SearchArchives for October 2010
26 October, 2010
A survey to measure the public’s attitude to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and its published information has revealed high levels of approval and regard.
has the numbers
According to the survey, 92 per cent of the people surveyed “trusted” or “greatly trusted” the ABS.
The Bureau commissioned the survey in order to provide national and international benchmarks on trust in official statistics.
Australian Statistician, Brian Pink said he was extremely pleased with the survey results.
“The report shows that the majority of Australians believe the ABS to be a valid and reliable organisation and that the community understand the importance in what the ABS does for Australia,” Mr Pink said.
As well as measuring Australia’s trust in the ABS, the survey also examined knowledge of what the ABS does and how it compared to other organisations.
In addition to trusting the ABS as an institution, 87 per cent said they tended to trust or greatly trust ABS statistics.
Conducted in May and June this year, the survey involved 2,242 respondents from the general public and 137 academics, members of the media and economists around Australia.
All 137 specialist users said they trusted greatly or tended to trust the ABS as an institution.
The survey also revealed that participants were most familiar with Census Australia.
Another finding was that people who knew more about the ABS had a higher level of trust in it, with 64 per cent of those who said they knew the ABS well saying they trusted it greatly as an institution, compared to only 19 per cent of those who had only heard the name.
The Community Trust in ABS Statistics Survey was released last week to coincide with the first World Statistics Day, held on 20 October.
World Statistics Day celebrates the service provided by national and international statistical organisations, in an effort to help strengthen the awareness and trust of the public in official statistics.
26 October, 2010
Police unveil new
The Australian Federal Police has launched its Workforce Diversity Plan.
Introducing the plan at the inaugural meeting of the AFP’s Diversity Council, AFP Commissioner Tony Negus said it recognised the benefits of diversity in organisations.
Mr Negus said the plan built on projects that had already been implemented to support and encourage the different knowledge, skills, backgrounds and perspectives that people bring to their work.
He said the document would provide a focus for integrating diversity through workforce planning, recruitment, development and retention initiatives.
“The plan will encourage all AFP members to play their part in helping the organisation to become a culturally diverse and culturally appreciative workplace,” Mr Negus said.
He said it aimed to address the findings of a Diversity Audit which highlighted the need for stronger governance arrangements and a planning framework.
He said it also built on current workforce planning, recruitment and diversity initiatives, and generated more awareness within the organisation of the benefits of workplace diversity.
Mr Negus said the Plan incorporated four sub-plans that targetted diversity groups which have a lower than average workforce participation rate in the AFP, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, women, people with disabilities, and culturally and linguistically diverse groups.
He said it would be reviewed annually to ensure currency and effectiveness, with the results to be presented to the AFP’s Senior Leadership Group.
He said the AFP believed diversity made it a stronger organisation because it allowed it to operate more effectively in Australia’s multicultural community, improved communication with international law enforcement partners and brought new and creative responses to issues and challenges.
Mr Negus said the AFP supported diversity in several ways, including through an Employee Assistance Program, the Malunggang Indigenous Officers Network, a Gay and Lesbian Officer Network, a Women’s Network, a network of Harassment Contact Officers and Confidantes, and an Employee Management Plan.
Multicultural Liaison Officer Sam Huang of the AFP College said being an MLO had given him the opportunity to interact with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“I enjoyed the role and learnt a lot about different cultures and religions,” Mr Huang said.
“I am also interested in working with the International Deployment Group, using my cultural knowledge to help people deploying overseas.”
26 October, 2010
Court gives verdict
The Federal Court of Australia has announced its criteria for determining priorities in hearing native title cases.
on native title cases
According to the Court it is not possible for all pending native title cases to be intensively managed at the same time and it was therefore necessary for the Court to determine priorities.
In its announcement, the Federal Court said the move would ensure that cases were properly resourced and efficiently progressed to trial or mediated outcomes.
It said cases that, for a variety of reasons, may never result in a native title or related outcome could also be identified and managed appropriately.
“The process of making decisions about the order in which a Court will deal with pending cases involves numerous factors to be taken into account,” the Court said.
“This process is complicated by the need to consider cases on a State, Territory or regional basis.
It said it approached the difficult and important issue by reviewing each case, either through directions hearings, regional case management conferences, State or region based callovers or State based users’ forums.
“The views of the applicants and all parties are relevant,” it said.
The announcement included the Court’s criteria for determining priorities, which include whether the case involves a matter of public interest; whether resolution of the case would impact on other cases or the attitudes of the parties and in turn speed up the resolution of other related cases.
It also considered the level of future act activity, the views of the parties, the level of preparedness of the Applicant and the age of the case.
The Court said it acknowledged that the priority list of native title cases would evolve and change for a variety of reasons.
“Some may think their cases should be included and others may think their cases should be excluded,” the announcement said.
“As such the list may change, as matters are resolved, removed or included and a current and interactive list will be maintained on the Court’s website.
“Cases not mentioned on the list are also important and the Court will maintain an oversight of all pending cases through the Court’s usual case conferences, directions hearings or callovers.
“It may also be assumed that the Court or the National Native Title Tribunal will actively manage other cases not on the list.”
26 October, 2010
Control centre to
The Australian Counter Terrorism Control Centre (CTCC) has been officially opened in Canberra.
take on terrorism
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Centre would help improve the coordination of Australia’s counter-terrorism intelligence.
They said in a joint statement that the Centre would set and manage counter-terrorism priorities, identify intelligence requirements and ensure the process of collecting and distributing intelligence was fully integrated.
Ms Gillard and Mr McClelland said Australia’s national security capability would be strengthened by improving the ability to prepare for and respond to significant threats.
The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is to host the Centre, with representatives from key security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate.
The Ministers said last year’s failed attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253 highlighted the need for national security agencies to operate “seamlessly in sharing information and intelligence”.
They said the Centre was a recommendation of the Government’s Counter-Terrorism White Paper, which reported that Australia was still a key terrorist target, with prominent terrorists and extremists encouraging attacks within the country both before and after 11 September 2001.
“By providing a flexible and focused counter-terrorism capability, the CTCC represents a significant advance in Australia’s national security arrangements,” Ms Gillard and Mr McClelland said.
26 October, 2010
Triple zero gets
The Chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued an assurance that the emergency call number, Triple Zero, is in no danger of being changed.
The Chair, Chris Chapman, described as incorrect and irresponsible recent media reports saying Triple Zero could be replaced by the number 112.
Appearing before a Senate Estimates hearing, Mr Chapman said the Triple Zero number was Australia’s primary emergency service number and should always be used in the first instance.
“The number 112 is the GSM international standard emergency number, which can only be dialled on a digital mobile phone,” Mr Chapman said.
“It is accepted as a secondary international emergency number in some parts of the world, including Australia, and can be dialled in areas of GSM network coverage with the call automatically translated to that country’s emergency number.
“Importantly, 112 cannot be used to access the emergency call service from fixed lines in Australia.”
Mr Chapman said Triple Zero – which has been Australia’s primary emergency service number since 1961 – ensured that people could dial one free number to access fire, ambulance and police services in emergencies.
He said there was a high level of awareness of the number, and that recent research commissioned by ACMA showed that almost 95 per cent of Australians were aware that they should call Triple Zero in an emergency.
Mr Chapman said there were no benefits – such as quicker access to the emergency call service - from calling 112 as opposed to Triple Zero.
“The Australian community can be assured that Triple Zero is, and will remain, the number to call in a time-critical emergency situation,” Mr Chapman said.
He said ACMA – which has responsibility for the designation of the emergency call number through the Australian Numbering Plan – was working with industry and emergency organisations to reduce the number of non-emergency calls made to Triple Zero.
“Every year, the operator of the Triple Zero service receives many calls which are non-life threatening or non-time critical, such as from misdials, automatically generated calls from incorrectly programmed fax machines or modems, callers reporting matters that are not emergencies, and hoax and malicious calls,” he said.
In 2009-2010, the total number of calls made to Triple Zero was 8.8 million, a decrease of 1.5 million from the previous year.
26 October, 2010
Expenditure on Government advertising has gone down for the second year in a row. Releasing the full year report on campaign advertising by Commonwealth Departments and Agencies for 2009-10, Special Minister of State Gary Gray said the reduced activity was delivering on an election promise.
deliver right message
He said the report showed advertising spending had fallen from $185.3 million in 2007-08, to $130.1 million in 2008-09 and to $114.7 million in 2009-10.
He said the Government pledged in 2008 to undertake twice-yearly reporting on advertising campaigns costing more than $250,000 following a report by Dr Allan Hawke entitled Independent Review of Government Advertising Arrangements.
Mr Gray said other changes introduced as a result of the review included “tougher” guidelines which required campaigns to be free of political argument and the removal of previous arrangements which saw a Ministerial Committee making key decisions on advertising campaigns.
He said reporting and transparency arrangements had also been improved and expenditure reduced.
“These governance measures will continue to ensure campaigns are independently reviewed and properly targeted, with the intent of informing the community about important Government policies and programs,” Mr Gray said.
The 2009-2010 report includes data gathered from the Government’s Central Advertising System, which consolidates Government advertising expenditure and optimises media discounts through whole-of-Government negotiated media rates.
“The report delivers on the Government’s commitment to increase accountability and transparency in relation to campaign advertising expenditure, and provides Australians with a transparent picture of how taxpayers’ money is spent on Government advertising,” Mr Gray said.
“This trend is set to continue with the Government committed to reducing expenditure on Government advertising by a further $60 million over the forward estimates period,” he said.
26 October, 2010
ABC serious with
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has launched a new games and technology gateway.
The gateway – abc.net.au/technology – includes a range of ABC technology and games-related content available at the one location.
It features text articles and rich media content from ABC news, radio and television programs including Good Game, Future Tense, Lateline and Inside Business.
The ABC said the site would have a broad scope, and that while most articles would have general appeal, it would also focus on specialist areas which either assumed knowledge - for example, aspects of web development and professional gaming - or a lack of knowledge - such as silver surfer articles and basic ‘How To’ guides.
Nick Ross has been appointed to edit the technology and games gateway and oversee original content, drawing from Australia’s leading technology and gaming journalists, community leaders, experts and publications.
Content is to change daily and reflect the latest news and events, with an emphasis on specialist subjects and issues relating to the broader industry and Australian society.
The ABC said the gateway aimed to support Australia’s existing technology and game industry and provide a place where publications and communities were invited to reach a different audience.
Guest writers will write opinion and analysis on a range of topics of interest to the wider industry or related to niche audiences.
The ABC said the technology and games gateway would initially launch in beta to allow a period of development in response to audience preferences and usage.
26 October, 2010
Council speaks up for
The reform wing of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has congratulated its constituent Governments on advances being made in literacy and numeracy.
Releasing its second year report on national agreements in education, skills and workplace development, the COAG Reform Council said there had been “significant improvement” between 2008 and 2009 in primary school literacy and numeracy achievements, both nationally and at the State and Territory level.
Chairman of the COAG Reform Council, Paul McClintock said the second year reports – National Education Agreement: Performance report for 2009 and National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development: Performance report for 2009 – aimed to focus on progress and measure change over time.
“It is particularly encouraging to see that these national improvements were evident among Indigenous students and students from low socio-economic backgrounds,” Mr McClintock said.
He said the Council also identified a significant drop between 2008 and 2009 in the number of young people participating in full-time employment after school, which he said coincided with the economic downturn.
Employment outcomes for training graduates were also worse in a majority of States and Territories over the same period.
“Although the worst of the economic downturn is behind us, it’s crucial that COAG continues to address the repercussions,” Mr McClintock said.
He said while there were some improvements, the Council wanted COAG to address “substantial data inadequacies” in order to improve public accountability.
A separate report by the Productivity Commission also found that improvements in English language, literacy and numeracy skills of working age Australians could have a positive impact on worker participation and wage rates.
Minister for Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans welcomed the findings of the Productivity Commission report, Links Between Literacy and Numeracy Skills and Labour Market Outcomes.
“This report highlights the importance of the action the Australian Government is taking across all sectors to improve the language, literacy and numeracy skills of Australians,” Senator Evans said.
The report found that people with higher skills were more likely to participate in the labour force, be employed in higher-skilled occupations, and earn more, compared to those with lower skills”.
26 October, 2010
Missing persons ad
A television commercial produced for the Australian Federal Police has won an international award at Cannes.
finds world acclaim
The AFP won the Silver Dolphin Award at the Cannes Corporate Media and TV Awards for its advertisement for 2009 National Missing Persons Week campaign.
The AFP’s commercial beat 26 others from international companies, including BMW, ING Direct, Bayer and Mercedes.
The 60-second commercial ran in the lead-up to the 2009 National Missing Persons Week campaign and showed four families sharing their stories of loss and anxiety.
The AFP said the ad reflected the theme of the campaign, Not knowing is like living in darkness.
The advertisement was produced by members of the AFP’s Corporate Communications team, Marina Simoncini, Greg Primmer and Mike Punch, along with Canberra-based production company Screencraft.
National Missing Persons Week, held each August, aims to raise awareness of the issues and impacts surrounding missing persons.
Last year the campaign focused on older people with dementia, who are considered to be a key group at risk of going missing.
The AFP said each year in Australia about 35,000 people are reported missing, or one person every 15 minutes.
More information on National Missing Persons Week is available from www.missingpersons.gov.au
The award winning commercial can be viewed here.
26 October, 2010
Unionist MP praises
Former PS Union boss, now Member of Parliament, Stephen Jones, used his maiden speech in the House of Representatives to praise hard working Public Servants, particularly those involved with the Community and Public Sector Union.
“I cannot speak more highly of the men and women who are members of the CPSU,” Mr Jones, a former National Secretary of the organisation, said.
“They are as committed to the performance of the public services they deliver as they are to their union.”
Mr Jones worked for the CPSU for over 16 years and is a now life member.
Before his appointment as National Secretary, he held various positions in the Union, including delegate, organiser and lawyer.
“In that time I undertook many hard-fought campaigns against some formidable and well-resourced opponents, many of them who sit in this place,” Mr Jones said in his speech.
He said many Public Servants had stuck by their union when it was not only unfashionable to do so but when in many cases it was a job-jeopardising move.
“To the hundreds of CPSU men and women who lost their jobs over the last decade for little other reason than that they were a union representative, I honour your commitment, and I will do my bit here to ensure that this country never again recedes into the industrial bigotry which made that possible.
“I was involved in many campaigns which demonstrated to me and hopefully others that unions were often the last line of defence when things went really wrong.”
Mr Jones said he was proud as a unionist to have campaigned for job security for Telstra and telecommunications employees, and to have helped staffers of the collapsed company OneTel receive all their entitlements.
“I think unions are an important part of any free society,” he said, “and in Australia the union movement is probably the only independent body of men and women that has the reach, the resources and the inclination to challenge and question the dictates of power, whether Government or corporate.”
The full text of his speech can be accessed here.
26 October, 2010
Aussie astronomer to
An astronomer from the Australian Astronomical Observatory who discovered a comet in 1986 is to be at NASA’s Mission Control in the United States next month when a US spacecraft flies past it.
star in NASA mission
Malcolm Hartley came across the comet Hartley 2 operating the AAO’s UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring near Coonabarabran in NSW.
“Part of my job was to scan the Schmidt’s photographic plates by eye, and over the years I have spotted a number of comets,” Mr Hartley said.
There have been 10 comets named after Mr Hartley, including his second discovery, ‘Hartley 2’, which has a diameter of between 1.2 and 1.6 kilometres, and orbits the Sun every 6.46 years.
Mr Hartley left for the United States on 20 October, with NASA arranging and paying for the trip.
The NASA EPOXI spacecraft is to fly past the comet on 4 November US time. It is the same spacecraft that in 2005 launched a projectile into comet Tempel 1, which created a bright dust cloud that was observed and analysed to learn about the comet’s composition.
The acronym EPOXI came from two current projects: the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI), and the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterisation (EPOCh).
The spacecraft will carry out Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterisation as it travels to Hartley 2, and the Deep Impact Extended Investigation as it flies by.
The spacecraft will come within 700km of Hartley 2, looking for frozen compounds on the comet’s surface and mapping outbursts of gas, the distribution of craters, and temperature variations across the comet’s surface.
Comets formed in the outer Solar System help scientists understand the early history of the System.
There are about 4,000 comets known to exist, although it is estimated that there are about a trillion comet-like bodies in the outer Solar System.
The Australian Astronomical Observatory is part of the Commonwealth Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
26 October, 2010
New laws increasing the transparency of, and accountability for, donations to political parties have been introduced into Parliament.
come to the party
Special Minister of State Gary Gray said the legislation would reduce the maximum value of anonymous donations.
Mr Gray said the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010 was the Government’s third attempt to increase transparency and reduce the maximum value of anonymous donations.
“On both previous occasions, those Bills have been blocked in the Senate,” Mr Gray said.
He said regulation of political party activity had been significantly tightened since 1984, helping ensure that Australian politics did not experience problems that had been encountered in some countries overseas.
But he said it was important to remain vigilant to ensure that regulation was as strong as possible.
Mr Gray said under the proposed laws, the disclosure threshold for donations would be reduced from $11,500 to $1,000, and the prohibition on anonymous donations extended to those over $50 that were received at a general public activity, such as a fete, or at a private event, such as a dinner or a quiz night.
The legislation would also prohibit the use of anonymous donations by third parties for political expenditure, except for anonymous donations of $50 or less that are received at a general public activity or a private event.
Foreign donations would be banned and donation-splitting – where donations to separate branches of a party are treated as separate donations - would also be prevented.
The proposed changes would also see the frequency of disclosure of donations increase from annually to every six months.
Public funding for registered political parties, unendorsed candidates and unendorsed Senate groups would be tied to genuine election expenditure incurred during the period from the issuing of the writs for an election to the end of polling day.
If they are passed by Parliament, the new laws will commence on 1 July next year.
Mr Gray said the Government would be “building a dialogue” with the Coalition, the Australian Greens and independent members in an effort to reform campaign financing.
He said the Bill was part of a commitment to the Australian Greens and the independent MPs to reform donation, disclosure and funding laws for political parties and election campaigns.
26 October, 2010
Malta forum sees way
An international forum for Commonwealth Ministers on Public Sector Development held in Malta was to focus on new approaches to delivering public services to citizens according to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma.
to sharpen PS focus
Held last week, the Forum was attended by more than 20 Ministers who play a key role in public sector reform and the delivery of public services, along with senior Public Service officials.
Mr Sharma said participants focused on how to provide more responsive and flexible leadership processes, as well as systems and structures that would encourage innovation in delivery.
“Public sector development is a process of continuous learning and improvement,” Mr Sharma said.
“In a context where the resources available to the sector are either scarce or reduced, innovation is of particular importance to ensure improved service delivery and to meet the increasing demands for efficiency and quality.”
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Ransford Smith chaired the meeting that focused on the trends, challenges and priority actions that governments needed to take to ensure accountability, transparency, predictability, capacity and participation - Commonwealth principles of good governance.
A new publication, Commonwealth Good Governance Developing Capacity in the Public Sector was also launched by Mr Sharma.
This publication highlights the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work to strengthen government institutions responsible for delivering or facilitating the delivery of public services in areas including public-private partnerships, National ICT policy development, human resource development, combating corruption and alternative service delivery.
26 October, 2010
The Council of Australian Government’s Reform Council has called on the Commonwealth and States in the Murray-Darling Basin to improve their accountability in delivering water reforms under bilateral Water Management Partnerships.
in hot water
Chairman of the COAG Reform Council, Paul McClintock said the first progress report - Water Management Partnerships: Report on Performance 2009 – dealt with one aspect of the overarching Agreement on Murray-Darling Basin Reform, Water Management Partnerships worth up to $3.7bn.
Mr McClintock said the report found that Basin States had made satisfactory progress on their 2009 obligations, such as bringing in new performance standards for processing water trading.
However, he said a key concern was that the Partnerships did not reflect the full range of water reforms set out by COAG in the overarching Agreement.
“Overall we found good progress, but this was not surprising given the limited and relatively unambitious nature of the reform obligations,” Mr McClintock said.
He said the milestones in the Partnership were “silent” on major reforms such as the Basin Plan, and other reform responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the Basin States.
“Although a lot of important work is underway to improve water management in the Basin, the current Partnerships do not reflect this, and they don’t tell us the full story of how Governments are working together to achieve this goal,” Mr McClintock said.
“As a result, our report can only present a partial and somewhat confusing picture of the progress of water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin.”
The Council recommended that water reform milestones be established for the Commonwealth.
Mr McClintock said the Federal Government had a central role to play in water reform and that specific Commonwealth milestones would ensure that they could be held to the same level of accountability as the Basin States.
Other recommendations included that Governments ensure there were clear and accountable pathways to achieving the full range of water reforms.
The report also provides an overview of Governments’ progress in developing and delivering the 17 priority projects of the Agreement.
The report is available at www.coagreformcouncil.gov.au
26 October, 2010
Opportunities for rural and regional students hoping to go to university have been improved with extra funding and a new taskforce.
to fill the bill
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, and Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean, said in a joint statement that a $20 million Rural Tertiary Hardship Fund would operate from 1 January next year to make it easier for young people from the country to attend university.
“The Rural and Regional Taskforce would provide advice and assistance to Government to enable young rural and regional students to attend university,” Senator Evans said.
He said Professor Tony Vinson would Chair the Taskforce, which will also include the President of the National Union of Students, Carla Drakeford, Vice Chancellor of James Cook University, Professor Sandra Harding; Chief Executive of Anglicare Tasmania, Dr Chris Jones; and Institute Director of North Coast TAFE, Elizabeth McGregor.
“The Fund is one of the ways in which the Government is helping more rural and regional students, aged 25 years and younger, to undertake higher education,” Senator Evans said.
Mr Crean welcomed the announcement, saying education was the “greater enabler” and that the Government wanted to ensure everyone had the opportunity to access education.
“This is an important step forward for rural Australia and the high-calibre Taskforce will help ensure the $20 million is well targeted,” Mr Crean said.
The Fund will operate until 30 June 2013.
It will be on top of the benefits available to rural and regional students under the Youth Allowance reform package, delivered by the Government earlier this year, which relaxed the parental income test, and included scholarships and a reduction in the age of independence.
The Taskforce will report its recommendations to Government on the eligibility criteria by 30 November this year.
26 October, 2010
Carers tuck in to
A new discussion paper has been released in support of the development of a National Carer Strategy.
The paper Towards a National Carer Strategy outlines proposals for improved support and greater recognition of carers and invites public feedback and submissions.
The discussion paper was launched by the Minister for Community Services, Jenny Macklin, Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas.
In their joint statement the Ministers said they wanted to hear the views of carers on how to achieve better opportunities for work and education, improve health and wellbeing for carers and provide better access to information and support.
They said $175,000 had been provided to Carers Australia and Children with Disability to hold discussion forums with carers about their ideas for the Strategy.
Direct consultations will also be held with carer organisations, advocates and service providers across the country.
The National Carer Strategy will be a 10-year agenda to support carers, drive reform, and guide policy development and the delivery of services for carers.
The Federal Government is to work with its State and Territory counterparts to deliver the Strategy in the first half of 2011.
The Ministers said the Strategy would complement the Carer Recognition Bill which recognises that all carers should have the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians.
Government-funded organisations that support carers, or the people they care for, will be required to adopt the principles outlined in the Bill
“The Government values the enormous social and economic contribution of carers all over Australia who are caring for people with disability, mental illness or other medical conditions and the frail and aged,” the Ministers said.
More information is available from www.health.gov.au and submissions close on 5 December.
26 October, 2010
SES goes live
The Australian Public Service Commission has launched a news service for the SES, SES Live Updates.
This new communication channel will offer news and information considered important to members of the Senior Executive Service and needing to be communicated promptly, rather than waiting for a periodical to be published or mail to be received.
Updated content from the website can be accessed by browser or news aggregator on a desktop or smartphone via RSS.
The site is available at www.apsc.gov.au/ses
Chancery for Holy See
The first permanent Chancery of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See has been officially opened.
Until the appointment of Ambassador Tim Fischer, the Australian Embassy had non-resident status.
Staff have been working from the new Chancery since its completion on 27 July 2010.
Ministers get website
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland has launched the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM) website.
“The CLMM is an ideal forum for working together to promote the rule of law, recognition of human rights and improve access to justice across the Commonwealth,” Mr McClelland said.
It is the first time Australia has hosted the CLMM, a summit meeting of First Law Officers of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries that will be held in Sydney from 11 to 14 July 2011.
The new website is at www.clmm2011.org
Post makes a packet
Australia Post achieved a pre-tax profit of $103 million for 2009-2010.
Its underlying profit was $253 million, but this figure included a $150 million provision for business restructuring and voluntary redundancy costs.
Chairman of Australia Post, David Mortimer welcomed the figures, saying they came against a backdrop of a 4.2% decline in mail volumes in what was the toughest year in Australia Post’s history.
Telstra to be divided
Legislation to allow for the structural separation of Telstra’s retail wing from the rest of the company is to be reintroducing into Parliament.
The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 was blocked in the Senate before the election.
The Agreement allows NBN Co to access Telstra’s pits, ducts and other infrastructure, which the Government says will lead to a more efficient and cost effective rollout of the NBN.
ACCC/NBN join for paper
A discussion paper released jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and NBN Co. invites public comment on the proposed points of interconnect (POI) for the National Broadband Network.
ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel said the POIs (where one network’s traffic is passed to another) have important implications for the future of competition in the telecommunications industry.
The paper is available from www.accc.gov.au and comments will be received until 8 November 2010.
Climate votes now on
People can now vote for their favourite original 60 second advertisement produced by Australian students as part of the Shout Out for Climate Change competition.
The Shout Out for Climate Change competition was launched in May this year, with more than 2,300 students submitting entries.
To vote in the People’s Choice category, go to www.climatechange.gov.au
GST change for boats
A discussion paper recommending changes to the GST on new boats used for recreational purposes has been released.
Under the changes, boat buyers would be able to sail new Australian-made boats in our waters for up to 12 months without paying GST
New boats used for recreational purposes would also be GST‑free, if they were exported from Australia within 12 months of supply.
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten said the changes would improve opportunities for boat manufacturers and increase jobs in the sector.
The consultation paper is available at www.treasury.gov.au and consultation closes on 16 November 2010.
AFP signs for ACT
The Australian Federal Police have signed the 2010/11 annual Purchase Agreement for the delivery of policing services to the ACT.
The annual Agreement includes 34 performance measures and outlines the nature and cost of police services that will be provided to the ACT through the AFP.
The 2010 - 2011 Agreement requires ACT Policing to take a leadership role with partner Agencies in the delivery of liquor industry reforms in the ACT.
Digital paper out
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released a discussion paper seeking comment on technical and policy issues associated with the reallocation of the ‘digital dividend’ spectrum.
Digital dividend (or the 700 MHz band of radio spectrum) will become available for reassignment to new licensees as Australia completes its transition to digital television.
Chair of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the discussion paper provided a roadmap setting out the planned process for reallocation of the digital dividend and also identified key issues that would shape the configuration and allocation of the band.
For more information, visit www.acma.gov.au
Tax rules for Native Title
National consultations on the tax treatment of native title are to be continued with the release of a discussion paper.
The paper explores how existing deductible gift recipient categories could be adapted to reflect the needs of Indigenous communities and canvasses reforms to ensure that native title agreements deliver the best possible outcomes for Indigenous people.
Consultations were held earlier this year but were suspended due to the caretaker period.
The Government will continue the consultations in Darwin on 3 November, Perth on 4 November and Canberra on 8 November.
19 October, 2010
The powers of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) are to be widened to include Customs and Border Protection.
wins more powers
Responding to a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ACLEI, the Government has agreed to expand the role of the Commission which already investigates corruption allegations in the Australian Crime Commission and Australian Federal Police.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the Government welcomed the recommendation to expand the authority’s jurisdiction.
He said it was important Australia’s law enforcement Agencies operated free from corruption and with the highest integrity.
“It is paramount that Customs and Border Protection officers are subject to the same level of accountability and scrutiny that other federal law enforcement agencies are held to,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Customs officers are on the frontline of our border protection and law enforcement and because of that they are vulnerable to efforts by criminals to exploit their knowledge and power.”
The changes – to come into effect in January next year – will see ACLEI given the power to investigate allegations of corruption relating to the law enforcement functions of Customs and Border Protection.
The changes will be achieved through regulation before being legislated.
Mr O’Connor said ACLEI would also receive an extra $2.7 million over four years to strengthen integrity arrangements for Customs.
Integrity Commissioner, Philip Moss, welcomed the recommendation to expand his role.
“This measure means that the three significant Agencies with law enforcement functions, and which frequently act together to combat serious and organised crime at the border, will have the same integrity oversight arrangements,” Mr Moss said.
“I look forward to working in partnership with Customs and Border Protection to maintain and enhance the integrity of its officers.”
The Minister thanked the Parliamentary Committee and its Chair, Melissa Parke.
It is expected that the final report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ACLEI will be released later this year.
19 October, 2010
The failed Home Insulation Program harmed the reputation of the Australian Public Service, created financial difficulties for the insulation industry, caused serious inconvenience to householders and possibly led to four fatalities according to the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee.
But it also served up a number of important lessons for the APS.
In his report Home Insulation Program tabled in Parliament last week, Mr McPhee said the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts lacked the experience to implement the project, failed to identify or manage its risks adequately and was overwhelmed by the public’s demand for its services.
“This experience underlines very starkly just how critical sound program design and
implementation practices are to achieving policy outcomes,” the Auditor-General said.
“There are important lessons here for those Agencies with policy implementation
responsibilities but also those responsible for policy development.”
He said the Department faced a tight implementation timeframe for the program, suffered from delays in launching its compliance effort and under-resourced the program administration.
“High staff turnover was coupled with an inability to recruit staff quickly enough to
replace those who departed,” he said.
“These were sure signs of a program in trouble.”
The Auditor-General found DEWHA failed to inform its Minister of the problems when they became evident.
“Any matters, such as these, that have a significant bearing on a Department’s capacity to deliver programs consistent with the Government’s policy, should be brought to the relevant Minister(s) attention promptly,” he said, “with advice on the steps taken, or options available, to remedy the program’s performance.”
The Auditor-General did not make any recommendations in his report but included a full chapter on lessons learned from the Home Insulation Program outcome.
Among the lessons he identified were:
The full Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au and the audit team comprised Peter McVay, Kylie Jackson, Marissa Christian, William Fitzgerald, Michelle Johnson, Melanie Hall and Barbara Cass.
- To develop appropriate assumptions;
- To identify critical program components early;
- To plan demand-driven programs;
- To provide proactive and effective oversight and response to emerging problems;
- To treat risks effectively and in a timely manner;
- To identify resources and systems to support implementation; and
- To establish appropriate compliance and audit programs.
19 October, 2010
Saint’s law keeps her
The Federal Government is to enact special laws to control the use of names associated with Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first Catholic Saint.
holier than thou
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard announced the move on the eve of the Saint’s canonisation on 17 October.
Under the changes, the Corporations Regulations 2001 are to be amended to prevent requests for use of a company name suggesting a connection with the new Saint Mary of the Cross unless Ministerial approval is granted.
For instance, the Prime Minister said, company names could not include the text ‘Mary MacKillop’, ‘Saint MacKillop’ or possibly even ‘Our Mary’, depending on the context.
“The decision to grant additional protections reflects the significance of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop for millions of Australians,” Ms Gillard said.
She said the new measure would provide the highest level of protection currently provided for any individual Australian’s name, with Sir Donald Bradman the only other Australian whose name had similar protection.
Existing laws will also prevent the improper use of Saint Mary’s name, including the Trade Marks Act 1995, Trade Practices Act 1974, equivalent State laws, and the common law.
Ms Gillard said the new measure recognised the significance of Mary MacKillop’s life, not only to Australia’s five million Catholics, but to people nationwide.
She said the amendment complemented the Government’s $1.5 million package to assist with the commemoration of the canonisation, which included support for a delegation of youth and Indigenous representatives who attended the canonisation ceremony in Rome and the inclusion of the Mary MacKillop Canonisation Gift Fund as a specifically listed deductible gift recipient.
19 October, 2010
A review of the role played by advisers in Australia’s overseas aid program for Papua New Guinea is likely to see more than a third of them relieved of their positions.
Part of an overall examination of advisers in the Australian aid program, the PNG review was announced in the May Budget Statement.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd welcomed the completion of the review, saying it would lead to a more effective Australian aid program in PNG.
“The Australian Government is committed to strengthening the aid program and ensuring value-for-money across all the development assistance programs,” Mr Rudd said.
He said he had discussed the report with the PNG Foreign Minister, Sam Abal. Both agreed the review had been a valuable exercise to ensure a more targeted allocation of advisers and a reduction in the level of advisory support.
According to Mr Rudd, the review examined the role of each of the 487 adviser positions to check whether they were playing an effective part in meeting agreed development needs and priorities.
Mr Rudd said as a result, over one third of positions would be phased out within two years.
He said however, the review confirmed that advisers deployed in a targeted and cost-effective way could be a valued and effective part of Australian aid to PNG.
Mr Rudd said AusAID advisers had helped carry out an immunisation program which ensured that 81 percent of children from a target of 1.148 million received a vaccination against measles and other childhood diseases.
He said knowledge and skills had also been transferred from advisers to their PNG counterparts to ensure advisory support was no longer needed.
The review took into consideration that skills transfer would remain a high priority over the next decade.
“Australia remains committed to assisting PNG with the effective delivery of the LNG project, and will continue to work separately with PNG on addressing some immediate capacity gaps,” Mr Rudd said.
He said similar reviews of advisers in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu had also been conducted and were in the process of finalisation.
He said the report outlining the final outcomes of the overall Australian aid program adviser review would be considered by the Government “in due course”.
Australia’s use of advisers in its overseas development program attracted controversy earlier this year after media reports revealed some advisers were earning up to $743,000 a year.
The Australian National Audit Office’s most recent report into AusAID said Australia relied “too much” on technical assistance and capacity building.
19 October, 2010
Customs rejects union
The Customs and Border Protection Service has defended itself against claims its officers were catching tuberculosis from asylum seekers while at the same time missing out on allowances and working conditions at sea.
health and pay claims
The Service issued a statement describing the claims, made by the Community and Public Sector Union, as “misleading”.
The CPSU said Customs and Border Protection staff protecting fish stocks in the Southern Ocean were better off than those tackling people-smugglers in the Indian Ocean.
National Secretary of the union, Nadine Flood said the Customs marine officers were the forgotten frontline.
“They spend months at sea trying to intercept people smugglers,” Ms Flood said.
“It’s difficult, demanding and dangerous work, yet they are paid less than officers protecting the Patagonian tooth fish in the Southern Ocean.”
She said the Customs Officers’ work had changed in recent years but their pay and conditions had not kept up.
She said they wanted their allowances brought into line; employment conditions that recognised their health risks; fairer leave arrangements; fairer training arrangements and better scheduling for patrols.
In its statement, Customs said the allegations of officers contracting TB from asylum seekers were misleading.
A spokesperson said that in the past three years, six officers had tested positive to exposure to Latent Tuberculosis Infection – a non-infections disease that is very different to active TB.
“The tests indicate that the six officers were possibly exposed to LTBI,” the statement said.
“All were appropriately referred to specialists and treated with antibiotics which considerably reduce the small chance of developing the active disease.
“Five of these officers have completed a successful course of treatment and the sixth is undertaking the six-month treatment course.
“Tests cannot conclusively identify the source of exposure.”
The statement said officers working for the marine unit were provided with a range of preventative measures to help protect them against infectious diseases.
It said the Service was also in the process of negotiating a new Enterprise Agreement with all staff, including those in the marine unit.
It said under the current Agreement, officers working in the Southern Ocean received a special allowance of $170 a day to compensate them for working in harsh Antarctic conditions.
“In recognition that the role of Customs and Border Protection in maritime security has been greatly enhanced in recent years, the Chief Executive Officer has committed to a full review of pay and conditions of Marine Unit Officers,” it said.
Customs also denied charges that its officers had been deployed on a continuous patrol for 92 days, saying the average deployment was 45 days.
19 October, 2010
Tax Office bounces
The Australian Taxation Office has warned that counterfeit tax cheques are being circulated.
on dodgy cheques
Taxation Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said the cheques were being sent from overseas as advance payment for accommodation, frequently often around or near universities.
He said they were supposedly issued by the ATO and drawn on the Reserve Bank of Australia.
He said they were generally for a few thousand dollars more than the asking rent and included a request for the balance of the overpayment to be returned via a Western Union transfer.
“The counterfeit cheques are realistic in look and feel authentic,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“Only after being put through a fluorescent scanner are they revealed to be fakes.’
He said other scams involved people being asked to provide financial or personal details via phone, email or in person.
“The ATO never sends emails asking people to provide their personal information or credit card details,” he said.
The Commissioner said it was important for people to verify the identity of a caller claiming to be from the Government or a financial institution by independently finding their contact details and contacting them directly.
He said people should never provide personal details or give money to someone unless they had independently checked their identity.
The ATO website contains information on recent scams and scam examples that had been reported to the ATO and this could be accessed at www.ato.gov.au
The Commissioner advised people to contact their bank or financial institution if they were concerned that they had given their account details to a scammer.
19 October, 2010
An updated list of Defence projects considered to be “of concern” has been issued by the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith and the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare.
Established in 2008 to focus the attention of Defence and industry senior management on projects likely to come up against problems, the Projects of Concern list has proven itself successful in remediating a number of complex and challenging tasks in the past.
The projects are placed on the list by the Minister for Defence Materiel at the recommendation of the Chief Executive of the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO).
Examples of listed projects include those facing significant challenges with scheduling, cost or capability delivery.
Mr Clare said he had added the project of replacing the AP-3C Orion aircraft’s Electronic Support Measures system following advice from his Department.
“The advice to me from the Defence Materiel Organisation is that BAE Systems, awarded the Prime Contract in 2007, is currently 18 months behind the delivery schedule for the upgraded Electronic Support Measures equipment,” Mr Clare said.
“I look forward to the DMO and contractor demonstrating a renewed effort toward delivering this important capability to the Australian Defence Force as soon as possible.”
Mr Clare said the Air-to-Air Refuelling aircraft project and the landing watercraft for HMA Ships Manoora and Kanimbla were also on the current list of Projects of Concern.
He said the Air-to-Air Refuelling project was put on the list because it was facing delays of more than 18 months and the main focus now was on addressing further schedule risk.
He said he would keep working with the contractor, Airbus Military, to ensure delivery and acceptance of two first-of-type tanker aircraft by the end of 2010.
“I toured the aircraft conversion centre in Brisbane last week and was briefed on progress,” Mr Clare said.
“Our focus is now on working with Airbus Military in Spain on developmental activities to support timely completion of testing and supporting activities.”
The Minister said the landing watercraft project was originally approved in 1997 and had not been able to prove it met the needs for the operational roles on HMA Ships Kanimbla and Manoora and for support of land forces.
The updated list brings to 17 the total number of projects placed on the list since 2008 during which time six had been removed, five due to remediation and one due to cancellation.
Other projects on the list included one associated with the Collins Class submarine; the ‘Wedgetail’ airborne early warning and control aircraft; anti-ship missile defence radar upgrades for Anzac class frigates; high frequency communications and data exchange capability for sea, air and land forces; the ‘Vigilare’ aerospace surveillance and command and control system; unmanned airborne surveillance for land forces; replacement medium-heavy field vehicles, trailers and modules for land forces; and a lightweight torpedo replacement for Anzac and Adelaide class frigates.
19 October, 2010
DVD focuses on warm
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has produced a new DVD to assist refugees and humanitarian visa holders settle in Australia.
welcome for refugees
Aimed at trainers who conduct special 5-day Australian Cultural Orientation courses for intending arrivals, the DVD was launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Kate Lundy and features former refugees telling of their personal experiences, their journeys to Australia and their settlement stories.
“The stories told represent the reality of resettlement and portray a variety of experiences, including people who have resettled in rural and regional areas,” Senator Lundy said.
She said among the tales related on the DVD was one from an Iraqi refugee who described the best thing about living in Australia as “freedom, the right to expression of your feelings”.
The DVD was launched at the opening the annual conference for Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) program trainers in Adelaide.
She said the AUSCO course was offered to all refugee and special humanitarian entrants before they departed for Australia and provided an overview of life in Australia including geography and climate, government, cultural adjustment, health care and finding a job.
“AUSCO is their first glimpse of Australia,” Senator Lundy said.
“It positions people to regain much-needed skills and benefit from the settlement support they receive when they arrive in Australia.”
She said about 13,750 were expected to be granted humanitarian program visas this financial year.
19 October, 2010
Watchdogs hung up
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have joined forces to issue a warning against growing numbers of telephone scammers.
on phone scammers
Chair of ACMA, Chris Chapman urged people to immediately hang up if a scammer called.
“Over the past two months complaints about scam telephone calls to the ACCC and the ACMA have increased significantly from 200 per month to around 2,000 across the two Agencies,” Mr Chapman said.
Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel said consumers should “cut off the lifeline” of scammers.
“Consumers can stop themselves being scammed by never disclosing any personal or financial details to these callers,’ Mr Samuel said.
The two Agencies warned that particular scams currently circulating included callers advising that the person’s computer was infected with a virus and requesting credit card details to fix the problem, and callers offering products, services or cash under fake Government grants.
In other scams, callers are trying to get people’s bank details in order to process a bank fee or tax refund, offering to place the person’s number on the Do Not Call Register for a fee, or using recorded messages asking consumers to ‘dial 9’ for a ‘free’ holiday.
The ACCC and ACMA said consumers should be cautious if they received an unsolicited call from someone requesting personal information.
The Agencies advised people to hang up and verify who the caller was by independently finding their contact details in a phone book and then contacting them directly.
Consumers were also advised never to give personal information and financial details away to strangers.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy also expressed concern about the increase in scam telephone calls.
“People can protect themselves from scams by applying common sense rules,” Senator Conroy said.
“If something being offered sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
“I am particularly concerned that some scammers are targeting the Do Not Call Register and suggesting consumers pay a fee to register their number.
“I would like to remind consumers that they can quickly and easily register their numbers on the Do Not Call Register for free.”
Senator Conroy urged people to report scams so that the ACCC and ACMA could investigate and take action against those responsible.
For more information on how to report scams, go to www.scamwatch.gov.au
19 October, 2010
Energy Task Force
The Prime Minister’s Task Group on Energy Efficiency has issued its report recommending the early introduction of a price on carbon.
is with price power
Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the report, saying it reinforced the Government’s wider climate change strategy, which included investing in clean energy, promoting greater efficiency, and working towards the introduction of a climate price.
She pointed to a finding of the report that “by far the most important element in a vision of a step change in Australia’s energy efficiency improvement is the presence of an explicit price on carbon”.
“The Government’s Multi-Party Climate Change Committee is currently exploring options for the introduction of a price on carbon,” Ms Gillard said.
“Well-targeted improvements in our energy efficiency will improve the productivity of the economy as well as helping us to shift towards a low pollution future.”
The Prime Minister said in addition to introducing a carbon price, the report also recommended setting a national energy efficiency target of improving Australia’s primary energy intensity by 30 per cent by 2020, and establishing an energy savings initiative.
Other recommendations included resetting the Government’s framework for energy efficiency; providing a stronger enabling environment for energy efficiency; and building an energy efficiency culture in Australia.
The Prime Minister described the report as a “significant contribution” to the debate on energy efficiency, as well as an important part of the Government’s Energy White Paper process.
She said the report findings would complement other improvements in energy efficiency that the Government was making through the National Energy Efficiency Strategy, and help inform the further development of climate change policy.
“The Report will help inform the further development and consolidation of the Government’s climate change policy,” Ms Gillard said.
She said the Government had already committed to a number of initiatives recommended in the report, including implementing emissions standards for new power stations and extending the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program to electricity generators, new mandatory CO2 emissions standards for light vehicles, and tax breaks for Green Buildings.
The report is available at www.climatechange.gov.au
19 October, 2010
Mine financier digs
The Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) has acted to clarify its position following media criticism of an African goldmine it helped finance.
in over criticism
ABC-TV’s Newsline program said the gold mine had attracted criticism from human rights and environmental groups.
The TV report detailed allegations that thousands of people had been displaced as a result of the project and that a cyanide spill had damaged local waterways.
EFIC said it provided a loan of $15 million to African Underground Mining Services – a Ghanaian joint venture company owned by two Australian companies – to allow AUMS to purchase mining machinery.
The project publicly reported its management of environmental and social issues because it was assessed and funded by the commercial arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation.
In a statement, EFIC said it assessed the application by AUMS against its commercial and credit criteria which included an evaluation of the application under EFIC’s Environment Policy which was in line with international obligations under the OECD Common Approaches and the Equator Principles.
“Our assessment included a review of company and project documentation on our client’s customer, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and its Ahafo Gold Mine project,” EFIC said.
“The IFC’s financing of the project is subject to the mine operator meeting stringent environment and social standards.
“The IFC has ongoing monitoring and reporting in place, including assessments by independent consultants.
“EFIC’s review provided adequate assurance that World Bank Group policies and guidelines were met.”
EFIC said it had a “clear, published” process for reviewing and assessing the environmental and social impacts of all transactions it considers.
“Our provision of finance to AUMS, as a provider of services and equipment to the Ahafo Gold Mine, meets both our mandate to support Australian exports and our commitment to internationally recognised social and environmental standards,” EFIC said.
19 October, 2010
Cold hard facts
Scientists from the Australian Antarctic program have shared their research findings on southern hemisphere climate with other scientists at a special Forum in Hobart.
The Australia-New Zealand Climate Forum, held last week, included presentations on everything from climate change to snails, whales, people, ecosystems and rainfall.
Australian Antarctic scientists joined other Southern Hemisphere scientists to present their research findings on the theme Southern Hemisphere Climate: features, findings, futures.
Dr Donna Roberts of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre discussed the impact of ocean acidification on marine snails, known as ‘pteropods’ or ‘sea butterflies’, in the Southern Ocean.
Her research showed that some pteropods and other shell-forming planktonic organisms were producing thinner and lighter shells compared to their pre-industrial counterparts.
“When atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the Southern Ocean it forms a weak acid when it mixes with water, which reduces the ability of pteropods to form shells,” Dr Roberts said.
“As colder water absorbs more carbon dioxide than warmer water, the effects of ocean acidification will be seen first in the Southern Ocean.
“The impact already observed on shelled pteropods and other marine organisms gives us cause for concern for their survival.”
Biologists from the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Karen Westwood and Dr Simon Wright, also presented research showing detrimental changes in marine microbial communities as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased.
“Our research indicates that if atmospheric CO2 rises above approximately 780 parts per million – as some models have projected to occur by 2100 – the number and size of certain marine microbes will change, leading to reduced food availability for higher organisms and decreased uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere,” Dr Westwood said.
Ice core and sea ice scientists from the Division also discussed how ice core climate records could be used to understand past and present global climate and to improve climate models for future climate projections.
19 October, 2010
Weather reports are
The Bureau of Meteorology has reported that Australian cities are warming up more rapidly than the surrounding countryside.
hot stuff for cities
Researchers found that day time temperatures in cities were rising more quickly than country areas, partly because of the cities themselves.
Climate scientist with the Bureau, Belinda Campbell, said researchers had been aware that night time temperatures in cities were warmer because the heat was retained after sunset for longer than in the countryside, and that city day time temperatures had been warming too.
“What we didn’t know was whether city day time temperatures were also warmer because of the urbanisation or whether it was due to the overall warming of the planet associated with the enhanced greenhouse effect,” Ms Campbell said.
“We can now confidently say that the reason our cities are warmer and warming faster than the surrounding countryside during the day is because of the urbanisation, the fact that all those offices, houses and factories absorb the heat and retain it a little bit longer.”
The report – which analysed data from 70 sites in the Bureau’s meteorological data archive - revealed that on average, the enhanced greenhouse effect was responsible for about 0.5 to 1.0 degree of observed warming around the globe.
The additional effect of urbanisation on warming varied from city to city, depending on the buildings and open parkland close to the observation site.
The sites examined were mostly towns with populations of between 500 and 100,000, with some being either in cities with more than 100,000, or in isolated locations.
Ms Campbell presented the results of the team’s work at the Australia - New Zealand Climate Forum in Hobart last week.
19 October, 2010
A new plan to guide future tourism development in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory has been published by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities’ Director of National Parks.
on a roll
Welcomed by the Minister for SEWPaC, Tony Burke, the plan sets out the steps for developing new visitor experiences for Uluru.
“This is an exciting time at Uluru,” Mr Burke said.
“There are some great ideas coming from Anangu traditional owners who want to share their culture with visitors.”
He said a range of new business ideas were flagged in this first action plan, including potential for guided overnight walks, an Aboriginal arts and crafts market, bicycle tours and animal tracking lessons for kids.
“This tourism directions plan is the result of extensive discussions between the park, traditional owners and the tourism industry, and everyone will continue working together to implement it,” he said.
Mr Burke said traditional owners and tour operators would be able to build partnerships.
He stressed that the initiatives were long-term and it would take time for sustainable businesses to grow, although work was already underway.
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson also welcomed the plan saying it underlined the valuable Indigenous employment opportunities offered by tourism.
“Uluru is one of the ‘must-see’ destinations for many of Australia’s domestic and international visitors,” Mr Ferguson said.
“It attracts 148,000 domestic overnight visitors and 172,000 international visitors a year.
“Through the National Landscapes Program, the Australian Government has been working to ensure visitors have a high quality authentic indigenous tourism experience- that’s what people want and we need to ensure Government and industry work closely with the local community to meet their expectations,” he said.
Alison Hunt from the park’s board of management said people were full of anticipation about the important milestones the park would soon meet.
“It’s going to be an amazing year,” Ms Hunt said.
“Between rumours of a possible visit from Oprah and all our preparations for the handback anniversary, everyone’s pretty excited.”
She said a big festival for visitors would be held on 26 October to celebrate 25 years since Uluru was handed back to its traditional owners.
The guide to future development and more information on the celebrations ahead are available at the DSEWPaC website: www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru/news.html
19 October, 2010
Help scheme points
A scheme that helps Australian households make the switch to digital television has already assisted 10,000 according to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
way for digital TV
Senator Conroy said the Government’s Household Assistance Scheme had helped Australians such as Lorraine McIntyre of Broken Hill, to become “digital ready” at no cost and with no fuss, following the installation of a high definition set top box.
“The Government’s Household Assistance Scheme provides assistance to eligible people as the switch to digital-only TV is rolled out across Australia,” Senator Conroy said.
“So far the Scheme has assisted 10,000 households in Mildura/Sunraysia, regional South Australia and Broken Hill.
“The Scheme ensures older Australians, people with disabilities and their carers are able to easily enjoy the benefits of the historic change in the way Australians watch free to air TV.
“Mrs McIntyre will be able to access digital channels provided by the ABC, SBS and Southern Cross in the Broken Hill area. She will also be able to receive the new Channel 9 service from Southern Cross, which will be broadcast in digital only in Broken Hill from the end of October,” he said.
The scheme began in Victoria’s Mildura/Sunraysia district where more than 2,650 households had been helped to switch to digital TV by 30 June this year.
Regional South Australia and Broken Hill will be the next areas to switch to digital only TV on 15 December.
The scheme will then be extended to regional Victoria, which makes the switch on 5 May next year and where Senator Conroy said about 120,000 households would be eligible for help.
He said Centrelink would contact households eligible for assistance about six months before the switchover date.
Executive Director of the Digital Switchover Taskforce, Andy Townend, said households eligible for assistance included those with a functioning TV that were yet to convert to digital TV. Also eligible were people receiving the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Service Pension or Income Support Supplement.
19 October, 2010
Australia Post has unveiled a postage cost application (app) specifically designed for the new Microsoft Windows Phone 7.
on phone app
General Manager of Digital and Contact Centres with the Agency, Brady Jacobsen said Australia Post was one of the first Australian organisations to reveal its app for the new phone.
Mr Jacobsen said the new app would allow customers to search for a postcode and find out how much it would cost to send a mail item within Australia or overseas.
“We’re very proud to be one of the first apps showcased on the Windows Phone 7,” Mr Jacobsen said.
“The Australia Post app demonstrates our commitment to our customers who want to interact with Australia Post services, electronically.”
He said it was only the first phase of the Australia Post app for Windows Phone 7, and that additional features - including the ability to track domestic and international mail articles, locate the closest post office or street posting box and pay a variety of bills – would be added in coming weeks.
“As part of our new digital proposition, everything we deliver physically, we want to be able to deliver electronically,” Mr Jacobsen said.
“In addition to our extensive retail network, our existing online services our contact centres, we identified a requirement to meet customer needs via smartphones.
“Working closely with Microsoft we’ve enhanced some of the existing capability available via our mobile website.
“This new app will increase customer convenience for the 50,000 customers that currently access the Auspost website from a smartphone device.”
Australia Post recently announced its ‘Future Ready’ business renewal program, which will create a new business unit called eServices to grow Australia Post’s digital communications and transactions.
19 October, 2010
Leave group at work
The Paid Parental Leave Implementation Group has met for the first time.
The implementation group is responsible for ensuring a smooth roll-out of the scheme to working parents and in particular, employers who will provide the Government-funded parental leave pay to their employees.
The group includes representative bodies, as well as representatives from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Centrelink.
The Paid Parental Leave scheme begins on 1 January next year.
Bureau makes locust forecast
The Bureau of Meteorology is working with the Victorian Department of Primary Industries on forecast advice to help manage the locust threat.
The Bureau has provided training to DPI staff in the use of the Bureau’s on-line Forecast Explorer and has also developed a joint fact sheet to advise landholders on how to use the service, which is available on the DPI website.
Chemical Standards Field Services Manager with DPI, Alan Roberts said it was important that landholders were informed of weather conditions to help them work out the safest and most effective time to apply chemicals to treat locusts.
Air Force turns 90
The Royal Australian Air Force is to make the 2011 Australian International Air Show a centrepiece of its 90th anniversary activities.
The Air Show – to be held next March – is expected to be one of the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted in the Southern Hemisphere.
Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, said the Air Show would be a great opportunity for the public to get a close look at the Air Force’s current high-tech fighter and strike capabilities, including the potent F/A-18F Super Hornet and the Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft.
The air show will take place at Avalon from 1 to 6 March 2011.
Hotline runs hot
The Small Business Support phone line has been hailed a success with small businesses, taking its 20,000th call last week, just after its first birthday.
Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry, said the sector had embraced the service since its launch in September last year.
“It is essentially a one-stop shop for small businesses wanting initial help on issues such as cash-flow management, retail leasing, obtaining finance, marketing, and even stress and hardship counselling,” Senator Sherry said.
“Almost 60 per cent of the calls taken by the support line are from people who want to start a retail business.”
The service is at 1800 777 275.
A new policy of housing asylum seekers with children in the community has been announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen.
The move, which will be made with the assistance of community organisations, is expected to affect several hundred children and families and be completed by June 2011.
The PM and Minister also announced another two detention facilities would be built at Northam in Western Australia and Inverbrackie in South Australia.
Care Council meets
The National People with Disabilities and Carer Council has met to discuss the Government’s national disability agenda.
The Council was appointed to provide advice to the Government on the needs of people with disability, their families and carers.
At the meeting, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas confirmed election commitments to removing barriers and expanding opportunities for people with disability.
ASIC guides on insolvency
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has released a report outlining the key messages and outcomes of its national insolvent trading program (NITP).
The National Insolvent Trading Program Report includes four key messages that directors must adhere to in their duties.
These include maintaining appropriate books and records, identifying insolvency concerns and assess available options, seeking professional advice, and acting in a timely manner.
The report can be accessed at www.asic.gov.au
Financial watchdog AUSTRAC has given its first written notice to remove a remitter from the Register of Providers of Designated Remittance Services.
A 42-year-old Melbourne woman was convicted and sentenced for money laundering offences involving over $9 million.
AUSTRAC Chief Executive John Schmidt said he had formed the opinion that keeping the woman on the register was an unacceptable money-laundering risk.
12 October, 2010
APS facing challenges
Regional issues, administrative process reforms and the need to be more assertive are the challenges facing the Australian Public Service of today according to retiring senior manager, Ken Matthews.
says retiring leader
Drawing the curtain on 36 years of service, including terms as Secretary of the Departments of Transport and Regional Services and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Mr Matthews delivered his valedictory address in Canberra, noting a growing disquiet in regional Australia not unlike that of the 1990s which gave birth to the One Nation Party.
Retiring as Chief Executive of the National Water Commission, Mr Matthews said that while metropolitan and regional Australians shared expectations that public agencies would deliver services in a more accessible, timely and “tailored” way, regional Australians also expected them to fit the requirements of their local communities.
“They will be looking for governance arrangements that maximise decision making and accountability in the local area – where they are comfortable – not back in Canberra where we are comfortable,” he said.
In suggesting administrative reforms, Mr Matthews questioned the value of high levels of organisational and staffing change, cumbersome recruitment and promotion processes, overloaded Budget processes and excessive probity and fraud control processes.
He also suggested that a “docile and unassertive” APS had come to see itself “not as the great national institution it is in its own right, but simplistically and solely as the instrument of the government of the day.
“We need to find a better point of balance between accountability to Ministers and responsibility more broadly,” he said.
He identified the need to “argue forthrightly when politics is compromising good outcomes”, to re-present good ideas when advice is initially rejected and to deal more assertively with Ministerial staffers.
Mr Matthews also suggested that line Departments could be putting “biggest picture national strategic views” to new Ministers.
“It is a cop-out to essentially build a line Department’s portfolio policy agenda only to the blueprint of an election platform often produced in a rush by political parties with much less depth than the APS.”
He also questioned the “victim” mentality surrounding appearances before Senate estimates committees and called for Public Servants to show “a bit of spine” when required.
Mr Matthews also suggested the APS could be more assertive in media and academic debate and should not allow the home insulation affair to lead to the conclusion that as a whole the APS could not manage programs.
His speech in full can be downloaded from www.nwc.gov.au
12 October, 2010
New Mint program
The Royal Australian Mint has launched a world-first apprenticeship in the minting industry in honour of its former Chief Executive, Janine Murphy.
is world’s first
The 10-year apprenticeship was announced at the recent 2010 Mint Directors Conference in Canberra.
Chief Executive of the Mint, Ross MacDiarmid said it was the first program of its kind and was being supported by the Poongsan Corporation, a Korean-based company which specialised in the development and mass production of copper-based alloys.
“There are of course apprenticeship programs available but this will focus on the development of specific skills for minting which are very specialised and need to be nurtured,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“It will be available to anyone from around the world interested in pursuing a career in the field of minting.”
Mr MacDiarmid paid tribute to Ms Murphy, who died last year after suffering from a long term illness.
“Janine Murphy had true passion for the Royal Australian Mint and the minting industry,” Mr MacDiarmid said. “In particular, a strong passion for learning and education.
“Janine was very much loved in the minting community because of this passion and commitment, which also had an integral part in the Royal Australian Mint having the opportunity to host this international conference.”
Details of the apprenticeship program are to be developed by the Mint Directors Conference Technical Committee.
12 October, 2010
DIAC booklet sets out
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has launched a new information booklet for workers from overseas setting out their rights in Australia.
It is the first time the Department has produced a publication specifically for workers, which it hopes will help them avoid being exploited.
The booklet, Your rights and obligations – immigration facts for workers, includes information on basic protections and entitlements, work rights, visa choices, employer obligations and using a migration agent.
A spokesperson for the Department said the booklet aimed to educate both foreign and Australian workers, as well as employers.
“One misconception is foreign workers take Australian jobs because they are paid less,” the spokesman said.
“The booklet explains that sponsoring employers must not give foreign workers less pay or provide poorer conditions than Australians doing the same work at the same workplace.”
The DIAC spokesperson said the booklet was developed in consultation with unions and would be distributed to work sites and Agencies around Australia.
The booklet includes contact details for DIAC, Unions Australia, Fair Work Australia, the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority and the Translating and Interpreting Service.
It has also been translated into six other languages.
12 October, 2010
Civilian aid corps
The laws needed to set up the Australian Civilian Corps to provide emergency assistance to countries hit by a natural disaster have been reintroduced into Parliament.
back on table
To be made up of civilian specialists available to fly anywhere at short notice, the new Corps will be engaged as a new category of Commonwealth Government employee.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd said the development of an Australian Civilian Corps came about from a proposal made at the Australia 2020 Summit in 2008.
“The Australian Civilian Corps will build on initial emergency humanitarian efforts and help set the foundation for long-term sustainable development,” Mr Rudd said.
Under the initiative, a register of civilian specialists will be established with technical skills in areas such as public administration and finance, law and justice, engineering, agriculture and health administration.
They will be sought from all levels of Government and the broader community, and have the ability to work in challenging environments overseas.
Mr Rudd said examples of how the Corps could work included an Australian water and sanitation planner being deployed following a natural disaster, or a senior Government official with expertise in budget administration being sent to assist a country with budget control following a conflict.
“We hope to have around 60 screened and trained civilian specialists on the Australian Civilian Corps register by the end of the year, and intend to build it up progressively to 500 by 2014,” he said.
The Australian Civilian Corps Bill provides for employment arrangements that are specifically designed to suit the unique nature of the Corps and its working environment.
It is expected that the Australian Civilian Corps will be fully operational by early next year.
12 October, 2010
New ANSTO booklet
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has published a new book outlining its most recent achievements and discoveries.
Entitled Research Selections, the booklet identifies the latest advancements in ANSTO’s research and can be downloaded from the Organisation’s website.
Chief Executive of ANSTO, Dr Adi Paterson said these included better ways to understand and diagnose disease, discoveries of important clues about climate change and the environment, new findings about the structural soundness of materials, and innovative ways to measure radiation.
Dr Paterson said ANSTO innovations had led to the start of human trials in the United States into the diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease and the development of a world-first pollution detector.
He said ANSTO was now seeing the results of different streams of research relating to the world class facilities attached to the Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) nuclear research reactor.
“The world is experiencing a renaissance of interest in nuclear science research, and ANSTO is perfectly placed to take advantage of this,” Dr Paterson said.
“The interest in OPAL from researchers around the world has helped to boost interest in ANSTO’s accelerator-based and X-ray instruments and radiopharmaceutical laboratories.
“Over the next four years, this interest will grow as a range of collaborative agreements come to fruition with organisations such as ITER in France and the European Union’s CERN - home of the world’s largest physics experiment, the Large Hadron Collider.”
Dr Paterson said ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science would also put Australia at the forefront of a range of exciting new research projects.
Copies of the Research Selections report are available from www.ansto.gov.au
12 October, 2010
Health number plan
An implementation plan for the introduction of e-health identifier numbers has been released by the National E-Health Transition Authority, NEHTA.
in good shape
The Healthcare Identifiers Communications Plan aims to guide the implementation of the Healthcare Identifiers Service (HI) through education and marketing initiatives for consumers, healthcare providers, and healthcare organisations.
Operated by Medicare Australia, the HI Service aims to improve healthcare communication between individuals and medical providers.
It is a national system for uniquely identifying healthcare providers and individuals.
According to NEHTA, most Australians have been issued with an Individual Healthcare Identifier and implementation document will be used as the basis for stakeholder consultation to develop the detailed implementation plan.
It is the final of three rounds of consultation that have assisted with legislation development.
The document says there are challenges in the large scale adoption of healthcare identifiers and that healthcare providers may need to change some of their business practices in order to utilise the new service.
It includes three complementary approaches to implementation, including a change management program which involves support from professional peak bodies.
Other approaches include assistance to vendors, whereby medical software vendors will need to include specifications within their products to create seamless communication links between healthcare providers and the new service.
The document says identifying and establishing lead or “early adopter” sites that can demonstrate the use of the identifiers in supporting robust e-health implementations are also important.
“NEHTA will collaborate with key organisations that are prepared to invest early and assist in the development of, implementation guidelines, change management and ‘lessons learned’ tool kits that can support the Change Management Program,” the document says.
12 October, 2010
Home saver changes
Draft laws that increase the flexibility of First Home Saver Accounts have been released for public comment.
open more doors
Treasurer Wayne Swan said the proposed legislation would allow savings in a First Home Saver Account to be paid into an approved mortgage after the end of a minimum qualifying period, rather than requiring it to be paid to a superannuation account.
“This improvement to the scheme will allow account holders to purchase a home earlier than planned and still be able to put the money from their First Home Saver Account towards their new home, should their circumstances change,” Mr Swan said.
“This is a big win for first home hunters, giving them the flexibility to choose when to buy a house and still direct the full benefits of the First Home Saver Account towards their home.”
First Home Saver Accounts aim to make it easier for people to save up for their first home by offering incentives such as Government contributions and low taxes.
At present, account holders have to keep their savings in the First Home Saver Account for four financial years before they are able to buy a home.
If they buy a home before the end of the four year period, the balance of their account has to be transferred into superannuation so it remains in a concessionally taxed environment.
Under the scheme, the Government contributes 17 per cent on the first $5,500 (indexed) of individual contributions made each year.
First Home Saver Account interest earnings are taxed at 15 per cent and withdrawals are tax free where they are used to purchase a first home.
Individuals are able to pool their First Home Saver Accounts to purchase a home together.
The changes will apply to houses purchased after Royal Assent of the amending legislation, however, they will apply to savings in First Home Saver Accounts opened before Royal Assent.
Consultation on the draft legislation closes on 4 November and more information is available from www.treasury.gov.au
12 October, 2010
Australian Defence Force mentoring of Afghan soldiers has achieved a milestone with the opening of an artillery school in Kabul.
opens on target
The school is part of Australia’s mission in the country to help local forces take full responsibility for security in the coming years and will train Afghan soldiers to become skilled artillerymen,
Chief of General Staff in the Afghan National Army, Lieutenant General Sher
Mohammad Karimi said the school was an important step and thanked Australia for its
“I would like to show thanks and appreciation to all our friends, especially the Australians and Americans, who taught our soldiers how to use the guns,” Lieutenant General Karimi said.
“It’s a big achievement for the ANA and I’m sure there will be more improvement for our artillery soldiers in the future.”
Australian artillerymen from the 8th/12th Medium Regiment have been training Afghan instructors for several months.
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith recently announced Australia would commit
up to 20 artillery trainers to the school, drawn from the existing troop presence.
The school, which has commenced its Artillery Basic Officer’s Training Course, will be run by the newly qualified Afghan Instructors.
It will train 2,100 officers and soldiers over the coming year, with around 440 students attending one of nine different courses at any one time.
Commanding Officer of the Artillery Training Team – Kabul, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Vagg, said the course would play a crucial role in progressing the ANA artillery training.
“The basic courses will see ANA Officers and NCOs training young Afghan officers,” he said.
“These officers will then go down into southern Afghanistan and fill the batteries in the southern provinces and actually fight the Taliban.
“It’s essential that Afghans develop the ability and confidence to teach other Afghans, if we are going to be able to transition to Afghan-led security.”
12 October, 2010
The money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog AUSTRAC has set out its priorities for intelligence, supervision and enforcement for the coming year and beyond.
banks on plan
Chief Executive of AUSTRAC, John Schmidt said the strategies provided an insight into the Agency’s current priorities, focus and activities.
“Our approach addresses the complex and dynamic anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) environment in which AUSTRAC operates,” Mr Schmidt said.
“Making that approach explicit provides industry with insights into how we work as both a regulator and as Australia’s financial intelligence unit.’
He said a key priority over the next year would be transaction reporting, with a focus on under-reporting, non-reporting and the quality of transaction reports.
He said AUSTRAC would also be focusing on providing guidance, education and training to less resourced entities, as well as continuing to assess programs and compliance under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006.
“Work in the Intelligence area will focus on the analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence that supports Australian Government priorities, such as national security, and combating organised crime and terrorism,” Mr Schmidt said.
“We will also continue to support the priorities of our key partner Agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police and the Customs and Border Protection Service.”
He said approaches to enforcement were designed to achieve compliance at both the individual entity and industry level, through selective, targeted action.
“We will take into account the nature of the non-compliance, the money laundering or terrorism financing risk associated with the reporting entity, the entity’s willingness to comply and the likely result and deterrent effect of any enforcement action,” Mr Schmidt said.
12 October, 2010
Significance guide is
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has unveiled an online edition of “Significance” the guide to assessing the importance of cultural heritage items or collections.
guide to significance
‘Significance’ refers to the values and meanings that items and collections have for people and communities.
‘At a simple level, significance is a way of telling compelling stories about items and collections, explaining why they are important,” the guide says.
“Significance may also be defined as the historic, artistic, scientific and social or spiritual values that items and collections have for past, present and future generations.”
According to the Department, Significance 2.0 outlines the theory, practice and applications of the concept of significance in collection management.
It includes the key steps in assessing significance for single items, collections and cross-collection projects.
In what is the second edition of the document, the scope of significance is extended to demonstrate its use with a variety of collections across the four major collecting domains – archives, galleries, libraries and museums.
“Since the publication of the first edition, many collecting organisations across Australia have embraced the concept of significance, using it in many facets of their work – in collection policies, for acquisitions and deaccessioning, in conservation, planning, promotion, advocacy, education, online access, and in innovative collaborative projects,” the guide says.
“Significance is now widely used by collecting organisations in Australia and it has a growing number of supporters overseas.”
Significance 2.0 is aimed at those who are curious about collections, as well as all collecting organisations, Agencies and owners that manage or hold collections.
It is designed to work for all types of collections and establishes a shared framework and standard process that collection managers across the country can use.
The guide includes information on the assessment process and how to draft a statement of significance. It includes case studies and examples of many different applications of significance.
Significance 2.0 was written by Roslyn Russell and Kylie Winkworth for the former Collections Council of Australia.
12 October, 2010
The Australian Federal Police have commissioned five more firearm and explosive detection dog teams following a graduation ceremony in Canberra.
go to the dogs
Being put to work immediately patrolling Australia’s airports, the dogs and their handlers survived a rigorous 13-week training course and are the first of 17 new teams to be funded under a $17.8 million program.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the canine teams would help secure the safety of Australians, visitors and those working in the aviation industry.
Mr O’Connor said canine teams were highly mobile and could detect threats at airports, in baggage and freight, and on board aircraft and vehicles.
“The AFP’s firearm and explosive detection dogs have a highly developed sense of smell and over 13 weeks their skills have been honed to detect military and commercial explosives and weapons,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Their presence is a strong deterrent to would-be criminals and terrorists and they are an active force in keeping Australia safe and protecting our valuable aviation industry.”
Mr O’Connor said the 17 new canine teams would be operating in Australian airports by the middle of next year, representing a 50 per cent increase in firearm and explosive detection dog capability.
He said the $17.8 million package also included new infrastructure to develop and maintain the new squad, six national training positions and a kennel manager at the AFP National Canine Operations Centre in Canberra.
The new dogs are being provided by the Customs and Border Protection breeding program.
12 October, 2010
Astronomers at the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research’s Australian Astronomical Observatory at Siding Spring in NSW have discovered new galaxies that turn traditional theories of how stars are formed on their heads.
get star treatment
Research by astronomy student at Swinburne University, Andy Green, his supervisor Professor Karl Glazebrook and their colleagues found galaxies in today’s Universe that were thought to exist only in the distant past.
“They’re the Wollemi Pines of space—galaxies we just didn’t expect to find in today’s world,” Mr Green said.
He said while the galaxies in question were similar to our own galaxy in shape, they were physically turbulent and were forming lots of stars.
He said the research team was the first to find any in today’s Universe.
Astronomers had thought that star formation in distant, early galaxies might be fuelled by cold streams of gas continually falling into those galaxies.
However, the researchers said this could only work when the Universe was young and that the discovery of modern galaxies forming new stars brought this idea into question.
They said it was more likely that galaxies get new gas by merging with like-sized counterparts or swallowing smaller galaxies.
Green observed the new galaxies with the 3.9-m Anglo-Australian Telescope, operated by the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and the 2.3-metre telescope of the Australian National University, both located at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales.
Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, Matthew Colless was a member of the research team and said the study showed the value of the Australian telescopes.
“Our telescopes are ideal for detailed study of the nearby counterparts of galaxies seen in the distant universe by the giant eight- and ten-metre telescopes,” Professor Colless said.
“That’s essential for piecing together the history of the Universe, from ancient times down to the present.”
The research results were published in the journal Nature.
12 October, 2010
Research centre to
A new Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions is to be established by the Australian Research Council to help Australians deal with their everday problems.
A key platform of the Centre’s work will be making sure Australia can build socially vibrant communities.
Minister for Innovation, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr said the Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2007 that almost half the Australians aged 16 to 85 years had suffered a mental disorder at some point in their life.
“That is why it is critical that we fund research into the way we deal with everyday problems,” Senator Carr said.
“More than $24 million has been awarded to the Centre to help further our understanding and improve emotional and mental health among all Australians.
“Under the leadership of Professor Philippa Maddern, the research conducted at this centre will focus on what shapes us mentally, physically and socially.”
Senator Carr said the Centre would collaborate with Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
He said it would focus on interdisciplinary research in the humanities and social sciences, as part of a push to ensure that Australia had skills not just in traditional sciences, but also in the humanities.
He said the Centre would be based at the University of Western Australia, which would receive the funds for the project over seven years.
Senator Carr said ARC Centres of Excellence were usually funded over a period of up to seven years, giving them the flexibility to undertake comprehensive research programs that addressed big challenges, as well as short-term projects that answered emerging issues or questions.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions is one of 13 new ARC Centres of Excellence that will receive funding from next year.
12 October, 2010
Scam warning is to
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a public warning against unsolicited scam letters containing colourful travel brochures and scratch cards.
Deputy Chair of the Commission, Peter Kell said the scam originated in Malaysia in 2009 with the numbers of mailed-out letters steadily increasing.
“The fake scratch cards are the key to this scam,” Mr Kell said.
“One of the cards is always a winner with over $100,000 on offer. Anyone phoning up to claim their prize is asked to pay for various fees and charges.
“This type of scam works because of the excitement created by the winning card and the scammer’s persuasive spiel.”
Mr Kell said it also worked well because the letters looked like the real thing.
“The brochures are very slick and are backed up by equally professional looking websites,” he said.
Australia Post has intercepted 5,000 scam letters containing the bogus scratch cards and fake travel business brochures.
One victim was a mother of three, who transferred more than $50,000 to scammers posing as a Malaysian based organisation called EverMAS Tourism Group. In August two other Western Australian women lost about $3,700.
“Since April 2009, these letters have targeted a succession of States and Territories, with the most recent being the EverMas Tourism Group scam that had Western Australian consumers in its sight,” Mr Kell said.
“Unfortunately, there is no prize and the only winners are the scammers who not only pocket the money but also collect valuable personal details such as copies of drivers’ licences.
“Identity theft is a growing concern and personal details have become a much sought after commodity.”
Mr Kell urged people not to send money to strangers and said that while it was easy to get caught up in a scam offering a great prize, there was virtually “no hope” you would ever see your money again.
He said people who sent money to scammers might also be inadvertently funding criminal gangs.
Bogus company names being used by the scammers include EverMas Tourism Group, Aviats Travelling Group, Holiday Symphony Travelling Group, Euphoria Travelling Group and Malaysia Starize Travelling Group.
However, the ACCC said it expected the scammers would continue to target different States and Territories using different names.
12 October, 2010
A proposed international agreement that would crack down on copyright piracy and counterfeiting is much closer to finalisation following Governments adopting a softer line against alleged offenders.
to right copy wrongs
Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson, described the change of position as a “significant breakthrough”.
The planned agreement no longer includes a policy that would ban repeat copyright offenders from accessing the internet and would no longer seek to make internet providers liable for subscribers’ piracy.
Dr Emerson said only a few remaining issues remained in the negotiations of the new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
He said the breakthrough was made during recent talks in Japan, three years after the commencement of the initiative.
“ACTA will create a more secure trading environment for Australia’s creative and knowledge–intensive industries by ensuring copyright and trademarks are enforced in a number of important foreign markets,” Dr Emerson said.
“This is good for our film and music industries, our computer programmers, our authors, and for the protection of famous Australian brands.”
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said the agreement would globalise Australia’s strong and balanced approach to copyright enforcement.
“Internationalising these standards will support our creative arts industries - in film, music and other areas - and result in more sustainable jobs in the arts,” Mr Crean said.
Countries taking part in the ACTA negotiations are Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.
Dr Emerson said he wanted to see Australia’s strong intellectual property laws adopted by other countries.
“ACTA is important because we are concerned at the scale and growth of the global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods,” he said.
“Progress on ACTA also sends a positive signal on the outlook for cooperation at the multilateral level on the trade and intellectual property agendas.”
Dr Emerson said he hoped the negotiations would be finalised in the coming weeks.
12 October, 2010
First sea census
The work of 167 Australian scientists who took part in the first global census of life under the sea has been applauded by the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.
Senator Carr said the Census of Marine Life was a 10-year project to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans.
“The health of our ocean environment is critical to our industries and our way of life,” Senator Carr said.
“The knowledge we have gained through the Census team will help us to improve our ocean management and protect our natural marine treasures.”
Chief Executive of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Dr Ian Poiner chaired the first census project, which included more than 2,700 scientists from 80 countries and 670 institutions.
They took part in 540 expeditions, amounting to 9,000 days at sea.
“The first global census of marine life shows life in planet ocean is richer, more connected and more altered than expected,” Dr Poiner said.
One of the 17 census projects was the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef, where between 300 and 500 new species were discovered during the survey.
The world’s largest repository of data about marine species has also been created as part of the census.
It features nearly 30 million records of marine life - publicly available for the first time - 2,600 research papers and 34 books.
The Census of Marine Life was officially released in London and can be viewed at www.coml.org
12 October, 2010
NBN to be ‘opt-out’
The Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett has announced the Government will adopt an “opt-out” model for the remaining roll-out of the National Broadband Network in Tasmania.
Mr Bartlett said an “opt-out” model would ensure all accessible homes and business were automatically connected, unless they actively declined.
“From the advice and research I’ve received, I’m now convinced that an opt-out model is the most practical and efficient way to ensure all Tasmanians can innovate and prosper in the new digital economy,” Mr Bartlett said.
He said legislation would be introduced as soon as possible.
No change in gender research
New research released by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) has revealed that the number of women key executive managers and board directors in the ASX 200 has barely changed over the past eight years.
The research shows that women hold only 8.4 per cent of board positions and 8 per cent of Executive Key Management Personnel positions.
There are just six female CEOs and five female chairs in the top 200 Australian companies.
The proportion of companies with no women board directors has increased from 51 per cent in 2008 to 54 per cent in 2010.
Court sets deadline
The Family Court of Australia has announced that the national filing deadline for all applications seeking parenting orders for the Christmas school holiday period is 4pm on 12 November.
It said except in cases of urgency, an application filed after the deadline would be allocated the next available date, which could be after Christmas.
In urgent cases, applications to list a matter on short notice can be made to the Registry.
DSTO improves Hercules
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation has developed software for Air Force Hercules aircraft to vastly improve the process of dynamic balancing of propellers to reduce vibration levels.
It has proved so useful that all Hercules users except the United States - UK, Italy, Denmark, Canada and Norway – are soon to start using the software.
DSTO scientist, Brian Rebbechi said the results of a flight test program on a Hercules were used to develop an algorithm that together with data obtained from existing onboard sensors, provided a propeller balance solution.
Agreement with Poland
A new Social Security Agreement with Poland has come into force, allowing about 11,000 residents from both countries to gain access to pensions.
The agreement will give some people who have lived or worked in both countries the opportunity to access the Australian and Polish age pensions for the first time.
Other Polish pensions can also now be claimed by former Polish residents in Australia in certain circumstances.
Australia now has 24 social security agreements in place.
Intel signs MoU
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Intel Australia to work together to ensure Australia maximises the benefits of the digital economy.
Minister for BCDE, Senator Stephen Conroy said under the agreement the Government would provide Intel with updates on progress and the development of its Digital Economy Strategy.
The Government would also work with Intel as a sounding board on possible initiatives to promote an NBN-enabled Digital Economy, and share relevant research.
Road stories wanted
ABC TV is making a documentary series about Australia’s obsession with cars.
Researchers for the series - Wide Open Road – are seeking stories, photos and footage of key eras and experiences.
People with interesting stories about their car and fascinating images are encouraged to contact the ABC website abc.net.au/tv/wideopenroad
Study of arts market
The Australia Council for the Arts has commissioned a scoping study of the Australian Performing Arts Market, to be headed by arts and cultural policy specialist, Justin Macdonnell.
APAM is a major biennial event on the Australian performing arts calendar, attracting over 600 presenters and producers from over 25 countries around the world to the Adelaide Festival Centre for five days.
Funded by the Australian Government, APAM was last substantively reviewed in 2003.
ACMA meets on digital divide-up
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is to host a one-day event in Sydney on 3 November as part of its digital dividend consultation process.
The Digital Dividend Spectrum Tune-Up will allow industry and Government stakeholders to discuss the issues relating to reassigning the digital dividend spectrum (694-820 MHz), freed up from the switchover of analog to digital TV.
The event will be held at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and will complement the ACMA’s Digital Dividend Discussion Paper.
The discussion paper, to be released in the second half of October, will address the allocation of the digital dividend spectrum.
For further information, or to register contact (02) 6219 5136 or RLS@acma.gov.au
Spectrum trades easier
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is removing regulatory barriers to spectrum trading and leasing.
ACMA commenced a review of spectrum trading in late 2008, releasing its response to submissions last year.
Since then it has been implementing the changes foreshadowed in that response.
Under the changes, stamp duties on spectrum trades are to be removed by 1 July 2013 and ACMA has committed to reducing regulatory burdens on trading spectrum.
5 October, 2010
New agency takes on
A new Australian Government Security Vetting Agency was launched on 1 October bringing all personal security clearances under one umbrella.
Managed by the Department of Defence, the AGSVA will now be responsible for granting and reviewing all Commonwealth security clearances, except for a few Agencies, including ASIO, ASIS, DFAT, the AFP and ONA.
Head of AGSVA, Assistant Secretary Vetting, Peter Sinfield said the new arrangement would provide direct benefits to PS staff, government contractors and the broader Commonwealth by providing a single security clearance recognised across Government.
Mr Sinfield said the move would also cut red-tape and save about $5.3 million a year.
He said by taking a centralised approach and using innovative IT methods, security clearances would be delivered more quickly and with less paperwork.
“We’ve introduced a high level of automation, including making all the security clearance forms available online,” Mr Sinfield said.
“This gives people the flexibility to complete clearance forms, update personal details and report changes in circumstances 24/7 from home or work.”
He said under the changes, people would only be required to prove their identity once, instead of having to repeat the process every time a clearance came up for review.
He said AGSVA would provide one single clearance - the Commonwealth Security Clearance – which would be effective across Government and allow Public Servants and contractors to move between Agencies without having to submit themselves to a new clearance process.
Mr Sinfield said AGSVA would deliver vetting services to 300 Government Agencies and expected to process around 48,000 clearance actions a year.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said AGSVA would remove inconsistencies and duplication associated with the current system.
“Before the AGSVA, more than 100 Agencies replicated the processes of security vetting while more than 50 Agencies held separate contracts with vetting service providers,” Mr McClelland said.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Penny Wong said the launch of AGSVA reflected the Government’s commitment to ensuring a coordinated approach to regulatory reform across government.
“A major benefit of the new system is that Public Servants and contractors will now be provided with a single clearance - a Commonwealth security clearance - which is recognised and effective across government,” Senator Wong said.
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, said it would deliver an efficient and cost-effective service.
“This outcome will ease the burden on those undergoing security checks while delivering savings to the Government,” Mr Smith said.
5 October, 2010
Audit call to tighten
An audit of procurement practices across the Australian Public Service has prompted the Auditor-General to remind Departments and Agencies that they should only use ‘direct sourcing’ to buy goods and services sparingly to comply with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (CPGs).
In his audit Direct Source Procurement, Auditor-General Ian McPhee reports on the sample practices of four Agencies governed by the Financial Management and Accountability Act, representing the 104 that reported AusTender activity during 2008-09.
He said the CPGs established principles for procurement which placed value for money as the core requirement for Government spending, supported by the encouragement of competition; the efficient, effective and ethical use of resources; and accountability and transparency of decisionmaking.
He found that of the three procurement methods permitted by the CPGs - Open Tender, Select Tender and Direct Sourcing – direct sourcing was the least likely to meet the procurement principles as it permitted agencies to deal directly with one supplier.
“Agencies need to be mindful that it is generally more difficult to adhere to the procurement principles such as value for money, encouraging competition and ethical use of resources when Direct Sourcing, but under the CPGs the onus is on them to do so,” the Auditor-General said.
“It should not be the default procurement approach.”
Despite this, the audit found that 48 per cent of all contracts were ‘direct sourced’ in 2009, and in 85 per cent of those, “agencies approached only one supplier and either did not seek, or only sought one quote prior to procurement.”
He advised that while the CPGs could justify direct sourcing for low cost items in which market forces determined price, in more complex cases “it is prudent for agencies to obtain a small number of quotes from suppliers with a history of proven performance, and to increase the rigour applied to documenting key procurement decisions and the reasons for those decisions.”
The Auditor-General made four recommendations including that some parts of the CPGs be clarified, that agencies improve their documentation in support of procurement decisions and that they regularly analyse their procurement activities.
The full audit report Direct Source Procurement can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au and the audit team that worked on the project included Tracey Martin, Alison Wardrop, Grace Guilfoyle, Gede Adnyana and Stuart Turnbull.
5 October, 2010
Ministers, MPs win
The personal staffing entitlements of Members of Parliament and Senators have been increased.
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray announced the changes saying they reflected the circumstances confronting the new Parliament.
“It is obvious that the current political environment is a challenging one,” Mr Gray said.”
“It is important the Government, Opposition, minor parties and independents are able to access advice and prepare and facilitate negotiated outcomes to serve the Parliament and the people in an efficient and effective way.”
He said the additional staff would allow Members and Senators to manage their workloads better and deal with their need for more consultation.
He said the increase would take Government staff levels from 368 to 420 positions; the Opposition’s from 77 to 88, Greens Senators from 12 to 13 and independents would have two each.
Mr Gray said the numbers reflected long-standing conventions which allowed the Opposition’s staff levels to be 21 per cent of the Government’s and Greens three per cent.
He said that in recent years there had also been a high turnover of personal staff employed by Members and Senators reflecting the challenging nature of the jobs.
Mr Gray said the increases would apply to MPs from all political parties and independents but would not include electorate offices.
5 October, 2010
Lessons learned from
The Auditor-General has used his report on the troubled Green Loans Program to remind departments and agencies of the challenges inherent in implementing large-scale Government programs.
green loans failings
In his report Green Loans Program, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said his performance audit was a timely reminder of those challenges and the importance of executive management engagement.
After finding that the program grew faster than anticipated, exceeded its budget, breached procurement guidelines, inadequately briefed its Minister, placed orders for critical equipments and services too late and suffered from a wide range of additional failings, Mr McPhee elected not to make any recommendations.
“The audit has not made any recommendations to the departments as the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) announced changes to improve corporate and program governance, enhance internal control mechanisms and systems, and strengthen accountability frameworks,” the Auditor-General said.
“Better engagement of centrally‐maintained subject matter expertise, such as risk management, procurement, ICT, compliance and communications, by program areas is also being encouraged to provide greater support for program managers.”
He said in 2006 the Australian National Audit Office and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet jointly produced a Better Practice Guide entitled Implementation of Programme and Policy Initiatives.
He said the foreword of that Guide said:
“Too often the challenges involved in turning a policy idea into effective outcomes, and the skills and effort required to do so, are not fully appreciated.
“The Guide sets out a useful framework to assist agencies in managing program implementation, and reflects the collective experience and wisdom of senior managers and executives in the Australian Public Service,” the Auditor-General said.
“Too often the results fall short of expectations. Yet we know that defects in implementation rob the community of the full benefits of a new policy and waste community resources.
The full report of the performance audit Green Loans Program can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au
The audit team that compiled the report included Grant Caine, Brendan Mason, Joe Keshina, Christina Bagot, Jennifer Eddie, Patrick O’Neill and Barbara Cass.
5 October, 2010
Reserve banks on
The Treasurer and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia have signed a new Statement confirming Australia’s central banking framework and assuring the Reserve Bank of statutory independence.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said the new Statement reaffirmed the Bank’s inflation targeting framework which had served Australia well.
“Price stability is critical for sustainable growth in our economy and for creating jobs,” Mr Swan said..
“In pursuing the goal of medium-term price stability, both the Reserve Bank and the Government re-affirm the objective of keeping consumer price inflation between 2 and 3 per cent, on average, over the cycle.”
Mr Swan said the Statement also recognised the Bank’s longstanding responsibility for financial system stability, which was critical to a stable macroeconomic environment.
The Statement says that new appointments to the Reserve Bank Board would be made by the Treasurer from a register of eminent candidates maintained by the Secretary to the Treasury and the Governor, which removes the potential for political considerations in the appointment process.
The Statement also pointed to Section 11 of the Reserve Bank Act 1959, which contained procedures for resolving policy differences between the Reserve Bank Board and the Government.
“The procedures, in effect, allow the Government to determine policy in the event of a material difference,” the Statement says.
“But the procedures are politically demanding and their nature reinforces the Reserve Bank’s independence in the conduct of monetary policy.
“Safeguards like this ensure that monetary policy is subject to the checks and balances inherent and necessary in a democratic system.”
The Statement also highlights the goals of monetary policy, which maintains that the Reserve Bank Board will conduct the policy in a way that, in the Reserve Bank Board’s opinion, would best contribute to the stability of the currency of Australia; the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.
The Statement also says that the Reserve Bank will take a number of steps to ensure the conduct of monetary policy is transparent, for instance by issuing a statement immediately after each meeting of the Board.
5 October, 2010
A new website has been launched to help consumers and businesses navigate the new national consumer laws.
bound to pay off
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury also released the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) Regulations and draft Guides for consultation.
Mr Bradbury said the ACL Regulations – which are set to take effect from 1 January next year – would replace State and Territory consumer laws with a single set of consumer rights and business rules.
“The ACL will replace many small differences in existing State and territory consumer laws with a single national approach,” Mr Bradbury said.
“A single national law will be simpler and easier for business to comply with and provide consumers with greater certainty about their rights.
“Under the ACL, businesses and consumers will be subject to the same set of laws right across the country whether they be in Adelaide or Alice Springs, or Bondi or Broome.”
He said the website www.consumerlaw.gov.au would help people understand how the ACL Regulations were being implemented and how they would be enforced, as well as consumer policy in Australia and overseas.
“www.consumerlaw.gov.au will be an important source of information and guidance on the new law and how it will be implemented in the coming months, as well as a forum for consultation,” Mr Bradbury said.
“In the coming months, www.consumerlaw.gov.au will provide more information about the ACL for consumers and businesses and I encourage people to subscribe to the website to keep up to date with developments and to contribute to the consultation process.”
He said comments on the draft ACL Regulations would be received until 13 October.
“We are keen to ensure that businesses and consumers have the opportunity to comment on the ACL Regulations and Guides and I encourage people to get involved,” Mr Bradbury said.
“It is important that businesses know about the new rules and that consumers are aware of their rights.”
5 October, 2010
Election report on
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has released a report into processing irregularities that led to more than 4,000 votes being excluded from the recent Federal election in the seats of Boothby and Flynn.
Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn said he was extremely concerned that the irregularities led to so many voters being disenfranchised by having their votes excluded from the count.
“That this action was necessary is deeply regretted by the AEC,” Mr Killesteyn said.
“The AEC unequivocally apologises to all of the affected electors, and is also writing to all candidates concerned.
“The AEC will be providing further consideration to the issues involved as part of its
forthcoming submissions to the Joint Standing Committee into Electoral Matters.”
In August, Mr Killesteyn appointed former Electoral Commissioner Bill Gray to examine the incidents and report his findings.
The incidents involved the premature opening of ballot-boxes by electoral officials at the Pre-poll Voting Office at Oaklands Park in South Australia (in the electorate of Boothby) and at Blackwater and Emerald in Queensland (the electorate of Flynn), leading to the exclusion from the count of 2,977 votes from Boothby and 1,306 votes from Flynn.
Some Senate votes were also excluded as result.
Mr Killesteyn said the report found that the mishandled votes were due to apparent polling official error and that no evidence was tendered of any tampering with ballot papers at any of the three pre-poll voting offices.
He said the report included recommendations on ways to minimise the potential for a repeat of the incidents.
He said the recommendations dealt with issues covering the training of polling place officials, placing reminder stickers on ballot-boxes that on no account are they to be opened and reviewing practices dealing with the use of security seals.
The AEC accepted all the report’s recommendations and Mr Killesteyn said they would be implemented immediately.
“The Commission has examined the circumstances of the errors and determined that the votes excluded from the count could not have changed the outcome, and therefore the declared successful candidates, for the two House of Representatives divisions, nor the outcome of the Senate elections in South Australia and Queensland,” Mr Killesteyn said.
5 October, 2010
New laws that strengthen the capability of police and the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) to combat serious and organised crime have been introduced into Parliament.
get new powers
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor said the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 would be additional to the two Serious and Organised Crime Acts passed by Parliament earlier this year.
“We are committed to preventing, disrupting and investigating organised criminal activity,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the Bill would allow the ACC to appoint part time examiners who would increase the Agency’s capacity to investigate serious and organised crime.
Mr O’Connor said the ACC’s Chief Executive would be given powers similar to those of the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, to deal with staff who engaged in serious misconduct and corruption.
He said the Bill would allow police to retain or destroy items that could be used in serious offences and enable them to examine seized electronic devices.
The Bill would also empower AFP officers to take fingerprints and photographs of people arrested for offences punishable by imprisonment of 12 months or more.
Mr O’Connor said the amendments were developed in consultation with the ACC and the AFP.
5 October, 2010
Fraud control scheme
An audit of Centrelink’s fraud control program has found that most of the Agency’s fraud investigations did not comply with the Government investigation standards.
In his report Centrelink Fraud Investigations, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found fraud control to be a major and ongoing task for the Agency which administered $87 billion in payments to seven million recipients each year.
“Keeping non-compliance to a minimum is a major and ongoing task for Centrelink,” the Auditor-General said.
“In 2008-09, Centrelink met its fraud investigation and prosecution targets but did not achieve the required savings outcomes.”
He said his audit focused on how the Agency identified, investigated and managed potential cases of recipient fraud.
He found that while Centrelink had taken steps to improve its fraud control program by putting its Fraud Investigation Manual online, introducing an intelligence capability to detect fraud and restructuring its Business Integrity Network, it was still falling short when compared with the broader Australian Government Investigation Standards (AGIS).
“The results of the ANAO’s case reviews indicate that most of these fraud investigations did
not comply with the Australian Government’s regulated framework for fraud investigations and Centrelink’s internal policies and procedures,” the Auditor-General said.
He said as a result, there were deficiencies in case selection and shortcomings in managerial oversight of investigation planning, deliberations and outcomes.
“Centrelink would benefit from placing stronger emphasis on the quality and consistency of its case management practices,” he said.
“Closer monitoring of decision making by management throughout serious fraud investigations
would enable Centrelink’s fraud intelligence capability to be more effectively utilised.”
He found the Agency was investigating the less complex cases to achieve its targets and consequently not exploring the more complex, serious cases.
“While Centrelink’s new approach is designed to prioritise and manage serious cases of fraud, it is being overshadowed by the automatic and generic referral,” he said.
“The ANAO’s reviews of 113 cases identified that while half of Centrelink’s fraud investigations had undergone an Intelligence Assessment, the influence of these assessments to progress
serious fraud cases to prosecution was negligible.”
The Auditor makes four recommendations including more effective use of Centrelink’s intelligence capability; ensuring compliance with fraud investigation requirements; providing closer oversight of decision making by fraud investigators; and more effective training. Centrelink agreed to all recommendations.
The Auditor-General said compliance with the AGIS and Centrelink’s own policies and
procedures would improve investigation outcomes.
The full report can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au
The audit team consisted of Kay Robinson, Michael Masters and Steven Lack.
5 October, 2010
PS scholarship to be
A new scholarship to assist PS staff study public administration and governance has been created by Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA).
won for the money
CSA’s Director of Education and Training, Irene Booth said the scholarship incorporated its long-standing Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance course, in recognition of the growing importance and promotion of good governance and risk management practice within the public sector.
“Though governance practice in public and private sectors is increasingly very similar, to cover areas of major difference, the Graduate Diploma includes two public sector subject options in Applied Administrative Law and Public Sector Accountability and Transparency,” Ms Booth said.
She said scholarships awarded would be determined by applicants’ written submissions and assessed by a select panel of key public sector personnel.
She said the scholarships were valued at over $12,000 for the full course of study and would assist students from the public sector in pursuing postgraduate study in governance and risk management.
Scholarship recipients would also have access to professional development activities for the year following the completion of the Graduate Diploma (to the value of $1,000) and a year’s subscription to CSA’s Affiliates program.
Ms Booth said any public sector employee who hadn’t previously enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance and who met CSA’s entry requirements for the Graduate Diploma would be eligible to apply.
She said applicants would be required to submit an essay of 2,000 words on a current governance issue in the public sector and a statement of 50 words or fewer that demonstrates the potential benefit of the award to their career and Agency.
“This new scholarship is an important step in providing aspiring governance professionals in the public sector with the knowledge and skills that their Department or Agency requires to ensure good governance and risk management practices are nurtured and developed,” Ms Booth said.
For more information she directed enquiries to www.csaust.com/scholarship or phone 1800 251 849.
5 October, 2010
Age Commissioner to
A new Age Discrimination Commissioner is to be created within the Australian Human Rights Commission.
be oldie and goodie
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said for the first time, a stand-alone Age Discrimination Commissioner would be able to advocate for the rights of older Australians in the community and workplace and handle complaints under the Age Discrimination Act.
“A dedicated Commissioner would tackle discrimination in getting a job, applying for a promotion, enrolling at a TAFE or university, applying to rent a house or using services such as banking, superannuation, insurance and government services,” Mr McClelland said.
Mr McClelland thanked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, who has previously been responsible for age discrimination issues.
Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis said the new Commissioner would encourage employers and the broader community to appreciate the important qualities and skills older Australians bring to the workplace and their communities.
“A new Commissioner that addresses the barriers to equality and participation faced by mature workers will complement the work of the Government’s Consultative Forum on Mature Age Participation,” Ms Ellis said.
She said the new Commissioner will take office from 1 July next year.
The Government said it would conduct a transparent and merit-based appointment process for this position.
The new laws also include amendments to improve the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, including stronger protections from sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities and breastfeeding.
5 October, 2010
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has issued a warning to aircraft pilots to be aware of the dangers the looming locust plague could pose to flying operations.
to bug pilots
In its warning, CASA said that pilots operating aircrafts in areas where high density hatchings of locusts had already occurred – including the central west and far west of NSW, north-west Victoria and the Flinders Range region of South Australia – should be aware of the dangers of locusts.
The Authority urged pilots to check regularly to see if new hatchings of locusts had occurred in other regions or if infestations had spread.
In a statement CASA said that swarms of adult locusts could pose “a direct threat to aviation”.
“Locusts can fly up to 3,000 feet and can be in swarms of up to 50 million,” it said.
“Individual swarms can range over tens or even hundreds of kilometres.
“The insects are also active at night, travelling up to hundreds of kilometres in the right conditions.
“Locust infestations can attract large bird numbers, increasing the risk of aircraft bird strikes.”
It said other dangers posed by locusts included masking ground features and reducing visibility by impacting windscreens.
Aircraft are also at risk by the ingestion of locusts into engine intakes and pitot tubes, which can cause damage and lead to instruments providing unreliable readings.
“Pilots should be aware in locust plague areas there may be more aircraft traffic than usual due to aerial spotting and spraying,” CASA said.
“Care should especially be taken during take offs and landings in these locations.
“Pilots should also be aware that locusts pose risks to parked aircraft by entering intakes and pitot tubes.
“Covers must be fitted to prevent locust ingestion.”
More information was available from www.daff.gov.au
5 October, 2010
New aviation laws
New laws that impose tougher penalties for aviation-related crimes and create new crimes have been reintroduced into Parliament by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor.
ready for take off
The Aviation Crimes and Policing Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 was put to the lawmakers earlier this year but had not been passed when Parliament was prorogued.
Mr O’Connor said the new penalties would bring the aviation laws more into line with other criminal legislation.
“Attacks and threatened attacks on our aviation industry put lives at risk, cause great distress and impose unnecessary burdens on our aviation industry,” Mr O’Connor said.
“This Bill will make our skies a safer place for airlines, their staff and the travelling public.”
He said under the changes, the maximum penalties for aviation-related crimes would increase and the crimes would fall into four categories:
Mr O’Connor also announced that three new offences would be created, including assault of an aircraft crew member (maximum 10 years jail); reckless endangerment of an aircraft, (14 years) and having dangerous goods onboard an aircraft (also 14 years).
- 10 years jail for bomb hoaxes and similar offences which currently carry a two year maximum;
- 4 years jail for damaging aircraft facilities at a major airport, which currently attracts seven to 10 years;
- 20 years jail for offences that pose danger or cause harm to groups of people, which currently carry terms of seven, 14 or 15 years; and
- Life in jail for hijacking or destroying an aircraft and recklessly causing death (no change).
“These crimes not only cause great distress and inconvenience, but can also compromise public safety, for example where a flight has to be diverted at short notice or where an airport needs to be evacuated suddenly,” Mr O’Connor said.
5 October, 2010
The Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Graeme Samuel has acted to dispel a number of myths about how the competition and consumer watchdog judges mergers.
takes hit at myths
Speaking at a conference in Sydney, Mr Samuel said a number of myths had arisen surrounding the Commission’s approach to mergers and it was time the myths were “busted”.
“Merger regulation is a key element of any effective competition law,” Mr Samuel said.
“It aims to preserve competitive market structures and give market participants incentives to compete, rather than rely on ex post regulation of anti-competitive conduct.
“By preventing transactions that damage the competitive structure of markets, section 50 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 reduces the likelihood of such competitive conduct issues arising.”
Mr Samuel said the first myth was that the ACCC was adopting a tougher line by blocking more mergers.
He said this had arisen from a “very simplistic” statistical comparison of the proportion of matters opposed or allowed subject to a number of undertakings over past years.
“Such statistical comparisons are superficial nonsense,” Mr Samuel said.
“Statistics can be interpreted in different ways to provide different conclusions.”
He said the second myth was the ACCC decisions lacked timeliness, particularly around the recent NAB/AXA matter.
He said the ACCC’s timelines for merger reviews were best practice and considerably shorter than many other jurisdictions, including European Union, the US and the UK.
He said the third myth arose from a misunderstanding about the release of Statements of Issues.
“These are not necessarily a good anticipator of the ACCC’s final decision and are not a draft decision,” Mr Samuel said.
“They provide preliminary guidance on the ACCC’s concerns and focus market attention and provoke comment and information on areas of interest.”
He said the fourth myth related to Public Competition Assessments, which he said were not the definitive statement of reasons for an ACCC decision, while the fifth myth was that meetings with Commissioners may significantly advance the prospects of ACCC clearance.
He said the sixth myth related to the use of formal information requests.
“In the vast majority of reviews, voluntary information requests provided the information needed,” Mr Samuel said.
“However, formal information requests were invaluable in obtaining truthful information and could generate substantially more comprehensive and accurate information.”
He said the seventh myth was a claimed sudden focus on coordinated effects when reviewing a merger.
“The ACCC has always examined mergers on the basis of coordinated, as well as unilateral effects,” he said.
5 October, 2010
Changes to Australia’s counter terrorism laws have been announced by the Attorney-General providing more power to police, more rights to individuals and a new Parliamentary watchdog committee.
out in the open
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, said the changes were reintroduced into Parliament after being passed by the House of Representatives in April this year following extensive public consultation.
According to Mr McClelland the key changes included new powers for police to enter a premises without a warrant in some circumstances and extending the time available for them to re-enter from one hour to 12.
The changes also include setting up a new Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement to oversee the Australian Federal Police and Australian Crime Commission and extending the powers of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to enquire into intelligence and security matters in Commonwealth Government Departments.
Arrested individuals would enjoy a new right of appeal against bail decisions and the life of Regulations proscribing terrorist organisations would be extended from two to three years;
Mr McClelland said there would also be a maximum seven day limit on the detention period that could be disregarded when a person was arrested for terrorism or national security offences.
The Attorney-General said the changes were designed to give the Australian community confidence that law enforcement and security agencies had the tools they needed to fight terrorism, while ensuring their powers were balanced by appropriate safeguards.
He said the changes came about following a number of independent reviews of the national security and counter-terrorism legislation since 2006.
5 October, 2010
A national study by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics/Bureau of Rural Sciences has found tourism to be a potential income earner for many Australian farmers.
seeds of tourism
The ABARE-BRS study, Drivers of regional agritourism and food tourism in Australia found that for some farmers, agritourism and food tourism were their major sources of income.
The research revealed that about 20 per cent of the 300 respondents surveyed earned more than 90 per cent of their income from agritourism.
Deputy Executive Director of ABARE–BRS, Paul Morris said the findings were promising for farmers.
“There are many good case studies of farmers transitioning into agritourism, as well as people from other professions moving to rural areas to set up successful agritourism and food tourism operations,” Mr Morris said.
“These operations also showcase quality Australian food and give consumers an understanding of how their food is produced.”
Other findings included that local and regional support were critical factors for expanding the industry.
The research also revealed that agriculture offered some “unique” opportunities for women, Indigenous Australians and young people to become involved in.
Key findings were that agritourism allowed farmers to diversify their income by selling directly at the farm-gate or in local markets, and that successful agritourism and food tourism was underpinned by improved research and marketing, tourism skills and strengthened coordination at regional and local levels.
The report includes case studies of agritourism regions conducted in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, the Harvest Highway region in Western Australia, Orange and the Northern Rivers region in New South Wales, Tropical North Queensland and Eastern Gippsland in Victoria.
The project was part of the Australia’s Farming Future initiative.
5 October, 2010
Parental leave now on
Paid parental leave has arrived, with expectant parents now able to make a claim for paid parental leave up to three months prior to the expected date of birth.
Paid parental leave is available to parents of children born on or after 1 January 2011and recipients will be eligible for 18 weeks pay at the minimum wage, provided they earn $150,000 or less.
If they already have a paid maternity or paternity leave entitlement, the paid scheme is in addition to this.
Those who don’t want the extra 18 weeks, can opt to get the baby bonus instead.
To be eligible for the payment, recipients must have worked 330 hours in 10 of the 13 months prior to the expected date of birth.
Fallen police remembered
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor has paid tribute to the sacrifice of Australia’s police officers on National Police Remembrance Day, held on 29 September.
“Every day our nation’s police officers devote themselves to their duty to protect all Australians,” Mr O’Connor said.
He made special mention of Detective Constable William Crews, who died in the line of duty in Sydney last month.
The Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Andrew Metcalfe has been named Federal Government Leader of the Year by the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Wendy Southern was also recognised for her Outstanding Contribution to Public Administration.
Blogger needs help
Gov 2.0 blogger Craig Thomler is attempting to compile a listing of Australia’s Government-run Facebook pages and YouTube channels.
He is interested in any that are operated by any Australian Federal, State or local Government Agency or other publicly funded body.
He would appreciate help - simply email him the details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Mint welcomes 350
Three hundred and fifty international guests from the mints around the world have visited the Royal Australian Mint to see its newly upgraded facilities.
The Mint was hosting the biannual Mint Directors Conference in Canberra last week.
Over 45 countries were represented.
Moves in Parliament to change the law to provide additional protections for journalists and their sources are to be supported by the Government.
The reforms are based on New Zealand laws which provide a rebuttable presumption in favour of journalists not disclosing information in Court.
“This Bill doesn’t just protect journalists and their sources, it also ensures information in the public interest can be reported,” co-sponsor of the change Senator Nick Xenophon said.
Gambling committee formed
A new committee to work on gambling reform has been announced.
The new Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform will examine and make recommendations about gambling reforms, including a proposed gambling limit pre-commitment scheme.
The 10-member committee is to present its final report to Parliament by 30 June 2013.