SearchArchives for September 2012
28 September, 2012
The Minister for Finance has announced further spending restrictions on the Australian Public Service (APS) in an effort to save $550 million over the forward estimates.
more spending cuts
The Minister, Senator Penny Wong, said the money would come from pursuing further efficiencies in the way the APS operated, rather than targeting jobs.
“From this financial year, Departments will be required to find savings through a new, targeted savings arrangement that reduces expenditure in non-staffing areas,” Senator Wong said.
She said this would include:
* nearly $30 million per year through across-the-board reductions in air travel, including restrictions on business class flights;
* more than $60 million through reducing reliance on external consultants and contractors;
* $2 million per year through moving recruitment advertising online; and
* $6 million a year by reducing printing costs by approximately five per cent through greater reliance on publishing online.
“We will also be looking at further savings that build on these kinds of practical changes,” Senator Wong said.
“We expect to save more than $6 million per year in future years from moving publishing online and purchasing more services on a whole-of-government basis, leveraging our purchasing power.”
She said that more than $13 billion in public sector savings had already been achieved since the Government came to office.
“We will always find new ways of delivering essential Government services, while ensuring value for money to taxpayers,” she said.
Senator Wong said the Department of Defence had been excluded from this latest arrangement.
“It also does not apply to the Departments of the Senate or the House of Representatives, reflecting the importance of the Chamber Departments in the functioning of the Federal Parliament,” she said.
28 September, 2012
Gray dark on
A call for Public Services around the country to resume their central role in social management has been described as “ill-informed and inaccurate” by the Federal Minister for the Public Service, Gary Gray.
PS reform call
The call was made by the Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott and reported in PS News earlier this week.
Ms Westacott claimed that the independence of the Public Services was being undermined by a lack of tenure for Departmental Secretaries and an over-supply of Ministerial staff.
Mr Gray said Australia had a “world-class Public Service of integrity”.
“Ms Westacott will be pleased to learn that the House of Representatives, with bipartisan support, recently passed legislation that requires the appointment and termination of Departmental Secretaries by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister,” Mr Gray said.
“Under these amendments, Secretaries are to be employed for a term of five years unless they request otherwise.”
He said a code of conduct for Ministerial Staff, introduced in July, 2008, acknowledged that Ministerial staff did not have the power to direct APS employees and that APS employees were not subject to their direction.
Mr Gray said the code also recognised “that executive decisions were the preserve of Ministers and Public Servants and not Ministerial staff”.
He said the current Government employed 50 fewer Ministerial staff than the previous Government.
“Performance management has been a normal part of the Australian Public Service for more than a decade,” Mr Gray said.
“Improved productivity and performance has been required for improved pay and conditions since 1993.”
He said the Office of Best Practice Regulation in the Department of Finance and Deregulation ensured the efficiency and effectiveness of regulation and there was no ban on forced redundancies.
28 September, 2012
Walk-in plan for
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has launched a trial of innovative new recruitment practices that does away with traditional processes for attracting Public Service staff.
PS job selection
Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr said that as part of the trial, from 9 to 11 October, people in Alice Springs would have the opportunity to apply for currently vacant jobs at DHS, as well as positions that might open up over the next 12 months.
“The recruitment drive takes a simple approach,” Senator Carr said.
“A walk-in service to attract local people who have the life-experience and skills the Department is looking for.”
He said the trail would involve interested people attending two information sessions in which staff would explain the available job opportunities.
Senator Carr said the Department needed Customer Service Officers who could travel to remote Indigenous communities, and a smaller number to work in the Alice Springs Service Centre.
MP for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon said the purpose of the new approach was to get more local people employed.
“The Government is looking for people who are keen to deliver excellent customer service and enjoy travelling to regional and remote areas,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said the application process would involve completing an application form, a written exercise and an interview and would take no longer than an hour.
“There will be assessments for short and long-term opportunities that provide flexible working conditions, work-life balance and generous superannuation,” Mr Snowdon said.
28 September, 2012
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has released the results of opinion polling that reveals most Australians fear Public Service job cuts will lead to fewer Government services, increased unemployment and greater disadvantage for those in need.
According to the CPSU, the poll showed Australians understood the link between cutting public sector jobs and reductions in the quality of essential public services.
It said the research found that a clear majority of Australians thought that the rate of unemployment (61 per cent), delivery of public services (54 per cent) and the welfare of disadvantaged Australians (53 per cent) would get worse under the cuts.
Assistant National Secretary of the CPSU, Louise Persse said despite claims by State Governments that the cuts were necessary to balance Budgets, Australians remained sceptical, with 18 per cent believing the Budgets would improve, and 42 per cent saying they would get worse.
“The majority of Australians know that Public Servants provide essential services for the whole community,” Ms Persse said.
“They know that the Public Service cannot be used as an inexhaustible source of savings without compromising the quality of services.”
She said Federal Public Servants were already struggling to deal with a $2.4 billion Budget reduction and 4,200 job cuts caused by the Federal Government’s increased efficiency dividend.
“But the Coalition is threatening to make even bigger cuts, getting rid of at least 12,000 public sector jobs and slashing $50 billion to $70 billion in Government spending if it is elected,” Ms Persse said.
“It is impossible to implement cuts of this size without reducing services and damaging the long-term capacity of the Public Service,” she said.
28 September, 2012
Guidelines to guide
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has published a new Campaign Planning Guide to assist Departments and Agencies develop, implement and evaluate Government advertising campaigns.
The Department said the Guide has been designed as a useful reference tool for campaign managers and communications officers, but would also be valuable for Australian Public Service employees involved in a communications management, implementation or operational role.
It said the Guide explained five principles under which Government campaigns should be conducted.
* Campaigns should be relevant to Government responsibilities;
* Materials should be presented in an objective, fair and accessible manner;
* Materials should be objective and not directed at promoting party political interests;
* Campaigns should be justified and undertaken in an efficient, effective and relevant manner; and
* Campaigns must comply with legal requirements and procurement policies and procedures.
“While Ministers are responsible for authorising the development of a campaign and approving its launch, Chief Executives are ultimately responsible for ensuring that all information and advertising campaigns developed within their Agency comply with the guidelines,” the Guide says.
It said however that the Special Minister of State could exempt a campaign from compliance with the guidelines on the basis of a national emergency, extreme urgency or other compelling reason.
The Guide defines a campaign as “a series of communication activities that share common objectives, target the same audience and have specific timelines and a dedicated budget”.
It differentiates between information and advertising campaigns by the presence or absence of a paid media component.
“This is an important distinction because the requirements for campaign review and certification are determined by the value of the campaign and whether advertising will be undertaken,” the Guide says.
“Non-campaign advertising (including recruitment advertising for specific and general job vacancies) is not considered a campaign, so is not subject to the guidelines.”
The 81-page Campaign Planning Guide can be accessed at this PS News link.
28 September, 2012
New strategy aims
A plan to implement the latest stage of a national strategy to reduce violence against women and children has been published.
to fight violence
The strategy has the backing of all Australian Governments.
Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said it was the first of four three-year implementation plans that would deliver the 12-year National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
“This first implementation plan will assist the non-government sector to deliver improved services to reduce violence,” Ms Collins said.
“The plan in particular targets primary prevention, improving service delivery and building an evidence base.”
She said it sent a clear message about what Governments would do as key national priorities over the first three years of the national plan.
“An important step of this implementation plan is to generate discussion around violence against women, raise awareness and encourage communities to find local solutions to prevent violence,” Ms Collins said.
“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in three Australian women since the age of 15 has experienced physical violence and one in five has experienced sexual violence.
“This situation is unacceptable and must be changed.”
She said the Government had committed $86 million to national plan initiatives which included The Line social marketing campaign which encouraged young people to think about what was acceptable behaviour in a relationship; 1800RESPECT, the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling service; and 32 Respectful Relationship projects aimed at stopping violence from happening in the first place through education programs.
28 September, 2012
The first national survey of employment barriers faced by mature-age workers has been published.
the grey ceiling
Acting Prime Minister, Wayne Swan said there were up to 3.8 million mature-age Australians, many of whom still wanted to work and be part of the economy, but who were facing barriers to doing so.
“This survey will help us better understand barriers faced by mature-age Australians so that we can get more of them into work and tap into the valuable pool of mature workers who have so much experience and knowledge to contribute to our economy,” Mr Swan said.
Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis said the survey found that illness, injury and disability had prevented one-fifth of the population between ages 45 and 74 from working or looking for work in the past five years.
Ms Ellis said 36 per cent of job seekers said they had experienced exclusion while looking for a job in the past five years and attributed it to their age, while 83 per cent believed it to be an issue in Australia.
“The survey tells us that flexibility in the workplace – particularly for care givers and for people with an injury, disability or a health condition – is essential if we are to support mature-age workers,” Ms Ellis said.
The survey was managed by the National Seniors’ Productive Ageing Centre, with more than 3,000 respondents between 45 and 74 participating.
Mr Swan and Ms Ellis were speaking at the launch of the Corporate Champions seminar series, part of a Corporate Champions program.
The program supports employers who commit to best practice in the employment and retention of their mature-age workers (aged 45 and over).
MP for Petrie, Yvette D’ath said the program was about rewarding employers who committed to best practice in hiring and retaining mature-age workers.
She said a jobs bonus of $1,000 would be provided to employers who recruited an eligible mature age job seeker.
28 September, 2012
Mint gets kick out
The Royal Australian Mint and the Australian Football League (AFL) have cooperated in the release of an AFL Premiership Coin – believed to be a world first
of grand final
The release will include three types of limited-edition coins, all being legal tender, uncirculated and struck by the Mint.
According to the Chief Executive of the Royal Australian Mint, Ross MacDiarmid one of the coins would be a $1 base metal coin featuring the Premiership Cup and only 15,000 would be available via Australia Post.
The second would be a $1 base metal coin featuring the 2012 AFL Premiership winning team name and the Premiership Cup with 15,000 available from the winning club.
Finally there would be a $1 one-ounce silver proof coin with the 2012 AFL Premiership winning team and Premiership Cup, along with a replica premiership medallion and premiership cup in mahogany box.
Mr MacDiarmid said 5,000 would be available from selected retail outlets including the Mint.
Mr MacDiarmid joined the Chief Executive of the AFL, Andrew Demetriou to present one of the $1 Premiership Cup coins to the presidents of the two Grand Final teams for the toss to determine the home and away teams.
The coin will also be used at the official coin toss before the bounce in Saturday’s grand final.
Mr MacDiarmid, said the coins were understood to be the first of their kind.
“This is the first winning premiership or championship team to have their name appear on a coin, in any sport, in any country, anywhere around the world,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“We associate winning teams with celebration posters, tee shirts and caps, but now for the first time we will see a team commemorated on legal currency that can be passed on from generation to generation.”
28 September, 2012
And in other news...
The commencement date for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has been delayed.
Legislation setting up the Commission is before the Senate and not expected to be debated and voted on until October.
The ACNC was originally scheduled to begin activities on 1 October but will now commence shortly after the legislation passes.
Hospital raffle hits road
A 2012 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, valued at $47,278, has been donated to the Canberra Hospital as the prize in a raffle.
Only 1,000 tickets will be sold at $100 each with all proceeds going towards the outfit of a new Adolescents Room in the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.
The raffle will be drawn on 5 December.
Enquiries to (02) 6244 3542.
Stynes scholarships awarded
The inaugural recipients of the Jim Stynes Scholarship have been announced.
The scholarship is a partnership between the Federal Government and the Australian Football League to help disadvantaged children .
The first 11 recipients are Megan Allan, Sarah Allan and Jess Allan from Millicent, South Australia; Tayla Bresland from Dunsborough, Western Australia; Jarrod Pickett from Yangtebup, WA; Isaac Benjamin Heeney from Black Hill, NSW; Bohdi Walker from Sale, Victoria; Dwayne Wilson from Murray Bridge, South Australia; Duom Dawan from Wyndhamvale, Victoria; Jake Lever from Lancefield, Victoria; and Nakia Cockatoo from Darwin in the Northern Territory.
The scholarships recognise Jim Stynes’ contribution as a footballer, administrator, philanthropist, charity worker and writer.
Customs and US trade data
An agreement has been signed between the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement to increase trade data sharing.
The agreement will give Customs and Border Protection access to the US Data Analysis and Research for Trade Transparency System, containing domestic and foreign trade data.
This will assist Customs and Border Protection to identify international trade and financial irregularities including money laundering, customs fraud and the movement of counterfeit goods.
IMF ticks off economy
Australia’s fundamentals are strong and its outlook is bright, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says following a detailed study of the country’s economy.
The IMF highlighted the Australia’s impressive economic growth, low unemployment, contained inflation, healthy consumption and strong growth in business investment.
It said it expects GDP growth of 3.25 per cent this year, faster than every other major advanced economy.
Deluge of flood insurance
New data from the Insurance Council of Australia shows 78.1 per cent of home and contents insurance policies contain flood insurance.
This is a significant over recent years. In 2006 just three per cent of homes had this type of insurance.
The data shows that most insurers now offer flood cover as a standard policy inclusion.
DAFF warns on imports
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is reminding research institutions of the risks of importing biological products.
The warning follows the appearance of a university student in a Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with illegally importing goat serum.
The Department said animal serums represent a high biosecurity risk, including the possible introduction of foot and mouth disease.
Science signs up friends
A new group - Parliamentary Friends of Science - has been launched.
The group, which already has 50 members, will be non-partisan. It will provide a forum that allows dialogue and engagement between scientific leaders and parliamentarians and offers a way for parliamentarians to seek expertise from eminent scientists in relevant disciplines.
Gallery sends Ned overseas
The National Gallery of Australia is loaning the iconic Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.
The loan, from November to January 2013 follows several years of negotiation.
The series has strong links to Ireland. Ned Kelly’s parents were Irish Catholic. His father was transported from Ireland for the theft of two pigs, while his mother was an Irish migrant. Sidney Nolan also has Irish ancestry.
Defence deployed to House
Parliament House in Canberra was the scene for the deployment of 15 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel for the annual exchange activity as part of the ADF Parliamentary Program.
The group, hosted by Parliamentarians from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, was given the opportunity to see how Federal Parliament works.
The ADF representatives, of varying ranks, were selected from the three services.
Mint hosts coin seminar
The Royal Australian Mint was the host for a Coinage Seminar attended by representatives from Central Banks and Financial Departments of 10 Pacific Island nations.
The four-day seminar included sessions examining the future of coins in a changing world, features of a successful coinage system and what improvements could be made to existing coinage systems.
It was part of a two year working arrangement on coinage reform between the Mint and the island nations.
25 September, 2012
Business chief calls
The most powerful businesswoman in Australia became a fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) last week and delivered a forceful call for widespread reform of Public Services across the country.
for PS reform
Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia and a former State Public Servant in NSW and Victoria, called on the Public Service to regain its pivotal role in nation building and social management and wrest back control of the long-term national agenda from short-term politicians.
“Many modern politicians have lost sight of the fundamental role of the Public Service,” Ms Westacott told the IPAA International Congress in Melbourne.
“Custodianship of the long-term policy agenda has been eroded by short-term thinking.”
She outlined a number of concerns including a fear that the authority of the PS had been undermined by political ‘gatekeepers’ (i,e. Ministerial staffers), often with little expertise and no accountability and the necessary investment in capacity building, succession planning, technology and new ways of providing public services was absent.
“Because of this, the frustration from the lowest to the highest levels of seniority is palpable and the impact on Australia dangerously far reaching,” Ms Westacott said.
She said urgent improvements were needed in three areas - policymaking, decision-making, and the process for making rules and regulations.
“I believe we are at a crossroads in Australia when it comes to the future of the Civil Service.”
She said policymaking was a problem across Australia, as evidenced by policies “unravelling before our eyes” because the process was poor, the architecture wrong, the assumptions flawed, consultation disingenuous and the communication opaque
“The fiscal implications of these flawed processes are huge because complex things done badly, political reforms disguised as economic reforms, are hugely expensive.”
She said that while a high-performing Public Service was still answerable to its political masters, the policymaking process could and must transcend political cycles.
“It follows then that when policymaking is flawed, so is important public decision-making,” Ms Westacott said.
She said that Australians of the future, looking back at how tax-payers’ dollars were spent between 2005 and 2015 would ask: “have we got a high-speed train to anywhere? A different teaching and learning model in Australian schools? Have we resolved Sydney’s congestion problems? Are our ports and freight systems going to allow us to compete in the Asian Century?
“In each case, I fear the answer will be no,” she said.
Ms Westacott said good regulation played an important role in a modern economy, but it needed to be set according to sensible and transparent standards that clarified the parameters of the game and protected property rights, without restricting freedom.
“The Business Council does not believe that processes for rule-making in Australia are getting this balance right.”
She outlined five practical game-changers for restoring PS authority and legitimacy.
* The allocation of personal staffs in Ministerial offices should be halved;
* Tenure for Departmental Secretaries reinstated;
* The public sector should be smaller, more focused and more productive;
* Service delivery should be rethought, simple performance management systems introduced and the policy of no forced redundancy removed.
Above all, she said, Public Servants willing to innovate and take risks should be rewarded.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) was quick to respond to the comments with Acting National Secretary, Louise Perse rejecting that Ministerial staffers were political gatekeepers who undermined policy development in the PS.
“Ministerial staff play a crucial, co-operative role in Government,” Ms Perse said.
“They do great work engaging with industry, community and business representatives. They are across many complex problems and work incredibly long hours.”
Ms Westacott’s full speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
25 September, 2012
Federal moves to
An amendment to the Fair Work Act aimed at protecting the entitlements of State Public Servants threatened by State Government job cuts has been announced by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten.
save State rights
Mr Shorten said the amendment would change the transfer of business provisions in the Act to protect entitlements of former State PS employees where a State Government outsourced work or sold assets to private sector employers.
Mr Shorten said he was deeply concerned about recent announcements by State Governments to cut tens of thousands of Public Service jobs.
“This is of particular concern in Queensland with the Government’s announcement that it will cut the jobs of 14,000 public sector workers,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Queensland Government has already legislated to override employment security provisions and limitations on the use of contractors in State public sector agreements, paving the way for the outsourcing of public sector jobs.”
He said the assault on public sector entitlements was not confined to Queensland.
“We’ve seen 15,000 public sector workers in New South Wales who have been cut in two budgets, including the 800 workers in the TAFE sector.
“There are also some 5,500 public sector workers in Victoria who are facing the axe.”
Mr Shorten said the Act’s new provisions would protect employee entitlements where a business changed hands and the new employer employed the old employer’s workers to do the same job.
“Currently, these provisions only operate where both the old and new employers are covered by the national workplace relations system.
“State public sector workers should not be worse off as a result of State Governments outsourcing their jobs.”
He said he respected the rights of State and Territory Governments to conduct their affairs, but the Commonwealth must ensure employees were not disadvantaged.
Mr Shorten said he would be happy to work with State and Territory Ministers to get the protections right.
25 September, 2012
Departments shine in
The Departments of Human Services and Defence have featured prominently in the inaugural Comcare Work Health and Safety (WHS) Awards, taking three individual awards and an organisational honour from the seven presented.
The awards recognise excellence in work health and safety, rehabilitation and return to work achieved by employers and workers in the Comcare scheme.
Organisations under the Comcare health and safety jurisdiction, including all Public Service Agencies and private sector licensees, were eligible for the awards.
Megan Evans from the Department of Human Services for the Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety.
Ms Evans is a physiotherapist with a substantial body of work in occupational rehabilitation and injury prevention.
She joined the People Services Division of DHS as a Work Health and Safety Advisor in 2009and helped achieve significant change to the performance and culture in the Department.
The shift can be seen by the significant improvements in the Department’s injury prevention and management performance.
Jo Coleman, from the Department of Human Services was named Health and Safety Representative of the Year.
Ms Coleman is a Senior Participation Solutions Customer Service Advisor with DHS in Brisbane and was elected health and safety representative in 2011, supporting a site of two floors and three teams with 41 staff.
As a result of Ms Coleman’s work, health and safety are highly integrated into planning and management processes on site with the work group receiving excellent results at its 2012 external audit.
Debra Kelly of the Department of Human Services received the individual Rehabilitation and Return to Work Award.
Ms Kelly is a coordinator for the prevention of psychological injury, customer aggression, bullying and harassment, at DHS where she has worked for more than 20 years.
Part of her role is to respond to critical incidents such as customer aggression, which may affect numerous staff in the workplace.
She has demonstrated effective rehabilitation approaches to deal with critical incidents on many occasions and has significantly influenced the prevention and early intervention of psychological injuries, resulting in fewer claims and people staying at work with improved resilience.
The Australian Army 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment’s Casualty management was awarded the organisational award for Rehabilitation and Return to Work.
The Battalion is a motorised Infantry Battalion of 670 personnel and 120 bushmaster vehicles. It is responsible for the management, administration and rehabilitation of wounded, injured and ill personnel.
In October 2009the battalion formed Mentoring Task Force One in Afghanistan to look after the welfare of wounded or injured Australian soldiers.
While there, six soldiers were killed in action, 33 were battle casualties and 45 non-battle casualties.
The Commanding Officer facilitated the timely return to full duty of those who were medically fit as well as ensuring the those unit personnel no longer able to serve received the support they needed to transfer to another area or leave the Australian Defence Force.
25 September, 2012
Cloud Guide lifts
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released a final version of its Guide for implementing cloud services for Public Service Agencies.
cloud for Agencies
Acting First Assistant Secretary of Policy and Planning at AGIMO, Scott Wallace said the Guide was designed as an aid for experienced business strategists, architects, project managers, business analysts and IT staff to realise the benefits of cloud computing technology.
“It provides an overarching risk-based approach for Government Agencies to identify opportunities to use cloud computing and to implement cloud solutions,” Mr Wallace said.
“This guide complements the suite of better practice guides for cloud computing and provides Agencies with an understanding of the issues around considering and transitioning to cloud services.”
He said the Government’s policy on cloud computing was that Agencies could choose to use cloud computing services where they provided value for money and adequate security.
He said the Guide outlined considerations for Agencies to identify opportunities to benefit from cloud-based services, which they could incorporate into their ICT strategy.
He said key areas it covered included suitability to business needs, timing and triggers, financial impacts, organisational capability and governance.
The Guide also provides assistance with the implementation and development of a cloud solution project. Issues addressed include business analysis, risk management, business case development, procurement, solution implementation and transition to operation.
There is also a short list of post-implementation activities.
Attachments to the Guide include a checklist which follows the layout of the Guide and a business case template for cloud solutions.
The 30-page publication can be accessed at: this PS News link.
25 September, 2012
An audit of grants made under the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) has found the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport (Regional Australia) adopted many of the recommendations of previous investigations into grants programs and improved its program design and delivery arrangements accordingly.
on the money
In his report The Design and Conduct of the First Application Round for the Regional Development Australia Fund, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found Regional Australia’s management of the funding round to be overall effective.
“Overall, in assisting the Government to deliver on its commitment to establish a new regional grants program, Regional Australia’s management of the design and implementation of the first RDAF funding round was effective,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the object of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Department’s management of the first application round of the RDAF program in which nearly $150 million was awarded to 35 projects, mostly in regional Australia.
“Funding agreements have been signed in respect to each approved project, with these agreements specifying partner contributions to the projects totalling some $248 million.”
He said the design and implementation of the funding round also included improvements in briefing the Minister to inform his funding decisions.
“Eligibility and assessment criteria were developed, published and applied to inform the decision about which applications should be awarded funding.
“In addition, the Department provided all unsuccessful applicants with feedback on their applications.”
The Auditor-General said improvements in the quality of Regional Australia’s assessment work were also evident: “although there remains scope to improve the assessment of whether eligible applications represent value for money.”
He made three recommendations: that a rating scale for the merit assessment stage of future funding rounds be adopted; that the Department clearly outline the basis on which it has been assessed whether each application represents value for money; and that the Department improve its documentation provided to the Minister
The audit team was Tracey Bremner, Amy Willmott and Brian Boyd and the Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
25 September, 2012
Science Minister in
Four scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) have briefed the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, on developments in science and technology crucial to defence and national security.
Mr Snowdon, said he was pleased to hear of the excellent examples of how the continuing effort in defence science and technology were paying off.
“The work of the DSTO is crucial for our defence and national security, although not as widely recognised as it deserves to be,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Much of its success is in preventing loss, or lengthening service life, or in merging world-leading technologies with Australian Defence Force equipment.
“This is crucial work which enables us to get more than full value for our defence dollars.”
The scientists were Carl Mouser, Michael Beer, Lydia Byrne and Dr Sebastian Wong.
Aeronautical Engineer, Carl Mouser works in aircraft vibration and structural dynamics helping the Royal Australian Air Force stay in the air longer and fly safer.
Biological Scientist, Michael Beer has worked extensively in identifying microbial populations in wastewater treatment and is now contributing to the development of medical countermeasures to biological agents.
Systems researcher, Lydia Byrne studied mathematics and English literature and now works in information visualisation, situational awareness in teams and mathematical modelling. This work helps ensure Army, Navy and Air Force can conduct joint operations seamlessly.
Electro-optic Threat Warning Scientist, Sebastian Wong came to DSTO from industry and now leads Australia’s research effort into algorithms and architectures for electro-optic threat warning systems which are the key to providing early warning to Defence personnel.
Mr Snowdon said the range of expertise which DSTO can harness to deliver solutions for defence and national security was noteworthy.
“All Australians should be proud of our Defence Scientists working tirelessly behind the scenes to continually improve the Australian Defence Force,” Mr Snowdon said.
The meeting was part of the Science Meets Parliament event organised by Science and Technology Australia.
25 September, 2012
Business apps to
The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) has developed a suite of free iPad applications (apps) to assist business owners creating new businesses, marketing and emergency planning.
do the business
Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Senator Kate Lundy launched the apps at the FutureGov Summit in Canberra.
“By making planning templates available in a tablet app format, it will now be easier for businesses to create plans and update, share and store them online,” Senator Lundy said.
She said the two new apps, MyBizPlan and MarketMyBiz, provide interactive templates to guide businesses through the process of developing business and marketing plans.
An existing app, MyBizShield, has been updated in response to customer feedback to improve its usability and enable cloud storage.
“A look around any business office shows that owners and managers are embracing new technologies like tablets and smart phones,” Senator Lundy said.
“We recognise how important it is to keep pace with rapid technological change and provide information and tools in a way that helps business owners increase productivity.”
Executive Director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, Peter Strong welcomed the new tools.
“This technology is the way forward and the business.gov.au planning apps are a great way of helping small business owners take advantage of new technology to improve the way they operate,” Mr Strong said.
“Having your plan right there on your tablet device means you can refer to your planning information really quickly anywhere. It’s not sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere collecting dust.”
He said that as technology developed, apps would become commonplace for small businesses.
Senator Lundy said the apps are based on the popular business.gov.au business planning tools which earlier this year recorded over a million downloads.
She said Android versions of the business planning tools apps were currently being developed.
25 September, 2012
A report from the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters proposing reforms to the financial disclosure provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 has been delivered to the Government.
on election funding
Special Minister of State, Gary Gray said the Review of the AEC Analysis of the FWA Report on the HSU explored the Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) analysis of Fair Work Australia’s report into the activities of the Health Services Union National Office.
Mr Gray said the Joint Standing Committee made a number of recommendations which the Government would consider.
He said these included reducing the disclosure threshold from more than $12,100 for the 2012-2013 financial year to $1,000 and removing CPI indexation; introducing administrative penalties; clarifying the definition of an ‘associated entity’; imposing stronger penalties; and increasing the requency of disclosure reporting from annually to six-monthly.
In addition, the Committee recommended returns be required to be lodged electronically; that records relevant to disclosure be kept for seven years; a new offence of failing to create the records needed to enable complete and accurate disclosure be inserted into the Electoral Act; the disclosure period for new candidates be extended to 12 months; and to deem registered political parties to be bodies corporate.
Mr Gray said this last recommendation was significant.
“It will shift the focus of prosecution and financial responsibility from the individual to the political party,” Mr Gray said.
“Ultimately, political parties must be responsible for meeting their reporting obligations.”
He said effective compliance and enforcement mechanisms were essential if the disclosure arrangements were to serve their purpose of enabling Australian electors to see the flow of money through the political system.
“It needs to be made clear what steps the AEC can take to gather information from individuals and organisations with confirmed, or suspected, reporting obligations under the Electoral Act,” the Minister said.
“This may require clarifying, or strengthening, coercive powers in the Electoral Act.”
He said the Committee did not support some possible measures including the abolition of associated entities and the introduction of a requirement for dedicated campaign accounts.
In thanking the Joint Standing Committee, Mr Gray said the Government remained committed to reforms that would increase transparency and accountability of the electoral process.
The Committee’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
25 September, 2012
Water plan puts
An environmental watering plan for the Murray-Darling Basin has been released by the Minister for Water, Tony Burke.
more in basin
Mr Burke said the plan takes a strategic approach to ensure the water it provides benefits the areas that need it most.
Mr Burke said environmental watering was designed to support the Basin’s rivers and wetlands, some of international importance, which provided breeding sites and habitat for water birds and migratory birds.
“Smart use of environmental water is the cornerstone of Basin reform,” Mr Burke said.
“Later this year we will have a Murray Darling Basin Plan that sets down the full level of ambition for Basin reform, but the work towards it has already begun.”
He said decisions on environmental watering would be made throughout the year depending on seasonal, operational and management conditions at the time.
“For some parts of the Basin, river flows will be increased to mimic more natural flows to support the wetlands, riverbanks and floodplains,’’ he said.
“In some cases, the decision will be made not to provide water to sites if they require a natural drying phase.”
He said water would also be pumped to high priority wetland sites to support salinity management and benefit native fish.
“Increased flows are planned for the Lower Lakes in South Australia to enable continuous barrage outflows throughout the year to support the transportation and export of salt and nutrients through the Murray mouth,” he said.
“These barrage outflows will also provide additional inflows to the Ramsar listed Coorong to support the required salinity and seasonal water levels for native plants particularly over summer.”
25 September, 2012
Defence takes aim
The importance of social support for the families of troops deployed overseas has been revealed in a new report by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
at family support
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the Timor-Leste Family Study investigated the effects of the deployment to East Timor on the health and wellbeing of the families of Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel.
“We know that when a member of the ADF is deployed in overseas operations there is an impact on family life and for some families this presents its challenges,” Mr Snowdon said.
“While families cope with deployment in different ways, and indeed some families are faced with multiple deployments, the study showed the importance of partners and children staying connected with their community and family while their loved one is on operations.”
He said the study showed partners who had more support experienced better mental health, lower psychological distress and fewer behavioural issues with their children.
Mr Snowdon said that in general, the study also revealed positive results for families and few differences in the impact of service on the families of those who deployed to East Timor when compared with families of ADF personnel who did not serve overseas during this period.
“In terms of the mental health of family members, it showed some evidence that the mental health of the serving members can affect the mental health of partners and the emotional and behavioural health of children,” he said.
He said the Timor-Leste Family Study, which began in 2009, would help the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Defence understand better the impact of deployment on families and which support services would best help them.
The Minister said the study was part of a continuing Family Study Program to assess the impact of service on the health and welfare of Defence families.
25 September, 2012
Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) have successfully flown an experimental hypersonic vehicle at the Andoya Rocket Range in Norway.
reach for the sky
The test vehicle reached a maximum height of 350 kilometres and achieved speeds of up to Mach 8 on descent in the experimental band which was from 20.5 km to 32 km in altitude. All sensor and telemetry systems worked perfectly.
The scientists believe the launch could be a major step forward in the quest for hypersonic flight.
The experimental flight was undertaken as part of a joint research program, Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE), being conducted by DSTO and the United States Air Force Research Laboratory.
The program is aimed at exploring the fundamental technologies critical to the realisation of sustained hypersonic flight.
This latest launch was the fifth in a series of up to nine planned experimental flights being conducted as part of the HIFiRE program.
The HIFiRE team is to be presented with the von Karman Award for International Co-operation in Aeronautics at the International Council for the Aeronautic Sciences Congress in Brisbane.
DSTO is part of Australia’s Department of Defence. Its role is to ensure the expert, impartial and innovative application of science and technology to the defence of Australia and its national interests.
25 September, 2012
Coast care book
Scientists at the CSIRO have contributed to a new book, Sustainable Coastal Management and Climate Adaptation: Global Lessons from Regional Approaches in Australia.
The book aims to improve the management of Australia’s coastline which, in the past, has met with limited success.
Acting Science Director at CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Andreas Schiller said that in some cases past coastal management decisions had made problems worse.
“Australia’s coast is shaped by severe events such as cyclones and floods, and climate change is increasing their number and intensity,” Dr Schiller said.
“This book examines past, present and possible future coastal management and research, based on real cases.”
He said it explored the evolution of coastal management in Australia and provided critical insights into contemporary experience and understanding.
“Our coastal populations are growing and with this comes increasing social, environmental and economic vulnerability,” Dr Schiller said.
“The book draws on contemporary theory and lessons from case examples to highlight the roles of research and community engagement in coastal management.”
He said it concluded with a chapter of recommendations, which could help guide coastal management and research around the world.
The book is produced by the Coastal Collaboration Cluster, which includes researchers from CSIRO, Curtin University of Technology, Deakin University, Flinders University, the University of Adelaide, University of the Sunshine Coast, University of Tasmania and University of Wollongong.
25 September, 2012
Public feedback is being sought on proposed changes to Native Title laws.
Announcing the reforms, Attorney General, Nicola Roxon said the changes were aimed at improving the operation of Native Title by encouraging flexibility in claims resolution and improving the quality of Native Title agreement-making.
“The Bill also aims to promote sustainable economic outcomes for Indigenous communities by enabling them to unlock the economic potential of their native title,” Ms Roxon said.
“Twenty years on from Mabo, the Government is working with stakeholders to ensure a sustainable and fair native title system that creates economic and social opportunities for Indigenous Australians for years to come.”
She said extensive consultations had been undertaken on the development of the Bill and led to a number of changes in the drafting process following feedback from stakeholders during the consultation period.
The Native Title Amendment Bill 2012 makes amendments to the Native Title Act 1993 which will clarify the requirement to negotiate in ‘good faith’; enable parties to agree to disregard historical extinguishment of native title in areas such as parks and reserves, and streamline processes for Indigenous Land Use Agreements.
Information on the exposure draft and the consultation process can be obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department’s website, at this PS News link and comments will be received until Friday 19 October.
21 September, 2012
New law cracks down
Tough new laws to crack down on corruption in the Australian public sector have been introduced into Federal Parliament.
on PS corruption
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the laws were designed to make Commonwealth law enforcement agencies more “corruption resistant.”
“The vast majority of law enforcement officers are good, honest and hardworking people but the nature of their work makes them a target for organised criminals,” Mr Clare said.
“There is no place for corruption in the public sector. Where we find it, we have to weed it out.”
He said the new law would give law enforcement agencies more power to prevent corruption as well as more tools and measures to get rid of it where they found it.
He said the new Law Enforcement Integrity Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 focussed on three key measures: - Integrity testing; testing more agencies; and Stronger powers for the Chief Executive of Customs.
“Targeted integrity testing will be introduced for Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (Customs),” Mr Clare said.
He said this would involve covert operations in which officers would be tested for their response to simulated or controlled situations.
He said examples could include leaving valuable goods alone to test whether an officer stole them or adding false information to a database to catch a person unlawfully disclosing information.
“Integrity testing is a powerful tool that puts fear in the mind of the corrupt,” Mr Clare said.
“These laws mean that the next time an officer takes a bribe from a criminal, that criminal could be an undercover police officer.”
He said the new law also increased the number of agencies to be overseen by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI).
He said ACLEI currently oversights the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and Customs but would extend its powers to the Australian Transactions Reporting and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), CrimTrac and prescribed staff in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Finally, Mr Clare said that among the extra powers for the Chief Executive of Customs would be the ability to authorise drug and alcohol testing; terminate an employee for serious misconduct; and require staff members to report any suspected misconduct.
21 September, 2012
Shorten sweet on
The Minister for Employment, Bill Shorten has spoken out in support of public sector employees facing cutbacks and job losses in almost all jurisdictions around Australia.
Mr Shorten said his political party, the ALP, would always support the hard work of the 1.8 million Australians who work in public service.
“Without our public sector workforce and the hard work they do, Australia would not be as modern, would not be as fair, would not be as safe, well governed and would not be as compassionate,” Mr Shorten said.
He said his party respected and appreciated the work of Federal, State and Local Government workers and recognised their delivery of services, trenchant analysis, advice and their emotional and physical care.
He said it was important to recognise that 80,000 members of the public sector were being demonised and put squarely in the path of the some Governments’ “swinging axe.”
He said politicians on the other side of his politics looked at workers in the public sector and saw targets on spreadsheets.
“(They) don’t see people with jobs providing vital services,” he said.
“They have this week treated these, their fellow Australians, with disrespect and contempt.”
Mr Shorten said the NSW Government had cut 15,000 Public Service positions in the past two Budgets; the Victorian Government had 5,500 public sector employees facing the axe; the South Australian Opposition had announced plans to cut 25,000; and 14,000 were to go in Queensland including teachers, nurses and community workers.
He said when added to the 20,000 job losses threatened by the Federal Opposition, the entire national total from lost PS jobs was 79,500.
He accused the Governments of sacking important people and slashing important programs.
21 September, 2012
Public administrators and academics have been honoured in Melbourne at the 2012 Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) National Awards.
The Awards were presented in conjunction with the IPAA 2012 International Congress.
Newly elected National President of IPAA, Terry Moran said the awards were to acknowledge individuals from across the country who had made outstanding contributions to public administration.
Among those honoured were the former Deputy APS Commissioner Carmel Macgregor; Secretary of Immigration and Citizenship, Andrew Metcalfe; Secretary of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Peter Harris; and Assistant Secretary of the COAG Deregulation Branch at Finance, Nadine Williams.
“We are very fortunate to have such talented, dedicated and highly professional public administrators at all levels of government,” Mr Moran said, “and IPAA, as the professional association of the public sector, is proud to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements in this way.
He said to become a National Fellow of the Institute is the highest honour for IPAA members.
He named the 2012 IPAA National Fellows as Carmel McGregor and Andrew Metcalfe from the Australian Capital Territory; Donna Rygate, JenniferWestacott and Nazha Saad from New South Wales; Fran Thorn and Peter Harris from Victoria; Barry Dunphy of Queensland; Professor Ian Thynne of the Northern Territory; Mike Blake from Tasmania; John Comrie from South Australia; and Dr Peter Wilkins and Grahame Searle from Western Australia.
The 2012 recipients join a pre-eminent group of leaders from across jurisdictions and agencies, who capably demonstrate the qualities and attributes required of their profession,” Mr Moran said.
“These individuals have also actively contributed to the work of the Institute.”
Other awards presented at the IPAA National Awards Ceremony included the Sam
Richardson Award for the most influential article published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration (AJPA), and the IPAA Young Public Sector Leader Award.
Catherine Althaus took out the Sam Richardson award for her AJPA article Assessing the Capacity to Deliver – The BER Experience and NadineWilliams, Coan Harvey and Cheryl George received the IPAA Young Public Sector Leader award which recognised the achievements of outstanding public servants under 40 who had just completed the Executive Master of Public Administration program.
21 September, 2012
Moran takes reins
The former head of the Federal Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, Terry Moran, has been appointed national President of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA).
at PS institute
Outgoing President Percy Allan welcomed the appointment, highlighting Mr Moran’s record of significant achievement at both State and Commonwealth levels over more than 20 years.
“Terry held the most senior position in the Australian Public Service from 2008 to 2011 as Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet,” Mr Allan said.
“He oversaw work on national and international policy, negotiated major reforms through the Council of Australian Governments, and helped lead the development of Australia’s response to the global financial crisis in 2008-09.”
Mr Moran in currently the Chair of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority, a Special Adviser on Public Sector Reform at the Boston Consulting Group, a member of the Grattan Institute Board (and Chair of its Public Policy Committee), Cranlana Program Board and Nexus Primary Care Board, and is a governor of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.
Mr Moran said he was pleased to be appointed to the Institute’s national presidency and thanked Mr Allan for his dedication in the role over the previous two years.
“Australia has internationally well-regarded public services which have been a significant part of the transformation of Australia’s economy and society over the last three decades,” Mr Moran said.
“The integrity of our public services is also admired in the developed world and is a source of national strength.”
Mr Moran said he saw IPAA playing an increasingly important role in helping public administrators manage for today, while preparing themselves, and the programs and services they deliver, for a very different future.
“There are many talented people in the public sector making big contributions to prepare Australia for change and reform,” Mr Moran said.
“I am pleased to have been part of that and am committed to increasing awareness about the Institute and the role it can play in helping public administrators improve their ability to meet the increasingly complex challenges they face.”
Sian Leathem has been appointed as IPAA Deputy President (Events) and Kevin Riley as Treasurer.
More information can be accessed at this PS News link.
21 September, 2012
Reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 that afford better protection for people’s personal information, simplify credit reporting arrangements and strengthen the powers of the Privacy Commissioner have been passed by the House of Representatives.
out in the open
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said Australians were sharing their personal information more than ever before by paying bills online, buying products on the web and connecting with friends and family through social media.
“Both consumers and Governments have a role to play to protect privacy,” Ms Roxon said.
“These new privacy laws focus on giving power back to consumers over how organisations use their personal information.”
She said among the reforms were more power to consumers to access and, if necessary, correct their credit rating reports.
She said other changes included clearer and tighter regulation of the use of personal information for direct marketing; a more up-to-date and modern credit reporting system; easier access for consumers to correct information held about them; tighter rules on sending personal information outside Australia; and a higher standard of protection for “sensitive information” such as health, DNA and biometric data.
Ms Roxon said the reforms also boosted the powers of the Privacy Commissioner to resolve complaints, conduct investigations and promote privacy compliance.
She said the Commissioner would be able to apply to a court for penalties when organisations breached credit reporting rules.
She said the proposed changes would now go to the Senate where they were already being considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.
21 September, 2012
Blood Authority pumps
The National Blood Authority has issued new Patient Blood Management Guidelines.
The new Guidelines are patient-focused and part of a nationally coordinated approach towards patient blood management.
They aim to reduce inappropriate transfusions and deliver better outcomes for patients.
General Manager of the National Blood Authority, Leigh McJames, said that while blood transfusions were a recognised life-saving part of medical treatment, they could also be associated with adverse events and poorer outcomes for some patient groups.
“These Guidelines provide healthcare professionals with the latest evidence-based approach to managing patients to minimise unnecessary exposure to transfusions where possible and deliver better outcomes for patients,” Mr McJames said.
He said the Guidelines had been developed by experts from clinical speciality colleges, societies and consumer representatives working with the NBA.
The first three modules to be released were (1) Critical Bleeding/Massive Transfusion; (2) Perioperative; and (3) Medical.
He said the first module dealing with Critical Bleeding/Massive Transfusion, provided support for healthcare professionals managing patients with critical bleeding requiring massive transfusion.
He said the second module – Perioperative – offered guidance on patient blood management prior to, during and after surgery.
“The third module, Medical, focuses on patients with acute or chronic medical conditions requiring ongoing treatment with blood and/or blood products,” Mr McJames said.
He said when complete, the Guidelines would be made up of six modules with the fourth, focussing on critical care expected to be published in early 2013 and the obstetrics and paediatrics/neonates modules to follow.
Chair of the reference group responsible for preparing the perioperative module, Associate Professor Larry McNicol,said “patients awaiting elective surgery, especially where blood loss is anticipated, should have investigations for iron deficiency and anaemia which, if found, should be corrected prior to surgery.
“Patients who are better prepared for surgery have better recovery rates, so we know that following these guidelines will result in better patient care,” Professor McNicol said.
He said the patient-focused approach to blood management had already been tested in Western Australia where the use of blood transfusions per 1,000 of the population fell from 30.5 in 2007-08 to 27.5in 2011-12.
The guidelines are available free of charge from the National Blood Authority’s website this PS News link.
21 September, 2012
The Australian and New Zealand Governments have agreed to share their intelligence about the top criminal targets in both their countries.
to share intelligence
A Memorandum of Understanding giving effect to the agreement is to be signed later this year by the Australian Crime Commission and New Zealand Police.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the key to catching serious organised criminals was intelligence.
“Many of the major criminals who target Australia also target New Zealand,” Mr Clare said.
“It is therefore essential that we share our intelligence holdings on these crooks.”
He said that earlier this year, law enforcement officials from the “Five Eyes” countries – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – met in Canada as the Strategic Alliance Group.
“At this meeting they shared information on their top criminal targets,” he said.
“What this showed is that in many cases they are hunting the same criminals and the same organisations.”
Mr Clare said serious organised crime was now a multinational business.
“We have to work together to target them, disrupt them and hunt them down,” he said.
The international agreement has been endorsed by the Board of the Australian Crime Commission which includes Police Commissioners from all across Australia.
21 September, 2012
Minister rings bell
The Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management, Nicola Roxon has used the Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Week to encourage Australians to get ready for the coming summer disaster season.
“The devastation and disruption caused by natural disasters is well known to all of us,” Ms Roxon said, “yet new research commissioned by the Red Cross shows only one in five Australians is prepared.”
She said while disasters can be unpredictable, we can all be better prepared.
“So, this disaster season, be ready, be smart by preparing today.”
Ms Roxon said Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Week provided an excellent opportunity for people to think about what they needed to do to get ready for the bushfires, floods, cyclones and other disasters that regularly struck Australian communities.
“Preparing a plan and discussing it with family, friends and neighbours is the best way to secure your safety and wellbeing when a disaster strikes,” she said.
“It’s also important to get to know your local community. Do you know of your local emergency telephone numbers? Do you know what the evacuation plan is for your children’s school?”
She said preparing an emergency kit was also a good idea, including items like food and water, a battery-operated radio, torch, first aid kit and medication supplies.
“Other good items to include in a household emergency kit include copies of important family documents, contact details for your agreed out-of-town contact and spare clothes and strong shoes.”
Ms Roxon said the Government’s Preparing for the Unexpected brochure and the Red Cross’s Emergency REDiPlan were both good resources to help getting ready for disaster season.
21 September, 2012
And in other news...
ICT finalists named
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has announced the finalists of the 2012 ICT Young Professional of the Year Award.
The award recognises ICT professionals working in Australian Government agencies 35 years of age or under.
The finalists are (in alphabetical order):
* Christopher Giffard, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Canberra;
* Lachlan McFarlane, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Canberra; and
* Mike Webb, Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
The winner will be announced on Monday 8 October.
DBCDE launches blog
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has launched an interactive blog to provide an informal way for industry and the general public to make submissions, put forward ideas, raise spectrum issues and discuss important spectrum policy matters.
The Department’s Spectrum Square can be visited at this PS News link.
ACMA advises on trolling
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has formulated a set of actions to help children and young people protect themselves and others against the effects of trolling.
ACMA’s Cybersmart program includes advice such as ignoring the troll, blocking and reporting it, and talking to friends and family about it.
More information is available from the Cybersmart Online Helpline at this PS News link or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
Input call into skills shortages
The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency is carrying out its annual update of the Skilled Occupation List, to present to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
The list identifies eligible occupations for migration under the Skilled Independent stream of the Department’s skilled migration program.
The Agency is asking for input and evidence from stakeholders and submissions can be lodged until 16 November 2012.
ASIC publishes sheet
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has published an information sheet on its review of external administrators’ and registered liquidators’ compliance with their obligations to prepare audited financial reports for public companies and to lodge them with ASIC.
The information sheet covers, among other things, ASIC’s review of lodgements of audited financial reports, revealing an unacceptably high level of non-compliance with reporting obligations by insolvent public companies, and the relief granted by ASIC to companies in external administration from some reporting obligations.
18 September, 2012
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) is conducting its first Public Sector Innovation Survey.
is new idea for PS
This pilot survey is designed to examine innovation within the Australian Public Service (APS) and the factors contributing to its success or failure.
Over 470 invitations to take part in the survey were sent to SES officers in 83 agencies during August.
The online questionnaire posed a series of innovation-specific questions relating to the branch or work units the officers were responsible for.
According to information from Innovation the data from the pilot survey would help build a picture of the extent of innovation across the APS.
“In particular, agency-specific data will assist Agencies in assessing their innovation performance and capacity.”
The survey is to be supplemented by innovation data obtained from the State of the Service Reports prepared by the APSC.
The survey forms part of the Australian Public Sector Innovation Indicators (APSII) Project, which began in early 2011.
The project is a collaborative effort between the Australian Public Service Commission, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Innovation Research Centre and the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
The outcomes of the APSII Project are expected to be of interest to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is currently examining public sector innovation.
Information about the Innovation in the APS or the survey can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
The Institute of Public Administration Australia is holding its 2012 International Congress in Melbourne.
attracts a crowd
Starting today (18 September) and continuing until Thursday, more than 800 public administrators and academics from across Australia and overseas are attending to explore the theme: “Valuing Public Administration.’
A series of festival-style events will be open to the general public during the Congress.
According to the National President of the IPAA, Percy Allan, if it was done well, public administration created value by helping to create a more prosperous, cohesive, engaged and developed Australia.
“Done poorly, it undermines public confidence in government and impedes economic growth and social development,” Mr Allan said.
He said two free events would be open to the public:
In the competition, advertising agencies will battle it out to see who can best sell the value of public servants (4pm Thursday 20 September at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre).
- An exhibition by Dutch photographer Jan Banning (on display in the foyer of 1 Spring Street Melbourne until 22 September); and
- The Great IPAA Congress Value Proposition Challenge where a “Gruen Transfer” style of competition will take place.
Chair of the Congress Working Group, David Hanna, said, the theme “Valuing Public Administration” had guided the Group to develop streams addressing how the external world valued and viewed public administration, how public administration currently performed in delivering value to the taxpayer, and new ways of working that could generate extra value at a time of growing expectations and shrinking budgets.’
Speakers at the Congress include former Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Victorian Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Terry Moran; author of The Thick of It and The Veep, Armando Iannucci; former UN Under-Secretary-General Dr Shashi Tharoor; and former President of the American Society for Public Administration, Professor Paul Posner.
More information about the Congress can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
The Department of Human Services is to pay child support more quickly.
get new life
According to the Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr, the Department helped about 1.4 million separated parents to transfer child support for their children with almost 45 per cent paying child support through the Department rather than managing it themselves
“As of today, we are improving the way we support these parents by passing on payments soon after the due date,” Senator Carr said.
He said many parents and guardians who received child support through the Department would now receive payments from the eighth of each month onwards instead of the third Wednesday of each month.
“Paying child support more quickly to the receiving parent or guardian will reduce the need for emergency requests and help families with cash-flow,” Senator Carr said.
He said if child support was being deducted directly from a wage or salary then some parents or guardians might continue to receive lump-sum child support payments on the third Wednesday of the month.
“The majority of separated parents registered with the Department prefer to manage the transfer of child support themselves because it is more flexible.”
He said if a parent paid child support through the Department it was important it be paid in full by the seventh of each month.
It was also important to keep the Department up-to-date with changes in employment, contact details and care arrangements.
18 September, 2012
Health survey is
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has begun its largest-ever survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health to gain more knowledge about health issues affecting Indigenous Australians.
The survey will gather information on exercise and diet (including bush foods) and will measure levels of cholesterol, blood glucose and iron.
According to the ABS, it will be the first time it has examined nutritional status and chronic disease, and would directly measure obesity and blood pressure levels.
The survey will include 30 per cent more participants than its 2004-05 equivalent.
The ABS said it hoped that by combining the self-reported information with the biomedical samples it would lead to a more complete picture of the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The survey will also provide information about the level of undiagnosed conditions such as diabetes.
Former Olympic athlete Cathy Freeman has encouraged people to get involved in the survey.
“You will be helping your family, your community, and future generations to live longer healthier lives,” Ms Freeman said.
The survey will be conducted over 2012-13 across Australia in cities and remote communities.
The ABS expects the information gathered will help to measure progress in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and contribute to closing the gap in life expectancy between indigenous people and the broader community.
The first survey results will be available in September 2013 and would be used by a range of Aboriginal organisations, health researchers, public health advocates, government, clinicians and community health organisations.
Further information is available on the ABS website at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
DEEWR sports stars
With the London Olympic Games over, staff from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) are helping to discover and develop the sporting champions of the future.
lead by example
Spokesperson for DEEWR, Tim Pigot, said the Department was proud of the commitment of staff to sporting achievement and their recognition that it provided many health and social benefits.
“We have a great bunch of high-achieving athletes that work for us, many [of whom] have competed at high levels in a wide variety of sports, including marathon running, rugby league, touch football, AFL, basketball and even bodybuilding.”
He said Departmental staff oversaw a range of programs aimed at encouraging children into sport, including the Active After-school Communities program, and the Sporting Chance Program, aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys and girls, he said.
He said DEEWR also provided funding for 59 school-based sports academies in 2102, supporting about 5,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary school students, including some in remote locations at risk of not completing their schooling.
Mr Pigot said that among the DEEWR staff who could boast of sporting achievements were:
- Kellie Henning: Assistant Director of Ministerials and Briefs who has played basketball at national and international levels and is the Canberra Capitals most capped player.
- Matthew McLay: Website Publishing Manager who has played rugby league for 20 years, representing teams including NSW, West Tigers and the Canberra Raiders.
- Michael Thompson: Design Studio Manager who runs ultra-marathons and trains from 110km to150km per week.
- Helen Willoughby: Group Manager who has completed three marathons, including the test event for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
- Michael Wells: Assistant Director, Parliamentary Coordination who has played 285 games at the highest level of baseball in Australia including three representative tours to Europe.
- Richard Haureliuk: Director of Website Management who has a brown belt in karate.
- Mel Beban: Website Publisher who played women’s soccer at Division 1 level.
- Martin Casey: Web team member who has played first-grade rugby.
- Jim Rice: Risk and Program Assurance Officer, who has represented the ACT at the Australian Country Championships.
18 September, 2012
The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has released its Summary Report for the 2012 NAPLAN tests (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy).
passes the test
The Report reveals that about 92 per cent of the million or so Australian students who took part in testing this year were at or above national minimum standards.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, said the Report revealed some good signs of progress in a number of areas.
“Year 3 students are performing particularly well, with statistically significant improvements in reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation between 2008 and 2012,” Mr Garrett said.
He said while there were statistically significant improvements in Year 3, 5 and 7 spelling, and Year 7 grammar and punctuation, the Report also showed decreases in some areas, including writing across most year groups.
He said preliminary results showed Australia’s overall school performance had remained steady since 2008, but “there is a long way to go in meeting the national goal of reaching the world’s top five by 2025 in maths, reading and science and for equity in school performance.’
Mr Garrett said the National Plan for School Improvement aimed to address the 2025 goal by raising teaching standards and devolving more power to school principals.
He said the Report also showed that NSW, Victoria and the ACT produced the highest results across all year levels and areas tested for the fourth consecutive year, with the ACT delivering the highest mean scale score for reading, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy at all year levels.
The Minister said Year 9 results had been stable in all test subjects since 2008 however, indicating a possible need for a stronger focus on the core skills of early secondary year students.
The Summary Report and more information about the tests can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
ASIC does business
on business names
Tens of thousands of applications have been received by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for its new National Business Names Registration system.
The new system replaced eight individual State registers and according to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll was costing businesses who used the service up to 90 per cent less to operate nationwide.
“The new National Business Names Register makes it easier and less costly for businesses to set up and operate across State and Territory borders,” Mr Ripoll said.
He said ASIC had assumed responsibility for the administration of business names from the States and Territories on 28 May this year.
He said the Agency had received 75,000 registration applications since 28 May, approximately 5,000 per week, with 100% of them submitted online.
“The new system provides a valuable online service for businesses seeking to register an available name, which means that this service can be accessed at times that suit business owners,” Mr Ripoll said.
The cost to register a business name nationally for three years in the new system has been cut to $70, compared with more than $1,000 under the old system.
He said the number of calls to ASIC had been more than expected with some people experiencing frustration.
“ASIC has taken a number of steps to address these issues, including establishing an extra 30 phone lines, training an additional 40 staff members and revising the queuing and automated messages that direct people to the relevant information on the website,” he said.
18 September, 2012
New hearing program
A new online program has been launched for people with acquired hearing loss as a possible alternative to using hearing aids.
to make big noise
The free program was developed at the School of Sociology in the Australian National University’s College of Arts and Social Sciences in Canberra.
Dr Anthony Hogan from the School created the Easier Listening program in association with Hearservice, a division of the Victorian Deaf Society.
“Easier Listening is a way of helping people manage their hearing problems by providing them with easy lifestyle alternatives,” Dr Hogan said.
“Everyone thinks that hearing loss equals hearing aids, but it doesn’t have to.
“If you had high cholesterol, before you started taking medication, you’d start doing some behavioural and lifestyle changes.
“Why should hearing loss be any different?” he asked.
After logging on to the Easier Listening website, people work through a number of problem-based exercises aimed at teaching basic strategies to implement in everyday life.
“We want to get people more aware of how hearing loss affects them on a day-to-day basis and then give them some really practical strategies on how they might manage those everyday problems,” Dr Hogan said.
Big enemies with hearing loss, according to Dr Hogan, are things like background noise.
He suggested that when going to cafes and restaurants for example, people could choose places that were quieter, such as those with carpet or soft furnishings.
“Also, when you’re sitting somewhere, don’t be looking at the light,” he said.
“You probably don’t think you can lip-read, but you’d be surprised how much you can pick up when you can actually see people’s faces.”
Information about the Easier Listening program can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
Some of the highest wages for tertiary-educated people are to be found in Australia, according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
out on top
The Education at a Glance 2012 report shows that university graduates in Australia are ranked sixth highest out of the 34 OECD countries in respect of the level of salaries earned after graduating.
“The OECD report also shows that graduates in Australia will earn 45 per cent more than someone that does not hold a post-school qualification,” the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, said.
“This proves that having a higher education really does pay.”
Senator Evans said the OECD report emphasised the importance to the economy of increasing the size and quality of the higher education sector.
He said it revealed that over the past 10 years, more than half the GDP growth in OECD countries was related to income growth within the tertiary-educated population.
“The higher education sector will play an increasingly important role in the growth and prosperity of the Australian economy,” Senator Evans said.
“The most important thing a government can do to boost productivity and economic growth is to ensure the economy has a high skilled and innovative workforce.
“It is an economic imperative that we tap into the talent and ambition of more Australians to ensure industry has access to the skilled workers it needs and to boost productivity,” he said.
18 September, 2012
With the tenth anniversary of the Bali bombing in sight, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has taken the opportunity to call for increased community vigilance about the risks of chemicals and the need to prevent them from being used for the terrorism.
faces acid test
“The reality is that certain everyday chemicals used in the garden, for the family pool, at the hairdresser or on the farm, in the wrong hands, can be used in terrorist attacks,” Ms Roxon said.
“We need the community, and retailers of chemicals, to report suspicious behaviour or unusual activity.”
She said if something didn’t feel right, people should report their concerns to the National Security Hotline on 1800 1234 00.
Ms Roxon launched a podcast conveying the message as part of the Chemicals of Security Concern Campaign, a collaboration between the Federal State and Territory Governments and industry members such as the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of NSW.
In the podcast, the Superintendent of NSW Counter-Terrorism Command, John Stapleton spoke of the Pendennis investigation, in which people tried to buy about 850kg of chemicals to manufacture explosives.
“Information from the public has contributed to all of our counter-terrorism investigations,” Superintendent Stapleton said.
“If people become aware of the suspicious use of chemicals, then they should report it.
“That piece of information could be the final piece of the puzzle that completes the picture for investigators,” he said.
The National Security Hotline is nearing its tenth year of operation and is staffed 24 hours a day.
“Tip-offs, big and small, can help keep Australia safe,” Ms Roxon said.
The podcast can be downloaded from the Chemical Security Website at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has published a new Service Charter and an outline of its surveillance activities in the 2011-12 financial year.
to chart service
Chairman of ASIC, Greg Medcraft, said the Agency had issued the documents as part of its commitment to transparency and to increase public understanding of how it operated.
“The updated Service Charter sets out the standards of service expected for the most common types of interaction between ASIC and the public, such as complaints, requests and applications,” Mr Medcraft said.
The surveillance chart for the 2011-12 financial year shows how often ASIC analyses its regulated populations through on-site visits and desk-based reviews.
He said ASIC had a variety of tools at its disposal, including engagement, surveillance, education, guidance, enforcement and policy advice to Government.
“This chart summarises our work using surveillances and shows how ASIC verifies that gatekeepers of the financial system are complying with their obligations.”
Mr Medcraft said the Surveillance Chart indicated the work each ASIC team undertook and the population (by number) the teams regulated.
He said it also calculated the number of years it would theoretically take to carry out surveillance on every member of the population.
“ASIC takes a risk-based approach to surveillance, identifying significant and strategically important gatekeepers within the financial system to analyse,” Mr Medcraft said.
He said the revised Service Charter reflected ASIC’s new consumer credit responsibilities and its clearer performance goals against all service standards.
He said the Charter explained how ASIC served the public, what people can expect when they deal with it, and how people could help the Agency serve them better.
It also explained how ASIC responded to requests or to allegations of misconduct.
The Surveillance Chart can be accessed at this PS News link.
The Service Charter can be accessed at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
More work declared
Significant steps have been taken towards putting into practice in Australia the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
for UN Declaration
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Declaration, the Human Rights Commission’s Social Justice Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Mick Gooda said there was still much more to be done.
Commissioner Gooda said the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, setting up the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, and the National Healing Foundation all went some way to redressing the effects of colonisation on indigenous people but the Government still had to give full effect to the Declaration.
“The Declaration provides a solid, universal and practical guide for governments to ensure they are doing their utmost to protect and respect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and yet we still see too many lost opportunities,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“This is simply not good enough.
“The current level of engagement and commitment Australia has at the national level on the implementation of the Declaration needs to be drastically improved.”
What he said was needed was to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as this would increase the chances of success.
He said relying on money alone would not reduce disadvantage in the Indigenous communities.
“Self-determination, free, prior and informed consent, good faith, the right to participate in decisions that affect us, the promotion and protection of culture, and equality and non-discrimination are all central to giving full effect to the Declaration,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 should provide the impetus for Australia to improve its commitment to the Declaration.”
A community guide to the Declaration is available at this PS News link.
18 September, 2012
Zoo’s imported lion
Biosecurity officers from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have helped a new African lion arrive safely in Australia.
strikes roar nerve
Taronga Western Plains Zoo, in Dubbo, NSW, have informed the Department’s officers that the 10-year-old lion is settling in to the zoo after arriving from New Zealand.
Born in South Africa, the lion moved to Auckland Zoo in 2003.
According to the First Assistant Secretary for Border Compliance with DAFF, Tim Chapman, successful animal imports like the African lion showed how the Department worked with partners offshore, onshore and at the border to maintain Australia’s strong biosecurity system.
Mr Chapman said that after 30 days the lion would be able to enter the zoo’s general collection.
The zoo will continue to liaise with biosecurity officers while monitoring the lion for the next six months, after which time it will go on display.
Before arriving in Australia the animal was treated for parasites and had a thorough veterinary health examination.
“The Department’s import process minimises the biosecurity risk of harmful pests or diseases entering Australia,” Mr Chapman said.
“DAFF maintains Australia’s enviable biosecurity status by managing risks to the environment and animal, plant and human health.
“Australia’s strong biosecurity system underpins the productivity of our primary industries and protects the environment,” he said.
Curator of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Erna Walraven, worked closely with officers from the Department to ensure the safe arrival of the lion.
14 September, 2012
Digital records a
The future of accurate records is under threat from the digital society according to the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, David Fricker.
threat to future
Mr Fricker sees concepts such as ‘original, reliable, irrefutable evidence’ being “turned on their head” by the shift to electronic messaging, digital recordkeeping and the emerging technologies.
In a talk to the recent International Council on Archives congress, Mr Fricker said that as digital information became more accessible by the public, if there were ineffective preservation plans in place the risk of losing important information increased.
“Getting digital preservation right is an enormous challenge,” Mr Fricker said.
“Obsolete technology can render digitised documents inaccessible for future generations.”
He said action to protect a ‘record’ needed to start the moment the record was created.
“People rightly expect to find answers in government records and rightly expect to be able to trust those records,” he said, “that they will be authentic and have integrity.”
He said that it was up to the archival profession to “guarantee the long-term availability of the authentic source record.
“In a world awash with information from various sources, the National Archives of Australia will continue to be viewed as holding the authentic, complete records that can be relied upon as evidence.”
He said those true records would preserve the cultural heritage of the nation, support the rights and entitlements of citizens, and provide accountability and transparency of government.
“The business of government is increasingly conducted in cyberspace and, at the National Archives, we guarantee the long-term availability of the authentic source record – the original, the reliable, the irrefutable evidence,” he said.
“We think about these basic concepts a lot – because every one of them will be turned on its head by our digital society – within the next decade.”
He said that in the future records created in the Public Service could be automatically transferred to the National Archives as soon as they were created with Government Agencies maintaining access to them for day-to-day business.
Mr Fricker’s full speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 September, 2012
New Federal Circuit
The Federal Magistrates Court is to be renamed the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates upgraded to Judges.
is order of the Court
The changes were announced by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon among a series of reforms to the Court.
“The Federal Circuit Court of Australia better reflects the Court’s modern role in the Federal judicial system and its accessibility for all court users,” Ms Roxon said.
“The new name for the Court also highlights the important service it provides to rural and regional communities through its program of regular court circuits.”
She said renaming the Magistrates Judges better reflected their role in Australia’s judicial system.
“The title of Judge better reflects the role and responsibilities of a Federal judicial officer, which is significantly different from that of a State or Territory Magistrate,” she said.
Ms Roxon also announced revised financial arrangements for the Court which include increased funding and changes to fee structures.
“The Government currently only recovers around 15 per cent of the cost of running the courts and believes there should be a greater contribution from those with a greater capacity to pay,” she said.
“Court fees will now be structured to better reflect capacity of different litigants to pay – such as higher fees for publicly-listed companies, corporations and the Commonwealth.”
She said the fee increases would be balanced by the reintroduction of fee waivers and exemptions for disadvantaged litigants, and treating small businesses as individuals rather than corporations.
Ms Roxon also foreshadowed higher legal costs for Government entities.
“Recognising that the Commonwealth is one of the most frequent court users, Government Agencies will now also pay the corporations rate,” she said.
“This will encourage Government Agencies to actively decide whether court action is necessary, or whether alternative methods are available.”
The Attorney-General said the changes had been made following consultation with the Federal Magistrates Court and other Federal courts and would be confirmed in legislation presented to parliament in the current sittings.
14 September, 2012
Regulations roll in
Around 12,000 Regulations are to be removed from the statute books in a major clean out of Government red tape for business.
red tape clean out
New laws that enable the unnecessary Regulations to be removed in an efficient, streamlined process have been passed by Parliament effectively ‘sunsetting’ Regulations after 10 years.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said there would no longer be a need to repeal outdated Regulations one-by-one.
She said the legislation would see Regulations reviewed more coherently from now on, for example by looking at regulations across a whole industry sector.
“This is the first time such a major clean-up of Regulations has been undertaken and will make things simpler for both businesses and individuals,” Ms Roxon said.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong, said the Government understood that reducing red tape would help Australian businesses be more productive, more efficient and more competitive.
“This step is in addition to the Seamless National Economy regulatory reforms, the bulk of which will be completed by the end of 2012, and which will see business save over $4 billion per year,” Senator Wong said.
Minister for Small Business, Brendan O’Connor, said the new laws would be welcomed by business owners across Australia.
“We are committed to lifting the Regulation burden for business and today will see thousands of unnecessary and redundant regulations removed,” Mr O’Connor said.
14 September, 2012
Serious outcome for
New guidelines for the classification of computer games have been released.
Announcing the guidelines, the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said they would come into effect on 1 January 2013.
Mr Clare said State and Territory Ministers with responsibility for classification matters had agreed to the guidelines which created an R 18+ category for computer games.
He said this would bring the classification categories for computer games into line with existing categories for classifying films and made the Australian classification regime more consistent with international standards.
“These are important reforms over 10 years in the making,” Mr Clare said.
“The introduction of an R18+ category for computer games has been the subject of extensive public consultation over recent years.”
He said the Attorney-General’s Department had released a discussion paper on the R 18+ classification category for computer games back in 2009.
It received 58,437 submissions with 98 per cent supporting the introduction of R 18+.
Mr Clare said the States and Territories were now in the process of passing their own complementary legislation to ensure that R 18+ computer games were appropriately regulated.
He said the ACT had already passed its Bill and NSW and Tasmania’s legislation had been introduced into their Parliaments.
The new Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 September, 2012
Sharper teeth for
Plans to strengthen the powers of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to intervene in financial markets have been proposed by the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten has released a public consultation a paper Strengthening APRA’s Crisis Management Powers and has invited comments on a range of options for enhancing Australia’s financial sector, especially prudential regulation.
“The consultation paper forms part of an ongoing review process to ensure our financial sector regulation remains ready to meet the needs of our economy,” Mr Shorten said.
“A safe and well functioning financial sector is essential to the wellbeing of all Australians.”
He said that among the options canvassed in the paper were measures to:
Mr Shorten said that in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, Australia had made considerable progress in strengthening its resolution arrangements for failing financial institutions.
- Strengthen APRA’s crisis management powers in relation to banks, superannuation funds and insurance companies;
- Appoint statutory managers to failing institutions;
- Extend its powers to foreign entities;
- Empower APRA to demand disclosures from failing institutions;
- Allow it to take pre-emptive action to remove trustees, directors or officers; and
- Simplify its regulatory powers across various financial sectors.
“The options canvassed in the consultation paper bring our regulatory framework more closely into line with the G20 endorsed new international standard for crisis management arrangements,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the comments received on the paper would be used in the preparation of the Regulatory Impact Statement required by Government before it decides on which reform options to develop.
The consultation paper Strengthening APRA’s Crisis Management Powers can be accessed at this PS News link and the closing date for submissions is 14 December 2012.
14 September, 2012
Citizenship laws have been changed to allow the family members of foreign recruits into the Australian Defence Force to receive their citizenship rights at the same time as the recruit.
steals a march
Announcing the change jointly, the Ministers for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen and for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the new rules would come in to effect on 1 January 2013.
“The Government recognises that families who support ADF members serving Australia should be able to build a close and continuing relationship with Australia at the same time as their serving family members,” Mr Bowen said.
“We are providing families with earlier eligibility for citizenship to assist them with settling in Australia, including providing access to employment opportunities and educational assistance.”
He said that in order to qualify, the overseas recruit must be granted a certain visa after 1 July 2007 and undertake 90 days service in either the permanent or reserve forces of the Army, Navy or Air Force.
Mr Snowdon said the new rules would help Australia attract personnel to highly specialised roles within the ADF.
“Over the past five years the ADF has recruited over 500 members from overseas,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Fast-tracking citizenship for their families will ease some of the stress associated with such a significant move.”
Mr Bowen said it was important to note that the new rules ensured citizenship eligibility for the family members in the event that the ADF member died before becoming eligible.
“The amendments also clarify that defence service refers only to appointed and enlisted personnel in the Australian Defence Force,” he said.
14 September, 2012
Give and take in
Two reports from the Board of Taxation have been released to the public by the Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury.
Mr Bradbury said the reports, one into tax design and the other into the trial of an online enquiry system, made a contribution to the efficiency of the Australian taxation system.
He said the report on how well the Australian Taxation Office implemented the recommendations of a review into tax design offered 19 conclusions and recommendations on the timeliness of legislation, the quality and quantity of consultation, and the involvement of the private sector in the tax design process.
“The Government has agreed to 11 of the Board’s recommendations, agreed in principle to one recommendation and noted the remainder,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Overall, the Board found there have been improvements in the tax design process.
“Nevertheless, the Board considers that the process can be improved”
He said the second report into the trial of the “Tax Issues Entry System” (TIES) made seven recommendations, all of which were noted.
“TIES is a single entry point for tax professionals and the broader community to raise minor policy and administrative issues,” Mr Bradbury said.
He said Board’s review of TIES took particular interest in the visibility of the system in the community and the communication processes associated with it.
“I have asked Treasury and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to continue to maintain TIES as a timely and responsive forum,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Treasury and the ATO will continue to work together to improve the communication processes.”
He said the TIES website would not be relocated and would continue to be jointly administered by Treasury and the ATO.
The Assistant Treasurer said that in response to the Board of Taxation’s recommendations he would formalise his engagement with the tax profession by holding twice-yearly meetings with representatives of the Joint Professional Bodies, the first to occur later this year.
Each of the Board’s reports can be accessed at this PS News link.
14 September, 2012
Astronomers at the Australian Astronomical Observatory have discovered that about one in five exploding stars in nearby galaxies are simply not seen.
They are “missing in action”.
According to a new report by a team that included the AAO’s Dr Stuart Ryder, the number of missing stars doubled for galaxies further away.
Member of the team and lead author of the report that uncovered the percentage of missing stars, Dr Seppo Mattila from the University of Turku in Finland said the giant stars “lived fast and died young”, going out in a blaze of glory as “core-collapse supernovae”.
“Because they don’t live long, only about 10 million years, the number of massive
stars that we can see being born should be essentially identical to the number we
see exploding,” Dr Mattila said.
“The trouble has been, lots of these supernovae just seemed to have gone
missing,” he said.
According to Dr Ryder, two to three supernovae should explode in our own galaxy every century, but the last time anyone might have seen one was in 1680.
Dr Ryder said however that a 140-year-old remnant had been discovered recently near the centre of our galaxy.
“That’s where the supernovae are mostly hiding,” he said, “in the dusty central parts of galaxies.
“That’s where most stars in a galaxy congregate and where most of them die.”
He said while the team’s estimate of the number of missing stars was soundly based, its estimates “have significant uncertainties attached to them”.
He said a new Australian-built camera on the Gemini South telescope, due to come on-stream soon, would enable the discovery of many more supernovae and the estimates to be refined.
“But right now, for the first time we have a figure for total number of core-collapse
supernovae in the nearby universe that matches well with the star-formation rate,” Dr Ryder said. we’re on the right track.”
14 September, 2012
And in other news...
Safe Work Australia has launched its Safety Ambassador of the Year Award.
The award is open to people who have shown initiative and taken the lead on improving health and safety in their workplace.
Workers, health and safety representatives, managers, Chief Executives and volunteers are encouraged to enter.
Entries close on 24 September and the winner will be announced at the end of October. More information is available from the PS News link.
Remembrance quilt hung
A National Remembrance Quilt to honour the memories of women and children killed in domestic violence has been hung in Parliament House, Canberra.
The quilt was organised by the group Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination (WEAVE) who have already created State Remembrance Quilts for South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland
The new quilt is on display in the reception area of the Parliament House office of the Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins.
PM&C Head for lunch
The ACT Division of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) is hosting a lunch with the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ian Watt.
To be held in the Great Hall of Parliament House on 5 October, the lunch will feature a keynote address by Dr Watt and is being supported by the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office.
Information and registration details can be accessed at this PS News link.
Security scare prompts review
The Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson has ordered a review of security following an incident at his Sydney office.
The building was evacuated following the incident and police and emergency services were called. All staff were safe.
Mr Wilson said his primary concern was for the welfare of his staff.
Road safety plan for comment
The National Transport Commission has released a draft strategy for involving the transport industry in improving road safety in Australia.
The draft is available for public comment.
According to the Commission, work-related road crashes account for about 50 per cent of all occupational fatalities in Australia and 15 per cent of national road deaths.
The draft strategy can be accessed at this PS News link.
Security stories clarified
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has acted to clarify incorrect media reports relating to the storage of people’s telecommunications records.
Ms Roxon said that earlier in the year she had asked Parliament’s Intelligence Committee to investigate potential reforms to national security legislation.
She said this included such things as the time an email is sent and who it is sent to. It did not involve storing the content of emails, tweets and posts and there was no proposal to enforce people to give up passwords.
Safe work week open
The theme for 2012 national Safe Work Australia Week is Safety Begins with ‘S’ but Starts with ‘YOU’.
National Safe Work Australia Week will be held from October 21 to 27 and registrations for the Safety Ambassador program were now open.
Safety Ambassadors receive access to a range Safe Work Australia Week resources to help plan and promote activities in their workplace.
Bowler joins tourism push
Former Australian international cricketer, Brett Lee is supporting Australia’s tourism campaign in India, joining Tourism Australia’s Friends of Australia advocacy program.
Mr Lee welcomed more than 70 of India’s leading travel agents to a function in Melbourne as part of a six-day India Mega Famil and Workshop (IMFW).
Jointly hosted by Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria IMFW 2012 marked the second time the major tourism business event had been held in Australia.
Income management expands
Income management is to be expanded into the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia.
Income management ensures that money is available for life essentials, and provides a tool to stabilise people’s circumstances and ease immediate financial stress.
Consultations in May this year with APY Lands communities showed support for income management on the Lands.
A report by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) into anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing has been released.
The report includes details of recently-prosecuted cases of money laundering to show the kind of risks business needs to be aware of.
The AIC said a survey had shown that 97 per cent of businesses believed they had a low risk of involvement in money laundering.
7 September, 2012
A new Government organisation to establish and coordinate a national approach to dealing with asbestos in Australia has been announced by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten.
to clear the air
Mr Shorten revealed the plan as part of the Government’s response to an Asbestos Management Review.
Mr Shorten said he was committed to establishing an Office of Asbestos Safety which would be tasked with developing a national strategic plan by 1 July 2013
“As an insidious killer asbestos is a national issue requiring urgent attention and greater national preventative coordination - so we are making a concerted effort to address it,” Mr Shorten said.
“A critical element of the recommendations is the establishment of a body to oversee how we manage asbestos in Australia and how we can reduce exposure to asbestos.”
He said the Review made 12 recommendations to address asbestos issues, one of which was a national coordinated effort.
He said a national strategic plan with the buy-in of all Australian governments and political parties would be the foundation upon which those efforts could be built and directed.
He said minimising asbestos exposure was a responsibility of all levels of government.
“We have carefully considered the recommendations contained in the Review,” Mr Shorten said.
“The recommendations highlighted the need for a new nationally coordinated approach and national strategic plan to improve asbestos awareness and management arrangements in Australia.”
He said there had never been a comprehensive national strategy to manage asbestos and raise awareness about it but the Commonwealth would consult with State and Territory Governments to develop the functions, structure and funding of the new asbestos office and the content of the strategic plan.
The Asbestos Management Review Report can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 September, 2012
Almost 90 per cent of Australians are concerned about identity theft and 61 per cent think it will increase over the next 12 months according to a new study.
The research was commissioned by the Attorney-General’s Department and repeated a similar survey conducted in July 2011.
This year’s survey found 24 per cent of respondents had been, or knew someone who had been, a victim of identity crime in the past six months - an increase of seven per cent since 2011.
It also revealed that when identify crime occurred, 58 per cent involved the internet, through either a virus or an online scam; 35 per cent involved the loss of a credit or debit card; 18 per cent involved mail theft; and 9 per cent involved the theft or loss of physical identity documents such as a passport or driver’s licence.
Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said while Australians were concerned about identity theft, there was a lot that individuals could do to protect their own identity.
“While identity theft is understandably concerning, Australians can take some simple steps to protect their identity,” Ms Roxon said.
“Making sure you don’t respond to suspicious e-mail or store personal details on your mobile phone are two easy steps to prevent identity theft.”
She said governments and business could also do a lot to combat identity theft, including the use of the Document Verification Service (DVS) that was run by the Attorney-General’s Department.
“Identity security is a shared responsibility,” she said.
“Only when governments at all levels work together with industry and the community can we effectively tackle the insidious effects of identity misuse.”
Ms Roxon said the DVS was being used by government agencies to confirm details on key identity documents such as passports, driver’s licences and birth certificates.
“The DVS helps to put out of business those who try and peddle fake identify documents,” she said.
“From next year, the financial and telecommunications sectors will be able to access the DVS to check Commonwealth identity documents, such as passports and visas – further helping the private sector to protect their customers’ identity.”
More information on the DVS and other identity security initiatives is available from this PS News link.
7 September, 2012
Defence to survey
The second national survey of Defence families has been officially launched.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the 2012 ADF Families Survey asked families to provide information on aspects of the Defence way of life, such as deployment, separation, workload and relocation, and its impact on family life.
“The survey also asks about existing family support services and seeks information about other resources, policies and programs that may assist families to manage the military lifestyle,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said the survey played a pivotal role in ensuring Defence support programs continued to focus on the right issues.
“The survey helps Defence build better family support programs,” he said.
“Since the last survey in 2009, Defence has introduced a 24-hour family helpline, improved deployment and relocation support to families, and increased funding for partners’ education and employment.”
Mr Snowdon encouraged all Defence families to complete the survey “because it helps Defence better understand the needs of military families”.
He said the survey would run until 21 October and was open to spouses and Defence-recognised partners of permanent full-time ADF members, as well as ADF members who were single parents or had other dependants, and dual ADF couples.
More information, including how to complete the survey online, is available from this PS News link.
7 September, 2012
A plan to help Australia’s Government Agencies and businesses keep digital information for the future has been recognised with a prestigious award.
The National Archives of Australia’s Digital Continuity Plan was commended at the recent Mander Jones awards as ‘the publication making the greatest contribution to the archives profession in Australia, written by or on behalf of a corporate body’.
The Awards recognise publications within the archival profession.
Director-General of the Archives, David Fricker said the plan came about when the Archives recognised that traditional records management was not keeping pace with technological and social changes.
“The idea of digital continuity ensures that digital information remains accessible and usable for as long as it is required, preserving important evidence,” Mr Fricker said.
“Digital continuity ensures information is complete, available and usable by those with a need for it.
“It ensures you can find, open and work with information when you need to, understand what it is and trust its content.”
He said digital continuity was an approach that focused on continued management of information that was already in a digital format.
“Government agencies and other businesses cannot afford to ignore information management, because information that is lost, unreliable or poorly controlled can have a significant impact on the quality and effectiveness of decision-making and other aspects,” he said.
Among other projects honoured at the Mander Jones were the history of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet From Postbox to Powerhouse by Patrick Weller, Joanne Scott and Bronwyn Stevens and a second Archives publication, National Archives of Australia Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory which was reported last week in PS News at this PS News link.
7 September, 2012
New research results released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found one in seven Australian phone and internet consumers experienced difficulty paying a bill in the 12 months to May 2012.
in phone bill stress
Conducted by Roy Morgan Research, the study involved 2,400 consumers who were interviewed about their personal telecommunications services, the incidence and causes of difficulty paying bills and their experiences.
Of those consumers who had difficulty paying 47 per cent indicated bill shock – an unexpectedly high bill – as one of the main reasons while 16 per cent nominated financial difficulties - such as poor budgeting and low income - and 14 per cent nominated an unexpected event.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said while the majority of consumers (64 per cent) who contacted their telco following bill shock or difficulty paying were satisfied with the outcome, most (69 per cent) were not offered advice about avoiding such situations in the future.
“The research supports the ACMA’s insistence on effective spend management tools for telecommunications consumers following our public enquiry,” Mr Chapman said.
“It also supports an early focus by the ACMA on compliance with the financial hardship provisions of the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code.”
He said under the TCP Code, telcos must have a financial hardship policy that was easy for consumers to find and access.
“Moreover, for the first time, the TCP Code requires telcos to include information about their financial hardship policies on reminder bills sent to consumers and to have clear ways for consumers to seek relief under those policies,” he said.
The report, Telco customers - credit management and financial hardship can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 September, 2012
DHS goes online for
The Department of Human Services is calling for ideas and suggestions on how best to use mobile apps in delivering its services.
mobile phone app
The Department offers a range of health, social and welfare payments and services through Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support, CRS Australia and Australian Hearing.
It has launched the online forum on its online discussion forum Speechbubble and has opened it to the public to share their views.
The forum will be open until 14 September.
The Department is seeking a range of feedback on topics including how it should use apps for smartphones and tablets in the future; what services mobile apps could be used for now and in the next two to five years; and what were the individual preferences for using mobile apps.
“Speechbubble is an online forum the Department regularly uses to engage citizens,” it said.
“The findings of this consultation will help shape future service design for the Department.”
The Department urged everyone interested to log onto this PS News link and “start participating now.’
“While you’re there,” it said, “complete the short survey”.
“The Department looks forward you sharing your thoughts!”
7 September, 2012
New schools plan
A new national school funding model has been announced by the Prime Minister along with increased funding to ensure that Australian schools are ranked in the top five in the world by 2025.
makes its mark
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the new measures were part of the National Plan for School Improvement, announced in response to the recent Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling.
Ms Gillard said the aim of reaching the 2025 goal would be legislated to “galvanise our nation’s focus on improving schools”.
“Australia’s future prosperity depends on embracing a high-skill future and therefore depends on lifting the performance of our schools,” Ms Gillard said.
She said as part of its discussions with the States and Territories and non-government school sectors, the Commonwealth would insist on improving schools by lifting teacher quality; giving more power to principals; and providing more information for parents through the My School resource.
“Our National Plan for School Improvement will deliver change as well as more resources to every school in the country, and will be phased in over several years, as recommended by the Gonski review,” she said.
“Change of this scale takes time.
“The six-year transition gives schools time to adjust, and ensures the increased funding can be used to deliver the concrete improvements, which we know will take time.”
Ms Gillard said that over the past decade Australian students had fallen from 2nd to 7th in reading and from 5th to 13th in maths compared to students in other countries.
“To keep winning the economic race, we have to win the education race,” she said.
“Better schools will give our children the best start so that they can get highly skilled, highly paid jobs in the future.”
She said discussions would take place with State and Territory Governments as well as Catholic and independent schools, over the details of the Plan.
7 September, 2012
The latest survey by Tourism Research Australia has found New Zealanders continue to dominate Australia’s international visitor arrivals while Asian visitors remain Australia’s strongest growth market.
shows the way
The International Visitors in Australia survey found that of the almost 1.2 million international visitor arrivals in the three months to June 2012, almost a quarter (274,000) were from New Zealand (an increase of two per cent on the June quarter 2011).
China boasted the second highest number of visitors (112,000 - an increase of 23 per cent on June quarter 2011) and total visitor numbers were up three per cent overall.
More visitors came for business (up six per cent) and holidays (up two per cent) and trip expenditure was up one per cent.
Victoria, Western Australia, and the ACT recorded the strongest growth in international visitors in the 12 months to June 2012 with arrivals increasing by four per cent, three per cent, and two per cent, respectively.
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said the results confirmed Asia’s importance to the tourism market in Australia.
“The latest survey confirms that Australia remains popular with our New Zealand neighbours. Our proximity to New Zealand will always make us a popular destination for business and leisure,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The strong growth though, continues from our Asian neighbours which is helping to offset the decrease from Europe and North America.”
He said that uncertainty was expected to continue in the short term due to the Australian dollar being at an all time high against the Euro and persistent economic problems in Europe.
“However, it is encouraging to see signs of recovery in some traditional markets with arrivals from the United States increasing by five per cent to the highest number recorded for a June quarter since the GFC, and a 12 per cent increase from Japan for the June quarter,” he said.
“The roll out of Tourism Australia’s updated There’s nothing like Australia campaign and the $48.5 million Asian Marketing Fund will provide further support to the promotion of Australia around the world in coming months, particularly in fast growing Asian markets.”
The Tourism Research Australia report can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 September, 2012
The National Water Commission has released a new report examining water planning in Australia.
Releasing the report, Recognising the broader benefits of aquatic systems in water planning: an ecosystem services approach, the Commission said water planning in Australia had a well-established tradition of incorporating benefits associated with using water from aquatic systems, pointing to irrigation and bulk town water supplies as examples.
“Less emphasis has been placed on identifying and incorporating additional “ecosystem service” benefits such as flood mitigation, improved drainage, better water quality and lower water treatment costs,” the Commission said.
“Because of their ‘non-market’ nature, these benefits are difficult to value quantitatively.
“Other non-extractive “ecosystem service” benefits of aquatic systems that support our wellbeing, for instance recreational amenity and cultural values, are even more difficult to quantify.”
It said its report aimed to encourage a more comprehensive, systematic and transparent consideration of the multiple benefits of aquatic systems in water planning.
“It will better equip water planners and managers to account for these broader ecosystems services and apply this concept in practice, by helping them to identify, describe, explain and communicate their public benefits,” it said.
“The approach has been designed to complement current planning practices by providing ideas, tools and examples that can be taken up at several points in water plan development.
“It will support explicit identification and consideration of public benefits and ecosystem services, as is recognised in Australian water policies including the National Water Initiative.”
The National Water Commission’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 September, 2012
And in other news...
Cutback rumours fall over
Media reports that the Government was planning even further cuts to the Australian Public Service look to be baseless.
Neither the Community and Public Sector Union nor other media (including PS News) could confirm the reports which suggested more job losses and even greater efficiency imposts were on the way.
Union elections open
Nominations are now open for casual elections for the Community and Public Sector Union, (CPSU).
The nominations are open for vacancies which were either not filled in the 2011 election or where an elected representative has resigned.
Nominations are open until 26 September and more information is available from this PS News link.
Agency links to Linkedin
The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) has joined the social networking site, Linkedin.
AWPA’s listing aims to promote its research, provide advice and allow the public to submit insight and feedback on the challenges they face in the workforce now and over the years to 2025.
It can be accessed at this PS News link.
ABC signs up for network
A funding agreement with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has been announced for a new-look Australia Network Service, combining television, radio and digital media.
The integrated multi-platform international service is to combine the strengths of the existing Australia Network television operation with Radio Australia’s services and the ABC’s news online and digital operations.
The Government and the ABC are to review the terms of the agreement with the likelihood that it will become a permanent arrangement.
Five Australian universities have been ranked among the world’s top 100.
The latest 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) listed The University of Melbourne in 57th place, The Australian National University 64th, The University of Queensland 90th, The University of Sydney 93rd and The University of Western Australia 96th.
The full 500-university ranked list can be accessed at this PS News link.
DAFF award presented
The inaugural Bob Hawke Landcare Award has been won by NSW dairy farmer Lynne Strong from Jamberoo.
Ms Strong took out the award which recognises an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to caring for the land and sharing their knowledge to benefit others.
Assistant Secretary of the Landcare branch at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Michelle Lauder said Ms Strong was a deserving recipient for the award and would receive a prize of up to $50 000.
The Bob Hawke Landcare Award is an initiative of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Police set record straight
The Australia Federal Police has moved to correct media reports that it provided public order training to Indonesian anti-terrorism police in West Papua.
The AFP said it did not provide support to the Indonesian National Police (INP) Detachment 88 (DET88) to develop their capacity to investigate and prosecute terrorism offences within Indonesia.
“The support provided by the AFP has included training in criminal investigation, criminal intelligence, management skills and forensics as well as the provision of computers, office equipment and vehicles to assist with terrorism investigations,” the AFP said.
“A central theme of the training provided in these programs is the protection of human rights, consistent with the international obligations of both Indonesia and Australia.”
GG trials official welcomes
A series of trial exercises is being conducted this week to examine the possibility of hosting official welcome ceremonies for visiting heads of state at the Governor-General’s residence in suburban Canberra
The Ceremonial and Hospitality Branch of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Defence Force are taking part in the exercises which include motorcade movement drills and the test firing of 21-gun salutes.
Ceremonial welcomes are normally undertaken in Canberra at the Defence Establishment on Fairbarn airport.
Finance reviews ICT lists
The Department of Finance is undertaking a review of the ICT Management Consultants Multi Use List (MCL) and the ICT Multi Use List (MUL).
The review aims to examine and promote further understanding of the effectiveness and patronage of the two ICT-based multi-use lists.
As part of the review, the Department is seeking suppliers’ and agencies’ response to a survey which can be accessed at this PS News link.
Responses should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org before 14 September.
Kingsland passes on
Former secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Sir Richard Kingsland, AO, CBE, DFC has died.
Sir Richard worked in a range of senior PS positions before being appointed Secretary of the then Repatriation Department – now Veterans’ Affairs – 1970 to 1981, serving under eight Ministers.
He also enjoyed a distinguished Air Force career from 1935 to 1948, serving with distinction in the Second World War.
Coin for Canberra’s 100th
The Royal Australian Mint has produced two new coins to mark the Centenary of Canberra in 2013.
One of the coins will be a commemorative circulating 20 cent coin featuring the vision and ambition of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin’s plans.
The second coin will be a special silver $5 collectible coin featuring the Canberra skyline presented against an artistic impression of that same site 100 years ago.
The coin designs are being developed by the Royal Australian Mint in collaboration with a Centenary of Canberra committee and will be either seen in public circulation or on sale early in 2013.
Telco customers protected
New consumer protections in the telecommunications industry have been introduced.
The new Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code was developed by the non-Government Communications Alliance (CA) and registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
It aims to deliver new enhanced protections to consumers in the areas of complaint handling, financial hardship, advertising, billing and helpful information about international roaming.
The TCP code can be accessed at this PS News link.
Uni lab for heating and cooling
University of Sydney researchers are looking for ways to slash the cost of heating and cooling of buildings in their state-of-the-art new laboratory.
Australia’s first comfort laboratory officially opened last week, providing a research facility that aimed to improve homes and workplaces in Australia and internationally.
The laboratory is located at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning.
Legal funding up
A boost in funding for legal assistance services has been announced.
An additional $1.6 million for community legal centres and legal aid commissions will go towards efforts to ensure access to justice isn’t limited to those who can afford to pay.
Twenty-one community legal centres providing legal assistance to those who need it most are expected to benefit from the extra funding.
Indian masterpieces at Gallery
The National Gallery of Australia has launched a display of masterpieces of Indian painting.
The Divine Worlds exhibition features pieces dating from the 15th to the 20th century and will be on display at the Gallery until 11 November 2012
It contains over 200 pictures celebrating the traditions of Hindu, Jain, Islamic, Sikh and secular India.
Pirates take over maritime museum
The Australian National Maritime Museum is to host a pirate-themed attraction later this month in Sydney.
The Museum’s Pirates! adventure land will open on 22 September, just in time for the Spring school holidays.
More information is available from this PS News link.
4 September, 2012
Disclosure rules open
New research has confirmed Australian Public Service agencies are moving closer to an open access and proactive disclosure culture.
door on information
The survey, conducted in May by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) assessed how the APS was complying with new publishing requirements of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 1982 which included an Information Publication Scheme that came into effect on 1 May 2011.
According to the Australian Information Commissioner, John McMillan, 78 per cent of APS agencies completed the survey.
Professor McMillan said 85 per cent of agencies were found to have published the required categories of information on their websites, including information about their structure, functions, appointments and consultation arrangements.
He said 94 per cent were publishing operational information that showed how decisions that affected members of the public were made.
He said while he was pleased with the results, many challenges had been identified that agencies needed to overcome to meet the requirements of the new FOI regime.
“Our survey also sought to measure agencies’ implementation of the Principles on open public sector information,” Professor McMillan said.
“These Principles, issued by the OAIC last year, set out the central values of open public sector information - information should be accessible without charge, based on open standards, easily discoverable, understandable, machine-readable and freely reusable and transformable.”
He said when asked to identify which of the Principles were most challenging to implement, 30 per cent of the agencies identified making public sector information discoverable and useable; 28 per cent said providing open access to information was; and 17 per cent thought it was robust information asset management.
“Going forward, agencies will need help in making information more discoverable, including by applying metadata,” Professor McMillan said.
“Ensuring that online information is accessible to the community, in particular to people with disabilities, is another area where some agencies are struggling.”
The survey report Information Publication Scheme: Survey of Australian Government Agencies can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 September, 2012
DFAT staff praised
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has praised Australia’s consular staff in Egypt for their role in securing the release of an Australian Journalist unable to leave the country since February.
for consular success
The Minister, Senator Bob Carr , said Austin Mackell had been held in Egypt since 11 February this year on allegations of ‘inciting public unrest’.
Senator Carr welcomed the decision by Egyptian authorities to drop the proceedings against Mr Mackell saying it followed a meeting he held with the Egyptian Ambassador, Omar Metwally, and the extensive consular efforts of Australian Embassy staff in Cairo and Canberra.
“This is great news for Austin and his family in Australia,” Senator Carr said.
“Our Embassy has been advised that the matter has been dropped and Austin’s passport and personal equipment returned.
“I thank the Egyptian Government for their willingness to resolve this matter, and particularly Ambassador Metwally for his support of Australia’s consular interests.”
He said consular staff in Cairo and Canberra had made 52 separate representations to Egyptian authorities on Mr Mackell’s behalf and had kept in weekly contact with the Mackell family.
He said the case was a reminder to all Australians travelling overseas that they were subject to the laws of the country they were in.
“Our consular staff can assist with representations on due process, but we cannot interfere in another country’s legal system,” Senator Carr said.
“His case was addressed under Egyptian law, not Australian.
“We can make representations but we cannot order an Australian’s release.”
Mr Mackell was initially detained in Mahalla, north of Cairo after being accused of ‘paying people to cause unrest.’
He was released on 13 February but was subject to travel bans while the allegations were examined. The case was dropped on 28 August.
4 September, 2012
Automatic visa system
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has announced the results of its first automated selection process for skilled migrants to come to Australia for work.
selects 100 migrants
The 100 successful applicants included doctors, dentists, nurses and engineers as well as accountants, ICT analysts and programmers.
A spokesperson for DIAC said that because SkillSelect was a new system the first run of invitations was reduced in size to allow the Department to ensure all elements of the scheme and its electronic lodgement system were working smoothly.
The spokesperson said the process provided an excellent result for Australia’s economy and employers and the Department expected to be increasing the number of invitations issued in future invitation rounds.
“SkillSelect helps to ensure the skilled migration program is based on the economic needs of Australia,” the spokesperson said.
“It supports the government in managing who can apply for skilled migration, when they can apply and in what numbers.”
The spokesperson said more than 10,000 skilled people had completed expressions of interest through www.skillselect.gov.au since it was launched on 1 July and in August the first automated invitation round for skilled independent (90 visas) and skilled regional family-sponsored (10 visas) was completed.
The spokesperson said the lowest points score invited was 75 points in both the skilled independent and skilled family sponsored visas.
“This is significantly above the 60 point pass mark, and demonstrates the quality of the skilled people interested in migrating to Australia, and the benefits of selecting only the best,” the spokesperson said.
“The points score varied from 75 up to 85 across the two visa subclasses.
“Additionally, almost 400 skilled people have been invited since 1 July following nominations lodged by State and Territory governments.”
More than 160 of the invited clients had already lodged their visa applications, and the others had 60 days to lodge their documentation using DIAC’s electronic lodgement system.
4 September, 2012
APS reforms approved
Major reforms to the Australian Public Service have been approved by the House of Representatives.
by House of Reps
Minister for the Public Service and Integrity, Gary Gray said the Public Service Amendment Bill 2012 had been passed by the House and would help modernise the operation of the APS and strengthen governance arrangements.
Mr Gray said the amendments implemented recommendations of Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration by establishing improved governance arrangements for APS leadership including reforms that would strengthen the independence of Secretaries and provide a clear statement of their roles.
He said the new arrangements also established a clearer, shorter statement of APS Values, blending contemporary ethical approaches with enduring principles of public administration that went to the heart of the Westminster model; set out more clearly the role of the Australian Public Service Commissioner as a central authority for the development and stewardship of the APS; and introduced practical improvements to the Public Service Act that addressed a number of operational matters arising since the last major changes in 1999.
Mr Gray said the Public Service Amendment Bill 2012 would improve the quality of workforce management in the Public Service and translate into more efficient and effective use of Commonwealth resources and deliver better services to the Australian public.
4 September, 2012
COAG report finds
The Productivity Commission has found “considerable scope” to improve the way Regulations are developed and scrutinised by all Governments.
Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald said the draft report Regulatory Impact Analysis: Benchmarking was compiled following a request from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to compare the regulatory impact analysis processes of the Commonwealth, States and Territories and COAG, and identify leading practices.
“Australians need to be confident that all governments are committed to the rigorous assessment of regulation to ensure that unnecessary burdens on business and the community are avoided,” Commissioner Fitzgerald said.
“Robust analysis of regulatory impacts helps ensure that regulation achieves the best trade-off between benefits provided and costs incurred.”
He said where regulatory impact analysis was undertaken, the Commission found there was often a gap between the agreed best practice principles and what happened in practice.
He said government proposals with the largest impacts on communities were often not rigorously scrutinised and in all jurisdictions a greater commitment to transparency and accountability would improve the efficacy and rigour of policy development.
Commissioner Fitzgerald said the measures to be introduced should include ones to:
* reduce opportunities to avoid assessment by tightening exemptions;
* publish all Regulation Impact Statements and compliance assessments by oversight agencies;
* require Ministers to provide reasons to Parliament for proceeding with proposals that had not been subjected to adequate impact analysis; and
* ensure post implementation reviews of non-compliant and exempt proposals were independently conducted.
“Adoption of the leading practices would create stronger incentives for governments to demand and officials to deliver policies that are well considered and supported by rigorous analysis of different options and their impacts,” Commissioner Fitzgerald said.
The Commission was now seeking comment on the draft report before developing its final report to Government by the end of November.
The draft report can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 5 October.
4 September, 2012
The audit of a vital project for the National Broadband Network (NBN) managed by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has found the Department administered the project effectively and introduced the necessary systems and procedures to ensure its success.
with NBN project
In his audit Administration of the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program (RBBP), Auditor-General Ian McPhee said DBCDE was well placed to manage the $250 million, three-phase project through to its completion in 2017.
Mr McPhee found however that there were lessons to learn in planning and performance measurement.
“Without detracting from the effectiveness of the Department’s program administration to date, there is scope for the Department to enhance its administration of such programs in the future through the early development of implementation plans that cover the projected life of the program, and establish the basis on which to monitor and report performance against program objectives,” Mr McPhee said.
He said under the RBBP, the Government had funded the construction of a network of fibre-optic transmission cables across Australia, with the Government retaining ownership of the infrastructure (also known as the ‘backbone’).
He said the cables would carry the internet traffic between urban locations (the backhaul) and ensure a competitive aspect to the backbone which was a critical element in the provision of an affordable broadband services.
“Under the RBBP, the backhaul infrastructure passes through specific regional locations, selected by the Government, where there was a lack of competitive backhaul services, that is, a ‘competitive blackspot’,” Mr McPhee said.
“Competitive blackspots occur where there is a single provider of backhaul infrastructure and, as a result, there is little competitive pressure on the existing provider, and limited opportunity for others, to deliver cheaper or better services.”
He said overall DBCDE had established effective arrangements to administer the RBBP, putting in place “sound systems and processes to manage the agreement for the initial construction phase and the ongoing operations phase”.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Anne Cronin, Amanda Reynolds and Mark Simpson.
4 September, 2012
Barrier Reef to lap
A strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef is to be undertaken to ensure future development along the Queensland Coast is well planned and the area’s unique values protected.
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke approved the final terms of reference for the strategic assessment saying it would be the biggest and most comprehensive study of its type ever undertaken in Australia.
Mr Burke said the Federal Government would work with the Queensland Government to conduct two complementary assessments – one by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the other by the Queensland Government.
He said a strategic assessment provided a big-picture study under national environmental law of an area to assess how environmental values could be best protected while allowing sustainable development.
“The aim of the assessment is to protect the highest value environmental assets in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjacent coastal zone while at the same time enabling sustainable, long-term development,” Mr Burke said.
“Key to the assessment process is protecting and bolstering the Reef’s Outstanding Universal Value and that’s why the assessment will identify priority conservation areas where future development will be restricted or excluded.
“The assessment will benefit the environment, local communities and industry and result in streamlined government environmental processes and reduced approval timeframes.”
He said he was confident the two final terms of reference addressed the concerns raised in the more than 400 public submissions received.
“We have taken community’s comments on the draft terms of reference into account and have included independent review processes, areas where development might be restricted or excluded, high levels of community engagement and the explicit consideration of Outstanding Universal Value and the principles of ecologically sustainable development in the final documents,” he said.
The approved terms of reference for the strategic assessment can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 September, 2012
A new website has been launched to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for information relating to the disability sector.
Developed for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas; the National Disability Organisations’ Clearinghouse: connecting, building, sharing website brings together 13 national disability organisations funded by the Federal Government.
Senator McLucas said having a central point of information made a lot of sense and would ultimately deliver better outcomes for people with disability and their families.
“The website encourages collaboration and sharing of information between our national disability organisations as well as providing a single access point for people with disability and the broader community,” Senator McLucas said.
“Australia’s national disability organisations play a pivotal role in representing the views and ambitions of people with disability to the Australian Government.”
She said information was essential to ensuring policies and programs met the needs of people with disability and their families and the website was another initiative demonstrating a commitment towards people with disability, their families and carers.
“That’s why we providing $1 billion to deliver the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS),” Senator McLucas said.
“We will be launching an NDIS in five States and Territories across Australia – in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.
“From the middle of next year, thousands of Australians with disability, their families and carers will start to benefit from the first stage of an NDIS.”
The National Disability Clearinghouse can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 September, 2012
Stamp of approval
Fifteen post offices are to be included on the Commonwealth Heritage List.
for post offices
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke announced the plan saying post offices in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia had been added to the list.
“From the central business districts of our capital cities to our remote regional and rural communities, the local post office can provide invaluable insights into how historical events impacted the local community,” Mr Burke said.
“Building a permanent post office was often the first major government service or infrastructure given to a new community.
“The inclusion of 15 new post offices on the Commonwealth Heritage List will ensure these important local places are recognised, celebrated and protected for future generations.”
He said there was a story behind each post office added to the List.
“In Tumut in NSW for example, the post office was built to service the area that was growing rapidly after gold was found just south east of the town in 1859,” he said.
“I can imagine the pride that early settlers in Tumut would have felt when their growing community got their new post office in 1879 and this was even before they had a town Council or railway.”
Mr Burke said the 15 new post offices being placed on the Commonwealth Heritage List were:
* Ayr Post Office, QLD;
* Bondi Beach Post Office, NSW;
* Byron Bay Post Office, NSW;
* Camden Post Office, NSW;
* Cobar Post Office, NSW;
* Cooroy Post Office, QLD;
* Cronulla Post Office, NSW;
* Euroa Post Office, VIC;
* Ingham Post Office, QLD;
* Marrickville Post Office, NSW;
* Scone Post Office, NSW;
* Tumut Post Office, NSW;
* Victoria Park Post Office, WA;
* Wingham Post Office, NSW; and
* City Streets Delivery Centre, VIC.
4 September, 2012
New housing report to
A new report which recommends ways to enhance housing supply and affordability has been released by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Brendan O’Connor said COAG’s Housing Supply and Affordability Reform (HSAR) report recommended measures for all levels of government to adopt to ensure more efficient use of existing land and housing stock and to reduce unnecessary costs.
Mr O’Connor said he understood that housing affordability was a significant issue for many Australians, especially those on low and moderate incomes.
“Adequate housing supply is a central response,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We have made a direct financial contribution to one in every 20 homes built since 2008.”
He said housing affordability was not an issue that the Commonwealth could solve alone.
“It requires the combined effort of governments at all levels as well as the wider private and community sector,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said the HSAR report was developed in close cooperation with the States and Territories and recommended working towards greater use of code-based frameworks for assessing residential development applications and considering the costs and benefits of local Councils’ regulatory proposals before they were allowed to exceed State planning requirements.
He said it further recommended that they agree to principles for infrastructure charges and that they trial a new set of principles to identify government land that could be used for housing.
“We are conducting a pilot of the principles for assessing under-utilised government land consistent with the report’s recommendations,” he said.
“In addition, we will continue to work with State and Territory governments to ensure that the objectives, roles and responsibilities of each level of government are clearly defined and the results and effectiveness of the interventions made by each level of government are as transparent as possible.
COAG’s HSAR report can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 September, 2012
Photographers across Australia with an interest in landscape and nature have been invited to enter a competition to find the country’s “Top GeoShot”.
with GeoShot quest
Geoscience Australia’s Top GeoShot photographic competition is hosted by the national geoscience agency as one of its key events for annual Earth Science Week which will run from 14 to 20 October.
Manager of Education and Events at Geoscience Australia, Vicki Pow said everyone was invited to enter, with both an open category and another for school students up to Year 12 on offer.
“Be as creative as you like as we are looking for a collection of photographs taken in
Australia that capture the essence of what the Earth sciences mean to everyday Australians,” Ms Pow said.
“Last year we received 185 entries, with the winning entry featuring a photo by Ryan Ruddick of melt streams on the Lambert Glacier in Antarctica.
“We even received an entry submitted from as far away as St Louis in the United States of America.”
She said all entries would put on display in the foyer of Geoscience Australia’s headquarters in Canberra in the lead-up to Earth Science Week, with the winners announced during the week.
She said winning entries would receive a professionally framed enlargement of their image while a selection of the best photos would be showcased on Geoscience Australia’s website.
Ms Pow said the winning photos would also feature in Geoscience Australia’s 2013 calendar.
Entries close 22 September and more information is available from this PS News link.
4 September, 2012
Big wigs invited for
Lawyers and legal centres around Australia have been urged to nominate for the 2012 Human Rights Law Award.
President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs said law and those who worked within it represented the strongest avenues for the protection and promotion of human rights.
“Whether it is the Constitution, federal discrimination laws, or challenges to these and other legislation, the law provides us with the living, breathing framework to protect our human rights,” Professor Triggs said.
She said previous Law Award winners had included the team that acted for Sri Lankan asylum seekers who claimed refugee status after arriving at Christmas Island by boat and whose High Court challenge led to the unanimous decision that despite the status of Christmas Island as an ‘excised offshore place’, the men were entitled to the full protection of Australian law and to procedural fairness.
She said the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency won the Award in 2010 for its high quality, culturally appropriate legal aid services to Aboriginal people in the Top End of the Northern Territory.
“Sponsored by the Law Council of Australia, the Law Award is awarded to an individual or an organisation with a proven track record in promoting and advancing human rights in Australia through the practice of law,” Professor Triggs said.
“Nominations are also being called for all of the Award categories including the Human Rights Medal and Young People’s Human Rights Medal and specific categories such as the Business Award, Literature (non-fiction) Award and the Community Organisation Award.”
Nominations close on 15 September and more information is available from this PS News link.