SearchArchives for September 2011
30 September, 2011
PS urged to take more
The Special Minister of State for the Public Service has called on top management of the Australian Public Service to appoint more Indigenous Australians to PS jobs.
The Minister, Gary Gray said the Government had set a target of appointing 100,000 Indigenous people to jobs by 2018 in the public and private sectors and he expected the APS to be doing more.
“I think it is important to lead by example,” Mr Gray said.
“Equally, I think it’s important we accept that as employers, we’re all in this together.”
Mr Gray told ABC Radio that Indigenous participation in the Public Service was simply not high enough.
“We are currently running at less than 5,000 and we would like to get the number substantially over that in order to create better jobs and a better Australian Public Service,” he said.
“In the Australia Public Service we have to do more and across the Australian economy we have to do more because a job is the pathway to dignity, better helth and better circumstances for Aboriginal and Indigenous Australians.”
He said his call was not about setting quotas for Indigenous participation but employers needed to embrace the training programs put forward in the Closing the Gap initiative.
“It is fair to say that all of us have failed in the task of appropriately training Indigenous people for jobs and for the future,” Mr Gray said.
“This isn’t news today, this is the reality of the past 100-odd years of Australian Government.”
He said a solid foundation had been laid in recent years and the nation was now experiencing real progress.
“The Pathways Program has delivered over 660 jobs for trainees, cadets and graduates since 2005, with further outcomes currently being finalised,” he said.
“In 2010 the Indigenous Australian Government Diploma Program provided employment to a further 71 Indigenous APS employees.”
Mr Gray said the Indigenous Employment Program had exceeded its 2010-11 target by 14 per cent, with 31,000 commencements in jobs and training.
30 September, 2011
Defence blows away
Gender restrictions on Defence service personnel are to be lifted in a move that could see women bearing arms and fighting in frontline combat within five years.
Ministers for Defence, Stephen Smith and Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon announced the initiative saying women would be able to work in any position in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), including combat roles, provided they were able to meet all the demands of the role.
Mr Smith said women were currently eligible to serve in 93 per cent of ADF employment categories and were serving in command positions and on military operations overseas with more reaching senior levels than in the past.
He said roles to be opened to women in the future would include positions as Navy Clearance Divers and Mine Clearance Diver Officers; Air Force Airfield Defence Guards and Ground Defence Officers; and Army Infantry and Armoured Corps and some Army Artillery roles.
He said a comprehensive implementation plan would be finalised by Defence for the integration of women into combat roles for consideration by the Government in the first quarter of next year.
“Defence will draw on the experience gained from opening more categories and positions to women over the last two decades and undertake additional research to enable implementation of the Government’s decision,” Mr Smith said.
“Implementation is a high priority for the Government and for Defence, and Defence will provide regular reports to Government on implementation progress.”
Mr Snowdon said women had a long and proud history of serving in the ADF.
“This decision is a positive step, enhancing equality among the men and women who proudly wear the uniform,” he said.
“Defence is committed to creating a work environment where all personnel are treated fairly and with respect.
“Developing the implemented plan is central to this,” he said.
30 September, 2011
New online form
A new online form for people who think they may have lost superannuation entitlements has been announced for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
for super search
Minister for Superannuation, Bill Shorten said the new electronic form would make it easier to connect account holders with the 5.8 million lost super accounts which were worth more than $18.8 billion.
“$18.8 billion in lost, unclaimed super is a waste of money that people could be investing for a better future,” Mr Shorten said.
“This initiative is part of the $2.4 billion Stronger Super investment we are making over the next four years to transform our superannuation system and help Australians save for a comfortable retirement.”
He said the ATO expected 8.4 million Australians to receive an increase in their retirement incomes as a result of the superannuation reforms, including 3.5 million Australians on lower incomes and older workers.
“Currently, people can check whether they have lost super by visiting the ATO website www.superseeker.super.ato.gov.au then filling out a form or contacting their super fund to consolidate their accounts,” Mr Shorten said.
“The new electronic form will allow members with lost super to request their benefits be transferred through a portal on the ATO website, making it simpler and easier for people to claim their lost super.”
The Minister said the Government had released draft legislation allowing the ATO to administer the electronic portability form for public consultation.
He said the draft legislation was available at this PS News link.
30 September, 2011
A report on Federal enterprise bargaining has shown that both workers and employers have embraced the Fair Work system according to the Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins.
Senator Collins said the Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining report for the March 2011 quarter showed there were almost 25,000 current enterprise agreements, covering more than 2.5 million Australian employees.
“As agreements made under previous workplace relations systems have started to expire, they have been more than replaced by agreements approved under the Fair Work system,” Senator Collins said.
“These figures clearly show that agreement making under the modern workplace relations system continues to work well.”
She said more than 10,000 new agreements covering almost 1.5 million employees had been made since the start of the Fair Work system until the end of March this year and the construction, manufacturing and retail industries accounted for more than half the current agreements.
Senator Collins said the report showed that wages growth in the private sector was variable during the March quarter 2011, ranging from 4.4 per cent for the construction industry and 4.6 per cent for the education sector to 3.2 per cent for the retail industry and 2.8 per cent for agriculture.
“This demonstrates that the Fair Work enterprise bargaining system is flexible, linking wage outcomes to industry circumstances,” she said.
“This is a clear demonstration that the Federal workplace relations system of agreement making is meeting its objective to balance the needs of employees and employers, without taking away basic rights and guaranteed minimum standards.
The report is available at this PS News link.
30 September, 2011
Healthy result for
The Director of Public Prosecutions has successfully recovered $235,000 in Medicare benefits fraudulently claimed by members of the public in the past year.
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said the debts identified for recovery related to 14 cases (not involving medical practitioners) that were successfully prosecuted by the DPP in the past financial year.
“Medicare is a universal benefit designed to ensure all Australians have access to affordable health care,” Ms Plibersek said.
“That is why stealing from Medicare is not just about stealing from the Government: it is stealing from fellow Australians.”
She said the Government was committed to protecting the integrity of the Medicare Benefits Scheme and ensuring that taxpayer dollars were distributed to the rightful recipients.
“While the amount of fraud committed against Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) by members of the public remains small, the Government will continue to investigate any instances of suspected wrongdoing,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said members of the public who defrauded Medicare would be forced to repay the money and potentially face criminal prosecution.
She said those who were recently prosecuted included a receptionist at a medical practice who was required to repay over $60,000 and serve a 12-month suspended sentence after colluding with a friend to make false claims and a Victorian man working as a practice manager and his partner who had to repay $110,000 after making numerous false claims at Medicare offices.
She said in the last financial year, Medicare referred 21 cases to the DPP after investigations revealed non-compliance.
Ms Plibersek said even though seven cases were still pending, those convicted had already been ordered to repay $235,445.
“Most members of the public who commit Medicare fraud are identified via tip-offs and all allegations are investigated,” she said.
“Anyone who suspects potential fraud or non-compliance under the Medicare program can call the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.”
30 September, 2011
An independent review of health and medical research in Australia has been announced with the goal of recommending a 10-year strategic plan for the nation.
in good shape
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler said the 2011 Australian of the Year, Simon McKeon would chair the review to be carried out by leading Australian researchers and prominent business leaders.
“Australia has long boasted some of the best scientists, researchers and medical pioneers in the world who have been responsible for health and medical breakthroughs including spray on skin for burns patients, the bionic ear and more recently, the cervical cancer vaccine,” Mr Butler said.
“The many successes of our researchers have paved the way to less disease, better treatment, improved quality of life and even cures for conditions once thought incurable.”
He said as a world leader in health and medical research Australia had the potential to solve current and emerging health challenges, at home and overseas.
“This research review and the 10 year health and medical research plan will help our researchers continue to realise this potential,” Mr Butler said.
“The research landscape is also changing and our investment should reflect this changed landscape and what the community and research sector sees as important.”
He said over the past two decades, the burden of disease had altered significantly with chronic disease and mental health replacing acute infectious diseases and acute vascular events as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality.
He said the review would focus on optimising Australia’s capacity to produce world-class health and medical research across the research spectrum, from discovery through to translation.
“The last strategic review took place more than a decade ago.
“It’s timely for the Government to consider how to optimise the future environment for carrying out health and medical research in this country,” he said.
“I’m excited about this review and its potential to chart a clear path for the next 10 years or so for Australian research.”
For more information, including the terms of reference, visit this PS News link.
30 September, 2011
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has granted its one millionth maritime crew visa (MCV).
up maritime million
According to the Department, the achievement showed that Australia’s seaports were more secure than ever before.
“This is an impressive milestone given that the Department first introduced the MCV on 1 January 2008,” a departmental spokesman said.
“Since its introduction, all foreign shipping crew are required to apply for the visa, which involves a formal visa application process.”
The spokesperson said the process strengthened border protection at Australian ports by allowing for security checking as with other temporary entrants.
He said prior to the MCV’s introduction, crews accessed special purpose visa arrangements that did not involve a formal application process.
“The MCV is specifically for crew entering by sea and allows multiple entries during its three-year life,” he said.
“Visa holders are then permitted to continue work in relation to the usual operational requirements of the ship while they are in Australia.”
The spokesman said the top nationalities using the visas include Filipino, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and Ukrainian.
He said in an average month, up to 20,000 MCVs were granted.
“The MCV scheme has maintained an impressive compliance rate of 99.8 per cent since its inception,” he said.
“This is testament to the support the visa has had from the shipping industry, crew manning agents, shipping operators and foreign crew themselves.”
The spokesman said more than 60 per cent of the MCVs were applied for and granted online, while the rest went through the Department’s global processing centre for additional manual assessment and processing.
“Major factors that have contributed to the overall success of the MCV include the streamlined application form and processing arrangements, the absence of an application fee and the timeliness of decision-making,” he said.
“Most electronically lodged applications are finalised within a few days, if not immediately upon receipt.”
30 September, 2011
The National Water Commission has launched a new national framework for assessing river and wetland health.
floats new report
National Water Commissioner, Professor Stuart Bunn launched the Framework for the assessment of river and wetland health saying it could be used to compile a consistent and comparative picture of river and wetland health across Australia.
“This is important because it allows governments to better prioritise investments in river and wetland health projects and the delivery of environmental water,” Professor Bunn said.
He said the National Water Commission strongly supported environmental water purchases and recognised the positive outcomes being delivered in the Murray-Darling Basin but it also found that governments needed to improve how they monitored the ecological results of environmental watering.
“This is essential to build community confidence in the benefits of recovering water for wetlands and rivers,” he said.
“The development of this practical framework is a step towards being able to produce an authoritative national assessment of river and wetland health that brings together the results of existing monitoring programs conducted at State, Territory and basin scales.”
Professor Bunn said the framework used a comprehensive model based on seven river and wetland health components that ranged from catchment disturbance through to water quality and the condition of fish and other aquatic species.
“The framework has now been successfully tested by experts and found to be suitable for use around the country,” he said.
“The National Water Commission developed the framework in cooperation with States and Territories I is now up to governments around Australia to use the framework to improve the way they assess and monitor river and wetland health”
The full report is available at this PS News link.
30 September, 2011
And in Other News...
Job enquiries reach 100,000
100,000 enquiries about the employment of people with disability have been responded to by WorkFocus Australia, the Australian Government’s JobAccess service provider.
JobAccess was created to provide a single point of access to information about the employment of people with disability, making it easier for employers, job seekers, their families and service providers to understand what services are available.
The service helps employers to tap into a workforce they may not have previously considered, by connecting employers to Disability Employment Services and other supports.
Pharmacy rules relaxed
Rules governing the establishment of new pharmacies are to be relaxed when changes come into force next month.
The Pharmacy Location Rules regulate the distribution of pharmacies with the aim of ensuring Australia has a well distributed, sustainable and accessible pharmacy network.
Under the amendments, an existing pharmacy approval will no longer be required before a new pharmacy could be established in facilities such as shopping centres, large medical centres and private hospitals, or in towns where there is only one pharmacy.
Requirements to establish a pharmacy in a ‘large medical centre’ have also been changed to make it easier for teams comprising different health care professionals, including pharmacists, to work together.
A summary of the revised rules is available at www.health.gov.au/acpa
Chinese art for museum
The National Museum of Australia is hosting a major exhibition of contemporary Chinese art.
A New Horizon: Contemporary Chinese Art examines the art of China since 1949 and includes 62 Chinese ink-and-wash and oil paintings, 11 sculptures and a new media work that reflects upon the development of China and the evolution of Chinese art.
The exhibition will be on display until 29 January 2012 and admission is free.
ABC extends digital trial
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is to expand its involvement in a trial broadcast of digital radio in Canberra.
From next Wednesday (5 October), the network will add ABC Radio National, ABC Jazz, triple j Unearthed and ABC Grandstand to its DAB+ digital radio broadcasting trial which already includes local station 666 ABC.
The trial period will run until July 2012.
Volunteer coin and stamp out
A commemorative stamp and coin have been launched to celebrate the United Nations 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers (IYV+10).
The new collectable 20 cent coin remind of the significant role volunteers play in local communities and features a ring of volunteers around the outside edge and the IYV+10 logo in the centre. About five million 20 cent pieces will be in circulation in the coming months.
The will be available from the Royal Australian Mint for $14 and a souvenir stamp can be purchased online at shop.auspost.com.au or local post offices.
Previously this week...
Call for PS watchdog
The Greens Party has called for a national integrity commission to be established to investigate fraud and corruption in the Australian Public Service.
Greens MP Adam Bandt made the call saying there was no dedicated agency with the responsibility or power to uncover and deal with corruption in the APS.
He said any investigations were conducted by Departmental auditors.
The Greens had introduced laws into the Senate to set up the new watchdog in the past but had failed to get the necessary support.
Pay protests continue
Customs and Quarantine officers have held stop work meetings across Australia as a protest against stalled pay negotiations.
The Community and Public Sector Union said further action was likely unless talks resumed.
Archives shows art
The National Archives in Canberra has unveiled another exhibition of the main entries in the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize.
The Archives is the only venue outside Adelaide to do so.
The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize is Australia’s richest natural history art competition, with a prize pool of $114,500 and the 34 prize-winning and highly commended works will be on display until 13 November 2011.
Organ donations better
A progress report on Australia’s efforts to increase organ and tissue donation rate has found “clear scores on the board” according to the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King.
The mid-point review follows the first full year of implementation of the National Reform package during which time Australia achieved its highest organ donation and transplantation outcomes since national records began.
Ms King said the review identified some start-up issues that affected the initial implementation of some reform measures but the next phase of which focused on driving and embedding clinical practice in hospitals was key to the continued growth in donation rates.
Plan for Uni
The Australian National University has launched a new 10-year strategic plan.
The plan focuses on the university’s research and education capabilities and its growing role as a public policy resource for the APS.
“By 2020 ANU will be the unequivocal national leader in contribution to public policy analysis and formulation,” the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Ian Young, said.
The plan can be accessed at this PS News link.
Phone line talks
The Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee is to begin a series of public consultations around Australia as it examines telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote parts of the country.
It has released issues paper to coincide with the consultation.
The paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
Report on Koalas
The Senate Environment and Communications Committee has tabled its report into the status, health and sustainability of Australia’s Koala population.
The Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke welcomed the report which he said would help inform him in his consideration of the Koala as a nationally threatened species.
“I will be working through their recommendations,” Mr Burke said.
Business dispute options
An options paper summarising the views of small businesses on resolving disputes promptly and cheaply has been released by the Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry.
The paper puts forward as possible option a National Information and Referral Service, a National Dispute Resolution Service, a National Small Business Tribunal or a Small Business Advocate.
More information is available from this PS News link.
Air charges up
Increased charges for services such as air traffic control provided by Airservices Australia have been approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Airservices has reduced its charges following concerns expressed by the ACCC that an earlier proposal may have seen it ‘over-recover’ its costs.
The new charges will apply from1 October 2011.
Clean technology paper
A discussion paper has been released inviting comment on $1.2 billion in Clean Technology programs being developed to help manufacturers improve their energy efficiency and protect the environment.
Industry has been urged to respond to the paper and provide feedback that would guide the final design of the Clean Technology programs.
The discussion paper can be accessed at this PS News link and comments will be received until Friday 21 October 2011.
27 September, 2011
Work study finds
It’s official: Work is good for you!
that work works
And according to Comcare, it is especially good for people returning to work from injury.
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said statistics showed that people injured or harmed due to work recovered their health faster if they returned to ‘good’ work earlier.
He said a long-term absence from work could have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of an injured worker.
He said Comcare’s stats showed that injured workers away for more than four weeks had a 46 per cent chance of being off work for another nine weeks, and a quarter of those off for more than a month would not go back for at least another five or six months.
Mr O’Connor said workers didn’t need to be fully fit to return to work.
“The more time spent off work, the slower the recovery,” he said.
“We need to help workers negotiate with their employers to get them back at work as soon as possible.
“It doesn’t have to be full-time to start. A few hours of good work will make a real difference to recovery.”
Mr O’Connor defined ‘good’ work as that which was fulfilling, meaningful, and matched to what the injured person could do.
He said injured workers could often make a remarkable recovery on the job rather than sitting at home with little to do, worrying about what would happen next.
He said Comcare had joined with the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) and other professional bodies to sign a consensus document promoting the health benefits of work and development of the document was continuing.
The early return advice had emerged from the dialogue with health experts and professionals.
27 September, 2011
Green light for
Rules and regulations governing the environment are the first to be loosened for business under a new round of reforms aimed at cutting Government red tape and boosting productivity.
red tape cuts
The plans are contained in a consultation paper issued by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for comment by stakeholders.
Minister for Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong, and Minister Assisting, Senator Nick Sherry said the reforms also included enhancing workforce mobility to address skills shortages, assisting industry sectors not benefiting from the resources boom and continuing to adopt national regulation.
The Ministers said the reforms would help businesses improve their productivity, growth and competitiveness.
“We know that cutting red tape can drive productivity and economic growth, by reducing the regulatory burden for Australian businesses,’’ Senator Wong said.
“Regulatory reform is the key to building a more innovative and flexible economy - driving growth and creating jobs.”
Senator Sherry said environmental regulation had been identified as the first to be reformed.
“COAG believes there is a need for major reform of environmental regulation to reduce the burden for business and deliver better environmental outcomes,” Senator Sherry said.
“These improved outcomes could be achieved through greater use of regional planning and strategic assessments.”
Senator Wong said strong and globally competitive businesses were vital to Australia’s future economic growth.
“National regulatory reform can play a key role in reducing business costs, and creating an environment that allows Australian businesses to develop the agility and flexibility to compete in the global market place,” she said.
Senator Sherry said COAG expected to consider a package of reform options at the end of this year.
“With this consultation paper, the Government wants to hear the public’s views on reform priorities that would benefit business, the not-for-profit sector and the broader community,” he said.
“The OECD has identified Australia as a leader when it comes to regulatory reform, but we must maintain the reform momentum to continue to grow our economy and create jobs.”
The consultation paper can be accessed at this PS News link and the closing date for comment is 21 October 2011.
27 September, 2011
Awards rung up
Government-based call centres have been recognised for their service standards in the 2011 Government Contact Centre Excellence Awards.
for call centres
Agencies to be honoured included Centrelink which took out the award for the best Government Contact Centre with over 30 FTEs and received an honourable mention in the Most Innovative Project award, and AusIndustry in the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research which also received an honourable mention in the Best Outsourced Contact Centre category.
General Manager at Centrelink, Hank Jongen said the awards recognised the achievements of contact centres and individuals at the cutting edge of the contact centre industry.
“Centrelink has 25 call centres around the country,” Mr Jongen said, “many of which are in regional communities.
“They have answered in excess of 28 million calls last financial year, making this the largest single-purpose call centre operation in the country.”
He said the call centres were also valuable resources in times of emergency.
“Most recently this was illustrated during the floods and cyclone which devastated many parts of the Australian community earlier this year.”
Mr Jongen said that as well as reaping rewards at the Government Contact Centre Excellence Awards, a number of Centrelink’s call centres and employees also excelled at the State based Australian Teleservices Association (ATA) Awards, progressing to the National awards.
“I congratulate all Centrelink’s State winners for going above and beyond the call of duty and providing excellence in service to the Australian public.” Mr Jongen said.
Winners of the Government Contact Centre Excellence Awards were:
Most Innovative Project
Winner: Service SA
Honourable Mention: Centrelink
Best Government Contact Centre with 30 FTE’s or less
Winner: Bankstown City Council (NSW)
Honourable Mention: Adelaide City Council
Best Government Contact Centre with over 30 FTE’s
Honourable Mention: NSW Business Link
Best Outsourced Contact Centre
Winner: Metlink - Aegis
Honourable Mention: AusIndustry, Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
CCMA Customer Contact Industry Achievement
Winner: WorkCover NSW
27 September, 2011
Crime to pay for
Australia’s first National Anti-Corruption Plan is to be developed using the proceeds of crime.
Minister for Justice, Brendan O’Connor announced the Plan saying it would be used to fight corruption and paid for out of $700,000 confiscated from criminal activity.
“It’s fitting that money confiscated from criminals will go to further strengthening our robust national anti-corruption measures,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Corruption in any country threatens security and stability and in vulnerable regions, it can inhibit development and stunt economic growth.”
He said it could discourage investment and distort markets.
“The result is fewer resources for important community services like schools, hospitals and roads.”
Mr O’Connor said that when developing the Plan, potential corruption threats to Australia’s national interests would be examined, as would ways that all levels of government could work to reduce corruption risks.
He said the Plan would involve a review of existing measures at Federal, State and Territory level to ensure that those who engaged in corrupt conduct did not escape justice.
“This is a national effort,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The review of anti-corruption programs, and subsequent improvements to them, will build on the current work of the Commonwealth, States and Territories which is informing the United Nations’ review of Australia’s implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).”
He said the team would consult relevant authorities in all jurisdictions to build a comprehensive national snapshot of existing anti-corruption measures and Agencies and ensure they worked together.
He said Australia had a strong record of domestic action to prevent and expose corrupt activity and was ranked 8th most corruption-free nation in the world in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2012.
“We must not become complacent,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the money would also be used to support Australia’s engagement with international partners to strengthen cooperation and to address global corruption.
27 September, 2011
Cost of living index
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revised the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to bring it up to date with current patterns of household spending.
To apply from the September quarter which will be released on 26 October, the new CPI Index has been explained in an information paper released by the ABS.
According to the Bureau, Australians now spend more on restaurant meals than they did in 2005 and less on beef and veal, for example, so the expenditure weights applied to the different goods and services in the CPI basket needed to be revised to reflect current patterns.
“The CPI has been reviewed 16 times since its introduction in 1960,” the Bureau said in a statement.
“These reviews make sure that the CPI basket remains relevant to Australian purchasing patterns.”
It said the headline CPI (All groups CPI) would not be revised as a result of the changes.
“The All groups CPI for the June quarter 2011 was 0.9% for the quarter, and 3.6% through the year.”
It said the information paper covered the new CPI expenditure weights and detailed the methods used in deriving the weights as well as highlighting major shifts.
“The information paper also provides a mock–up of the revised format of the September quarter 2011 publication and downloadable spreadsheets to enable users to become familiar with them before the release date.”
The Bureau said that as well as the CPI, it also produced a suite of related indexes to help users understand the pattern of inflationary pressures in the Australian economy.
“The information paper describes the composition of these series.”
It said that in line with a recommendation from the 16th review, indirect charges for deposit and loan facilities had been removed from the headline CPI while improvements were made to the methodology and underlying data sources.
It said a new analytical series would be produced - the All groups CPI including Deposit and loans (indirect charges) – in the meantime.
The information paper Introduction of the 16th Series Australian Consumer Price Index, can be accessed at this PS News link.
27 September, 2011
Paper looks into
An issues paper examining a proposal to allow people to take court action for breaches of privacy has been released for public comment.
Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, Brendan O’Connor released the paper which was prompted by a recommendation from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).
The Commission recommended the move for serious invasions of privacy following a two-year investigation into Australia’s privacy laws.
According to Mr O’Connor, people who believe their personal information has been misused can currently only complain to the Australian Information Commissioner who has no powers to compel anyone to take action.
He said the law was also unclear on whether a person whose privacy was seriously violated could take legal action.
He said the ALRC recommendation would make the law clearer.
“Rapid advances in technology have led to profound changes to the ways in which people store personal information, and how they share that information with family, friends, organisations and governments,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We need to make sure that our privacy laws and protections are keeping pace with the changes.”
He said people should have a right to privacy, but not at the expense of freedom of expression and the freedom of the media to seek out and disseminate information of public concern.
“If there were to be any changes to our laws, they would have to strike a balance between these principles,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said the issues paper discusses whether there is a need for a statutory civil action for redressing serious invasions of privacy and if so what the elements of a cause of action should be, and the defences and remedies that could be made available.
The Issues Paper A Commonwealth Statutory Cause of Action for Serious Invasion of Privacy can be accessed on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website at this PS News link and comments will be accepted until Friday, 4 November 2011.
27 September, 2011
New student laws
New laws to protect international students if their educational institution closed down have been announced by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans.
pass the test
Senator Evans said the Education Services for Overseas Students Legislation Amendment (Tuition Protection Service and Other Measures) Bill 2011 and related Bills comprised the second phase of an official response to recommendations in the Baird Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act.
He said the new laws would establish a Tuition Protection Service (TPS) which would place students in alternative courses when a provider closed, or as a last resort, provide refunds of course fees.
“The new TPS will be a flexible service, with one contact point for students and greater accountability by providers,” Senator Evans said.
He said the new laws would provide more support for international students and be supported by rules limiting the amount of pre-paid course fees that could be paid; requiring providers to keep pre-paid fees in a separate account; strengthening record-keeping obligations; and setting up a national registration system for providers.
“This Bill aims to strengthen and protect the reputation of international education - one of Australia’s largest export industries,” Senator Evans said.
He said the sector generated around $18 billion annually and supported 125,000 jobs across Australia.
The new laws have been introduced into Parliament.
27 September, 2011
Audit of jobs scheme
The audit of a job-creation fund to build community infrastructure as part of the economic stimulus package following the Global Financial Crisis has found only four projects were completed on time with none of them in areas of priority need.
says it didn’t work
According to the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee in his report Establishment, Implementation and Administration of the Infrastructure Employment Projects Stream of the Jobs Fund, delays in identifying and administering projects left 38 per cent of allocated funds unspent after two years despite 19 projects being proposed worth $43 million more than was available.
He found that 12 projects had been approved under the Infrastructure Employment Projects program (IEP) located in nine different area across five States. The final project was approved less than a week before the program closed on 30 June 2011and the deadline for funding extended to 30 June 2012.
The Auditor-General found that while policy development for the IEP program by the then Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (Infrastructure) was undertaken effectively and with the “necessary urgency” for a stimulus measure, there were shortcomings in identifying and assessing possible construction projects.
“The IEP stream did not achieve the economic stimulus objectives set for it in the anticipated timeframe,” the Auditor-General said.
“While contributing to the construction of community facilities, the amount of stimulus delivered to 30 June 2011 has been considerably less than that budgeted.”
“In addition, expenditure will now occur over at least three financial years rather than the planned two year window, with the majority of the expenditure now budgeted to occur in the third year.”
He also found the program’s impact on jobs to be negligible.
“In respect to employment outcomes, it was not until August 2010 that a project proponent reported to Infrastructure that an IEP stream project had created or retained any jobs.
“In addition, the funds have not been targeted at those areas identified as having the greatest need for support, with none of the approved and contracted projects being located in a Priority Employment Area.”
The Auditor-General also expressed concern that the projects were approved for funding without adhering to the key principles for grants administration set out in the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines.
He made two recommendations including a call for the Department of Finance and
Deregulation to improve its guidance on grants administration.
The full text of the Auditor-General’s report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Tina Long, Erica Sekendy, Amanda Ronald and Brian Boyd.
27 September, 2011
Teachers resource for
A new online package of resources for teachers and students to get the most from the Australian Curriculum has been announced by the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett.
first class curriculum
According to Mr Garrett, the $41.2 million package would give all schools in metropolitan, rural and regional areas access to new materials for the first seven subject areas so far developed under the Curriculum.
It will also offer cross-curriculum capabilities.
“The new Australian Curriculum will be the first fully digital curriculum,” Mr Garrett said.
“It will be accessible online to every school and teacher and will be linked to a wealth of additional materials that will be continuously expanded and updated over time.”
He said the funding would go to the publicly owned private company Education Services Australia which will work in partnership with education authorities and other groups to source and develop the new resources.
“We’ll also be offering online professional development support and resources for teachers, to help them deliver the new curriculum as it is rolled out over the coming years,” Mr Garrett said.
“It means that teachers and kids in regional or remote schools will have the same digital resources as city schools, so all students will have equal opportunities to learn and do well.”
He said the new package included $10 million to support teachers in their professional development; $5 million for language teaching and learning; $11.4 million for online materials for teaching English, maths, science, history, geography, languages and the arts; $5 million for technical improvements to enable the materials to be used by schools across Australia; and $9.8 million to make each part of the Curriculum easy-to-find for teachers.
Mr Garrett said new Curriculum would be a “huge benefit” to students and schools across the country because for the first time Australia would have a consistent, nation-wide program of learning for all students.
He said the Australian Curriculum was already being implemented in the ACT with some subjects due to be introduced in other States and Territories in 2012.
More information is available from this PS News link.
27 September, 2011
A new report prepared for the National Transport Commission shows that most Australians want a better transport system but reject many of the policies that would help pay for it.
shows the way
A discussion paper has been released to encourage public comment.
According to the Chief Executive of the NTC, Nick Dimopoulos, the paper Smart Transport for a Growing Nation also highlights a lack of public knowledge about the way roads and rail systems were funded.
“Our research found that Australians have very little knowledge about the way that the transport system is funded, or about pricing models that operate overseas,” Mr Dimopoulos said.
“Interestingly, when given further information, the community was more open to pricing reform – as long as it was fair and did not limit car use.”
He said the discussion paper explored opportunities for reforming Australia’s freight and passenger transport networks to respond to challenges such as population growth and ageing, urban congestion, accessibility, rising oil prices, and carbon pollution.
“The report examines the current transport system from a public user perspective, and provides a way to engage with individuals and organisations on opportunities for reform,” Mr Dimopoulos said.
He said urban congestion was identified as a growing issue affecting road users and the economy, with the cost of delays expected to reach $20 billion by 2020.
He said however that many Australians did not see public transport as a viable alternative, with over 90 per cent of all trips in Australia taken by private car.
“Our research found that Australians want better transport services and choices,” Mr Dimopoulos said.
“Clear priorities for change included more frequent public transport services, better roads and new public transport routes.
“Yet transport users believe it is governments’ responsibility to fund improvements, without paying more.”
He said this attitude highlighted the fact that information and consultation was really the first step towards future changes to the transport system.
He said the Smart Transport for a Growing Nation discussion paper could be accessed at the NTC website at this PS News link and would be open for public comment until 14 October 2011.
27 September, 2011
Overseas students to
International students are to be given easier access to Australian educational services and support while they’re here under new arrangements announced by the Ministers for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans and Immigration, Chris Bowen.
be more welcome
The Minsters said the new measures were in response to a review of the Student Visa Program conducted by former NSW Government Minister, Michael Knight.
Among the changes are streamlined visa processing arrangements for international students, reduced financial requirements for some applicants and an assumption that they are of lower risk under Assessment Level (AL) requirements.
“Our international education sector is world class, and the reforms announced today will help entrench Australia as a preferred destination for international students,” Senator Evans said.
“The reforms will assist in ensuring Australia remains an attractive study option and will offer practical support for international education providers that have been under pressure as a result of the high Australian dollar.”
The Minsters also announced that English language students would no longer need to meet minimum English skills; PhD students would be allowed to stay longer while their thesis was marked; and automatic and mandatory cancellation provisions would be removed from student visas.
An Education Visa Consultative Committee would also be formed to improve information flow between the Government and the international education sector.
Mr Bowen also announced that a fundamental review of the Student Visa risk management framework, the ALs, would be conducted with a report expected by mid-2012.
He said the review would specifically explore a provider risk model, in consultation with an external reference group and the Government would consider implementing its findings early by targeting a small number of high quality education providers – including TAFEs – to recognise the lower migration risks associated with the students.
“We need to move to a more targeted approach to assessing and responding to immigration risk in the Student Visa program that recognises and rewards high-quality education providers,” Mr Bowen said.
He said the reforms would be made possible through a new ‘genuine temporary entrant’ requirement for all Student Visa applicants that would enable the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to assess applications better.
The full text of the Knight report can be accessed at this PS News link and the terms of reference for the AL review and a range of fact sheets can be found on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website at this PS News link.
27 September, 2011
Advice on aid
Finance Ministers from across the Commonwealth have called on countries around the world to improve the management and tracking of their international aid.
Meeting in Washington last week, the Ministers said strengthened accountability would make aid more effective in creating jobs, improving livelihoods and combating poverty.
South Africa’s Finance Minister who chaired the meeting. Pravin Gordhan said results of aid projects often hinged on factors beyond the control of partner countries but the Ministers had agreed that tightening conditions needed to be avoided.
“We also recognised the inherent tensions which can emerge in the interplay between
political systems and administrative and bureaucratic systems, each with differing
expectations, processes and accountabilities,” Mr Gordhan said.
Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma said member countries were home to an increasing share of the world’s poorest people, putting pressure on some of its poorest, smallest and most vulnerable of them to secure reliable, consistent and additional sources of financing for development, which included overseas aid.
“The sustainability of such aid therefore remains crucial to the Commonwealth’s developing countries,” Mr Sharma said.
He said the Finance Ministers had agreed that securing new funds was crucial for developing countries if they were to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals targets by 2015.
They noted that a number of aid projects had been successfully developed across the Commonwealth using innovative finance instruments and practices, and directed the Secretariat to introduce a program to promote the sharing of experience and knowledge on current and potential future sources of finance for development.
23 September, 2011
New workplace agency
A new National Workforce and Productivity Agency is to be established to develop policy and advice on meeting workplace demands for skilled workers.
to take on job skills
Announced by the Minister for Skills and Jobs, Senator Chris Evans, the new Agency will target pressure points in Australia’s patchwork economy by training and retraining workers for new jobs in growing industries and higher skilled roles.
Senator Evans said it would also support industries and workers affected by structural adjustment.
The Minister also announced ‘Skills Connect,’ a range of initiatives designed to consolidate government skills programs and better target industry and worker training.
“Skills Connect will ensure workers are assisted to make the transition from sectors in our economy which are experiencing structural adjustment to sectors in which skilled labour is in strong demand,” Senator Evans said.
“It will also target the needs of employers in sectors such as resources and construction which are experiencing skills shortages.”
He said the Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Peter Anderson and the National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, Paul Howes would be appointed to the Board of Skills Australia which would form an interim Board for the new Agency.
“In coming weeks I will also appoint a productivity economist,” Senator Evans said.
He said the interim Board would begin its work on 1 October, nine months before the scheduled starting date for the National Workforce and Productivity Agency. On that date, 1 July 2012, the interim Board would be replaced by a permanent one.
“The interim Board will focus our efforts on funding training for the Australian workforce to meet the skills demands of booming industries and providing practical, targeted training to those workers directly affected by restructuring,” Senator Evans said.
He said it would administer the $558 million National Workforce Development Fund announced in the Budget and face the immediate challenge of acting as a skills broker.
“To assess and match the needs of emerging industries such as clean energy, along with established and booming industries such as mining and construction, to those sectors confronting the pressures of structural adjustment.
“We need to identify and overcome the barriers which will allow this skills match-making process to succeed.”
Senator Evans said the Board of Skills Australia was chaired by Phillip Bullock and along with Mr Anderson and Mr Howes included among its members Professor Gerald Burke, Ged Kearney, Dr Michael Keating, Marie Persson, Heather Ridout and Keith Spence.
23 September, 2011
Allegations of inappropriate practices in security vetting processes at the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency have prompted an investigation by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and a report on progress from the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith.
Mr Smith said the allegations were first raised in June last year by former staff of the
Defence Security Authority’s vetting centre in Brisbane, but were not investigated until reiterated in May this year.
He said the vetting centre was part of the Security Vetting Agency which has been providing security vetting for the majority of Commonwealth Government Agencies since October 2010.
According to Mr Smith, the Department of Defence’s Chief Security Officer has investigated the management practices used in the vetting centre as a way of assisting the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security with her enquiry which is due to be completed at the end of next month.
Mr Smith said the Chief Security Officer’s review found that inappropriate work practices were in place at the vetting centre involving staff inserting information into incomplete security applications to ensure they were processed by the computer.
“These findings raise serious concerns around the management of security vetting within the Defence Security Agency,” Mr Smith said.
“However, it is important to note Defence advice that it is unlikely that security has been compromised as a result of these practices.”
He said there were a variety of checks undertaken before a security clearance was granted, especially for high-level clearances.
He said action had been taken to address the situation, including new procedures to ensure applications could be processed by the computer, and a review of security clearances that may have been affected by the inserted information.
“Defence has established an independent team to review all current documentation and management processes to ensure the integrity of security clearance practices,” the Minister said.
He said the Government would ensure the Department adequately addresses the issues identified by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security once her inquiry is complete.
“Work completed since the allegations were raised in May 2011 has already resulted in better documented and managed vetting processes and a number of information technology upgrades addressing the technical issues have also been completed,” Mr Smith said.
He said, in addition, Department of Defence managers had written to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade to update them on the issue in advance of the next round of Senate Estimates hearings due in October.
23 September, 2011
New Budget Office
Legislation has been introduced into Parliament to set up a new, independent, Parliamentary Budget Office to provide a costing service for new policy proposals.
to be accountable
Treasurer, Wayne Swan said the new Office would deliver greater accountability and transparency to Australia’s Budget framework.
“The establishment of a new independent Parliamentary Budget Office will be a significant reform that will ensure that the Australian community is better informed about the fiscal impacts of policy proposals, particularly during election periods,” Mr Swan said.
“For the first time ever, all Members and Senators will have access to an independent and confidential costing service outside of a general election period.”
He said they would also be able to use the service during election campaigns.
Mr Swan said the new Bill implemented the unanimous recommendation of a Joint Select Committee which the Opposition had signed up to five months ago.
He said it was “disappointing” that the Opposition parties did not maintain the bipartisan approach to the initiative and voted against it.
“Transparency is fundamental to ensuring the public is fully informed about the costs of election promises before they cast their vote,” Mr Swan said.
“There are few issues more deserving of bipartisan support than those that enhance the transparency and accountability of our democracy.”
He said the Parliamentary Budget Office was an important institution that should be supported by all Members and Senators.
The new law establishing the Office had been passed by the House of Representatives and would now be considered by the Senate.
23 September, 2011
Business package gets
A new online package of resources to help small businesses deal with emergencies has been launched by the Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry.
Developed by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research through its small business website, business.gov.au, the package was created in response to the spate of natural disasters such as floods, bushfires and cyclones that have afflicted parts of the nation in the past year.
“Many businesses are just too busy with the demanding day-to-day task of running a small business to think about planning for unpredictable events,” Senator Sherry said.
“This package helps small businesses prepare for the worst, rather than hope for the best.”
He said the package brought together an extensive range of government information in an easy-to-read format.
“The information is split into three important stages,” Senator Sherry said.
“Prepare, take action and recover.”
He said each stage included a quick-action checklist and a key feature of the package was a template with an instruction guide that businesses could use to create their own emergency management plan.
“This will help businesses to plan for a range of emergency scenarios, to minimise risk and develop contingency plans.”
He said whether it was a robbery or a natural disaster, businesses could take steps to safeguard their livelihood.
“Pre-emptive actions could include backing up data, keeping an up-to-date list of important contacts or maintaining accurate insurance claim records,” Senator Sherry said.
“We’re not far off our bushfire season and I encourage all small businesses to visit business.gov.au and start creating their emergency management plans.
He said the Emergency Management and Recovery Resources package could be downloaded at this PS News link.
23 September, 2011
Uni unions rise
Revised guidelines to assist universities rebuild their student services and amenities have been issued by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans.
from the ashes
The Student Services, Amenities, Representation and Advocacy Guidelines support the Higher Education Support Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Bill which will help universities provide appropriate amenities to support growing student populations.
Senator Evans said the Bill would allow universities to charge a fee of up to $263 for student services and amenities of a non-academic nature in 2012.
“Students have a clear interest in how their fees are being spent,” Senator Evans said.
“Universities will be required to consult with students on the specific uses of the proceeds from any services and amenities fees.”
He said under the Guidelines, higher education providers must put a formal process of consultation in place with democratically elected student representatives as well as representatives from major student organisations on how proceeds from any services and amenities fees are spent.
He said the consultation must include publishing identified priorities for the proposed fee expenditure and allowing comment from students and student organisations. It must also include meeting with democratically elected student representatives and student organisations to consider where the fee revenue can be spent.
“It is urgent that the Bill is now passed so that students have access to better services when they start university next year,” Senator Evans said.
He said copies of the draft Representation Guidelines were available from this PS News link.
23 September, 2011
Barrier Reef Centre
An education centre established by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has received an international award for educational services.
reels in award
The Authority’s national education centre took out a Pinnacle Award from the US-based Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration for its Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville.
The award was decided by a vote of teachers from across the USA and recognised the educational content of the Aquarium’s Reef Videoconferencing Program.
The Authority was congratulated by the Minister for Environment and Sustainability Tony Burke, who noted it was the third year in a row the Aquarium had been successful in winning the award.
“It’s a great honour for the Reef HQ Aquarium, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium,” Mr Burke said.
“Reef HQ Aquarium was the only content provider outside of the United States and Canada to receive this prestigious award, based on evaluations from teachers.
“They competed against a high calibre of participants including NASA’s Digital Learning Network at the Kennedy Space Center, which received an honourable mention.”
Mr Burke said the Reef HQ Aquarium provided world class living exhibits, complemented by thematic and interactive educational experiences.
“These are an important learning tool for school students and help raise awareness about the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef.”
He said the Reef Videoconferencing Program enabled students from around the world to be virtually transported to the coral reef and predator exhibits by using state-of-the-art technology to provide unique teaching and learning experiences, including information delivered live to students by a scuba diver.
He said Reef Videoconferences were supported by teaching materials that educated students about a range of marine issues.
Mr Burke said the Aquarium had facilitated 162 Reef Videoconferences in 2010-11, reaching 5,855 students across Australia and the world.
He said the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration gave teachers access to videoconferencing for live interactive content, professional development, and online collaborative learning environments and partnered with nearly 200 national and international content providers.
23 September, 2011
A discussion paper on plans to consolidate Federal anti-discrimination laws has been released for public comment.
to be generalised
Attorney General Robert McClelland and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong launched the paper jointly, saying the views of the community would be welcomed.
Mr McClelland said successive Commonwealth Governments had recognised that antidiscrimination protections were crucial for ensuring that all Australians could participate in public life, address historical disadvantage and promote social cohesion.
He said since 1975, those protections had been supported by five pieces of legislation: The Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the Age Discrimination Act 2004 and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986.
“These acts are now substantially inconsistent and unnecessarily complex,” Mr McClelland said.
“This results in confusion in respect to obligations arising under the laws and can increase the cost for legal and specialist assistance.”
He said releasing the discussion paper recognised the community’s strong interest in the effective operation of anti-discrimination laws and the consolidation project provided an opportunity to clarify existing protections and address areas where there may be gaps.
“The project also provides the opportunity to ensure consistency with other legislation including the Fair Work Act,” he said.
Senator Wong said part of the project would be to introduce prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Bringing the laws together into a single, streamlined and comprehensive antidiscrimination Act will improve the quality of the regulatory regime by simplifying and clarifying obligations and also reducing compliance costs for business in training and educating staff on discrimination matters,” Senator Wong said.
She said the discussion paper did not cover the Marriage Act or involve the issue of same-sex marriage.
The Ministers said submissions on the paper would be accepted until 1 February 2012 and further information, including copies of the discussion paper, was available from the Attorney-General’s Department website at this PS News link.
They said the consultations would inform the development of exposure draft legislation which would be released for public consultation in early 2012.
23 September, 2011
A review of higher education access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is open for public input into Indigenous participation in higher education, research and the professions.
takes new course
The Ministers for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans and Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr called for public input into the Review saying the Government recognised that Indigenous participation in higher learning was well below acceptable levels.
“I look forward to hearing from the higher education sector and broader community on how they view the current outcomes, on what’s working and what they think needs to change,” Senator Evans said.
“Higher education is central to building the capacity of Indigenous communities and facilitating the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the professional life of the nation.”
He said the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people benefiting from a higher education had improved in recent years but due to increasing rates of participation by non-Indigenous students, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students had remained unchanged at about 1.3 per cent.
“Only 0.5 per cent of students who complete PhDs in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” Senator Carr said.
“This highlights a need for strategic investment to support talented Indigenous people to pursue research degrees and research careers.”
He said an advisory panel had been appointed in April to lead the review and was examining the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the higher education sector, both as students and as staff.
The panel is chaired the Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, Professor Larissa Behrendt and includes the Chair of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, Professor Steve Larkin; Associate Secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Robert Griew; and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Patricia Kelly.
Senator Carr said the panel would advise the Government on measures to improve outcomes for students, researchers and academic and non-academic staff with expert analyses being commissioned to inform its work.
Senator Carr said that research would focus on approaches to increasing participation, retention and completion of Indigenous students.
It would also focus on the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in universities, particularly in academic and research roles, and the recognition of Indigenous knowledge within the academy.
Senator Evans said submissions on the review would be accepted until Friday 18 November 2011 and more information was available from this PS News link.
23 September, 2011
More water wanted
The Commonwealth is to buy more water in the northern Murray Darling Basin with three tenders announced.
Two tenders worth about $60 million each for purchases in the Queensland Lower Balonne will open on 26 September and 14 November 2011 respectively with a third worth $30 million in the Namoi and Border Rivers to open on 17 October.
Reforms to the private superannuation system promise to increase returns and reduce costs to fund members.
Hailed as the “Stronger Super reforms” the changes include creating a new, simple low cost default superannuation product from 1 July 2013 entitled MySuper; empowering financial regulators APRA, ASIC and the Tax Office with extra tools to oversee the industry; and improving the administration and management of accounts through SuperStream reforms that make the processing of transactions easier, cheaper and faster.
Police medals awarded
The first National Police Service Medals have been presented in Canberra to 16 long-serving police officer s representing each State and Territory.
The NPSM recognises officers who had provided the highest standards of ethical and diligent service over 15 years or more and would be presented to many more police personnel as the program is rolled out.
Roundtables for skills
The Defence Materiel Organisation is conducting a series of roundtables with companies in the defence industry to gather feedback on the effectiveness of the Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry program.
The roundtables will be held in Canberra on 30 September; Darwin on 6 October; Brisbane on 7 October; Sydney on 11 October; Melbourne on 12 October; Adelaide on 13 October; and Perth on 14 October.
More information by emailing IndustryDiv.SADIProgram@defence.gov.au before 26 September.
Tourism Research Australia has released information pointing to a need to reshape the Indigenous tourism industry towards emerging growth markets to make up for a continuing decline in visitors from Australia.
TRA found that while visitor numbers from home had declined, those form non-traditional sources had increased since 2006 including Indonesia (10%), China (9.4%), India (6.1%) and Thailand (5.6%).
The full report Snapshots 2011 - Indigenous Tourism Visitors in Australiais at this PS News link.
Resources Council planned
Business and union leaders in the resources sector have agreed to form a Resources Advisory Council to support initiatives and strategies to ensure sustained growth in the resources sector.
Membership of the Council will include key business, employers and unions in the sector with the Australian Mines and Metals Association and Australian Council of Trade Unions recommending suitable members to the Government.
The secretariat for the Council will be provided by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
Bank security cap lowered
The security of bank and credit union deposits is to be limited to $250,000 per person per institution following changes to the Financial Claims Scheme that guarantees the deposits.
The current level is $1 million.
The Treasurer said reducing the cap and making it permanent would protect the savings in around 99 per cent of Australian deposit accounts and reflected the strength of the Australian banking system.
Jobs Forum next month
A one-day Future Jobs Forum is to be held in Canberra next month to discuss job creation.
The 6 October event will bring around 80 representatives and experts together from business, unions, government and academia to explore opportunities for new jobs presented by changes in the global economy, technology, energy use and demographics.
Attendance will be by invitation.
Baby ‘bling’ dummies and dummy chains have been banned permanently.
The permanent ban follows and interim ban in July and applies nationwide.
The dummies and chains were found not to comply with safety standards and posed a serious risk of injury to infants.
Super Clinics reach milestone
GP Super Clinics have recorded more than half a million services across the country.
Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon announced the milestone at the official opening of the 15th GP Super Clinic in Queanbeyan, NSW.
Schools computers rolled out
The rollout of the Computers in Schools scheme has reached the three-quarter mark with 75 per cent of the total number installed at the end of June.
According to the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett a total of 590,000 computers had been delivered into the nation’s classrooms with State and Territories assuring the Minister they were on track to meet the 1:1 ratio for all students between Years 9-12.
eHealth plans finalised
Finalised plans for the national eHealth system have been released outlining how the electronic health system will work, its structure, security and privacy principles, and the benefits it will bring to patients, carers and healthcare professionals.
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the ‘Concept of Operations’ would now be used to build the system to allow people to sign up from July next year.
Ms Roxon said the finalised Concept of Operations and draft telehealth technical guidelines could be accessed at this PS News link.
Fuel agreement signed
Australia and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding on developing sustainable aviation alternative fuels.
The MoU between the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and the US Federal Aviation Administration is expected to open the door to exchanges of information, research results and joint study opportunities, analysis and the demonstration of new jet-fuel pathways.
The MoU recognises the potential for airlines to reduce their global reliance on petroleum-based fuels and decrease their greenhouse gas emissions.
MoU for mining collaboration
Australia and Chile have formally recognised the value of mutual assistance in the mining industry by renewing and expanding a memorandum of understanding on cooperation.
Building on a 2006 MoU, the new agreement enables further collaboration in areas such as safety, exploration, research and development and the use of mining technology and related services.
20 September, 2011
SES job study finds
The report of an inquiry into the size, capability and work level standards for the Senior Executive Service has been released under Freedom of Information laws.
The faster-than-normal increase in the number of positions in the SES over the past decade prompted the Ahead of the Game report to recommend the review which was led by former Departmental Secretary, Roger Beale.
The size of the SES was frozen for the duration of the review which was finalised and presented to the Australian Public Service Commission in February.
According to the Canberra Times, which lodged the FoI application, the review found that one in nine SES Officers was incorrectly classified for his or her duties, including one in five Deputy Secretaries who were overclassified.
It found eight per cent of the SES were being paid at a level not substantiated by their duties and three per cent were being underpaid for the work they were doing.
Mr Beale estimated the cost of the overclassifications was $6 million a year.
The inquiry, which studied the workloads and responsibilities of 238 SES officers found there were 2,850 members of the SES, an increase on 50 per cent between 2003 and 2010.
Mr Beale recommended stricter assessments of PS work levels in future but defended the increase in numbers citing the demands of increased security, higher demands from the community for services, the Global financial Crisis and the Commonwealth’s involvement in national reforms coming from the States and Territories.
He found that the ranks of middle-level managers had actually increased more rapidly than the SES over the period but didn’t investigate why as it was outside the scope of his review.
The inquiry recommended that the number of SES officers remain capped for the next five years.
20 September, 2011
Green light for
The Government response to a Productivity Commission report calling for less red tape and more efficient regulation of business has accepted 10 out of 18 recommendations.
red tape reforms
Minister Assisting on Deregulation, Senator Nick Sherry released the response which was to the PC’s fourth Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business presented to the Government last October.
Senator Sherry said that among the recommendation accepted or accepted in principle were removal of the requirement for restaurants and cafes to print special menus for public holidays, setting up a national register of architects, streamlining processes for finding the owners of unclaimed monies, and nationally standardised rules for the service of alcohol.
Among the recommendations not accepted were developing a uniform national Real Property Act, aligning personal and corporate insolvency provisions and making one regulator responsible for both, allowing registered lawyers to act as migration agents without separate registration, and increasing the monthly earning threshold for the Superannuation Guarantee from $450.
“For the majority of the (unsupported) recommendations, I believe it is prudent the Government continues to work with business and consult on the best way forward to reduce regulatory burdens,” Senator Sherry said.
“Some regulatory changes to assist Australian businesses are being advanced through other means, and in some cases the Government believes the current level of regulation is appropriate.”
He said as the Minister for Small Business and Minister Assisting on Tourism, he was particularly pleased with the support for reducing red tape for tens of thousands of restaurants and cafes, most of which were small businesses.
“The Government has accepted the recommendation to have restaurant and cafe menu surcharges for specific days placed outside the scope of the component pricing provisions of the Australian Consumer Law,” he said.
“If legislative change is agreed with the States and Territories, restaurants and cafes will no longer need to provide a separate menu for days when a surcharge applies, such as public holidays and weekends.”
He said the Productivity Commission was already working on its fifth review in the annual regulatory burdens series, focusing on effective identification of regulatory reform opportunities and the evaluation of reform outcomes. It would provide its report to the Government later this year.
Details of the Government’s response to the fourth report are available at this PS News link.
20 September, 2011
The Fair Work Ombudsman claims to be ‘leading by example’ by improving entitlements for parental leave for staff covered by its new Enterprise Agreement which came into effect last month.
leading the way
The 2011-14 Agreement increases access to parental leave for both parents following the birth of a baby.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, mothers covered by the Agreement who have just given birth are now entitled to 16 weeks parental leave on full pay, up from 14 weeks, and her partner is eligible for four weeks on full pay, up from three weeks under the previous Agreement.
The new Agreement also includes a new entitlement to paid primary caregiver’s leave if the partner of the birth mother is required to be the primary caregiver of the baby for any time in the first 16 weeks from the birth.
Mr Wilson said the entitlements were in addition to those available under the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.
Mr Wilson said the Agency had gone beyond its minimum legal obligations to develop a parental leave policy that was tailored to employee needs but also benefited the Agency.
“Implementing generous, innovative and flexible parental leave policies can help employers boost their productivity and performance,” Mr Wilson said.
“Employers with parental leave policies that make employees feel valued can benefit from having more committed and productive staff.”
He said the new FWO Agreement also provided for employees to receive superannuation payments while on paid and unpaid parental leave and enshrined the provision of paid lactation breaks for mothers.
He said the new Agreement covered about 950 employees who also received a four per cent pay increase when it began and would enjoy a three per cent rise in July 2012 and two per cent in July 2013.
Mr Wilson said his Office had also produced a Parental Leave Best Practice Guide to assist other employers develop policies to provide optimal support for employees accessing parental leave and it also offered other Best Practice Guides on work and family, individual flexibility arrangements, consultation and co-operation, young workers, gender pay equity, small business and the Fair Work Act, bargaining, privacy, managing underperformance and dispute resolution
He said they could all be downloaded from this PS News link.
20 September, 2011
New laws for bringing
New laws dealing with international child abduction by a parent have been announced by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
kidnapped kids home
Mr McClelland said the laws would include new criminal offences, extend the coverage of existing offences, allow the Family Court to stop child support payments for children abducted overseas and create new information gathering powers to help locate abducted children.
“On average, two to three children are wrongfully removed from Australia or retained in another country every week by one of their parents,” Mr McClelland said.
“We are proposing these measures to ensure our laws remain as effective as possible to maximise the prospect of the safe return of children who are abducted by a parent and taken overseas.”
He said he wanted to strengthen the laws to stop children being abducted in the first place, improve the mechanisms to locate them overseas and then remove barriers to them being returned to Australia.
He said the proposed changes are based on advice from the Family Law Council.
“Being forced to go through the experience of having your child taken away to another country is unimaginable for any parent,” Mr McClelland said.
The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said that under the proposed changes, courts would be able to suspend the payment of maintenance or child support by the parent left behind.
“Child support should always be paid in the best interest of the child,” Ms Macklin said.
“We believe that the family law courts are best placed to make a decision about whether suspending child support is in the best interests of a child who has been wrongfully removed.”
She said a range of exceptions would apply to the discretion of the Courts including where the person applying to the court wasn’t exercising rights of custody at the time of the child’s removal and where the parent left behind consented to the child being removed from or retained outside Australia.
“The court should also have regard to whether the taking parent was fleeing from violence, whether the child objects to returning to Australia, and the best interests of the child,” Ms Macklin said.
Mr McClelland said draft legislation to implement the changes would be available by the end of this year and introduced into Parliament in the first half of 2012.
“Australia is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides a strong mechanism for lawfully seeking the return of abducted children,” Mr McClelland said.
20 September, 2011
An education program for workers, employees and business organisations explaining changes to workplace laws and practices has been found to be effective but to suffer from a number of shortcomings.
fails the test
The Auditor-General delivered the findings after examining the now-completed $12.9 million Fair Work Education and Information Program (FWEIP) conducted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) in 2009 and 2010.
According to Auditor-General Ian McPhee, DEEWR’s administration of FWEIP was reasonably effective, its program planning and design was generally appropriate and program monitoring, reporting and evaluation were adequate.
“Nonetheless, there were shortcomings in the processes used by DEEWR to invite organisations to apply for grants and assess applications,” the Auditor-General said.
“There was also scope for improvement in the Department’s assessment of program performance.”
He said if these matters had been addressed, the Department had the potential to further strengthen the reach and impact of the program.
He found the FWEIP had been introduced following passage of the Fair Work Act 2009 which made important changes to workplace laws and was designed to educate and inform employees, employers and small business on how they operated.
During the program’s lifetime, 19 funding applications were approved and 3,550 education and information activities were delivered across Australia.
“In excess of 56,000 people participated in face to face or web-based activities and over 82,000 people visited education and information websites.” The Auditor General said.
“Feedback from activity participants was positive in terms of their increased awareness of the new workplace relations system.”
He said however that DEEWR’s practice of first inviting selected organisations to apply for grants then appraising applications against published assessment criteria, including cost-efficiency “could have been managed better.”
“DEEWR did not promote the grants program, or publish the organisational attributes used as the basis for selecting the original 25 organisations that were invited to apply for a grant,” he said
“Earlier and better promotion of FWEIP, including eligibility criteria, would have supported more open, transparent and equitable access to the grants.”
He also found that e aspects of the appraisal process did not follow generally accepted procedures.
“Applications that did not provide all mandatory information and assurances, such as a risk management plan, were not excluded from further assessment; and some of the successful applications received ratings of ‘poor’ for one or two of the criteria.”
He found issues with monitoring of the program saying the Department “undertook less by way of direct activity monitoring than envisaged” despite identifying a number of delivery issues.
“No performance information was collected to allow DEEWR to assess the extent to which Indigenous Australians, people from non-English speaking backgrounds and people with disabilities received targeted advice and assistance (the second program objective).”
The Auditor-General made no recommendations because the program was closed but said the audit highlighted the importance of effectively promoting a grants program, carefully considering processes for assessing grant applications, and monitoring performance against key objectives.
The full text of the audit report can b e accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Anne Svarcas, Alison Palmer and Stuart Turnbull.
20 September, 2011
Flood calls heeded in
The Australian Government has decided to accept all the recommendations made by the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry’s interim report that affected Commonwealth operations or responsibilities.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said 34 of the Commission’s recommendations were relevant to the Commonwealth, eight relating to matters the Commonwealth was directly responsible for.
“Most of the report’s recommendations relevant to the Commonwealth focus on forecasts and warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Bureau will work closely with the Queensland Government and local Councils to improve information sharing during flood events.
“It will also assist Councils to establish arrangements for making localised flash flooding alerts by providing technical expertise including appropriate river height and rainfall information collection methods.”
He said the Commonwealth was contributing $4.7 billion towards the Queensland flood recovery and an extra $950 million for relief following Cyclone Yasi.
“This is a huge job,” Mr McClelland said.
“We are determined to work with the Queensland Government and local communities to rebuild this great State.”
He said other recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry related to the contribution of the Australian Defence Force to disaster planning and preparation, and the Commonwealth’s involvement in community education, aged care and essential services.
“We will work with the Queensland Government to ensure those recommendations that need to be addressed before the start of the upcoming wet season are indeed addressed,” Mr McClelland said.
The Commission’s interim report made a total of 175 recommendations.
The Commonwealth’s response can be accessed at this PS News link.
20 September, 2011
New laws that regulate the ingredients in cosmetics have been passed by the Australian Parliament.
get better look
According to the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, the new laws will cut red tape, eliminate overlapping regulation between Agencies and better protect public health.
“The regulation of ingredients in cosmetics has been split between the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the National Industrial Chemicals Scheme (NICNAS) which has been confusing for consumers and a burden on industry,” Ms King said.
“This new legislation finalises the transfer of the regulation of these ingredients to NICNAS while also allowing any conditions which have been put on their use by TGA, to be transferred to NICNAS.”
She said the new law meant that the ingredients would automatically be included in the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS) without requiring further assessment by NICNAS.
“This both addresses a public health gap and will reduce the regulatory burden on industry.”
She said the new laws would also mean that consumers could find information about the regulation of cosmetic ingredients in one place.
“It also removes the need for NICNAS to prepare and publish a summary report for each chemical assessment as NICNAS now publishes the full public report for each assessment on the NICNAS website.”
She said the new legislation also made minor technical amendments to the Schedule to the Act to clarify certain data requirements for new chemicals and maintain consistency with other national chemical notification schemes.
20 September, 2011
Organ donors pull
A new Guide to encourage community meetings about organ donation has been published by the Organ and Tissue Authority.
out all the stops
Entitled the DonateLife Guide for Community Speakers, the Guide is expected to help Australians overcome barriers to discussion about organ and tissue donation and was launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King.
The Guide includes s a step-by-step presentation, case studies, and background on organ and tissue donation, and was available now.
Ms King said it would be of value to community organisations, community leaders and DonateLife staff and supporters.
“Family discussion levels are at their highest since the launch of the DonateLife campaign in May 2010 but one in three of those Australians yet to discuss their donation wishes still find the subject difficult to discuss,” Ms King said.
She said it was vital that a nationally consistent approach to educating Australians was in place to reduce confusion and misinformation about organ and tissue donation.
The new resource was developed by the ACT-based community organisation Gift of Life Inc. through a Community Awareness Grant provided by the Organ and Tissue Authority.
President of Gift of Life, David O’Leary said it was important that families discussed organ and tissue donation and “to have that conversation today.”
“Less than 2 per cent of all deaths in hospital are in circumstances where donation can even be considered,” Mr O’Leary said.
“In each of these circumstances we want family members to be prepared when asked to confirm the deceased’s donation wishes.
“This will lead to an increase in consent rates over time.”
He said the new Guide would make an important contribution to supporting the sector by helping ensure a consistent message was delivered through community talks in schools, the workplace, sporting clubs, nursing homes and in the many different places communities came together.
Ms King said Australia was continuing to build on strong outcomes achieved in 2010 with 231 organ donors saving or improving the lives of 688 people in the year to 31 August 2011, a 15 per cent increase over the same period the year before.
The DonateLife Guide for Community Speakers can be accessed at this PS News link.
20 September, 2011
Print media pressed
An inquiry into the regulation of print media, online publications and the role of the Australian Press Council has been announced by the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy.
into media enquiry
It is to be independent of Government and led by Former Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Ray Finkelstein with the assistance of the Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra, Matthew Ricketson.
Senator Conroy said the emergence of digital technologies and the 24 hour news cycle were threatening traditional business models that supported the role of the media and it was incumbent upon government to ensure regulatory processes and industry structures were sufficiently strong to support the continuation of a healthy and independent media.
“A healthy and robust media is essential to the democratic process,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Government believes a separate and distinct examination of the pressures facing newspapers and their newsrooms, including online publications, will enhance our consideration of the policy and regulatory settings Australia needs to ensure that the news media continues to serve the public interest in the digital age.”
He noted that the problems facing newspapers were a worldwide phenomenon and were already being explored in the Government’s Convergence Review.
“The Convergence Review is taking a broad and considered approach to a range of regulatory issues across the broadcasting, telecommunications and radio-communications sectors,” Senator Conroy said.
“The [new] Inquiry will provide its findings to the Convergence Review early next year, and the Government will take a considered approach to the recommendations of both.”
Senator Conroy released the new inquiry’s terms of reference which included enquiring into and reporting on the effectiveness of the current media codes of practice; the impact of technological change on the traditional media business model; ways of strengthening the effectiveness of the Australian Press Council; and other related issues.
He said the panel would provide its report by 28 February 2012 in time for it to be incorporated into the Convergence Review committee’s report by the end of March 2012.
20 September, 2011
Transgender ruling a
New guidelines that make it easier for transsexual and gender diverse people to hold a passport in their preferred gender have been announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd and Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
passport to happiness
The Ministers said that under the guidelines, sex reassignment surgery would no longer be a prerequisite to issuing a passport in a person’s preferred gender.
“Sex and gender diverse people now have the option of presenting a statement from a medical practitioner supporting their preferred gender,” Mr Rudd said.
“This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance.”
Mr McClelland said the initiative was in line with the Government’s commitment to removing discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Most people take for granted the ability to travel freely and without fear of discrimination,” Mr McClelland said.
“This measure will extend the same freedoms to sex and gender diverse Australians.”
He said while the measure was expected to affect only a small number of people, it was an important step in removing discrimination.
“Importantly, this policy addresses a number of the recommendations contained in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Files report,” Mr McClelland said.
The ALRC report can be accessed at this PS News link.
20 September, 2011
Geoscience maps put
Geoscience Australia has released 28 new digital maps and an online gallery of satellite images from the past 30 years.
Australia on the map
Launching the new resources, the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said the two new bodies of work added to GA’s already impressive range of resources available to decision makers, researchers, industry and the public.
Mr Ferguson said the collection of maps would give oceanographers, scientific researchers, resource exploration companies, tourism operators and the public a greater understanding of Australia’s maritime jurisdiction.
He said they were developed in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and detailed the jurisdictional zones around Australia and its offshore territories, including the Australian Antarctic Territory, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands and Norfolk Island.
He said they covered State and Territory coastal waters, Territorial Seas, the economic exclusions zone, Australian fishing zones and the extended continental shelf.
Mr Ferguson said the new maps would have a variety of applications and would benefit a range of industries, including tourism.
“The maps show significant features such as bathymetry and reefs, a feature which will be particularly beneficial to tourism operators in areas such as Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said the online gallery of satellite images featured an overlaid or ‘swipe comparison’ that allowed users to compare urban growth and landscape changes over the past 30 years.
He said the gallery focuses on 77 areas of Australia where the majority lived and shows how cities and towns were constantly evolving.
“Ongoing satellite image capture plays an important role in the assessment of land cover issues and assisting emergency management in times of natural disaster,” Mr Ferguson said, “as well as in other applications such as environmental monitoring and management.”
He said the new maps could be downloaded from this PS News link and the satellite images viewed at this PS News link.
20 September, 2011
The recipients of six fellowships to study the achievements of past Prime Ministers have been announced by the Minister for the Arts Simon Crean.
a vote for democracy
Mr Crean announced the fellowships awarded under the Australian Prime Ministers Centre Research and Scholarship Program, an initiative of the Canberra-based Museum of Australian Democracy.
He said the fellowships placed an emphasis on the history, origins, traditions and contemporary practice of Australian democracy.
“Democracy is not a faded and immoveable part of history,” Mr Crean said.
“It changes as our society changes to reflect new goals, beliefs and aspirations.”
He named the fellowship recipients as Dr Anne-Marie Boxall, Dr Matthew Graves, Dr Cameron Hazlehurst, Dr Priscilla Roberts, Dr Keiko Tamura and Dr Auriol Weigold saying their awards were decided by an independent panel convened by the Museum and were in their fifth year.
“The Australian Prime Ministers Centre Research and Scholarship Program is a valuable initiative that supports innovative and stimulating research into Australia’s rich political history,” Mr Crean said.
“The program encourages researchers to examine the achievements of Australia’s Prime Ministers.”
He said the recipients would undertake research projects on topics such as the contest for the leadership of the United Australia Party in 1939, the Fraser government’s decision to abolish Medibank and the role played by memorial sites and commemorative events in the politics of the 1970s to early 1980s.
He said in the past the fellowship program had supported the publication of a number of research papers, creative projects and several publications, including: William Hughes: Australia by Professor Carl Bridge focussing on Billy Hughes’ role in the Versailles Peace Treaty negotiations which was recently launched at the museum and Dr Anna Cole’s film about the first National Aboriginal Debutantes Ball Dancing with the Prime Minister which aired on ABC TV in August last year.
Mr Crean said the Australian Prime Ministers Centre was a core component of the Museum of Australian Democracy and further information could be obtained from this PS News link.
He said the Museum of Australian Democracy did a wonderful job of getting Australians talking about their democracy and exploring what it meant to them.
16 September, 2011
The Australian Information Commissioner is to host a conference on information policy reform in Canberra later this year to promote government information as a national resource.
for national policy
The conference will allow participants to play a part in developing a National Information Policy for Australia.
The Commissioner, Professor John McMillan said there were many laws and policies in Australia that controlled Government information practices but they had only recently been brought together in a form that could lead to a national policy.
“We are now undergoing the most active phase of open government and information policy reform in Australia for over 20 years,” Professor McMillan said.
“The open government reform process is inevitable, irreversible and international,” he said, “driven in part by changes in information technology that are reshaping the way that Government, business and the community interact.”
He said in view of these events the inaugural Information Policy Conference would be held under the broad umbrella ‘Public Sector Information: A National Resource’ and open to everyone.
Professor McMillan said the conference would be addressed by the Australian Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner and the Freedom of Information Commissioner as well as former and serving Ministers, Departmental Secretaries and information experts from the public and private sectors.
He said it would offer participants the chance to be brought up to date on the progress of the open government reforms; examine issues around the proactive publication of public sector information; share best practice case studies; learn about the OAIC’s Principles on Open Public Sector Information; and discover how technology could provide new opportunities for information management, exchange and sharing.
He said more information on the one-day conference to be held on 15 November at the National Convention Centre, including registration details, is available from this PS News link.
16 September, 2011
Watchdog snarls at
The Australian Human Rights Commission has called for the immigration detention system to be reformed.
In a submission to Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network, the President of the Commission, Catherine Branson QC said the current mandatory, prolonged and indefinite detention scheme should be reformed so it was only used as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.
The Commission’s submission made 31 recommendations addressing concerns that the system breached Australia’s international human rights obligations.
“We remain seriously concerned that people are being held in immigration detention facilities for long periods, without any time limits and without access to the courts to challenge their detention,” Ms Branson said.
“We’ve visited detention facilities and have seen first-hand a marked deterioration in people’s mental health and wellbeing as a result of being detained for a long period with no end date.”
She said anxiety and frustration levels were also high due to long delays in processing refugee claims.
“The system of mandatory and indefinite detention is damaging men, women and children,” she said.
“This Parliamentary inquiry provides an important opportunity for Australia to change its approach to bring it into line with international standards.”
Ms Branson said the ALRC had repeated its call for the Australian Government to implement its 2008 policy which was to use immigration detention as a last resort and to detain people only if they posed an unacceptable risk to the Australian community.
“Other countries don’t find it necessary to use a policy of mandatory detention without time limits or access to judicial review,” Ms Branson said.
She said community-based alternatives were often much cheaper, more effective in facilitating immigration processing, and more humane than holding people in remote detention facilities for long periods of time.
“Alternatives such as community detention and bridging visas should be used to the greatest possible extent,” she said.
The ALRC’s submission to the Committee can be accessed at this PS News link.
The Joint Select Committee is to table an interim report on or before 10 October 2011.
16 September, 2011
Species listed for
The Minister for the Environment has released the list of priority native species, ecological communities and threatening processes to be considered for protection under national law in 2011.
The Minister, Tony Burke said the Finalised Priority Assessment List included six ecological communities, one threatening process and seven species.
Mr Burke said that although currently listed as threatened, the Australian painted snipe, the northern and southern corroboree tree frog, and the Eyre Peninsula Blue Gum were currently being assessed for a listing in a higher threat category.
He said the impact of noisy miner birds on other native smaller birds would also be assessed to identify whether further national measures were required to manage their threat.
He said public nominations for the list were accepted until 24 March 2011 and the Threatened Species Scientific Committee had assessed them all and made recommendations.
“I have accepted the recommendations of the Committee to assess these priority species, communities and threats,” Mr Burke said.
He said the Committee would now assess the species, invite expert and public comment, and then advise the Government on whether they were eligible for listing as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
“Although it has not been possible to include all nominations on the priority list, it’s important to remember that national listing is not an end in itself,” Mr Burke said.
“It is a trigger for targeted conservation activities and should complement existing efforts to protect our unique environment.”
He said the advice he received was that there was not enough information to properly assess the dingo and the snubfin dolphin so he had prioritised research under the National Environmental Research Program and the Australian Marine Mammal Grants Program to collect the information needed.
“Over the last few years, I have approved grants to support a better understanding of the distribution, abundance and status of the dolphin populations in Northern Australian waters.”
He said there would be preliminary information about the dolphin available next year for the Committee to consider and he was hopeful it would be enough to do a proper assessment before too long.
Mr Burke said more information about the Finalised Priority Assessment List is available from this PS News link.
16 September, 2011
Australia in pink over
Australia has appointed its first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the position saying it would ensure the needs of women and girls were properly represented in Australia’s overseas development program and in foreign policy generally.
She said career diplomat Penny Williams had been appointed to the role which would position Australia at the forefront of global efforts to promote the role of women and girls.
“Women and girls make up two thirds of the one billion people in the world who lack basic literacy skills,” Ms Gillard said, “with almost 35 million girls world-wide not getting even basic primary-level education.”
She said by improving access to education and health services for women and girls, we would be able to lift families and communities out of poverty.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd said the evidence showed that spending on aid was more effective when women were involved.
Mr Rudd said the new Ambassador’s priorities would include co-ordinating and promoting Australia’s work to eradicate violence against women, improving access to services for women, the protection of women and girls in conflict zones and increasing the representation of women in leadership roles.
Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, said that as a prosperous and wealthy nation, Australia had a responsibility to work for the safety and opportunity of women and girls across the world.
“The gender equality initiatives the Australian Government has driven over the past few years are significant,” Ms Ellis said, “particularly the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children which is being used by UN Women internationally as a model for other countries.”
Ms Gillard said Ms Williams would focus on the Asia Pacific region which had been ranked lowest in the world by the United Nations Development Program on a range of gender indicators, including access to education, employment and political participation.
When not overseas, she would champion the needs of women and girls in Australia’s foreign policy thinking.
16 September, 2011
Defence awards blow
The Department of Defence has blitzed the field in the 2011 Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission Safety Awards (SRCC) taking out awards in five of the six safety award categories.
The awards are open to organisations under the Comcare health and safety jurisdiction which includes all Commonwealth Departments and Agencies as well as some private sector licensees.
The awards recognise and reward excellence in work health and safety, rehabilitation and return to work achieved by employers and employees within the Comcare scheme and are in their 11th year.
According to the Chairperson of SRCC, Peter Henneken, each individual and organisation that made the finals demonstrated an impressive commitment to work health and safety.
“The entries across several award categories were inspiring and confirmed that organisations in the Comcare scheme are developing new and innovative ways to improve worker health and safety,” Mr Henneken said.
He said over 400 guests attended the presentation night in Melbourne where 21 finalists were acknowledged.
And the winners were:
Best Workplace Health and Wellbeing Program
For its program Health and Safety - Our focus, your wellbeing
Leadership Award for Injury or Disease Prevention and Management System
No award winner in this category.
Commendation to the Department of Defence
For its Parachute Training School, Safe Delivery of Parachute Training.
Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System
Department of Defence
For OHSMS Improvement Strategy -16th Battalion
Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue
Department of Defence – Army Aviation Systems Program Office
For its Passenger and Aircrew Survivability Design
Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety
Department of Defence - Royal Australian Navy
Leading Seaman Natalie Irvine,
b) Person with responsibility for OHS
Department of Defence - Royal Australian Navy
Lieutenant Commander Andrew Rohrsheim,
Rehabilitation and Return to Work Award
Department of Defence - Royal Australian Navy
For its Diving School and Submarine Underwater Medicine Unit
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Full details of all the awards and finalist can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 September, 2011
Water body warning
The National Water Commission has called on Governments across Australia to show renewed leadership on water management and to “stay the distance” on their water reform commitments.
not to go to water
Launching its report on progress in water reforms, the Chair of the Commission, Chloe Munro said the job was not yet complete.
“This independent report shows that actions under the National Water Initiative have made water use more efficient, sustainable and secure,” Ms Munro said, “and this helped Australians weather the worst drought on record.
“States and Territories have put rules in place for how water is shared, providing clearer directions for communities, industries and the environment, regardless of whether water is scarce or plentiful.”
She said water trading had given farmers options to buy and sell water as they needed it and Governments had stepped in to buy water for the environment.
She said better planning decisions were being made because more was known about Australia’s water resources and the important connections between surface water and groundwater.
Ms Munro said however that despite cities and towns having more options for water supply and better water security than they did a decade ago, it was too early to say the job was done.
“Just because rain gave parts of the country a reprieve by refilling dams and replenishing rivers, that doesn’t mean we can afford to stop the clock on reform,” she said.
“Governments have not yet met their commitments to give rivers and wetlands a fair share of water.
“This means the goal of sustainable water management has not been reached.”
Ms Munro said persisting with improving water management would lock in the hard-won gains and help insure the country against future risks which inevitably included drought.
The Commission made 12 recommendations in its report including that Governments show renewed leadership, that they listen to local knowledge and that they take communities with them as they balance economic, social and environmental demands.
It also recommended stepping up the pace on urban water challenges and investing more in science, skills and incentives to spur action.
Ms Munro said other recommendations were for water reform objectives to be better coordinated with policy areas such as energy and resources, regional development, natural resources management and climate change.
The Commission’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 September, 2011
Draft Regulations for a national, industry-led Television and Computer Recycling Scheme have been released for public comment
The proposed Regulations, to be made under the Product Stewardship Act 2011 which came into effect in August, will set up a scheme to boost the recycling of televisions, computers and computer products to 80 per cent by 2021-22.
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability, Senator Don Farrell said the draft Regulations would be open for public comment for four weeks.
“The draft Regulations set out exactly what is required of importers and manufacturers of televisions and computers under the national scheme, including recycling targets and provision of reasonable access to collection services,” Senator Farrell said.
“Feedback from all consultation will inform the final Regulations, which are expected to be in place in late 2011 with on-ground activities under the scheme commencing soon after.”
He said once the industry-funded scheme was fully operational, recycling rates would increase and valuable resources would be recovered. The amount of hazardous waste going to landfill and potentially entering the environment would be reduced.
Senator Farrell said the key elements of the draft Regulations included setting recycling targets for televisions and computers from 30 per cent in 2012-13 to 80 per cent by 2021-22; establishing national collection services; setting targets for the recovery of materials from recycled products, and; setting annual thresholds at which importers or manufacturers would be covered by the regulations.
The draft Regulations can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions will be accepted until 10 October 2011.
16 September, 2011
Business does business
A new report highlighting the role private businesses play in assisting law enforcement agencies disrupt criminal activity in the international financial environment has been released by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, Austrac.
with law enforcers
The Austrac typologies and case studies report 2011 reveals how the Government Agencies, combined with Austrac’s analysis of reports provided by Australian businesses, have led to asset seizures and arrests of criminals in Australia and overseas.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, said the report examined the ways in which criminals misused banks, casinos and money transfer agencies to commit serious transnational crime including fraud, terrorism financing, people smuggling and human trafficking.
“Organised crime is becoming more diversified, sophisticated and transnational,” Mr O’Connor said.
“As technology advances and globalisation increases, it is important that Austrac, law enforcement agencies and frontline businesses remain alert to the evolving nature of crime and the threats posed by these criminal syndicates.”
He said the report contained 20 case studies initiated or supported by reports submitted to Austrac by account and deposit-taking, gambling and remittance service businesses.
He said the featured case studies showed how;
* An overseas investment scam which deceived Australian-based victims into sending $A3.5 million to accounts in Taiwan and China was disrupted;
* Authorities followed the money trail to detect and dismantle Australian terrorist networks;
* A foreign law enforcement agency charged remittance dealers in their country for facilitating people smuggling; and
* Drugs hidden in foot spas and worth more than $A31 million were intercepted in shipping containers from Canada.
“Austrac’s report also includes a wide range of indicators which may help businesses to identify potential money laundering or terrorism financing activity among their customers,” Mr O’Connor said.
“This is particularly important feedback for frontline staff as money launderers and criminal syndicates continuously look for new techniques to hide the origins of illicit funds.”
He said the Austrac typologies and case studies report 2011 could be accessed at this PS News link.
16 September, 2011
ComSuper votes No
Members of the Community and Public Sector Union at ComSuper have voted to reject a proposed enterprise agreement.
The ballot returned a 93% No vote, with ComSuper staff now joining those in eight other Departments and Agencies who have also turned offers.
Minister rejects media claims
The Minister for Finance has rejected media claims that funds were being withdrawn from the Future Fund to assist in balancing the Treasury’s books.
The Minister, Senator Penny Wong said the Fund was simply rearranging its assets and any proceeds raised from the sale would be kept by the Future Fund.
Paper on Cyber Paper
A discussion paper has been released to engender public comment on the form and content of the proposed Cyber White Paper.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is leading development of the Cyber White Paper, which is expected to be released in the first half of 2012.
The Discussion Paper is available at www.cyberwhitepaper.dpmc.gov.au and submissions will be received until 15 November.
Canberra in digital switch
Southern NSW is to be the next region to prepare for switching to digital-only television.
Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said that that more than 500,000 households in the region would switch to digital only free-to-air TV on 5 June 2012.
He said the communities affected would include Canberra, Cooma, Dubbo, Eden, Gundagai, Mudgee, Orange, Thredbo, Ulladulla, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong, Griffith and Hay.
Wage offer rejected
Staff at the Department of Human Services are the latest to vote against an enterprise pay offer.
The offer was rejected by three quarters of the voting staff and takes to 22 the number of Agencies in dispute with their management.
The Community and Public Sector Union said that with inflation officially running at 3.6 per cent, the three per cent wage offer was effectively a wage cut.
Ingleburn Army camp sold
The Commonwealth Government is to sell the former Defence army camp at Ingleburn in NSW to the State Government’s development agency, Landcom.
The land will be used for up to 7,500 houses and community facilities in the region.
The sale was arranged under the Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy (CPDP).
Phone penalties discussed
A consultation paper has been released on proposed new penalties for telecommunications companies failing to meet service standards relating to basic telephone services and public payphones.
According to the Minister for Communications, the paper proposes ‘appropriately robust monetary penalties’ where performance fails to meet the benchmarks.
The paper invites submissions and can be accessed at this PS News link.
Army fined for reaction
The Australian Army has been fined $150,000 after Comcare took action over a food allergy incident at a cadet camp in Queensland two years ago.
A 15-year-old cadet suffered an allergic reaction after eating a meal containing peanut satay at the camp at Canungra.
The Federal Court found the Army had breached Federal work health and safety laws.
Elective surgery standards
The third and final report of the National Partnership on elective surgery waiting lists has found mixed results from State and Territory Governments.
According to the Council of Australian Government’s Reform Council, NSW, Queensland and South Australia performed well but Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory didn’t meet their targets.
The ACT was the worst performer, only meeting the lowest priority target.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
Smith Family needs mentor
The Smith Family in Canberra is looking for a mentor for a young student studying Politics at the University of Canberra.
The mentor must be available to guide the student for about three years but can manage contact remotely by email, phone, skype etc.
Interested mentors are asked to contact Wendy Bryant at the Smith family on (02) 4925 2507.
Disability leaders appointed
Six Community Leaders have been appointed from around Australia to promote the 2011 International Day of People with Disability and National Disability Awards.
The ‘disability champions are Suzanne Colbert, Michael Taggart, Peter Verwer, Ariane Garner-Williams, Danny Dickson and Josh Alford.
International Day of People With Disability is to be held on 3 December and the National Disability Awards celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disability.
13 September, 2011
Performance lacking in
Departments and Agencies continue to have trouble measuring the success or otherwise of their programs according to the Auditor-General who has published an audit report on the use of key performance indicators (KPIs).
In his report Development and Implementation of Key Performance Indicators to Support the Outcomes and Programs Framework the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said
the failure meant it was not possible to measure the achievement of many program objectives.
“Adequate performance information, particularly in relation to program effectiveness, allows managers to provide sound advice on the appropriateness, success, shortcomings and/or future directions of programs,” Mr McPhee said.
“This information also allows for informed decisions to be made on the allocation and use of program resources.”
He said for his latest audit he reviewed KPIs for 89 programs across 50 Agencies with detailed studies of four entities—the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service; Fair Work Australia; the National Film and Sound Archive; and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.
He said over a number of years, his Office had identified areas in which the quality of performance information and its reporting required improvement.
“Beginning in 2009–10, all entities in the General Government Sector were required to report in accordance with the Outcomes and Programs Framework,” he said.
“While the Outcomes and Programs Framework is in its third year, the findings in this audit indicate that many entities continue to find it challenging to develop and implement KPIs.”
He said a major stumbling block was that agencies were adopting ‘qualitative’ KPIs that were “largely descriptive in nature” and “did not allow for an informed assessment of the achievement of program objectives”.
He said most of the entities examined for his audit had scope to improve their KPIs, in some cases significantly so.
“Overall, a third of the entities reviewed had effectiveness KPIs that were appropriate in terms of being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed, a third were mixed (often differing significantly at the program level), and a third required much further development,” he said.
“The tendency for entities to rely on qualitative effectiveness KPIs reduces their ability to measure the results of program activities over time.
“A mix of effectiveness KPIs that place greater emphasis on quantitative information and targets would provide a more measurable basis for performance assessment.”
The Auditor-General made three recommendations including that Agencies develop more meaningful and measurable KPIs and that Finance include the SMART criteria (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) in its guidance on developing them.
The audit team consisted of Rachel Palmer, Louise Wallace, Felicity Squires and Michael White and the full text of their report can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
New lease on life for
The Department of Health and Ageing has announced reforms to its Aged Care Complaints Scheme which improve its operations, timeliness and transparency.
aged care complaints
Following an independent review in 2010, $50.6 million has been committed to the Scheme over four years to strengthen its capacity to respond to complaints about aged care services in facilities receiving a government subsidy.
“The Scheme provides a way for consumers to resolve complaints about aged care,” the Department said.
“If you have a concern about the care you or someone else is receiving from an Australian Government subsidised residential or community aged care service, it is important that you talk about it.”
The reforms to the scheme came into force on 1 September and will continue until 2013-14.
They include an improved complaints handling approach and a new complaints framework.
“For consumers, the new framework means greater information and support for people to resolve their concern directly with the provider, where appropriate,” the Department said.
“The new Scheme’s focus on resolution, along with expanded resolution approaches, means the Scheme is more likely to resolve a person’s concern and achieve the best result for the care recipient.”
The Aged Care Complaints Scheme can be contacted on 1800 550 552 and more information about the reforms is available from its website at this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
Phones report lines up
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has published the final report of its public inquiry into customer service and complaints-handling by Australia’s telecommunications providers.
Entitled Reconnecting the Customer the report details the concerns many consumers have when dealing with their telecommunications service provider.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the report makes five proposals for change that would make buying and using a mobile phone or internet service much simpler.
He said the changes were:
* Clearer pricing information in ads to allow comparisons;
* Better pre-sale information about plans;
* More meaningful performance measures to allow users to compare providers;
* Better complaints handling procedures;
* Better tools for consumers to monitor usage and expenditure.
Mr Chapman urged the companies to include the changes in their consumer protection codes (TCP) by next February.
“We have closely consulted on these outcomes with consumers and industry and the overwhelming response has been that improvements are both urgent and necessary,” Mr Chapman said.
“The industry should address these concerns as soon as possible.
“The industry is now formally on notice to reflect these outcomes in the new TCP Code.
He said if it didn’t ACMA would mandate them through direct regulation.
The Reconnecting the Customer report can be accessed on ACMA’s engage website at this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
National reach for the
Draft legislation to set up a National Legal Profession has been released by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
long arm of the law
Speaking on behalf of the Attorneys-General of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory, Mr McClelland said the new laws would facilitate the development of the profession nationally although some points of clarification were still required in some jurisdictions.
“There are some final decisions we need to make to reach agreement, relating to transitional costs and selection of a host jurisdiction,” Mr McClelland said.
“We have committed to resolving these outstanding matters before 1 October so legislation can then be presented in the host jurisdiction’s Parliament as soon as possible.”
He said about 85 per cent of Australia’s lawyers practised in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
“These reforms will deliver benefits for the vast majority of the profession,” he said.
“We are hopeful that other States and Territories will sign on once they can see the benefits of the reforms in practice.”
Mr McClelland said he believed very strongly that Australia could no longer justify the disparate regulation of such an important profession which generated around $13 billion in economic activity each year.
“These reforms will serve the interests of consumers and the legal profession alike,” he said.
“The reforms that these parties are close to agreement on achieve this by enhancing consumer protection, protecting the independence of the legal profession and ensuring access to justice.”
He said a lot good work had been done around creating a National Legal Profession and commended his colleagues for their good faith and constructive approach.
The draft legislation can be inspected on the Attorney-General’s Department website at this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
Ombudsman sees way
The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched a suite of nine online videos to assist deaf and hearing-impaired employees understand their workplace rights.
to launch videos
The short videos are presented in Auslan (Australian sign language) and are sub-titled and narrated in English.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said the videos presented information about the National Employment Standards, Modern Awards and general tips about what workers should know when starting a new job.
“We are very serious about our job of building knowledge and creating fairer workplaces,” Mr Wilson said, “and are focused on making information on workplace rights easily accessible to all Australians.
“These new videos are a great way for those with a hearing impairment to get an overview of their workplace rights and the tools and resources available from the Fair Work Ombudsman to assist them.”
He encouraged workers to talk to their employers if they had a question about their job or if an issue of concern arose in the workplace.
“Often issues come up because of a breakdown in communication or a simple mistake that’s easy to fix.”
He said the videos could be accessed on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s YouTube Channel, FairWorkGovAu and were in addition to other resources which included explanations of workplace rights in 13 foreign languages.
A direct link to the videos can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
Research audit for
A national research audit on child protection in Australia has been issued to assist in targeting further research.
Conducted jointly by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Social Policy Research Centre, the audit was released by the Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins.
Ms Collins said that protecting children was one of the most important responsibilities of government
“The National Research Audit was recommended by experts and practitioners to plan research priorities and avoid duplication and unnecessary investments,” Ms Collins said.
“[It] indicates we need more research into understanding neglect, the emotional and physical abuse of children, as well as the impact of parental substance abuse and mental illness on child safety and wellbeing.”
She said the audit also provided directions and priorities for future research, including the National Research Agenda for Protecting Children, which would be finalised later this year.
“It also identified Indigenous-specific issues and solutions, as well as kinship care, the role of community education on child abuse and neglect, and risks and abuse of children with disability and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds as areas for future research.”
Ms Collins said the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children would provide a national approach to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Australian children.
“The directions and priorities in the National Research Audit will be critical in helping build an evidence base to inform our thinking about improved outcomes for children,” Ms Collins said.
She said the audit was accompanied by an online register to enable users to access information more easily and keep up to date with the latest research.
The Protecting Australia’s Children Research Audit was available online at this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
The school chaplaincy program is to be renamed, expanded and extended to another 1,000 schools under new moves announced by the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett.
are heaven sent
To be known as the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program, from 2012 it will allow schools to appoint secular student welfare workers instead of chaplains if they so preferred and an emphasis would be placed on funding schools in disadvantaged areas.
Mr Garrett said the scheme would also demand minimum educational standards for appointees and improvements in the complaints handling system.
“We also want to give schools greater choice,” Mr Garrett said.
“This means schools won’t miss out on applying for the program if the school community would prefer to have a secular welfare worker instead of a chaplain.”
He said a further $222 million would be made available to extend the scheme to 2014 and give rural and regional schools priority.
“We know chaplains are already doing great work in our school communities and I expect that many more schools will apply for funding to employ a chaplain when applications for the new round open later this year.”
He said other changes to the scheme included requiring all new chaplains or secular workers to hold a Certificate IV in Youth Work, Pastoral Care or an equivalent qualification; requiring existing chaplains without the minimum qualifications to complete two units of a Certificate IV course; increasing the maximum grants for schools in remote areas from $20,000 to $24,000; introducing new standards for service providers, including ongoing professional development , monitoring service delivery, and risk management; and strengthening complaints processes to require each school to designate a complaints officer and keep a complaints log.
Mr Garrett said the changes reflected the feedback received from a community consultation exercise earlier this year and picked up on recommendations of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
“We want as many schools as possible to benefit from what has been a popular and successful program,” the Minister said.
He said new guidelines for the scheme would be published shortly and further information on the changes was available from this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
A review of the regulation of industrial chemicals is to be conducted following a Productivity Commission report in 2008.
to be the solution
Announced by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, the review is to be undertaken as a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership between the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Health and Ageing.
Ms King said it would look at the Commonwealth’s regulatory settings for the notification, assessment and regulation of industrial chemicals under the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).
“There has not been an overarching review of NICNAS since its establishment in 1990,” Ms King said.
“In that time NICNAS’s roles and responsibilities have evolved and there have been calls from both industry and community sectors to improve the regulation of industrial chemicals.”
She said NICNAS had been established as a statutory scheme within the Health and Ageing portfolio to provide scientific assessment of industrial chemical risks to public health, occupational health and safety and the environment.
“The review will assess the regulation of industrial chemicals in Australia, as well as the current system of assessment and notification of these substances, and look at ways to enhance them,” she said.
“Any recommendations will of course ensure there is no weakening of human and environmental health protection standards.”
Minister Assisting on Deregulation, Senator Nick Sherry, said the chemicals industry was an important part of Australia’s manufacturing sector and a key contributor to the economy.
“There are a range of agencies and mechanisms which play a role in regulation of this area,” Senator Sherry said.
“This can give rise to overlapping arrangements and considerable complexity, which can lead to increased compliance costs for industry.”
He said improving the efficiency and effectiveness of regulatory processes for industrial chemicals would enhance access to newer and safer chemicals and encourage innovation and competition while benefiting human health and the environment.
Ms King said review would look at how to improve the regulatory settings to enhance both the competitiveness of the Australian chemical industry and public health and environmental outcomes by examining the role and functions of NICNAS; its governance and consultation arrangements; its efficiency and effectiveness; and the implications for resourcing if changed responsibilities were recommended.
She said the review would seek input from consumer and industry stakeholders.
13 September, 2011
Police buy into Vic
Police have been called in to investigate apparent procurement irregularities in the Victorian Government’s central IT agency CenITex.
Senior management made the call fearing two staff members may have been committing fraud or receiving secret commissions.
An independent external audit found the staff members had used a two-day-old shelf company to bid in a CenITex tender last year then sat on the selection panel and awarded the contract to their company by underbidding others.
The Agency is now believed to have sacked six contractors, the two staff and ordered an organisation-wide review.
According to Fairfax media, the former staff said they had declared their interest in the company and had approval from management for the work to be awarded to it.
The company’s initial contract was for $145,000 to deliver ‘hosting services’ but additional projects since had netted it up to $1.5 million.
In a formal statement, CenITex said “The irregularities relate to the engagement of the (contractor) and do not reflect the quality of work delivered or the integrity of the contractors working for it.
“We are unable to comment further as this matter has been referred to Victoria Police.’’
CenITex is the Victorian Public Service’s central IT support and infrastructure agency and was established by the Victorian Treasury Department in 2008.
It supports 37,000 computers across 10 Government Departments and Agencies.
13 September, 2011
Interpol meeting for
One of the world’s largest international child protection taskforces led by the Australian Federal Police has met at INTERPOL’s headquarters in France to explore new techniques to protect children from online sexual abuse.
The nine-member Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) is chaired by AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan and gathered for two days in Lyon following a three-day INTERPOL meeting which brought experts from 52 countries together to look at crimes against children generally.
Assistant Commissioner Gaughan gave a presentation to the larger group, emphasising that law enforcement could not prosecute its way out of this crime in isolation.
“Part of the answer to combating online child sexual exploitation lies in forging greater international partnerships, particularly cooperation with industry, the private sector and non-Government organisations,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.
“Through the Virtual Global Taskforce and our partners, we can identify strategies to jointly combat this horrendous crime and bring these predators to justice.”
A highlight of Assistant Commissioner Gaughan’s presentation was the group’s support for a VGT proposal to assist and guide countries around the world requiring child protection legislation which is to be put to the 80th INTERPOL General Assembly in Vietnam later in the year.
The VGT was established in 2003 to fight online child abuse with the aim of dismantling global online child sexual exploitation networks, coordinating covert internet investigations and sharing and developing intelligence to target child sex offenders.
Members of the VGT include the AFP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (UK), the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (Canada), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Italian Postal and Communication Police Service, INTERPOL, the Ministry of Interior for the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand Police and Europol.
Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said new VGT industry partners included the End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes network (ECPAT International), the International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE), the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) and the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The VGT website was re-launched in June, streamlining the Report Abuse function, which now allows any person anywhere in the world to report suspected online child abuse by directly linking them to the relevant VGT member agency.
More information is available from this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
Minister taps into
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is to be subject to a mid-term review.
Set up in July 2009 as the peak body for telecommunications consumers, ACCAN is funded by the Commonwealth as a way of ensuring a strong, unified consumer voice in the telecommunications field.
According to the Minister for Broadband and Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, the review was timely.
“It was always our intention to conduct a review of ACCAN after two years of operation,” Senator Conroy said.
“This mid-term review is really an opportunity to reflect on ACCAN’s achievements to date so both the Government and ACCAN can consider future directions.”
He said with the National Broadband Network set to change the telecommunications landscape it was time to consider how bodies such as ACCAN could play a role in representing the interests of consumers during the transition.
“We are keen to assess the difference that ACCAN has made to consumer representation in the Australian telecommunications sector and I invite the community’s views on this,” Senator Conroy said.
He said ACCAN had more than 100 organisational members and 75 individuals on its books representing such diverse groups as the Brotherhood of St Laurence, CHOICE, Consumer Action, Deaf Australia, the NSW Farmers Federation and the Indigenous Communications Action Network.
He said it was funded via an industry levy for consumer representation and research activities and also managed a $250,000 grants scheme for research into the social, economic and technological aspects of telecommunications.
Senator Conroy said ACCAN had also contributed to reviews currently underway including the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s Reconnecting the Customer Inquiry, the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Scheme.
The terms of reference for the review as well as details on how to make a submission can be accessed at this PS News link.
13 September, 2011
Mint offers fresh
The Royal Australian Mint has put on a display of rare and unusual coins in Melbourne as part of a showcase for its 2012 releases.
look at products
Among the attractions were a unique concaved $5 coin and hyper-metallic coloured 50 cent coin as well as examples of minting mistakes that didn’t make it into circulation.
Chief Executive of the Mint, Ross MacDiarmid said staff had worked hard to create “innovative and unique products” as a way of keeping coin collecting interesting and exciting.
“Never before has one of our circulating coin designs been presented in this way,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“The curved coin is obviously something that won’t make its way into circulation anytime soon but it’s definitely a conversation starter.”
He said the three-day exhibition held last week included a first-time display of rare mistakes made at the Mint.
“With perfection always comes imperfection,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“Sometimes things don’t run to plan and mis-struck coins can be of collectible quality too, sometimes worth tens of thousands of dollars.”
He said today’s stringent quality control procedures meant mis-strikes rarely left the Mint but as some could be extremely hard to detect they could also be overlooked.
“Once you read some of the stories and see the coins on display here, it may make you think twice about the small change already in your pocket,” he said.
The One in a Million: Unexpected Treasures from the Royal Australian Mint exhibition closed last Thursday (8 September) but wouldn’t be the last as the Mint showcased its 2012 products.
“I can promise you that there will be more of this to come,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
13 September, 2011
Island workers get
The island nations of Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu have been invited to join Australia’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme.
jobs in the sun
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard announced the move saying it would provide the Pacific communities with an economic boost and offer Australian producers the chance to source more workers when seasonal demands outstripped the local labour supply.
Ms Gillard said the new workers would join those from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu already participating in the pilot.
“Under the pilot scheme, Pacific workers come to Australia for four to six months to work for horticultural enterprises who demonstrate that they cannot find enough local labour to meet their seasonal harvest needs,” Ms Gillard said.
“With over 560 workers recruited so far, the pilot scheme is delivering benefits to participating Pacific countries.”
She said the workers sent some of their money back home, benefiting their families and broader communities and the scheme was also of benefit to Australia due to them delivering productivity gains for the horticulture industry, particularly in regional areas where labour supply had been a longstanding challenge.
She said demand for Pacific seasonal workers was increasing due to more flexible entry arrangements for the workers and the horticulture industry’s recovery from recent droughts and floods.
“The expansion reflects strong support for the scheme from Pacific countries and the Australian horticulture sector,” Ms Gillard said.
She said more information on the scheme could be obtained from this PS News link.
9 September, 2011
Poor service delivery by Government was often the result of poor communication according to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher.
In service delivery
Addressing a conference on public affairs in Canberra, Mr Asher said examples of poor communication included lack of accessibility, poor complaint-handling procedures, lack of community consultation, and using language that was unduly complex or bureaucratic.
“Many agencies see the way they communicate as a side issue to the services they provide,” Mr Asher said, “whereas the two are inextricably linked or indeed the same thing.
“Poor communication creates a wall between agencies and the people to whom they provide services.”
He singled out a number of recent PS policy failings to illustrate his point saying the Home Insulation Program, National School Chaplaincy Program and the Northern Territory Emergency Response were examples of programs in which lines of accountability, review and complaint handling were not clearly defined.
“Addressing these problems comes down to empathy, to putting yourself in the shoes of the end-user and to working on broad, underlying issues.”
He said making sure the wellbeing of Australians was the focus and that social inclusion and customer-centred service were watchwords, not buzzwords.
“For any agency, improving service delivery means going back to first principles and asking: are we placing the needs and wellbeing of the Australian community first, and if so does our service delivery reflect this?
“Are we giving the way we communicate our policies the same attention as the policies themselves?”
He said there were five ways agencies, and Government as a whole could begin to improve the services they deliver:
The full text of the Ombudsman’s address could be accessed at this PS News link.
- Support a Government-wide plain language initiative;
- Take active steps to reach socially excluded stakeholders;
- Consult with key stakeholder groups before implementation, not afterwards;
- Support better scrutiny of executive schemes; and
- Build in better complaint-handling and accountability mechanisms when reaching inter-government agreements.
9 September, 2011
Centrelink plugs into
Centrelink has announced that almost half its seven million clients now prefer to do business online.
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek, said the number represented a 120 per cent increase on the same time last year.
“Because Centrelink serves a third of the Australian population, our main focus is to continually improve the speed and efficiency of the service we offer,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Our new online and telephone self-service options give people the convenience of accessing government payments when and where it suits them.”
She said for the telephone service, up to 800 callers a day were registering for the personal voice authentication system, enabling them to complete secure transactions over the phone.
She said the new self-service options also extended to Medicare and the Child Support Agency, which together with Centrelink have formed Human Services since 1 July.
“In the financial year to April 2011, almost one in three Medicare patient claims and nine out of 10 bulk billing claims were submitted electronically,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Child Support’s online services are also being improved.”
She said people needing to do business with Human Services no longer had to visit a Government office to complete many regular tasks such as claiming a family payment; updating personal details; claiming a Medicare rebate; completing a rent review; requesting a replacement card; or accessing an immunization history.
“These new self-service options will free up departmental staff to help people, including the long term unemployed, mentally ill and homeless people, who require intensive support,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said all agencies in the portfolio could now be accessed on the single website this PS News link and phone number 13 24 68.
9 September, 2011
Security hotline to
A new advertising campaign is to run over the next month or so promoting the National Security Hotline.
drum up business
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the Hotline had proven valuable in tracking potential terrorist threats since it was established in December 2002, logging 158,000 contacts in the form of calls, faxes, letters and emails.
“The Hotline has become an integral part of Australia’s national counter-terrorism arrangements and is regarded as essential by police forces and ASIO,” Mr McClelland said.
He said since 2002, 38 people had been charged with terrorism offences in Australia and information obtained via the Hotline had been instrumental in the majority of the investigations.
“In addition, a significant number of reports have either contributed to existing investigations or have initiated new investigations,” he said.
“This burst of advertising is designed to remind people to be alert to any suspicious activity and to report anything usual.”
Mr McClelland said while it was important for the community to be aware that no specific threats had been received, people needed to be conscious of the potential for a terrorist attack to occur.
“We need to ensure people are reminded of where to report suspicious behaviour,” he said.
“Which is why we’re undertaking this additional advertising.”
The Attorney-General said the National Terrorism Alert Level was currently set at Medium, the same level it was at in 2001.
He said this meant a terrorist attack “could occur”.
The advertising campaign is to run until Saturday 8 October.
The Public Service is not included.
9 September, 2011
An implementation plan setting out the road to delivery of the national health reform agenda has been released by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon.
Ms Roxon said the publication National Health Reform: Progress and Delivery outlined the plans and milestones to be met to achieve health reform in hospitals, GP and primary care, aged care, mental health, national standards and performance, workforce, prevention and eHealth.
“The implementation plan shows how the benefits of health reform - increasing the sustainability of public hospitals, delivering unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability, less waste and significantly less waiting for patients - will be achieved,” Ms Roxon said.
“It builds on the extensive progress that has already been made in the past 18 months by consumers, clinicians and governments in achieving health reform.”
She said the plan outlined in detail the different components of each of the reforms.
“Work also continues to establish the National Health Performance Authority and the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority,” she said.
Ms Roxon said a number of significant reforms had been, or were well on the way to being, implemented. These included:
Ms Roxon said the 72-page National Health Reform: Progress and Delivery could be accessed at this PS News link.
- Establishing the first group of Medicare Locals;
- Setting up that after hours GP line in most States and Territories;
- Appointing Local Hospital Networks in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Victoria;
- Announcing the inaugural Chairs and Deputy Chairs for the National Health Performance Authority and Independent Hospital Performance Authority;
- Commissioning a new national telephone number to link older Australians to aged care;
- Opening or building 32 of the planned 64 GP Super Clinics;
- Appointing the first locums under the Nursing and Allied Health Locum Scheme; and
- Taking steps to include hospital infection rates on the My Hospitals website.
9 September, 2011
Pay rate tool is
The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched a new online tool to help in the calculation of wage rates.
on the money
The Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said PayCheck Plus was now available for use to calculate minimum rates of pay per hour, per shift or per week.
Mr Wilson said the new tool took into account payments for overtime, penalty rates and allowances.
He said it combined a number of applications into one easy-to-use resource.
“The ‘Check my pay’ pathway allows a user to find rates of pay for a particular occupation,” Mr Wilson said.
“There is an option to calculate base rates, allowances and penalty rates for a particular job classification.
“Once the hourly rate of pay is calculated, a user has the option to calculate pay rates for an individual shift or an entire week’s work.”
He said business operators also had the option to ‘Check my payroll’ which would help calculate pay and penalty rate entitlements for multiple employees, taking into account Modern Awards.
He said the results could be printed or exported for a detailed breakdown on how they were calculated.
“Last financial year the PayCheck tool was accessed 489,866 times and Payroll Check recorded 83,275 visits,” Mr Wilson said.
He said the Fair Work Ombudsman website also had a new-look home page designed to help users gain access the tools and resources they wanted, directly from the homepage.
He urged workers or employers seeking support to visit this PS News link or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.
A free interpreter service was also available on 13 14 50.
9 September, 2011
A new advisory council is to be appointed to provide expert advice on the provision of more and better support services for students with disability.
to go to schools
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas announced the Schools Disability Advisory Council jointly, saying it would comprise peak representative organisations from the disability sector as well as academic experts.
The Ministers said he Council’s membership would be announced soon.
“We want all kids to have access to a great education, including kids with disability,” Mr Garrett said.
“For that to happen, it’s vital for us to have feedback from those closest to young people with disabilities in schools around the country – parents, carers, teachers and principals.”
Senator McLucas said improving learning and skills for people with disabilities was a key plank of the National Disability Strategy which was launched earlier this year.
“The National Disability Strategy recognises that targeted support is needed to help those people who are at a disadvantage get a quality education both at school and into their adult life,” Senator McLucas said
“We know that investing in early intervention for children with disabilities before they get to school gives them the best chance of reaching their full potential.
The Ministers announced the advisory council at a special forum of stakeholders in Sydney, made up from the disability and education sectors.
They said improving services and support for people with disabilities was a key priority for the Government and education was no exception.
They said a number of important initiatives had already been adopted to improve the quality and consistency of support schools were able to provide to students with disability.
Among the initiatives were the $200 million More Support for Students with Disability initiative announced in this year’s Budget; the development of a nationally consistent definition of disability to give Governments a better understanding of current and future needs in the education system; and the Australian Government Review of School Funding, chaired by David Gonski, which was examining the funding support provided to schools working with students with disability.
“It was terrific to see so many parents, carers and experts take the time to share their experiences with us today,” Mr Garrettt said.
For more information on the More Support for Students with Disabilities program visit this PS News link and for details of the forum go to this PS News link.
9 September, 2011
Car exhaust paper
A discussion paper on the issues involved in setting mandatory limits on car exhaust emissions from 2015 has been released for public comment.
more than hot air
Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese said the paper examined ways in which reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from passenger vehicles could be achieved.
“Car manufacturers, designers, importers and exporters play a critical role in helping the community cut carbon emissions in Australia,” Mr Albanese said.
“The Government has been working with industry on setting a fair target to reduce the impact of car emissions on global warming.”
He said cars and other light vehicles contributed around 55 million tonnes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere every year, making the light vehicle sector an important area for action if the national five per cent target for carbon reduction was going to be met by 2025.
“Mandatory vehicle emissions standards are internationally recognised as one of the most cost effective ways for industry and consumers to reduce transport emissions,” Mr Albanese said.
“The potential emission reduction targets explored in the discussion paper, if implemented, would reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by millions of tonnes every year.”
He said lower emissions in cars would also give motorists better mileage from their vehicles which meant households could reduce their carbon footprint while reducing their fuel costs.
He said the Government would be working with industry to develop standards to cut CO2 emissions.
“We invite industry, environment groups and the wider community to comment,” Mr Albanese said.
He said the discussion paper could be accessed at this PS News link and comments would be accepted for the next three months.
9 September, 2011
A new research project to record the Australian accent has been launched by 11 universities around the nation.
gets a voice
The national AusTalk initiative will record the voices and faces of 1,000 speakers of all ages and is the first large-scale collection of audio-video speech data in Australia.
Administered by the University of Western Sydney, the AusTalk project involves the 10 other participating universities, two partners and six associates.
Yuko Kinoshita from the University of Canberra said recording the diversity of Australian accents had implications for everything from ordering pizza over the phone to evaluating forensic voice evidence.
She said it would help develop technologies to aid deaf people and those with learning difficulties and also help define the Aussie accent.
“We have this image of the Australian accent, but at the moment we don’t even have enough data to know what we really mean by Aussie accents,” Dr Kinoshita said.
She said each volunteer speaker would be recorded on three separate occasions to sample their voice in a range of scripted and spontaneous speech situations and at various times.
The initial database would later be expanded to include more age groups including children, more accents and more ways of speaking.
Dr Kinoshita said the AusTalk project was supported by the Australian Research Council and the universities and volunteers for the first phase needed to be over 18 and undertaken all their schooling in Australia.
Fellow researcher Shunichi Ishihara from the Australian National University said the AusTalk findings would also provide support for a range of speech technologies such as voice and face recognition and authentication in banking and taxi services.
“The availability of the AusTalk data will considerably enhance the reliability of forensic voice comparisons in Australia,” Dr Ishihara said.
More information about the project can be obtained from Dr Kinoshita at the University of Canberra.
9 September, 2011
Young professionals meet
ACT-based members of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) who are under 36 are invited to the relaunch of the Young Professional Network for professionals associated with the public sector.
“Rebirth and Blossom” is the theme for the launch which will take place on Tuesday 27 September.
More information from the IPAA.
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is conducting a survey of departments and agencies sourcing products and services from Australian Disability Enterprises via its website www.australiandisabilityenterprises.com.au
FaHCSIA wants to find out how to improve the website, make it easier to use and be more suited to customer needs.
Participants can join the survey at this PS News link.
Eminent persons to report
An Eminent Person’s Group set up at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2009 to “sharpen the impact, strengthen the networks, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth” is to present its report at CHOGM Perth next month.
Among its recommendations is believed to be a call to establish a Commonwealth Commissioner on Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights.
Dental Health Council
A new National Advisory Council on Dental Health has been appointed to provide expert advice on dental health issues.
To be chaired by former top Commonwealth Publi Servant Mary Murnane, the Council will look at the current mix and coverage of dental services and provide advice on future needs and priorities for future reform.
A full list of members of the Council is in the PS News Senior Appointments section.
Agreement with Latvia
A new social security agreement has been signed between Australia and Latvia.
The new arrangement will allow people who have spent part of their adult lives in both Australia and Latvia to have access to pensions from both countries.
New pay offer at DIAC
Employees of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have been offered a new pay deal amounting to an average 11 per cent over three years.
The offer removes the bottom increment of most classifications and adds 4-5 per cent at the top.
According to the Community and Public Sector Union the new deal delivers $15 million more to staff than an earlier, rejected offer; requires no cuts to existing conditions; and does not breach the Government’s payrise cap.
The staff are to vote on the offer soon.
Tax cheats losing
The Australian Taxation Office’s crack down on tax cheats appears to have been successful.
Commissioner for Taxation, Michael D’Ascenzo said the ATO had stopped over 70,000 possibly fraudulent refund cheques worth over $220 million since 1 July.
“If you try and cheat the system - it is not a matter if we will find you, but when,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“We are constantly increasing our sophisticated technical and relationship networks to close the net on those doing the wrong thing.”
ACMA launches engage
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has launched a new e-newsletter, called engage.
The new resource can be accessed at this PS News link.
Helicopters for sale
The Navy is to sell five Sea King Helicopters.
The Minister for Defence Materiel issued a Request for Tender for the sale that includes three airframes; a simulator; as well as equipment and parts.
The Sea Kings will be withdrawn from service in December 2011, having flown in excess of 60,000 hours in operations in Australia and overseas.
Anti-violence website upgrade
Additional funding to ‘break the silence about violence against women’ has been announced for the White Ribbon Foundation.The $30,000 will be used to upgrade the Foundation’s website.
Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis said the funds would allow the Foundation to migrate and refresh content from www.whiteribbonday.org.au and www.myoath.com.au into a single new web site, www.whiteribbon.org.au
Kimberley on heritage list
Western Australia’s west Kimberley region is to be placed on Australia’s National Heritage List.
The listing will include 19 million hectares of the area, including Aboriginal, historic, aesthetic and natural heritage values, and will provide the region with Australia’s highest form of heritage recognition.
The west Kimberley is the 96th place to the included on the National Heritage List.
1 in 10 look for work
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that one in 10 Australians spends some time out of work each year.
It found that 1.7 million people were looking for work at some stage during the year to February 2011 with 72 per cent finding work within six months and eight per cent taking the full year to gain employment.
Older people took longer to find work than young ones.
Help for businesses
Information sessions are to be conducted by AusIndustry and the Australian Taxation Office to help businesses learn how to access and use the new R&D Tax Incentive.
Previously know as the tax credit, the new incentive aims to drive the development of new ideas, products and processes.
The session will be held during September and October and more information is available from this PS News link.
6 September, 2011
The Productivity Commission is to hold an inquiry into the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).
with finance enquiry
The Corporation provides finance to Australian exporters and a 2006 inquiry by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommended a more detailed and independent inquiry at a later date.
Releasing the Terms of Reference for the inquiry, Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said the Productivity Commission would report its findings to the Government in 2012.
“Australian capital markets had changed considerably since existing export credit arrangements were established,” Mr Shorten said.
“Australia now has extensive and sophisticated capital markets, providing a diverse range of instruments and services.”
He said the main focus of the inquiry would be to consider the role for government involvement in the provision of export credits, insurance, reinsurance and a number of other financial services.
“The inquiry will also consider EFIC’s funding arrangements, capital adequacy requirements and the interaction between EFIC’s operations and other government programs, international agencies and the private sector,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Productivity Commission will consult with private sector organisations, relevant professionals and interested parties as part of its research.”
He aid more information on the inquiry was available from the Productivity Commission’s website at this PS News link.
6 September, 2011
New group to put
A new reference group has been appointed to advise on ways of measuring the performance of universities.
Unis to the test
To be chaired by Professor Ian O’Connor from Griffith University, the group’s first task is to look at implementing four higher measurement ‘instruments’ developed under the Advancing Quality in Higher Education initiative.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Evans said the initiative would improve outcomes for students by pursuing national quality, participation and attainment objectives.
“The integrated performance measurement instruments will provide a valuable picture on the quality of teaching and learning in Australian universities,” Senator Evans said.
He said the measurement instruments included the University Experience Survey, an Australian version of the Collegiate Learning Assessment; the composite Teaching Quality Indicator; and the Review of the Australian Graduate Survey.
He said the reforms would ensure that Australian students had access to high quality teaching and that learning remained high at a time when the sector was expanding to meet greater student demand for higher education,
Senator Evans said the reference group would be made up of representatives from the higher education sector, business and student groups who had been selected in consultation with Universities Australia.
He said a total of $30.8 million in Reward Funding had been set aside in 2012 and 2013 for the performance and quality measures to be developed.
“Under the new Performance Funding arrangements, Reward Funding of $335.1 million over four years is available to higher education providers for achievement against performance targets set out in their Compacts,” Senator Evans said.
He said along with Professor O’Connor, the membership of the group would include Professor Richard Henry from the University of New South Wales; Professor Carole Kayrooz from the University of Canberra; Professor Judyth Sachs, Macquarie University; Professor Jim Barber, University of New England; Professor Richard James, University of Melbourne; Sue Mikilewicz from the University of South Australia; Claire Thomas from the Business Council of Australia; Jesse Marshall from the National Union of Students; and a representative of the new Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).
Senator Evans said the performance measurement instruments had been announced in the 2011-12 Federal Budget and more information was available from this PS News link.
6 September, 2011
DAFF blazes trail for
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has signed up to the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC), the biggest Government Agency so far to do so.
The Council supports the development of Indigenous businesses around Australia.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig and the Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Senator Mark Arbib both said they welcomed DAFF’s commitment to supporting Indigenous businesses.
“The Government is committed to supporting Indigenous economic development and providing access to Government procurement is one way we can do that,” Senator Ludwig said.
“With a large focus on rural and remote Australia, DAFF is well placed to provide opportunities to Indigenous suppliers and is looking forward to working with AIMSC and supporting the development of Indigenous businesses around Australia.”
Senator Arbib said DAFF joined the Departments of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; Defence; Human Services; Health and Ageing; and Finance and Deregulation as members of AIMSC.
“It follows the recent change to Commonwealth procurement guidelines that allow Departments and Agencies to contract small and medium Indigenous businesses without conducting a full tender process,” Senator Arbib said.
He said AIMSC had a successful record, achieving results for Indigenous businesses since its creation in 2009.
“In just under two years of operation AIMSC has facilitated almost $21.7 million in contracts and $6.4 million in transactions between corporate and government members and certified suppliers,” he said.
“We also know it is good for employment – at last count more than 72 per cent of employees of AIMSC certified suppliers were Indigenous,” Senator Arbib said.
6 September, 2011
New jobs program
An audit of Indigenous employment programs aimed at ‘closing the gap’ in job opportunities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has found that the Departments and Agencies involved were largely on target in reaching their objectives.
closing the gap
In his report Indigenous Employment in Government Service Delivery, which also covered the Northern Territory Jobs Package, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the roll out so far had been successful.
“In the context of delivering the jobs packages, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) provided effective coordination and direction, guided by the high-level policy parameters set by the Australian Government, which contributed to the jobs packages being implemented within relatively short timeframes,” the Auditor-General said.
“More broadly, the role played by Departments in identifying positions, engaging service providers, and managing ongoing relationships was also integral to the successful roll-out of the packages and Indigenous Australians being placed in the jobs.”
Mr McPhee said the principle objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of DEEWR’s and FaHCSIA’s administration of their responsibilities under Element 1 of the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation.
He said DEEWR, the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, and the Office for the Arts had all effectively identified, selected and funded the jobs created under the packages.
“At the Australian Government level, 1,235 jobs were created under the NJCP and 1,755 jobs were created under the NT Jobs Package,” he said.
“These results were consistent with the objectives.”
Mr McPhee said that in 2010, 18 per cent of Indigenous Australians were unemployed, compared to 5 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians and it was apparent that reducing unemployment was a necessary condition for overcoming the persistent economic and social disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians.
He said the National Partnership Agreement significantly improved opportunities for Indigenous Australians to engage in private and public sector jobs through four elements: Element 1- creating real, sustainable employment (the focus of the audit); Element 2 - strengthening current government procurement policies; Element 3 - incorporating Indigenous workforce strategies; and Element 4 - reviewing all public sector Indigenous employment and career development strategies.
“Notwithstanding the creation of the jobs, there are a range of conditions that will need to be monitored in order to determine the long-term impact of the jobs and their contribution to improving the level of economic participation by Indigenous Australians,” Mr McPhee said.
The full audit report can be accessed from this PS News link and the audit team consisted of Corinne Horton, Anna Crabb, Joe Keshina, Tessa Osborne, Emilia Schiavo and Nathan Williamson.
6 September, 2011
New emergency system
A new report on the national telephone-based warning system ‘Emergency Alert’ has found the system to be working well.
rings the right bells
Releasing the report, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said since its launch in December 2009, Emergency Alert had been used by States and Territories to send in excess of 7 million messages relating to flood, tsunami, bushfire, storm surge, chemical incident and missing person emergencies.
“Emergency Alert proved to be an invaluable addition to the range of warning and information systems used to alert communities during the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi, as well as other disasters over summer,” Mr McClelland said.
“Following the unprecedented disaster season Australia faced over summer, it was important to review the effectiveness of systems such as Emergency Alert.”
He said the review found Emergency Alert had been working well and was achieving its purpose when activated properly.
He said there was an overall sense of satisfaction with the current system of message development and delivery.
Mr McClelland said the Assessment of the Effectiveness of Emergency Alert was managed by the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission and the Torrens Resilience Institute; and was funded through the Australian Government’s National Emergency Management Projects scheme.
He said the review included a survey of 900 households in regions where the system had been used, finding that 97 per cent of people who had received a message said the message was clear; 84 per cent understood and acted on the warning; and another 84 per cent said the system met or exceeded their expectations.
The Attorney-General said users and operators had also expressed confidence in the system’s future development.
Mr McClelland said the review did identify however that community preparedness was the weakest part of the warning ‘system’.
“While it is important that we develop strong emergency warning systems we also need to ensure our communities are ready, willing and able to deal with natural disasters when they occur,” he said.
“Of particular concern is the need make families having recently arrived in Australia, international students and young people generally more aware of EA, and the need for such groups to have plans in place to react appropriately to a warning message.”
6 September, 2011
Car jack campaign
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has teamed up the fair trading agencies in the States and territories to launch a safety campaign for motorists who use jacks to perform their own vehicle maintenance at home.
gets a lift
Deputy Chairman of the ACCC, Peter Kell said during the past decade, at least 46 Australians had been killed while working under a vehicle, and hundreds had been seriously injured with impacts ranging from amputation to fractures and crush injuries.
“These deaths and serious injuries have occurred when a vehicle or trolley jack has been used to support a car while someone worked under it,” Mr Kell said.
“Jacks just aren’t designed for working under a vehicle safely, and people should never get under their car when it is only supported by a jack.”
He said the Don’t be a jackass campaign aimed to educate people never to place any part of their body under a vehicle unless it was sitting on support stands or ramps.
In addition, he said, people should never allow a person or pet to remain in a vehicle while it was being jacked, and never exceed the weight capacity of the jack.
Mr Kell said simple safety tips for DIY vehicle mechanics were available on the product safety website for people to follow.
He said tips on the website included parking the vehicle on a hard level surface; chocking the unlifted wheels and engaging the handbrake before raising the vehicle; and referring to the workshop manual for the car to locate the correct lifting point to position the jack under.
Mr Kell also reminded suppliers and retailers that there were mandatory standards for vehicle jacks, trolley jacks, support stands and portable stands.
“A recent national product safety survey by the ACCC and State fair trading agencies found 35 non-compliant trolley jacks on the market, with 10 requiring immediate recall,” he said.
“All failed to meet the warning labelling requirements of the mandatory standard, and some also failed performance requirements.”
He said more information was available from the product safety website at this PS News link.
6 September, 2011
Austrade plans to do
The Australian Trade Commission, Austrade is to open a new office and appoint a Consul-General in Bogota, Colombia next year.
business in Colombia
Minister for Trade and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Craig Emerson announced the move saying it followed improvements in business conditions in response to the Colombian Government’s economic reform agenda.
“The newly-reformed Austrade will refocus its trade and investment promotion activities on emerging and frontier markets in Mongolia, Central Asia, Africa, western China and Latin America,” Dr Emerson said.
“The new Austrade office in Bogota is a good example of what we want to deliver with these reforms.”
He said Colombia was the fourth-largest economy in Latin America with a GDP of about one-quarter that of Australia’s and the country had large mineral and energy reserves; a strong agricultural sector; a developing industrial base; and the annual GDP growth had been running at about 4.4 per cent in the last decade.
He said Colombia was also Australia’s largest source of students from Latin America, after Brazil and about 6,800 Colombian students were enrolled in Australian institutions in 2010.
“Austrade has had representation in Colombia through a locally-employed business adviser for several years,” Dr Emerson said.
“The new office represents a far-reaching expansion of the agency’s trade, investment, and education promotion activities in Colombia and Latin America.”
He said Australia’s commercial activities in Colombia had been growing strongly, led by companies in mining, energy, agribusiness, engineering and education.
“Colombia’s large domestic market and expanding economic integration in the region means it also offers opportunities for Australian enterprises beyond these existing industries, including in infrastructure and professional services,” he said.
The new Austrade office will advise on doing business in Colombia, focusing on identifying trade and investment opportunities for Australian companies and promoting Australian educational services.”
Dr Emerson said it would also offer essential consular services to Australians in the country.
6 September, 2011
Research published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has shown that more children from separated families are now spending time with both parents than in the past.
The finding has been claimed as evidence that changes to shared care arrangements under the family law system were working.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said among new cases registered with the Child Support Agency each year, the proportion with a shared or near shared care-time arrangement increased from 9 per cent to 17 over five years.
Mr McClelland said that in addition, a survey of 10,000 parents who had been separated after the reforms for an average of 15 months found 16 per cent had a shared care arrangement.
“The Government strongly supports shared care arrangements when it’s in the best interests of children,” Mr McClelland said.
“These findings form part of the basis for the amendments in the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011, which is currently before the Senate, and provides further evidence to support the Government’s decision to retain the substance of the shared parenting laws introduced in 2006.”
He said the Bill continued to promote a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents but emphasised that the child’s safety must come first in situations where there was conflict.
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said the research also showed that since the 2006 reforms, courts were making more orders for shared care.
Ms Plibersek said shared care was generally defined as a post-separation arrangement in which children spend 35-65 per cent of their nights with each parent.
“The proportion of judicially-decided cases resulting in shared care time increased from four per cent before the 2006 family law reforms to 34 per cent post-reform,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said the AIFS report also found the prevalence of shared care time had been increasing progressively over the past decade with 7 per cent of children in an equal care-time arrangement, mainly for those between 5 and 11 and 12 and 14.
The report Shared care time - An increasingly common arrangement? can be accessed at the AIFS website at this PS News link.
6 September, 2011
SBS in move for
The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) has been asked to open discussions with the National Indigenous Television channel (NITV) on a possible new free-to-air Indigenous television service for Australia.
Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy acknowledged there was strong support for a national Indigenous television service amongst both the Indigenous and wider community.
“The Australian Government is determined to ensure that the resources allocated to Indigenous broadcasting are delivering the best outcomes for Indigenous people” Senator Conroy said.
“The aim is to provide a national platform for free-to-air delivery of predominantly Australian Indigenous content without the creation of a third national broadcaster.”
He said the findings of a review of Government spending on the Indigenous broadcasting and media sector recommended that a more sustainable structural model be established to achieve the sector’s widely held goal of providing more original Indigenous content on free-to-air television.
“NITV has played a significant role in establishing an Indigenous television service since it first went to air in July 2007,” Senator Conroy said.
“The service has been ground-breaking and has allowed the perspectives and stories of Indigenous peoples to be shared.”
He said SBS was well placed to facilitate the evolution of such a service and bring Indigenous television on to a free-to-air platform.
“I have asked the SBS Board to consider whether it is in a position take on this important role, and the NITV board to advise on the matters it regards as critical to the efficacy of the model from an Indigenous perspective,” the Minister said.
“I look forward to hearing from NITV and SBS as to how such a service might best be delivered,” he said.
6 September, 2011
Pseudo drugs audit
An audit of the effectiveness of regulating non-prescription medicines has found that suppliers were routinely ignoring the rules about labelling, about providing consumer information and about backing up their claims of effectiveness.
sends for the doctor
In his report Therapeutic Goods Regulation: Complementary Medicines, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the regulations governing products such as fish oil, glucosamine and the like, were deliberately ‘light touch’ due to the low risk the products posed to consumers and to ensure suppliers could get them to market without undue hassle.
“Because market access has been made easy, quick and low cost, an important safeguard to the integrity of the regulatory system is that easy entry be balanced by an effective post-market monitoring of compliance with regulatory requirements,” Mr McPhee said.
He said however that in monitoring the market, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had found non-compliance to be “consistently high”.
“In 2006, on the basis of a random sample, the TGA found a non-compliance rate of 75 per cent,” the Auditor-General said.
“The Department of Health and Ageing has recently reported non-compliance as high as 90 per cent.”
“In this context, the available evidence indicates that the regulation of complementary medicines in Australia has been of limited effectiveness.”
Mr McPhee said around two-thirds of all Australians used ‘complementary’ ‘traditional’ or ‘alternative’ medicines including vitamins, minerals, herbal, aromatherapy and homoeopathic products and the Minister for Health and Ageing had responsibility for the Act while the TGA, as part of the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA), was responsible for regulation.
He said among the findings of a recent review were 20 medicines that had labelling issues including misleading information; 12 which had incomplete or inappropriate information on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG); 22 with manufacturing or quality issues and 14 that didn’t have adequate evidence to substantiate claims made about their efficacy.
“The administration of the regulatory framework could be strengthened by the TGA making changes to improve the integrity of the self-assessment process,” he said.
“The ANAO recommends that the TGA use its random sampling review of listed medicines to develop risk profiles against the most significant characteristics of listed medicines and the less compliant sponsors and manufacturers.”
He also concluded that transparency could be strengthened by making information available in a ‘timely manner’ to the Australian public for each listed complementary medicine,
“The options for doing so include the provision of information on the TGA website, such as by adding fields to the publicly-viewable elements of the ARTG.”
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was David Rowlands, Michael Masters, Albert Zehetner and Tom Ioannou.
6 September, 2011
Scam study finds
A study into cybercrime by the Australian Institute of Criminology has found older people to be more vulnerable to online scams and frauds.
oldies not goodies
Conducted by the AIC with Victoria Police and the Melbourne University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, the study found four out of every 10 victims to be 55 and over.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor said that many victims were too embarrassed to report fraud to authorities, and the survey findings would assist in developing strategies to educate people about scams and prevent fraud from taking place.
Mr O’Connor said the project surveyed 202 Victorians who had sent money to Nigeria to determine why they had responded to unsolicited contact and the impact of that contact on their lives.
He said it found that 66 per cent of victims had first been approached by email with 35 per cent responding to a web-based dating site A number of other scams started by post.
He said it also found that about three quarters of the victims had sent money to offenders on more than one occasion and more than 40 per cent had sent money five or more times.
The overall totals scammed ranged from $100 to $120,000 and the average amount lost per victim was $12,000.
Mr O’Connor said around 80 per cent of victims nominated their savings as the source of their funds, but 13 per cent took out personal loans, and five per cent had mortgaged property to send the money.
He said the findings would assist in developing prevention strategies, and raising the issue of further research into the under-reporting of fraud.
“In 2010 the Government passed new laws to combat identity crime and allow people who had been the victim of identity crime (including online theft) to obtain a certificate of identification from a magistrate in order to re-establish their identity,” he said.
“The Government has introduced the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 which will facilitate Australia’s participation in the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, the only binding international treaty on cybercrime.”
Mr O’Connor said the website SCAMwatch has been established to allow people to report scams and frauds.
“If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.
“I urge all Australians to think before they provide money to people they have not met.”
More information is available from this PS News link.
6 September, 2011
The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney is to celebrate “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” on 19 September with a special children’s day of adventure, treasure hunting, swashbuckling and ... talking like a pirate!
unveils new plank
The Museum has invited children to “don their pirate gear” and enjoy a pirate-themed treasure hunt through the museum after dark with their resident pirate, Grognose Johnny.
“They’ll then step back in time on board the Duyfken replica, the visiting 17th century sailing ship, and learn how to talk like a pirate,” a spokesperson for the Museum said.
“Having tucked into a pizza dinner, children will be treated to a special preview performance of the Swashbuckled! theatre show which depicts the adventures of explorer Captain William Dampier on his trip to Australia more than 300 years ago.”
The spokespirate said Swashbuckled! would be presented by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and followed Dampier on his escapades as he sailed his ship The Roebuck from England to New Holland (Australia) and contended with his rebellious crew.
“The kids will join him as he sails into Shark Bay where he will regale them with vivid descriptions of sea-creatures and bird life, and his treacherous attempt to return home.” According to the Museum, International talk like a pirate day was created in 1995 by two Americans, John Baur and Mark Summers and had spread across the world since then.
The children’s event will run from 5.15pm to 7.30pm and will include the pirate treasure hunt; entry to Duyfken; pizza; refreshments; and the theatre show.
Children will be fully supervised (parents and carers are not required to stay) and tickets are $35 per child.
Bookings are essential, and those interested are encouraged to phone (02) 9298 3644, email firstname.lastname@example.org or book online at this PS News link.
For more information on the history of the Day visit this PS News link.
6 September, 2011
Data on the take-up of digital television compiled by the Digital Switchover Taskforce has revealed that 82 per cent of households across the nation have already converted.
gets thumbs up
The findings were welcomed by the Minister for Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy who said it was a “great result.”
Senator Conroy said the data showed Darwin enjoyed the highest conversion rate (89 per cent at the end of June), Tasmania had 86 per cent; Adelaide, 85 per cent; northern New South Wales, 84 per cent; and southern New South Wales, 83 per cent.
He said the Digital Switchover Taskforce’s Digital Tracker Summary Report for Quarter 2 (April–June 2011) also showed the number of converted households in regional Queensland had increased to 84 per cent during the quarter, well ahead of the level expected for the regional Queensland switchover on 6 December 2011 and up from the 46 per cent in early 2009.
“With 100 days to go until analog TV signals are turned off forever, regional Queensland is well on track for the switch to digital-only TV,” Senator Conroy said..
“The number of digital-ready households in the Remote Central and Eastern Australia TV licence area – which includes areas of South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania – has more than doubled since early 2009.”
He encouraged remaining households to make the switch as soon as possible to avoid a last minute rush and advised that the Household Assistance Scheme (HAS) could help eligible households receive digital free-to-air TV signals.
“50,000 eligible households have so far been provided with the installation and demonstration of a high definition set top box free of charge,” he said.
“HAS provides essential support to some of our most vulnerable citizens, and includes all necessary work on cabling and antennas to ensure a crystal clear picture.”
Senator Conroy said the Household Assistance Scheme was available for six months before and one month after the switch to digital-only television across Australia.
To be eligible a person must receive the maximum rate of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Service Pension or Income Support Supplement; own a working TV; and not already have access to digital TV.
2 September, 2011
APSC pay survey
The Australian Public Service Commission has published its annual APS Remuneration Survey for 2010.
on the money
The Survey was based on a sample of remuneration data as at 31 December and was conducted for the APSC by a consulting firm.
According to the Survey, base salaries across the APS increased by 3.4 per cent in 2010 for staff below the Senior Executive Service ranks and 5.7 per cent for those at the SES levels.
The 2010 Survey was based on remuneration data from 105 APS agencies which yielded 154,282 employee records and was the first Survey in which participation was mandatory for all APS Agencies.
Each participating Agency received separate reports on base salary, Total Remuneration Package (TRP) and Total Reward (TR) as well as comparison with the private sector and the rest of the APS.
While finding that base salaries across the Service had increased, the Survey also revealed that Total Remuneration Packages had also increased by 3.6 per cent for non-SES staff and 3.3 per cent for SES and that Total Rewards went up 3.4 per cent for non-SES and 1.7 per cent for SES.
It reported that a substantial portion of the base salary increase was due to repackaging.
“While the SES base salary increase of 5.7% is higher than the non-SES outcomes, the TRP and TR figures (3.3% and 1.7%) indicate that a substantial portion of the base salary increase is due to repackaging,” it said.
“The report shows only 23% of SES now have an executive vehicle (down from 37% in 2009) and 38% were eligible for performance pay (down from 54% in 2009).
“While the overall package has only increased by 1.7%, agencies are reducing the separate amounts for items such as performance pay and executive vehicles and tending to roll-in these items to base salary.”
The Survey revealed that wage increases in the APS had been generally lower in 2010 than in 2009 with only the APS1 and APS2 rates exceeding private sector medians.
It found APS rates for all non-SES classifications to be higher than for comparable levels in State and Territory Public Services.
Overall, the Survey found that average APS Graduate base salaries were 3.7 per cent above those in the private sector with salaries averaging out at $41,148 for APS1; $97,275 for EL1 and $158,277 for SES1.
A summary of the survey results is available at this PS News link.
2 September, 2011
Auditor issues guide
The Australian National Audit Office has published a Better Practice Guide on the operation of audit committees in Public Service Agencies.
on audit committees
The 142-page guide Public Sector Audit Committees: Independent assurance and advice for Chief Executives and Boards updates and replaces the ANAO’s 2005 guide on the same subject.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the Guide was intended as a reference document for Chief Executives, Boards, members of Audit Committees and senior managers with responsibility for Audit Committee activities, and complemented the ANAO’s Better Practice Guide Public Sector Internal Audit issued in September 2007.
“The aim of the Guide is to provide guidance on the operation of the Audit Committees of public sector entities operating under both the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997,” Mr McPhee said.
He said Audit Committees were an independent source of assurance and advice to Chief Executives and Boards and provided independence and objectivity.
Mr McPhee said better practice entities recognised the benefits of an Audit Committee which could independently review and advise on key aspects
of the entity’s operations including its governance arrangements; risk management framework; internal control and compliance frameworks; and financial statement responsibilities.
“The Guide includes a number of new and updated checklists for use by both the committee and entity management,” he said.
“Each entity is encouraged to use the Guide to identify, and apply, better practice principles and practices that are tailored to its particular circumstances.”
He said the Audit Office recognised that each PS entity was different and each had its own particular governance framework, risk and control structures and supporting policies and processes.
“The precise role each Audit Committee undertakes should be determined within the context of each entity’s governance framework,” Mr Mcphee said.
“The ANAO has not attempted to establish one model that all entities should adopt. Rather, this Guide outlines a range of principles and practices.”
The new Better Practice Guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 September, 2011
Archives files away
The National Archives of Australia has won an international award for its digital preservation programs.
Acting Director-General of the Archives, Stephen Ellis said the award was made by UNESCO under its Memory of the World project.
Dr Ellis said the Archives would use the $30,000 prize money, donated by the Republic of Korea, to host a conservation student in its work experience program.
When it announced the award, UNESCO described the National Archives of Australia as a world leader in many areas, notably that of digital preservation.
UNESCO praised the Archives for sharing with others ‘the fruit of its own research and development by making available open source tools for digital preservation’.
The prize also recognised the Archives’ research into preserving documents written in iron gall ink, which was used in Europe for many centuries but which, over time, can eat into the paper on which it is used.
The UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize itself was named in honour of the Jikji, a Korean Buddhist text printed in 1377 - the oldest surviving book made with movable metal type in the world.
The award ceremony is to be held in South Korea this weekend as the central feature of a weekend of cultural celebrations hosted by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Cheongju and the Director of the Cheongju Early Printing Museum.
Dr Ellis said he would attend the festival to accept the prize and would present further information on digital innovations at an academic conference at the museum, by highlighting the National Archives’ Mapping Our Anzacs website (mappingouranzacs.naa.gov.au) which allows public interaction through Web 2.0 technologies.
“The Memory of the World Program is UNESCO’s primary project to encourage preservation of humanity’s documentary heritage,” Dr Ellis said.
“The National Archives of Australia collection holds several items listed on the Memory of the World register, including records of displaced persons from Europe who sought refuge in Australia after World War II and Australia’s landmark constitutional documents.”
2 September, 2011
A new study of employer attitudes to people with a disability has revealed that while bosses believe workers with a disability brought a good attitude to their work, many continued to think they would be less productive.
Releasing the results of the study, the Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis said this was a ‘misconception.’
Ms Ellis called on employers to recognise the many benefits of hiring someone with a disability and giving them a chance to have a decent job and contribute to the economy.
“Employers who hire people with disability will often say that these are some of the most loyal, reliable and hardest workers they’ve ever had,” Ms Ellis said.
“Yet employers with little or no experience reject the idea that a person with disability could be the best person for the job.”
She said Disability Employment Services were there to help employers find that productive fit of a person with disability to a job, and assist with any workplace adjustments.
“Productivity is all about matching a person to the right job,” Ms Ellis said.
“Everyone needs time to settle into a new job and when it’s a job seeker with disability, Disability Employment Services can make this a smooth transition for the employee and their employer.”
She said a range of Australian Government incentives and services were available for employers of people with disability and the Government had committed $3 billion over the next four years to assist people with an injury, disability or health condition to have the best possible support and assistance to secure and maintain sustainable employment.
She said one such service was the Employment Assistance Fund which provided financial assistance to purchase a range of work-related modifications and services for people with a disability or mental health condition.
Ms Ellis said more than 4,200 people received assistance from the Employment Assistance Fund in the 2010-11 financial year.
She said more information about becoming a ‘disability confident’ organisation could be obtained by visiting this PS News link.
Access to the study was available at this PS News link.
2 September, 2011
Internal audit call
The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) has called for its PS members’ work to be exempt from Freedom of Information laws because the threat of disclosure of audit findings could compromise audits of governance and risk management.
to dodge FoI
Technical Manager at the IIA, Stephanie Koehn said recent reforms to laws governing access to public information had seen a narrowing of exemptions from the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which could have the unintended consequence of undermining the internal audit function.
“IIA-Australia is absolutely committed to transparency and disclosure,” Ms Koehn said.
“However we are concerned the release of internal audit reports would seriously undermine public sector governance and the long term integrity of public administration.”
She said in order to report effectively and accurately, internal auditors relied on the candour of Departmental staff.
She said the IIA was concerned that if information identifying a Department’s specific risks and weaknesses was released early then the Department’s staff may be less forthright with the auditors.
Ms Koehn said she welcomed reforms to the Commonwealth FOI Act and other State FOI regimes from a public policy perspective but the IIA had adopted the view that internal audit reports should qualify for “conditional exemption”.
“Releasing the internal audit reports could reasonably be expected to prejudice the effectiveness of the internal audit process of an agency,” she said.
“Under the FOI Act, documents that are conditionally exempt will not be released if their disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.”
She said in any case, since the internal audit process in the Commonwealth public sector was already overseen by the Australian National Audit Office, sufficient transparency protections were already in place.
Ms Koehn said IIA-Australia would be working with Federal and State FOI Commissioners and Attorneys-General to win support for its position.
2 September, 2011
ACCC in a tangle over
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a discussion paper on Telstra’s plans to drop its copper network and supply its fixed-line voice and broadband services on the National Broadband network (NBN).
Telstra network plans
The ACCC is seeking public comment.
Chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims said the Commission’s preliminary view was that Telstra’s undertaking could not be accepted in its current form and that important changes were required.
“While the ACCC will move as quickly as possible towards a resolution, the preliminary view is that the structural separation undertaking that has been provided does not address legislative requirements,” Mr Sims said.
He said one of the ACCC’s concerns was with Telstra’s undertaking did not yet include a compliance plan for its primary commitment to be structurally separated from 2018.
“The ACCC’s main area of concern, however, relates to the adequacy of Telstra’s proposed interim equivalence and transparency measures,” he said.
“The ACCC’s initial view is that there needs to be a clear and enforceable commitment to an ‘equivalence of outcomes’ that enables wholesale customers and Telstra’s retail businesses to gain access to key input services of equivalent quality and functionality.”
Mr Sims said the ACCC was also seeking clarification on the mechanisms that would ensure that the proposed equivalence and transparency measures remained fit for purpose for the duration of the interim period.
Mr Sims said the ACCC also had serious concerns about arrangements between Telstra and NBN Co that included their ability to vary the arrangements without further scrutiny by the ACCC.
The discussion paper can be accessed at this PS News link and the consultation period closes on 27 September 2011.
The ACCC advised that it did not intend to issue a draft decision prior to finalising its position.
2 September, 2011
Handbooks dig into
A program led by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism has published 14 handbooks and a reference guide to promote sustainable development in the Australian mining industry.
The guide to the handbooks was produced by the Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program and launched by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson.
Mr Ferguson said the new guide raised the bar for sustainable mining both in Australia and overseas.
“As a world leader in resource development it is fitting that Australia is also at the forefront of developing best practice when it comes to mine sustainability,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The 14 handbooks produced to date have made a practical contribution to improving mining practices both here and around the world with over 100,000 copies being distributed to date.”
He said the handbooks had been translated and used as reference material in workshops and conferences as far afield as Afghanistan, Botswana, Ghana, Iceland, Iraq, Mongolia, Peru, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
“This latest publication, as with the earlier handbooks, integrates environmental, economic and social aspects through all phases of mineral production drawing on expertise from government, industry, academia and non-government organisations,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Environmental and social sustainability is key to achieving this and requires flexible and innovative leading practice.”
He said the LPSD Steering Committee, chaired by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, was responsible for the publications and the Committee had identified the 14 themes of each handbook to address different aspects of on-site mine management.
“The new guide is an important tool for implementing world’s best practice and demonstrates that Australia really does set the international benchmark on mine sustainability.”
He said the continued success of the mining industry depended on maintaining a social licence to operate.
The handbooks and guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 September, 2011
Reports cash in on
Four independent research reports on aspects of school funding in Australia, have been released as part of a major review.
The four reports cover existing models of funding, setting resource standards, targetting disadvantaged students and overall challenges and opportunities.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the reports had been released for public consultation by the panel conducting the Review of Funding for Schooling which is being chaired by businessman, David Gonski.
“Together, these reports point to current challenges and opportunities in the education system and look at potential future funding approaches,” Mr Garrett said.
“It should be stressed that these are independent reports – they do not represent the views of the panel and are not indicative of the Government’s intentions.”
He said each of the four reports examined schooling challenges and opportunities; existing funding models for schooling in Australia; the existing processes for targeting funding to disadvantaged students; and considered the feasibility of a schooling resource standard.
“These reports are important in continuing the conversation about Australian schooling,” he said.
“I encourage the community to have a say during the panel’s consultation process over the next month.”
Mr Garrett said he looked forward to seeing the Gonski Review’s report to Government which was due by the end of the year.
“The Government will wait to receive that advice from the expert panel before making any decisions on future directions,” he said.
Mr Garrett said no school would lose a dollar per student under any new funding arrangement.
He said current funding arrangements had been extended until the end of 2013 (2014 for capital funding) and the review panel would provide advice on any transitional arrangements considered necessary.
Submissions on the four reports will close on September 30 and more information is available at this PS News link.
2 September, 2011
Defence plan goes online
The full electronic version of the 2011 Public Defence Capability Plan (the DCP) has been released online.
The DCP provides information for the Defence industry on Defence’s planned capital equipment acquisitions and is the third full update of the plan since the 2009 Defence Capability Plan was released.
The latest update includes adjustments made since the second DCP update was released in December 2010 but a small number of projects are not included in the Public DCP due to their national security classification.
The Public DCP is available at this PS News link.
Homeless women project
A new project in Melbourne is to benefit 60 women who are experiencing homelessness due to family violence or mental illness.
The project will be delivered in the north and western metropolitan regions of the city, working with employers to provide placement, education and early intervention in the workplace.
The project is being supported from the innovation Fund.
Car safety comments called
A consultation process has begun for new vehicle safety standards.
The new standards include an assessment of the ISOFIX system for attaching child restraints to vehicles.
The system has been adopted in other parts of the world and the draft Regulation Impact Statement on its use in Australia also includes proposals to mandate seatbelt reminders for drivers in cars and to streamline regulation of vehicle safety standards to allow advanced safety technologies into the Australian marketplace more quickly.
For more information and to provide feedback on the ISOFIX proposal visit this PS News link.
Italian art on show
A new exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia has been announced.
Renaissance: 15th And 16th century Italian paintings from Accademia Carrara, Bergamo will be the first exhibition showing 15th century Italian paintings to come to Australia.
Overall, two centuries of paintings from Northern and Central Italy created during the Italian Renaissance will be on display during the exhibition which will open at the Gallery on 9 December 2011 and run to 9 April 2012.
Commission joins freight week
The National Transport Commission has announced it intends playing a role in Freight Week 2011 which runs next week from 5-9 September.
The NTC will sponsor the last day of the conference and participate in a number of the other days.
The NTC will also provide a number of presenters during the week including Chief Executive, Nick Dimopoulos; Commissioner, Frank Muller; and Senior Manager, Dr Jeff Potter.
Freight Week 2011 is hosted and organised by the Victorian Transport Association and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce and information is available at PS News link.
Companies line up to train
109 companies are to share in almost $14 million to create more than 4,000 training places to boost the skills of the Defence industry workforce.
This will include support for approximately 250 apprentices in trades like aerospace skills, engineering fabrication and electro technology.
The new initiative is part of the Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry program.
Reserves sign agreement
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed and agreed upon by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
The new MOU aims to support Queensland police officers who serve as ADF Reservists and strengthen the partnership between QPS and the ADF.
The signing in Queensland follows previous agreements in Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Houston voted top Dad
Retired Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal, Angus Houston, has been named Australian Father of the Year for 2011.
The honour was announced by the Australian Father’s Day Council and The Shepherd Centre and comes in recognition of the former Chief’s “ongoing commitment to his family and the wider community”.
Air Chief Marshal Houston retired in July this year and was Australia’s second longest serving Defence Force Chief.
Forum issues invitation list
The invitation list, program and facilitators for the Tax Forum to be held in Canberra on 4 and 5 October has been announced.
The Tax Forum will help identify priorities and directions to build on taxation reform and will be facilitated by media personalities Paul Clitheroe and Michael Pascoe.
The invitation list and program are available at the Tax Forum website and more information is available from this PS News link.
New speed cameras
Two new point-to-point cameras enforcing heavy vehicle speeding are now operational on the Hume Highway between Gundagai and Yass.
The cameras measure the time it takes a vehicle to travel between Gundagai and Coolac and Coolac and Yass on the Hume Highway, then calculate the vehicle’s average speed.
Speeding drivers will be penalised but there will be an initial warning period where warning letters instead of infringements will be issued and warning signs will also be posted.
Another 14 point-to-point enforcement areas are being developed.