SearchArchives for October 2012
30 October, 2012
DSD signals ways
The Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) has estimated 85 per cent of the threats to PS computer systems could be mitigated if organisations implemented just four of its major strategies.
to cyber safety
Deputy Director of Cyber and Information Security at DSD, Mike Burgess said while there was a strong understanding of the threats in cyberspace, there were things that could be done to prevent the vast majority of intrusions
Mr Burgess was speaking at a conference, Cyber Resilience: Are You Ready? which was aimed at encouraging Government Agencies to implement measures to protect their information while enhancing the resilience of their networks.
Also at the conference, Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith said that in an age when more than 80 per cent of Australians had access to the internet and the on-line contribution to the nation’s economy was about $50 billion a year, there was a need to understand the size and scale of the cyber threat.
“Australia is experiencing increasingly sophisticated attempts to infiltrate networks in both the public and private sectors,” Mr Smith said.
“The threat comes from a wide range of sources: Non-state actors – individuals, issue- motivated groups, organised criminal syndicates and others.”
He said that cyber security was an issue for everyone.
“It is an issue that impacts adversely upon our economic interests and national well-being, not just our national security interests,” Mr Smith said.
“There is increasing evidence of cyber criminals extracting significant sums of money from the economy through network-based fraud.
“The cyber theft of intellectual property is also a serious issue for industry and business.”
However, he said there were things that could be done to prevent the vast majority of intrusions.
He said the four major strategies were application whitelisting to ensure that only software that was specified and authorised could run on a system; patching third party applications; patching operating systems; and restricting administrative privileges.
Mr Smith welcomed the launch of DSD’s new information security video, Catch, Patch, Match.
“This means catching malware by application whitelisting; patching software and operating systems; and matching administrator rights to the right people,” he said.
The video Catch, Patch, Match and other material related to cyber security can be accessed at the DSD website this PS News link.
30 October, 2012
A National Sustainability Council for Australia has been established to provide independent advice to the Government on sustainability issues and to produce public reports.
to be sustained
Announcing the initiative, the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said it was clear from the Sustainable Population Strategy that better information about how Australia’s economy, environment and society interacted to inform better planning and decision-making was needed.
“That’s why the Government announced the Measuring Sustainability program in the 2011-12 Budget,” Mr Burke said.
“This program will allow for the collection of data guided by a set of sustainability indicators that will measure our progress while delivering capacity for better planning and decision-making.”
He said the indicators would help the Government take a longer-term view and consider how actions and decisions made in the present affected the opportunities available to future generations.
“The National Sustainability Council will report against the sustainability indicators every two years, highlighting key trends and emerging issues for policy and decision-makers and communities around Australia,” Mr Burke said.
He said the Council would be chaired by the Chair of the Monash Sustainability Institute and ClimateWorks Australia, John Thwaites.
Other members would be Rod Glover, Tom Hatton, Graeme Hugo, Mark Joiner, Romilly Madew, Sam Mostyn and Sue Richardson.
30 October, 2012
A new, not-for-profit organisation is to be established to research policy and provide an advocacy service for Australia’s superannuation investors.
to push super
Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten said that with superannuation increasing from nine to 12 per cent in the coming years, there was a need to ensure a continuing focus on members’ interests.
He said the new organisation, to be called the Superannuation Consumer Centre, was part of Government’s response to the Super System Review and would study how to promote a more member-driven approach to super.
“The Government will provide $10 million over three years as a contribution to an investment fund, the earnings of which will be used to fund the ongoing costs of this non-profit organisation,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Government’s contribution will be contingent on matching funding being provided by industry.”
He said the Government not afraid to take on difficult reforms that delivered real benefits to consumers.
“This centre will ensure that there is a focus on these issues in the future.”
Mr Shorten said the requirement for industry support for the centre provided an opportunity for the superannuation industry to demonstrate its commitment to ensuring the interests of superannuation consumers were well represented in the development of reforms.
“It will also help to ensure that the centre is well resourced to perform this important role,” he said.
Mr Shorten said expressions of interest in running the centre would be invited shortly from the private sector.
30 October, 2012
Asian roadmap shows
The Prime Minister has released a White Paper on Australia’s role in Asia in the coming century.
the path ahead
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard described the White Paper as a “roadmap showing how Australia can be a winner”.
Ms Gillard said the Paper was an ambitious plan to ensure Australia emerged stronger over the decades ahead, by taking advantage of the opportunities on offer.
“In this century, the region in which we live will become home to most of the world’s middle class and will be the world’s largest producer of goods and services, and the largest consumer of them,” Ms Gillard said.
“The scale and pace of Asia’s rise is staggering, and there are significant opportunities and challenges for all Australians.”
She said it was not enough to rely on luck because Australia’s future would be determined by the choices made and how it engaged with the region.
“We must build on our strengths and take active steps to shape our future,” she said.
Ms Gillard said the White Paper set out a number of targets over the next 13 years to ensure Australia could fulfil its ambitions and compete effectively within Asia.
She said these targets included that by 2025, Australia’s school system would rank in the top five in the world, and 10 of its universities would be in the world’s top 100; that studies of Asia would be a core part of the Australian school curriculum and all students would have continuous access to a priority Asian language - Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese.
Other targets, Ms Gillard said, included Australia’s leaders becoming more Asia literate; the Australian economy being more deeply integrated with Asia; with trade links seeing the region accounting for a third of GDP, up from a quarter today; and Australia’s diplomatic network establishing a larger footprint across Asia.
Ms Gillard said the White Paper set out actions that could be taken by governments, businesses and communities to play their part in shaping the future.
She appointed the Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Asian Century Policy with responsibility for delivering on the objectives of the Paper.
The White Paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 October, 2012
Australian Indigenous Rangers are to tour Canada as part of a new global initiative to share traditional knowledge and ideas for best practice on land and sea management.
take overseas track
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said three rangers from the Kimberley Land Council in Western Australia and the Central Land Council in the Northern Territory would take part in the 10-day exchange.
Mr Burke said the rangers would spend time with the Canadian First Nation peoples as part of the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land and Sea Managers Network.
He said Australia’s Indigenous Rangers’ Network had grown from about 100 to 680 Rangers since 2008 and was on track to reach a target of 730 by June 2015.
He said the global network recognised Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge to protect and nourish the land and sea, contributing to the social and environmental health of their own nations and the world.
Mr Burke said Australia had led the initiative and recruited Brazil, Norway and New Zealand to form the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land and Sea Managers Network at the Rio+20 sustainable development conference in Brazil earlier this year.
“The network will draw on Indigenous peoples and local community groups involved in land and sea management and sustainable development to build on relationships and share best practice between managers globally.”
He said the exchange marked a major step towards establishing the global network as an international forum for Indigenous people involved in land and sea management.
“It is the first of several exchanges in the lead-up to the inaugural international network conference in Darwin in May 2013,” he said.
Mr Burke said the conference would bring Indigenous peoples and local communities together from around the world to shape the network and ensure its long-term viability.
30 October, 2012
Tourism on road
A new fund to develop regional tourism has been launched by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.
with new funding
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said the $48.5 million Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund would assist businesses to upgrade their accommodation and build new tourism attractions.
Mr Ferguson said the merits-based grants were open for applications for amounts of between $50,000 and $250,000, matched dollar-for-dollar, taking the total spending to almost $100 million.
He said the program would help boost innovation and quality in Australia’s tourism industry.
“This fund is about bringing the beauty of Australia’s outdoors indoors with a major focus of this program being on improving the quality of accommodation and attractions in regional areas so that the tourism facilities match the beauty of Australia’s regions,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Tourism is a vital part of Australia’s economy as Australia’s largest services export, employing almost one million Australians.”
He said that boosting the quality of tourism products would help ensure Australia remained a competitive destination for both domestic and international visitors.
“This fund builds on the Government’s T-QUAL Grants program which has delivered more than $20 million to tourism operators, and Australia’s first national tourism accreditation scheme, the T-QUAL Tick,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said tourism operators outside Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne metropolitan areas were eligible to apply for grants up to 14 December.
Application forms, program guidelines, frequently asked questions and YouTube videos can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 October, 2012
More water for
The delivery of an additional 450 gigalitres of water to the Murray Darling Basin as part of a plan to restore it to health, has been announced by the Minister for Water, Tony Burke.
Mr Burke said the additional water would benefit major wetlands across the Basin and the lower lakes in South Australia.
“Recent modelling showed these environmental outcomes can be achieved with the return of 3,200 gigalitres to the Murray,” Mr Burke said.
He said that modelling, released by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority earlier in the month, showed that through a combination of relaxing capacity constraints and providing an additional 450 gigalitres of water above the 2,750 gigalitres originally set in the Basin Plan, better environmental outcomes could be achieved.
Mr Burke said the Commonwealth would provide $1.77 billion over 10 years from 2014 to relax key operating constraints and allow the extra 450 gigalitres of environmental water to be obtained through projects to ensure there was no social and economic downside for communities.
“We will invest primarily in on-farm efficiency works that generate water savings for the environment and other projects as agreed by States,” he said.
“Implementation of the plan will be an historic event for water reform in Australia and provide greater certainty for future water availability ensuring all those dependent on a sustainable river system can face the future with greater confidence.”
Mr Burke said the announcement represented a critical stage in the development of the Basin Plan which was on track to be finalised before the end of the year.
He said the extra funding needed would be secured through a special account and advance appropriation of future funds to ensure its availability through to 2024, by which time the additional water was to have been recovered.
He expected that legislation to establish the special account and advance appropriation would be introduced into Parliament before the end of the year.
30 October, 2012
A new interactive iBook on the wartime Gallipoli campaign has been launched by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon.
for war students
Mr Snowdon said the Gallipoli iBook was developed for classroom use and would bring the Gallipoli campaign to life through rare historical footage, interviews with Turkish students and insights from the book’s author, historian Richard Reid.
A former teacher, Mr Snowdon said the Government was committed to providing innovative resources to meet the needs of modern classrooms, which increasingly used electronic teaching aids.
“Teachers have told us they’re seeking electronic educational materials to make the most of the equipment their schools have invested in,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The Gallipoli iBook has been designed to meet this need, but I’m sure it will have broad appeal for everyone who wants to honour the service and sacrifice of the soldiers who served at Gallipoli in the First World War.”
He said the interactive book would cater for the growing interest in First World War history in the lead-up to the Anzac Centenary and it aligned with the Year Nine history curriculum unit of work on the war.
“One of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ most important roles is to ensure the service and sacrifice of Australia’s servicemen and women is never forgotten,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said the Gallipoli iBook complemented other education resources produced by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and was based on the third book in the Australians in World War I series.
30 October, 2012
Asian Institute to
A new research institute aimed at a closer understanding of South-East Asian nations has been established at the Australian National University (ANU).
The South-East Asia Institute is based at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
It was officially launched by the Secretary-General of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Surin Pitsuwan.
Head of the Institute, Robert Cribb said the new institute would bring together the ANU’s “unrivalled level of expertise” on South-East Asia and promote greater understanding of its many diverse nations, as well as of ASEAN.
“ANU has the largest community of academic specialists on South-East Asia in the world, outside South-East Asia itself,” Professor Cribb said.
“Our 80 academics conduct significant research on the region as well as supervise some 200 research students.”
He said the ANU experts also taught at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels with a focus on languages, including Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Tetum and Javanese.
“The University’s strength in South-East Asian studies is based on a long history of engagement, and our research has strongly shaped national and international understandings of the region,” Professor Cribb said.
“The Institute will build on this and complete specialist research and work on Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.”
He said it would also undertake work on ASEAN, which was playing a soothing role behind the scenes in the volatile international politics of East Asia.
30 October, 2012
Mint’s $2 message
The Royal Australian Mint has produced Australia’s first ever $2 commemorative circulating coin featuring a Flanders poppy to mark Remembrance Day on 11 November.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll said the Royal Australian Mint had also produced a special colour-printed version of the $2 coin with a red poppy to be distributed through the national RSL Red Poppy Appeal.
Mr Ripoll said Remembrance Day was a time when Australia stopped and remembered the courageous men and women who had made sacrifices for their country.
“This coin will carry on that message, a special reminder for people who receive this coin in their change,” Mr Ripoll said.
“As we know, red poppies are sold around the country in the lead-up to Remembrance Day through the RSL Red Poppy Appeal and this year it seemed only fitting that a special version of the $2 coin be a part of that national appeal.”
He said the coloured coin, of which there will be half a million, will be circulated nationally through the RSL Red Poppy Appeal.
He said the non-coloured poppy coin, to be produced in a minimum run of five million, was to be distributed through the normal channels via banks and retail outlets over the coming months.
“The $2 coin has had the same design on it since it was introduced back in 1988 and the Royal Australian Mint has chosen a simple yet effective design to carry the message of Remembrance Day,” Mr Ripoll said.
“This coin highlights the world class innovation and skill of the Royal Australian Mint and the entire team there is to be congratulated for the quality of the finished product.”
Both coins feature a poppy design surrounded by the words ‘Lest we forget’ and ‘Remembrance Day’ in repetitive micro-lettering.
30 October, 2012
Museum thinks big
A major exhibition on how the National Museum of Australia (NMA) conservators care for the Museum’s collection is coinciding with a display of some of the big objects from its National Historical Collection hall in Canberra.
with new display
Director of the National Museum, Andrew Sayers said many of the objects had never been on public display because of their size and complexity.
Mr Sayers said they included the first car to drive around Australia; a 1936 Australian-designed light aircraft; a travelling saw doctor’s wagon from the Depression years; an Aboriginal canoe made to an ancient blueprint; and a collection of model trains.
He said the display gave visitors the opportunity to see more of the NMA’s collection.
“We want to make more of the museum accessible and at the same time to show all of the expertise that goes into its preservation,” Mr Sayers said.
“We know from our open days that there is a huge interest in the museum behind the scenes and this new display signals that we want that interest to be met every day of the year.”
He said a working exhibition, Museum Workshop: The Art, Science and Craft of the Conservator, will show how, behind the scenes, the museum cares for the National Historical Collection.
It is to include conservators working on delicate photograph albums and textiles including shoes and period costumes, restoring the 1948 Daimler car used by Queen Elizabeth II during her 1954 tour of Australia, treating Aboriginal bark paintings, and servicing the Museum’s chronometer collection.
Mr Sayers said he would like to see many more parts of the museum’s collection brought on to the Acton site over the coming years.
“This cannot happen overnight. Some of these collection items are huge and complex; it will take a lot of work to present and interpret them in the context of Australia’s history.” He said the display of more of the museum’s collection followed an extensive development of the public areas within the building, providing more space to display large objects from the collection.
Museum Workshop: The Art, Science and Craft of the Conservator, is on display until 28 January, 2013.
30 October, 2012
Land use barrier
A new, three-year study of coastal ecosystems has found their management needs to be improved to boost the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.
to reef health
Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Russell Reichelt, said the Authority had issued the report: Informing the Outlook for Great Barrier Reef Coastal Ecosystems.
Dr Reichelt said the report detailed coastal land use changes and their impact on water quality, habitats and inshore biodiversity in the Marine Park.
He said it provided land managers, Governments and researchers with a better understanding of the extent to which sensitive and complex coastal ecosystems had changed over many decades; the impact on coral cover; and priority actions needed to halt the decline.
“The Australian Government’s Reef Rescue program is doing good work in this area with thousands of farmers reducing farm run-off into the Reef,” Dr Reichelt said.
“However, this latest study confirms that if we want to protect one of the world’s best-known natural icons and improve its ability to withstand multiple pressures, then we all need to act faster.”
Dr Reichelt said seagrasses, the coastline, estuaries, freshwater wetlands, grasslands, forest and rainforests were just some of the 14 coastal ecosystems which were important to the way the Reef worked.
“Clearly, the main pressure on these ecosystems is changes in land use,” Dr Reichelt said.
“Our environmental understanding and management of these areas has improved considerably over the past five decades.
“However, the Reef is still feeling the after-effects of decisions and actions taken many years ago.”
Dr Reichelt said that while coastal planning was outside of GBRMPA’s jurisdiction, the authority would continue to work with the Queensland Government and Local Councils, scientists, industry, traditional owners and communities to build the Reef’s resilience.
The report Informing the Outlook for Great Barrier Reef Coastal Ecosystems, can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 October, 2012
Closing gap in the
A partnership between the Department of Human Services and not-for profit organisation WorkVentures is to give people in the Hunter region of NSW better access to more affordable computers.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said the internet was fundamental to the way people lived, yet more than one in five households in NSW still lacked access.
“There are far too many citizens cut off from the jobs, services and social contact that the internet makes possible,” Senator Carr said.
He said his Department had quality computers it no longer needed and WorkVentures had the skills to make them available at an affordable price.
“We have now supplied 800 laptops to WorkVentures, who refurbish and refresh them with Windows 7, Microsoft Office and anti-virus software before selling them on,” Senator Carr said.
“That means people can have a laptop for as little as $289 – a much lower price than you’d find in the shops – and feel confident they are purchasing a quality machine.”
WorkVentures official, Scott Millington said the organisation’s goal was to help people who had traditionally been on the wrong side of the digital divide to feel confident using technology in their everyday lives.
“Over the past 18 months we’ve had 1,000 orders from customers in the Hunter region,” Mr Millington said.
“With the exception of Sydney, we supply more computers to the Hunter than anywhere else in Australia.”
26 October, 2012
Archives sets date
The National Archives of Australia has set a timeframe of three years by which all Australian Government Departments and Agencies are to be required to manage new information electronically.
for digital records
Director-General of the Archives, David Fricker said that by 2015 he expected that all information digitally generated by the Australian Public Service would be stored and managed digitally and transferred in digital format to the Archives.
“The digital deadline we have set will be no surprise to the 200 Government Departments and Agencies that will be required to meet it,” Mr Fricker said
“For the last few years we have been encouraging them to make the transition from paper-based to digital information management and storage.
“We will continue to provide essential advice and expertise to guide agencies in managing digital information to ensure it remains accessible and usable into the future.”
He said the National Archives’ Digital Edge training program would provide Government Agencies with the skills and understanding about digital information management as they moved towards the 2015 deadline,.
Mr Fricker said that with the explosion in the volume and complexity of information it was no longer feasible, practical or cost-effective to persist with paper-based business practices and storage.
“In 2009 it cost Australian Government agencies $220 million just to store the paper records that they already hold and of course this will only increase unless there’s a concerted effort to stop creating paper records,” he said.
“When the Archives surveyed agencies two years ago, they estimated they would create an additional 115 shelf kilometres of paper records annually, using around 1.7 million reams of A4 paper.”
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said the transition to digital had multiple benefits.
“By moving to a digital system we not only save on paper and storage space, we become more sustainable and it costs less,” Mr Crean said.
“It’s a win-win situation.
“Just as the internet revolutionised working practices, we will see similar benefits as digital information and systems become more readily available,” he said.
“While some people still feel the need to print information to paper ‘for the record’, the reality is that we live in a global, digital environment where very few documents need to be stored on paper.
Mr Crean said it was vital for Government Agencies to meet community expectations and embrace the shift towards a digital system.
26 October, 2012
Auditor finds gaps
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) has been insufficiently proactive in its role as lead agency for Indigenous Affairs, according to the Auditor-General.
in closing the gaps
In his report Australian Government Coordination Arrangements for Indigenous Programs, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said this had led to missed opportunities for “closing the gap” in Indigenous disadvantage.
Mr McPhee said the Department had built good working relations with other agencies but had been “quite measured” in its leadership approach.
“(The Department) has not been strongly proactive in exercising its lead agency role,” Mr McPhee said.
“Because multiple agencies are involved in program policy and delivery in Indigenous affairs, a well-defined lead agency role is important.”
He said the role needed to ensure information was shared across agencies, to coordinate service delivery on the ground, to provide consolidated advice to Government and to address any systemic performance issues in a timely manner.
Mr McPhee said that in 2011 there were 210 Indigenous-specific programs and sub-programs making a contribution to closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.
He said these were administered by more than 40 different agencies across 17 portfolios.
“FaHCSIA’s lead agency status is well recognised,” he said.
He said the Department had focused its formal role on sharing information and experience between agencies and had not been strongly proactive in exercising its lead agency role.
“A more active approach by the Department is required,” Mr McPhee said.
While he said there was scope for improving the effectiveness of the coordination arrangements, he noted that FaHCSIA had already put in place strengthened arrangements to provide a greater focus on issues of strategic importance.
The Auditor-General made three recommendations to strengthen the lead agency role.
“The first recommendation is aimed at updating FaHCSIA’s lead agency role and bringing a more strategic, results orientation to the governance committees, building on recent steps being taken in this area.
“The second focuses on facilitating improvements in integrated delivery of services and programs in remote and very remote areas.
“The final recommendation proposes ways to improve financial and performance reporting arrangements,” Mr McPhee said.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Jo Hall, Elizabeth Wedgwood and Dr Andrew Pope.
26 October, 2012
Staff from the Department of Human Services have received prestigious awards from one of the world’s largest professional accounting bodies.
Certified Practising Accountants (CPA) Australia acknowledged the achievements and efforts of four DHS staff members at a presentation ceremony at the Department’s Caroline Chisholm Centre in Canberra earlier this month.
Secretary of the Department, Kathryn Campbell accepted the Recognised Employer Partner certificate for the Department’s strong continuing commitment to learning and development for staff and Deputy Secretary Malisa Golightly received an ACT Division President’s award for excellence for her outstanding service to the area of public sector Accounting and Management.
The Department’s Chief Financial Officer Darren Box was presented with a Fellow CPA (FCPA) certificate, the highest level of membership awarded to those with 15 years’ membership with more than five years in a leadership role; and Dallas Richardson from the Chief Financial Officer Division received an award from the University of New England, sponsored by CPA Australia, for finishing in the top five per cent of one of the subjects completed at university.
Ms Campbell said, “CPA Australia has a membership of more than 139,000 finance, accounting and business professionals across the globe and is dedicated to excellence in education and training, so these awards are significant for us.
“The Department of Human Services is one of the largest agencies in the Australian Government, responsible for delivering a range of services, payments and programs that touch the lives of almost all Australians.”
She said that last financial year alone, the Department made payments of $144.7 billion.
“Given the importance of our role in government service delivery, we actively support and encourage our accounting-based staff to enhance their skills and learn from others through regular networking opportunities,” Ms Campbell said.
26 October, 2012
Grants cut to
Uncommitted Government grants had been reduced by $157.5 million for the current financial year with $72.5 million postponed to later years.
Minister for Finance, Senator Penny Wong announced the measures as part of the mid-year savings program.
Senator Wong said the announcement meant the temporary grants pause in place to allow the Government to examine every dollar of spending and ensure taxpayers were getting value for money, was now lifted.
She said no grants already awarded would be affected and that savings had only been found in programs with uncommitted funds.
“The Government recognises the importance of grants programs and will ensure they continue to provide important services to the community”, Senator Wong said.
She said, however, it was critical that programs maintained value for money.
She said the decisions provided continuing scope for monetary policy to respond to economic developments and underpinned confidence in Australia’s public finances at a time of global economic uncertainty.
“We have seen revenue write-downs of almost $160 billion over five years since the start of the Global Financial Crisis and this means spending across a range of areas has had to be closely looked at,” Senator Wong said.
She said savings had been made to grants programs administered by agencies across a range of portfolios, including $25.6 million from a number of families, community and indigenous grants programs; $45.3 million from industry, skills and workplace programs; and $20 million addressing low emissions coal development.
She said a further $1 million would be redirected from programs providing grants to organisations dealing with civil justice and the human rights framework and $0.2 million from Plant Biosecurity and Agriculture Cooperation programs.
26 October, 2012
Foreigners to land
A national register of foreign ownership of agricultural land is to be established.
on land register
Announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, the register would be implemented after detailed consultations with stakeholders.
Senator Ludwig said the new register would provide a comprehensive picture of the specific size and location of foreign agricultural landholdings.
He said foreign investment had helped build Australian agriculture over the past 200 years and was important for the future growth of the farming sector.
However, he said there needed to be more and better information on foreign investment in agricultural land.
He said data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed about 89 per cent of Australian agricultural land was entirely Australian owned and a further 6 per cent was majority owned by Australians.
These figures were broadly in line with levels of foreign ownership from about 30 years ago.
Senator Ludwig said, however, that comprehensive information about foreign investment in Australian agricultural land was limited.
He said a recently established working group had been appointed to develop a discussion paper on the subject.
.He said the final design of the register would take into account the need to improve transparency of foreign ownership in agriculture without imposing unnecessary burdens on investors.
26 October, 2012
Charities cash in on
The national office staff of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) raised more than $20,000 for charities last financial year.
Spokesperson for DEEWR, Tim Pigot said many staff joined the Department because they were committed to improving the lives of others.
“That community and caring spirit doesn’t stop at the front door of the building,” Mr Pigot said.
“DEEWR people across the State and Territory network and in National Office are always finding ways to raise funds to help others in the community.”
He said the social club at National Office in DEEWR had made an annual contribution of $10,000 to the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program for several years.
Other recent contributions had benefited Hartley Life Care and Communities at Work, which were both based in Canberra, he said.
Mr Pigot said the leadership in supporting charities came from the top.
He said the Secretary of DEEWR, Lisa Paul, spoke regularly at external events and, when she could, requested that payment in lieu of speaker fees be directed to support the Big Issue.
Ms Paul said one of the priorities of her Department was to support people in making the transition from unemployment or underemployment to paid work and so the Big Issue was a natural fit.
“I’ve always admired the spirit of the many people who stand on the street corner in all weathers, to sell the Big Issue and get a foothold in the job market, while building skills that employers will value,” Ms Paul.
“We have some regulars near the Department in Canberra and it’s great to have a chat when I buy a copy each month,” she said.
26 October, 2012
Poisons app is
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has launched a new iPhone application for farmers believed to be a world first.
The new tool would make information about agricultural and veterinary chemicals registered in Australia instantly accessible.
Spokesperson for APVMA, Dr Simon Cubit, said the new app would give a farmer in a paddock the ability to access a searchable database of the 10,500 agricultural and veterinary chemicals approved for use in Australia.
“The farmer, for example, will be able to search for a registered chemical product available to treat a specific insect pest,” Dr Cubit said.
“That search will also provide information about active constituents, withholding periods, product labels, and pack sizes at the touch of a button.”
“Once a search has been completed the farmer will be able to save the search for later reference or share the results with others, perhaps in the form of an email to a rural supply store.”
Dr Cubit said the application (called APVMA) also provided information on products that had been suspended, cancelled, stopped or archived.
This ability, he said, was not currently available on any other system including the “parent” PUBCRIS database available on the APVMA website.
“The app is expected to be widely used not just by farmers but also by environmental managers needing chemical tools to tackle environmental weeds and pests,” Dr Cubit said..
“Versions of the app suitable for Android devices will also be developed,” he said.
26 October, 2012
And in other news...
A forum on asbestos has been organised by Comcare to promote broader community awareness, education and understanding of asbestos and its risks.
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said the forum would be held in Melbourne and highlight the continuing dangers of asbestos and the best ways to deal with the problem.
It is scheduled for the Intercontinental Hotel, 495 Collins Street on Monday, 26 November.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has presented an award for biosecurity to Origin Energy in Queensland for the fast detection and reporting of exotic snails in one of its worksites.
North East Regional Manager for DAFF, Colin Hunter, said the snails, identified as Siamese Snails (Cryptozona siamensis), were exotic to Australia and a biosecurity risk because they could become an environmental, horticultural or agricultural pest.
The snails were found in camp site wash basins imported as parts of prefabricated buildings from Thailand.
Consumers are being urged to check their pantries for almonds that might be contaminated with Salmonella.
Deputy Chief Executive of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), Melanie Fisher, said the outbreak of Salmonella gastroenteritis was associated with some batches of raw almonds.
Ms Fisher said there had been two recalls associated with the outbreak, one conducted nationally by Woolworths and one in south-east Queensland by Flannerys.
Suppliers in the Cloud
The Australian Government Information Management Office has published its multi-user list of 35 suppliers selected to provide Cloud and Cloud-like services to the Australian Government.
The list will be in place for two years and will be continually updated.
Contracts under this arrangement are limited to $80,000 and terms of up to 12 months.
The list can be accessed at this PS News link.
Gallery draws a crowd
The National Gallery of Australia is hold its annual Big Draw event next Sunday (28 October).
The Big Draw explores the art of drawing and showcase the creative talent of Canberra and the region.
The event is free and open to participants of all ages and abilities.
Trove a treasured resource
The National Library’s Trove project has won the Australia and New Zealand Internet Award for Innovation.
Trove is a single point of access that takes users to the source of more than 303 million resources from almost 2,000 libraries and other cultural institutions around Australia as well as international digital collections of relevance.
Judges said Trove provided a fun, slick, dynamic discovery experience for the user and was a terrific resource for professional and amateur social researchers.
Calling a halt to calls
Subscriptions to the Do Not Call Register now exceed eight million with almost 90 per cent of registered users reporting significant reduction in unwanted calls and faxes.
The Do Not Call Register is a free service listing private numbers (mobiles, fixed lines and faxes) and business fax numbers opting out of receiving most unsolicited telemarketing calls, or marketing faxes.
Research gets shot in the arm
Medical researchers are to share $652 million in grants for 1,141 projects.
The grants are administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council and address needs and support researchers and their teams through the early and mid-stages of their careers.
Victoria receives the highest amount of funding, with $290 million for 498 grants.
Palliative care needs rise
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported that the number of palliative care hospital admissions in Australia rose by more than 50 per cent between 2001 and 2010.
The report, Palliative Care Services in Australia, shows that there were almost 56,000 palliative care admissions reported in public and private hospitals in 2009-10.
The average age of people being admitted to palliative care was 71.9.
Tasmania on safety track
Tasmania has joined South Australia in passing legislation to establish Australia’s first National Rail Safety Regulator.
The remaining States and Territories are expected to pass similar legislation in the coming months.
From January 2013, railways will come under a single safety regulator with one set of national regulations.
Based in Adelaide, the national rail safety regulator will have oversight of the country’s urban passenger rail networks and interstate freight operations.
23 October, 2012
The Federal Government is to take the lead in improving the safety of quad bikes.
on quad bike safety
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, said he would make crush-protection devices mandatory on the bikes used by all Federal employers.
Speaking at a meeting of farmers, unions and industry representatives on the safety of quad bikes, Mr Shorten said he had asked Safe Work Australia to report on the key findings from its quad bike issues paper QuadWatch and intended directing Comcare, the Commonwealth workplace safety regulator, to immediately implement a number of measures.
He said these included Comcare working with employers to review their use of quad bikes and to consider possible substitution with less hazardous equipment, and initiating a program to retro-fit crush-protection devices for bikes used by Federal employees, along with rider training.
“Comcare will also work with other regulators to sponsor the development of a technical standard to underpin the design, manufacture, testing and installation of crush- protection devices for quad bikes during manufacture, or for after-market applications,” Mr Shorten said.
“The immediate steps I am announcing are the first pieces of the jigsaw in what is a complex regulatory process.”
He said he’d heard competing views about the benefits or dangers of engineering and design changes to quad bikes, and their possible impact on the death and injury rate.
“However, I believe the Commonwealth should take the lead on this issue, and with that in mind I have taken steps, as the Minister in charge of workplace safety, to order a review of the use of quad bikes.”
SafeWork Australia QuadWatch discussion paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 October, 2012
Excellence awarded in
The Australia and New Zealand School of Government’s Institute of Governance (ANZSIG) has presented its 2012 Public Service Excellence Awards.
The awards were announced in Canberra by the Minister for the Public Service, Gary Gray who said each recipient had made an outstanding contribution to their field.
Mr Gray said those awarded would also receive an Adjunct Professorship or Honorary Fellowship with the ANZSOG Institute for Governance.
He named the successful awardees as the Secretary of the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, Glenys Beauchamp PSM; Deputy Secretary of the People Group at the Department of Defence, Carmel McGregor; the Deputy Director-General of Policy and Cabinet in the ACT Government’s Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate, Pam Davoren; the Director of, Stakeholder Engagement with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Megan Lancaster; Group Manager, Leadership with the Penrith City Council, Ruth Goldsmith; and Managing Director of the May Group and Advancing Women, Deborah May.
Chair, of the awards panel Professor Meredith Edwards extolled each of the winners’ skills and abilities saying Ms Beauchamp’s award was for the outstanding leadership skills she had consistently exhibited in different roles at different levels of Australian government.
She said Ms McGregor received her award in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the promotion of public sector excellence and in particular her work enhancing the quality of service delivery in Australia and in advancing the position of women in the Australian public service.
Ms Davoren was a worthy winner for the outstanding work that she had done in both combating social exclusion in the ACT and in enhancing policy capability in State government.
Ms Lancaster was seen “as an exceptional example of an emerging 21st century public servant who recognised the importance of genuine collaboration in public value creation.
Ms Goldsmith had the crucial ability in good policy making of taking a contested academic concept - in this case sustainable development - and turning it into something of practical use which improved the lives of members of her community.
And finally Deborah May had been at the forefront of promoting gender equity in the workplace in Canberra, especially at the Executive level through her practical contribution and research in the area.
More information about the awards and the winners can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 October, 2012
Union gets tough
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has expressed its concern at the rising number of incidents of verbal abuse and physical intimidation being experienced by PS staff in Centrelink and Medicare offices.
on rise in abuse
The union says the increases have been caused by cuts to staffing.
It said that according to figures from Centrelink, the past 17 months had seen more than 6,500 reports of aggression towards staff.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said recent State Government job cuts in Queensland, NSW and Victoria had also served to put more pressure on Centrelink staff.
“This has led to increased waiting times for the public, as under-resourced and overstretched staff struggle to process claims and inquiries,” Ms Flood said.
She said that a CPSU report in August found that the numbers of Centrelink call-centre staff had remained the same as they were a decade ago but that call volumes had increased by 63 per cent - an extra 14.7 million a year.
“If the Government is serious about tackling aggression against people in Centrelink offices then what is needed is more staff, not more cuts,” Ms Flood said.
“These cuts are hurting everyone, not just the staff who are having to take on the extra load but the public who are being forced to wait longer.”
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said he was concerned by the figures and encouraged staff to report any acts of aggression promptly.
“Violence in service centres is behaviour that the staff of this Department and the citizens who use Government facilities should never have to tolerate,” Senator Carr said.
23 October, 2012
Australia locks in
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, said Australia’s election as a non-permanent member to the United Nations Security Council for 2013 and 2014 would give the country a direct hand in shaping solutions to the world’s most pressing security challenges.
Senator Carr said Australia’s key priorities would include Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and North Korea.
He said Australia would work to ensure the effectiveness of Security Council sanctions regimes, including those targeting individuals associated with Al-Qaeda.
Senator Carr congratulated Luxembourg, South Korea, Argentina and Rwanda, which were also elected to serve as non-permanent members for 2013-14.
“The UN Security Council is at the core of the UN – it has primary responsibility in the global system for the maintenance of international peace and security,” Senator Carr said.
“It has the power to make decisions that are binding on all UN Member States and to authorise coercive measures including sanctions and the use of force.”
He said the Security Council’s work mattered to Australia – its decisions directly affected Australian personnel deployed under Security Council mandates, including in Afghanistan and East Timor.
“The Security Council oversees 15 peacekeeping operations, with 117,000 personnel deployed, and 13 political and peace-building missions across four continents,” Senator Carr said.
“After the United States, the UN has the largest number of troops deployed in the world. These deployments are authorised by the Security Council.”
He said the Security Council also managed 13 sanctions regimes and eight subsidiary bodies covering topics such as weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, women and children in armed conflict, and women, peace and security.
This will be Australia’s fifth term on the Security Council since joining the UN as a founding member in 1945. Australia held the first Presidency of the Security Council in 1946.
It has been 27 years since Australia last served on the Security Council in 1985-86.
23 October, 2012
New guidelines to
The guidelines for processing and managing Commonwealth grants are to be changed to reduce red tape for the not-for-profit sector.
Amendments announced by the Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury would support the implementation of a “report-once, use-often” data collection framework and be overseen by the newly established Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC).
Mr Bradbury said one of the key objectives of the ACNC would be to reduce the regulatory burden currently imposed upon the not-for-profit sector.
He said it would mean Australian charities did not have to provide the same information repeatedly to Government.
He said the ACNC would also be required to report its progress on red tape reduction annually to Parliament.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong, said reducing the regulatory burden on the not-for-profit sector would improve the way Government worked with the sector overall.
In a related development, the Government has begun discussions on a new ‘Consultation Code” for working with the not-for-profit sector.
Minister for Social Inclusion Mark Butler said the Code would be a practical guide to effective continuing consultation between the Government and the sector.
“The Government has asked the Reform Council, headed by former Queensland Attorney-General, Linda Lavarch, to lead workshops with the sector,” Mr Butler said.
Mr Bradbury said the Government would also use the consultations to start a discussion about governance within the sector.
23 October, 2012
A new phase of reforms has been announced for Defence procurement to improve its reporting and accountability processes.
aim at accounts
The reforms were unveiled by Ministers for Defence, Stephen Smith, and Defence Materiel, Jason Clare.
Mr Smith said that in the past, poor management of projects had included failure on a number of occasions to keep the Government fully informed about changes to a project’s approved scope, cost or schedule.
“Earlier this year at Government direction, Defence conducted an acquisition baseline review audit of all approved projects - 20 per cent of projects were late against the approved schedule,” Mr Smith said.
“In response, the Government has directed that Defence implement a new regime of reporting on variations to original project approvals.”
He said variations that breached originally established thresholds must be referred for consideration to the original decision-maker, whether that was the Minister for Defence, the Minister of Defence Materiel, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, or the National Security Committee of the Cabinet.
Mr Clare said the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) would pilot the use of a managing contractor model used successfully elsewhere by both public and private sector organisations.
“It has proved a highly flexible delivery model and could be tailored for Defence capability projects,” Mr Clare said.
“DMO intends to recommend the first project to pilot the managing contractor delivery model by the end of this year.”
He said that to further improve performance and enhance accountability, Chief Executive of DMO, Warren King, would demand greater accountability from senior staff by requiring them to produce personal accountability reports on a quarterly basis.
“Defence will establish a highly-skilled negotiation cell within DMO to significantly improve the DMO’s conduct of commercial negotiations,” Mr Clare said.
“It is intended that external members of the cell will assist in mentoring and developing Departmental personnel in the conduct of contract negotiations.”
He said that in addition, the DMO would undertake a review of the structure and functions of its various Divisions which manage capability projects and establish the optimal structure for these Divisions to drive improved performance, accountability and reporting.
23 October, 2012
System to put brake
A new braking system for certain vehicles is under consideration as a way to save lives and reduce serious injuries on Australia’s roads.
on road fatalities
Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King said a statement would be issued early next year, canvassing the case for mandating Brake Assist Systems (BAS) for light passenger and commercial vehicles.
Ms King said the system detected when a driver attempted an emergency stop and then boosted braking levels to the maximum possible.
She said that each year in Australia more than 200 vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists died as a result of a collision with a vehicle.
“BAS is a low-cost technology that could reduce fatalities and injuries by up to 10 per cent,” Ms King said.
“It is already being fitted to some new vehicles.
“In line with the National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020, the Government is considering ensuring that all light vehicles have BAS, so that these benefits can be maximised.”
She said that while BAS had been shown to be particularly effective at avoiding or reducing the severity of pedestrian crashes, it would also help in any crash where braking was a factor.
“Most drivers would not even be aware of it intervening,” Ms King said.
She has asked the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to draft the statement.
“The Department will, at that time, seek feedback from the community on the proposal, with all comments received being carefully considered before finalising any new Australian Design Rules,” Ms King said.
23 October, 2012
Lowdown low life
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have revealed that their logo was being falsely used in an attempt to lure consumers into paying sums of money to unlock their personal computers.
use logo from AFP
The AFP said it had received reports from members of the public advising that while browsing the internet, a “pop-up” message had appeared on their computer screen purporting to be from the AFP.
The message informed the user that their computer was “locked” and required the user to pay a fee to “unlock” the system.
Manager of Cybercrime Operations at the AFP, Commander Glen McEwen, said the AFP did not solicit funds and this message was not associated with the AFP in any way.
He said the appearance of the pop-up message was caused by a virus that was on the personal computer.
“I urge all computer users to be wary of these types of online scams,” Commander McEwen said.
“Users affected by this particular scam should not pay any money and should seek support from a repair centre if they need assistance to remove the virus.”
Commander McEwen said anyone who received a similar request or believed they were a victim of this type of fraud should report it to SCAMwatch, which could be accessed at this PS News link.
23 October, 2012
New study chews
Funding under a National Environmental Research Program has been announced to help ensure koala habitats are better protected.
on Koalas’ future
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said a new aerial imaging technique would be used for assessing habitat quality for koalas across eastern Australia.
“We know koalas are under pressure in Queensland, NSW and the ACT from habitat loss and urban expansion, as well as vehicle strikes, dog attacks, and disease,” Mr Burke said
“This investment will look into using technology to help map habitat quality across areas ranging in size from a just a few to thousands of hectares.”
He said the research would help to provide a better road map of how to “turn the corner” on koala numbers.
The Minister said high-resolution hyperspectral remote sensing technology, employed by mining companies for mapping minerals in soils, offered enormous potential for assessing wildlife habitat across whole landscapes.
“The research has the potential to provide fast information about koala habitat quality, so that priorities can be determined for doing surveys and managing their habitat,” he said.
“The study will also provide baseline data on leaf chemistry in tree species across eastern Australia for use in future studies on the impacts of climate change.”
Mr Burke said the research was being funded under the National Environmental Research Program Emerging Priorities which funded world-class research to inform environmental decision-making.
23 October, 2012
Antarctic plan to
A proposal for a system of Marine Protected Areas for Antarctica has been proposed by Australia, France and the European Union
The Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, would cover 1.9 million square kilometres of high seas off East Antarctica.
The proposal is to be considered by the 2012 annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which began in Hobart this week.
Leader of the Australian delegation to CCAMLR and Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Tony Fleming, said the proposal included areas along the east Antarctic coast which would regulate activities to conserve the biodiversity and values of the areas.
“The MPAs will protect those parts that are vulnerable to disturbance and which play an important ecological role such as providing krill and toothfish nurseries, and marine mammal and penguin foraging areas,” Dr Fleming said.
“Three of the seven areas are proposed as scientific reference areas to gauge the future impacts of climate change on the productivity and ecology of the region.”
He said the proposal recognised that rational use of marine living resources could be conducted in the CCAMLR area but would need to be specially managed to ensure that the conservation values were protected.
“The decision-making process requires consensus across the CCAMLR member countries to adopt the MPAs,” Dr Fleming said.
“CCAMLR has been working towards a network of Southern Ocean MPAs by 2012.”
23 October, 2012
Growing concern for
Children from low-socioeconomic families are less likely to believe they are doing well at school or enjoy reading books according to a new annual report.
The report, Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 2010–11, unveiled the finding.
Past findings from the study provided the research for the ABC1 television series, Life.
Minister for Community Services Julie Collins said the report reinforced the commitment to give all Australian families a fair go.
Ms Collins said the study showed the importance of focusing on supporting families.
“Some low and middle income families are finding it tough to make ends meet and that financial stress affects the whole family,” Ms Collins said,” including children and their chances of continuing their education.”
The report said that about half the children from low-socioeconomic families reported they enjoyed reading at home, compared with about three-quarters of children from high-socioeconomic families.
It found that 39 per cent of girls reported enjoying maths at school compared with 59 per cent of boys, but more girls (61 per cent) enjoyed reading and writing than boys (45 per cent).
Other areas covered in the report included children’s weight management; children’s attitudes to their neighbourhoods; parents’ knowledge of their children’s friends; whether the beliefs of parents and children were closely aligned; and whether parents knew what their children were doing during the day.
Less than a quarter of the children surveyed from high-socioeconomic families worried about their parents losing their jobs compared with more than a third of children from low-socioeconomic families.
Ms Collins said the findings emphasised the importance of initiatives to help Australians stay in school longer, find work and build themselves a better life.
The study follows 10,000 children over the course of their childhood, and measures their physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 October, 2012
Web puts water
A new website has been launched for the National Water Commission (NWC).
body in the swim
The Commission’s 2011-12 annual report is available on the website which also showcases the Commission’s renewed role and work program.
Chief Executive of NWC, James Cameron said the 2011-12 year had been pivotal in the Commission’s history.
“We delivered a comprehensive report on the impact of the National Water Initiative (NWI) and its water reform outcomes to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2011,” Mr Cameron said.
“The Commission was also subject to an independent COAG review, as was required under a sunset clause in the National Water Commission Act 2004.”
He said the COAG review report concluded that the remaining elements of the NWI still to be implemented were the more difficult ones and the role of the NWC was likely to be even more important in the future.
“Following the release of the review, the Australian Government renewed our role in providing oversight of the COAG national water reform agenda and the objectives agreed under the NWI,” Mr Cameron said.
“This annual report outlines the Commission’s contributions to water reform in 2011-12 through its assessments, advocacy and projects funded under the $250 million Raising National Water Standards Program.”
He said the Commission remained Australia’s independent voice on national water issues and would continue to work to promote the objectives and outcomes of the National Water Initiative.
The NWC’s new website can be accessed at this PS News link.
23 October, 2012
A review of seafarers’ compensation rules has been announced by the Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten.
on the sea
Mr Shorten said the aim of the review was to modernise the Federal Seafarers Workers’ Compensation Scheme, which had not been reviewed since it was established in 1992.
“The current coverage of Seacare is complex, resulting in uncertainties in determining which vessels are covered under Seacare and which are covered under the various State or Territory workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety schemes,” Mr Shorten said.
“Federal Parliament recently passed important maritime industry reforms, including the Stronger Shipping for a Stronger Economy changes, and replacing the century-old Navigation Act to establish a single national maritime regulator.”
He said that with the introduction of the national work health and safety laws, it was important to ensure Seacare continued to provide an effective framework for rehabilitation and compensation support to injured seafarers, and provided practical, clear and consistent occupational health and safety guidance to maritime operators.
He said the review of the Seafarers, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 would be chaired by former Chief Executive of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, Robin Stewart-Crompton.
Mr Shorten said Mr Stewart-Crompton would be supported by a secretariat in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and would consider four key aspects of the scheme – its jurisdictional coverage; the scope and necessity for amending and updating any legislative inconsistencies; the scope for amending the Seafarers Act to help reduce workers’ compensation premium costs; and the governance arrangements for the Seacare Scheme.
The review is to report to the Government by 22 February 2013.
Mr Shorten said it was the Government’s intention that the review would not consider any reduction in existing benefits afforded to workers covered by the Seacare scheme.
19 October, 2012
Auditor opens PS
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has launched a new website to encourage public contributions to the audit process.
books to public
The ANAO pilot program is aimed at promoting closer citizen engagement in the practice of auditing.
According to the Office, it was important to consult with the public during the information-gathering stage of some audits and the new online consultation facility could enhance and complement the traditional ways of consultation for performance audits.
“Performance audits independently and objectively assess the administration of a government entity or body’s programs, policies, projects or activities,” the Office said on its website.
“They also examine how well administrative support systems operate.”
It said the type of information considered in the audit process related to the efficient and effective implementation of government programs, policies, projects or activities, including whether the intended benefits were achieved.
The Office assured potential contributors that the information they provided would be treated in confidence.
“The confidentiality of the information gathered when conducting performance audits is protected by law,” it said.
“This information can only be disclosed for defined purposes.”
It said sensitive personal information gathered by the ANAO was also subject to the provisions of the Privacy Act 1998.
The Office promised that all contributions would be acknowledged on submission but it was not mandatory for contributors to provide contact details.
It said the audits open for comment during the pilot stage were indicated on its web page and the pilot would to run until early in 2013 when it would be evaluated.
Contributors would also be able to provide feedback on the online service itself.
Details about the Audit Office’s new citizen engagement trial can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 October, 2012
Union stirs pot for
The Community and Public Sector Union has called on the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research to protect public sector scientists from commercial and political interference.
According to the union’s Sam Popovski, political attacks on public sector scientists had marred public debate on issues such as climate change, genetically modified food and water management.
Mr Popovski has invited the Minister, Senator Chris Evans, to support a new charter to champion scientific integrity across the public sector.
“We’ve seen too many examples,” Mr Popovski said, “where the players have abandoned policy critique and transgressed into direct political attacks on scientists by way of invective, personal abuse, acts of sabotage and threats of violence.”
He said science, innovation and research were fundamental to the economic, environmental and social needs and aspirations of the Australian community.
“The Federal public sector is trusted to discover, apply and communicate science in a frank and fearless manner, without political or commercial interference,” he said..
“We believe science integrity is the fundamental issue that needs to be enforced in order to maximise trust from the public and to protect agencies and their staff from interference.”
He said CPSU members had launched a petition calling on the Minister to support the Science Integrity Charter with signatures collected from across the PS including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).
He said the proposed charter would be built on five key principles: the open communication and dissemination of scientific work; encouraging the internal and external debate of science issues; contestability of science issues; the independence of public sector institutions and their staff and effective collaboration.
Mr Popovski said the charter would complement and augment, rather than supersede, existing integrity measures that already existed in PS organisations.
More information about the proposed Science Integrity Charter can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 October, 2012
A Productivity Commission inquiry into Australia’s electricity networks has called for reform of their regulation and ownership arrangements.
The inquiry found that the costs of electricity networks - the wires and poles that criss-cross Eastern Australia - now represented as much as half the average power bill.
It found that increases in the network costs were responsible for much of the surge in electricity prices over the past five years.
Presiding Commissioner for the inquiry, Philip Weickhardt, said the current regulatory regime was undermining the capacity of network business managers to run their businesses efficiently and was putting up barriers to consumer involvement.
“There is no quick fix, but our proposed reforms can deliver a more efficient system and potentially save billions of dollars,” Mr Weickhardt said.
The report found that a few periods of peak demand, mostly during hot spells in summer, required huge amounts of infrastructure.
It recommended the phased introduction of more cost-based pricing combined with smart technologies.
It said this would cut network costs and end the large hidden subsidies, often from lower income households, to people who used a lot of power at peak times.
The report also recommended the creation of a new industry funded consumer body, with enough expertise to contribute to regulatory determinations and merit reviews.
It also proposed a national, consumer-focused approach to reliability standards.
“These can vary without reason across States and sometimes require costly investments to achieve a much higher level of reliability than consumers would otherwise choose,” it said.
The report also recommended that all State-owned network businesses be privatised (but remain strongly regulated) as this would improve efficiency.
The Commission report can be accessed at this PS News link and public feedback will be received until 23 November.
The Commission is to report to Government in April next year.
19 October, 2012
Bureau blows in with
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued its seasonal tropical cyclone outlook, reminding communities in Australia’s northern coastal regions to prepare for the coming storm season.
Climate Prediction Manager at the Bureau, Andrew Watkins said advances in the science of climate prediction allowed the Agency to gauge more accurately the likelihood of above- or below-average tropical cyclone activity, and provide better information about severe weather planning.
“The overall outlook is for a return to near-average, or slightly below-average, tropical cyclone activity,” Dr Watkins said, “but this does not mean we can afford to be complacent about the risks.
“The tropical cyclone outlook uses key climate indicators to look at what the coming season may bring.
“Currently the climate is in neutral territory, meaning neither La Niña nor El Niño conditions are present.
He said a typical La Niña event was associated with more tropical cyclone activity, and El Niño with less.
“More than a century of forecasting and observing the weather tells us we can expect around 11 tropical cyclones to form in the Australian region in an average season, and some of these will have an impact in coastal regions,” Dr Watkins said.
The Bureau’s 2012/13 Tropical Cyclone Seasonal Outlook can be accessed at this PS News link.
19 October, 2012
Refugees home in on
Asylum-seekers assessed to be refugees but who are not granted a permanent visa for security reasons are to be able to seek a review of the decision.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has announced that an independent review process is to be introduced for refugees not granted a permanent visa as a result of an adverse security assessment (ASA) from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
Ms Roxon said former Judge of the Federal Court, Margaret Stone had been appointed inaugural Independent Reviewer for the scheme.
“Prior to being appointed to the bench she had a distinguished academic career and was also a partner at Freehill Hollingdale & Page,” Ms Roxon said.
“She is an eminent Australian with experience in legal, immigration and national security matters.”
Ms Roxon said that under the terms of reference for the reviews, Judge Stone would examine the materials used by ASIO and provide a recommendation to the Director-General of Security and report her findings to the Attorney-General, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
“There will also be a regular 12-month periodic review of adverse security assessments for refugees in immigration detention,” Ms Roxon said.
“Independent review will not lower the bar for assessing a refugee’s risk to Australia’s national security, but will provide greater openness and accountability in the security assessment process.”
She said that after Judge Stone completed her work on the initial round of applications, she would be expected to complete her review of other applications within three months.
Ms Roxon said ASIO had only issued ASAs in a small number of cases.
She said they made up less than one per cent of all irregular maritime arrival visa security assessments undertaken since January 2010.
19 October, 2012
Public comment on
Public comment has been invited on proposals for new laws to make notification of privacy breaches mandatory.
According to Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, the new law would bolster privacy protection for personal information held in digital databases.
Ms Roxon said it was timely for a public discussion on how legislation might deal with data breaches, such as in instances when private records were obtained by hackers.
“Australians who transact online rightfully expect their personal information will be protected,” Ms Roxon said.
“More personal information about Australians than ever before is held online and several high profile data breaches have shown that this information can be susceptible to hackers,” she said.
“The question we are asking today is should organisations be required by law to make data breach notifications when they occur?”
She said Australian organisations were already encouraged to disclose data breaches to the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner and a new discussion paper would look at how legislation might strengthen the protection of personal information, as well as minimise any damage when breaches occurred.
She said mandatory data breach notification schemes were in place or currently being considered in a number of overseas jurisdictions, including the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
She said the discussion paper followed legislation introduced in May that made sure Australia’s laws kept pace with changing consumer and business practices, particularly in the online environment.
Ms Roxon said that legislation was aimed at protecting people’s personal information better, simplifying credit reporting arrangements and giving new enforcement powers to the Privacy Commissioner.
The discussion paper can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until 23 November.
19 October, 2012
And in other news...
Police seizures a record
Australian Federal Police (AFP) have seized a record $97 million of assets from criminals in the past year.
The result was double the $41m seized the previous year and more than five times the amount seized two years ago.
Included in the seized was real estate in Sydney and on the Gold Coast; vehicles including multiple Rolls Royce’s, a Lamborghini, an Aston Martin, a BMW and multiple motorcycles; numerous yachts; a Beechcraft A36 light plane; jewellery; cash and other financial products.
No to cluster bombs
Australia has ratified a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs.
According to the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers, Australia’s commitment to the treaty would reduce the humanitarian impact of armed conflict.
Australia has now joined 76 other States already party to the Convention and its ratification was seen as a significant step towards securing a global ban on the indiscriminate and dangerous weapons.
Film archive celebrates
The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) is to celebrate UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage on Saturday 27 October with a program of events and activities for all ages.
Called Pause and Play and the NFSA, the full program can be accessed at this PS News link.
Climate change review
A review of the latest draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report is being undertaken by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
The IPCC reviews the most up-to-date scientific, technical and socio-economic research available internationally to ensure its reports present an objective and complete assessment of current information.
The first of three IPCC Working Group draft reports, on the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change, is undergoing review by experts and Governments.
Packing up a profit
An increased profit of 16.6 per cent to $281 million has been announced by Australia Post – the second year of profit growth under the Agency’s Future Ready strategy.
Regulated mail business lost $148 million but a strong performance in parcels and retail produced profits of $546 million in the non-regulated business, coupled with 8.5 per cent revenue growth.
Australia Post also announced a $2 billion investment program in infrastructure, products and services in support of the digital economy.
Smoking out smugglers
Legislation creating a new tobacco smuggling offence with a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment has passed the Senate.
The new law represents another key measure in efforts to reduce the use and influence of tobacco in Australia.
It amends the Customs Act 1901 to create new offences of smuggling tobacco or tobacco products and conveying or possessing smuggled tobacco products.
Postal elections posted
Australia’s nominations for election to the Council of Administration and the Postal Operations Council of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) were supported at the UPU’s Congress in Doha.
Australia received 136 and 128 votes for the two Council positions
The UPU was established in 1874. It is now a specialised body of the United Nations that promotes the organisation of postal services across 192 member States. In particular, the UPU encourages the development of international collaboration to increase the efficiency of international mail transit.
Rural insurance lacking
A report on agricultural insurance has been presented by the National Rural Advisory Council.
The report will aid continuing discussions on drought measures.
It found that multiple-peril crop insurance options were not currently commercially viable in Australia and that index–based insurance products may have more promise.
16 October, 2012
Union appeals for
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called for the establishment of an appeals system for PS staff dismissed under new anti-corruption laws.
The union said that under proposals before Parliament, the head of the Customs Service would be handed enhanced powers to fire a staff member and issue a public declaration that the person had been “engaged in serious misconduct”.
It said the only procedural requirement in the new law would be to provide the staff member with a copy of the declaration within 24 hours of the decision being made.
The CPSU said if the Law Enforcement Integrity Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 becomes law, the right of consultation or reply for a sacked worker would be denied and Customs would not be required to give the worker any reasons for the dismissal.
The union said by passing the law Australia could be in breach of international labour conventions that say every worker should be allowed the right to appeal.
Deputy National Secretary of the CPSU, Rebecca Fawcett said Customs officers were hard-working and dedicated, protecting Australia’s borders and national security.
“We support tough action against corruption, but sometimes decision-makers get it wrong and this new law will prevent employees from appealing the decision internally or in Fair Work Australia,” Ms Fawcett said
“Customs has got it wrong in the past and no doubt will again – only this time there will be no independent umpire to set things right.”
The measures are among a raft of proposals advanced by the Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare aimed at stamping out corruption and misconduct among Customs workers, Australian Federal Police Officers and officials of the Australian Crime Commission.
Included in the proposals are enforced multiple drug and alcohol tests at any time; the power to dismiss workers under a catch-all category of “serious and reprehensible conduct” and the introduction of integrity tests.
16 October, 2012
Comcare calls for
The Chief Executive of Comcare has reaffirmed the importance of public sector employees having a sense of purpose in their work if increasing incidents of stress and mental illness are to be tackled.
sense of purpose
Comcare Chief, Paul O’Connor said that without this sense of purpose, not feeling wanted and part of a team, anyone could feel depressed and unhappy
“Every one of us needs the reassurance that their work is making a difference,” Mr O’Connor said.
“People are naturally motivated by progress. A sense of being part of a team that looks out for each other is so important.”
He said that while he was concerned at the rising number of mental health claims and the reported cases of bullying, the emphasis needed to be on the positive.
“That emphasis needs to be on good work,” he said.
“Good work is work that is well matched to people’s skills and aspirations.
“It can be an environment of trust and respect where individuals make a difference providing them with a sense of social connection and support.”
He said a good job often meant a good life and good work was vital for sound mental health and well-being.
Mr O’Connor said there was also a clear link between physical and mental health and while exercise was important, surveys revealed that it could often be a simple conversation at work that relieved stress.
“Connecting with colleagues at work is so important,” he said.
“Talking to each other, even about stressful situations, can often relieve stress and over time can turn a bad job into a good one”, he said.
16 October, 2012
Boffin to buff up
A new position in the Chief Scientist’s office has been announced to increase the role of social science research and evidence in future policy development.
role of science
The new position of National Science and Mathematics Education and Industry Adviser would sit within the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the new position would work collaboratively with the Australian and international scientific and research community and other Government Agencies.
He said it would bring together the best research and evidence to tackle current and emerging policy challenges across the DEEWR portfolio.
Speaking at a reception for the United Kingdom’s Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, Mr Shorten said the Australian Government must continue to champion science given the opportunities that lay ahead for Australia.
“In the emerging Asian Century, Australia needs to be out front forging stronger links between scientific research and public policy development, including in the social sciences,” Mr Shorten said.
“We need to be developing the higher end skills among our workforce that will keep Australia sharp, smart and globally competitive.”
He said there was a need to better engage the research community in responding to the Government’s productivity, education and social inclusion agenda.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the Chief Scientist’s office would play an important role in connecting research into what works in education to DEEWR’s school reform agenda.
“We’ve already capitalised on the recent research in early childhood development to inform improvements to early childhood education and care policies, including the National Quality Framework that is currently being implemented by the Government,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the Chief Scientist’s new position would be funded from the existing Departmental staffing budget and advertised and filled as soon as possible.
16 October, 2012
A preliminary response to a review of Regulatory Impact Analyses has been released with more public consultation to be held before a final position is developed by the end of the year.
to untie red tape
Releasing the document, Independent Review of the Australian Government’s Regulatory Impact Analysis Process, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said deregulation was a key part of the Government’s commitment to improving productivity and supporting business.
She said the review, by David Borthwick and Robert Milliner, noted that regulatory reform and concerns over a growing burden of regulation on the economy had been the subject of a continued focus by Australian Governments since the late 1980s.
“This is in line with other advanced economies and reflects an understanding of the need to balance appropriate safeguards and rules against the creation of unnecessary fetters on economic activity and the costs of compliance,” Senator Wong said.
She said the review acknowledged that successive Governments had sought to improve and strengthen Australia’s approach to Regulatory Impact Analysis.
She said the review made 14 recommendations, including that in all but exceptional circumstances, a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) should be split between two stages - an options stage and a details stage; that an RIS should not be required for a regulatory proposal in cases where significant consultation and analysis had already been undertaken through another mechanism; and that the Government re-endorse and publicly state its commitment to mandatory Regulatory Impact Analysis.
Minister Assisting for Deregulation, David Bradbury said better regulation was vital for enhancing productivity and driving economic growth.
“That’s why we’re working with the States and Territories to progress the remaining seamless national economy reforms which will deliver significant benefits for businesses across Australia,” Mr Bradbury said.
He said Australian Governments had had processes for assessing the impact of new and amended regulation in place since 1985 and had continually improved and strengthened the framework.
The Ministers said consultation would take place over the next four weeks, with submissions to be received by 9 November. The full review can be accessed at this PS News link and the Government’s preliminary response at this PS News link.
16 October, 2012
A software project developed for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and aimed at giving internet users with disabilities better access to video, has been recognised with a national ICT award.
Website developer at DEEWR, Christopher Giffard, took out the top prize at the Australian Government ICT Young Professional of the Year Awards for his pioneering software, Captionator.
According to the judges for the award, Captionator is an internationally-recognised open-source program that improves access to internet-based video to help people with disabilities and those with difficulties accessing the internet.
The software will be implemented on DEEWR’s newly-redeveloped website, expected to be launched later this year.
Mr Giffard said he owed a lot to his team in helping him through the development stages.
“I know this sounds like a cliché, but I really wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my trusting team,” Mr Giffard said.
“They stood by me and provided support as I moved into some pretty new and largely uncharted waters and now it’s paid off substantially.”
He said he had been approached by globally-recognised companies including YouTube and Vimeo for input into new web standards which would include his participation in the international standards body which oversees it, the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C.
“I’m excited at the thought that my work here in DEEWR will lead to better web browser standards, enabling people with a range of disabilities better access to web-based video,” Mr Giffard said.
Captionator software is also expected to have wider benefits for everyone using video on the internet, with the ability to provide simultaneous video captioning into a variety of different languages as well as enabling those putting video on the web to give the viewer a much richer experience by allowing them to switch between multiple camera angles during a scene.
Mr Giffard’s win has given him access to additional industry-recognised training valued at $3,600.
The other three finalists were Lachlan McFarlane from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Mike Webb from the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and Luke Blunden from Wollondilly Shire Council in NSW.
The award is now in its third year and was introduced to recognise young ICT professionals working in the Australian Government who were making an outstanding contribution in the field of Information and Communications Technology.
16 October, 2012
A new website has been launched to give easier access to clinical trials of new drugs, treatments and medical procedures to patients suffering from chronic diseases.
for chronically ill
The Australian Clinical Trials website was created by the National Health and Medical Research Council in response to the needs of consumer groups, the pharmaceutical industry and research institutions.
Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek said clinical trials gave tens of thousands of patients access to new and innovative treatments and played a vital part in the fight against disease.
“There are many stories about recovery, improved quality of life or longer life from participating in a clinical trial conducted in Australia and this website will make it easier for patients to find out about and access clinical trials,” Ms Plibersek said.
Minister for Innovation and Industry, Greg Combet said the website would make it easier for patients to access information about medical research and this would lead to higher participation rates in clinical trials and increased investment in new medical innovations.
“The clinical research sector employs many highly skilled Australians and ensures Australian-developed therapies and technologies become commercialised,” Mr Combet said.
He said the website would allow people interested in participating in a clinical trial to access relevant information.
He said the Australian Clinical Trials website represents the continued work in implementing the recommendations of the Clinical Trials Action Group report, released in March 2011.
While the National Health and Medical Research Council built the website, funding of $40,000 was provided by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
The website can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 October, 2012
Australians warned to
The Australian community has been told to protect itself better from identity crime.
protect who they are
The warning, from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) coincided with National Identity Fraud Awareness Week.
According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Fraud Survey, Australians lost $1.4 billion in the 2010-2011 financial year due to personal fraud, which included credit card fraud, identity theft and scams.
The survey estimated a total of 1.2 million people aged 15 and over had fallen victim to at least one incident of personal fraud.
National Coordinator of Identity Security Strike Teams at the AFP, Superintendent Darren Booy said this year’s focus was on limiting the amount of personal information that could fall into the hands of criminals.
“Identity fraud is an emerging threat to Australia and is growing rapidly, with identity fraudsters using increasingly sophisticated methods to manipulate their victims,” Superintendent Booy said.
“Australians should take basic steps to protect their identity from thieves and scammers, such as regularly reviewing credit reports and financial statements, and immediately informing police if details appear to have been compromised.”
He said it was also important to know that information shared online could stay there forever and could be accessed by anyone including friends, family, strangers and “sadly sometimes criminals”.
“The AFP has established an identity crime survey to help members of the public to test their vulnerability to identity crime, and I would encourage everyone to take part,” Superintendent Booy said
The survey can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 October, 2012
Australia has jumped three places to 12th on the International Monetary Fund’s list of the world’s largest economies.
ladder of success
Welcoming the promotion the Treasurer, Wayne Swan said that as a country with the world’s 51st largest population, this was a remarkable achievement.
“Based on Gross Domestic Product at market exchange rates, since the Government came to office, Australia has moved up three places from 15th largest economy to now be the 12th largest economy in the world,” Mr Swan said.
He said this reversed a decline that saw Australia fall from 12th largest economy in 1996 to 15th in 2007.
Mr Swan said that since 2007, Australia’s economy has surpassed those of South Korea, Mexico and Spain.
“These are three very different economies from three very different parts of the world, further highlighting the exceptional performance of our economy,” he said.
The Treasurer said the Australian economy had now recorded 21 consecutive years of growth, a record unmatched by any other advanced economy over the period.
“Australia’s impressive performance is also the result of decades of reforms such as floating the dollar, bringing down the tariff wall, abolishing centralised wage fixing, and introducing compulsory superannuation,” Mr Swan said.
He said further measures built on this success such as pricing carbon pollution, reforming mining taxation to support businesses not in the fast-lane of the economy, spending on skills and training and building productivity-boosting infrastructure such as the National Broadband Network.
“Clearly there are challenges in parts of the economy, including the high Australian dollar and the continuing impact of global headwinds, however this historic milestone in Australia’s economic growth story is something all Australians can be proud of,” Mr Swan said.
16 October, 2012
Disaster day recognises
The 2012 International Day for Disaster Reduction has recognised the role of women and girls in preparing for, and recovering from, disasters.
the role of women
The United Nations declared the 2012 theme for the international day to be Women and Girls - the (In)visible Force of Resilience.
The Day is held on the second Wednesday of October each year.
Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management, Nicola Roxon said women made a valuable contribution to their communities during times of crisis.
She said women played an important role in all aspects of emergency management - from front-line recovery and operational decision-making to long-term national policy development to shape Australia’s future resilience.
“One of the key messages of the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience recognises that connected communities are resilient communities,” Ms Roxon said, “and women and children strengthen community connectedness.”
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said she was committed to supporting initiatives that highlighted and promoted the role of women in disaster preparedness.
She said the National Rural Women’s Coalition would be releasing the toolkit Weather the Storm - Developing Disaster Resilient Rural Communities, which would help women in remote communities take the lead on disaster preparedness.
“The EconomicSecurity4Women Alliance is also developing a report to look at the economic impact of disasters on women,” Ms Collins said.
She said the report - Voices from the Flood Plains - used disaster-affected areas in Queensland and Victoria to discuss the specific needs of women in recovery.
“Both these projects recognise the unique role that women have to play in preparing for and recovering from disasters,” Ms Collins said.
16 October, 2012
Super to be portable
New laws to allow superannuation to be portable across the Tasman have been introduced into Parliament by the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten.
for Tasman trippers
Mr Shorten said the legislation represented an important step towards closer economic relations with New Zealand and supported progress toward the goal of a single economic market.
“Next year, 2013, is the 30th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement with New Zealand,” Mr Shorten said.
“That agreement, together with the single economic market agenda, has brought down trade barriers, reduced costs for business, encouraged investment and created jobs and economic growth for both Australia and New Zealand.”
He said the proposed new law would remove one more barrier to labour mobility between the two countries.
“The new scheme will assist the thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who move across the Tasman Sea each year, help them to consolidate their retirement savings in their country of residence and avoid paying fees and charges on accounts in the two countries,” Mr Shorten said.
He said that among the key features of the portability scheme were provisions for an individual to transfer their retirement savings between an Australian complying superannuation fund regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and a New Zealand KiwiSaver scheme; participation would be voluntary for members and for superannuation funds and schemes; and retirement savings would generally be subject to the rules in the host country.
“New Zealand retirement savings transferred to Australia will be treated as non concessional contributions and subject to the Australian non-concessional cap arrangements at the initial point of entry,” Mr Shorten said.
The new laws are due to take effect from 1 July 2013.
16 October, 2012
Climate scientists supported by the Australian Antarctic Division have produced the first three-dimensional map of the surface beneath a sea ice floe
to icy exploration
The researchers, on a two-month voyage to the region on the Division’s icebreaker, Aurora Australis, are using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) which is measuring the topography of the underside of the sea ice to learn more about its thickness and volume.
Leader of the AUV project, Guy Williams from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, said this technology was a huge step forward in the way scientists measured sea ice thickness.
“In the past we took drill line measurements or observed ice thickness as we moved through it on a ship, but with the AUV we can now use multi-beam sonar to measure an entire ice floe in unprecedented detail,” Dr Williams said.
He said the AUV swam 20 metres below the ice in a grid pattern with the data stored in an onboard computer and converted into a 3D map at the end of each survey.
AUV Research Engineer, Clay Kunz from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States, said the robotic submarine was normally used to map the sea floor.
“For this Antarctic mission we mounted all the navigation and scientific instruments on top of the vehicle so they can measure upwards, rather than down,” Dr Kunz said.
When the scientists combine the underside of the sea ice with surface measurements of snow and ice, they will have a comprehensive 3D map of the entire ice floe.
They said that any changes in sea ice thickness would affect the formation of cold, salty Antarctic bottom water that drove ocean currents around the world, and the organisms that depended on the ice for habitat and food, from phytoplankton and krill, to whales.
12 October, 2012
Plan of action for
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been entered between the Departments of the Treasury, the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Parliamentary Budget Officer to govern the provision of information to support the functions of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).
new Budget Office
The PBO has been established to provide independent analysis of Budget matters and the financial implications of spending proposals proposed by either side of Parliament, in particular in the lead-up to elections.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is Phil Bowen PSM who was appointed in July.
Under the new MoU, the duties and responsibilities of Government Departments and Agencies are made clear for those occasions on which they are asked to provide information to the PBO. The duties and responsibilities of the PBO are also set out in relation to the requests it makes of Departments.
“The MoU assists by supporting the ready and open exchange of information, documents and knowledge and views between the parties,” it says.
“In establishing this MoU the parties undertake to engage in a cooperative manner which supports the provision of high-quality advice and support to Australian Senators and Members of the House of Representatives and which supports the maintenance and improvement of Government systems.”
The undertakings covered by the MoU are not legally binding and are open to be adopted by other Departments.
Under the MoU’s rules for interaction, every request for information by the PBO is to be submitted to the Head of the Agency concerned by email.
“Each request for information identifies whether the request is to be treated as confidential,” it says.
“Each request for information received from the (PBO) is acknowledged via email within 24 hours of its receipt on the next business day.”
The Department or Agency then has five days to respond to urgent requests and 10 days for non-urgent matters.
The signatories to the MoU undertake to provide relevant and accurate information in response to each request, to maintain adequate security measures and keep the requests confidential.
“It is appropriate for Commonwealth bodies to provide information to their Ministers on the resourcing impacts of their interactions with the PBO in aggregate terms so long as confidential information is not disclosed,” the MoU says.
The arrangement is to be reviewed within four years and the text of the MoU can be accessed at this PS News link.
12 October, 2012
Financial penalties imposed on people who breached Commonwealth laws have been increased.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon announced the increases saying they would impact most on white collar criminals and serious and organised crime groups as well as people using a false identity when travelling on aircraft.
Ms Roxon said the heart of the crackdown was an increase in the “penalty units” prescribed in the Commonwealth Crimes Act which would go from $110 to $170.
She said the value of the units had not increased since 1997.
“Crime doesn’t pay,” Ms Roxon said.
“These new laws will make it easier to fight identity crime, new and emerging drug importation and trafficking and white collar tax crimes.”
She said identity theft was one of the fastest growing crimes in Australia and the new law would make it a criminal offence to use a false identity when travelling by air, booking domestic flights online or using a mobile phone.
“Organised criminals invent or steal identities in order to evade detection and commit serious crimes such as money laundering, drug offences, fraud and terrorism,” she said.
“Increasing the value of the ‘penalty unit’ to $170 (would) make sure penalties keep pace with inflation and are a real deterrent to white collar and organised crime.”
Ms Roxon said the increases would see a $33,000 fine for some crimes by an individual rise to $51,000 and from $165,000 for a corporation to a quarter of a million dollars.
12 October, 2012
The Australian Trade Commission, Austrade, has welcomed the news that Australia’s international reputation is now one of the world’s strongest.
on our reputation
Executive Director of Australian Operations with Austrade, Tim Beresford said that according to the Reputation Institute’s annual CountryRepTrak survey, Australia continued to enjoy an extremely strong reputation among residents of the G8 countries.
Mr Beresford said this made Australian exports and investment opportunities more attractive globally.
He said the impact of reputation on a nation’s prosperity was through what economists called the ‘Country of Origin Effect’.
“The more positive people are about another nation, the more likely they are to buy its goods and services,” Mr Beresford said.
‘They are also more likely to study or invest money there.”
He said according to the study, ‘Brand Australia’ was in very good shape.
He said while Australia’s image was still strongly associated with landscape and lifestyle factors, perceptions of our business environment had shown marked improvement over recent years.
He said Australia continued to have an extremely strong reputation among the residents of G8 countries with survey respondents from the G8 group ranking it second out of 50 nations on economic, social and aesthetic factors.
Respondents from a group of nations including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam ranked Australia fourth on the same criteria.
“Australia’s greatest asset is not our beaches or our mines,” Mr Beresford said.
“It’s our exporters, scientists, entrepreneurs, administrators, educators, designers, artists and humanitarians who will ultimately shape the way the world sees us.”
He said the Reputation Institute was one of the world’s leading scientific monitors of national reputation and surveyed over 50,000 people to compile its latest findings, which were released last month.
12 October, 2012
National Gallery has
The National Gallery of Australia has announced a new strategic vision for the next four years.
strategy in the frame
Director of the Gallery, Ron Radford unveiled the strategy on the eve of the Gallery’s 30th anniversary, today (12 October).
Dr Radford said it was now timely to look to the future of the Gallery and the ways in which access to its collection could be dramatically expanded.
“The new strategic vision for the National Gallery of Australia is focussed on increasing access and engagement with the national art collection - at the Gallery, around Australia and the world – through increased display opportunities and new digital initiatives,” Dr Radford said.
He said the National Gallery was one of the world’s youngest but in its short history had developed an art collection of more than 165,000 works valued at more than $4.7 billion.
In an address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Dr Radford also outlined a vision to build a new Centre for Australian Art as Stage Two of the Gallery’s redevelopment, Stage One of which opened two years ago.
He confirmed an ongoing commitment for the Gallery to stage more blockbuster international exhibitions and continue to give Canberra and the rest of Australia the opportunity to see the best international art without having to travel overseas.
12 October, 2012
New river modelling
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released new modelling based on increased levels of water to be retained in its river system.
goes with the flow
The new modelling looked at the impacts of retaining 3,200 gigalitres (GL) and 2,800GL scenarios for the environment with key constraints in the system relaxed.
The Authority originally proposed a 2,750 GL reduction in diversions.
According to the Minister for Water, Tony Burke the MDBA modelling revealed that relaxing the constraints in the system would lead to a better environmental outcome under both the 3,200GL and 2,800GL scenarios.
“This modelling shows that with constraints relaxed, there are improved outcomes for the environment, particularly the Murray River, its main tributaries and the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth,’’ Mr Burke said.
He said improved outcomes from the 3,200GL scenario included meeting five of the previously unmet high flow targets at major environmental sites; flows of up to 80,000ML downstream of the Darling River junction that would benefit more than 30,000ha of wetlands and vegetation including the majority of the internationally listed Riverland-Chowilla Ramsar site upsteam from Renmark; inundation of the Murray floodplain would improve from once every eight years to once every five years; the health of Red Gum and Black Box woodland would improve; and there would be improved indicators in the Coorong, Lower lakes and Murray Mouth such as salinity levels.
Mr Burke said the key constraints relaxed in the model included the amount of water that could be released from Hume dam down the River Murray; The amount to come from from Menindee Lakes down the Darling River; and changes to peak flows from the Murray’s other main tributaries, the Murrumbidgee and Goulburn Rivers.
“I want to work with the Basin States to provide healthy working rivers and this modelling will assist us in this task,” Mr Burke said.
The new findings were welcomed by the Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill who said the proposed 2,750 gigalitres retention level had always been recognised as insufficient for a healthy river.
“Without a healthy river there cannot be a strong Murray Darling Basin economy,” Mr Weatherill said.
“The latest analysis finds that 17 out of the MDBA’s 18 environmental watering requirements for floodplains in South Australia, NSW and Victoria would be met if 3,200 gigalitres were returned and constraints relaxed.”
He said that under the original 2,750 gigalitres proposal in the Draft Basin Plan, just 11 out of these 18 requirements would be met.
The MDBA report can be accessed at this PS News link.
12 October, 2012
New food office
Australia has established its first food security centre in Africa.
on the table
The Australian International Food Security Centre has set up an office on the continent in Nairobi, Kenya and according to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Bob Carr was helping Africa make the transition from relying on emergency food aid to building a viable smallholder farming sector.
“The Centre will ensure we are also sharing our valuable agricultural expertise,” Senator Carr said.
“The work of the Centre will build on Australia’s contribution to food security in Africa by ensuring technology and know-how are put into the hands of smallholder farmers across Africa.”
He said the Centre, which operated as part of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), was delivering research projects across eight countries in the south-eastern Africa region – Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
He said the projects focused on giving farmers access to the latest research innovations, including the use of trees in crop–livestock systems and small tractors in different farming environments.
Senator Carr said research was also being undertaken to determine what and how farming system improvements could be delivered.
He said this would initially focus on understanding the decisions of farmers to plant particular crops, when or how to harvest, what technologies to use and the risks they consider.
“This information will help to target assistance most effectively,” he said.
12 October, 2012
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported that today’s Australians had a higher income, an increased life expectancy and were better educated compared with those of a decade ago, but the number of threatened plants and animals had increased over the same time.
The Bureau has updated its Measures of Australia’s Progress report (MAP), which is a collection of key indicators that help answer the question ‘Is life in Australia getting better?’.
Figures from the Bureau show that life expectancy in Australia had increased over the last decade.
“A girl born in 2010 can expect to reach 84 years of age while a boy can expect to live to 79.5 years,” it said.
“Just over half of all Australians think their health is excellent or very good.”
The Director of Social and Progress Reporting at the Bureau, Sue Taylor said the latest MAP release also found that education and employment were improving.
“In 2011, 64 per cent of 25 to 64 years olds held a vocational or higher education qualification compared to 53 per cent in 2001,” Ms Taylor said.
“The annual average unemployment rate declined from 6.8 per cent to 5.1 per cent between 2001 and 2011 and the average household weekly income of low and middle income households rose between 2000 and 2010.
She said it was not all good news however.
The latest MAP update also showed both productivity and environmental indicators hade declined.
“Our most recent productivity cycle showed a negative growth of -0.8 per cent.” Ms Taylor said.
“The ABS also found that the number of threatened plants and animals had increased over this time, as did total net greenhouse gas emissions.
“Today’s figures show Australia is doing well in areas of the economy and society, but there are some areas where we’ve regressed,” Ms Taylor said.
The Bureau’s Measures of Australia’s Progress report can be accessed at this PS News link.
12 October, 2012
ACMA logs onto
A study conducted for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that watching television online has become mainstream with 5.2 million Australians claiming they looked at professionally produced video via an online source in the past six months.
The report, Online video content services in Australia, found that ‘catch-up’ viewing such as watching past episodes of programs on services such as the ABC’s iview, was the main reason for watching online.
The report also found a willingness to pay for online video with half of the respondents intended to access online video in the next six months saying they would be prepared to pay for the privilege.
According to ACMA, the research was part of an annual series comprising a communications report and three complementary reports.
“The online video report is the first of three in the complementary series and details the state of the Australian professional video market from both the consumer and industry perspective,” ACMA said.
“It provides unique insights into how rapidly evolving audience preferences are driving fundamental changes in the way professional video content is being consumed and delivered in Australia.
Other findings of the study included that 43 per cent of Australia’s online adult population (5.2 million) accessed professionally produced online video content in the six months to June 2012; that TV programs (61 per cent) and films (32 per cent) were the most frequently reported content accessed; that free-to-air broadcasters were leading the charge to online viewing by providing audiences with the chance to catch-up; and that viewing internet television services (known as internet protocol television IPTV), was less popular with only five per cent of households taking it up.
ACMA’s online viewing report can be accessed at this PS News link.
12 October, 2012
And in other news...
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has tabled its Annual Report in Parliament.
According to Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, the Report reveals the Agency produced about 3,000 written reports, including threat assessments and analysis and completed more than 150,000 security assessments.
The Annual Report can be accessed at this PS News link.
Age doesn’t weary Ombudsman
The Fair Work Ombudsman has initiated its first age discrimination prosecution.
The litigation relates to an employee who began working at a Queensland restaurant in late 1996 and subsequently worked at a number of restaurants owned by the same company.
A Director wrote to the employee this year advising that his employment would terminate on 5 September when he turned 65.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleged that this contravened age discrimination provisions in the Fair Work Act and the company now faces a $33,000 fine.
Gag clauses gagged
Legislation to ban ‘gag’ clauses in Commonwealth contracts with the Not-For-Profit sector has been announced.
The move will allow charities and other not-for-profit organisations to voice their opinions on Government policies without fearing the loss of their grant monies.
According to the Commonwealth Ministers proposing the legislation, this is not the case in many of the States.
Women excel at bar
The New South Wales Bar Association has been commended by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick on its record of appointments of women to Senior Counsel this year.
Ms Broderick said 12 of the 26 barristers elevated to the senior ranks of the bar last week were women. She said of the field of 117 applicants, 85 were men and the 12 new female SCs were chosen from a field of 32 women.
Human rights stories sought
The Human Rights Commission has called for people interested in creating digital human rights stories to enetr its latest competition.
Entrants will need to create a two minute video on a human rights story and entries close Wednesday 24 October.
More details from this PS News link.
Tourists reach milestone
Tourism arrivals from Asia reached six million in the past 12 months, according to the latest Overseas Arrivals and Departures figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The milestone was reached with a 3.5 per cent increase in arrivals and prompted the Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson to say it showed that efforts to attract tourism from Asia were working.
Maritime fun on harbour
The National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney is staging its Classic and Wooden Boat Festival this weekend.
The action-packed family event has been revamped this year with plenty to delight children and adults alike.
For full program information visit this PS News link.
ACMA demands privacy
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has directed Telstra to protect the privacy of its subscribers better.
The direction was ACMA’s first to a telecommunications provider under the recently registered Telecommunications Consumer Protection code.
It follows an incident in June this year in which the personal details of 734,000 Telstra customers became accessible via the internet.
Union calls on ABC
A call to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to reconsider its decision to axe senior staff and programs at Radio National has been made by the Community and Public Sector Union.
The ABC has announced plans to eliminate up to 11 jobs from radio drama, features and the Breakfast program.
Programs to go include Airplay, The Book Reading, Night Air and Sunday Story.
The CPSU labelled the move an “appalling decision” which would damage the ABC’s capacity and reputation.
The Government Solution Register (GSR), formally known as the Off-the-Shelf Register, has been refreshed for 2012.
The register was established under the ICT Customisation and Bespoke Development Policy and provides Agencies with access to a list of solutions in use across the Government and encourages their re-use.
The updated GSR is now available on GovDex at this PS News link.
ASIC concerns aired
A scoping paper on policy issues raised by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) regarding takeovers law has been published by the Department of the Treasury.
The paper will form the basis of a series of roundtable meetings with business, legal and markets stakeholders.
ASIC has highlighted the areas of creeping acquisitions, the use and disclosure of equity derivatives, clarity of takeover proposals, the issue of association and the impact of new media as areas which may need to be tackled.
The scoping paper is available on the Treasury website at this PS News link.
Pacific disability plan
A $4 million Government plan to improve the lives of people with a disability in the Pacific, has been announced.
The plan aims to provide greater access to education, early intervention and further research into non-communicable diseases for the region’s people with disabilities.
JOCG nabs narcotics
An estimated 52 kilograms of narcotics has been seized and two Canadian nationals arrested by the Joint Organised Crime Group (JOCG).
The JOCG was acting on information provided by the Australian Crime Commission.
The narcotics had a street value of up to $52 million.
VET nominations open
Nominations have opened for the 2012 Australian Vocational Student Prize.
Up to 500 prizes are awarded to outstanding Year 12 students who have undertaken a Vocational Education and Training program or an Australian School-based Apprenticeship as part of their senior secondary certificate.
Students can be nominated by their school principal, teacher or a vocational education and training coordinator and, if successful, receive a certificate.
9 October, 2012
New strategy for
A new strategy for using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) across the Australian Public Service has been released by the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board (SIGB).
Chair of the SIGB and Secretary of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, David Tune said the new strategy would deliver a more coordinated approach to developing and using ICT in the APS.
Mr Tune said that in releasing the Australian Public Service Information and Communications Technology Strategy 2012-2015, the SIGB recognised ICT’s role in delivering and transforming the operations of Government.
“This strategy outlines the benefits that we expect will arise from a strategic and coordinated approach to developing and using ICT, positioning the APS to respond to rapid technological change,” Mr Tune said.
He said the strategy would also show how ICT could be used in new, creative and innovative ways to deliver better, easier-to-use services in ways that best met people’s needs and expectations.
“It outlines how APS Agencies will continue to use ICT to drive better service delivery, improve Government operations, drive productivity, and to engage with people, the community and business,” he said.
“It supports better, more accessible Government services for people when, where and how it suits them, so they can be more productive.”
He said the SIGB would be reviewing the Strategy on a regular basis to ensure it remained relevant to Government priorities.
Mr Tune said the strategy was built on a vision that Government interactions with people, businesses and the community would occur seamlessly as part of everyday life and that decisions made would be better informed through truly open, interactive government.
He said that in this vision, Government operations would deliver more integrated, responsive and targeted information and services with individuals, communities and business spending less time and effort interacting with Government, freeing them up for more productive activities.
He said the strategy identified strategic actions in three priority areas – the delivery of better services; improvement in the efficiency of Government operations and more open engagement with stakeholders.
“The strategy identifies actions to be taken between 2012 and 2015 to continue the release of Government data for wider use, to share information and knowledge resources and unlock further economic and social value,” Mr Tune said.
The full strategy document can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
Climate for change
After years of administrative and structural reform the Australian Public Service should be bracing itself for more and bigger changes according to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – and head of the APS - Ian Watt.
building in APS
Dr Watt told a lunch hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australian (IPAA) in Canberra last week that while the APS was among the highest performing Public Services in the world, it would only maintain that standard through “regular review and assessment” and “incremental change and improvement.”
Reflecting on major reviews of the past, including the most recent that led to the 2010 Blueprint for Reform, Dr Watt said the pressure for more change was building.
“The challenges are getting tougher,” Dr Watt said, “and they won’t wait for a once-a-decade-or-so review.”
He listed as the main forces for reform the rise of Asia; Australia’s ageing population; tighter fiscal conditions; environmental sustainability; new technologies; and refining and simplifying the Australian Federal system.
“And all these challenges are only amplified by increasing citizen expectations,” he said.
Dr Watt said the Asian Century would have far reaching implications for the APS and the Australian community generally, requiring the Public Service to ‘develop and nurture new capabilities.”
“This applies to the APS as a whole – not just those Public Servants from DFAT, Defence or AusAID who specifically operate in Asia,” he said.
“Australia increasingly needs an APS that has a better understanding of Asia.”
He said building a genuinely Asia-literate and capable APS would require a new focus on relevant skills across the Service, from graduates to Senior Executives, as well as a better understanding of what was happening in Asia and why.
“APS officers will need greater cross-cultural awareness and an appreciation of how Australia’s domestic policy objectives intersect with our international ones,” he said, “and how domestic policy will be shaped by global and regional factors.
“More specialised policy officers and APS leaders will require a sophisticated understanding of the regional and global political, economic and other institutional structures and relationships; some may need an Asian language proficiency; and all of us will need a better understanding of how to interact with the differing cultures across Asia.”
Dr Watt said a white paper on Australia in the Asian Century would be released shortly offering the chance to discuss how the APS should be shaped to meet the challenges ahead.
“But let me emphasise,” he said, “the need is for the APS to change.”
A transcript of Dr Watt’s address can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
Climate studies warm
A new strategy for guiding research on the future effects of climate change on Australian agriculture has been published by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).
up for farmers
The strategy, Filling the Research Gap, identifies priorities for climate change mitigation and modelling activities that will help fill research gaps not funded under the first round of the Carbon Farming Futures Filling the Research Gap program - a $201 million element of the $1.7 billion Land Sector Package.
Spokeswoman for DAFF’s Climate Change Policy Branch, Julie Gaglia said Filling the Research Gap sought to deliver mitigation and adaptation research that equipped land managers with the tools to make informed decisions, within the right timeframe, in response to a changing climate.
“The strategy highlights the need to consider links between mitigation and adaptation, as better results will be produced from research that includes projects with dual benefits,” Miss Gaglia said.
“The strategy also recognises adaptation and international research collaboration as important areas to be targeted under future funding rounds.”
She said Filling the Research Gap was building on research undertaken through the Climate Change Research Program.
“Research outcomes will underpin the development of new abatement methodologies that land managers can use to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI),” she said.
“The CFI voluntary carbon offsets scheme enables participating land managers to earn additional income from reducing emissions and storing carbon in the landscape.”
She said a significant research effort would be undertaken to provide practical solutions to adapt and respond to climate changes while unlocking the possibilities for farmers and land managers to participate in carbon markets.
A the new strategy which will run to June 2017 can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
DFAT serves up
A review of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has been announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Bob Carr.
policy on food
Senator Carr said the exercise was the first for ACIAR since 1998.
He said it would examine the Agency’s effectiveness in contributing to global food security and poverty alleviation.
He said that half a billion people were trying to grow enough food for themselves and their families on areas as small as the size of an Australian suburban backyard.
“Improving agricultural productivity is essential to these smallholders achieving food security, overcoming poverty and building resilience to alleviate the impacts of climate change and famine,” Senator Carr said.
“The 2011 independent aid review and the Australian Government’s response highlighted the need to continue to deploy Australian research expertise in agriculture, as part of the aid program.”
He said ACIAR taught sustainable farming and agriculture practices in poorer countries, particularly in Africa and the Pacific.
“It also invests research into identifying and eliminating disease-causing pathogens from crops.
“The Australian Government has already committed to increasing support for ACIAR, and has previously noted the Agency’s impressive results, confirmed by independent evaluations.”
He said the review would be conducted by an external panel chaired by the former Head of Mission in the two of the largest recipients of Australian aid, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Bill Farmer.
Senator Carr said the review panel would also include Ron Duncan, Wendy Jarvie and Terry Enright.
“The recommendations from this review will improve the Australian Government’s contribution to improving global food security through international agricultural research,” the Minister said.
The terms of reference and further details of the review can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
Taxing time for
Australia has signed up to an international convention for sharing information about taxpayers and enforcing tax recovery laws across borders.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, was designed to promote international cooperation between national revenue authorities to help enforce national tax laws.
Mr Bradbury said the convention, developed jointly by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe, allowed for the exchange of taxpayer information, as well as for assistance in the recovery of taxes and for the service of documents.
“The convention provides for all possible forms of administrative cooperation between its parties, while respecting the fundamental rights of taxpayers, and will complement Australia’s existing tax treaty and tax information exchange agreement networks,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Ratifying the convention underlines the Government’s long-standing commitment to international cooperation to help prevent tax avoidance and evasion.”
He said the G20 group of nations had strongly encouraged all jurisdictions to sign the convention. To date it had been signed by 38 countries including Australia.
Mr Bradbury said Australia’s instrument of ratification had been lodged with the OECD and the convention would enter into force, for Australia, on 1 December.
A copy of the convention can be accessed at the OECD’s website at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
A new jobs placement program for remote parts of Australia is a step closer with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations calling for expressions of interest for its delivery.
to the Outback
Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Julie Collins said the program would deliver better training and support for getting local people into jobs and ensured those who were not working were participating in activities that contributed to developing strong and sustainable communities.
“A single service provider will now have a continuing presence in each of 59 identified remote regions around Australia,” Ms Collins said.
“The expression of interest period will be longer than usual to give all interested organisations the opportunity to participate.”
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the program would bring Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services, Community Development Employment Projects and the Indigenous Employment Program in remote Australia into a single stream of service delivery.
“Through this program the Government aims to assist job seekers, many of them Indigenous Australians, in regions covering an area of nearly 5.9 million square kilometres,” Mr Shorten said.
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the expression of interest was designed to give small, local organisations the best opportunity to participate.
“We have also made it a requirement of the selection process that applicants demonstrate their connection to communities in the regions, as well as their capacity to deliver the services required,” Ms Macklin said.
Expressions of interest for delivery of the program will remain open until 14 November.
Organisations considering becoming a provider need to register with AusTender where the relevant documentation could be accessed at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
Researchers at the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) have found a treatment for a hearing problem affecting about 18,000 children that can be installed on a home computer.
for hearing research
The condition, Spatial Processing Disorder (SPD), makes it difficult for children to understand what people say when there is background noise - for example in the classroom.
The cause is unknown, but it is common in children who had middle ear infections when they were younger, and its impact on learning can be profound.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said the new treatment, LiSN and Learn, was turning that around.
“Every single child improved in initial trials of LiSN and Learn so that they were right back on par with their peers,” Senator Carr said.
He said the world-leading research, funded by the Department of Health and Ageing, was crucial in helping understand why some children had more difficulty in school.
“If children struggle to understand their teachers, it is incredibly hard to concentrate or remember what they’ve learnt,” Senator Carr said.
“Nothing is more important than a fair go in education.
“This Australian breakthrough could open the doors for more of our best and brightest.”
Director of the NAL, Harvey Dillon said spatial processing helped people to focus on one sound, while ignoring sounds coming from other directions.
“We first developed a test to diagnose SPD,” Professor Dillon said.
“This then led us to create LiSN and Learn.
“It works by introducing sounds that strengthen the brain’s pathways that combine the sounds picked up by both ears - it’s like exercise for the brain.”
More information about the Laboratory’s work can be obtained from this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
Studying up on
A new resource aimed at protecting the rights of international students has been released by the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Helen Szoke.
Dr Szoke said Principles to Promote and Protect the Human Rights of International Students was directed at organisations working with international students and called on them to ensure their basic human rights were protected.
“These principles will ensure safe, positive and productive stays for international students who come to Australia to study,” Dr Szoke said.
“They promote principles of good practice and will provide guidance to people, organisations and Government Agencies that provide services to students and develop policy in relation to them.”
She said that given there was no single body or organisation responsible for addressing the issues and concerns faced by international students, the principles would be an invaluable asset to the organisations and individuals that jointly shared the responsibility.
“We are all aware that some international students have faced very difficult times while studying in our country and the sector itself has been placed under the microscope and criticised,” Dr Szoke said.
“Given that discrimination, harassment, violence and other breaches of human rights can have a serious impact on a person’s life, their sense of safety, their health and the opportunities available to them, the need for guidance through principles such as these is very real.”
She said the publication featured four core principles: Enhancing the human rights of international students; Ensuring all international students had access to human rights and freedom from discrimination protections; Understanding the diverse needs of international students; and Empowering international students during their stay in Australia.
“Each of these principles is broken down into practical actions that apply to individuals and organisations that deal with international students, as much as they also apply to Governments and their Departments and Agencies,” Dr Szoke said.
She said the Commission developed the principles in consultation with key individuals and organisations, including international students and their representative bodies, representatives of the international education sector, academics, Government Departments and Agencies and organisations that provided services to international students.
The principles can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
Australia to trade
Australia is to join forces with the American State of California to develop carbon markets, exchange information and experiences and explore options for working together on clean energy issues and responses to climate change.
The arrangement will provide a forum for sharing experience on climate policy, including comparative experiences in emissions trading in Australia and California.
The working relationship was announced by the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus on a visit to the United States for clean energy and climate talks.
Mr Dreyfus used the visit to meet with members of the State Governor’s Office, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Californian Air Resources Board.
He said California had long been at the forefront of US efforts to reduce carbon pollution.
“California’s cap and trade program starts on 1 January 2013, and the first auction of carbon allowances occurs in November,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“By 2015, the program will be the world’s third largest emissions trading market, after the European Union and Korea, covering 85 per cent of California’s emission.”
He said California’s cap and trade program had similar design features to Australia’s, covering around 350 businesses.
“It also includes the ability to establish domestic programs to generate carbon offsets across a range of different areas,” he said.
“We can learn from each other’s experiences and share methodologies.”
He said that other areas of mutual interest included methods of analysis, measurement and inventory, approaches to mandatory reporting and verification, and methods of market monitoring.
“Californian industry is getting ready for the cap and trade program,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“It is putting in place forward-looking business strategies that will reduce carbon pollution and give it a competitive edge in the market.”
9 October, 2012
Students can name
A new online program encouraging school students to name their favourite teacher has been launched by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
their pet teacher
The program will allow students of all ages to post an online message of support as part of a new push to highlight the important role teachers played in the community
Launching the six-week program, Ms Gillard said students would be able to tell the story of their favourite teacher.
The program includes a video in which Ms Gillard talks about her favourite teacher and the importance of education.
She said its aim was to generate a conversation on social media about the inspirational role that high-quality teachers played in students’ lives.
Ms Gillard said pupils past and present would be invited to post a message, photo or a video about their favourite teacher on her Facebook page.
She said a range of social media platforms would be used, including Facebook, a video of the impact of education on her life and how it had shaped her views on education. It would also include a live blog about education.
“Under our National Plan for School Improvement we want Australian schools back in the top five schooling systems in the world by 2025, and we know that great teachers are the key to getting there,” Ms Gillard said.
9 October, 2012
Zoo animals released
Australian zoos have been recognised in a new issue of stamps by Australia Post
on new stamp issue
Seven zoos have each nominated one special animal to be honoured on a stamp, which is also the theme for Stamp Collecting Month 2012.
In October each year a different subject is selected to promote the hobby of stamp collecting and educate primary school children about the selected theme in line with curriculum areas such as history, geography, science and technology and the environment.
The Australian Zoos theme teaches children about the importance of conservation and planned breeding programs by featuring animals that are already under threat and have benefited from programs initiated or run by Australian zoos.
Philatelic Manager at Australia Post, Michael Zsolt said he hoped the Australian Zoos stamp issue would inspire further interest in the important work performed by zoos in tackling the conservation needs of all endangered species.
“Stamp Collecting Month gives us the opportunity to educate children through a medium that’s visual and interactive,” Mr Zsolt said.
“We hope that these stamp images encourage children to talk about these issues and the impact that they might have on the future of these and all animals.”
He said the Australian Zoos stamp issue coincided with Melbourne Zoo’s 150th birthday.
The animals featured are the black rhino (Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo); giraffe (Taronga Zoo, Sydney); saltwater crocodile (Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast); wedge-tailed eagle (Healesville Sanctuary); Sumatran tiger (Melbourne Zoo); giant panda (Adelaide Zoo); and Sumatran orangutan (Perth Zoo);
The collectable postal and numismatic cover also contains a $1 colour pad-printed coin featuring the Sumatran tiger. The coin is alloy bronze from the Royal Australian Mint.
9 October, 2012
A further step towards opening the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) in South Australia to minerals exploration and resources development has been announced.
on launching pad
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the Woomera Prohibited Area had great economic potential, with estimates that more than $35 billion in developments, including iron ore, gold and uranium projects could be possible over the next decade.
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith said applications for access to the area from companies wishing to explore for minerals would now be received.
Mr Smith said Defence would remain the primary user of the WPA, but the new framework would enable greater access for industry.
He said the Government had previously endorsed a review undertaken by former Secretary of Defence, Allan Hawke into the use of the WPA.
“Dr Hawke’s recommendations regarding the future management and use of the WPA included a moratorium period on access which is now lifted,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Ferguson said that ending the moratorium on applications for access was an important day for industry which had an interest in the WPA.
“Implementing the recommendations of the Hawke Review will help secure the longevity of our minerals resources sector,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The time-sharing arrangement allows increased opportunities for resource exploration while maintaining Defence’s ability to continue its use of the WPA.”
He said the findings of the review were being implemented in three phases – the moratorium on the granting of new non-Defence entrants access to the WPA, a transitional phase involving the development and implementation of enabling legislation, and a final phase where transitional arrangements were implemented and where permanent arrangements were put in place.
More information about the Prohibited Area can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 October, 2012
AG balancing ledger
A proposals paper on the review of debt agreements under Australia’s bankruptcy laws has been released by the Attorney-General’s Department.
The Department said in a statement that a debt agreement was a binding agreement between a debtor and their creditors where creditors agreed to accept a sum of money which the debtor could afford.
“Payment by the debtor is based on their capacity to pay having regard to all their income and household expenses,” the Department said.
“A debt agreement is an option to assist debtors with unmanageable debt. A debtor is released from their debts when they complete all payments and obligations under the agreement.”
The Department invited written submissions on the proposals paper, Review of Debt Agreements under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 Proposals Paper October 2012.
“Please provide written submissions on the proposals for reform to email@example.com by 18 November 2012,” it said.
“This paper follows on from a 2011 consultation process on these issues.”
It warned that all submissions received would be treated as public documents unless the author of the submission clearly marked all or part of it as ‘confidential’ prior to the submission being lodged.
The Department said public submissions might be published on its website, including any personal information of authors and/or other third parties contained in the submission.
The proposals paper can be accessed at this PS News link and the consultation paper from 2011 at this PS News link.
5 October, 2012
Protocols have been released setting out the way Departments and Agencies are to interact with the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).
to Budget Office
The first Parliamentary Budget Officer, Phil Bowen began duty on 23 July and will have the role of providing MPs, Senators and political parties with independent analysis of the Budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of their policy proposals.
The amended protocols fulfill the Government’s assurance that Commonwealth Agencies and bodies would provide Mr Bowen with relevant data and information to assist him in his role.
The new Office will ensure that Opposition, Greens and Independent MPs and Senators have unprecedented access to reliable, accurate, comparable costings of their policies submitted to the PBO.
Treasurer, Wayne Swan said the protocols made clear that Government policy required Agencies to keep information related to PBO costing requests confidential.
Mr Swan said legislation would be introduced to amend the Freedom of Information Act so that information would not be able to be released if it cut across the intention of PBO legislation.
The Treasurer said the protocols also sought to foster an open exchange of views and information between Commonwealth bodies and the PBO and ensured a high-level of consistency and transparency across Government
He said the protocols were to be observed by all Commonwealth bodies and reflected in any arrangement made for the provision of information to Mr Bowen or his staff.
The protocols outline the responsibilities of Heads of Commonwealth bodies to establish procedures to deal with the PBO effectively.
Mr Swan said the Heads were to ensure that they and their staff were accessible to the PBO for meetings and discussions and that they maintain the necessary confidentiality.
“Commonwealth bodies are to inform the Department of the Treasury and the
Department of Finance and Deregulation in writing of the details of a request from the Officer once it has been received,” Mr Swan said.
The protocols can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 October, 2012
The Special Minister of State, Gary Gray has tabled the 2011-12 full-year report for campaign advertising by Departments and Agencies.
lack of advertising
The report shows the Government’s media purchases to total $139.7 million in 2011-12, up $22.8 million on 2010-11, but 45 per cent below the previous Government’s expenditure of $254 million in 2007.
Mr Gray said the report showed that for the fourth consecutive year, campaign advertising expenditure was at least $100 million less than the 2007 figure.
He said the major campaigns to be conducted in 2011-12 included Defence Force Recruitment ($20 million); the National Tobacco campaign ($17.6 million); a Clean Energy Future ($16.8 million); the Household Assistance Package ($13.6 million); the National Broadband Network – Regional ($13.1 million); and the 2011 Census ($10.7 million).
He said the report built on the previous seven biannual reports and provided a high level of transparency.
Mr Gray said the report covered all campaign advertising media placement costs which exceeded $250,000.
He said revised recruitment advertising guidelines had reduced annual expenditure by around $30 million annually since 2009-10.
“A further saving of $2 million per year will be made through moving recruitment advertising online in recognition that more people are now looking for jobs on the internet,” the Minister said.
The 2011-12 campaign advertising report can be found at this PS News link.
5 October, 2012
DAFF leads charge
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has become the first Lead Agency to sign up an internet gateway provider under the new internet reduction program.
to shut the gate
The program has been launched to minimise the risk of malicious cyber attacks against Government Agencies by reducing the number of internet gateways from 124 to eight.
DAFF was Lead Agency in negotiations representing 11 other Federal client agencies.
Chief Information Officer at DAFF, Graham Gathercole said negotiations involved identifying the best value option that also met the Government’s cyber security needs.
“The negotiations resulted in an outstanding commercial and technological proposal for the Australian Government and DAFF and all parties are happy with it,” Mr Gathercole said.
He said that as Lead Agency, DAFF made sure the requirements of client agencies were met.
The Australian Government’s Internet Gateway Reduction program is managed by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) and affects all Agencies governed by the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.
The reduced number of gateways provides improved security through a more consistent approach to gateway management, accreditation, monitoring and incident response.
The Agencies represented by DAFF are the Australian Antarctic Division; the Bureau of Meteorology; the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority; the Department of Innovation Industry, Science, Research and Tertiary Education; the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism; the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; Fair Work Australia; Geoscience Australia; the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; and Wheat Exports Australia.
5 October, 2012
New digits for
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) says that new 05 mobile phone numbers and flexible landline numbers were among a series of measures to be taken to prepare for a rapidly-changing telecommunications future.
the digital age
Chair of ACMA, Chris Chapman, said the Authority’s vision for telephone numbering was for numbers to be flexible and readily accommodated as new technologies, uses and new entrants emerged in the communications sector.
“Our numbering work is about ensuring Australia is ahead of the game as we move into the broadband-enabled future,” Mr Chapman said.
“In the networked world, voice services will be apps among many other communications and media apps.”
He said these apps would be used when, where and how they were wanted and numbering and addressing would also need to work in the same way.
“By establishing an agreed roadmap for the managed evolution of telecommunications numbering, the ACMA is enabling all Australians to capitalise on the benefits of new technologies, especially in the exploding arena of mobile apps and new voice services,” Mr Chapman said.
“These changes will mean Australia is well placed to exploit the benefits of these exciting new delivery platforms.”
Mr Chapman said the reforms focused on medium and longer term changes to allow more flexible use of general numbers; provided more capacity for mobiles in the 05 number range in the medium term; made numbering arrangements simpler and more transparent for consumers; introduced measures to improve number management and charging; and maintained existing arrangements for premium services and directory and information service numbers.
5 October, 2012
ATO taxed over
A report into the Australian Taxation Office’s use of benchmarking to target the cash economy has found a need for greater transparency and better data integrity.
The review, by the Inspector-General of Taxation, Ali Noroozi, followed concerns raised by small businesses, tax practitioners and their representative bodies.
Mr Noroozi made 11 recommendations to improve the use of benchmarks by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) which agreed with nine in full and two in part.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said the recommendations should improve the ATO’s risk identification and audit selection processes to exclude compliant taxpayers from audits and thereby minimise unnecessary costs.
“Compliance in the cash economy is important for the integrity of the tax system and I welcome the cooperation between the Inspector-General and the ATO to improve how benchmarking is used to enhance compliance,” Mr Bradbury said.
He said the benchmarking program was developed to make sure that those small businesses that were doing the right thing and paying their taxes were not undercut by the minority that tried to avoid their income tax and GST obligations.
Mr Noroozi said the review found that overall, stakeholders were supportive of the use of benchmarks as a risk identification tool.
They were concerned however with the benchmarks themselves in addition to the way the ATO was using them for compliance activities.
“Concerns were expressed that the benchmarks did not account for business differences in an industry or for geographic differences,” Mr Noroozi said
He said that stakeholders were also concerned about the data integrity of the inputs the ATO was using.
He found that many of these concerns related to the transparency of the process.
He said that stakeholders believed that being significantly outside the benchmarks was, not of itself, enough reason to begin an audit and considered that the ATO should take into account additional factors to determine whether the risk warranted an audit.
Mr Noroozi recommended that the ATO use research to refine its audit selection process and also clarify in its staff instructions and communication with taxpayers, the evidence it was seeking during tax audits.
He also made a number of recommendations aimed at improving staff capability, reducing taxpayer compliance costs during the conduct of audits and improving small business record keeping.
The Inspector-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 October, 2012
An audit of the a community support program to improve access to childcare has found that the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ administration of the program has been generally sound.
The audit made a number of recommendations for improvement, however.
In his report Improving Access to Child Care - the Community Support Program, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the Department – DEEWR - had effective processes in place to assess the eligibility of applicants in a timely fashion and payments made under the program were accurate and timely.
Mr McPhee said the objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of DEEWR’s administration of the program under which it provided $104 million to help providers establish and/or operate over 1,700 formal child care services.
“DEEWR’s administration of delivery arrangements for the CSP funding was generally sound,” Mr McPhee said.
“DEEWR has also continued to improve program delivery arrangements in response to a series of reviews.”
He said however the Department had not evaluated the effectiveness of the program’s design since assuming responsibility for it in 2007.
“During this period, DEEWR has maintained the CSP eligibility criteria and payment rates used to target funding, and the child care sector has continued to expand,” Mr McPhee said.
He said this pointed to a need to assess whether the program’s settings remained appropriate for achieving the greatest gains in relation to its objectives.
“DEEWR should develop suitable performance measures as a basis for its ongoing assessment of the program’s performance,” Mr McPhee said.
He recommended the Department analyse the childcare market, including the areas where it would fail to meet childcare needs without Community Support Program
funding, and review the appropriateness of the current eligibility criteria and payment rates in light of that analysis.
A further recommendation was that DEEWR monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of Community Support Program funding and that it develop performance measures that directly addressed the program’s objectives.
Mr McPhee said the Department had agreed to his recommendations.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Brendan Mason, Renée Hall, Clare Spring and Stuart Turnbull.
5 October, 2012
Police bank on banks
The Australian Federal Police have joined with the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) to produce information to help people bank safely from their smartphones and tablets.
to beat cyber crooks
National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations at the AFP, Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said fraud, scams and harassment had now moved into the digital world as criminals used information and communications technology to commit old crimes in new ways
“Criminals know it’s very difficult to defeat banks’ security systems and so they target consumers directly,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.
He said tips to protect smartphones and tablets included setting them to automatically lock; calling the bank immediately you lose one; clearing the mobile device of text messages from banks; never using text messages to disclose any personal information; and only using official apps
The AFP and ABA have prepared a fact sheet: “Banking on the go – security tips for your smartphone and tablet” which provides advice and some simple steps people can take to protect their personal and financial information.
Acting Chief Executive of the ABA, Tony Burke said banks protected accounts by monitoring and checking for unusual transactions which could be suspicious, but consumers could help by taking some simple steps to better secure their smartphones and tablets.
Mr Burke said tablets and smartphones should have the latest anti-virus and firewall software purchased from trusted suppliers; passwords and PINs should be kept confidential and the use of the same login passwords for multiple websites should be avoided.
The fact sheet, Banking on the Go – Security Tips for Your Smartphone and Tablet, can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 October, 2012
Scientists lend ear to
New acoustic technology to track and locate scores of blue whales has been tested by scientists at the Australian Antarctic Division.
According to the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, the technology can eavesdrop on the resonating song of the whales from hundreds of kilometres away.
Mr Burke said by using sound rather than sight to initially detect the whales, the scientists could significantly improve the likelihood of finding and counting whales in the Southern Ocean.
He said their research was a core part of an Australian-led international project to estimate the abundance, distribution and behaviour of the species which was severely impacted in the early 1900s when industrial whaling killed approximately 250,000 of them.
Mr Burke said blue whales were under threat of extinction and improved scientific knowledge would help in their conservation and recovery.
“This research reinforces Australia’s commitment to non-lethal research of whales,” Mr Burke said.
“This breakthrough project again shows you don’t have to kill a whale to study it.”
Chief of the Australian Marine Mammals Centre, Mike Double said that over 20 days on the voyage there were 103 sightings of blue whales in a 10,000 square kilometre area.
“While blue whales are the largest animals on earth, growing up to 31 metres long, they’re still very difficult to find in a vast ocean and we know very little about them,” Dr Double said.
“The real-time passive acoustic tracking system was highly effective at picking up their low frequency calls from hundreds of kilometres of away, thus maximising our chance of locating them.”
He said that once the whales were located they were photographed and biopsied for further identification.
Mr Burke said the acoustic technology would now be used in the Antarctic Blue Whale Project, which would estimate their abundance and migration patterns, in January next year.
5 October, 2012
And in other news...
Court knocks sales
Protections against unwanted door-to-door selling have been upheld by the Federal Court. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought an action against two energy retailers, Neighbourhood Energy and Australian Green Credits.
The Court issued total penalties of $1 million to the companies and found that they had engaged in multiple breaches of the Australian Consumer Law, including failing to leave the homes of consumers who had displayed a ‘do not knock’ sign.
The Federal Government is to provide emergency funding for the Queensland Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service, which had been defunded by the Queensland Government.
The service offers advice and advocacy services to tenants across Queensland, providing assistance to 80,000 households annually.
The funding has been committed until 30 June, 2013.
Iroquois’ last mission
A major feature of the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour (Victoria) is to be a retired UH-1H Iroquois ‘Huey’helicopter.
The Mitchell Sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans Associations is one of six organisations that will be offered a retired helicopter.
The Iroquois helicopters served in the Australian Defence Force for nearly half a century and provided support to troops on the ground during the Vietnam War.
Bathurst coin a winner
A half century of motorsport history at Bathurst is commemorated in a collectible 50c coin. The Royal Australian Mint and V8 Supercars have cooperated on the design, which features the classic twists of Mount Panorama.
Tassie gets national boost
Tasmania’s coastline, forests and rivers are to be promoted to the world as Australia’s 15th National Landscape in a Tourism Australia and Parks Australia program.
The attractions join previous National Landscapes including the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Alps and Kangaroo Island.
It is expected that inclusion as a National Landscape will assist Tasmania in attracting domestic and international visitors.
Gallipoli tour warning
Australians have been urged to be wary of tour operators promising tickets to Centenary Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli in 2015.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon said there would be a ballot for 8,000 passes to Australians to attend the commemorations, as places would be limited.
“Tour operators are not in a position where they can guarantee a place at the commemorations,” Mr Snowdon said.
Patents extends deadline
IP Australia has extended the release date for its new online service for lodging applications from 1 October to the end of October 2012.
It said the original date of 1 October had to be abandoned because development and testing of the new system had taken longer than expected.
The agency said it was determined to deliver a quality product and regretted the inconvenience the delay may cause.
Award for Commissioner
The ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner has been judged the 2012 Telstra Business Woman of the Year for the national capital.
Dr Helen Watchirs has worked for several Federal Government Agencies and five United Nations Agencies before becoming the ACT’s Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner.
Aviation firies wanted
People who want to be aviation fire fighters are being sought by Airservices Australia.
Successful recruits, both men and women, would join the agency’s Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting service (ARFF).
Applicants are being sought to meet the challenges of an ageing workforce with an estimated quarter of the current fire fighters likely to retire over the next five years.
Carbon lab launched
The National Geosequestration Laboratory (NGL) is a new research and development facility launched in Perth (WA).
The NGL has been formed by a collaboration between CSIRO, the University of Western Australia and Curtin University.
It will conduct research into commercial-scale CO2 storage programs.
2 October, 2012
APSC to focus on
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has published a new strategy for developing leadership and core skills among the APS workforce.
PS core skills
The APS Leadership and Core Skills Strategy 2012-13 was created to respond to the changing requirements of the Public Service and enhance leadership development and core skills learning.
According to the strategy, the APS must continue to evolve its practices in a changing world.
“As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the challenges that the APS must respond to are becoming increasingly complex, fast-moving and integrated,” the Commission said.
It said the nature of work was changing at the same time. The quantity and speed of information was increasing and technology was providing new ways to deliver services and make Government information available to citizens.
“As the world changes, the APS must continue to evolve its practices.
“To do this, the APS requires effective leaders and a highly capable workforce equipped to meet the challenges of the modern world, the changing nature of work and the increased expectations of citizens.”
It said that to do this, the APSC established the Strategic Centre for Leadership, Learning and Development in July 2010 which was funded for five years with the key responsibility to produce an annual leadership and core skills development strategy.
Work on the strategy during 2010-11 emphasised identifying the leadership development requirements across the APS with the focus later expanded to include the identification of core skills gaps and opportunities.
The APSC has now identified four related development areas:
* Foundation skills, or the essential workplace skills that are relevant to employees at all levels;
* Core Public Service skills, essential to the Public Service institution and of relevance to all Public Servants;
* Management skills, needed when Public Servants moved into positions of authority; and
* Leadership capabilities that allowed Public Servants to influence others and set the culture of the workplace.
It said some of the particular skills identified within the foundation and core skills included policy development and implementation; working within and across teams; applying ethical and legal public sector frameworks; structuring work; and compelling communication.
The anticipated timeline for the analysis of core and foundation skills priorities was early-to-mid 2013 with its adoption in 2013 and 2014.
Leadership and management development strategies would be considered together during 2012-13.
The full APS Leadership and Core Skills Strategy 2012-13 can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 October, 2012
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has published a Better Practice Guide on internal auditing in the public sector.
guide to audits
The guide, Public Sector Internal Audit: An Investment in Assurance and Business Improvement, replaces a similar guide issued in 2007.
Auditor General, Ian McPhee said that while many of the principles in the new Guide were the same as in the 2007 edition, the role of internal audit had continued to evolve.
“Internal audit and Audit Committees both play important roles in the good governance of public sector Agencies,” Mr McPhee said.
“The Guide is intended to be a reference document for Chief Executives, boards, members of Audit Committees, managers with responsibility for internal audit activities, and internal audit staff.”
The Guide says that organisations seeking best practice realised that an appropriate level of investment in internal audit was important.
It said they recognised that a well resourced and effective internal audit function could play a key role in their governance arrangements.
According to the Guide, the responsibilities of internal audit varied considerably across public sector entities.
“However, there are a range of key elements of better practice that all internal audit functions should demonstrate.”
It says a distinguishing feature of an internal audit was its independence, and a number of practical measures could be taken to reinforce that operational independence.
It says ways to ensure the independence of the internal audit included internal reporting to an Audit Committee and being accountable to the Chief Executive; ensuring the Head of Internal Audit had direct access to the Chief Executive; that meetings between the Head of Internal Audit and the Audit Committee could be held without other parties being present; and making sure internal audit staff had no other management responsibilities that conflicted with their primary role,.
“Objectivity is a required attitude for the delivery of internal audit services,” the Guide says.
It says this objectivity should be reinforced by the rigorous application of professional standards and by the vigilance of the Head of Internal Audit and individual internal auditors.
The ANAO’s 88-page Better Practice Guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 October, 2012
Week to home in on
A new website for National Telework Week has been launched.
working from home
Deputy Secretary, Digital Strategy and Services at the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Abul Rizvi said the website would provide advice on how employers could take part in National Telework Week (12 to 16 November), as well as a range of examples of organisations that already teleworked, fact sheets on how different organisations had tackled telework challenges and links to more than 120 Telework partners.
Mr Rizvi said the new website also included a Return on Investment (ROI) tool to help employers judge the costs and benefits of telework.
“The Tool will evolve over time and the Department is keen to get feedback from users about their experience in using it,” Mr Rizvi said.
“It will have new functionalities added to it over time and will also be updated as new research on telework becomes available.”
Director of Deloitte Access Economics, Ric Simes said his organisation helped create the ROI tool.
“I recommend businesses and not-for-profit organisations consider the tool because it allows managers to compare the costs of telework with the many benefits, which have traditionally been difficult to quantify,” Dr Simes said.
He said the website also included a quick calculator which employers could use to check how much they could save by providing telework opportunities to their employees.
“A section for employees has been designed to help boost understanding about the issues employees should think about when considering whether to telework,” he said.
“Telework isn’t for everyone so this website and its tools will help employers and employees make that decision.”
The new website can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 October, 2012
A review of the Federal Government’s Health Workforce programs has been ordered by the Acting Minister for Health, Mark Butler.
to get a check-up
Mr Butler said the review would be conducted by the former Director-General of the NSW Departments of Human Services and Community Services, Jenny mason.
Mr Butler said the review was required because the Government had significantly increased the number of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals working in the community as well as the number of health programs they worked in.
“The number of medical students in Australian universities has risen by almost 40 per cent since 2007 and the number of nurses in training has risen by more than 50 per cent over five years,” Mr Butler said.
He said $1.6 billion had been allocated to increase clinical training capacities for health students and health professionals, including an almost doubling of the number of GP training places to 1,200 by 2014 and adding 680 specialists to the health system by 2020.
“We know that we face challenges in meeting the needs of an ageing population and ensuring people across the country can access the health professionals they need,” Mr Butler said.
He said Ms Mason’s review would concentrate on how the those challenges could be met and how programs could be improved.
Mr Butler said the review would examine Federal Government programs and activities designed to increase, train, support, plan and distribute the Australian health workforce.
He said its objective was to analyse and assess the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of the programs and activities and to ensure they were all aligned with Australia’s workforce priorities.
He said Ms Mason would deliver a draft report by the end of the year and a final report by March 2013.
2 October, 2012
New guide to top-up
An agreement has been signed between Geoscience Australia and Engineers Australia to complete a revision of the Australian Rainfall and Runoff guide.
The agreement forms part of a four-year program to increase the quality, consistency and accessibility of flood risk information in response to the Natural Disaster Insurance Review.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the guide formed part of a suite of products, including maps of historic floods derived from satellite imagery and a national flood portal providing a single point of access to flood studies, to be developed by Geoscience Australia.
“The Australian Rainfall and Runoff guide is a significant source of technical information used by engineers to determine the degree to which a particular area is flood-prone,” Mr Ferguson said.
“These flood studies provide fundamental information needed for planning our communities, planning emergency response, and for the design and construction of major infrastructure including roads and bridges.”
He said that since the guide was last updated in 1987, new approaches to catchment and flood modelling had been developed and a significant volume of new data about rainfall and runoff patterns had been collected.
“The new guide will enable engineers to develop more accurate and detailed flood studies, and will enable them to consider the potential impact of climate-induced changes to rainfall and river flow patterns,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The improved flood studies will enable emergency managers to plan and respond more effectively to floods, and will allow engineers and planners to make informed decisions about construction requirements and the location of homes and infrastructure.”
He said the studies would also enable better decisions on construction of major infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.
“These decisions will lead to better protected communities and will minimise unnecessary costs and restrictions on development,” Mr Ferguson said.
2 October, 2012
More people from vulnerable backgrounds are taking and passing the Australia Citizenship Test according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship
salute the flag
The finding was uncovered in the Department’s Snapshot 2011-12 of the Test and follows the introduction of education pathways for migrants.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen said the snapshot showed Australia had a high citizenship take-up rate compared with other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“The high citizenship take-up rate is a mark of the success of the citizenship-focused model of Australian multiculturalism,” Mr Bowen said.
“This number continues to increase as more migrants choose to make their home here and seek to become fully-fledged members of the Australian family.”
He said a record 71,662 applicants from more than 196 countries took the citizenship test in 2011-12, up almost 20 per cent on the previous year’s figure of 59,787.
“More than 90 per cent of people in the humanitarian program passed the test, a rise of five per cent since the introduction of courses and tuition for disadvantaged migrants.” Mr Bowen said.
The Minister said the top five countries of birth for migrants who took the test were the United Kingdom (16.6 per cent), India (13.9 per cent), China (10.1 per cent), the Philippines (6.1 per cent) and South Africa (5.1 per cent).
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the Citizenship Test was designed to assess whether migrants had an adequate knowledge of Australia and understood the responsibilities and privileges of being an Australian citizen.
The Department said the Test also assessed whether new citizens had a basic knowledge of the English language so they could play an active role in the community.
2 October, 2012
A report on the environmental impact of the Defence Force Exercise Talisman Sabre 13 has been released for public comment.
The exercise is held every two years and is the biggest air, land and sea military training exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Force with forces from the United States.
The Department of Defence said Exercise Talisman Sabre 13 would be conducted from 15 July to 6 August next year with a primary aim of improving training and inter-operability between the Australian Defence Force and United States Armed Forces.
“Defence’s environmental vision is to be a leader in sustainable environmental management to support its capability to defend Australia and its national interests,” the Department said.
“As good stewards of the environment, Defence will conduct the exercise in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.”
It said the draft Public Environment Report had been prepared to inform Defence, the Australian public and relevant stakeholders of potential environmental and heritage issues relating to the conduct of Exercise Talisman Sabre 13, and mitigation strategies.
The Department said major activity sites for the 2013 exercise would include waters in the Coral, Timor and Arafura Seas; Shoalwater Bay Training Area in central Queensland; Townsville Field Training Area, RAAF Base Townsville and the Cowley Beach Training Area in north Queensland.
It said that in addition, Delamere Range Facility, Bradshaw Field Training Area and Mount Bundey Training Area in the Northern Territory might be used.
“Support activities will also be undertaken at Rockhampton and Gladstone; at port facilities in Queensland and the Northern Territory, including the Port of Cairns, Port of Townsville, Port Alma, Port of Gladstone and Port of Brisbane, and at RAAF bases in Darwin, Tindal, Townsville, Amberley, Williamtown and Richmond,” the Department said.
Copies of the draft report as well as supporting fact sheets can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 October, 2012
World’s financiers to
Canberra is to host a meeting of the G20 Finance and Central Bank Deputies in 2014.
tot up in Canberra
The meeting was announced by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan who the 400 delegates expected to attend would include leaders, Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors and senior officials from major developing and advanced economies.
“They will address the critical economic and financial challenges facing the world,” Mr Swan said.
He said the meeting would drive the economic and financial reform agenda of the G20 and play a key role in preparing for the Leaders’ Summit later in Brisbane.
He said the Canberra meeting would be the first in the Finance Stream in 2014 with members coming together to take stock of the global economy and help outline the G20 Finance Stream’s priorities for 2014.
“It is fitting that our nation’s capital is the backdrop for this important event which will help shape the agenda in this pivotal year for Australia as the G20 host nation,” Mr Swan said.
“As the home of the Australian Parliament and the hub of the Australian Public Service, Canberra will be at the centre of Australia’s preparations for hosting the G20 in 2014.”
Mr Swan said the Prime Minister’s G20 taskforce was already based in Canberra and the Finance Stream of meetings would be run from the Department of the Treasury in Canberra.
“As chair of the G20 in 2014, Australia has a unique opportunity to shape a global economic agenda that promotes Australia’s values and to further strengthen our strong engagement with the world’s major economies,” he said.
2 October, 2012
Carbon market hits
Australia’s carbon market has officially begun trading with the issue by the Clean Energy Regulator of the first carbon units under the carbon pricing mechanism.
the ground smoking
Chair and Chief Executive of the Australian National Registry of Emissions Units, Chloe Munro said three applicants had received free carbon units under the Jobs and Competitiveness Program.
“Industry assistance is a core component of the Clean Energy Future package administered by the Clean Energy Regulator,” Ms Munro said.
She said the Jobs and Competitiveness Program provided continuing assistance to organisations that produced significant carbon emissions but were constrained in their capacity to pass through costs in global markets.
Ms Munro said the three applicants were Alcoa of Australia Limited for alumina refining, Queensland Nitrates Pty Ltd for production of ammonia and Queensland Nitrates Pty Ltd for production of ammonium nitrate.
“These applicants have received around 6.37 million free carbon units which companies can now sell back to the Government, transfer, or use to acquit their future liability under the carbon pricing mechanism,” Ms Munro said.
She said that over the coming weeks, the Clean Energy Regulator would continue to process applications and issue further units to eligible applicants under the program.
She estimated that assistance would be provided to around 50 emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industrial activities such as steel, aluminium, cement and zinc manufacturing.
“Businesses producing over 80 per cent of the manufacturing sector’s emissions are expected to be eligible for assistance under this program,” she said.
2 October, 2012
Youth toeing line on
Research into a campaign to reduce violence against women has revealed it to be having success.
violence and women
The Line campaign is a four-year initiative using social media to raise awareness among young people aged 12 to 20 about respectful relationships and appropriate behaviour.
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said teaching young Australians about healthy and respectful relationships was critical to breaking the cycle of violence against women.
“The Line encourages young people to think about what is acceptable in a relationship and what crosses the line,” Ms Collins said.
“The campaign is making a positive impact, particularly during early relationships when young people rely heavily on advice from their peers about what is right and wrong.”
She said the research showed that 84 per cent of people who recognised The Line campaign claimed it had improved their understanding of behaviour, while 81 per cent had done something positive as a result.
Ms Collins said that in addition, 78 per cent of people intended to change their behaviour in the next six months.
However, she said the research had also found that increased efforts were needed in the areas of bullying, harassment and gender equality.
“These issues remain among the biggest areas of confusion for older teens and in particular young men and they will be a focus for the remaining campaign,” Ms Collins said.
She said the findings coincided with the fourth issue of Between the Lines - an online magazine produced as part of The Line.
“Between the Lines gets young people talking about respectful relationships - it’s an online magazine designed by young people, for young people,” Ms Collins said.
2 October, 2012
An audit of the Department of Defence’s procurement of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft (JSF) from the United States, has found the project to be progressing slower than expected and costing more, but there were signs it could be improving.
struggling to fly
In his audit report, Management of Australia’s Air Combat Capability—F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Acquisition, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the JSF program was the United State’s most expensive and ambitious defence initiative ever and Australia was one of seven nations in a partnership arrangement to take advantage of it.
Mr McPhee said the objective of his audit was to assess the progress of the project in delivering the required aircraft within the approved cost, schedule and performance parameters.
In particular he said, the audit assessed Defence’s arrangements to ensure there was adequate insight into the development and production of the F?35A, and information about the status of the JSF Program.
“Under the JSF Program the US, with its industry partners, is developing the F-35 Lightning II aircraft to replace fighters and strike aircraft in its own air combat fleets,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the Department of Defence’s AIR 6000–New Air Combat Capability Project was responsible for undertaking the procurement of F-35A aircraft for the RAAF.
“The effectiveness of Defence’s arrangements to monitor and assess its progress in terms of cost, schedule and performance is fundamental,” he said.
“This audit report draws attention to the wide-ranging cost, schedule and performance risks inherent in advanced defence technology development and production programs.
Mr McPhee said the US Department of Defense and its contractors had encountered persistent difficulties in accurately estimating the time and cost of developing and operating F-35 aircraft and their support systems.
He said that overall, the achievement of the JSF Program’s objectives had progressed more slowly and at greater cost than first estimated.
“Nonetheless, recent indications are that initiatives to improve performance are starting to show results.
“However, a full assessment as to how effectively that progress can be maintained will be some years off.”
Mr McPhee said close management of the project would have to be maintained but his Office had not made any formal recommendations for administrative improvements in Defence’s management of air combat capability in its report.
Mr McPhee said that as a result of the delays, the operational life of the RAAF’s current fleet of F/A-18A/B aircraft was likely to be extended beyond the current planned withdrawal date of 2020.
“Defence’s capacity to accommodate any further delays…is likely to be costly and has implications for capability,” he said.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Dr Raymond McNally, Dr Patrick N. O’Neill and Fran Holbert.
2 October, 2012
Backing up to
The Australian Human Rights Commission has announced the winners of its national BackMeUp anti-cyber bullying campaign competition to produce a 30-second television commercial.
beat the bullies
The BackMeUp winners, aged 14 to 17, spent time at a film-making workshop at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney conceptualising, scripting, acting, filming and editing the commercial which they hope will be run as a Community Service Announcement on national television.
Spokesman for the Commission, Helen Szoke said she was impressed with their focus and dedication.
“These young people are driven to make their mark in the world, not only as film makers but also as strong advocates of the need for bystanders to cyber bullying to take an active role to support someone they see being cyber bullied,” Dr Szoke said.
“We look forward now to seeing the final cut and hope one of the networks reward these young people for their efforts by broadcasting the commercial and spreading the importance of the need to back someone up who is being cyber bullied.”
More than 100 films were submitted for judging in the national BackMeUp competition which required entrants to make a two-minute film to show what they would do to support someone they saw being cyber bullied.
Dr Szoke said the films, which were now on the BackMeUp YouTube channel, demonstrated the importance and the power of not just standing by but standing up to cyber bullying.
The films can be viewed at PS News link and this PS News link.
Separately, the Office of the Not-for-Profit Sector has announced the winners of the 2012 Volunteer Video Competition for Young People.
The competition was open to young people in two sections, those aged 15 to 17 and others 18 to 24, who were asked to create a multi-media message that captured the theme Your Passion, Our nation. Volunteer now!
The overall winner across both age categories was the Redeemer Baptist School Group from North Parramatta i NSW.
All entries, including the winning entries, can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 October, 2012
DSTO flies high
A major international award has been presented to a team from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) which, with Australian and overseas partners, is investigating the properties of hypersonic flight.
at flight awards
The von Karman Award for International Co-operation in Aeronautics was conferred by the International Council of Aeronautical Sciences (ICAS).
Receiving the award were Allan Paull (DSTO), Doug Dolvin (United States Air Force Research Laboratory), Michael Smart (University of Queensland) and Kevin Bowcutt (Boeing Research and Technology, US).
Together they represented the major partners in the Hypersonics International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program.
Chief Defence Scientist, Alex Zelinsky praised the team’s collaborative dedication to advancing hypersonic flight to speeds in excess of 8,000 km/h (Mach 8).
“The award is a tribute to the significant scientific outcomes of the hypersonic test program and the co-operative manner in which the team is conducting its research,” Dr Zelinsky said.
He said knowledge gained from this technology would be applied to the development of future HIFiRE flight vehicles and testing of advanced air-breathing hypersonic propulsion engines, known as supersonic combustion ramjets (scramjets).
The von Karman Award was presented at the 28th International Council of Aeronautical Sciences Congress in Brisbane where 12 DSTO research papers were delivered to 600 participants representing 40 nations.
DSTO also won the von Karman Award in 2002, along with the RAAF and the Canadian Armed Forces, for research into extending the life of the F/A-18 aircraft.
Former laboratory director at DSTO, Dr Bill Schofield, was presented with the ICAS Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Memorial Lecture award for his enduring contribution to aeronautical science in Australia.