves a process of peer review, carried risks for the NHMRC and that closer monitoring was required to ensure its policies and guidelines were being consistently implemented.
He said the NHMRC was not well placed to monitor the use of grant funds as it had no management systems in place that had the capability to do so.
Mr McPhee made five recommendations in his report, including that the NHMRC implement a workable risk-based certification process for institutions that receive funding.
He recommended the NHMRC improve the transparency of its peer review process, improve the identification and management of conflicts of interest, improve the accountability of grants funds and strengthen its grants management and compliance controls.
Mr McPhee said a “sustained effort” would be needed for the Agency to approve the effectiveness of its grant administration.
27 October, 2009
A new Agency is to be established to promote preventative health measures.
is health care cure
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the Preventive Health Agency was being created in response to calls from health professionals for the Government to focus on a preventative agenda as a response to chronic disease.
Ms Roxon said the Agency would draw upon the best expertise in the country and play a key role in gathering, analysing and disseminating evidence and evidence-based programs.
“The Agency will guide Health Ministers in their task of curbing the growth of lifestyle risks driving chronic disease,” she said.
“It is a role requiring national leadership, capacity to work across sectors and portfolios, and an oversight role for surveillance and monitoring.”
The Agency, which is to receive $133 million over four years, is expected to concentrate on reducing the pressure preventable health problems were placing on the workforce, and helping maintain productivity.
Ms Roxon said State and Territory Governments would also be involved with the Agency, as well as employers, businesses and other sectors.
Legislation to establish the Agency is currently before the Senate.
Ms Roxon hoped the Bill would be passed without delay to ensure the Agency could commence work on 1 January 2010.
27 October, 2009
An international awards program has been launched for Public Service innovation.
is fresh approach
The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) said the 2010 CAPAM International Innovations Awards would recognise innovation, programs and initiatives that worked towards making the PS more effective and responsive.
The theme of the 2010 Awards is ‘cultivating innovation for the Public Service of the future’.
The Awards include four categories:
In addition, one gold medal will be awarded to the innovation that best encapsulates and demonstrates excellence under the overall awards theme.
- Innovations in Public Service Management and Accountability;
- Innovations in Government Services and Programs;
- Innovations in Citizen Engagement and Dialogue; and
- Innovative Use of Technology in the Public Service.
“Progress of any kind begins with innovators who challenge the status quo and continuously seek to change reality for the better,” CAPAM said in a statement.
“Establishing change, especially in large organisations like the Public Service, requires tact to overcome the inertia of complacency, tenacity to learn from inevitable setbacks, and commitment to sustain the task of bringing new concepts into reality.”
CAPAM said the Awards celebrated the spirit of innovation in the Public Service by recognising those who have made significant contributions to improving governance and services.
“In so doing, the Award hopes to inspire and encourage innovators to improve Public Service governance, and the quality of life of citizens, communities and nations.”
The Awards will be judged by an international panel of Public Service professionals representing at least 10 different Commonwealth countries, including Chief Information Officer of Centrelink, John Wadeson.
Submissions close on 31 March 2010 and further information, guidelines and application forms were available from www.capam.org.au
27 October, 2009
Safe Work Week
Workplaces across the nation have been urged to become involved in Safe Work Australia Week which runs until Saturday.
is safe option
Chair of the Safe Work Australia Council, Tom Phillips said the week offered an opportunity for all Australians to get involved in making workplaces across the country as safe as possible to help reduce injury, death and disease.
Mr Phillips said more than 260 Australians died as a result of work-related injuries and over 135 000 were seriously injured every year but it wasn’t too late for individuals, businesses or organisations to get involved in national Safe Work Australia Week by promoting safety in the workplace.
“Celebrating Safe Work Australia Week can be as simple as holding a morning tea or BBQ in your workplace and talking through the issues of workplace safety and its importance,” Mr Phillips said.
“There are a range of activities being held across the country to celebrate the week, and I encourage all Australians to get involved in making their workplaces safer.”
He said the simple philosophy that there is no excuse for any accident could only be upheld if everyone had a strong commitment to workplace safety.
“By participating in the week, businesses and organisations across Australia can learn more about how to keep their workplace safe and raise awareness of the importance of safety among their workforce,” he said.
“Safe Work Australia Week reminds us all that safety in the workplace is a national priority.”
He said for ideas on how to celebrate Safe Work Australia Week or for more information about the event, the website www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au could help.
He also said the Week was an ideal time to become involved in the development of Australia’s new national OHS laws.
“The draft national OHS laws are now open for public comment,” Mr Phillips said.
He said comments on the laws would be open until 9 November and information could be obtained form the same website mentioned above.
27 October, 2009
The Australian Defence Force is set to upgrade security at its bases following a security review conducted after an alleged terrorist plot to attack Holsworthy Army Barracks.
base on security
Secretary of Defence, Dr Ian Watt said risk assessments were being conducted at each base following the review, which examined security arrangements at Defence bases and facilities around Australia.
Dr Watt said a range of policy and physical security measures would be implemented in line with the report’s recommendations.
“Actions are either complete or in progress on all recommendations,” he said.
“These initiatives include strengthening Defence’s protective security alert system and other policy underpinning security arrangements, additional patrolling presence by the Australian Federal Police and contracted security guards, and a range of physical security measures.”
Dr Watt said enhancements included a new alert system on bases, refined lockdown procedures and updated emergency response plans.
He said as well as strengthening security measures, Defence would also make existing arrangements across all bases and facilities more consistent.
“These security enhancements reflect the importance that Defence and the Government places on the safety, security and well-being of Australian Defence Force members, Defence employees and contractors,” Dr Watt said.
Defence said details about the security review, its recommendations and the enhanced security measures being put in place would not be released.
27 October, 2009
CSA language guides
The Child Support Agency has published one of its most important guides online in five languages.
set tongues wagging
The Parent’s Guide to Child Support has been translated into Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Turkish.
Director of Parent Support Services at the CSA, Toni Brown said the Agency recognised the importance of supporting separated families from different cultural backgrounds.
Ms Brown said the free publication would help parents understand their rights, responsibilities and what support services were available.
“The Parent’s Guide to Child Support is given to parents when they first register for child support,” Ms Brown said.
“Over 238,000 parents have received the guide since it was first published in July 2008.
“It includes information on calculating child support payments, support services and much more.”
Ms Brown said the CSA had received over 17,500 calls through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) since July last year, an average of about 50 calls per day.
She said other publications available online in Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Turkish included the Me and My booklets.
Customer Service Officer with CSA, Tai Nguyen said the Agency’s publications helped families move forward after separation.
“My job is to make it as easy as possible for separated parents to manage the transfer of child support for the benefit of their children,” Mr Nguyen said.
“Every day I speak to CSA customers who speak a language other than English as their first language.
“The interpreter service and newly translated publications such as the Parent’s Guide help break down language barriers and help separated parents understand their rights, options and responsibilities.”
Ms Brown said the guides were available from www.csa.gov.au
27 October, 2009
Super funds see way
Superannuation funds will be empowered to provide forecasts to their members.
clear for forecasts
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has released a Consultation Paper and a draft regulatory guide outlining the situations in which it would grant relief from licensing, as well as advice, conduct and disclosure requirements under the Corporations Act for the provision of such forecasts.
Under the changes, super funds would be able to provide their members with an estimate of the likely balance of their superannuation funds on retirement with their periodic superannuation statements.
In a statement, ASIC said the move would help Australians take charge of their superannuation and retirement planning decisions.
“ASIC believes consumers will benefit strongly from receiving a regular personalised retirement projection and that clear and effective information about their likely benefits will give them a sound basis for making choices that best suit their needs,” the statement said.
ASIC’s proposals are set out in Section B of the Consultation Paper, Superannuation forecasts: ASIC relief and guidance for super funds.
It said the new power would be conditional on trustees meeting certain requirements in relation to the content, presentation and calculation of projections, and the timing and manner in which they were given.
“ASIC is also aiming to create greater clarity for super funds that take advantage of the current relief for providers of financial calculators,” the statement said.
“The draft regulatory guide gives guidance as to how providers of superannuation calculators can best comply with the requirement in ASIC Class Order Relief for providers of generic calculators that all assumptions applied by the calculator be ‘reasonable’.
“Our proposals follow on from a consultation paper released in July 2008, Consultation Paper 101 Superannuation forecasts.”
Superannuation forecasts: ASIC relief and guidance for super funds was available from www.asic.gov.au
27 October, 2009
A number of Government Agencies have been selected to join Defence’s Rapid Prototyping Development and Evaluation Program.
on target to help
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said 54 new academic institutions and Government Agencies would be part of the collaborative venture, which had been established to help Defence resolve difficult problems.
“After four and a half years of operation, Rapid continues to break new ground in the area of Government to private sector cooperation and collaboration,” Mr Combet said.
“The program is focused on developing solutions to issues that hold back the Australian Defence Force’s capability to effectively and safely undertake operations.”
He said the new intake meant Rapid had a pool of 189 companies, universities and Government Agencies it could draw on to address some of the most complex and diverse problems faced by Defence.
Mr Combet said all organisations had to meet two key criteria before they could join the program.
“Number one is that they are Australian companies, and secondly that they undertake ongoing research and development as part of their core operations,” he said.
“The Rapid Program continues to deliver answers for Defence, including providing solutions to keep our ADF members safe.
“It also helps further enhance the relationships between Defence and the industry base that supports it.”
He said the list of Agencies and companies now supporting the RPDE program was available from www.rpde.org.au
27 October, 2009
Tax Design Panel
A Tax Design Advisory Panel has been established to consult with the business community on the design of new tax laws.
gets taxing job
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the Panel was established following a recommendation made in a review of Government tax design and review processes.
Senator Sherry said the review called for an increase in the use of external experts, including at the initial policy design stage.
“This is a major enhancement to the design of tax policy, formalising industry consultation as a vital early ingredient in the tax design process,” he said.
“The Panel will complement the resources available within Treasury and the Tax Office by providing ready access to some of the best private sector brains in the field.”
Senator Sherry said the 13 organisations on the Panel were selected by public tender, and included five accounting firms, five law firms, two economic research and modelling houses and one legal academic and research organisation.
“With the Panel now in place, important tax legislation will be developed by teams involving Treasury, the Tax Office and the private sector, as represented by the members of the Panel,” he said.
“The use of expert advice from the private sector is a common and long-running practice used by Government, but we’re setting up a strategic and structured approach.
“This means better outcomes, better value for money and better quality.”
Senator Sherry said Treasury would engage the Panel on a case-by-case basis and would approach either the full Panel or a subset for individual tasks.
He said Panel members would nominate personnel they believed were best suited for the task and Treasury would select one or more experts.
Where a known expert on a particular topic is available through one panel member, Treasury could approach just that organisation.
The organisations appointed to the Tax Design Advisory Panel are Access Economics, ATAX-UNSW, Centre for International Economics, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, DLA Phillips Fox, Ernst & Young, Greenwoods & Freehills, Hall & Wilcox, KPMG, Pitcher Partners and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
27 October, 2009
Portraits face up
The National Portrait Gallery has launched a new exhibition in the online virtual world, Second Life.
to online gallery
The Gallery’s Online Manager and curator of the exhibition, Gillian Raymond said the exhibition entitled doppelgänger would run until 23 March 2010 on the purpose-built Portrait Island within Second Life.
Ms Raymond said the exhibition explored portraiture through the use of digital representations of identity.
“doppelgänger is a radical move away from traditional concepts of portraiture,” she said.
“The National Portrait Gallery is committed to exploring concepts of identity and portraiture that are not limited to the physical realm and doppelgänger is an extension of this philosophy.”
The exhibition features the work of a number of artists: Gazira Babeli (Italy), Andrew Burrell (Sydney), Cao Fei (China), Patrick Lichty (USA) and Adam Nash, Christopher Dodds and Justin Clemens (Melbourne).
“At the heart of the exhibition is the sometimes fearful, societal fascination with the concepts of cloning, avatars and alter egos,” Ms Raymond said.
“Exploring the unique qualities presented by Second Life, the participating artists in doppelgänger have analysed notions of portraiture and identity in their digital artworks.”
Second Life is a downloadable 3D environment on the Internet and allows users to create an avatar, a 3D digital version of themselves.
“Once you have built your avatar you can visit the National Portrait Gallery’s Portrait Island to view the artworks and communicate with other ‘residents’ (real people from all over the world) who are online at any given time,” Ms Raymond said.
“Multimedia interpretations of these works are also available for viewing in exhibition spaces at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.”
It is the second exhibition staged by the National Portrait Gallery in an online environment, the first being Animated in 2007.
The exhibition could be visited at www.portrait.gov.au
27 October, 2009
Democracy book is
A new book telling the story of Australian democracy has been published by the Australian Heritage Council.
Building a Free Australia: Places of Democracy, written by historian John Hirst, examines the people and places that have played an important role in the nation’s democracy.
The book features historical sites from each State and Territory, with stories and images celebrating the role they played in Australia’s democracy.
Chairman of the Australian Heritage Council, Tom Harley said the story of Australian democracy was probably the biggest and most important part of Australian history.
Mr Harley said it was important to celebrate the people and preserve the places that were pivotal in building democracy in Australia.
“These significant heritage sites are protected for the benefit of current and future generations and because they tell a story that is distinctively Australian,” Mr Harley said.
“The places of democracy featured in the book have made a major contribution to our national identity and make our towns and cities unique and special places to live.
“These places are special to our brand of democracy - one of the oldest in the world.”
Mr Harley listed the houses of Parliament and well known buildings such as Sydney’s Court House, Hobart’s Government House, Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building and Tenterfield’s School of Arts - the place of Henry Parkes’ speech on Federation – as sites of significance to democracy, along with lesser known places like pubs, hotels, theatres and public parks.
“The book also tells stories of the men and women of these places and their contribution to our political history - how Richard Dry, son of a convict, became Premier of Tasmania and how libraries at Mechanics Institutes assisted the careers of Henry Lawson and Ben Chifley,” he said.
Former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Paul Keating spoke at the book launch which was held at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Library, originally the city’s first Mechanics Institute as outlined in the book.
Further information was available from www.heritage.gov.au
27 October, 2009
Academic fellows are
Nine academics have received Australian Prime Minister’s Centre Fellowships for planned research projects examining Australia’s political history.
jolly good students
Cabinet Secretary and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig announced the fellowship winners saying the Australian Prime Ministers Centre Research and Scholarship Program was a valuable initiative that allowed researchers to explore the history of Australia’s Prime Ministers and their contribution to society.
“I am delighted the program has attracted such a diverse range of interesting research topics from the highly-qualified applicants,” Senator Ludwig said.
Recipients of the 2009-10 Fellowships are Dr Norman Abjorensen, Dr Anna Cole, Dr Jacqueline Dickenson, Dr Lindy Edwards, Dr Shirley Fitzgerald, Dr John Hirst, Dr Evan Smith, Professor John Warhurst and Dr Auriol Weigold.
Senator Ludwig said the winners would undertake research projects on topics including the place of religious belief in Prime Ministers’ public and political lives and Australia’s relationship with India under the leadership of former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies.
The Fellowships were selected by an independent panel convened by the Museum of Australian Democracy.
Senator Ludwig said in addition to the Fellowship program, which is aimed at established researchers, Summer Scholarships would be presented to students and graduates later this year.
“Summer scholars work on research projects which contribute to the Museum’s public history program with a focus on Prime Ministers,” he said.
Further information on the scholarships was available from www.apmc.oph.gov.au
27 October, 2009
ACMA report takes
An internal report prepared by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to help it develop education material about internet security is to be posted on its website for wider use.
look at identity
ACMA commissioned Attitudes Towards Use of Personal Information Online in March 2009 to help people protect their personal information online, with a focus on adults.
Acting Chair of ACMA, Chris Cheah said the report found adults had a high awareness of the potential risks of providing personal information online and wanted to protect themselves.
“Most users identified identity theft as the most severe risk associated with disclosing personal information online,” Mr Cheah said.
“Other risks of concern include unwanted communications such as spam, financial loss, fraud, damage to reputation and invasion of privacy.”
He said despite high awareness of risks, the report also found users often did not know what to do to protect themselves, found technological change difficult to keep up with, and often did not know who to ask for advice.
“ACMA was pleasantly surprised by the report’s findings that people wanted to take responsibility for protecting themselves,’ Mr Cheah said.
“What we now need to do is find ways of giving people the information they need to do this.”
He said ACMA would use the report to develop further materials to help users, internet service providers and others involved in educating the public about internet security.
Mr Cheah said ACMA already provided a range of resources on its website and had a page dedicated to online risk management.
He said the resources provided advice on how to protect personal computers; prevent others from illegally using a computer or internet address without permission; protect children online; protect servers from malicious software such as viruses or spyware; and how to report spam.
The report was available from www.acma.gov.au
27 October, 2009
Smooth sailing for
The Young Endeavour, Australia’s national Sail Training Ship, has taken out the Australian Sail Training Association 2009 Billy Can Trophy.
It won the accolade following its first-place success in the Tall Ship Regatta in Fremantle, in which it raced the Western Australian square rigged ship Leeuwin II over a 16 mile nautical course.
Commanding Officer of the Young Endeavour, Lieutenant Commander Gavin Dawe said the race was a great opportunity for the local community to see two tall ships under full sail.
“The Regatta was closely contested and both crews joined in the spirit of the event, firing simulation rounds from their cannons as they passed mid-race,” Lieutenant Commander Dawe said.
“The youth crew aboard Young Endeavour thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being able to race another tall ship and put into practice the new skills they have learned throughout their voyage.”
The race was part of the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme which, in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy, has provided training voyages for over 11,000 young Australians aged between 16 and 23 aboard the Young Endeavour since 1988.
The aim of the voyages is to provide the young crew with a unique, challenging and inspirational experience that increases self awareness, develops teamwork and leadership skills, and creates a strong sense of community responsibility.
The Sydney-based Young Endeavour was visiting Western Australia for the first time since 2001 as part of a circumnavigation of Australia.
The ship arrived at Fremantle crewed by 24 young Australians from around the country.
“During their 11-day voyage these young Australians have learned the skills to successfully sail a square-rigged ship, taking command of Young Endeavour and sailing her along the Western Australian coast,” Lieutenant Commander Dawe said.
“They have participated in sail handling, working aloft and ship watch keeping, as well as helm and navigation activities, maintaining look-out, and assisting the chef.”
27 October, 2009
Museum makes history
The Australian National Maritime Museum has been named one of the top 12 “cool museums” in the world.
The British newspaper The Sunday Times published the list which included the
Science Museum in London, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Musee de Quai Branly in Paris.
The ANMM was the only Australian museum on the list.
RBA moves online
The Reserve Bank of Australia has announced changes to its monthly Bulletin, which provides economic and financial data.
The Bank is to introduce a new system to allow the release of information as it becomes available, rather than waiting for the Bulletin to be published.
The Bulletin will be refocused to become a quarterly publication of articles and speeches discussing economic and financial developments as well as the Bank’s operations. The last monthly Bulletin will be published on 17 December 2009 with new procedures to commence on 21 January 2010.
ADF members receive improved benefits
Death and invalidity benefits for members of the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme are to be improved.
Backdated from 1 July 2007, benefits for death and invalidity are to be calculated in line with recent changes to the compulsory retirement age for Australian Defence Force members, from 55 to 60.
The changes are expected to result in an average increase of around 20 per cent in death or invalidity payments for those who are eligible.
Australia Post posts warning
Australia Post is warning customers to ignore a hoax email informing people they have missed a parcel delivery.
The email contains fake links to retrieve the parcel from Australia Post’s Domestic Tracking System.
Australia Post said people should ignore the email and delete it immediately, adding that it never requested financial or banking details via email.
AIS finalists announced
The finalists for the Australian Institute of Sport Athlete of the Year award have been announced, with triathlete Emma Moffatt, swimmer Brenton Rickard and sprint canoeist Ken Wallace competing for the title.
Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis said the three Olympians had achieved excellence in performances over the last 12 months.
The 2009 AIS Award winners will be announced on 12 November at the AIS Arena in Canberra.
Union offers free wills
The Community and Public Sector Union and law firm Slater & Gordon have teamed up to offer a free will service for CPSU members.
The service will allow people to plan and prepare their will online to ensure their estate is distributed as they wish.
CPSU members should email email@example.com or call 1300 137 636 to receive an access code before logging on to online.slatergordon.com.au and following the prompts.
Innovative hotline is success
A Department of Innovation service that offers small business advice and support over the phone has been a success, according to the results of a new survey.
The survey found 90 per cent of callers were satisfied with the service and that over 2,200 people had used the hotline since its launch in September this year.
The support line is staffed by eight advisers with extensive small business experience as well as training by “beyondblue” to help callers who may be suffering from depression.
The hotline was available on 1800 777 275.
Students go to Oxford
Two Indigenous students will have the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford for up to three years under scholarships to be offered by the Charlie Perkins Trust for Children and Students.
The Charlie Perkins Scholarships will cover living expenses, air fares and all tuition fees for the two scholars who would start at the University during the 2010/11 academic year.
The Commonwealth provided $132,000 towards the scholarships while the British Government and Rio Tinto will also provide funding for what the Charlie Perkins Trust believes will be the first Indigenous Australians to study at Oxford.
Groundwater management improved
The National Water Commission has provided three new projects aimed at improving the management of Australia’s groundwater with $2.1 million in funding.
The projects include $1.8 million to assess the vulnerability of Australia’s coastal groundwater resources to seawater intrusion; $250,000 to assess and improve Australia’s groundwater licensing, metering and extraction estimation arrangements and techniques; and $75,000 to scope a decision support system that could improve assessment and response times for groundwater trades.
AUSTRAC on track
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre’s annual report has revealed its intelligence directly contributed to 1,461 investigations during 2008-09, an increase of 54 per cent from 2007-08.
AUSTRAC annual report 2008-09 highlights the contributions of the financial intelligence unit and anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator to protecting the integrity of Australia’s financial system.
The report was available from www.austrac.gov.au
Innovative ideas become reality
The Department of Innovation is to lead a new program aimed at turning Australian ideas into reality and creating new jobs.
The $196 million Commercialisation Australia initiative has been designed to help early stage commercialisation by leveraging private sector capital and expertise.
Successful researchers and entrepreneurs will have access to a case manager, specialist advice and services, and support of up to $250,000 for proof of concept activities, and repayable funding of up to $2 million for early commercialisation activities.
Indigenous Business Australia has relocated its Grafton office in a move it says will allow it to improve customer access.
Its new home is in a more prominent position at the King Arcade on King Street in the Grafton CBD.
The IBA said it had approved over 30 business loans in excess of $3 million and spent a total of $1million on business support in the Grafton region.
Disability Ministers meet
The first meeting of Disability Ministers as part of the Pacific Islands Forum was held earlier this month to examine ways to improve social and economic inclusion for disabled people in the region.
Parliamentary Secretary for International Development, Bob McMullan attended the event in the Cook Islands, describing it as an historic occasion.
The Ministers who attended the meeting aimed to endorse a regional strategy on disability and were expected to partner with representatives from Pacific-based Disabled Peoples’ Organisations, which are run by and for people with disability.
Defence gunning for artillery system
Second Pass Approval has been given for a $493 million project to provide the next generation artillery system for the Australian Army.
Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said the first phase of Land 17 (the Artillery Replacement Project) would provide the Army with four batteries of 35 M777A2 155mm Lightweight Towed Howitzers, described as the most advanced towed artillery system available in the world.
“It is air-portable under CH-47 Chinook helicopters and can provide a weight of fire not previously available to rapidly deployed forces,” Senator Faulkner said.
20 October, 2009
Privacy study prompts
A single set of privacy principles to apply to all Departments and Agencies across the APS is to be adopted as one of the outcomes of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recently study of Australia’s privacy laws.
Handing down the Government’s first stage response to the ALRC report, Cabinet Secretary Senator Joe Ludwig said the new principles would be among a number of reforms made to the Privacy Act.
Senator Ludwig said another key reform would be to strengthen the Privacy Commissioner’s powers of investigation, compliance and enforcement and would also provide for enhanced use of data for credit reporting, while adding specific protections to ensure the data was used appropriately.
Senator Ludwig said other measures would provide additional guidance for the use of health information, new technologies, and work towards harmonising privacy law across Australia.
“Australia’s privacy laws have evolved from a series of overlapping standards at both the Federal and State and Territory levels, and between the public and private sectors,” he said.
“To simplify the system, the Government will provide for one set of streamlined Privacy Principles for Australian Government Agencies and private sector organisations which will provide greater clarity and cut red tape.
The first-stage report considers 197 of the 295 recommendations made by the ALRC in For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice.
The ALRC report, released late last year, was the product of two years of research and involved the largest community consultations in the Commission’s history.
The Government has noted and accepted in full, in principle or with qualification 177 of the 197 recommendations, around 90 per cent.
President of the ALRC, Professor David Weisbrot welcomed the Government’s response, saying it would address the technological changes that have occurred since the introduction of the Privacy Act.
“These days, information privacy touches almost every aspect of our daily lives, including our medical records and health status, our finances and creditworthiness, the personal details collected and stored on a multiplicity of public and corporate databases, and even the ability to control the display and distribution of our own images,” Professor Weisbrot said.
ALRC Commissioner in charge of the Privacy Inquiry, Professor Les McCrimmon said the ALRC’s reforms were carefully crafted to streamline complex and costly privacy laws and practice and to make the law easier to understand and comply with.
“The overwhelming message from our report was that Australians do care about privacy, and they want a simple, workable system that provides effective solutions and protections,” Professor McCrimmon said.
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis said the enhanced powers to be given to her Office would allow more flexibility in dealing with complaints and improve education in information handling practices for Agencies.
The Government is to prepare exposure draft legislation to implement the reforms, which are expected to be released for public consultation in early 2010.
The remaining recommendations made by the ALRC are to be considered in Stage 2 of the Government’s response.
The first stage response, Enhancing National Privacy Protection, was available from www.pmc.gov.au
20 October, 2009
Ombudsman workload is
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has reported an increase of 14 per cent in the number of complaints made to his office about dealings with Government agencies in 2008-09.
Tabling his annual report in Parliament, the Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan said the majority of the 46,000 approaches and complaints received last year (79%), related to the correctness, propriety or timeliness of decisions or actions taken by Government agencies.
He said other complaints were about the accuracy or completeness of advice (12%), the application of policy or legislation to individual circumstances (6%), or the conduct of individual Public Servants (4%).
Professor McMillan said 120 agencies were complained against, 5,233 complaints were investigated and in one in 10 the agency was found to be in the wrong. This was up from eight per cent last year.
He said the level of activity showed that 200 years after the first Ombudsman was appointed in Sweden in 1809, the need for an independent ‘watchdog’ to safeguard citizens in their dealings with Government was just as relevant as ever.
‘‘Everyone is entitled to be treated fairly by Government,” Professor McMillan said.
“My office plays a vital role in ensuring that happens by taking an active interest in accountability, transparency and integrity in government decision making and service delivery.”
He said that because his Office was independent, it was able to help people resolve their problems on merit and without the fear of reprisal.
“By applying what we learn through investigations, we are also able to help governments improve their performance,” he said.
Professor McMillan said his Office was taking a particular interest in programs developed for Indigenous Australians, especially the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).
“In the second year of our involvement with the NTER, my office received more than 300 complaints,” he said.
“Very often the complaints stemmed from a lack of consultation or communication about changes (and were) quickly and easily resolved by providing up-to-date, comprehensive information.”
Professor McMillan reported that 79 per cent of the issues raised with his Office related to six Agencies: Centrelink, the Child Support Agency, Australia Post, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
His Commonwealth Ombudsman Annual Report 2008-2009 can be accessed at www.ombudsman.gov.au
20 October, 2009
Union survey asks
The Community and Public Sector Union is conducting a survey to determine the concerns of women in the workplace.
what women want
The What Women Want Survey, now in its fourth year, is the largest annual survey of women undertaken by an Australian trade union.
To be conducted in partnership with the University of Queensland’s Social Research Centre, the CPSU said it would use the results to approach its bargaining arrangements and policy development on issues such as pay differentials, career progression, access to leave, bullying and harassment, maternity leave and superannuation.
The CPSU urged women to complete the survey, even though it was quite detailed and took about 20 minutes to complete.
The union said it was important to complete the survey in full once beginning as logging out halfway through would lead to already entered information being deleted.
Last year, approximately 10,000 women from the Australian Public Service, the Northern Territory Public Service, the Australian Capital Territory Public Service, the CSIRO, Australia Broadcasting Corporation and in private sector workplaces including Telstra responded.
Last year’s survey helped the CPSU to identify a number of concerns, including pay disparities in the APS, bullying and a gender gap in superannuation.
The CPSU said one entrant would win a $200 Myer gift voucher.
To complete the survey, visit http://uqsrc.sbs.uq.edu.au/statpac/P962.HTM
The survey closes at 5pm (ESST) on 6 November, 2009.
20 October, 2009
Australia Post staff
Australia Post is paying tribute to its employees by issuing a stamp series featuring 10 staff members.
get stamp of approval
In a statement, Australia Post said its employees played a vital role in serving customers and their local communities.
“This is the first time Australia Post has honoured its staff, contractors, licensees and agents on a stamp,” it said.
“The 10 people featured on these stamps are representative of all Australia Post employees, who, everyday, make important contributions to the wider community and the success of the business.”
The employees come from a wide range of roles and were selected from the 256 recipients of the Bicentenary Medal which is awarded to employees who have made an outstanding contribution to Australia Post’s businesses, community and customers.
“Representing every State and Territory*, they reflect Australia Post’s role in servicing all geographic areas of Australia,” the statement said.
“They are also the faces of their communities. Outside work hours they are to be found championing community causes and building a better future for all Australians.”
Those celebrated in the stamp series are:
- Patricia Crabb, Postal Manager, Virginia, Queensland;
- Shirley Freeman, Agent, Avoca, Tasmania;
- Vinko Romanik, Parcel Contractor, Netley, South Australia;
- Valda Knott, Licensed Post Office Manager, Trayning, Western Australia;
- Gordon Morgan, Postal Delivery Coordinator, Thornleigh DC, New South Wales;
- Vongpradith Phongsavan, Logistics Officer, Melbourne Parcels Facility, West Sunshine, Victoria;
- Norma Thomas, Mail contractor, Coraki Post Office, New South Wales;
- John Marsh, Manager M&ND, Northern Territory;
- Anne Brun, Marketing Manager, Financial and Agency Services Group, HQ, Melbourne, Victoria; and
- Russell Price, Delivery Operations, Perth airport, Western Australia.
20 October, 2009
Asthma study is
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has issued a study revealing breastfeeding children in the first year of life may protect them against asthma and wheezing.
breath of fresh air
The two year study found almost 17 per cent of infants experienced asthma or wheezing in their first three years but that breastfeeding within the first 12 months of life might offer some protection against the symptoms in infancy.
The report, Asthma in Australian Children: Findings from Growing up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, also found that infants whose mothers had asthma, were relatively young or smoked during pregnancy were more likely to have asthma or wheeze.
Author of the report, Professor Guy Marks of the Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring, said it was also more common among boys, those who had older siblings, those who were born at an earlier gestational age, or who were admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after birth.
“There are important differences between wheezing illness in infancy and kindergarten-aged children, both in the nature of the disease and in its risk factors,” Professor Marks said.
“By the age of five, 21 per cent of Australian children have been diagnosed with asthma and among those who did not have asthma by age five, 4 per cent per year were diagnosed over the next two years.”
He said boys were more likely than girls to first develop asthma or wheezing illness in infancy but, from age five years, new cases occurred equally in both genders.
In other key findings, kindergarten-aged children in remote areas and with food or other allergies were more at risk of asthma like symptoms.
Professor Marks said children who had asthma or wheezeed in their fifth year were more likely than other children to be hospitalised, to attend an emergency department, and to visit a general practitioner more frequently over the next two years.
They were also more likely to be overweight or obese two years later.
The report found that parents of children with wheeze or asthma were more likely to report their child had poorer health or disturbed sleeping patterns.
20 October, 2009
The Government’s Digital Switchover Taskforce has announced a new program to train electronics retailers to provide the right advice to those making the switch to digital television.
turned on to digital
Executive Director of the Taskforce, Andy Townend said that the scheme would prepare households for the full switchover.
Mr Townend said switching to digital television for the vast majority of people would be a “relatively straightforward exercise.”
“We know people will have a range of questions about how to get ready and in a lot of cases, electronics retailers are in the best and most reliable position to answer,” he said.
“It is therefore important that retail staff employed by retailers who participate in the Government’s Quality Assurance Scheme become ‘digital advisers’.”
Mr Townend said advisers would be assessed every 12 months to ensure their information was up-to-date.
“The Taskforce will contact these advisers and their stores directly to pass on the latest information about their switchover area,” he said.
Digital Advisers are to wear an identification badge including the digital switchover logo, the adviser’s name and the expiry date of their training.
Participating stores will be listed on the www.digitalready.gov.au web site.
Mr Townend also launched the Antenna Installer Endorsement Scheme which assesses the skills of experienced antenna installers who have registered online against the industry agreed minimum standards.
Mr Townend said consumers in Mildura/Sunraysia, where the full switchover is drawing closer, could be confident that endorsed installers had the necessary knowledge.
20 October, 2009
Science has formula
Staff of the CSIRO have been recognised for their achievements in the annual CSIRO medal awards.
for winning medals
Winners included the scientific, commercial and legal teams responsible for the development of fast, indoor wireless computer networks (WLAN) for portable devices used by over 800 million devices globally.
The CSIRO said although members of the research team mostly had non-computing backgrounds, they solved the ‘multipath’ problem that had prevented the development of WLAN, eluding 22 major international research groups.
Dr Ben Hoffman, a young scientist who researches ways to control the growing number of invasive ants in Australia, also received a medal.
His examination of the ecology of ants - including the African Big Headed, Yellow Crazy, Tropical Fire and Singapore - in Northern Australia has led to internationally significant eradications of some of the world’s worst ant pests from ecologically and culturally important areas in Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands.
Dr Warwick Wilson received a Lifetime Achievement Medal for making instruments for radioastronomy for over 27 years.
Dr Wilson’s instruments can ‘hear’ radio signals from distant stars and galaxies billions of light years from Earth.
The CSIRO said Dr Wilson’s creations had put Australia at the forefront of radioastronomy and helping other scientists find black holes, starts, pulsars and galaxies hidden in the depths of the universe.
The CSIRO Medals ceremony was held in Melbourne on 14 October.
20 October, 2009
APSC counting on
The Australian Public Service Commission wants to hear from Indigenous APS employees for its second census of Aboriginal and Torres Strait staff.
The Commission said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander APS Employees Census, first conducted in 2005, helped reveal the views of Indigenous employees about the support provided by their Agency, career intentions and reasons considered for leaving the APS.
The Commission said it would also help increase APS Agencies’ awareness of employment issues for Indigenous Public Servants, as well as complement qualitative information gathered at the National Indigenous APS Employees’ Conference.
The APSC said the second census would ensure its initiatives under the APS Employment and Capability Strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employees continued to be effective.
This would in turn contribute to the Council of Australian Governments’ National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation, aimed at halving the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.
Those eligible to participate in the census include APS employees who have identified as Indigenous and are recorded as such on the Commission’s APS Employment Database.
ORIMA Research, which has been engaged to conduct the census, is expected to send eligible employees an email invitation with a link user-name and password to complete the survey online.
Employee data and responses will be kept confidential.
Data collection is to take place from 26 October to 20 November, with the final report to be published early next year.
For more information, contact the Commission by emailing Diana Currie at firstname.lastname@example.org or Meg Owens at email@example.com
20 October, 2009
A report on the 2009 review of the Terrorism Insurance Act 2003 has been released by the Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen.
Mr Bowen said the review recommended Australia’s terrorism insurance scheme, which was established under the Act, continue for another three years and that a number of refinements be made.
He said it was not the time to withdraw the protection measure and that the shortage of affordable terrorism insurance had the potential to risk commercial property developments and jobs.
Mr Bowne said the Government supported all recommendations made in the report.
“There is an underlying shortage of reinsurance capacity for individual terrorism risks at affordable prices,” he said.
“This situation has remained relatively unchanged since 2006, despite some limited signs of recovery prior to 2008. Since the end of 2008, the global financial crisis has produced an unprecedented fall in reinsurance and insurance capital.”
Mr Bowen said although the general insurance industry was relatively well-positioned it was, nonetheless, part of the global reinsurance market.
He said internationally, Government schemes had been an important factor in addressing the shortage, encouraging market stability and protecting economies from the adverse effects of the withdrawal of terrorism insurance.
Mr Bowen said Australia’s scheme was established to operate only while terrorism insurance cover was unavailable commercially on reasonable terms and to maintain private sector provision of terrorism insurance to the Australian market.
“Permanent government-subsidised reinsurance would remove any incentive for the private sector to develop alternative risk transfer mechanisms,” he said.
Recommended refinements to the scheme included that the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation (ARPC), which was established to administer the scheme, continue to collect premiums at current rates; industry retention levels remain at 1 July 2009 levels; the ARPC not be required to maintain a line of credit facility for the scheme; and the ARPC examine the effect of extending the scheme to high‑rise buildings that are not predominantly for commercial use.
The terrorism insurance scheme was established to minimise the wider economic impacts that flowed from the withdrawal of terrorism insurance following the World Trade Centre attacks.
It commenced on 1 July 2003 and applies to insurance for commercial properties in Australia, associated business interruption losses and public liability claims.
Mr Bowen said in accordance with the Act, the need for it to continue to operate should be reviewed again in no more than three years.
The report was available from www.treasury.gov.au
20 October, 2009
ASIC invests in
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is seeking comment on a consultation paper on how it can better facilitate the delivery of online financial services information.
ASIC said it had released Consultation Paper 121, Facilitating online financial services disclosures in response to submissions to a previous discussion paper released in April 2008, which called for the Commission to go further in facilitating online disclosure of financial services information.
The Consultation Paper sets out proposed relief to give providers certainty about giving product disclosure statements, financial services guides and statements of advice to retail clients via hyperlinks and references to website addresses.
The Paper also sets out proposed good practice guidance on online disclosure.
ASIC said the Paper examined whether the preferred default method of delivering financial services disclosure was by paper or online disclosure.
“Generally, under the current law, a provider needs to obtain a retail client’s express agreement before delivering financial services disclosures online (i.e. paper disclosure is the default method of delivering disclosures),” The Commission said.
“However, ASIC recognises that this requirement may create practical difficulties that are posing a barrier to some providers delivering disclosures online.
“We invite comments on the revised proposals in the consultation paper. In particular, we seek feedback on what should be the default rule for delivering financial services disclosures.”
Submissions could be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11 December 2009. The Consultation Paper was available from www.asic.gov.au
20 October, 2009
Carers recognised for
Carers Week is to be marked at Centrelink’s National Support Office in Canberra tomorrow, 21 October.
With the theme Anyone, anytime across Australia could be a carer, the event recognises the commitment of carers who provide support to a relative or friend with a serious disability or medical condition.
As part of the celebrations, the Carers ACT choir group will perform and an art exhibition by young careers in the ACT will also be on display.
Youth ambassador for Carers Australia, Chantelle Day will attend the event as the guest speaker.
Ms Day is 21-years-old and cares for her mother as well as studying Medical Science at Griffith University.
Centrelink’s Paul Cowan said the event recognised the important role carers play in the community.
“Carers Week is important as it is provides the recognition that carers deserve for all their hard work and commitment to the person they care for”, Mr Cowan said.
“Centrelink has a range of payments and services to assist carers, including Carer Payment and Carer Allowance.”
He said carers who were unable to support themselves through paid work because of their caring commitments could receive income support through the Carer Payment.
Mr Cowan said the Carer Allowance was a non-means tested supplementary payment available for those who provided daily care and attention to someone with special needs and could be paid in addition to wages.
“Recent changes to the eligibility criteria for Carer Payment will make the payment more accessible to those caring for a child under the age of 16,” he said.
“An additional 19,000 carers are expected to benefit from these changes in the first 12 months.
“Centrelink also offers social workers who can provide counselling and assistance to carers by referring them to other services and programs in their local community.”
Carers Australia estimates one in eight Australians currently provide carer support to a family member or friend.
Further information was available from www.centrelink.gov.au
20 October, 2009
Crime Institute buys
An Australian Institute of Criminology report has revealed consumer fraud has been costing victims almost $1 billion.
into consumer fraud
The report, Consumer fraud in Australia: costs, rates and awareness of the risks in 2008, found 90 per cent of respondents reported having experienced scams, including fictitious lotteries, phishing scams and other attempts to elicit personal information.
The AIC identified four key areas of fraud.
It said advance fee schemes involved an offender pretending to sell something that did not exist while taking money in advance, or offering a large reward for which an upfront fee must be paid in order to access it.
Non-delivery and defective products and services fraud was where the offender sought to supply goods or services of a lower quality than those paid for or failed to supply them at all.
The third area, unsolicited and unwanted goods and services, involved an offender trying to persuade customers to buy something they did not want through deceptive marketing techniques.
The final area identified by the AIC was identity fraud, where offenders used a fabricated or stolen identity to gain benefits or avoid obligations.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the report was important as it would encourage greater reporting of consumer fraud and raise awareness of the problem.
“It is important that Australians know about consumer fraud. The more they know, the less likely they are to fall victim,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We want as many people as possible to know about the various scams and cons. The AIC’s research shows that 18 per cent responded to the scammer, and went on to correspond for further information, putting themselves at risk of financial loss or identity theft.”
Minister for Consumer Affairs, Dr Craig Emerson said scammers would face fines of up to $1.1 million under new legislation before Parliament.
“Under the new Australian Consumer Law the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will have increased powers to prosecute people who have acted unconscionably or have misled consumers,’ Dr Emerson said.
“Scammers would also face bans from managing companies.”
Consumers were urged to report scammers to the ACCC by calling 1300 302 502, logging on to www.scamwatch.gov.au or by contacting their State or Territory Consumer Affairs Agency.
The AIC report was available at www.aic.gov.au
20 October, 2009
Students urged to
Students are being warned not to fall victim to scammers when seeking holiday employment.
study job promises
The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Bankers’ Association said university students could be at risk of becoming ‘money mules’ - laundering money for criminals.
The AFP and the ABA have produced a factsheet, Warning to students – don’t get caught by mule scams to help students recognise the schemes.
Under the scams, ‘money mules’ allow their bank account to be used to receive stolen funds which are transferred to a designated account using a money-remitting or wire service, minus a commission payment.
The mule is usually approached via email or instant message or through advertisements in legitimate employment websites and publications.
Acting National Manager High Tech Crime Operations at the AFP, Karl Kent said students were vulnerable when searching for summer holiday jobs.
“You would be very suspicious if someone you didn’t know asked you to carry a package or money overseas,” Commander Kent said.
“Similarly, you should be very suspicious about someone asking you to transfer money in and out of your bank account to other accounts.
“These scams involve you in a criminal enterprise and there are serious penalties under Australian and international laws for laundering money.”
He said while the lure of making money was attractive, commissions received from such activities would be considered proceeds of crime.
“The money mule could become the subject of a police investigation that could lead to a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment,” Commander Kent said.
He advised students to be cautious about accepting any unsolicited offers promising the chance of making money simply by moving money in and out of any bank account.
Commander Kent said people should be wary of offers from overseas companies because it was harder to verify their legitimacy, while Australian businesses should be checked with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
He said never to provide confidential banking details to anyone.
For more information visit www.afp.gov.au
20 October, 2009
Early teaching plan
More opportunities for students to study early childhood teaching at university have been announced, with 780 new university places released across Australia.
wins high marks
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard and the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Child Care and Youth, Kate Ellis said 500 new places would be available in 2010, with an initial allocation of 280 places in 2011.
Five-hundred places were provided this year.
MS Gillard and Ms Ellis said the total number of additional places would be 1,500 by 2011, with additional places to be made available at a later stage.
The Ministers said the Government was the first in history to prioritise and invest in early childhood education and care.
“Obviously, increasing the number of degree qualified early childhood educators is a key element of that reform agenda,” they said.
“The first five years of a child’s life are when they do their most important learning. Providing access to high quality affordable early education programs is one of the best ways to ensure positive outcomes for children, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
In 2010, NSW will receive 185 places, Victoria 155, Queensland 60, South Australia 40, the Northern Territory 50 and the ACT 10.
The following year, NSW is expected to receive 55 places, Victoria 50, Queensland 60, Western Australia 65 and South Australia 50.
Ms Gillard and Ms Ellis said 780 new places would go towards delivering the future workforce needed to achieve other reforms in the Government’s early childhood education and care agenda.
They said following the introduction of a student-centred funding system for higher education places in 2012, there would be no limit to the number of new Commonwealth supported undergraduate early childhood education places that could be offered by public universities.
20 October, 2009
Aid report to
An AusAID report into the economic activity of the Pacific region has warned the area’s 14 island nations and East Timor they must develop niche markets for quality agricultural products.
be a big help
The Pacific Economic Survey 2009 was prepared by AusAID and specialists from the Pacific and East Timor.
Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan said the report recommended Pacific countries develop markets for products that are organic or unique to their region.
“There are already instances where quality agricultural products from these countries are being skilfully marketed and sold for premium prices in the region,” Mr McMullan said.
“Expanding this sector in an environmentally friendly way will help create employment, raise incomes and further reduce poverty.”
A recent Government initiative, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, aims to help Pacific island countries exploit opportunities for developing high value agricultural, forestry and fisheries products.
Supply chain constraints are to be addressed for a number of key products by improving links between farmers, agribusiness and other market players.
20 October, 2009
Deal with China
Austrade has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Changsha Municipal Government in China, committing to sustainable urban development in the Hunan Province.
good for business
Regional Director for Austrade’s North East Asia section, Laurie Smith said Australian construction companies would benefit from the agreement.
Mr Smith signed the MOU with the Mayor of the Changsha Municipal Government, Jianfei Zhang in Changsha, the capital of Hunan.
Hunan is a rapidly developing region linking two neighbouring cities, Zhujiang and Xiangtan which forms an urban centre of 13 million.
Mr Smith said Austrade had identified strong potential for Australian companies to deliver sustainable building expertise in inland cities – or tier two cities – like Changsha.
“The rapid growth of Changsha’s economy, as in many other regional centres, is creating huge demand for housing and construction,” he said.
“The combined urban development will require comprehensive construction of commercial, hospitality, healthcare, educational, recreational, industrial and residential buildings as well as major infrastructure such as Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) systems connecting provincial capitals to the coast.”
Mr Smith said the Changsha Government would invest approximately $5 billion in the phased redevelopment of the Xiandao district over the next two years.
“Many billions more are expected to go towards the overall redevelopment between 2012 and 2020,” he said.
Mr Smith said the MOU covered sustainable development areas including green building and construction, emissions reduction technologies, environmental planning and consultation services, waste treatment and disposal and trade and financial services related to sustainable city management.
He said the MOU also encouraged local infrastructure, planning and environmental protection organisations to work closely with Australian businesses.
“The MOU will encourage Changsha City to work with Australia and Australian companies on the city’s redevelopment, with the potential to deliver a range of business opportunities,” Mr Smith said.
He said major Australian companies Woods Bagot, GHD and Page Kirkland Group had already benefited from the city’s redevelopment.
20 October, 2009
Tsunami exercise spans waters
Australia has joined 17 other nations to participate in an international exercise to test response arrangements for tsunami activity in the Indian Ocean.
The exercise, Indian Ocean Wave, was led by Indonesia and tested the nations’ ability to communicate urgent information including the size, intensity and likely land inundation of a simulated tsunami.
Emergency services from Western Australia and Commonwealth Agencies who are involved in the Australian Tsunami Warning System, including Emergency Management Australia (EMA), Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology, participated.
Manuals awash with emergency advice
Emergency management manuals have been launched to help people prepare for floods and emergencies.
The manuals aim to help Australian communities build their resilience to flooding by providing them with information and expert advice.
Developed by the Australian Council of State Emergency Services, the publications form part of the Australian Emergency Manual series, which provide information on nationally consistent best practice in emergency management.
The manuals were available at www.ema.gov.au
Australia Post posts profit
Australia Post achieved revenue growth of $26.1 million, or 0.5 per cent, in the last financial year, despite the financial crisis.
It earned a pre-tax profit of $380.9 million, a decline of 35.7 per cent from a record high of $592.2 million in 2007/08, while underlying profit fell by 14 per cent in 2008/09.
Chairman of Australia Post, David Mortimer said moves to broaden Australia Post’s revenue base and cut its operating costs had prepared it for tough times.
Forum is place for debate
A new forum for intellectual debate on Australia’s economic, social, cultural and environmental drivers has been established.
The Australian Catholic University’s Public Policy Institute was launched last week to inform public policy based upon ethics, faith, human rights, the dignity of human life and community engagement in the face of increased Government intervention in society.
Scholarships for Indigenous scholars
A new scholarship will help one Indigenous student from every State and Territory to study education at university.
The Governor-General’s Indigenous Student Teacher Scholarship is to provide $25,000 each year to recipients for the life of their teaching degree.
Governor-General, Quentin Bryce said the scholarships recognised the importance of closing the gap in education outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Further information on applying was available from www.deewr.gov.au
Avalanche of funds for Antarctic
Antarctic heritage and scientific research is to be boosted with the announcement of $1.2 million in grants.
Mawson’s Hut at Cape Denison will receive $486,000 for work including removing ice and snow from its interior and recovering and cataloguing historic artefacts from Sir Douglas Mawson’s exhibition.
Australia’s Antarctic research program will receive over $750,000, benefiting 35 projects from 16 institutions.
A full list of heritage projects was available at www.heritage.gov.au
Wear red for missing people
The Australian Federal Police has launched a website to raise awareness of missing persons and child safety.
The campaign was launched in conjunction with a national Day for Daniel on 30 October, named for the 14-year-old Queensland boy, Daniel Morcombe, who went missing in December 2003.
Two young people go missing every hour in Australia.
The public has being urged to support Day for Daniel by wearing red – the colour Daniel was last seen wearing – hosting a red-themed morning tea, inviting a police officer to talk at a school, watching the Foundation RED child safety DVD or learning more about missing persons at www.beingsafetysmart.com.au
Participation in Day for Daniel activities could be registered at www.dayfordaniel.com.au
New sailing centre
A new National Dinghy Training Centre for the Australian Sailing Team at Sydney will provide leading Olympic and Paralympic class sailors with a dedicated training facility.
The new facility will be developed as a partnership between Yachting Australia, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), the Australian Sports Commission and Middle Harbour Yacht Club.
The AIS said the new facility would be “a vital tool” for the Australian Sailing Team’s efforts to win gold at London 2012, Rio de Janeiro 2016 and beyond.
Memorial pine turns 75
The Australian War Memorial is to mark the 75th anniversary of the planting of a pine tree from Gallipoli this weekend.
The Memorial’s Lone Pine was planted by the Duke of Gloucester on 24 October 1934 and can be traced back to an Australian soldier who brought a pine cone back from Gallipoli and whose mother grew it into a tree and presented it to the War Memorial.
13 October, 2009
Business buys into
A leading management consultant has warned that business should have a prominent role in the planned overhaul of the Australian Public Service.
APS reform plans
Director of McKinsey & Co, Australia and New Zealand, Adam Lewis, wrote in The Australian newspaper, that the proposed APS reforms outlined by the Prime Minister recently should not be left “entirely to the Public Sector.”
“When one reflects upon the great economic reforms that have benefited the private sector, one needs to conclude that their genesis often originated in the Public Sector,” Mr Lewis said.
“It would be equally beneficial if the private sector were able to play a similar role in reforming the Public Sector.”
He said while it was not possible to create Public Sector competition “per se”, it was possible to introduce “competitive dynamics” to lead to a more rigorous and dynamic environment.
“This objective may prove both the most important and the most difficult to obtain,” he said.
“History and economics have long shown that monopolies are poor innovators. This is one reason why innovation is low in the Public Sector as a whole.”
Mr Lewis said as the Public Sector accounted for over 40 per cent of Australia’s domestic economy, any reform must go beyond “crudely cutting budgets, reducing headcounts or asking Public Servants to do more with less and... outsourcing tasks to the private sector.”
“If handled correctly, working conditions and job satisfaction actually improves with a transformation process.
“Rather than being the losers in this equation, Public Servants could be winners.”
Mr Lewis pointed to other key measures including a strong strategic core, improved service delivery, an enhanced performance culture and comprehensive talent management.
“One of the key objectives is to make the Public Service more innovative,” he said.
“What needs to be remembered here is that innovation is usually a by-product of a strong performance culture rather than an end in itself.”
Mr Lewis said implementing the proposed reforms would not be easy and would require commitment by politicians and senior Public Servants.
He said historically Governments had been cautious when it came to “taking on their own Public Service” and reform had generally been undertaken through an ideological framework.
“One of the toughest challenges the Government has in reforming the Public Sector is changing the culture,” he said.
“This is achieved by strong, visible and sustained leadership from the top; clear reform milestones and performance management; focused program management; and momentum through early wins and success stories.”
13 October, 2009
New purchasing plan
New whole-of-Government arrangements for procuring Information and Communication Technology equipment have been announced by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.
is ICT buy-product
Mr Tanner said better utilising aggregate buying power to purchase desktop computing equipment and telecommunications products and services could help achieve savings and improve efficiency.
“The current arrangements for the procurement of desktop computing equipment and telecommunications products and services are completely devolved,” he said.
Mr Tanner said the Government had recently undertaken scoping studies that showed greater coordination in the purchasing of the goods and services had the potential to achieve “significant savings.”
He said whole-of-Government panels and contracts would be established to facilitate the new purchasing arrangements.
“The first of these arrangements for desktop computing equipment, telecommunications invoice reconciliation services and internet-based network connections will be in place by the end of the 2009-2010 financial year,” Mr Tanner said.
“To meet requirements in the interim period, the Department of Defence has recently announced a request for tender to form a panel for the provision of desktop computing equipment.”
He said in the interim period, Agencies who needed to purchase desktop computing equipment immediately would be eligible to use the Defence panel until the whole-of-Government arrangements were in place.
He said further arrangements are expected to be rolled out for the procurement of telecommunication management services and commodities, such as mobile phone handsets, in the 2010-2011 financial year.
13 October, 2009
Fraud warning is
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen has used National Identity Fraud Awareness Week to warn the public that the Government has tightened measures against fraud.
the real thing
Mr Bowen said sophisticated technology was being used to target people defrauding the Government by claiming payments and benefits they were not entitled to.
He said Centrelink and Medicare had specialist teams using data matching technology to detect identity fraud.
“These Agencies work closely with other Agencies such as the Child Support Agency and Australian Taxation Office, as well as various State Departments, to regularly match information to detect inconsistencies,” Mr Bowen said.
“The message is clear: if you commit fraud against the Commonwealth, the sophisticated data matching detection system will catch up with you.”
He said Centrelink undertook almost 4,000 investigations into identity related fraud during 2008-09, resulting in 166 cases being referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
The investigations identified debts worth $13 million.
Mr Bowen said cooperation between the Commonwealth Fraud teams, the Australian Federal Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions meant anyone who committed identity fraud would face hefty fines and long prison sentences.
He said recent fraud detection successes included the case of a Disability Support Pensioner who had taken on his deceased brother's identity in order to obtain Centrelink benefits he wasn’t entitled to.
The case was identified through data matching with Medicare and the pensioner was convicted and ordered to repay $179,782.
“Identity fraud is a growing trend throughout the world, but the Australian Government will continue to update its techniques to detect those who try and defraud the Australian taxpayer,” Mr Bowen said.
“National Identity Fraud Awareness Week is a timely reminder to those who try and obtain Government benefits they're not entitled to - you will be caught.”
Mr Bowen said the public could report suspected cases of fraud by phoning the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.
13 October, 2009
The Australian Privacy Commission has announced the finalists for this year’s Australian Privacy Awards.
in public view
Finalists in the Government category include Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, CrimTrac, the Human Services Portfolio, Mildura Rural City Council, Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Victorian Department of Justice.
Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis said the Awards aimed to acknowledge good privacy practices.
“Many of the finalists have adopted innovative approaches to compliance and have embedded privacy as a core value in their activities,” Commissioner Curtis said.
She said the category winners and overall Grand Award winner would be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney on 12 November 2009.
She said the Australian Privacy Medal will also be awarded to an individual who has shown an outstanding level of achievement in the privacy field. Last year’s winner was the Justice Michael Kirby.
Special Minister for State, Senator Joe Ludwig is expected to give the keynote address at the dinner.
Other award finalists will compete in the large business, small to medium business, and the community and NGO categories.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor congratulated CrimTrac for making the finals.
Mr O’Connor said the Agency was nominated for its CrimTrac Audit Log Integration Facility (CALIF), a national IT based auditing system designed to protect the integrity and authenticity of data held on its law enforcement systems.
“To provide accountability, security and to ensure the privacy of the information entrusted to CrimTrac, the Agency has developed an accountable, independent audit solution,” he said.
“Once complete, CALIF will store and manage in excess of one billion online audit records, equating to more than 15,000 gigabytes of data.”
13 October, 2009
Rights report shows
The recently-released report of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee has been described as the nation’s most extensive consultation on human rights issues ever.
all’s not right
After receiving over 35,000 submissions and holding over 65 roundtables across the country, the Committee made 31 recommendations.
Chair of the Committee, Father Frank Brennan said the consultations found Australians had little awareness of their human rights and that improved human rights education was necessary.
Fr Brennan said Australians also wanted a better culture of human rights in organisations that delivered public services to the community.
He said one of the Committee’s key recommendations was for the adoption of a Federal Human Rights Act.
“Many Australians would like to see our national Government and Parliament take more notice of human rights as they draft laws and make policies,” Fr Brennan said.
He said many of the recommendations could be adopted without granting judges additional power to scrutinise the actions of Public Servants or to interpret laws in a manner consistent with human rights.
“Alternatively, they [leaders] could decide to take the extra step, engaging the Courts as a guarantee that our politicians and the Public Service will be kept accountable in respecting, protecting and promoting the human rights of all Australians,” he said.
“If they do choose to take that extra step, we have set out the way we think this can best be done - faithful to what we heard, respectful of the sovereignty of Parliament, and true to the Australian ideals of dignity and a fair go for all.”
Fr Brennan said the civil and political rights the Committee recommended should be inserted in any human rights act and included the right to life; the protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; freedom from slavery; freedom from retrospective criminal laws; freedom from imprisonment for inability to fulfill a contractual obligation; and freedom from coercion or restraint in relation to religion and belief.
Additional rights recommended by the Committee were the right to freedom of movement, the right to privacy and reputation, the right to vote and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief.
The Committee said any human rights act should protect all people in Australia, as well as those overseas subject to Australian jurisdiction and that complaints should be heard by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The report said individuals should be able to take action against public authorities for breaches of human rights.
Other recommendations made by the Committee included the establishment of a whole-of-Government framework for ensuring human rights were better integrated into Public Sector policy and that a Minister be nominated to be responsible for the framework.
It recommended the Government incorporate human rights compliance into the APS Values and Code of Conduct, and that Federal Departments be required to develop human rights action plans and reports.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the consultation had shown there were many views on how human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted.
“The key debate, therefore, is not about whether we protect human rights - it is about how we protect human rights,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the Government would consider the Committee’s report and respond in the coming months.
The report is available from www.ag.gov.au
13 October, 2009
War Memorial defends
The Australian War Memorial has issued a statement explaining its policy on sponsorship following widespread public comment on new commercial arrangements relating to the Memorial’s Last Post closing ceremony.
In its statement, the War Memorial said it had long enjoyed a relationship with corporate organisations and individuals within the community, and that sponsorship was a crucial part of its budget.
“The Memorial is sensitive to its many stakeholders in the wider community who have a close interest in what we do. We respect their views,” it said.
“However, it is just not possible to satisfy everyone no matter how hard you try.
“In the matter of sponsorship of the closing ceremony, the Memorial does not seek to offend anyone in the matter of commemoration, but its strong view is that the closing ceremony continues to be conducted with dignity and is not commercialised in any way.”
The AWM pointed to previous sponsorships, including sponsorship of the eternal flame in the Commemorative Area, which dates back to 1998 and is marked by a small brass plaque.
Similarly, a fund-raising appeal for the Memorial chaired by former Boardmember Dame Beryl Beaurepaire raised $8 million in funds in the 1990s, much of which came from sponsors.
“The situation now is that the Memorial has many additional and much-valued public programs that are supported by revenue other than from appropriation,” the statement said.
“This not only includes sponsorship but also donations and revenue from e-business, food and beverage concessions, venue hire, shop and staff consultancies.”
The Memorial said it had a well established budget process that was integrated into its corporate planning.
“Indeed, earlier this year the Australian National Audit Office in a report said that the Memorial displayed better practice for its financial management of projects,” it said.
13 October, 2009
ABS has numbers for
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced it is to run its CensusAtSchool project on an annual basis.
School Census program
The project, which was previously held in 2006 and 2008, sees students from years five to 12 from across Australia collect real data about themselves by completing an online questionnaire similar to the population census.
Director of Education Services at ABS, Paul Taylor said CensusAtSchool was part of an international project to improve statistical literacy and had been designed for use across a number of curriculum areas such as maths, geography, science and information technology.
“It also helps students understand the purpose of the population census, by engaging them in a data collection process that's relevant to them,” Mr Taylor said.
He said by running the project every year, more students would be able to participate.
Mr Taylor said the ABS had also responded to the needs of teachers by making participation easier, and ensuring all registration and set up could be performed online.
“From 2010 the questionnaire will open annually during Terms 1 and 2, with 30 questions designed to collect information on students' lifestyle, personal characteristics and opinions on environmental and social issues,” he said.
“There are also interactive questions to test reaction time and concentration.”
Over 100,000 students have already participated in CensusAtSchool.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the project was a valuable educational tool.
“This is a great initiative by the ABS. It allows students to improve their research skills and to satisfy their own curiosity by using statistics in an interesting and useful way,” Senator Sherry said.
Mr Taylor said the CensusAtSchool project was for educational purposes only and that the ABS employed security techniques to ensure participant anonymity.
He said taking part in and using data from CensusAtSchool was free and voluntary.
For more information visit www.abs.gov.au/censusatschool
13 October, 2009
The Australian Electoral Commission has improved its online enrolment form, making it quicker and easier for voters to update their information.
show AEC on a roll
The new form uses intelligent navigation to reduce the chance of unintended errors, although people enrolling to vote or updating their address details will still need to print, hand-sign and send the form to the Agency.
Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn said the revamped form was a “step forward” for the AEC.
“The AEC is committed to doing as much as it can to take advantage of new technologies and e-business methods in working with Australians and meeting their expectations,” Commissioner Killesteyn said.
“We know that in the lead-up to the last Federal Election around 2.6 million hits were received on our online verification facility that enables you to check your enrolment status on the AEC website.”
He said the AEC aimed to harness the online interest and encourage electors to make transactions with the Commission over the internet whenever possible.
Commissioner Killesteyn said a recent report on the 2007 Federal Election by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) recommended applicants complete and sign an enrolment paper form once only, with all subsequent address changes made over the internet through a secure AEC portal.
He said such an innovation would help people maintain their enrolment, especially after changing their address.
“While you still need to print out and sign the form, it is a first step towards modernising the enrolment process to meet growing expectations among the public to complete business online,” Commissioner Killesteyn said.
In a bid to reach the estimated 1.2 million Australians missing from the electoral roll, the AEC is also preparing a mass mail out of enrolment forms.
Over the coming weeks, the AEC plans to send over 843,000 letters and forms to where they believe missing eligible voters might be living.
“While this is a significant mail out it won’t reach everyone who is missing, or everybody who has recently turned 18 or moved address, so I urge any Australian who needs to act on their enrolment to do it now, so you don’t miss out on having your say on election day,” Commissioner Killesteyn said.
Figures released by the AEC show people aged between 18 and 34, and those who have moved house in the past three years, have the greatest likelihood of not being on the electoral roll.
13 October, 2009
A new Advisory Council on immigration policy has been set up by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans.
Council allowed in
Senator Evans said the new Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution would provide independent advice on implementing measures associated with the immigration policy issues including New Directions in Detention and the national rollout of the Community Status Resolution Service..
“The Council will provide independent advice on policies, services and programs to achieve timely, fair and effective resolution of immigration status for people seeking asylum or other migration outcomes in Australia,” Senator Evans said.
“The terms of reference and membership of the Council reflects the range of expertise required to implement the Government’s New Directions in Detention policy.”
He said the new Council would take over from the Immigration Detention Advisory Group (IDAG), and focus on assisting the Department with strategies to resolve a person’s immigration status in a community setting rather than in a detention centre.
It would also advise on the suitability of facilities and service delivery arrangements
Senator Evans said the new Council had already met and identified priority issues to address over the next two years.
He said the new body would be chaired by former member of IDAG, Paris Aristotle and include among its membership former IDAG members Air Marshal Ray Funnell and Associate Professor Harry Minas as well as Kerrin Benson, Noel Clement, Caz Coleman, Libby Lloyd, Dr Maryanne Loughry, Associate Professor Nicholas Procter, Dr Jamal Rifi, and Professor Samina Yasmeen.
Senator Evans said the new group would provide valuable perspectives and strengthen the provision of community services to immigration clients through their community links.
He acknowledged the work of previous members of IDAG which had been established in 2001.
“Their independent expert advice provided to the previous and current Government has been greatly appreciated,” the Minister said.
The Terms of Reference for the Council can be accessed at www.immi.gov.au
13 October, 2009
Australia Post has released a series of stamps to encourage children to be more active and try new sports.
take a licking
Six sports are featured in the ‘Let’s Get Active!’ stamp series: basketball, netball, Australian Rules football, soccer, cricket and tennis.
Philatelic Group Manager for Australia Post, Noel Leahy said the stamps featured some of Australia’s most popular ball sports and aimed to inspire children to lead a more active life.
“The launch of these stamps kicks off Stamp Collecting Month and the energetic stamps capture perfectly the enjoyment that playing your favourite sport can bring,” Mr Leahy said.
“Over the years Stamp Collecting Month has provided a great opportunity for Australia Post to play an active role in nurturing and educating primary school children through stamps.
“This year we’re thrilled to feature six stamps that highlight the ‘Let’s Get Active!’ message of participation and having fun.”
Mr Leahy said the ‘Let’s Get Active!’ message would also be promoted throughout 7,000 schools, with Australia Post staff visiting thousands of school children to present the new stamps and encourage sport through a fun quiz and a ‘Let’s Get Active!’ DVD.
Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis launched the stamps, saying sport was important not only for its role in helping kids stay fit and healthy, but also in boosting confidence and encouraging friendships.
“No matter which sport you choose, getting outdoors and staying active leads to a happier, healthier life and it’s a lot of fun too,” Ms Ellis said.
13 October, 2009
Illness website is
A new e-health website to help people find online treatments for mental illnesses was launched during Mental Health Week.
mental as anything
The interactive website, Beacon, was developed by the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research (CMHR) and supported by the Mental Health Council of Australia.
Senator for the ACT, Kate Lundy said Beacon provided a portal for consumers, health professionals and members of the community to access to online mental and physical e-health programs.
Senator Lundy said the website provided a description of each program and a scientific rating of effectiveness.
“To date, Beacon has reviewed 100 programs across a range of categories including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety and eating disorders,” she said.
The mental and physical disorders which are currently listed include alcohol use, bipolar depression, depression, eating disorders, generalised anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, pain, panic disorder, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, stress and tinnitus.
Professor Helen Christensen of the CMHR said the website was a useful resource for people of all ages.
“It's really been designed for everybody, parents of young people, doctors, health professionals who may not have at their finger tips what is available in terms of self help,” Professor Christensen said.
Beacon joins a suite of e-health programs from CHMR including MoodGYM, Ecouch, BluePages and BlueBoard. It was available at www.beacon.anu.edu.au
13 October, 2009
Report lifts roof on
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released a report showing overcrowding in Indigenous households had improved slightly between 2001 and 2006, although overall dwelling conditions deteriorated.
The report, Indigenous housing needs 2009: a multi-measure needs model, was based on AIHW analysis of data from the 2006 Census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Community Housing Infrastructure and Needs Survey, and the Commonwealth Rent Assistance program.
It found access to essential services such as power, water and sewerage had improved for Indigenous Australian households during the 2001-2006 period, while homelessness and affordability levels remained about the same.
The report estimated that around 10,000 additional dwellings were required in 2006 to address Indigenous housing needs, including homelessness, affordability, access to essential services, dwelling conditions, and notably, to reduce overcrowding.
Head of the Housing and Disability Group at AIHW, Geoff Neideck said analysis of 2006 data revealed a much higher proportion of Indigenous Australians were living in overcrowded housing compared to non-Indigenous Australians.
“Indigenous Australians experienced homelessness at a rate almost four times that of non-Indigenous Australians,” Mr Neideck said.
He said remote areas continued to have the highest proportion of dwellings requiring major repair or replacement, while affordability need was more prominent in major cities.
The report was available from www.aihw.gov.au
13 October, 2009
Meeting with farmers
The M inister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry , Tony Burke has met with north Queensland farmers involved in helping save the Great Barrier Reef.
Over 770 farms are involved in the Reef Rescue program which aims at saving the Reef as well as boosting the businesses of cane farmers and graziers.
gets fertile results
Mr Burke met the farmers to discuss new farming techniques.
Farmers Lee and Chris Blackburn of North Eton said they used program funding to implement global positioning systems in tractors to improve the precision of pesticides on their 860-hectare farm.
By cutting pesticide use, farmers are able to save on input costs which make their businesses more productive and profitable and decrease the amount of run-off flowing into the Reef.
Mr Burke was impressed with the activities of natural resource management group representatives from the regional group, Reef Catchments Mackay Whitsunday.
“These farmers are really leading the way in showing how we can deliver wins for both the reef and for producers,” he said. “This is some of the most innovative farming I’ve seen so far.”
“Not only are they improving the productivity and profitability of their own properties, but they are showing other farmers in the region the benefits of these smarter technologies.”
Mr Burke said other examples of new approaches funded by Reef Rescue included an innovative system implemented by graziers Leanne and Barry O’Sullivan, who fence-off key sites from cattle to allow native grasses to recover.
Mr Burke said this allowed grass to regrow after just one wet season, and played an important role in capturing and storing rain water, which would otherwise wash loose soil into the Great Barrier Reef.
“I was very impressed by the O’Sullivans’ innovation in improving their business for the long-term, while delivering important environmental wins for the reef,” he said.
“They explained the shift in their approach, from being more like miners and taking what they needed from the land to instead working with the land to ensure future productivity growth.”
13 October, 2009
Comments add value
Public comment has been invited on a draft set of laws aimed at streamlining businesses’ GST reporting and obligations.
to draft GST laws
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the draft legislation aimed to make the law relating to the Goods and Services Tax more transparent while reducing compliance costs for businesses.
“The draft Exposure Bill addresses concerns relating to the administration of the GST and implements recommendations made to the Government by the Board of Taxation,” Senator Sherry said.
He said GST administration measures contained in the Bill included broadening the operation of the GST Agency provisions; introducing a bulky goods refund system for residents of Australia's external territories; clarifying the Commissioner's power to recover overpaid refunds; imposing a four-year limit on claiming input tax and fuel tax credits; and clarifying the GST law concerning gambling supplies to persons outside Australia.
Senator Sherry said it also sought to clarify the interaction of the associate rules with other GST provisions and increase the adjustment note threshold.
He said stakeholder consultation on the draft legislation was important for designing law changes.
“I urge anyone with an interest in improving the administration of the GST to look at the proposed legislation and provide your views,” Senator Sherry said.
He said it was the first set of exposure draft legislation to implement the Government’s reform of GST administration and that further exposure drafts would be released in coming months.
Senator Sherry said consultation closed on 27 October 2009 and further information was available from www.treasury.gov.au
13 October, 2009
Injection of life for
Plans to create a national registration and accreditation scheme for health professionals have taken an important step forward, with the Queensland Government setting up a framework.
health rego scheme
Federal Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Bill 2009 would soon be passed in all States and Territories.
“The scheme will cover registration and accreditation, complaints, privacy and information sharing, and transitional arrangements,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the scheme would only require health practitioners to register once, with the registration being recognised in all Australian jurisdictions.
“No longer will a health practitioner wanting to work interstate be required to hold additional or multiple registrations,” she said.
“This will be of particular benefit in responding to national emergencies where a workforce can be mobilised quickly from across the country.”
Ms Roxon said the scheme would also help improve patient safety, as the register would identify whether a health practitioner was registered and highlight any conditions imposed on their registration.
“Professional standards will continue to be developed by the individual professions and will ensure that Australia continues to have a world class health system where patient safety is paramount,” she said.
The Bill was drafted in accordance with the Intergovernmental Agreement and signed by the Council of Australian Governments’ in March 2008 following consultation with consumers, practitioners and regulatory bodies.
Following its passage through the Queensland Parliament, the draft legislation will be progressively introduced in all Parliaments across Australia to adopt and apply the new national law.
“All Health Ministers have agreed that this legislation will form the basis for a national scheme to begin on 1 July 2010,” Ms Roxon said.
13 October, 2009
The Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy has issued a warning about scammers posing as door-to-door salespeople offering digital television conversion equipment and claiming to represent the Government.
get thumbs down
Senator Conroy, who was alerted to the activities in the Mildura/Sunraysia region of Victoria, said the Government had no relationship with those offering digital television goods door-to-door and urged the public to report them.
“Anyone who becomes aware of this activity should immediately contact the Government’s Digital Switchover Taskforce by calling 1800 20 10 13 or visiting the www.digitalready.gov.au website,” Senator Conroy said.
“Make no mistake, any unscrupulous activity that is brought to the Government’s attention will be reported to Consumer Affairs.”
He said switching to digital television was a straight forward and inexpensive task for the majority of Australians.
“Set-top-boxes are available in supermarkets and electronics retailers to suit a range of budgets and I urge people to find a product that meets their needs and helps them enjoy the benefits of digital television,” he said.
Executive Director of the Digital Switchover Taskforce, Andy Townend said the Government had previously announced a package of in-home assistance to help those such as the elderly, people with disabilities and their carers to make the switch to digital television. Mr Townend said the pilot package would be offered directly to eligible residents in Mildura/Sunraysia well before the switchover.
“Eligible households in Mildura will receive a letter inviting them to participate in the program about six months before the region is due to switchover in the first half of 2010,” he said.
“To be absolutely clear, once this scheme commences, it will be free of charge – and no Government contractor is allowed to ask for, or accept, any payment or top-up fee of any kind.”
Senator Conroy urged the public to check whether a business had been endorsed by the Government by visiting www.digitalready.gov.au
13 October, 2009
PM&C forums online
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is to hold a series of online forums on Government administration reform to allow engagement with the public, promote discussion and encourage feedback.
Upcoming topics include: future challenges facing the Public Sector; aspiration for the PS; three things that need to be changed in the PS; and streamlining APS Values.
Accounts could be created at www.forums.pmc.gov.au
Harmer takes leader prize
Secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jeff Harmer has been awarded the Institute of Chartered Accountants' Federal Government Leader of the Year Award.
As part of the award, Mr Harmer will receive a $50,000 sabbatical prize to allow him to travel abroad to observe best practice or invite an expert to FaHCSIA to share best practice ideas.
The Leadership in Government Awards, coordinated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, celebrate innovation, strategic thinking and visionary leadership among Federal Government Leaders.
Centrelink holds Canberra seminars
Centrelink is holding free information seminars in Canberra to help people plan for their financial future.
The Pension reforms 2009 seminars aim to explain recent changes to pensions, such as the immediate pension rate rise and the gradual increase in the Age Pension age.
All members of the public are welcome to attend the seminars which include Understanding your pension on 14 October; Accommodation options in retirement on 15 October; and Pension reforms 2009 on 19 October.
Further information was available by phoning 13 63 57 or visiting www.centrelink.gov.au
Indigenous radio paper
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has called for comment on a discussion paper that aims to simplify licensing procedures for remote Indigenous broadcasting services (RIBS).
The simplifications aim to reduce the administrative burden on the broadcasters by proposing an open narrowcasting class licence regime under which no service licence application or renewal would be necessary.
RIBS radio providers would instead apply for an apparatus licence from the ACMA once every five years.
The discussion paper was available at www.acma.gov.au and consultations close on 20 November 2009.
Gamblers get online help
Gamblers and their families can now access support and advice from a new online counselling service.
The free 24-hour service provides gamblers with access to qualified gambling counsellors online seven days a week.
The website, www.gamblinghelponline.org.au is an initiative of the Ministerial Council on Gambling, funded through an agreement between the Australian and State and Territory Governments, and is operated by Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre
Tax deal with Guernsey
Australia has signed a new tax information exchange agreement with Guernsey, an Island near the United Kingdom and France.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said Guernsey was a significant financial centre and that the agreement was an important part of efforts to combat tax avoidance and evasion.
“The pace with which jurisdictions are coming onboard is speeding up with each passing week - Guernsey is now the third jurisdiction to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Australia in as little as four months, and the eighth overall,” Senator Sherry said.
Computer program delivers
More than 20,000 low income households have received a computer as part of a joint partnership between Centrelink and the not-for-profit organisation, WorkVentures.
The partnership aims to provide low income households with quality, internet ready refurbished computers that can be delivered anywhere in the country for $290.
Further information was available from www.workventures.com.au.
Library finds rare picture
The National Library of Australia has discovered a rare photograph of the Amundsen expedition’s arrival at the South Pole in 1911.
The ‘small brown image’ is a vintage print found in an album of photographs entitled “Tasmanian views” acquired by the National Library in 1965.
The image was uncovered by the Curator of the Picture Collection at the National Library of Norway, Harald Ostgaard Lund, while he was conducting a Google search that led him to the NLA’s collection.
The South Pole image is iconic in Norway.
Exhibition highlights goals
A travelling exhibition highlighting the importance of the Millennium Development Goals has opened in Adelaide.
Blueprint for a Better World: the Millennium Development Goals and You is a joint initiative of AusAID and Caritas Australia and is expected to visit 35 regions in Australia throughout its tour.
The exhibition looks at the ways individuals and communities can reduce the number of vulnerable and poor people in the world and highlights the role the Government and NGOs play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
ABS opens up in NT
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ new Northern Territory office has opened.
The move is the first for the NT office in 36 years, with its new home, the Civitas building, reflecting contemporary Darwin architecture.
Australian Statistician, Brian Pink said The NT office makes a significant contribution to the Census when it is held every five years.
6 October, 2009
PS reform plans
The first step on the road to building the Australian Public Service (APS) into the best Public Service in the world has been taken by an Advisory Group appointed to guide and manage the wide-ranging reforms needed.
show way ahead
The Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration has published a 48-page discussion paper Reform of Australian Government Administration: Building the World’s Best Public Service, and called for input from Public Servants, other stakeholders and the broader Australian community on the way ahead.
Introducing the paper, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Chair of the Group, Terry Moran, described the task as exciting.
“Our challenge is to devise a plan that is forward looking and long term in scope,” Mr Moran said.
“In this context, we can afford to be ambitious.”
The paper reiterates the difficult issues facing the public sector such as the increasing complexity of public policy issues, demographic pressures, globalisation and increasing expectations from the public.
It says for the rest of the 21st century, Governments will be facing significant policy and practical issues and needs a “vigorous and vibrant” Public Service to build a strong, fair and prosperous nation.
“Our task is to ensure our public administration is up to the task of supporting the Government in confronting these challenges,” Mr Moran said.
“Our hope is that by strengthening Australian Government administration, the broader endeavour of public service in Australia will be enhanced.”
“The purpose of this paper is to provoke discussion about public sector reform,” Mr Moran said.
“It will provide a platform for engagement with relevant stakeholders, including Australian Government employees, to get their views on the current performance of the APS, barriers to higher performance and possible reform directions.
“These views will have a strong influence on the development of the reform blueprint.”
He acknowledged the other initiatives which were already developing reform proposals such as the Management Advisory Committee’s project on innovation and service delivery reforms; Operation Sunlight which was improving Budget transparency, and the Gershon report’s impact on the use of information technology.
“We will be mindful of each of them in our development of the final reform blueprint,” he said.
Mr Moran said the blueprint was due to be published early in 2010 and more information, including how to lodge a submission or join an online discussion forum, was available at www.pmc.gov.au/ReformGovernment
6 October, 2009
The Gov 2.0 Taskforce has launched a contest to find innovative uses of Public Service information and ways to improve public access to it.
to open 2.0 gates
The contest, MashupAustralia, challenges members of the public to combine Government and other datasets in innovative, economical and socially beneficial ways, while a ‘mash-up camp’ will allow Web 2.0 enthusiasts to collaborate and share ideas.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the contest would allow the Government to take advantage of the ideas and experience of Australia’s online community.
“At the same time it provides an opportunity for innovators to showcase their ideas and potentially be rewarded for their efforts,” Mr Tanner said.
The best mashups across a range of categories including people’s favourite and student acknowledgement will receive prizes of up to $10,000.
Government Departments have already released some information of interest to the public in datasets available for download at data.australia.gov.au
Over 15 Federal Agencies and State and Territory Governments have released datasets on the website, which is similar to the data directory released by American President, Barak Obama earlier this year.
The Government 2.0 Taskforce was established in June 2009 to examine ways to expand the uses of Public Service information, drive innovation and improve Government engagement with citizens.
The Taskforce has commissioned various projects related to its six key areas of interest which include enhancing the discoverability and accessibility of government information; addressing barriers within Agencies to adopting Government 2.0; Government Web 2.0 practices; copyright and intellectual property barriers to open data sharing; semantic Web – tagging datasets to enable sharing and re-use of data; and open access to Public Sector information held in cultural institutions.
The MashupAustralia contest is open from 7 October to 6 November 2009.
More information was available at www.mashupaustralia.org
6 October, 2009
Budget outcome shows
The final Budget outcome for 2008-09 shows a deficit of $27.1 billion.
Treasurer, Wayne Swan said the outcome was $5.0 billion better than expected when the current Budget was being prepared due to lower than expected spending of $2.2 billion and higher cash receipts of $2.8 billion.
Mr Swan total tax receipts were $3.3 billion above the estimate for the 2009‑10 Budget, due mainly to stronger than expected company income tax receipts of $3.6 billion and lower than expected personal income tax receipts of $0.5 billion.
He said the Government’s net debt position was consequently better with the net level at -$16.1 billion at the end of the year, $11.5 billion better than expected.
“Australia continues to have lower debt and lower deficits than other major advanced economies,” Mr Swan said.
“The level of Australian Government net debt at 1.3 per cent of GDP in 2008-09, is dramatically better than 59 per cent of GDP reported for the major advanced economies in 2008.”
He said despite the ‘modest’ improvement on the expected result, the outcome continued to highlight the fiscal challenges presented by the global recession.
“The effects of the global recession will be felt in Australia for some time,” he said, “with ongoing impacts on the Budget and further rises in unemployment.”
Mr Swan said a downloadable version of the Final Budget Outcome 2008-09 could be accessed at www.budget.gov.au
6 October, 2009
Medibank Private has completed its conversion to a profit-making Government business enterprise.
in on change
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the conversion, which was announced as part of the 2009-10 Budget, would enhance competition in the private health insurance sector by placing Medibank Private on a level playing field with its competitors.
“This important change will ensure competitive neutrality in the private health insurance industry. With this conversion, over 70 per cent of health fund members are serviced by for-profit health insurers who pay tax and dividends,” Mr Tanner said.
“Medibank Private will now be treated like other Government Business Enterprises such as Australia Post.”
He said the conversion would provide Medibank Private with additional freedom and incentives to continue innovating.
Mr Tanner said the Government had worked closely with the health fund to implement the changeover, which received approval from the Private Health Insurance Administration Council (PHIAC) on 2 July 2009.
“The amount of tax and dividends payable is linked with Medibank Private's future profitability,” he said.
“Medibank Private continues to be required to meet prudential standards set by PHIAC which provide protection for health fund members.”
Mr Tanner said Medibank Private had assured the Government the conversion would not affect its members or put upward pressure on premiums.
“The Government remains committed to retaining Medibank Private in public hands and will remain the only shareholder of Medibank Private,” he said.
6 October, 2009
The Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Department of Defence and Australia Post have been recognised at the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission 2009 Safety Awards.
in good hands
The awards are in their ninth year and aim to reward public, private sector agencies and individuals within the Comcare scheme who have achieved excellence in workplace occupational health, safety, rehabilitation and return-to-work practices.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science won the Best Workplace Health and Safety Management Category for the Scott Reef Research Program Safety Management System.
Bruce Ferguson from the Department of Defence received the award for Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety by an employee who did not have responsibility for OHS as part of their duties.
Another Defence employee, Russell Power, received the award for Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety by a person with responsibility for OHS as part of their duties.
Australia Post took out the Rehabilitation and Return to Work Award for creating a nationally consistent approach to the provision of rehabilitation management, while the ADF Rehabilitation Program was highly commended in the same category.
Acting Chairperson of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, Professor Niki Ellis said a record number of entries had been received in this year’s awards.
“The winners demonstrated a high level of passion, energy and commitment to making our workplaces safer,” Professor Ellis said.
“Fewer work-related injuries and more effective rehabilitation of injured employees mean a more productive and engaged workforce.”
Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston congratulated the ADF winners.
“The Secretary of Defence and I extend our congratulations to our newly recognised Defence OHS Champions for their outstanding efforts in improving OHS within Defence. Their initiatives and leadership exemplify our Defence Values,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
“OHS leading practice is a key capability enabler and we expect it to be the way we do business throughout Defence,” he said.
6 October, 2009
Defence bomb website
The Department of Defence has revised its website that provides information and advice on unexploded bombs and other military weapons.
launched with a bang
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Mike Kelly said the website enhancements would provide a “one-stop shop” for members of the public seeking more information on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) which is ammunition which has malfunctioned and is potentially dangerous.
“UXO is never too old to be dangerous, as such any item found that is suspected of being a UXO must not be disturbed; simply leave it alone and report it to local police who will arrange for Defence experts to attend and deal with it,” Dr Kelly said.
“This is a free service provided by Defence.
“Public safety is of paramount importance to Defence and all reasonable measures are taken to prevent unauthorised access to land which Defence controls and which it knows or suspects to be contaminated with UXO.”
Dr Kelly said if UXO were found on land not owned by the Government, Defence would consult with the appropriate controlling authority.
“Defence provides advice to land management authorities and landowners on the management of UXO sites and makes available specialist Defence personnel to render safe any items of UXO as they are discovered and notified to Defence,” he said.
Dr Kelly said an ongoing public information campaign on UXO was conducted by Defence, including the annual distribution of over 380,000 notices directed at the public, and in particular, child safety.
The updated site was available from www.defence.gov.au/uxo
6 October, 2009
Audit no confidence
The Australian National Audit Office has discovered that four out of five Departments and Agencies required to report confidentiality clauses in contracts to the Senate were getting their reports wrong.
in confidence list
In a sample review of five Agencies which accounted for 4,592 contracts worth a total of $8.5 billion, the Audit Office found just 20 per cent were reported correctly to the Senate.
“Incorrectly including confidentiality provisions, or incorrectly listing contracts as containing confidentiality provisions, potentially precludes or restricts the Parliament and the public from accessing information about these contracts,” the ANAO report said.
In its 11th report since the reporting requirement was introduced in 2001, the Audit Office said the principle behind the move was to ensure that information relating to contracts with the Government was not restricted by confidentiality unless there was a sound basis for doing so.
“Each Agency subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act, 1997 (FMA Act), must place on its Internet site a list of contracts valued at $100 000 or more,” the Audit Office said.
“The lists must indicate whether each contract requires the parties to maintain confidentiality of any of the contract’s provisions, and whether there are any other requirements of confidentiality.”
Of its audit sample of 115 contracts reported as containing confidentiality provisions the auditors found 59 that did not contain any confidentiality provisions at all and another 33 whose confidentiality provisions were not justified under Finance guidelines.
“This meant that only 23 (20 per cent) of the contracts were correctly listed,” the Audit Office reported.
It said this level of accuracy could have an impact in the market by preventing interested parties from accessing information in contracts that had been incorrectly identified as confidential.
“Consequently, in a competitive market, potential tenderers will be ill‐informed about previously successful tenderers prices and other relevant information,” it said.
The Audit also found Agencies were confused between confidentiality protecting information in the contract and that designed to protect information generated during the performance of the contract (such as reports).
It found that Agencies failed to review their list when the confidentiality provisions no longer applied.
“It would be sound practice for contract managers to review their Senate Order listing when there is no longer a need for a contract to be identified as containing confidentiality provisions.
“This could be when milestones are met, at the time of contract variations or extensions or when compiling the subsequent Senate Order listing.
It found “inadequate training” to be at the bottom of the problem and recommended that training be improved.
The audited Agencies agreed with the recommendations.
6 October, 2009
Mental wellbeing is
The Child Support Agency is using Mental Health Week to increase the awareness of emotional wellbeing issues facing parents going through family break-up.
matter of mind
Assistant Secretary for Parent Support at the CSA, Katrina Baird, said separation was a common experience for many families and that gaining access to quality resources and support services early could make a big difference in how they fared in the longer term.
“In many cases, seeking support early can reduce conflict and result in positive outcomes for everyone involved,” Ms Baird said, “parents as well as children.”
She said there was a wide range of Government and support services available for newly separated families and CSA advice and referral could make it easier to access them as early as possible.
“Each month the CSA directly connects about 25 to 30 parents who are distressed and wanting help to deal with the emotional issues arising from separation to trained counsellors,” Ms Baird said.
She said official figures showed that one in five families with children under 18 were single families or separated and around seven per cent of all families with children under 18 lived in step or blended families.
She said a new website hosted by the Department of Human Services could also be useful in finding information.
“The new website simplifies the process of trawling through multiple websites looking for information on what to do when going through family separation,” she said.
The website is at http://familyseparation.humanservices.gov.au
Ms Baird also said more information about support services available from the Child Support Agency could be obtained from the Community Services Directory on the CSA website www.csa.gov.au
6 October, 2009
Safety in numbers
Safe Work Australia has called on all businesses and organisations to participate in Safe Work Australia Week.
at workplace week
Chair of SWA, Tom Phillips said all Australians should get involved in the event from 25 to 31 October in an effort to reduce injury, death and disease.
Mr Phillips said over 135,000 Australians were seriously injured at work and more than 260 died as a result of work-related injuries every year, without including the many more who died from work-related disease.
“By participating in Safe Work Australia Week, businesses and organisations across Australia can learn more about how to keep their workplace safe and raise awareness of the importance of safety among their workforce,” he said.
“This year Safe Work Australia Week will focus on the harmonisation of occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation and workplace safety issues around Australia.”
Mr Phillips said work-related injury, illness and death could be prevented by adopting safer work practices.
“The simple philosophy of there being no excuse for any accident can only be upheld if everyone demonstrates a strong commitment to workplace safety,” he said.
Workplaces were being encouraged to hold activities and events that would help workers to consider workplace safety. Suggested activities were available on the Safe Work Australia website, www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
Mr Phillips also encouraged all individuals, organisations and businesses to submit comments on the new draft national OHS laws.
“The Week is an ideal time to get involved in the development of the new national model OHS laws,” he said.
Safe Work Australia is the Agency responsible for improving occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements.
6 October, 2009
Customs sniffs out
The Department of Customs and Border Protection has launched a recruitment campaign for Melbourne residents to foster puppies who will grow up to become detector dogs.
homes for pups
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the Puppy Foster Carer Scheme was a rewarding way for dog lovers to help protect Australia’s borders.
“With a large number of pups expected to be born within the next three months, Customs and Border Protection is seeking individuals or families to be part of the Customs and Border Protection Puppy Foster Carer Scheme,” Mr O'Connor said.
He said Customs and Border Protection would provide all food, veterinary needs, equipment, expert advice and canine development training.
Mr O’Connor said in return, volunteer carers provided a safe home for the pups while teaching them about the sights, sounds and smells of a suburban environment.
“Being a puppy foster carer is a rewarding way for everyday Australians to help protect our borders, while enjoying the fun of raising a Labrador puppy,” he said.
Foster carers would be required to host a pup from about eight weeks until 12 months of age, when the dogs would be assigned to work as detector dogs within Customs and Border Protection or another Agency.
Mr O’Connor said Customs and Border Protection detector dogs were important to Australia’s security given their role in detecting firearms, explosives, narcotics and drugs.
“Last year Customs and Border Protection detector dog teams attended more than 24,000 tasks and directly contributed to the detection of 500 illicit imports and exports,” he said.
“But before these puppies can protect our borders they need a loving home.”
For more information on how to become a puppy foster carer visit the Customs and Border Protection website at www.customs.gov.au
6 October, 2009
Comcare review leads
The national occupational health and safety regulator, Comcare has announced it will become more “resilient, responsive and relevant” by implementing the recommendations of a Government review.
to safer options
The review was conducted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Participation to ensure Comcare was a suitable occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation system for self-insurers.
The Government announced the review, Report of the Review of Self Insurance Arrangements under the Comcare Scheme, after imposing a moratorium on private sector companies seeking to join the Comcare scheme at the last Federal election.
The review examined a range of issues including safety, compensation, consultation, financial viability, access to the scheme and governance arrangements.
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said the regulator had been delivering upon its charter, resulting in lower premiums and lower injury rates than other schemes, but could do better.
“In particular, we must look critically at the recommendations made in the review, and take on the new opportunities that face us,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Comcare will reshape as a smarter, more responsive, more relevant organisation, in partnership with the community we serve.”
The Report found Comcare’s OHS performance was “consistently good” however several concerns about prerequisites for self-insurance licensing, the suitability of the OHS Act for self-insurers and benefits offered by the scheme were raised in submissions.
The review recommended the retention of the current statutory ‘in competition’ criterion as a precondition to seeking a self-insurance licence.
It also recommended a revision of the guidelines for the assessment of ‘eligible corporations’ to ensure only “high-performing and soundly motivated” employers were eligible for the licence.
Other recommendations included more proactive OHS enforcement by Comcare; higher penalties for breaches of the OHS Act; improved arrangements for consultation between employers and employees; a review of the permanent impairment arrangements; and the introduction of statutory time limits for claims determinations.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard said the moratorium on private sector applications would stay in place until 2011 following the implementation of uniform OHS laws.
“To do otherwise would cause unnecessary dislocation in that companies would need to adapt to Comcare and then quickly change again to adapt to the new model laws,” Ms Gillard said.
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Stephen Jones welcomed the changes, saying they would restore cover for Public Servants who were injured while travelling to or from home to work.
Mr Jones said the changes were a “positive first step” in repairing the damage done to workers' compensation protections previously.
“We look forward to examining the fine detail of the changes. However there is still more work to be done to restore full journey cover protection for public Servants,” he said.
A six-week consultation period on the model occupational health and safety legislation is being co-ordinated by Safe Work Australia, with further information and feedback available at www.comcare.gov.au
6 October, 2009
Old age an asset for
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has established a program to encourage Australians 50 and over to act as volunteers and mentors to their communities.
Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Ursula Stephens said the ‘Golden Gurus’ program would take advantage of the skills and experience of older Australians.
Senator Stephens said the Government was seeking expressions of interest from non profit and community organisations that would like to be part of the program.
She said it would commence on 1 January 2010.
Senator Stephens said the Golden Gurus was an idea presented at the Australia 2020 Summit and formed part of the Government’s social inclusion agenda.
“Through the Golden Gurus program, we’d like to recognise the Australians who already give to their communities,” she said.
“We’d also like to encourage more Australians to get on board.”
She said the program also aimed to recognise the work undertaken by organisations with expertise in connecting mature age people to skilled volunteering and mentoring roles.
“Skilled and experienced mature age people voluntarily give their time to support Australian communities and small businesses every day,” she said.
Senator Stephens said mature aged Australians would benefit from the program by meeting new people, developing social networks, accessing free training and participating in an Ambassadors program.
Organisations interested in becoming part of the program could lodge expressions of interest by 30 November 2009.
Mature aged people interested in becoming Golden Gurus could join the mailing list to be notified of future announcements about the program at www.deewr.gov.au
6 October, 2009
Sydney Airport is likely to become the first airport to receive new technology to improve aircraft positioning and landing accuracy.
lands at Airservices
Airservices will begin introducing the world’s first certified Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS) at Australian airports from late 2009.
General Manager of Air Traffic Control at Airservices, Jason Harfield said GBAS could reliably guide aircraft along a predictable, precise landing path by correcting Global Positioning System (GPS) errors and transmitting data directly to an aircraft’s flight management system.
Mr Harfield said Airservices had used its experience in satellite navigation technology to partner with Honeywell, the world’s only GBAS supplier, to develop the Honeywell SmartPath Precision Landing System.
“GBAS is the 21st century alternative to the 1930s-era Instrument Landing Systems and offers major improvements in airport safety, efficiency and capacity,” he said.
Mr Harfield said GBAS was expected to be a critical feature of Australia's future satellite-based air navigation system and had been recognised as a key contributor to similar programs being run by the United States Federal Aviation Administration and European air navigation services provider Eurocontrol.
A combined Honeywell/Airservices' GBAS trial system has been operating at Sydney Airport since November 2006.
Mr Harfield said Qantas aircraft had made more than 2,000 GBAS approaches, with pilots consistently reporting extremely precise and smooth guidance for approach and landing.
“Airservices is now working with domestic and international airlines to encourage take-up of GBAS avionics and to work cooperatively on new, efficient GBAS procedures,” he said.
“We expect to complete the installation in Sydney by the end of the year and are working with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority to achieve the GBAS service approval in 2010.
“By integrating GBAS and other GPS-based operations with air traffic management, Airservices is focused on transitioning to the satellite-based performance-driven air navigation system of the 21st century.”
Mr Harfield said Honeywell is the only GBAS supplier to have achieved system certification by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
6 October, 2009
DEWHA taps into
The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is calling for proposals for projects to help secure water supplies in towns and cities with fewer than 50,000 people.
Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong said the second stage of the National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns program aimed to provide water security for communities facing less water due to climate change.
“Funding under this program will support cities and towns with fewer than 50,000 people to improve the reliability, efficiency and sustainability of their urban water resources while reducing demand on potable supplies,” Senator Wong said.
“Projects that could be supported include recycling and reuse, stormwater capture and reuse schemes, desalination and water sensitive urban design initiatives.”
She encouraged urban water service providers, the private sector, and State, Territory or Local Governments and authorities to apply for funding.
She said consolidated proposals for multiple community facilities could be submitted through an eligible proponent - for example, Local Government.
Senator Wong said funding would be capped at 50 per cent of total project costs, with a minimum Federal contribution of $250,000.
While there is no maximum project size, the Government’s contribution has been capped at $10 million per project.
Senator Wong said applications closed on 1 December 2009 and that projects must be completed by 30 June 2012.
Communities in the Murray-Darling Basin have been encouraged to apply for funding under the Strengthening Basin Communities Program: Water Saving Initiative element which has similar criteria.
Guidelines and further information were available from www.environment.gov.au or by calling 1800 218 478.
6 October, 2009
Mental health month
October has been named Anxiety and Depression Awareness Month to encourage people in workplaces to raise awareness of mental illness and to reduce the stigma surrounding them.
is good thinking
The month’s theme is ‘put anxiety and depression on your radar’, and it is part of the beyondblue: the national depression initiative, funded by the Federal Government and States and Territories.
The awareness month coincides with World Mental Health Day (10 October) and Mental Health Week (4 to 10 October).
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said one in five Australian adults experienced mental illness in any one year, with depression being one of the most common mental health problems.
“Each person with depression has three to four days off work each month on average, resulting in more than six million working days lost each year in Australia,” Ms Roxon said.
“Overall, it is estimated that undiagnosed depression costs the Australian economy $43 billion in lost productivity each year.”
She said the Government was doubling the funding for mental health specific programs over the next four years.
Workplaces could make the most of free beyondblue Anxiety and Depression Awareness Month kits which include materials for raising awareness of mental illness such as information flyers.
The beyondblue website, www.beyondblue.org.au lists a number of activities for groups or individuals to use to raise awareness of anxiety and depression.
For more information about anxiety and depression, including where to go for help, contact the beyondblue info line on 1300 224 636 or visit their website.
6 October, 2009
Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, AUSTRAC has released a new addition to its Public Legal Interpretation (PLI) series.
banks on notices
The PLI series covers the Agency's powers to serve notices to its regulated entities.
Chief Executive Officer of AUSTRAC, John Schmidt said the series aimed to address and interpret some of the key issues arising from the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) and the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (FTR Act).
“This PLI deals with one such key issue as it is relevant to all entities with obligations under Australia's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws,” Mr Schmidt said.
PLIs do not provide legal advice on individual circumstances but aim to help cash dealers and reporting entities better understand their obligations under the AML/CTF regime.
The addition to the series, Notices to reporting entities, provides an interpretation of the grounds on which AUSTRAC has the power to serve notices to reporting entities under the AML/CTF Act and to cash dealers under the FTR Act.
Mr Schmidt said the new notice also covered how a notice may be served, what information a notice must include, and the implications of breaching a notice.
“The PLI series, along with other key AUSTRAC publications and resources, continue to help our regulated population to understand and comply with their obligations under these laws,” he said.
The PLI series was available from www.austrac.gov.au or by contacting the AUSTRAC Help Desk on 1300 021 037.
6 October, 2009
Ad report out
A report into campaign advertising by APS Departments and Agencies in 2008-09 has been released.
The Report shows Government Agencies spent $130 million on media placement in the 2008-09 financial year compared to $185 million in 2007-08 and $170 million in 2006-07.
The Report was developed to assure the public of the objective and factual nature of Government advertising campaigns and was available from www.finance.gov.au
APSC publishes HR newsletter
The Australian Public Service Commission has launched a website to update Agencies on the latest trends in human resources.
Entitled Hot HR, the website features domestic and global news on human resources including a section on what’s happening in the Public Service.
Its first edition includes a speech from the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran on Public Service reform, as well as links to HR fact sheets by the UK Civil Service and US research on HR.
The website is available at www.apsc.gov.au/hothr
Defence expands family health trial
The Australian Defence Force Family Health Trial has been expanded to allow around one in four dependents to register for free basic healthcare.
The expansion is expected to see around 13,300 additional Defence dependents become eligible for the care.
Defence families participating in the trial will be bulk billed for eligible medical treatments, such as general practice consultations, diabetes, asthma and mental health care, health assessments and cervical smear testing and obstetric care.
The second stage of the trial includes Defence families in Townsville and Tully,
Queensland; Puckapunyal, Victoria; Darwin, Nhulunbuy and Alice Springs,
Northern Territory; and Broome and Kununurra, Western Australia.
Data Centre panel announced
An interim panel for data centre facilities and services has been established by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.
Mr Tanner said the panel would provide data centre facilities and services to Government Agencies to ensure they met requirements during the development of the whole-of-government data centre strategy.
The five companies that will make up the panel are Canberra Data Centres, Fujitsu Australia Limited, Global Switch Property Australia, Harbour MSP Pty Ltd and Polaris Data Centres.
DVA reviews organisations
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is conducting a Review of DVA-funded Ex-Service Organisation Advocacy and Welfare Services.
The Department will consult with ex-service organisations and relevant stakeholders during October and November to ensure advocacy and support meets the needs of the veteran community.
Submissions must be received by 6 November 2009. For more information visit www.dva.gov.au
Fire fighters graduate
Twenty four new aviation rescue fire fighters have joined Airservices Australia’s Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) service after graduating from the Airservices Learning
Academy in Melbourne.
The graduate fire fighters completed an intensive 10-week training course, gaining highly specialised skills in aviation fire fighting and rescue procedures.
General Manager of ARFF, Andrew Rushbrook, said that the 24 new recruits would join over 700 professional fire fighters around the nation who respond to 150 emergency calls each week.
Maritime laboratory opens
A new Cavitation Research Laboratory has opened at Launceston’s Australian Maritime College.
The $10 million facility has been described as unique in Australia, and it is one of only a few maritime experimental laboratories in the world used to test the hydrodynamic behaviour of submerged structures in flowing waters, such as submarines.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation will use the facility to undertake maritime experiments.
Water awards open
Nominations are now open for the inaugural Prime Minister’s Water Wise Award, which aims to encourage and recognise significant savings in water efficiency by the industry and the private sector.
Projects are required to demonstrate notable recent water savings and a reduction of water use in comparison to other similar facilities.
Applications close on 30 November 2009 and further information was available from www.awa.asn.au or www.environment.gov.au
PC issues draft pay report
The Productivity Commission has released the discussion draft of its report, Executive Remuneration in Australia, which was commissioned by the Government due to concerns about executive pay practices.
The draft report makes recommendations designed to improve board capacities, reduce conflicts of interest, encourage stakeholder engagement, improve relevant disclosure and to ensure remuneration policies are conceived well.
The Commission will be accepting further submissions and conducting additional public hearings before finalising its report, which was available at www.pc.gov.au
Bets off at Centrelink
Centrelink staff in regional Victoria have launched a campaign to reclaim their annual public holiday for the Melbourne Cup.
More than 600 staff have signed a petition calling on Centrelink to accept that it’s been a long-standing custom for workers to observe the Melbourne Cup holiday; recognise it was not the intention of the latest enterprise bargain to cut out the public holiday; and to continue to grant it to them.
The matter has been taken up by the Community and Public Sector Union.
Rights Committee reports
The National Human Rights Consultation Committee has handed down its report on human rights issues to the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
Mr McClelland described the report as the most extensive consultation on human rights issues in Australia’s history, with over 35,000 submissions received by the Committee and 65 community roundtables and public hearings held across the country.
He said the Government would release the report and its response in coming months.
OzCo to host world summit
The Australia Council for the Arts will host the 5th World Summit on Arts and Culture in Melbourne in 2011.
The Australia Council won a competitive bid process among the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies’ national members from 61 countries.
The Summit is expected to attract over 500 people from arts funding Agencies and cultural organisations from around the world to discuss the impact of arts and culture policies.
Stamps record AFL win
Australia Post has released a souvenir stamp sheet to commemorate Geelong’s win in the 2009 AFL Grand Final.
Each Souvenir Stamp Sheet will feature celebratory post-match images of the Geelong team in the background along with the team name, colours and logo, the final score, the AFL logo and the title of ‘AFL Premiers 2009’.
Each Souvenir Stamp Sheet will feature ten 55 cent stamps and retail for $15.95 at selected Australia Post outlets, via mail order on 1800 331 794 or online at auspost.com.au
ABC hosts bushfire website
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has launched a new interactive website to explore the events and stories of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires.
It is the first comprehensive overview of the events and aftermath of the devastation that occurred on 7 February 2009.
Viewers of the Black Saturday website can organise the content in a number of ways and from multiple perspectives.
The website, www.abc.net.au/blacksaturday features media reports, official documents and eyewitness accounts.