29 April, 2009

DPCD plugs into
e-Government awards

The Department of Planning and Community Development has made it into the finals of a national award honouring outstanding applications of information and communication technology in government.
   The Department won a place among 10 finalists in this year’s Excellence in e-Government Award (the e-Award) for its innovative youthcentral website, aimed at connecting young people with their local communities and government services.
   The e-Award, administered by the Australian Government Information Management Office, was introduced to promote excellence in the use of ICT in Australia at all levels of government.
   However Commonwealth entities dominate among the finalists, securing eight of the 10 places available.
   DPCD’s youthcentral is an online initiative developed for young people aged 12 to 25. More than 70 per cent of all content on the website is produced by young people or in consultation with young people.
   Every six months youthcentral recruits, trains and mentors 20 new “roving reporters” from around Victoria who produce regular articles relevant to their own communities and are involved in multimedia productions such as digital stories, games, animations, and widespread consultation programs.
   The site attracts more than 70,000 unique visitors a month.
   The other finalists this year are the Australian Bureau of Statistics; the Australian Taxation Office (two places); the Child Support Agency; the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations; the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (two places); IP Australia; and Tablelands Regional Council.
   The 2009 e-Award will be presented at a special ceremony during the CeBIT Australia conference which coincides with the e-Government Forum at the Sydney Convention Centre on 13 May.

29 April, 2009

DPI delivering on
service delivery

The Department of Primary Industries is modernising its service delivery model to meet the needs of farming families and agricultural businesses better.
   The changes will see DPI field staff with greater power to deliver services tailored to individual needs and provide information within a “whole farm system” perspective, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Helper.
   He said DPI would also pilot service options such as online support tools and mobile computing while forming partnerships with local community providers and private sectors in an environment of cooperation, not competition.
   “The Government recognises today’s farming environment is very different to the one that existed even five years ago, therefore we are taking action to ensure our services best suit current needs,” Mr Helper said.
   “To meet future challenges, we need to ensure our agricultural services are better targeted, more accessible and relevant.
   “Our aim is to see the farm sector grow to become more productive, competitive and sustainable.”
   Mr Helper said the changes would be in line with the Government’s Future Farming Strategy and be funded with $8 million over four years from money set aside for the Strategy’s implementation.
   DPI Executive Director of Farm Services, Ron Harris, said the changes would see stronger partnerships formed with private sector providers, including community groups, to build the overall capability of the service provider sector and improve services to farmers.
   “Over the next three to six months, we will start to see DPI working more collaboratively with other service providers, which will be formalised in partnership arrangements,” Mr Harris said.
   “This will help to ensure that consistently reliable information and advice is more accessible to more farmers.
   “Throughout the review, the farming sector has been consulted about how services should be directed.
   “We will keep our discussions with farmers open to determine their level of satisfaction with the revised services.”

29 April, 2009

Tasmanian PS in
devil of a deal

Public servants in Tasmania have been warned they could face job losses unless they agree to defer pay rises.
   Premier David Bartlett said around 1,500 jobs were at risk – more than seven per cent of the State’s 11,000 public servants – in the face of an expected fall of $500 million in GST revenue.
   He wants the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) to agree to forgo the two remaining annual wage rises of 3.5 per cent promised under a three-year agreement signed last year before the Global Financial Crisis hit.
   The Victorian Government also wants to reduce increases for its staff but has guaranteed not to cut jobs.
   Mr Bartlett has raised the possibility of introducing legislation to override the Tasmanian increases if negotiations fail and will also offer public servants leave-without-pay options and lower pay in return for more annual leave.
   "We will continue working with unions to try to protect public sector jobs, but it is clear that we will need to take further action in the 2009-10 Budget to address the shortfalls we are facing," Mr Bartlett said.
   Tasmania’s Government recently announced $64 million in spending cuts, including cuts to MPs' allowances and senior executive positions, a 30 per cent cut to the State Government's travel costs, a 30 per cent reduction in Government advertising, a 10 per cent cut to the vehicle fleet and a 20 per cent reduction in the number of Government mobile phones.
   "We are all in this together,” Mr Bartlett said.
   The CPSU’s Acting General Secretary, Mat Johnston, said he was troubled by the threat of an unprecedented legislative intervention to freeze wages.
   He said the Union was willing to negotiate wage increases if the Government opened its books to show the real state of its financial position.
   Mr Johnston said individual workers could not defer their pay rises. The only way to alter the agreement was by collective bargaining and an Industrial Commission amendment after a Union consensus was reached with the Government.
   "I would not like to see the legislative option tested because it cuts to the core of the country's industrial relations system, which is based on agreement making," Mr Johnston said.
   "It would be a really bad precedent for the economy if the Government can come in and unilaterally pass legislation to override agreements between people."
   The Victorian Government has guaranteed no public servants would lose their jobs but wants the public service to accept wage increases of 2.5 per cent rather than the 3.25 per cent promised. It said this would save $100 million.
   However the CPSU said the reduction would force cash-strapped service delivery agencies to consider cutting jobs and therefore vital public services in order to survive.
   It has launched an online virtual protest asking the Government to bargain in good faith and adequately fund public services.
   For more information visit www.fairpay4fairwork.com

29 April, 2009

Long arm of law
reaches cyberspace

Victoria Police has launched a new website to keep the community up-to-date with a variety of policing issues, from neighbourhood crime and wanted individuals to traffic alerts and the force’s views on various matters.
   There’s even a spot for posted videos – BlueTube.
   Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland launched the site, www.vicpolicenews.com.au, saying the initiative would provide a direct link between the community and police. He said it showed the organisation was expanding its online presence in an increasingly digital era and one where the current economic climate presented new challenges.
   "I hope Victoria Police News will help the community to work with us to address these challenges and share the responsibility of collectively reducing crime," Commissioner Overland said.
   In addition to accessing the latest Victoria Police news, the site enables visitors to check on what is happening in their own neighbourhood.
   Using the site’s My Place application, people can simply enter their postcode and find out the latest crime statistics and serious and fatal collision data for any particular area. The crime statistics for each community will be updated every three months.
   There will also be a message from their local police inspector about police issues in their suburbs.
   Commissioner Overland said every person in the community had a role to play in keeping themselves, their property and each other safe.
   He said he hoped the regular release of crime statistics would make communities aware of what was happening in their local area so they could take preventative measures.
   Commissioner Overland said overall crime rose by 0.2 per cent between April 2008 and March 2009 when compared to the previous 12 months. This is recorded as a rate per 100,000 population.
   The overall crime rate had fallen 23 per cent since 2000, per 100,000 population, he said.

29 April, 2009

Concrete praise for
aged building plan

Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, has praised the Victorian Government for its commitment to improving building accessibility for the aged and disabled.
   The Commissioner said the new building regulations and the Build for Life awareness campaign showed pro-active, forward-looking thought that should be a model for all state and territory governments.
   “With this initiative, the Victorian Government is taking action to face a reality which most of us try to avoid – we're getting older,” Commissioner Innes said.
   “By 2050 more than 26 per cent of the population will be over 65, and almost eight per cent will be over 85. As people live longer, they are living a greater part of their life with a disability – on average for almost 20 years.”
   Commissioner Innes said one of the consequences of ageing was that the need for more accessibility in our housing increased and, as a result, either costly modifications needed to be undertaken, or people had to move to find housing that meets their needs. This involved even greater economic and social cost.
   Build for Life was unveiled recently by the Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, and the Minister for Community Services and Senior Victorians, Lisa Neville. It commits the Government to assessing the impact of requiring a number of low-cost or no-cost design features. These include step-free entry, wider doorways and hallways, and a bathroom on the ground floor which could be fitted out with access features in the future.
   “Designing houses and apartment blocks to include these features will mean that more and more people will be able to stay in their homes as their needs change,” Commissioner Innes said. “It will also mean that people with a disability will have more options to meet their housing needs and find it easier to visit family and friends.
   “To put it simply, in the context of our changing demography, housing that does not meet our needs as our needs change is just not sustainable.”
   Commissioner Innes said he would like to see this initiative taken up by all governments throughout Australia.
   “Victorians are not the only ones who are getting more and more candles on that cake each year,” he said.

29 April, 2009

Firefighters heat up
female recruitment

The Country Fire Authority has launched a program in the Warrnambool region to recruit more female volunteer firefighters.
   The Supporting Women in Firefighting project was made possible through a $20,000 Victorian Volunteer Small Grant.
   The South-West Area CFA is partnering with the Sustaining Volunteerism Initiative, South-West Community Capacity Consortium and Warrnambool Community Health to provide the program in the shires of Glenelg, Moyne and Southern Grampians and the Warrnambool City Council.
   The Minister for Community Development, Peter Batchelor, congratulated organisers of the project, designed to empower and train local women to volunteer with their local CFA brigades.
   “Organisers of this fantastic initiative are already working tirelessly to get this project up and running, and have received great support from the local community,” Mr Batchelor said.
   “A public forum is being organised to bring together current female CFA volunteers and women interested in joining the organisation. The forum will allow women to share their firefighting experiences, build leadership skills and learn from one another.
   “Community education activities to build women’s awareness about the CFA and what is involved in being a volunteer are also being planned.”
   The Member for Western Victoria, Gayle Tierney, said the Supporting Women in Firefighting project was an investment in the skills of local women to ensure they would be effective volunteers for CFA brigades in their local communities.
   “In February we once again saw how important the CFA are in our communities and this project will help more women get involved in firefighting and other activities that make the CFA just so vital to regional Victoria,” Ms Tierney said.
   Mr Batchelor said volunteering was worth about $10 billion to the Victoria economy each year, “but the value is much more than that”.
   “We know that communities with high levels of local volunteering are stronger communities so we need to make sure that the people contributing their time so generously are well supported,” he said.
   Since 2004, more than 1200 organisations have been funded through the Victorian Small Grants, with a total of more than $4 million across Victoria to support and attract volunteers.
   For more information about the grants, visit www.grants.dpcd.vic.gov.au

29 April, 2009

100 connections for
relationship register

The Victorian Relationships Register has formally recognised its 100th domestic relationship since being established last December.
   Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Helen Trihas said she was pleased with the level of applications and expected numbers to grow as more reform at a national level recognised the rights of couples in a domestic relationship.
   Most of the relationships recognised so far were between male couples, she said.
   “In addition, six heterosexual couples also have chosen to register their relationship under the Victorian Act,” Ms Trihas said.
   Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the 100 milestone highlighted the success of the new Register.
   "Since December last year, Victorian unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples have been able to register their relationship, giving these couples the dignity and respect of formal recognition of their relationship,” Mr Hulls said.
   “The Register provides recognition that a couple is in a loving, caring relationship and makes it easier for them to access their entitlements without having to repeatedly provide evidence of their relationship.”
   Mr Hulls said the Register was the culmination of many years of reform and built on the Government’s 2001 reforms which amended almost 60 Acts to remove discrimination against same-sex and unmarried couples.  
   “Domestic partners are now recognised in almost 80 Victorian Acts,” he said.
   “Registration provides conclusive proof of a domestic relationship, without couples having to argue repeatedly that they are in a committed partnership or to have to prove this in court.
   “The importance of a registration scheme had also been recognised by other jurisdictions, with registers operating in Tasmania and ACT.”
   To register, couples need to be 18 years of age or older, live in Victoria and not be married or in another domestic relationship already registered in Victoria.
   The cost of applying to register a relationship is $180. There are additional costs for obtaining a registration certificate. Further information on the Relationships Register is available at www.bdm.vic.gov.au

29 April, 2009

New food saving
system in the can

Revolutionary technology developed by Food Science Australia (FSA), which is a joint partnership between the Victorian Government and CSIRO, is set to transform the way we preserve food.
   FSA’s High Pressure Processing (HPP) system pasteurises drinks and food without the need for heat, preserving the original taste.
   The system is already being used commercially in a new Melbourne food processing facility opened recently by Victorian Premier John Brumby.
   The Director of FSA’s Innovative Foods Centre, Dr Kees Versteeg, said HPP used pressures 6,000 times the average air pressure at sea level to pasteurise food products.
   “The unique benefits of HPP are that it kills microbes such as yeasts, moulds and bacteria, and extends the shelf-life of chilled perishable products without adversely affecting the food’s freshness, flavour, colour, texture and nutritional value,” Dr Versteeg said.
   “Normally processors would have to use preservatives or heat the product and this inevitably changes the taste and destroys some nutrients.”
   Dr Versteeg said the FSA developed prototype juice and other fruit products using HPP several years ago and assessed them for quality and shelf-life.
   “We took these out to the industry to see who’d be interested in using the process,” he said. “Donny Boy Fresh Food Company embraced HPP and we worked with them to develop and commercialise their juice and fruit products.
   “It is exciting and rewarding to now see our extensive research and work in products on the supermarket shelves and being used as an ingredient in food service and industrial applications such as fruit for yoghurt.”
   Donny Boy Managing Director Andrew Gibb said FSA’s involvement was essential to his company’s start-up.
   “Our company began life at Food Science Australia’s Innovative Foods Centre,” Mr Gibb said. “We undertook all trials and first commercial production of our Preshafruit juices and fruits at FSA.”
   Donny Boy is the first company in the world to supply HPP fruit to the dairy industry.
The Innovative Foods Centre was established with the support of Science, Technology and Innovation Initiative grants from the Victorian Government.
   FSA continues to use its expertise in food processing, chemistry, microbiology and sensory science to develop further HPP products with the food industry.

29 April, 2009

Councils in swim
for coast awards

Local Government entities featured strongly in the recent finals of the 10th Victorian Coastal Awards for Excellence.
   Among the winners of the awards, which acknowledge outstanding contributions to protecting and enhancing Victoria’s coast, were the Frankston and Geelong city councils and the Municipal Association of Victoria.
   Presenting the awards, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Gavin Jennings said the diverse mix of entries confirmed community interest in protecting Victoria’s coast and reflected the State Government’s commitment to sensibly managing the challenges impacting coastal regions.
   “Victoria’s coastal environments are home to many unique marine species and offer a range of social, economic and recreational benefits for all Victorians,” Mr Jennings said.
   “But they are under mounting threat from the predicted effects of future climate change and uncontrolled coastal population growth.”
   He said the annual Victorian Coastal Awards for Excellence were an ideal way to highlight the excellent work that was underway in partnership between the Government, its agencies and the Victorian community.
   “Many of these projects are typically driven by schools and community-based groups working on very modest means.”
   “Their successes will inspire others to get involved, so I congratulate all winners and runners-up for their very worthwhile efforts,” Mr Jennings.
   The awards were hosted by the Victorian Coastal Council and Coast Action/Coastcare and held at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron. They attracted 38 finalists across 11 different categories.
   Frankston City Council won the Coastal Culture Award for its new Coastal Arts Discovery Trail, which runs from Olivers Hill to Seaford.
   The Coastal Planning Award went to a combined project – Guidelines for walkable coastal environments – from Geelong City Council, the Municipal Association of Victoria, Council on The Ageing, David Lock Associates and the Communities of Indented Head, Portarlington and St Leonards.
   The Colac Otway Shire, City of Kingston and Moyne Shire were runners-up.
   In the Education category, won by the Boating Industry Association for its Marine Pest Project, runners up included Kanyung Primary School, Bairnsdale Secondary College, Lorne-Aireys Inlet P-12 College and the City of Greater Geelong.

29 April, 2009

Small business book
turns into big winner

A report by the Victorian Small Business Commissioner, Mark Brennan, has been transformed into a book.
   The Minister for Small Business, Joe Helper, recently launched the result, 7 Habits for Business Success, saying it would help Victorian businesses avoid costly legal disputes and business relationship breakdowns.
   “The book is a how-to guide in building the positive, mutually beneficial relationships crucial to successful business relationships,” Mr Helper said.
   In his role investigating business disputes, Commissioner Brennan identified recurring themes in the failure of business relationships.
   He recognised that if a firm had acted differently, the dispute may not have happened or might have been resolved much earlier.
   The insight led him to commission research with top Australian business leaders who helped identify seven traits present in harmonious, well-balanced business relationships.
   Commissioner Brennan released the key findings in an October 2007 report. Researchers from Deloitte then adapted the report into a book format.
   “The result is a book that is a must read for every small business operator, franchisee or self-employed contractor,” Mr Helper said.
   Commissioner Brennan’s seven habits for business success are alignment, commitment, mutual interest, communication, accountability and responsibility, professional conduct and pre-agreed dispute resolution.
   Mr Helper said the release of the book was timely and offered information aimed at encouraging sustainable growth of small business.
   “The Government understands that current economic conditions mean it’s now more important than ever that small business can find the information and advice they need to thrive,” he said.
   “We’re tailoring our programs so they remain current and up-to-date in meeting the needs and issues facing Victoria’s small business sector.”
   Mr Helper said the Government established the Office of the Victorian Small Business Commissioner (VSBC) in 2003 to help resolve business disputes, investigate unfair conduct, monitor government practices, inform and educate.
   He said that to date, more than 5,500 matters have been referred to the VSBC and disputes valued at over $200 million have been handled with a success rate of around 80 per cent.
   Commissioner Brennan’s book can be obtained from leading bookshops.

29 April, 2009

DPI forums growing
for farmers

Staff from the Department of Primary Industries have been conducting information forums throughout Victoria tailored to the needs of farm families in each area.
   The AgFuture sessions typically include presentations on socio-demographic changes in each region, commodity outlooks and farm performance, as well as climate change.
   DPI’s AgFuture Project Manager, Yvonne Orlando, said the program was initially delivered to seven communities during 2007/08 funded through drought initiatives.
   “The second stage of the program will see it delivered to 48 farming communities over four years, with the first of these sessions either already completed or underway,” Ms Orlando said.
   The Minister for Agriculture, Joe Helper, said the sessions would give farmers the information they need to make better informed decisions during a time of unprecedented change in agriculture.
   “The Government is very aware that drought, climate change, increased competition for natural resources, population change and global economic conditions are all providing real challenges for our farming communities,” Mr Helper said.
   Visiting one of the AgFuture sessions in Waaia recently, Mr Helper said the program would be delivered in 12 farming areas this year.
   “The AgFutures program provides tailored information relevant to farming communities experiencing change and encourages discussion between farmers, rural communities and service providers to support local decision making processes,” he said.
   “Today’s forum in Waaia focussed on changes relating to the irrigated dairy industry in the surrounding region.
   “The forum also included information on farm services available for farming families to tap into when they are making their decisions about how to respond to change,” he said.
   For further information on the program, visit the AgFutures website at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agfutures or call the DPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

29 April, 2009

New grants program
a frill for women

A program of grants for national non-Government women’s organisations to improve the representation and advocacy of women’s and their issues has been unveiled by the Federal Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek.
   Ms Plibersek said the organisations were eligible for up to $100,000, as promoting women’s rights was a high Government priority.
   “Ensuring that representative organisations are well equipped to advocate and participate in current policy debates is critical to improving gender policy outcomes,” she said.
   “I want women’s organisations to expand their networks and work with women who have not engaged in policy debates in the past or who find it difficult to be heard.”
   Ms Plibersek said the grants would support women's organisations and allow them to work with diverse groups of women in the community to help them engage in policy debates.
   She said women who may not see themselves as part of the formal women's movement were among key target groups.
   “Young women, Indigenous women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women with disabilities will also be a focus,” Ms Plibersek said.
   “The grants will promote stronger engagement between women in the community, women's organisations and the Government.”
   Grant application forms were available from www.ofw.fahcsia.gov.au or by phoning (02) 6212 9618.

29 April, 2009

Firefighters hit road
for fallen colleague

Members of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Country Fire Authority will run from Melbourne to Canberra to honour a colleague killed in the aftermath of February’s bushfires.
   Canberra firefighter David Balfour, 46, was the only firefighter killed in the tragedy, Victoria’s worst ever natural disaster.
   The father of three had gone south to help the firefighting effort, telling his wife Celia he was repaying a debt to Victorian firefighters who came to help him and his mates fight Canberra's disastrous bushfire in 2003.
   MFB Leading Firefighter and run organiser, Paul Ritchie, said it was importa nt for Victoria’s emergency services to support the Balfour family.
   “David Balfour looked after us, now it is our turn to repay the favour and support his family as he is unable to do so,” Mr Ritchie said.
   Celia and 20 Canberra firefighters are joining the MFB and CFA members for the run, which started on 29 April from the Melbourne Town Hall. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle farewelled the runners.
   The run will finish in Canberra on 2 May. Upon arrival in Canberra, the group will present a cheque to David Balfour’s family raised through the marathon.
   Donations to the Balfour family can be made using the below details at any Commonwealth Bank branch. Please quote BALFOUR when depositing funds.
Account Name: Public Trustee Common Fund, BSB: 062920, Account Number: 10036944

29 April, 2009

Achievers achieve in
Indigenous Award

A Victoria Police Community Liaison officer and an RMIT student have been named joint winners of this year’s Ricci Marks Aboriginal Young Achiever Award.
   Alan Miller works with the police in south-west Victoria while Sherylee Welsh is completing a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice.
   The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Richard Wynne, led the accolades at the State Library of Victoria while presenting the winners with $5,000 bursaries to support their further education and development.
   He said both had already demonstrated community leadership, determination and initiative in dedicating so much of their time to improving the lives of others.
   “I look forward to hearing much more from today’s winners as advocates and leaders in their communities in the years ahead.”
   Mr Miller said he felt honoured to receive the award, which was named in memory of Ricci Marks, a friend of his who received the Aboriginal Young Achiever Award in 2000.
   He said he felt committed to encouraging positive relationships between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
   Mr Miller has been instrumental in setting up a number of activities, including Mibbinbah National Men’s Health movement and the Moorpor Indigenous Gardening Project at Brauer College. He is also involved in the Gunditjmara Mentoring Program, and is a recognised leader in the Warrnambool community.
   Ms Welsh is a young parent who is also excelling in her studies at RMIT, where she was described as an outstanding role model. Students and staff told the judging panel they admired her fortitude, resilience and dedication to her studies.
   Ms Welsh has undertaken the RMIT LEAD program, which fosters personal development and leadership qualities. She is also a key organiser for the regional Victorian Koori Express University program, which encourages young Kooris in regional Victoria to consider tertiary study.
   An encouragement award was presented to 19-year-old Zach Green.

29 April, 2009

New prosecution unit
not an offence sitter

The Office of Public Prosecutions has established a new Specialist Sex Offences Unit in Geelong.
   Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the Unit would prosecute sexual assault cases across western Victoria, including cases in the Ballarat, Horsham, Hamilton and Warrnambool courts.
   “The Specialist Sex Offences Unit will give victims of sexual assault more confidence to report these crimes to the police, and will provide the sensitive and specialised support that is needed during the prosecution of these cases,” Mr Hulls said.
   He said the Unit would help address many of the hardships faced by victims of sexual assault.
   “The specialist Unit complements other Government initiatives aimed at encouraging victims to come forward and report sex offences and, when they do, being dealt with in a dignified and respectful manner.”
   The opening of a new Unit comes after the successful launch of Melbourne’s Specialist Sex Offences Unit in 2007.
   The Unit handles all sexual offences tried in the Melbourne County and Supreme courts.
   Mr Hulls said an analysis of a sample of 140 cases finalised by the Melbourne Unit since July 2007 showed it was working very effectively, with a guilty result in 75 per cent of cases.
   “The new specialist Unit is the latest in a series of reforms introduced by the State Government to help change the culture across the criminal justice system and the community in relation to sexual assault,” Mr Hulls said.

29 April, 2009

3D geological map
shows all the angles

What really goes on under the surface of the central Victorian city of Bendigo?
   The answer is now available for all to see, with the release of a new three-dimensional geological model developed by GeoScience Victoria.
   The Minister for Energy and Resources, Peter Batchelor, said the Bendigo Zone model, the first completed in the State, would enable Victoria’s gold mining industry to probe new and unexplored depths.
   “This is the first component of a whole-of-Victoria 3D geological model being created under the Government’s $2.5 million Rediscover Victoria 3D initiative and it demonstrates our commitment to continue supporting the Victorian mining industry by generating and providing geological knowledge to unlock our mineral wealth,” Mr Batchelor said.
   “This model is a sophisticated and powerful tool that allows geologists and exploration managers to visualise faults and different layers of rock, which can indicate where minerals, gold and other base metals may lie.
   “As a result you can more accurately predict the location of undiscovered deposits, which will help reduce exploration time, costs and risk.”
   In Bendigo for Community Cabinet recently, Mr Batchelor said the Bendigo Zone model delved 35km below the earth’s surface and could also be used for geothermal exploration because it provided an understanding of how heat flowed through the rock layers.
   “Using cutting-edge technology, Rediscover Victoria 3D brings together 150 years' worth of geological mapping and recently-acquired geophysical data, including gravity, magnetic and seismic data in a three-dimensional view.”
   The Bendigo Zone spans 30,000 square kilometres, from Geelong in the south to the Murray River in the north and from Avoca in the west to Heathcote in the east.
   Earlier work by Geoscience Victoria suggested that more than 1000 tonnes of gold may lie undiscovered in the region.
   “Rediscover Victoria 3D will be Australia’s most comprehensive onshore and offshore 3D geological model,” Mr Batchelor said.
   Mr Batchelor also launched an issues paper for public comment to kick-start a review of the regulatory framework for Victoria’s minerals industry.
   Submissions close on 26 June.
   For more information, visit www.dpi.vic.gov.au/MRSDAreview

29 April, 2009
Super benefits online
ESSSuper members can now access a secure online area to get detailed information about their investments.
   The area is available for members who have an ESSS Defined Benefit, Accumulation Plan, Spouse Account, Beneficiary Account and/or Income Stream.
   Members can access statements, account summaries and benefit estimates online, as well as update their own details as they change.
   An online tour is available to simply explain how to use the service.
   Visit www.esssuper.com.au for more information.

Legal Aid goes south
The Victoria Legal Aid service in Warrnambool has expanded during its first year of operation.
   Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the South Coast regional office now provided a full range of services, including duty lawyers at the Magistrates’ and Children’s court, free legal advice services, casework services and community legal information and education.
   “More importantly, these services are available on an outreach basis to the communities of Portland, Hamilton, Camperdown and Mortlake,” Mr Hulls said.

Water use unexplained
Melburnians are inexplicably using more water now than they were at the same time last year, despite the strong water-saving messages of campaigns such as Target 155.
   Yarra Valley Water Managing Director and Industry Spokesperson for Target 155, Tony Kelly, said water usage should be well below 155 litres per person per day at this time of the year rather than just scraping under the target at 151 litres.
   He said rain across the city meant outdoor water use, in particular, should be unnecessary much of the time.

New resource for business
Small Business Victoria has launched a world-first online resource for small business owners diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
   Small Business Minister Joe Helper said the new Illness and Business Management Plan would help proprietors plan for the day-to-day running and long-term future of their business, while they come to terms with their condition.
   The plan was developed in consultation with Cancer Council Victoria, Heart Foundation, Chronic Illness Alliance and the Department of Human Services.
   It is available at www.business.vic.gov.au/illnes

New road is great drive
The $10 million upgrade of the Bogong High Plains Road opened recently, creating one of the State’s most spectacular drives, according to the Minister for the Environment, Gavin Jennings.
   Mr Jennings said the project transformed 36km of gravel road along the Bogong High Plains between Falls Creek and the Omeo Highway.
   Meanwhile a new walking track constructed by Parks Victoria and the Mount Beauty community with the help of a $200,000 Regional Development Victoria grant has also opened.
   Mr Jennings said the new Fainter Falls track would be a major addition to the development of the Bogong High Plains touring route.

Anniversary for parks group
Parks Victoria has congratulated the Friends of Werribee Gorge and Long Forest Mallee on the volunteer group’s 25th anniversary.
   The Ranger in Charge of the Werribee Gorge State Park, Mark Urquhart, said the FWGLFM had significantly improved the state of local parks around Bacchus Marsh, contributing to the health of both individuals and the local community as a whole.
   “We are very grateful for the assistance and dedication of so many who help us to protect and enhance the natural values of the parklands and waterways we manage,” Mr Urquhart said.
   For information on volunteering contact Parks Victoria on 13 1963.

Taxis go green
Another 50 hybrid vehicles will soon join Victoria’s taxi fleet.
   The Minister for Public Transport, Lynne Kosky, said half of the new 100 “green top” taxi licences being offered for peak periods would go to hybrid vehicles, following keen interest from career drivers who lodged more than 600 expressions of interest.
   Ms Kosky said the figures showed the taxi industry was embracing the shift towards becoming more environmentally friendly.
   Peak service taxis can operate between 3pm and 7am in the Melbourne metropolitan area.

“Peter Mac” turns60
The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre – Australia’s only cancer-specific hospital – has celebrated its 60th anniversary.
   Originally known as simply The Cancer Institute, the centre began operating on 27 April 1949 with a budget of 30,000 pounds and a skeleton staff.
   In 1994 and with a new name honouring Professor Sir Peter MacCallum, the centre moved from Little Lonsdale Street to its current location in East Melbourne.
   The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre now has 2,300 staff offering patients state-of-the-art multidisciplinary treatment at five sites across metropolitan and regional Victoria.

TAC launches film show
The Transport Accident Commission is looking for fresh ideas for road safety films to encourage young people to look out for one another.
   The TAC has launched its 7th annual Make a Film, Make a Difference short-film competition and is inviting people under 25 to enter.
   The films are required to get the road safety message through to the young people’s peers in an effort to reduce road trauma and the winners receive a $20,000 production budget, access to film industry experts and $5,000 prize money.
   Entries close 29 May 2009.

22 April, 2009

Privacy blogged down
in official chatroom

All Victorian Public Service staff are invited to join a new social software initiative within the firewalls of government.
   The Privacy Now blog and its Twitter micro-blog version enable VPS staff and privacy practitioners to connect online and engage on privacy issues.
   The whole-of-Government blog was launched by the Department of Justice’s Executive Services Privacy Team at a recent interdepartmental meeting of Privacy Managers.
   Project spokesperson Brent Carey (the Department’s Manager for Privacy, Feedback and Projects) said the blog included opportunities to engage on the latest privacy matters and links to other privacy resources.
   “The Department has a leadership role in privacy coordination across the whole of the Victorian Government and we are always looking for new and better ways to facilitate open discussions on privacy issues,” Mr Carey said.
   “Privacy Now provides a supportive environment for open dialogue on privacy issues and is an important tool for informing members about privacy events and activities.”
   The blog replaces the Privacy Made Practical e-based community of practice that had been running in Victoria for the past three years.
   Recent posts on Privacy Now include discussions about the dissemination of personal information overseas, internet censorship, Telstra’s new rules for social media, bosses digging dirt on staff, see-through airport scanners, cyber bullying and defamation laws, the use of closed-circuit TV footage, cloud computing and Web 2.0 risks.
   Privacy Now requires no registration/login process to access the blog. VPS staff will only be requested to provide basic information such as a name and email address when they make a comment about a post.
   For those who are not VPS bloggers but would like to follow the progress of Privacy Now, the project is also part of the Twitter community. This allows privacy news headlines to reach people external to government, however, they will need to register at Twitter on http://twitter.com/PrivacyNow
   Privacy professionals outside of the VPS with an idea to post on the blog can do so by contacting Mr Carey directly at brent.p.carey@justice.vic.gov.au.
   Mr Carey said Privacy Now would also soon be hosting podcasts and videos on current privacy issues.

22 April, 2009

Women’s display has
ACMI in the pink

Victoria’s Office of Women’s Policy and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) have collaborated to produce a multimedia tribute to eight women who created history in the State over the past century.
   Women’s Affairs Minister Maxine Morand said the ACMI exhibition Digital Stories: Celebrating 100 years of Victorian Women’s Right to Vote, With A Series of Firsts captured the stories of these “courageous and inspirational” women for all generations to come.
   “The efforts of these outstanding women have given a voice to women and women’s issues in society today,” Ms Morand said.
   The outstanding women featured in Digital Stories are:
  • Joan Kirner, the first (and only) woman Premier of Victoria;
  • Gracia Baylor, the first woman elected to the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament;
  • Dr Isabel Joy Bear, the first woman to be awarded the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s Leighton Memorial Medal, the Institute’s most prestigious medal to recognise outstanding services in the field of chemistry;
  • Dur-e Dara, the first woman president of the Restaurant and Caterers Association of Victoria;
  • Judith Maddigan, the first woman Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in the Victorian Parliament;
  • Voula Messimeri-Kianidis, the first woman elected as chairperson of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council;
  • Lecki Ord, the first woman Mayor of the city of Melbourne; and
  • Jeanette Powell, the first woman to represent the National Party in the Victorian Parliament.
   ACMI Director Tony Sweeney said the project was an important collaboration for ACMI.
   “Working with the Government through the Office of Women’s Policy on such an exciting program with these extraordinary women was a real privilege,” Mr Sweeney said.
   “ACMI is honoured that these women wanted to partake in our program and share their stories. It highlights the fact that ACMI gives the opportunity for people to be remembered and tell their personal tales the way they see them.
   It is their history they are telling and that lies at the heart of digital storytelling."
   To view Digital Stories: Celebrating 100 years of Victorian Women’s Right to Vote, With A Series of Firsts, visit www.women.vic.gov.au where  information about public screenings is also available.

22 April, 2009

Plan to plug in to
broadband network

Australia’s new $43 billion National Broadband Network should have its headquarters in Melbourne, according to the Victoria’s Treasurer and Minister for Information and Communication Technology, John Lenders.
   “No other city in the nation has the telecommunications capability and such a skilled workforce ready to embark on a project like this,” Mr Lenders said as he launched the State’s bid for the biggest infrastructure project in Australia’s history. 
   “We are already known as the nation’s telecommunications hub with over a third of Australia’s ICT industry based in Victoria – including many companies set to play a critical role in the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
   “It makes sense to have the organisation looking after the NBN located near main suppliers, like Pacific Broadband Networks, who are based in Victoria.”
   Mr Lenders said Victoria had particularly skilled telecommunications practitioners, with expertise in network integration, software, technical architecture, satellite engineering and orbital analysis, design, planning, operations and management, and a steady supply of talented graduates.
   He said Victoria also had international standing as an R&D hub for broadband, with Australia’s leading centre for optical communications research, ultra-broadband information networks and the only laboratory that has expertise in optical communications systems.
   “Centres such as the Photonics Research Laboratory at the University of Melbourne, the ARC Special Research Centre for Ultra-Broadband Information Networks (CUBIN) and the Victoria Research Laboratory of NICTA are world-leaders in optical fibre communications and fibre-to-the-home systems.
   “Key national regulators, such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) both base their telecommunications functions in Melbourne, for good reason.”
   Mr Lenders said the project would create thousands of jobs as it was rolled out across the country and would also help businesses create the jobs of the future.
   Professor Rob Evans, Victorian Director of NICTA, Australia's leading information and technology research centre, agreed Melbourne would be a natural home for the rollout of such a large communications project.
   “Victoria's long-standing contribution to telecommunications in Australia makes its bid to become the home of one of the world's biggest broadband projects perfect sense and will set the State up for years of highly skilled jobs," Professor Evans said.

22 April, 2009

EPA makes big
noise over sirens

Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has rejected suggestions that it restricts the use of fire sirens.
   Referring to reported community discussions about the use of the Lorne Fire Brigade Siren, EPA Geelong office manager Gavan Mathieson said he was surprised EPA was even mentioned.
   “The use of the siren has always been an issue solely for the Country Fire Authority,” Mr Mathieson said. “EPA has not been involved in discussions about this issue.
   “My understanding from the CFA is that the siren is no longer used to notify the community or volunteers of a fire.”
   CFA’s Regional Operations Manager, Bob Barry, also said he could not understand why EPA continued to be mentioned in relation to this issue.
   “The Lorne Fire Brigade has been using pagers to dispatch their CFA volunteers for many years and this is now the preferred method of communication,” Mr Barry said.
   “This was a decision taken by the CFA. The brigade makes a conscious decision about whether or not to connect the siren to the pager message. When it is connected, the siren sounds. Not every call to the brigade activates the siren.”
   Mr Barry said neither the CFA nor the EPA had received any complaints about the noise generated by the siren when it was used.
   Of the 48 brigades in the region, only a small number still use sirens to notify volunteers, he said.

22 April, 2009

Sustainable school
is lesson to us all

A State school has scored a major win in the Premier’s Sustainability Awards.
   Bentleigh West Primary School took out the Community Award in the honours, which recognise businesses and groups for innovative work in promoting sustainability.
   The school won for a broad and long-term commitment to environmental sciences and sustainability issues that has included the development on the school grounds of a wetland with frogs and turtles, a dry forest, a vegetable patch and environmentally sensitive buildings.
   Bentleigh West PS, off the Nepean Highway, has a full-time environmental science coordinator and educates other schools and community groups about the relevant issues.
   Each year it holds a sustainability expo in which younger pupils run a restaurant using produce from the vegie patch while older students film and edit programs on environmental issues.
   The school’s buildings have passive heating and cooling, ceiling fans, solar panels, water tanks and recycling that includes worm farms.
   The awards were presented at a ceremony hosted by TV personality Rove McManus at Melbourne’s Crown Palladium.
   In other categories, Yarra Valley Water took out the Large Business Award for efforts that included a major research project with RMIT University and the CSIRO into water and sewerage servicing of new developments.
   Sustainable Plumbing Solutions won the Small Business Award, credit union MECU Limited won the Products and Services Award while Lend Lease was presented with the Built Environment Award.
   Premier John Brumby said the aim of the awards was to recognise Victorian businesses and groups that were reducing their environmental footprint and finding innovative ways to save resources and reduce waste.
   “The five winners are excellent examples of sustainability in action and I hope that other organisations will follow their lead as best practice examples in their respective fields,” Mr Brumby said.
   The Premier also highlighted the achievements of Sustainable Plumbing Solutions by presenting them with the inaugural Premier’s Recognition Award.
   The Awards are supported by major sponsors including the Industry Superannuation Property Trust (ISPT) and event sponsors, TRUenergy and Allira Elgo Estate.

22 April, 2009

Centrelink swoop
cashes in on cheats

Centrelink investigators in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth have swooped on welfare cheats in raids and operations that could net taxpayers more than $215,000 in overpayments.
   Federal Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, said dozens of Centrelink customers had been identified for failing to declare cash-in-hand payments.
   Senator Ludwig warned others that Centrelink’s Intelligence Analysts and Fraud Investigators were able to detect suspected cases of fraud.
   “Ripping off the welfare system by deliberately not declaring income to Centrelink will not be tolerated,” he said.
   “While the vast majority of customers do the right thing there is a need for investigators to undertake these types of operations to catch those trying to rort the system.”
   Senator Ludwig said over 100 taxi drivers had been interviewed in North Melbourne, sparking investigations into 15 cases which could save taxpayers up to $60,000.
   He said workers in over 200 fast food outlets, cafes, bars, clubs and businesses offering adult services were interviewed in Sydney, with 29 Centrelink customers caught working for cash.
   Senator Ludwig said 22 of these customers had their Government payments suspended, and the remaining seven were still under investigation.
   He said taxpayers could save around $154,000 as a result.
   Twenty three taxi drivers from Perth Airport are also facing further investigation over undeclared earnings.
   “These operations send a clear message to the community that the system is fair and it will pursue those people who try to take advantage of it,” Senator Ludwig said.
   Centrelink worked with the Police, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to conduct the operations.
   People with information about potential fraud cases have been encouraged to contact the Government Services Fraud Tip-Off Line on 13 15 24 or visit www.centrelink.gov.au

22 April, 2009

School tenderers in
class of their own

Hundreds of Victorian Government schools have moved a step closer to getting new facilities with the announcement of successful tenderers to oversee the federally funded program.
   Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike, said the four project managers appointed would soon take on an extra 60 staff, while the eventual construction work would create many more jobs.
   “We have been working tirelessly in Victoria to get these projects moving so that schools see their new buildings sooner,” Ms Pike said.
   “This is a huge building program across the State and while there are more than 60 jobs being announced today to oversee this important program, soon there will be many more as the works come on line.”
   The four project managers appointed are Coffey Projects (Australia) Pty Ltd; APP Corporation Pty Ltd; Incoll Management Pty Ltd; and Sinclair Knight Merz Architecture Pty Ltd (SKM) and Davis Langdon Australia Pty Ltd as joint partners.
   Arup – an engineering, design, planning and corporate advisory consultancy – with assistance from Indec Consulting has been appointed to lead the project managers.
   The project will be funded as part of the Federal Government’s Economic Stimulus Plan.
   Ms Pike said the massive injection of capital resources for schools under the Economic Stimulus Plan was in addition to the $1.9 billion Victorian Schools Plan that will see every Victorian Government school rebuilt, renovated or refurbished by 2017.
   She said the consulting firms were selected from a number of highly respected Victorian organisations invited to tender to manage this “unprecedented” schools building program.
   “These service providers have the blend of knowledge and expertise we are looking for to bring this massive infrastructure program to fruition,” Ms Pike said.
   “They will allow schools to continue to focus on delivering quality education without the distraction of managing capital programs.”
   The project manager’s role is to co-ordinate the finalisation of designs, complete contract documentation, tender the project works and oversee building contracts.

22 April, 2009

Investment guide is
value for money

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has published a new guide to help investors and consumers get the best out of their term deposits.
   The Commission will also conduct a marketing and disclosure review of the term deposit market.  
   Term deposits in authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs) have grown by 39 per cent from June 2007 to September 2008, and ASIC estimates they now exceed $500 billion, making them one of the most used investments by investors and consumers.
   Chairman of ASIC, Tony D’Aloisio said that the growth in ADI deposits, primarily term deposits, had been driven by investors and consumers reassessing risk reward premiums in favour of ADI-backed term deposits with the Commonwealth Government guarantee.
   “ASIC will conduct a review of the marketing and disclosure associated with term deposits to test their adequacy,” Mr D’Aloisio said.
   “We expect to complete our review by the end of May.”
   He said ASIC would update the investor and consumer guide based on the findings of the review and issue additional guidance as necessary.
   Mr D’Aloisio said investors and consumers should continue to have confidence in term deposits with ADIs.
   “Our review is simply a ‘health check’ to ensure that investors and consumers can make properly informed decisions when choosing to make term deposits or to roll over existing deposits,” he said.
   The new guide appears on ASIC’s investor and consumer website, www.fido.gov.au

22 April, 2009

Planning developments
off drawing board

Around 13,700 jobs are expected to be created through a Victorian Government decision to fast-track five “significant” developments.
   Planning Minister Justin Madden said bypassing certain local government processes would deliver certainty, cut delays and provide a $1.6 billion boost to the State’s economy during the “challenging times we face”.
   However he said transparency and community consultation would not be compromised on the projects, which include housing, retail and office space developments.
   Mr Madden said the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) facilitation unit had been established to work with the private sector and councils on projects of significance on a case-by-case basis.
   The Planning Minister said he would take action on the following projects:
   • Rezone for mixed-use the Amcor paper mill site.
   The former 17-hectare Amcor paper mill site development will begin in 2011 and provide in-excess of 2000 homes as well as retail, office and community facilities along the Yarra River;
   • Become the responsible authority for Pentridge Prison redevelopment.
   The $1 billion redevelopment already underway of the former Pentridge site will provide more than 3000 construction jobs and 3500 ongoing jobs and provide up to 1400 homes in Melbourne’s inner-north and retail development as part of the Coburg Principal Activity Centre;
   • Refer the Werribee Plaza to a Priority Development Panel.
   The proposed $250 million expansion of Werribee Plaza will begin in 2010 and includes a new department store, additional speciality shops, food and leisure facilities and parking and has the potential to provide 2000 construction jobs and 2400 ongoing jobs;
   • Rezone land for the Waurn Ponds shopping centre.
   The proposed $50 million expansion of the Waurn Ponds Shopping Centre to begin this year will provide up to1800 direct and indirect jobs; and
   • Become the responsible authority for the Monash University redevelopment, Caulfield.
   The $350 million development at Monash University’s Caulfield campus also due to begin this year will create 1000 construction jobs, include new education, retail and office buildings, and house 800 students.

22 April, 2009

National plan
to unseat bikies

Australia’s top lawmakers have agreed to consider legislation already in place in Victoria, as part of efforts to stem organised crime and bikie violence.
   At the recent meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) they agreed to a nationally coordinated response to the problem that is likely to include measures such as coercive questioning of suspects, tougher consorting laws, greater investigative powers for police and better witness protection.
   Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the measures had been operating in Victoria for some time.
   “This is a cooperative approach that adopts a suite of measures already in place in Victoria which target all forms of organised crime, whether perpetrated by bikie gangs, triads, underworld figures or other criminals,” Mr Hulls said.
   “Victoria has always supported a national approach to this issue as organised crime knows no state boundaries.
   “Victoria has had extensive experience dealing with organised criminal activity and the underworld and our legislative approach, which has now been adopted by SCAG, includes the most effective suite of measures to deal with this.”
   State and Territory Attorneys-General agreed to consider legislative measures that would:
  • Permit coercive questioning of individuals to assist with the investigation of organised crime offences;
  • Introduce consorting or similar provisions that prevent a person associating with another person who is involved in organised criminal activity;
  • Enable police to engage in controlled operations;
  • Enable the use of assumed identities to facilitate investigations and intelligence gathering;
  • Permit the use of surveillance devices for the purposes of investigating serious and organised crime;
  • Introduce witness protection legislation;
  • Introduce asset confiscation legislation to enable a court to restrain and forfeit a person’s assets where they are tainted; and
  • Introduce model cross-border investigative powers for controlled operations, assumed identities, witness identity protection and surveillance devices.

22 April, 2009

IP consultation
a good idea

Members of the public have been invited to have their say on proposed reforms to Australia's intellectual property system.
   Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, made the call saying a strong and efficient IP system was a cornerstone of successful innovation.
   “The proposed reforms are designed to help Australian innovators take their inventions to a global marketplace and encourage foreign investors to bring their new technology to Australia,” Senator Carr said.
   “This means growth both for our economy and our skilled workforce.”
   He said the call for submissions provided a valuable opportunity for interested parties to contribute to the work of strengthening Australia’s innovation sector and boosting the nation’s economic prosperity.
   “The multifaceted reforms aim to reduce barriers in the innovation landscape for researchers and inventors, allow patent claims to be resolved faster and strengthen penalties for counterfeiting and other serious forms of trade mark infringement,” he said.
   “I encourage all stakeholders to make submissions and let their views be known.”
   He said IP Australia was commencing consultation on two reform papers and would release further papers over the coming months.
   The Getting the Balance Right paper was about raising patentability standards and giving greater certainty in the validity of granted patents while the Exemptions to Patent Infringement paper looked at ensuring that patents did not inhibit research and development in Australia.
   The Minister said they were available at the IP website along with information on how to provide submissions at www.ipaustralia.gov.au. Submissions close 8 May 2009.

22 April, 2009

Study has Gippsland
as king of rock

A geological study by the Victorian Government has uncovered large areas in the Gippsland Basin that appear ideal for carbon storage.
   Minister for Energy and Resources, Peter Batchelor, made the announcement at the recent Canberra launch of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, of which Victoria is a foundation member.
   “The study, completed during the past 12 months, has been undertaken as part of the Government’s four-year $5.2 million Victorian Geological Carbon Storage initiative,” Mr Batchelor said.
   “The study involved geologists analysing rock formations using 3D modelling and identifying areas at depths of between 1,000 metres and 3,000 metres that mimic formations where gas and oil are stored.
   “The best areas identified for potential storage are offshore from Yarram to Lakes Entrance in Bass Strait.”
   Mr Batchelor said that as a foundation member of the Institute the Victorian Government would have access to the latest world class information, scientists and industry leaders who were focused on accelerating carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
   CCS involves the capture of carbon emissions from stationary power generators, such as the coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley, and injecting them deep underground for storage in the same way nature stores gas and oil underground.
   Mr Batchelor said carbon capture and storage was recognised around the world as a potential way to make deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
   In late March, the Federal Government released offshore areas in the Gippsland Basin which are now open for tender to explore.
   Mr Batchelor said the latest geological study highlighted new possibilities for companies involved in the ground-breaking CCS industry.
   “For companies considering bidding for these permit areas this report confirms there is real potential in Victoria for CCS,” he said.  
   “The study will also help companies searching in these areas to better target exploration.”

22 April, 2009

Bushfire funds set
history plan alight

The past and the future will both be in focus with the latest injection of funds into Victorian communities devastated by February’s bushfires.
   The State and Commonwealth Governments are to release $4.5 million to help these communities record their bushfire history, provide recreation activities for their young people and employ Community Development Officers.
   Victorian Premier, John Brumby, and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction, Bill Shorten, announced the measure during a recent visit to the hard-hit town of Marysville.
   They said the money, from the governments’ Community Recovery Fund, would also be available to produce community publications about recovery and rebuilding efforts.
   Mr Brumby said recording the history of the 2009 bushfires was an important part of the recovery process and also vital to ensuring this period in the State’s history was captured and remembered.
   “We all have a responsibility to ensure that future generations can learn more about what their towns used to be like and to see how they recovered and rebuilt,” Mr Brumby said.
   “Sadly, the fires destroyed a lot of memorabilia and this funding will support communities to again begin gathering historical items that can help our survivors tell their stories and recreate the histories of our towns and communities.
   “It will also encourage the development of proposals from individual communities to support initiatives they want in their towns.”
   Mr Brumby said the $4.5 million would go towards:
   * Protecting community history by recording bushfire history through the collection and collation of photographs, artworks, artefacts and other relevant historical memorabilia;
Creating recreation and entertainment activities for young people living in bushfire-affected communities;
  • Producing community information, including newsletters, newspapers and publications that keep the community informed about recovery and rebuilding efforts;
  • Regenerating community spaces to re-establish community meeting and gathering places;
  • Supporting proposals from bushfire-affected communities for community recovery initiatives;
  • Employing Community Development Officers to work with individual local councils on community recovery plans.
   For more information about funding available through the Community Recovery Fund visit www.grants.dpcd.vic.gov.au

22 April, 2009

Accessibility paper
open for comment

A draft regulatory impact statement on minimum accessibility standards for Victorian buildings will be released for public comment later this year.
   The Planning Minister, Justin Madden, and the Community Services and Senior Victorians Minister, Lisa Neville, said the statement would look at four mandatory requirements to make buildings more accessible to older citizens and those with a disability: a clear path from the street to a level entry; wider doorways and halls; a toilet suitable for people with limited mobility on entry level; and reinforced bathroom walls so grab rails can be fitted inexpensively if they are needed in the future.
   The Ministers discussed the proposed changes during the recent launch of a community awareness campaign for the Government’s new Build for Life program that focuses on increasing awareness of the need for buildings with these features.
   The program was developed by the Accessible Housing Taskforce, which includes senior members of government and community organisations such as the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Built Environment, the Building Commission, the Equal Opportunity Commission, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Ministerial Advisory Council on Senior Victorians and the Disability Advisory Council.
   Mr Madden said a well designed house with accessible features could meet the changing needs of families, from raising small children, to aging parents or people living with a disability.
   “The Build for Life awareness campaign will inform builders, designers and consumers of accessible design elements to be built into new homes,” Mr Madden said.
   Ms Neville said more than 19 per cent of Victoria’s population was aged over 60, and that by 2020 this would rise to almost 23 per cent.
   “With only four per cent homes currently accessible, there is a definite need to make accessible homes part of mainstream design,” Ms Neville said.
   She said the State Government would consult broadly with the community and building sector on how best to incorporate accessible building options into all Victorian residential homes.
   Ms Neville also thanked the Accessible Housing Taskforce for its work developing the community awareness campaign.
   The Government expects mandatory measures will be in place in 2010.
   For more information visit www.buildforlife.com.au

22 April, 2009

Rights Charter is
right charter

Victoria’s work in developing the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – particularly the extensive collaboration and consultation with the public service and broader community – could be a model for a national version.
   Attorney-General Rob Hulls told the National Human Rights Consultation in Melbourne recently that a record number of people took part in Victoria’s consultation, with 94 per cent of submissions showing strong support for human rights to be better protected by law.
   “I cannot overstate the importance of the consultation that was conducted in Victoria, just as I applaud the process taking place today,” Mr Hulls said.
   “As a result of taking this approach, the Charter has been able to strengthen our democracy and improve organisational culture, laying bare the decision-making process for all to see.
   “I urge all Victorians to show the same enthusiasm during the national consultation so all Australians can enjoy the human rights currently afforded to Victorians.” 
   Mr Hulls said it was heartening to see the Federal Government had firmly established its commitment to look at human rights.
   “A national framework for formalised human rights protections is imperative, as Australia is the only western democracy without such a system of rights protection in place,” he said.
   Mr Hulls said during its first full year of operation, Victoria’s Charter had been working successfully to protect human rights in Victoria, as outlined in the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission 2008 Report.
   “According to the Report, the Charter is having a positive effect on the development of new laws and regulations, the formulation of policy and the delivery of services to Victorians by public authorities,” Mr Hulls said. “The Report also found the Charter is making real improvements to uphold the human rights of ordinary Victorians.
   “We will firmly encourage the Federal Government to adopt a model similar to the Victorian Charter when we make our submission to the National Human Rights Consultation in June.”
   The National Human Rights Consultation is also visiting Geelong, Dandenong, Bendigo, Wodonga, Ballarat and Mildura.
   Further information is available online at www.humanrightsconsultation.gov.au

22 April, 2009

Hulls makes case for
lawyer regulator

Victoria’s proposal for a national regulator for the legal profession has won backing from Australia’s top lawmakers.
   At its latest meeting, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) agreed to put the idea to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
   The plan put forward by Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls would see a single national regulator for the legal profession, replacing more than 50 regulatory bodies around Australia.
   Mr Hulls said there could no longer be any justification for maintaining the present arrangement.
   “This mish-mash of bodies makes for a complex system that leads to inefficiencies and a greater cost of legal services,” Mr Hulls said.
   “Australia has an increasingly national and international economy, and legal profession and state boundaries are often irrelevant to many consumers of legal services.”
   He said a single national regulator would help streamline: admissions and practising certificates; incorporated legal practices and multi-disciplinary practices; trust account handling; costs disclosure and billing; complaints handling and professional discipline; professional indemnity insurance; and fidelity insurance.
   It would also benefit national law firms and lawyers who either move interstate or practise in more than one jurisdiction.
   “But, importantly, consumers would ultimately benefit because it should result in more streamlined processes and reduced compliance costs,” he said.
   Mr Hulls said a national regulatory regime could be administered through branch offices in each state or territory, supported by an intergovernmental agreement to allow jurisdictions to continue to have a role in the scheme.
   “The exact model for establishing a national regulator will need to be the subject of negotiation and debate, and Victoria will take a cooperative approach to COAG’s proposed reforms,” Mr Hulls said.

22 April, 2009
Super idea for stimulus payment
ESSSuper has reminded members of a simple way to more than double their payment through the Federal Government’s economic stimulus plan.
“By putting your stimulus payment into your super fund you could be eligible for a super co-contribution from the Government of up to $1350,” it advises.
“For example, if you earn $30,000 and put the whole $900 into your fund the Government will pay $1350 into your super. And, if your salary is $50,000 and you put in the whole $900, the Government will pay you $517.”

Patent centre opened
A new patent examination centre has been opened in Melbourne by Australia’s intellectual property watchdog, IP Australia.
   The Melbourne Patent Examination Centre will be responsible for examining patent applications in the fields of chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry and electronics.
   Director General of IP Australia, Philip Noonan said the Melbourne Centre was IP Australia’s first substantial presence outside Canberra for many decades and would create 41 new jobs.
   “This presence allows us to focus on recruitment in technologies where we are facing the greatest resource gaps” Mr Noonan said.

Golfers aid fire recovery
Victoria Police and emergency service workers were among those taking part in a special golf event recently to raise money for the bushfire reconstruction and recovery event.
   They were joined by prominent sporting identities – including football great Kevin Bartlett, cricket legend Max Walker and professional golfers Ben Davey and Brad Forrester – as well as bushfire survivors.
   The pro-am event, organised by Melbourne West Leading Senior Constable Terry Lobjoit, was held at Spring Valley Golf Club in Clayton South.

Facelift for Daylesford reserve
The Hepburn Shire’s biggest reserve, Victoria Park Events Precinct in Daylesford, will get a facelift through a $127,000 grant under the State Government’s Small Towns Drought Program.
   The Regional and Rural Development Minister, Jacinta Allan, said the money would go towards lighting and electrical upgrades, sun shading, roofing a relocation of cricket practice facilities, and a new ticket box.
   “This project is important for the region which is feeling the impact of drought both in the country and in town,” Ms Allan said.

Free travel for war veterans
Victoria’s public transport system will again provide free travel for veterans and war widows over the ANZAC Day long weekend.
   The Premier and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, John Brumby, said travel would be free from 24-26 April provided those eligible wear their uniform, service medals or appropriate badge. Alternatively, they can present their Department of Veterans Affairs Gold or White card or their Category ‘V’ Victorian Public Transport Concession Card.
   Mr Brumby said there would also be free buses travelling to and from the Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance for all members of the public.

VicUrban supports appeal
VicUrban has helped raise another $670,000 for Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
The State Government’s land development agency donated a 613 square metre block of land within its Cairnlea development on which the Henley Properties Group built a 41-square home.
   The combined house and land package was then auctioned for the recent Good Friday Appeal.
   The partnership between VicUrban and Henley, now in its 16th year, has raised more than $7 million for the Royal Children's Hospital.

Arts officer for recovery
Murrindindi Shire is to employ an Arts Recovery Project Officer with funds provided under arts funding for bushfire-affected communities.
   The Shire will get $35,000 of an $85,000 program to support arts and cultural activity in such communities.
   The other $50,000 will go towards an Arts Recovery Quick Response Grants program overseen by Regional Arts Victoria.
   Arts Minister Jacinta Allan said the arts could help people express and make sense of their experiences, while bringing communities together.

CAPAM meets on leadership
The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) is holding its 2009 Building Public Service Leadership Capacity Conference in Cukai, Malaysia.
   In partnership with the Malaysian National Institute for Public Administration, the conference has as its theme the development of the next generation of Public Service leaders in Commonwealth countries.
   “This challenge is especially difficult in the unique setting of the Public Service where organisations are immense, complex and multi-dimensioned,” CAPAM said in a statement on its website.
   The conference, from June 22 to 24, builds on previous meetings in India (2005) and Ghana (2007).
   Registration for the conference will open shortly.

15 April, 2009

New ESSSuper rules to pay dividends

ESSSuper has overhauled its superannuation products, giving members more flexibility in managing investments and ensuring there is no discrimination against same-sex couples.
   The fund, which handles superannuation for emergency services and State Government employees, announced the changes which took effect from the start of April.
   Members who have an ESSSuper Accumulation Plan, Beneficiary Account, Spouse Account and/or Income Stream can now change their investment option selection on a monthly basis.
   Switch requests that are received by the 20th day of the month will take effect from the first day of the following month.
   For example, switch requests received from 1 April up to (and including) 20 April will have their new request made effective from 1 May.
   The fund reminded members that despite the introduction of monthly switching, they should still remember superannuation is a long-term investment.
   “Members should think carefully about making changes to their investment option selections in response to short-term fluctuations in the value of their investment,” it advised.
   ESSSuper also announced that Accumulation Plan members with an employer who does not participate in ESSSuper may be able to arrange for Superannuation Guarantee (SG) contributions from these employers to be paid directly into their Accumulation Plan account.   One of the benefits of this change is that members will be able to exercise "choice of fund" when they leave their current job.
   ESSSuper also reminded members that the definition of "spouse" in superannuation legislation had been expanded to include same-sex couples.
   The legislative changes mean that same-sex couples (from the retrospective date of 1 July 2008) are treated in the same way as married couples and opposite-sex de facto couples in respect to: payment of death benefits; binding death benefit nominations; contribution splitting; establishment of an account on behalf of an "eligible spouse"; and payment of a reversionary pension for income streams.
   The changes do not directly impact on ESSSuper`s defined benefit funds as these funds have recognised persons in same-sex relationships since 2001.
   Full details of all changes to ESSSuper`s products are contained in Supplementary Product Disclosure Statements available on the website.

15 April, 2009

Ethics kit sets new standard

The Ethics Resource Kit developed by the State Services Authority for the Victorian public sector is rapidly earning respect in the international arena.
   The kit – which has already been bought by the private sector and Federal, State and Local Governments throughout Australia – has now been adapted for use in Turkey.
   This latest development arose after Victorian Public Sector Standards Commissioner Greg Vines met international ethics experts while in Europe attending the 7th Global Forum on Reinventing Government: Building Trust in Government.
   During his travels he met Professor Alan Doig, Resident Advisor to the Council of Europe and the Prime Ministry Council of Ethics for the Public Service in Ankara.
   Mr Vines showed the kit to Professor Doig, who concluded it was international best practice and ideal for a project for which he was working on behalf of the European Union – “Ethics for Prevention of Corruption in Turkey” (TYEC).
   He said the overall objective of TYEC is to contribute to the prevention of corruption in Turkey in accordance with European and other international standards through the implementation and extension of the Code of Conduct, and the development of anti-corruption measures.
   The primary beneficiary institution of the project in Turkey is the Council of Ethics for Public Service.
   A major part of the project is the design and development of a practitioner-focussed ethics training package and strategy to be developed by the Council and then adapted for delivery by Ministries across the public sector.
   Recognising the Victorian kit covered precisely what was needed, Professor Doig asked for permission to adapt it for use in Turkey.
   International consultant David Watt was invited to develop the material for the Turkish context. With the help of Turkish academics and trainers, and the use of practice events, the material underwent several phases of translation and extensive proofreading to ensure coherence of concepts, while the case studies were developed based on real-life cases from Turkey.
   A paper on the practice events said: “Numerous participants would take sometimes surprising positions not necessarily in accordance with the Code of Ethics. These positions were then contrasted with ‘what the law actually is’, which clearly made an impression on those participants.
   “This seems to suggest that the training fills gaps of information on the legal framework as well as taking advantage of some authoritative effect of laws on public servants.”
   The final training package will be available on CD-Rom and widely disseminated. Some 80 public officials are currently being trained in its delivery.
   Professor Doig said that with maximum support, the ethics trainings could cascade through senior and junior trainers into a total of 120,000 sessions that could reach three million public servants by 2014.
   He said all those involved appreciated the quality of the Australian approach and material, which saved the project considerable time, and the support of Mr Vines in its use.   The Implementation Guide and Facilitators Guide will be published in English on the Council of Europe website: http://www.coe.int

15 April, 2009

Judges urged to court more publicity

Reasonable public scrutiny of Judges could make their offices stronger by increasing public confidence, Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls has told a conference in Hong Kong.
   In a speech that also highlighted Victorian law reforms such as the legal blueprint Justice Statement 2 and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, Mr Hulls told the 16th Commonwealth Law Conference that judicial independence should not mean disengaging from the community.
   He said he saw a strong judiciary as one that is “on the front foot – out in the community, explaining the principles behind decisions without having to make excuses, bringing the population with it”.
   “The law is, after all, simply a mechanism designed to serve the public, with the judiciary its highest paid servants,” Mr Hulls told about a thousand delegates from around the world
   “In serving the rule of law, then, Judges cannot fully meet their obligations if they do not also cement the confidence of the community.”
   The Attorney-General also said that real, long-lasting reform needed to be accompanied by cultural change to be effective but he was concerned that “needless tradition” often hindered important reform and legal culture had often failed to evolve with the law.
   “No amount of important legal reform will resonate to its potential unless it is accompanied by cultural change within the judiciary and legal profession,” he said.
   Mr Hulls said the Government had been encouraging wide-ranging discussion about making mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) the core business of Courts, to provide easier and cheaper access to justice.
   “It’s time to look beyond old boundaries that cannot reasonably be expected to house the complexity of 21st century demands; it’s time to think creatively and recognise that, although crucial, money is not the cure all.”

15 April, 2009

Indigenous workers catch better deals

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) has released a discussion paper on a plan to redesign the Roles of the Koori Support Workforce.
   The plan would see the workforce, many of whom are on annual contracts, offered Victorian Public Service positions on equivalent salaries or at the next highest grade as their roles are reshaped as Koori Education Support Officers (KESOs).
   The change is expected to allow for greater flexibility in allocating resources to areas of greatest need and to create up to 27 new positions.
   The current Koori support workforce includes 91 Koori employees in schools and regional offices, consisting of 56 Koori Educators (KEs), eight Home School Liaison Officers (HSLOs), 16 Koori Education Development Officers (KEDOs) and 11 Koori Early Childhood Field Officers (KECFOs).
   A recent DEECD review found that the most valued role of Koori educators was one of linking schools with the parents and families of Koori students.
   But it also found the workforce was understaffed, with roles and functions ill-defined and inconsistent across regions.
   Job security was low due to annual contracts and there was little opportunity for professional development.
   Under the proposals, most workers will undertake a new KESO role ranked at VPSG-4 level or equivalent and be employed on an ongoing basis by regional offices, but located in schools of highest need at the discretion of regional management.
   In addition, there will also be nine Koori Education Coordinator (KEC) positions (one per region) at VPSG-5 level or equivalent. These will have a specific focus on integrating the work of KESOs into the broader regional approach to student well-being and support, support KESOs themselves within their school placements and provide a strategic link between relevant DEECD employees and external agencies.
   As new positions, the Department proposes to advertise the KEC positions immediately through the Department’s normal recruitment processes.
   The Victorian Public Service Agreement entitles the Community and Public Sector Union, its members and affected staff to be consulted over proposed changes to work practices.
   CPSU Industrial Officer Geraldine Hughes has asked for any concerns to be directed to her as soon as possible at ghughes@cpsuvic.org

15 April, 2009

Waste management paper is good tip

A consultation paper with the aim of establishing a national policy for waste management has been released for public comment.
   Issued by Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, A National Waste Policy: Managing Waste to 2020 is expected to help clarify what is appropriately dealt with at each level of Government – Local, State and Federal.
   Mr Garrett said waste policy had not been considered in the national context since 1992 and that the paper was “a chance for us to agree on what our priorities should be in tackling waste and where they are best addressed.”
   “The Australian Government, with support from State and Territory environment ministers through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, is leading development of a national policy to identify best practice in waste management and resource recovery, and to ensure Australia has the right mix of incentives and regulation,” he said.
   “Many State and Territory Governments are now reviewing their waste and resource recovery policies and all jurisdictions, as well as stakeholders, are being invited to contribute their experience and ideas.”
   Mr Garrett said the amount of waste generated in Australia grew by more than 28 per cent between 2003 and 2007.
   “I encourage the community to contribute their views, ideas and information by making a submission on the consultation paper to my Department or attending one of the public meetings taking place across Australia,” he said.
   Submissions close on 13 May 2009.
   Public meetings are scheduled for each capital city, Townsville, Kalgoorlie and Wagga Wagga from 21 April to 1 May 2009.
   Further information was available from www.environment.gov.au

15 April, 2009

Running firemen lift donations

Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) staff have raised more than $55,000 for two important hospitals.
   Officers collected more than $25,000 for the recent Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal while the MFB’s Charity Running Club raised $30,000 for The Alfred Hospital Burns Unit.
   Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Cameron, presented “The Alfred” with the donation, raised through the MFB’s Great ANZAC Run last year.
   “The 24 Melbourne firefighters who took part in the 4,075 kilometre run have done Victoria proud, representing our emergency services and raising funds for such a valuable cause,” Mr Cameron said.
   The Great ANZAC Run began in Gallipoli the day after ANZAC day and finished in London on 18 May. MFB firefighters and support crew clocked up the kilometres passing through Turkey, Greece, Crete, Italy, France Belgium and England to raise money for the Alfred Burns Unit.
   Mr Cameron said the event embodied the Australian spirit of mateship, integrity, self-sacrifice and a commitment to helping others in times of need.
   “The recent tragedy of the Black Saturday bushfires highlighted the critical role the Alfred Burns Unit plays in looking after Victorians,” he said.
   “However, it’s not just during times of major emergencies that people rely on this life-saving service. The Burns Unit helps Victorians 24 hours a day – 365 days a year.”
   Mr Cameron also highlighted the support the charity run had attracted across Europe.
   “During the final leg, the streets of London were lined with well-wishers and expatriate Aussies who cheered loudly as the entire running group ran the last stretch from Westminster Bridge to the Australian war memorial in Hyde Park,” he said.
   The MFB Charity Running Club was established in 1977 and has completed ANZAC memorial runs from Canberra to Melbourne in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The club has raised over $2 million for various charities in its 30-year history.
   Meanwhile, in its 50th year raising money for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal, about 30 firefighters from MFB stations across Melbourne were joined by off-duty firefighters, non-operational firefighters and corporate MFB staff to shake the tins.
   Station Officer Smith said the appeal was “a fantastic way to give something back to a service that helps so many families in our community”.

15 April, 2009

Museum’s bug book judged to have bite

A Museum Victoria book on bugs has been named best publication by the peak professional body for zoos, parks and aquaria in Australia and New Zealand.
   Bugs Alive: A Guide to Keeping Australian Invertebrates won the 2009 award for best publication from the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA).
   Susan Hunt, ARAZPA’s President and CEO of Perth Zoo, praised the authors – Alan Henderson, Jessie Sinclair and Deanna Henderson of Melbourne Museum’s Live Exhibits unit – for the “remarkable photography, clear layout and uniquely informative content”.
   Presenting the award at the annual ARAZPA conference at Sea World, Ms Hunt made special mention of the high quality achieved in an internally produced publication, managed by MV Publishing.
   The book, which has sold more than 2,200 copies in the past year, covers just about everything needed to keep Australia’s most fascinating terrestrial invertebrates.
   It includes individual care guides for more than 90 species including bugs from tropical rainforests to suburban backyards, each with a husbandry rating indicating the level of difficulty involved.
   Four detailed chapters focus on feeding invertebrates, housing them, keeping them healthy, and creating displays.
   The full colour book includes colour macro-photography by Alan Henderson, mostly of animals kept at Melbourne Museum.
   Years of experience in keeping these small animals has gone into this publication; the Live Exhibits Unit has kept well over 200 species. Many of these invertebrates had never before been maintained in captivity, making the museum the leading researchers in this field in Australia.
   Bugs Alive is aimed at a wide audience including children, school teachers, hobbyists and professionals – from beginners through to seasoned bug keepers. It is available now in the Museum Shop.
   This is a unique publication, as previously available guides only covered the care of overseas species.

15 April, 2009

Red light cameras get green light

Victoria’s red light camera network is going digital.
   Victoria Police and the Department of Justice announced 30 Melbourne intersections with red light cameras had already been switched from the existing wet film to digital technology in time for the Easter period. The wet film cameras will now be rotated through 53 other sites.
   The 30 sites upgraded were chosen based on high level levels of red-light running or collision rates.
   As part of the technology upgrade, the new digital red light cameras will also take on a speed enforcement capacity.
   Assistant Police Commissioner for Traffic and Transit Safety, Ken Lay said red light cameras were one of the key enforcement initiatives designed to reduce the number and severity of intersection crashes.
   "Last year 28 people were killed as a result of side impact collisions at intersections, with 25 per cent of all serious injuries also caused this way," Mr Lay said.
   "There were also over 4,000 recorded collisions at intersections and a large percentage of these involved speed and motorists taking a gamble by running a red light.
   "If you are photographed going through a red light, particularly speeding through a red light, then you absolutely deserve to be caught as it is just so dangerous.”
   Mr Lay said the transition from wet film to digital red light cameras was essential as the older system was slowly phased out.
   "There is absolutely nothing wrong with the accuracy of the wet film red light cameras however we are going to reach a point in the near future when the components are no longer available," he said.
   "Traffic cameras are no different from the cameras people buy for personal use – no one buys a traditional film camera anymore and part of that is because they are increasingly hard to find, get parts or film for and then get that film developed.
   "By proactively upgrading to digital technology now it ensures the infrastructure works well into the future."

15 April, 2009

House repair scheme to nail new jobs

Thousands of new jobs are to be created in Victoria through a Federal Government funding program to refurbish public housing.
   Minister for Housing, Richard Wynne said the $99 million program would pay for repairs and maintenance to around 5,600 social housing dwellings across the State by the middle of next year.
   “This significant investment in repairs and maintenance will prolong the useable life of these units and improve amenity for tenants,” Mr Wynne said.
   “Overall, the boost from this stimulus package will help create or secure more than 3,000 new jobs as well as providing more affordable housing for the Victorian community.”
   He said funding would deliver improvements to over 1,600 properties that were uninhabited, hard to let, or would otherwise be lost to the social housing stock over the next two years as they fell into disrepair.
   The remaining properties will receive minor repairs and upgrades, or will benefit from improvements to common facilities and infrastructure.
   Mr Wynne said the stimulus package funding boost came on top of the Victorian Government’s $580 million commitment to improve and increase public housing stocks over the past two State Budgets.     “We're looking to make housing more affordable for low income earners by building new homes across metropolitan Melbourne and Victoria's regional centres,” he said.
   The Federal Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek, said the Australian Government was taking practical steps through its Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan to cushion the impact of the global financial crisis by supporting jobs in the construction sector.
   "This will stimulate the building and construction industry and has been estimated to support 15,000 jobs nationally over the next two years,” Ms Plibersek said.
   "It's not just about jobs for builders and tradies but also associated industries such as building manufacturers and suppliers who help keep the Australian economy ticking over.”
   As part of the latest funding, Yarra Community Housing will turn a dilapidated property into a modern singles facility with 19-studio apartments at a cost of $2.1 million.

15 April, 2009

Infrastructure review is big ticket item

The Commonwealth has proposed a package of reforms to improve the system by which large infrastructure assets are shared by other users.
   Federal Minister for Competition Policy, Chris Bowen has put his reforms to all States and Territories in a bid to have the National Access Regime improved to increase its efficiency and enhance competition.
   The National Access Regime was established under the Commonwealth’s Trade Practices Act to ensure that large infrastructure assets were able to be used by third parties on reasonable terms and conditions, so that they don’t have to be duplicated by every user.
   Mr Bowen said while the regime appeared to be working effectively, there were concerns it was generating regulatory risks that were hindering investment in essential infrastructure.
   He said some infrastructure owners and access seekers claimed that processes under the regime were too lengthy and costly and that there was a broad consensus that something needed to be done to speed up the process.
   “Currently, processes under the National Access Regime can go on for years,” Mr Bowen said.
   “The National Access Regime needs to be improved to make decisions and arbitration faster.”
   He said the package of reforms drew on recommendations from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the Productivity Commission, the National Competition Council (NCC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
   He said the reforms would streamline administrative arrangements and provide greater regulatory certainty for infrastructure owners.
   He said the reforms would implement COAG Competition and Infrastructure Reform Agreement commitments; streamline decision-making criteria and processes; improve regulatory certainty; and reform ACCC and NCC administrative processes.
   Mr Bowen emphasised the changes would not strengthen or weaken the criteria for application of the regime.
   “The reforms strike an appropriate balance between the rights and interests of infrastructure owners and investors on the one hand, and the competition benefits of facilitating access on the other,” he said.
   “This will ensure both investment in nationally significant infrastructure and the efficient use of that infrastructure.”
   Mr Bowen said the regime promoted the efficient use of nationally significant infrastructure and facilitated access in cases where replicating the infrastructure concerned would not be economical and where commercial negotiation with the infrastructure owner or operator has failed.
   He said changes to the National Access Regime would be made in the next few months, after the State and Territory views had been considered.

15 April, 2009

Water bill report washes-up stats

The average household water bill in Melbourne is significantly cheaper than those in other Australian capitals, according to a new report.
   The Water Services Association of Australia National Performance Report 2007/08 found Melbourne’s households paid an average of $459 for water and sewerage services. The next cheapest was Brisbane on $668 while Canberra residents paid the most – a whopping $866.
   Water Minister Tim Holding said the Report also showed Melbourne was the most water efficient major capital city in Australia and that it continued to lead the nation in water recycling.
   “Melburnians are using water at record low levels, less than any other major capital, and reducing demand on our precious drinking supplies,” Mr Holding said.
   “Total water use in Melbourne has decreased from 326 kilolitres per property in 2002/03 to 228 kilolitres per property in 2007/08 – a reduction of 30 per cent in five years, and a 10 per cent drop since last year alone.
   “With Melbourne’s storages at 28.9 per cent, it is vital we all continue to save water around the home until our major water projects come online from 2010.”
   Melbourne also led the way in water recycling, supplying over 65 million litres of recycled water for non-drinking purposes in 2007/08.
   “This is more than double the amount of water recycled in Adelaide and Sydney, who recycled 25 and 24 million litres respectively,” Mr Holding said.
   Mr Holding said Victoria’s regional water corporations also compared favourably with similar size water suppliers across Australia.
   “Goulburn Valley Water and Coliban Water were among the highest water recyclers in regional Australia, while Central Highlands Water customers used only 127 kilolitres per property, a decrease of 14 per cent since last year, and the lowest rate among similar sized corporations,” he said.

15 April, 2009

School safety is security lesson

Several Jewish and Islamic schools in Victoria are to receive more than $1.2 million to upgrade security under the Federal Government’s Secure Schools Program.
   Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, said the schools were among 20 across Australia to share $5 million in the first round of funding under the program.
   “The safety of our schools and students is an important issue and these measures will ensure that students can study in a safe and secure environment,” Mr Debus said.
   Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges were the biggest recipient with a $360,000 grant. King David School, Bialik College and Ilim College will each receive around $250,000 while Minaret College will get $100,000 and Isik College $60,000.
   The Federal Government promised $20 million over four years as part of an election commitment to help Government and non-Government schools meet their particular security needs.
   Mr Debus said while Australian schools were among the safest in the world, some schools had experienced racially-based incidents including threats and property damage.
   “The funding will be used to provide structural improvements such as security fencing, glass protection, lighting, CCTV, alarm systems and security training,” he said.
   “Schools with identified security issues will be able to help prevent some of the problems that could potentially affect them.
   “I will be holding further discussions with my State and Territory colleagues to identify schools for the next funding round.”
   The selection process involved initial consultation with State and Territory Attorneys General, Police Ministers and Education Ministers who provided nominations for schools in their jurisdictions.
   An Advisory Group also provided advice to the Government.
   Schools will be able to apply for funding under a second round later this year.

15 April, 2009

VicUrban lands Defence base

VicUrban, the State Government’s land development agency, is to create a new suburb in Melbourne’s west.
   Premier John Brumby said a 128-hectare former Department of Defence site in Maribyrnong is to be transformed through a project that will build more than 3,000 new homes and provide thousands of jobs.
   Mr Brumby said the release of the land for housing was the latest initiative from the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments to deliver jobs and build for the future.
   “The sale of this substantial piece of land to VicUrban will open up three kilometres of river frontage to the public as well as giving this new community homes, jobs and facilities,” Mr Brumby said.
   The Federal Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the sale of the site was a result of the Australian Government’s new Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy (CPDP).
   “This policy facilitates the release of surplus Commonwealth land to increase housing supply, improve community amenity and create jobs,” Mr Tanner said.
   “The sale of this parcel of land to the Victorian Government will do exactly that; supporting up to 4,500 construction jobs during the site’s development and providing more than 3,000 new homes in the area.
   “Importantly, a minimum 20 per cent of these dwellings will be affordable housing.”
   Mr Brumby said that as well as creating 4,500 construction jobs during its 10-year development period, up to 3,000 ongoing employment opportunities should emerge through the creation of a local business precinct.
   “State and Federal Governments are taking a lead by delivering more housing supply and choice, public recreation space and community facilities,” he said.
   “The project will include a range of affordable housing options, including housing to cater for affordable purchase, affordable rental and social housing.”
   Acting Planning Minister, Peter Batchelor said the Department of Defence had already begun an extensive remediation process to clean up of the site, which will allow VicUrban to transform it into a thriving community.
   VicUrban will also develop a heritage strategy as part of the master plan for the site, including extensive community and stakeholder consultation.
   Chief Executive Officer, Pru Sanderson, said that VicUrban was ideally placed to undertake this development, with a proven track record in delivering challenging urban renewal projects such as the Department of Defence’s former Albion Explosives Factory in Brimbank, which is now the award-winning Cairnlea residential development.
   “This project will also offer significant development opportunities for the private sector and VicUrban has a wealth of experience in working with both large and small developers through our various residential developments and Melbourne Docklands,” Ms Sanderson said.
   “VicUrban will continue to work with the City of Maribyrnong and local stakeholders to make certain the right mix of homes, and businesses are located within the site.”

15 April, 2009

Railway crossing work on the right track

Fifty-eight level rail crossings identified by the Victorian Government as high-risk are to get boom gates and other safety measures with funds provided under a new Federal program.
   The crossings were identified using a model that takes into account factors such as road and rail traffic volumes, crash history, visibility for motorists and train drivers, the number of rail tracks at the crossing and other public risk factors.
   The Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Anthony Albanese, said work would start immediately on installing the new equipment at crossings around Victoria.
   “Funding for these safety projects will come from the (Federal) Government's $150 million Boom Gates for Rail Crossings Program – a key element of our $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan,” Mr Albanese said.
   “All up, we've allocated $30.3 million to Victoria's 58 projects.”
   Mr Albanese said about a hundred accidents occurred at rail crossings every year.
   “Last year alone there were 28 collisions at level crossings in Victoria, nine resulting in fatalities and five involving serious injuries,” he said.
   “The investment we are making will not only improve road safety but also support local jobs and local businesses during the current global recession.
   “Never before has the Federal Government had a program dedicated to improving safety and preventing accidents at level crossings.”
   Nationally, the Boom Gates for Rail Crossings Program will provide $50 million in 2008/09 and a further $100 million in 2009/10 for the installation of boom gates and other safety measures at over 250 level crossings.
   Under the Government’s Nation Building Program to deliver and maintain road and rail infrastructure throughout Australia, Victoria will get about $4.4 billion.

15 April, 2009

Footballers kick in for safety campaign

The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) has recruited some prominent young AFL footballers to get its road safety message through to young male drivers.
   Geelong’s Gary Ablett, Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell and Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer – all former players in the Under 18s TAC Cup series – feature in the latest campaign to encourage young people to get experience in all conditions while they are learner drivers.
   Minister for the TAC, Tim Holding, launched the new campaign recently in conjunction with the first round of the TAC Cup at Visy Park.
   “The Government is working with the TAC and young drivers to ensure they have 120 hours experience on our roads in all conditions to get the skills they need to be safe drivers,” Mr Holding said.
   “The profile of these three former TAC Cup players and current AFL stars will help spread the road safety message, particularly to young male drivers.
   “These players are showing young people that it’s OK to support your mates to be safe on the roads.”
   Learner drivers, under 21 years, are required to log at least 120 hours of supervised driving, including 10 hours at night, before applying for a probationary licence.
   Mr Holding said drivers with 120 hours’ driving practice were 30 per cent less likely to have an accident than those who had 50 hours driving practice.
   The major factors in crashes involving young people are deliberate risk taking, overconfidence and inexperience.
   The campaign includes television advertisements which will be aired during AFL football telecasts and during other sports programs in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
   Mr Holding said around 13 per cent of those killed on Victoria’s roads last year were aged between 16 and 20.

15 April, 2009

Water Co flushes out filter scammers

South East Water has warned residents to beware of a company it says uses scare tactics to sell expensive water filters to the vulnerable.
   South East Water’s General Manager of Corporate Services, Russell Eddington, said the company moved to a new region whenever it is exposed.  
   He said its typical ploy was to send out letters warning residents their water may be a health risk following the recent dry spell and bushfires, and then offer to have one of its “water advisors” analyse the water.
   “Firstly, I want to ensure South East Water households their water is safe to drink,” Mr Eddington said.
   “We constantly audit our water quality and only water of a high standard is released from our reserves.
   “If there was any concern whatsoever, South East Water would have notified all residents in affected areas of any potential risk.”
   Mr Eddington said it was believed the rogue outfit used powdered tints to falsely indicate the water may be a health risk to families. Its sales force dressed similarly to South East Water staff when door-knocking houses.
   “Every so often, we see letters like this and residents should not be scared into spending thousands of dollars,” Mr Eddington said.
   “Companies like this prey on the elderly and vulnerable and should be exposed.”
   He said South East Water is investigating the matter and will be prepared to action if necessary.

15 April, 2009
Take the ethics test
The State Services Authority has an ethical challenge for Victoria’s public servants.
   It wants them to try the new ethics quiz on its web site to “see how far you are on the way to becoming an ethics champion”.
   The Authority recently added a new ethics section to the site that brings together all its ethics information and resources. This section, including the quiz, can be found at www.ssa.vic.gov.au under “Values and employment principles”.

Prize for VicUrban
VicUrban has won a major prize in the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s National Awards for Excellence. Its Tenterfield residential community won in the category of Affordable Development.
   Chief Executive of VicUrban, Pru Sanderson, said Tenterfield exemplified innovation in affordable living, without compromising quality urban and landscape design outcomes.
   She said the average lot price throughout Tenterfield's five year development was $125,000 and 84 per cent of the approximately 1,000 lots sold were within the lowest price quartile of the local market.

Website survey
VicRoads needs people to take a quick online survey to help improve its web site.
   The survey takes only a few minutes and asks about how easy the site was to use, navigate and find particular informaiton.
   The survey will run until 24 April. It can be found at VicRoads website online survey.

Skills training panel
Representatives from several public sector educational bodies will be among the panel of industry experts providing advice on training as part of the Victorian Government’s $52 million Skills for Growth: Workforce Development Program.
   Skills and Workforce Participation Minister Jacinta Allan said 17 organisations had been contracted to help small businesses get 55,000 of their employees into accredited training.
   Among the successful tenderers were the Centre for Adult Education, Chisholm Institute of TAFE, East Gippsland Institute of TAFE and the University of Ballarat.

Boost for Murray tourism
Almost 6,000 tourism-related businesses along Victoria’s Murray River are could receive a boost with the launch of the State Government’s new Murray Holiday Planner.
   Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Tim Holding, said the detailed Planner would help visitors get the most out of their stay in the Murray region, “renowned for its food and wine, golf, history and heritage and water sports”.
   For more information on events and festivals in regional Victoria go to www.visitvictoria.com

Rail freight upgrade
Recent upgrades to a major rail link will enable an extra 500 freight trains a week to make the 7km trip from Tottenham Junction to the Port of Melbourne's busy Dynon Intermodal Terminal.
   The Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, officially opened the line, saying it would boost export capacity and relieve pressure on commuter rail timetables.
   Australian Rail Track Corporation Chairman Barry Murphy said motorists would also benefit “as every 1500-metre train can replace up to 150 trucks on our roads”.

Free kindergarten for some
Attending kindergarten is to be free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – not just those whose parents hold concession cards – under a new Victorian Government program.
   The Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, Maxine Morand, said the program would provide up to 10 hours a week of free kindergarten time.
   President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association, Geraldine Atkinson, welcomed the initiative, saying it would remove a significant financial barrier for many Aboriginal parents and give their children a positive start for their entire school life.

Buses regulated
Both commercial and non-commercial bus operators will face significant new “safety duties” following Parliament’s recent passage of the Bus Safety Bill 2009.
   The Bill significantly extends the range of enforcement powers and sanctions available to the safety regulator.
   More than 40 per cent of the wider bus fleet is currently unregulated, including more than 5500 minibuses (10 to 12 seats).
   Draft regulations are still being prepared with the Act not taking effect until 31 December next year.

New ambulance station
A new state-of-the-art ambulance station has been officially opened in Moonee Ponds.
   Health Minister Daniel Andrews said the 24-hour station in Willow St would provide a more efficient and comfortable workplace for paramedics, with better functionality and modern facilities.
   The branch, which has 17 paramedics, responds to about 400 calls per month.
   Ambulance Victoria’s Greg Sassella said the modern station would “help us deliver the best possible ambulance care to the residents of Moonee Ponds, Essendon and surrounding suburbs”.

Disability Awards open
Nominations are now open for the National Disability Awards.
   This year the scope of the Award categories has been broadened to recognise the diverse nature of contributions made by, and for, people with disabilities in areas such as business and employment.
   Anyone can make a nomination for each category of the Minister's Lifelong Achievement Award, Disability Rights Young Leader Award, Business Award, Local Government Award, and Social Inclusion Award.
   Nominations close 22 May, with more information available by visiting www.idpwd.com.au or phoning 1800 440 385.

Schools join climate challenge
School students will be given the chance to win prizes for sharing their thoughts on what climate change means to them.
   The Federal Department of Climate Change's Think Climate, Think Change competition is open to students in years 3 to 9.
   The competition opens on 28 April 2009 and closes 24 June 2009.
   Find out more at www.climatechange.gov.au

8 April, 2009

VPS green policies get audit thumbs up

The Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Dr Ian McPhail, has found the Victorian public sector is leading the way in sustainability efforts.
   Dr McPhail’s strategic audit of State environmental programs found Victorian Government offices had progressively decreased their use of water, energy, paper and vehicle fuel over the past two years while also producing less waste.
   Environment and Climate Change Minister, Gavin Jennings, welcomed the report saying this was the fifth year the Government’s environmental operations had been scrutinised by the Commissioner and once again the results showed a steady improvement.
   The report found that Government offices now used four per cent less energy per square metre; 13 per cent less water per full time employee and 1.8 per cent less paper than in 2006 while also creating four per cent less vehicle emissions and 10 per cent less waste.
   Mr Jennings said the Government had made its operations more sustainable by establishing environmental management programs in hospitals, schools, TAFE institutes, police and correctional facilities, departments and statutory agencies.
   “This leadership role is set to continue with the government’s on-going expansion of the ResourceSmart program which helps agencies to reduce their environmental impact,” he said. 
   “So far 75 agencies have joined the program which will expand across Government through to 2011.”
   Mr Jenning said one of the key challenges for Government operations was its vehicle fleet.
   “There has been a 48 per cent decrease in the number of six cylinder passenger vehicles in our passenger fleet in three years, which is a major achievement,” he said.
   “We also have more than 500 hybrid Toyota Priuses and the Government has committed to purchasing up to 2,000 Australian made hybrid Camrys from 2010.
   He said the Government welcomed the Strategic Audit’s recommendations, which covered areas such as further reducing energy consumption, improving building and procurement sustainability, and better reporting.
   “Departments and agencies are already making progress in the main areas covered by these recommendations and most recommendations will be addressed by building on current actions,” Mr Jennings said.

8 April, 2009

PS values survey has attitude

Respect, adherence to human rights, equal opportunity principles and integrity are predominant behaviours among public sector employees according to a recently released report by the State Services Authority (SSA).
   The SSA analysed in detail the results of last year’s People Matter Survey involving more than 13,000 Victorian public sector employees to produce a Main Findings Report.
   Overall, this report found public sector employees were committed to providing best standards of service.
   In this respect survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that:
  • Their workgroup strives to achieve customer satisfaction (97 per cent);
  • They consider human rights when making decisions and providing advice (96 per cent);
  • Their organisation strives to earn and sustain a high level of public trust (95 per cent);
  • Their organisation provides high quality services to the Victorian community (93 per cent); and
  • Their organisation considers clients’ human rights when designing and delivering policies and programs (93 per cent).
   According to the SSA, public sector employees agreed that the employment principles were applied well within their organisation with the most positive employee opinions related to the application of the equal employment opportunity, merit and fair and reasonable treatment principles.
   Another key finding was that appropriate performance feedback had a positive effect on employee opinions, especially when provided both formally and informally.
   The SSA said most public sector employees were satisfied with their job overall.   “Relationship with members of your workgroup”, “work-life balance”’, “interesting / challenging work provided”, “job security”, and “fair pay” were the five most important aspects selected by respondents for their impact on how satisfied they were with their job.
   Most employees thought highly of their organisation and the Victorian public sector as a whole.   For example, almost nine out of 10 employees are proud to work for their organisation and for the Victorian public sector.
   Several opportunities for improvement were also identified, however.
   Almost one-quarter of survey respondents believed that they did not receive adequate feedback on their performance to enable them to deliver required results.
   One-third of respondents also believed that their managers did not deal appropriately with employees who performed poorly.
   Over one-quarter of respondents did not have confidence in the procedures and processes for resolving grievances in their organisations, or that those procedures and processes were well understood.
   Over one-third of respondents reported having witnessed harassment or bullying at work and 21 per cent had personally experienced harassment or bullying within the 12 months prior to the survey. Thirty per cent of respondents however, were concerned about the negative consequences of lodging a grievance.
   The report also found there was a need to increase employee awareness and understanding of the organisational processes in place to support the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act. Only 47 per cent of survey participants said they were aware of those processes.

8 April, 2009

Species program is endangered

The Department of Sustainability and Environment is expected to significantly overhaul its program for protecting endangered species - and work more closely with the Federal Government on related issues – after a report by the Auditor-General found it was not coping with its workload or meeting its own timelines.
   “At the current rate of progress it would take another 22 years to develop action statements for all listed items,” the Auditor-General’s report on the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 revealed.
   “The effort directed to listing threatened species and processes has not been matched by efforts to develop action statements, monitor them, or assess their effectiveness,” the report said.
   “Action statements are the key tool to manage threatened species, but the gap between listed items and items with action statements continues to widen.”
   DSE administers the Act, which the Auditor-General found urgently needed updating by Parliament.
   “Significant changes and challenges have arisen that the legislation did not foresee,” the Auditor-General, Des Pearson said.
   “The Act is therefore no longer effectively leading measurable conservation and protection activities for the State.”
   His report acknowledged considerable effort on the part of DSE in listing threatened species. It recommended the Department build on its existing knowledge about threatened species, causes of their decline and how best to mitigate threats to them.
   It also recommended DSE formalise its collaboration on conservation activity with the Federal Government and seek a joint agreement to eliminate duplication in the listing process and establish a prioritised action plan to address the backlog of listed items with no action statements.
   Environment and Climate Change Minister, Gavin Jennings, welcomed the audit saying DSE would now provide advice on options for improvement.
   “The findings are both a ‘pat on the back’ as well as a reminder that we must continue working to protect Victoria’s unique plants and animals,” Mr Jennings said.
   “We will use the recommendations from the audit to inform a review of biodiversity legislation, including the FFG Act, and contribute to the current renewal of Victoria’s Biodiversity Strategy.
   “The audit praises Victoria’s approach on tracking the implementation of Action Statements via the Actions for Biodiversity Conservation (ABC) system.”
   “I have asked the DSE Secretary to report to me again in 12 months about changes that have been made in response to the audit and the benefits that have been delivered.”
   The complete Auditor-General’s report is available at www.audit.vic.gov.au

8 April, 2009

Bench pressed for fit Judges

The search is on for more judicial officers to serve in Victoria’s Courts.
   Advertisements have been posted in the major newspapers for suitably qualified applicants from the Government, private and not-for-profit sectors of the legal profession.
   Attorney-General, Rob Hulls said candidates for the positions in the Supreme, County, Magistrates’ and Coroner’s Courts of Victoria should possess personal qualities such as integrity, fairness and a commitment to public service.
   “We are seeking legal professionals from across a range of backgrounds to broaden the pool of candidates from which future judicial appointments will be made, and are encouraging interest from women, people with disabilities, and people of indigenous and culturally-diverse backgrounds,” Mr Hulls said.
   “We are particularly interested in candidates who have demonstrated an interest in appropriate dispute resolution, which we believe is essential to the future of Victoria’s justice system.
   “We are not seeking job applications, but expressions of interest from the best and brightest minds in our community.”
   Prospective judicial officers are being called to express their interest to serve as Justices, Acting Justices and Associate Judges in the Supreme Court; Judges and Acting Judges in the County Court; Magistrates, Acting Magistrates and Part Time Magistrates in the Magistrates’ Court; and Coroners (including Fixed Term and Part Time Coroners) in the Coroner’s Court.
   Mr Hulls said all expressions of interest would be treated confidentially and may be drawn upon on an ongoing basis as appropriate vacancies arise.
   He said the Victorian Government had made 158 judicial appointments since 1999.

8 April, 2009

Royal Commissions attract big wigs

The Australian Law Reform Commission has released an Issues Paper and a call for public comment on questions arising in its review of Royal Commissions.
   The ALRC has been charged with examining the Commonwealth’s Royal Commissions Act 1902 with a view to advising the Federal Government on whether less formal alternatives to Royal Commissions could be appropriate in some cases.
   President of the ALRC, Professor David Weisbrot, said while Royal Commissions looked at issues of great public importance, they were usually extremely expensive.
   Professor Weisbrot said they played an important role in ensuring systematic failure was addressed, particularly when controversial issues could not be handled satisfactorily by the Courts or political process.
   “A key concern for the ALRC is whether an alternative model of executive inquiry might provide similar advantages and outcomes to Royal Commissions, in terms of respect, independence, protection of witnesses and so on, while offering more flexibility, less formality and greater cost effectiveness,” he said.
   Professor Weisbrot said there were often expressions of disappointment when less formal means of inquiry were established, as was the case with Dr Mohamed Haneef and Cornelia Rau.
   “Royal Commissions usually prove to be very expensive,” he said.
   “We estimate that, in today’s dollars, the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry cost taxpayers over $70M, the one into the collapse of insurer HIH cost over $47M, and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody cost over $50M.”
   The Commissioner in charge of the ALRC Inquiry, Professor Les McCrimmon, said the current Act gave Royal Commissions a range of coercive information gathering powers.
   “A Royal Commission can apply for a search warrant, summon witnesses to give evidence and require the production of evidence,” Professor McCrimmon said.
   “The exercise of such powers must be balanced carefully against the rights of those being investigated.”
   He said the Act also contained a number of criminal offences that could be used to punish failure to comply with a Royal Commission, interfering with witnesses, or interfering with the work of a Commission.
   “We will be exploring whether civil penalties may be more appropriate in some of these contexts,” Professor McCrimmon said.
   The ALRC has developed an Online Discussion Forum to complement the Issues Paper.
   The forum has been organised around key questions being considered in the Inquiry and could be accessed at talk.alrc.gov.au while the Issues paper was available from www.alrc.gov.au
   The closing date for written submissions was 19 May 2009, with the ALRC’s final report due by 30 October 2009.

8 April, 2009

Hospital watchdog to keep healthy look-out

A new position of Director of Data Integrity is to be created to keep tabs on elective surgery in Victoria’s hospitals after the Auditor-General found significant inaccuracies in reporting methods.
   In a report to Parliament entitled Access to Public Hospitals: Measuring Performance, the Auditor-General, Des Pearson acknowledged recent work by the Department of Human Services to include an audit program for emergency access data, describing it as a positive step towards addressing the audit findings.
   However he said the current situation in which some patient records were falsified to improve reported waiting times was serious and raised questions about a key aspect of the governance and accountability framework overseeing health system performance.
   “Hospitals inconsistently interpreted reporting rules, data capture methods were susceptible to error, and the accuracy of some data was impossible to check, meaning incorrect data may not be detected,” the Auditor’s report said.
   “In one hospital, data manipulation had occurred.”
   He also found that declining performance in emergency department waiting times was not clearly presented in the Your Hospitals report.
   Recommendations in the report focus on measures to improve data quality, increase transparency in public reporting of hospital performance, and enhance the measurement of public hospital access in Victoria.
   Health Minister, Daniel Andrews said any deliberate manipulation of hospital performance data was unacceptable and announced that six random spot audits of hospitals would be conducted each year to ensure the practice did not continue.
   “All Victorian hospitals are on notice,” Mr Andrews said.
   “This new data audit regime provides the right oversight on data to ensure Victorians can have faith in hospital performance data.
   “On top of new measures… I have directed the Secretary of my Department to appoint a new Director of Data Integrity, reporting directly to her.”
   Mr Andrews said the Director of Data Integrity would have responsibility for:
  • Co-ordinating the system-wide audit of elective surgery data;
  • Completing the system-wide audit of emergency data currently underway;
  • Co-ordinating six annual spot audits of random health services; and
  • Investigating complaints about public hospital data.
   “Claims have been made about similar practices at other hospitals, and the Director of Data Integrity has the responsibility for ensuring those claims are examined,” Mr Andrews said.
   “Only data of the highest integrity will ensure the Government’s record funding of Victoria’s health system is going to the right areas.”
   Mr Andrews said staff found to have falsified data faced disciplinary action ranging from demotion to dismissal, and he as Minister had the power to remove hospital boards, or appoint delegates to those boards.
   “This is a warning to all hospitals,” he said. “I have no tolerance for inappropriate behaviour and will not hesitate to take action.”

8 April, 2009

Leadership in front at IPAA conference

Public policy expert, Mark Burford, a former advisor to Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, will be a key speaker at a major Melbourne program for public sector professionals seeking to develop their policy leadership potential.
   The five-day Gain the Policy Edge event, organised by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) in conjunction with consultancy firm The Nous Group, will bring together a panel of experienced public policy facilitators.
   IPAA Victorian President Fran Thorn said the conference would challenge participants to develop fresh channels of thought and to think about new and different approaches to public administration, discussing thorny policy issues in a setting that encourages debate and dissention.
   “Mr Burford brings over 20 years of policy experience – on everything from climate change to education reform – to IPAA Victoria's flagship policy program,” Ms Thorn said.
   “In his time in Ms Gillard's Office, he was instrumental in establishing the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education, setting up Skills Australia and developing the vocational education reform agenda in the Council of Australian Government’s Productivity Working Group.”
   Mr Burford is now a consultant with The Nous Group.
   The Group’s Managing Director, Tim Orton, and consultant Ian Porter will join him in facilitating sessions, along with the IPAA’s Kathy Laster.
   Ms Thorn said participants would define how their work is likely to change over the next five years; examine the processes that successful policy making should follow, including key elements such as issue analysis, policy options, the budget process, consultation and co-ordination; look at community capacity and partnerships and how these can multiply the options and choices for governments; explore two lynchpins of the policy development process – cabinet decision making and implementation in the public sector; and conclude by linking the policy development cycle with evaluation and implementation.
   “Participants will also have the opportunity to be assessed and accredited for their work during this intense program,” she said.
   Gain the Policy Edge runs from 10 to 17 June at Hilton on the Park in Wellington Parade, Melbourne. It culminates in a large-scale, live-action simulation staged in the legislative chamber of the Victorian Parliament.
   “Now in its 11th year, Gain the Policy Edge continues to be the professional development program where senior policy leaders cut their teeth,” Ms Thorn said.
   For more details visit vic.ipaa.org.au

8 April, 2009

Liquor recruitment worth drinking to

Recruitment has begun for Victoria’s new liquor licensing Compliance Directorate.
   More than 30 positions have been advertised for the specialist unit which will work with licensees, the Director of Liquor Licensing and Victoria Police to enforce and monitor liquor licensing laws.
   Minister for Consumer Affairs, Tony Robinson, said the Directorate would result in reduced violence in and around licensed premises.
   “The Compliance Directorate will work closely with licensees in metropolitan and regional areas to manage risks and take enforcement action to ensure licensees meet their obligations under the law and licence conditions,” Mr Robinson said.
   “The creation of a specialist compliance unit will also free police resources to deal with serious breaches of liquor laws and other public safety issues in and around licensed premises.”
   Mr Robinson said the new jobs created by the Compliance Directorate would also be a welcome boost to the Victorian economy.
   The establishment of the Compliance Directorate was announced in Victoria’s Alcohol Action Plan, released last year, he said.
   “The Government is implementing a suite of measures to address alcohol-related violence, including the Compliance Directorate and a review of liquor licensing fees and categories, which will consider a risk-based fee structure.”
   He said other measures included a freeze on late-night liquor licences; strict new closed-circuit television (CCTV) regulations; stronger powers for the Director of Liquor Licensing to order CCTV cameras be installed outside premises; and stronger powers enabling the Director of Liquor Licensing to suspend liquor licences.

8 April, 2009

Archives offers gold to mine its treasures

The National Archives of Australia is offering research grants to people who want to delve into its collected secrets and produce innovative research projects.
   Grants worth a total of $40,000 are available to researchers, scholars and archivists with projects could make use of some of the more than 50 million records the Archives holds that cover Australian Government activities since Federation and significant 19th-century records transferred from the colonies to the Commonwealth.
   Former award-holders had explored topics as diverse as censorship, volunteering, copyright reform, foreign policy and Australian prisoners of war.
   The three grants on offer are the Margaret George Award for talented, emerging scholars – up to $10,000, the Frederick Watson Fellowship for established scholars – up to $15,000, and the Ian Maclean Award for archivists and other professionals interested in archival issues – up to $15,000.
   Applications close on Friday 26 June 2009, and the grants will be awarded in September.
   The research work can be undertaken at any one of the National Archives’ offices, in any Australian capital city, and the grants may be awarded on a full-time or part-time basis.  
   More information is available from the Archives website www.naa.gov.au and applications can be submitted to grants@naa.gov.au or mailed to: Grants and Awards, National Archives of Australia, PO Box 7425, Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610.

8 April, 2009

Schools branch out into garden contest

Students from bushfire-affected primary schools such as Flowerdale will be among thousands taking part in this year’s Victorian Schools’ Garden Awards.
   Launching the Awards at Melbourne’s International Flower and Garden Show, Education Minister Bronwyn Pike described them as an important way to raise awareness of what was happening in the communities ravaged by bushfire and drought and find solutions to build a stronger society.
   “More than ever, the Awards can be an important vehicle for school rejuvenation, helping local communities damaged by fire to recover from their loss,” Ms Pike said.
   Flowerdale students joined Ms Pike at the launch of the competition, which teaches students to think creatively about the environments in which they learn and play.
   “We send a message of encouragement to our schools affected by the bushfires,” Ms Pike said, “that they will rebuild their school gardens as part of the process of rebuilding their communities.”
   She said more than three million students had participated in the annual competition since it began 32 years ago.
   Ms Pike said participating schools would further cultivate an environmental focus through water-saving strategies, low maintenance gardens and healthy-eating vegetable patches.
   “Water conservation and sustainable planting will be a prominent target as students find new and novel ways to nurture their school gardens and enhance their grounds,” she said.
   Ms Pike also paid tribute to the late Kevin Heinze who founded the awards.
   “Kevin Heinze was a true pioneer who helped spread the message of environmental awareness,” she said.
   “He leaves behind a lasting legacy with these annual awards that will benefit students and the environment for many years to come.”
   In addition to regional awards, achievement awards and special merit awards, there are four State awards chosen from four categories: small primary and special schools, medium-sized primary and special schools, large primary and special schools and secondary schools.
   Schools need to enter by Friday 24 July and more information is available from

8 April, 2009

DSE logs onto firewood policy

The Department of Sustainability and Environment will work with Local Government in areas affected by February’s bushfires to make timber from public land available for firewood and new fence posts.
   Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings said firewood was an important source of heating and energy for many people in regional Victoria, which was why the Government was developing a new Firewood Strategy for Public Land to ensure such collection had a sustainable future.
   “Where practical, this wood will be sourced from trees felled during fire suppression activities that are not needed for rehabilitation requirements,” Mr Jennings said.
   He said DSE would waive royalties for this material for fire-affected residents until winter but permits would still be required for material removed from State forest areas.
   “Firewood collection is a long-standing use of public land and the aim of the strategy is to ensure firewood from public land remains accessible, in particular to regional Victorians, for the long-term,” the Minister said.
   “The strategy will also review the firewood sales systems across the State.
   “In developing the strategy, we will ensure that people can conveniently access firewood, the collection of firewood is sustainable and potential ecological impacts from cutting and collection are minimised.”
   He said in addition to providing an important source of heating and energy, fallen trees and branches on the forest floor provided valuable habitat for native animals.
   Mr Jennings said the Government was committed to providing Victorians with access to State forests for both wood and non-wood forest products and services on a sustainable basis. He pledged the development of the Firewood Strategy for Public Land would be a consultative process involving the community.
   He said a Discussion Paper would be released for public comment in the first half of this year and consultation with firewood users and representatives from regional communities throughout Victoria would occur during the development of the strategy.
   For more information visit www.dse.vic.gov.au, call 136 186 or email firestrat.publicland@dse.vic.gov.au

8 April, 2009

University plan sees degree of growth

Victoria’s higher education sector is to dramatically expand under a new education plan that would create more university places and boost research.
   Skills and Workforce Participation Minister, Jacinta Allan said the plan would put a renewed focus on education and employment, helping the State weather the global economic crisis.
   “Now more than ever, Victorians need to be skill-ready and qualified and we stand prepared to respond to this challenge with a comprehensive higher education plan,” Ms Allan said.
   “The plan provides for more university places each year, better access to those places, and a boost to research and development initiatives.”
   The Minister announced the plan during the recent 7th Annual Higher Education Summit in Melbourne.
   “The global economic crisis and skills shortage demand a renewed focus on education and employment,” Ms Allan said.
   “In these tough global times, building an internationally focused, sustainable and competitive economy driven by innovation, knowledge, skills and creativity is a priority.
   “Victoria’s universities are fundamental to achieving this vision and they serve as leading institutions to produce the knowledge and skills needed by graduates entering the workforce, and by industries competing in the global economy.”
   Ms Allan said the plan would focus on the needs of industry and of regional and outer urban communities.
   There would also be a focus on university innovation, research and capacity and on the interface between higher education, vocational education and training and schools.
   “The Victorian plan will also address the vital issues facing our universities, including the future needs of industry for bachelor degree and above graduates,” she said.
   “Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia that offers a universal entitlement for vocational education and training and the Commonwealth’s reforms would extend this to a universal entitlement for tertiary education – higher education and VET.
   “Our historic $316 million skills reform package Securing Jobs for our Future is already leading the way for growth in the VET sector, creating 172,000 extra training places,” Ms Allan said.

8 April, 2009

Trustee executes relocation plan

The Victorian Government-owned trustee company, State Trustees, is to decentralise its operations.
   The Board has commissioned a feasibility study into possible new locations in the suburbs and regional Victoria after a decision to move out of Melbourne’s central business district.
   The Rural and Regional Development Minister, Jacinta Allan, said decentralising would create jobs while making the body’s services more accessible.
   “State Trustees provide a vital service to many of Victoria’s most vulnerable and the decision to move closer to its customers is most welcome on service front but also for jobs,” Ms Allan said.
   State Trustees provides a range of services including wills, deceased estate administration, enduring powers of attorney, trusts, financial planning, tax and genealogical assistance. It also acts as the legal and financial administrator on appointment by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for people with incapacity.
   Ms Allan said the decision to move followed a preliminary study by State Trustees into how the needs of clients could better be met.
   That study recommended the company investigate opening service centres across Melbourne and increase its service presence in regional Victoria.
   Managing Director of State Trustees, Tony Fitzgerald, said the Board had commissioned a three-month investigation to determine the most appropriate suburbs and locations across Victoria for State Trustees service centres.
   “We look forward to being able to connect with more Victorians and help more people make the most of life’s opportunities, and overcome life’s challenges,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
   He said State Trustees was currently helping victims of the Black Saturday bushfires by rewriting wills, creating trusts, administering deceased estates and providing financial planning assistance to help those Victorians get back on their feet.

8 April, 2009

New smart meters are brains behind power

Households in Melbourne’s south-east and northern suburbs will be among the first to get the new Government-mandated “smart” electricity meters.
   The rollout of infrastructure to support the new technology – which allows monitors to be read and managed remotely and householders to get a more accurate picture of energy consumption – began recently for the energy distributors Jemena and United Energy Distribution.
   Energy and Resources Minister, Peter Batchelor said the program to provide all 2.5 million Victorian households with a new meter would take four years.
   “Electricity distributors Jemena and United Energy Distribution are among the first to start the roll-out of the new smart meter infrastructure to their more than one million customers,” Mr Batchelor said.
   “United Energy Distribution services the south-east suburbs of Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula and Jemena services the northern and inner western suburbs of Melbourne.”
   Mr Batchelor said these companies had finalised agreements with a range of suppliers to source and install the new meters with the first expected to be in households later this year.
   “The two distributors will begin notifying the first households and small businesses of arrangements to replace old meters during the next few months,” he said.
   “The roll out marks an important milestone for Victoria’s advanced meter project, which will provide a valuable tool to help Victorians to manage their electricity use and facilitate better customer service from both electricity distributors and retailers.”
   Mr Batchelor said the new meters would also automatically notify distributors if loss of supply was detected, helping to speed up reconnection and could be used to remotely connect and disconnect electricity supply.
   “A key benefit for Victorian households of the enhanced meters will be the reduced need for estimated bills and the potential for retailers to offer time-of-use pricing,” Mr Batchelor said.
   “For example, this could mean cheaper electricity could be offered at set times during the day, so a household could save money by ensuring more of their heavy electricity use is during these times.”

8 April, 2009

Country cats to push living regionally

The Geelong Football Club has a new sponsor – the Victorian Government.
   The Government has decided to back the Cats as an investment in provincial Victoria, according to the Regional and Rural Development Minister, Jacinta Allan.
   “As regional Victoria’s only AFL club, the Geelong Football Club is the perfect organisation for promoting awareness of the advantages of living in the regions,” Ms Allan said.
   “The Geelong Cats provide enormous exposure for regional Victoria on a national scale to an audience in the millions.
   “The Geelong Football Club is also the highest profile organisation representing regional Victoria on the national sporting stage.”
   Ms Allan said the deal would take the State Government’s Make it Happen in Provincial Victoria campaign Australia-wide by showing Tom Harley and Paul Chapman as citizens of provincial Victoria as well as star Geelong Cats players.
   “Geelong Cats captain Tom Harley and key forward Paul Chapman will be ambassadors for promoting provincial Victoria as a great place to live, work and invest,” Ms Allan said.
   “Our sponsorship of the AFL’s most-watched team is an important part of promoting regional Victoria.     “Tom and Paul both have a great following and portraying them as people who love living in provincial Victoria is an important part of our message.
   “They are genuine fans of the provincial Victoria lifestyle and we’re delighted to have them as ambassadors.”
   The Minister said the sponsorship included signage at Skilled Stadium and match-day sponsorship of the round three “blockbuster” match between Geelong and Collingwood at the MCG.

8 April, 2009

Council excellence calls Unis to table

Universities have been invited to apply to the Federal Government for the honour of hosting Australia's first Centre of Excellence for Local Government.
   Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the Centre would foster improvement and professionalism within Australia's third sphere of Government and was expected to showcase and encourage innovation and best practice across Local Government, improve the Local Government workforce capability to address skill shortages, assist Local Government to attract and retain skilled staff, and deliver training and development, including specialised leadership programs.
   The Prime Minister said up to $8 million would be made available for the landmark project which would help share knowledge and bridge the gaps between Local Governments, training providers and research institutions.
   Mr Rudd said that when the Government consulted with Local Government on the proposal it showed that a range of dispersed education and training services already existed, however significant gaps remained and there was a lack of coordination.
   “I encourage universities intending to submit an application to consider partnering with other institutions, Local Government stakeholders or others with expertise,” he said.
   “Applicants should build on other related and existing initiatives and propose strategies and services that are practical and affordable.”
   Mr Rudd said that they would also need to show how they would work with stakeholders to deliver services nationally, including online services, as well as tailoring specific services to meet regional needs.
   He said applications closed on Wednesday 22 April 2009 and a decision on the successful applicant would be made after an independent assessment process.
   The application form and further information, including where to lodge applications, was available at www.infrastructure.gov.au

8 April, 2009
Budget briefings on
Special briefings on the next Victorian Budget – the first since the global financial crisis – have been organised for the public sector.
   Secretary of the Department of Treasury and Finance, Grant Hehir, will deliver the briefings at breakfasts in Melbourne on 6 May and Ballarat on 7 May.
   Chairman of the Allen Consulting Group, Dr Vince FitzGerald will provide an analysis while a regional perspective will be provided by the Chair of Barwon Health, Claire Higgins.
   To register, contact the Institute of Public Administration Australia at www.ipaa.org.au

Bushfires officially a disaster
The Victorian bushfires have been officially declared a disaster under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
The declaration will allow disaster relief funds to be tax deductible.
   The Funds will still need to apply to the Australian Taxation Office for formal endorsement, and donations will be tax deductible.

Defence withdraws from fires
Australian troops have completed their assignments in fire-ravaged areas of Victoria.
   Seven weeks after the crisis, the Joint Task Force (JTF) formed as part of the Commonwealth’s contribution to relief efforts has officially closed.
   Up to 850 troops, mainly Victorian reservists, provided support and back-up to emergency workers as part of the JTF but the Australian Defence Force will maintain a small specialist forensic contribution to the Victorian Coroner in support the Bushfire relief effort until mid year.

LGA awards open
Nominations for this year’s National Awards for Local Government close on 17 April.
   With the theme, “Local Government: Building Australian Communities”, the Awards recognise Councils’ role in providing infrastructure and delivering services.
   Awards will be presented in each of the 11 categories with one overall winner. Categories include Capacity Building, Innovation in Regional Development, Women in Local Government and Managing Community Assets.
   All elected local governments are invited to enter and more information is available by phoning 1800 065 113, or visiting www.infrastructure.gov.au/local/awards

24 win Wannik awards
Twenty-four indigenous Year 11 students from 19 schools across Victoria have been named as recipients of the inaugural Wannik Education Scholarships.
   Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike, said each recipient would receive $5,000 to help them through their final years of secondary schooling.
   Ms Pike said the scholarships were part of the State Government’s $31 million education strategy for Indigenous students: Wannik, Learning Together – Journey to Our Future.

HR Institute’s new look awards
The global financial crisis has had an impact on this year's Australian Human Resources Institute's Australian HR and People Management Awards.
   The 2009 awards will look at the role played in the present financial climate by responsible business practices and will be judged by role models in their fields with awards named after them.
   The 209 awards will include the Lynda Gratton Award for CEO of the Year - Lynda Grattan is professor of management at the London Business School - and The Dave Ulrich Award for HR Leader of the Year, named after the professor of business at the University of Michigan.
   The 2009 national AHRI award winners will be announced at a gala dinner presentation on November 11 in Melbourne.

Security kits distributed
Staff from Victoria Police, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre and the City of Yarra will deliver Business Security kits to thousands of retail businesses as part of a new local business crime prevention initiative.
   The kit provides information and advice on how to deal with theft, bomb threats, keeping properties safe, aggressive people and suspicious activity.
   After the kits are delivered to each shopping precinct, a local forum will be held to discuss crime prevention tactics and local crime issues.

Garden for Exhibition
Part of the Royal Exhibition Building car park in Melbourne is to be turned into a sustainable heritage garden.
   Minister for Consumer Affairs, Tony Robinson, said Museum Victoria would restore the original 19th Century garden around the western forecourt of the building – the State’s only structure on the World Heritage List – and install a water collection and underground storage system in the nearby Carlton Gardens.
   The Government will provide $5.3 million for the project.

Dinosaurs on holidays
Melbourne Museum’s new permanent exhibition, Dinosaur Walk, has opened in time for the Easter school holidays.
   Opening the display, Arts Minister Lynne Kosky said it was the largest and most spectacular dinosaur exhibition ever assembled at the museum, with 16 skeletons, a range of prehistoric items and specially developed animations.
   She said Dinosaur Walk is the first exhibition to open as part of the $7.2 million redevelopment of Melbourne Museum’s Science and Life Gallery. 

Innovation to be rewarded
Finalists in the Premier’s Sustainability Awards this year include Bentleigh West Primary School and the University of Melbourne Faculty of Economics and Commerce Building.
   The two were among 15 mostly business organisations recently announced as finalists. The winner will be named on 16 April.
   Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Gavin Jennings, said the awards recognised the hard work and innovation done by the business and community sectors to reduce their carbon footprint and resource use.

Names wanted for reefs
Victorians are being invited to make their mark in history by naming the first of three new concrete artificial reefs to be deployed into Port Phillip Bay.
   The Minister Responsible for Fisheries, Joe Helper, said competition entrants could also win a range of fishing prizes.
   “More than $1 million has been invested into the reefs which will be installed in 11 metres of water off Seaford, Frankston and Aspendale,” Mr Helper said.
   He said entries closed on Easter Monday, 13 April.

1 April, 2009

VPS work guarantee comes as job lot

Victorian public servants have received a guarantee they will not be retrenched due to the global financial crisis – but at a price.
   The Government has pledged not to cut jobs under a new wages policy that will see annual wage increases of 2.5 per cent rather than the current 3.25 per cent and a change in the productivity component
   The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) immediately attacked the move, with State Secretary Karen Batt calling it “a kick in the guts for the Victorian Public Service”.
   The new policy, forecast to save $1.5 billion over four years, is set to take effect from 4 May to coincide with the State Budget.
  Treasurer John Lenders said the Government was doing everything possible to make saving jobs its top priority.
   “We are the State’s number one employer and we will take every reasonable step to keep Public Service employees in their jobs,” Mr Lenders said.
   “This is belt tightening and it is appropriate in the current global economic climate. It is action we need to take to ensure we can protect jobs in Victoria.”
   Mr Lenders challenged private sector employers to follow the Government’s example.
   “Only by retaining the best staff will businesses be able to capitalise on the inevitable economic upturn,” he said.
   Mr Lenders said the new policy would not apply to all current agreements. Members of Parliament and Public Service executive salary increases would be capped immediately at 2.5 per cent, he said.
   Ms Batt said the Union would seek urgent discussions with the Government to review the ramifications on the current bargaining round.
   “The Government’s press release states that they are acting to protect jobs in tough economic times but fails to point out the majority of public sector agreements are already completed for this round and run through until 2011/2012 except of course the Victorian Public Service Agreement,” Ms Batt said.
   “The Government will also remove its productivity supplementation component of 0.75% from all Government agencies and replace this with a ‘cash in the bank’ component which, in effect, means that the workforce must trade jobs for pay rises sought in excess of the 2.5%.
   “This is a kick in the guts for the Victorian Public Service who has been applauded continually by the Premier over the last few weeks for our tireless efforts in bushfire fighting and the important recovery efforts.
   “So many have been giving of their time over and above their normal paid hours towards fellow Victorians so desperately in need.”
   Ms Batt said the Government was forcing the Union to complete complex negotiations for a new Victorian Public Service Agreement involving 32,000 employees with 10 agency schedules and nine nexus agreements within five weeks.
   “Reducing the spending capacity and wages of your workforce at a time of economic crisis seems at odds with the Federal Government's stimulus policies and will impact on jobs throughout the wider Victorian community,” she said.

1 April, 2009

Compo for firework becoming hot issue

Staff from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Parks Victoria who were not rostered for fire work this year due to the State Government’s Fit for Work policy may yet get compensation.
   The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has taken the policy to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), which urged the parties to negotiate a resolution.
   The Union’s State Secretary, Karen Batt, said the policy would now be open to review, with all aspects open for discussion.
   “Importantly, the Department and Parks Vic agreed to enter into discussions with the Union about paying compensation to staff members who were not rostered for fire work this season, owing to their not having completed the Task-Based Assessment (TBA),” Ms Batt said.
   “Given that the fire season is all but complete, and most staff have now completed the TBA, our position is to seek some kind of fair resolution for staff who were not rostered for fire work due to this policy.
   “Our concern has not been about the expressed desire to improve OH&S standards but that the employer was attempting to make such testing compulsory, which is not allowed under our existing industrial agreement.”
   Ms Batt said the AIRC had earlier expressed the view that the matter was best dealt with through the Implementation of Change provisions in respective Agreements.
   “After some discussion, it was agreed that DSE & Parks Vic would jointly send a letter to the Union to initiate a consultation process around Fit For Work,” she said.
   Meanwhile the union is considering a submission on resourcing and Health and Safety issues for the Royal Commission into February’s Victorian bushfires.
   The Commission has called for written submissions from interested persons or organisations in relation to its terms of reference.
   General submissions close at 4pm on Monday, 18 May.

1 April, 2009

Behaviour guidelines expelled from schools

Victorian Government schools are to get new guidelines for student engagement in an effort to reduce behavioural problems.
   Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike said the old guidelines with an emphasis on suspension and expulsion – in place since 1994 – were no longer considered the best way to handle problem students.
   “Research shows that expulsion or long periods of suspension can be counterproductive and increase a young person’s risk of disengaging not just from school but from society and pushing the problem somewhere else,” Ms Pike said.
   “A lot has changed in the 15 years since the last guidelines were developed and we need to change with the times and recognise that if students are having troubles, their best chance of turning their lives around is by remaining in a structured and supportive environment such as education.”
   Ms Pike said Principals would retain their powers to suspend and expel, including taking immediate action in extreme circumstances.
   “But they will also have more support available to find better alternatives to help keep students in school, because there’s no benefit in sending a troublesome student to an empty home on a lengthy suspension,” she said.
   “We can’t give up on young people just because they’re problematic, because if we do that then those young people lose out in life and all of the community pays the price down the track.
   Ms Pike said many schools already successfully used early intervention approaches to support students at risk of becoming lost to education, and it was prudent to provide modern guidelines to schools reflecting a modern approach.
   “These are simply guidelines – modern guidelines – but research shows that keeping young people engaged is a better long-term approach that benefits us all as a society,” she said.
   The new guidelines reduce the number of consecutive days a student can be suspended to a maximum of five school days in one period and a maximum of 15 school days per school year, down from 10 school days and 20 school days respectively.
   The new guidelines will replace the existing Student Attendance Guidelines and the Guidelines for Developing a Student Code of Conduct.
   All schools are expected to develop a Student Engagement Policy in consultation with the school community by Term 1 next year.

1 April, 2009

Ethics question seen as value judgement

Moral competence in public life requires a delicate balancing act and an ability to look at issues objectively, argues distinguished ethics lecturer Kenneth Winston in the latest occasional paper from the Australia and New Zealand School of Government and the State Services Authority of Victoria.
   Mr Winston, Lecturer in Ethics at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Faculty Chair of the HKS Singapore Program, has written extensively on practical and professional ethics.
   In exploring the challenges of comparative ethics in the paper Moral competence in public life he outlines six generic principles he believes constitute moral competence for a practitioner of democratic governance – civility, fidelity, respect, proficiency, prudence, and reflection.
   “These are not character traits or personal virtues in the ordinary sense, but qualities of those acting in their official capacities,” Mr Winston said.
   “They are requisite skills for dealing with complex institutional and political exigencies, adequate to producing certain effects in the world.
   “Thus, we should not expect individuals necessarily to exhibit these traits in other aspects of their lives.”
   Among his arguments and definitions, Mr Winston makes the following points about these skills:
  • Civility – “the ability to regard one’s own opinion as only one among others, and not decisive simply because one holds it, however passionately. Common ground… is indispensable for collective endeavours.”
  • Fidelity – “top-level administrators (or ministers) owe allegiance to their appointing officer and the officer’s political agenda, yet they are also bound to the statutorily created mandate of their office, which may not coincide with the boss’s wishes. Policy analysts face this dual responsibility derivatively when they take on public officials as clients. Only judges appointed for life escape the need to grapple with it.”
  • Respect (for citizens as responsible agents) – “to empower citizens, and foster the conditions for engaging in meaningful activities together; acknowledging the goals that citizens have adopted for themselves and enabling them to be realised.”
  • Proficiency (in democratic architecture) – “The availability of collective decision making mechanisms is… crucial for citizens’ capacity to exercise choice together. To act effectively as a member of a democratic polity, citizens require structures that bring their actions into meaningful relation with the actions of others. This is the civic dimension of freedom—the capacity to engage with others in self-rule.”
  • Prudence – “the exercise of practical wisdom. Responsible public servants appreciate the particularity as well as the complexity of political action. They pay more attention to individuals than to abstractions. They appreciate the fallibility of human planning, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.”
  • Reflection – “the ability to discern what something could mean to another person, when at variance with one’s own understanding, and the ability to contemplate with equanimity the contestability of one’s own worldview.”
   The full paper is available at the State Service Authority website, www.ssa.vic.gov.au

1 April, 2009

Anti-arson plan forged by Forum

A national Action Plan to stamp out arson has been developed by a National Forum on the Reduction of Deliberate Bushfires in Australia.
   Convened by Commonwealth Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, the Forum was attended by more than 30 police, fire agency officers and arson specialists from around the country.
   It considered a range of measures to ensure the strongest possible deterrents were put in place to prevent and discourage arson.
   Forum representatives said the key to reducing and preventing bushfire arson was maximising cooperation between fire agencies, police, social services, the criminal justice system, and all levels of Government.
   The Forum committed itself to developing a National Action Plan on Arson, which included consideration of nationally consistent laws; national best practice arson prevention measures; establishing programs to target known arsonists; and law enforcement collaboration.
   Forum participants discussed updating nationally accredited training programs to include arson prevention strategies; incorporating arson fuel reduction strategies into State and Territory land management; community education; and developing a national website to facilitate information flows.
   Other initiatives to be progressed included a national framework for data collection on bushfire arson, nationally recognised training in investigatory techniques, research into the bushfire season and the development of evaluation tools to measure the success of public communication and education strategies.
   The outcomes of the Forum are to be discussed by the Australian Emergency Management Committee and the Ministerial Council on Police and Emergency Management in April.
   The Forum reported that up to 50 per cent of bushfires in Australia were deliberately lit, causing an estimated $1.6 billion in damages each year.

1 April, 2009

Bravery medals to rise from the ashes

Former servicemen and servicewomen who lost their medals during the bushfires in February will be able to get replacements without the usual red tape.
   The Federal Government has announced it will relax the Australian Defence Force (ADF) medals policy for those impacted by the bushfires or by the recent floods in Queensland.
   The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Dr Mike Kelly, said the change had been made due to the extraordinary circumstances.
   “The policy does not presently allow ADF medals to be replaced and released to family members, but given these difficult circumstances I have agreed to relax this policy,” Dr Kelly said.
   “All Australians are deeply moved and affected by these disasters and it is fitting that victims are extended every possible assistance to help them restore what little they can.”
   Dr Kelly said the offer demonstrated that the Defence force could not only help through providing people and equipment in the affected areas themselves, but also help through other efforts at a more personal level.
   “Family members who have, through the devastating bushfires and floods, lost the medals of loved ones who served in the Defence Force may now make application for replacements.
   “They should use the application form and statutory declaration located on the Defence Honours and Awards website,” Dr Kelly said.
   The Defence Honours and Awards website is at: www.defence.gov.au/medals
   Enquiries may also be directed to Defence Honours and Awards toll free on 1800 111 321 and completed applications should be submitted to the Directorate of Honours and Awards at the Department of Defence, PO Box 7952, Canberra 2610.

1 April, 2009

Extensions for arts grants canvassed

Closing dates for several Arts Victoria funding programs have been extended for artists and arts organisations impacted by February’s bushfires.
   The Arts Minister, Lynne Kosky, said many of the closing dates fell during the height of the emergency.
   “We understand that many Victorians, including emergency service volunteers and residents in fire-affected areas, have had other priorities in recent weeks and that there are artists whose work practice has been disrupted,” Ms Kosky said.
   “We are extending closing dates for those who had intended to place an application but were unable to due to the fires.”
   The following four Arts Victoria funding programs will now accept applications until Monday, 6 April:
  • Arts Development – support for the creation or presentation of a new work, or for the programming of a series of arts activities over a 12 month period;
  • Community Partnerships – support for collaborative projects and residencies involving artists and community groups;
  • Victoria Rocks – support for contemporary musicians, including grants for recording, distribution, marketing and promotion, digital initiatives and touring, as well as strategic music industry partnerships; and
  • International – support for international export and touring and cultural exchange projects.
   Ms Kosky said all the usual program eligibility criteria and application requirements applied and that all applications would be assessed as part of a competitive assessment process.
   The Arts Victoria’s website also provides updated information on resources, support and financial assistance available to the arts and cultural sector affected by the bushfires.
   See www.arts.vic.gov.au

1 April, 2009

Playgroups serious about fire rebuild

Playgroup Victoria is to employ six extra full time staff with a Federal Government grant to support early childhood services in regions affected by February’s bushfires.
   The $273,200 in funds will help support 29 playgroups across the State, including the areas of Kinglake, Murrindindi, Bendigo, Wandong and Traralgon.
   Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the money would be used over the next six months to help the playgroups get back up and running and to provide several vehicles.
   "After so much loss and grief, we need to support families to re-establish the normal routines of life – like taking their children to playgroups,” Mr Macklin said.
   "Many families are facing enormous practical and emotional challenges in starting again and rebuilding.
   "Spending time with other parents, gives mums and dads the chance to share their experiences while their children have fun together.”
   The Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction, Bill Shorten, said playgroups provided parents with company, while children develop social skills and gain confidence in a nurturing environment.
   "The announcement reaffirms the Australian Government's support for families affected by the Victorian bushfires," Mr Shorten said.
   The announcement came on the recent World's Biggest Playgroup event which brought together children and families from more than 8,000 community playgroups across Australia to celebrate and connect with the community.

1 April, 2009

Wheels of Justice roll into towns

Representatives from various agencies within the Department of Justice dispensed advice to residents of the Shire of Strathbogie during a recent visit aboard the Justice Bus.
   Staff from the Sheriff’s Office, Courts, Consumer Affairs Victoria, Community Correctional Services and the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee took the bus to Nagambie and Euroa.
   Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, said the visit was “a great opportunity for people who want information about anything from options on how to deal with outstanding fines, to finding out about careers in the Department of Justice”.
   “For some people, approaching a Government Department can be a daunting experience. For others, travelling long distances to a regional office can be a barrier.
   “By parking the bus in the middle of town, we are giving community members a convenient, informal opportunity to drop by and have a chat.”
   Mr Hulls said the Justice Bus was an innovative way to make the justice system more accessible to Victorians.
   “Feedback from past visitors reveals many liked their questions answered face to face, rather than going through the automated system on the telephone,” he said.
   Since its first trip to Benalla and Mansfield in April 2006, the Justice Bus has visited 25 towns and dealt with nearly 900 enquiries, “providing critical outreach services to regional Victoria”, Mr Hulls said.
   This year the Justice Bus will also visit communities in Gippsland in April, followed by Geelong in May.

1 April, 2009

SV staff energise energy conference

Experts from Sustainability Victoria (SV) have been highlighting the potential savings for business through greater energy efficiency at this year’s Carbon Reduction & Trading Expo and Conference in Melbourne.
   SV’s manager for sustainable business, Leigh Bernoth, used the example of food giant Nestlé, which updated refrigeration systems at its Pakenham plant to reduce energy consumption by six per cent and carbon release by 840 tonnes a year.
   “It is our experience that business can readily reduce energy costs by up to 30 per cent by implementing simple and effective best practice solutions to their service equipment,” Mr Bernoth told delegates.
   He also told of a large laundry that would save $18,700 annually after cutting its natural gas usage by 30 per cent by recovering heat from dryers, and an automotive manufacturer which retrofitted its existing lighting, reducing energy costs by $349,000 with a payback of just over one year.
   All the examples cited by Mr Bernoth relied on advice provided through SV’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice guides.
   The five guides focus on:
  • Industrial refrigeration;
  • Pumping stations;
  • Steam systems, hot water systems and process heating systems;
  • Lighting; and
  • Compressed air systems.
   “Generic service equipment – typically found in use across all industry sectors, such as compressed air, pumps, refrigeration and process heating – is easily left unattended and can miss out on regular maintenance,” Mr Bernoth said.
   “Planning the integration of service equipment into core operations is also an essential part of ensuring energy efficient operation of service equipment.”
   The SV-sponsored conference, running concurrently with the expo until 2 April, also involved speakers from the Department of Climate Change, the Climate Change Institute, CHOICE, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Origin Energy, Coffey Environments and the National Australia Bank.
   More information is available from www.carbonconference.com.au

1 April, 2009

Lost funds warning is right on the money

Victorians have been reminded they can track down all their superannuation and other unclaimed money through various Government Agencies – for free.
   Consumer Affairs Minister, Tony Robinson, said many people were being duped into unnecessarily paying private businesses to locate the funds.
   He said consumers should be cautious about responding to unsolicited mail offerings to recover unclaimed money when the information was usually available for free by visiting the appropriate websites and databases of various Government Agencies.
   These included the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (www.asic.gov.au or phone 1300 300 630), the State Revenue Office (www.sro.vic.gov.au or phone 132161) and the Australian Taxation Office Superseeker website for lost superannuation funds (www.ato.gov.au) or phone 132865.
   Mr Robinson said that while the services offered by private recovery agencies were not illegal, the companies did not usually inform consumers they could locate unclaimed money themselves.
   “In tighter financial times, Victorians will be looking to make the most of their money and these free government services are on offer to help them, with advice also available to explain the process,” Mr Robinson said.
   He said Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) had received more than 360 enquiries in the past year about companies offering to search for unclaimed money on their behalf.
   For general advice or information on where to locate your unclaimed money, go to the CAV website (www.consumer.vic.gov.au) or call 1300 55 81 81.

1 April, 2009

Support for loans is life or debt issue

The Australian Government has announced it will guarantee borrowings by the States to help deal with the fall-out from the global financial crisis.
   Treasurer, Wayne Swan gave the commitment saying the guarantee would support jobs and protect vital infrastructure plans.
   Mr Swan said it would be time-limited.
   “This important measure recognises that pulling back on critical nation-building infrastructure investment now would mean ever slower growth and higher unemployment into the future,” he said.
   He said just as bond markets around the world had been impacted by the global recession, so had State Government bond markets.
   “This has threatened the capacity of State and Territory Governments to deliver critical infrastructure projects that will support jobs in the face of the global recession, as well as boost productivity and improve living standards in the medium and long-term,” Mr Swan said.
   He said the guarantee would be available for existing and new issues of securities but would not be extended to those issued in foreign currencies.
   “The guarantee will be available over a range of maturities.”
   He said the initiative would allow the States to structure their finance requirements to meet longer-term infrastructure plans and prevent crowding, which could occur if the maturity of eligible securities was limited to shorter term issues.
   “States will have the option to determine whether any eligible issuance is subject to the guarantee,” he said.
   “The guarantee also extends to the existing stock, should States choose to take up the guarantee for those securities.”
   A fee for the use of the guarantee will apply so that States with a AAA credit rating would pay a fee of 15 basis points for existing stock and 30 for new issues.
   States with a AA+ rating would have to pay a fee of 20 basis points for existing stock and 35 for new issues.
   “This approach will provide an appropriate set of incentives for those States which choose to use the guarantee,” Mr Swan said.
   “The guarantee fee needs to provide a balance between facilitating access to the market whilst also providing a disincentive to use the guarantee once market conditions have normalised.”
   Mr Swan said the fees would be reviewed on an ongoing basis and revised in necessary.
   He said a website would be established to display information on guaranteed securities and related scheme details while the Loan Council would provide an additional level of transparency by continuing to consider State borrowing requirements.
   “In particular, scrutiny via the Loan Council will ensure that the States have to account for their infrastructure spending,” Mr Swan said.
   “The Commonwealth views the likelihood of State default as remote and unquantifiable.
   “Nevertheless, should any payment be required under the guarantee it will be handled in a timely fashion.”

1 April, 2009

Housing market has a rental illness

The cost of renting a home in Melbourne rose 10.9 per cent last year, according to the Office of Housing’s December Rental Report.
   However Housing Minister Richard Wynne said the Victorian Government’s plan to boost stocks of public and other housing was the best way to tackle the increases.
   “Increasing supply is the most effective way of reducing upward pressure on rents,” Mr Wynne said.
   “The Government is taking action to provide more than 5,000 new homes over the next two years for those Victorians most in need, delivering on the $1.5 billion allocated to the State from the Commonwealth stimulus package.”
   The Rental Report also showed rents in regional areas rose 7.4 per cent during 2008.
   “I share the concern of those particularly in regional areas that increases outside of Melbourne are high.” Mr Wynne said.
   “This is why we will be looking very closely at projects submitted to us to build new public and affordable housing in regional Victoria using the stimulus package funding.”
   Mr Wynne said that while the average rent increases were still high, in what the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) describes as the tightest private rental market in 25 years, the rate of increase was showing signs of easing.
   “The data shows these rises have fallen slightly from their peak of 13 per cent in metropolitan areas in the year to June 2008,” he said.
   The Rental Report showed the highest private rent level rises were experienced in inner Melbourne, with median weekly rents at $385 per week. In regional Victoria, Barwon and the South West saw a rise of 9.1 per cent to give a median rent per week of $240.
   “This data is a snap-shot of what is taking place in Victoria’s private rental market, where rents are set by landlords,” Mr Wynne said.
   Victoria’s population is expect to grow by 2.3 million people by 2036, according to Victoria in Future projections.
   The December Quarter 2008 Rental Report is available at www.housing.vic.gov.au

1 April, 2009

Clearways seen as the way ahead

Clearway times on Melbourne roads are to be standardised under a plan the State Government says will improve traffic flow and parking.
   Roads and Ports Minister, Tim Pallas, said the new plan would keep traffic moving through a more consistent approach during peak periods.
   “We are listening to the concerns of local traders and Councils and have made these changes to address these concerns,” Mr Pallas said.
   More than 160 clearways within 10 kilometres of the Melbourne CBD will be extended to run from 6.30am to 10am and from 3pm or 4pm to 7pm as part of the $112.7 million Keeping Melbourne Moving plan.
   Under the new arrangements:
  • All PM clearways at intersections with traffic lights would commence from 3pm and extend for approximately 100 metres on either side of the intersection. All other PM clearways that currently start at 4pm or later would start at 4pm;
  • Existing clearways that start earlier than 4pm would all change to start at 3pm along the full length of the road;
  • All PM clearways would end at 7pm; and
  • AM extended clearway hours would continue to run from 6:30am to 10am.
   “This consistent approach allows for an extra hour of parking on key arterial roads, compared to the previous plan for standard PM clearways from 3pm to 7pm,” Mr Pallas said.
   “We would be looking to implement changes to PM peak clearways over the coming months, monitoring their effectiveness; and continue consultation with councils and traders.”
   Information will be sent to affected residents, businesses and others regarding the clearway changes. For more information, visit Keeping Melbourne Moving at www.vicroads.vic.gov.au

1 April, 2009

Hi-tech medical unit shows healthy signs

A new Virtual Trauma and Critical Care Unit (VTCCU) has opened in the Loddon Mallee region with the promise of putting Victoria “at the forefront of a revolution in medical services”.
   Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy – Senator Stephen Conroy – made the claim at the Unit’s launch, saying it would help more than 260 trauma patients attending hospitals in Bendigo, Echuca, Mildura and Swan Hill each year.
   "Trauma and critical care patients across the Loddon Mallee region now have access to specialist diagnosis and treatment thanks to virtual connections with major hospitals," Senator Conroy said.
   "Specialists in far away locations will have instant access to the patient's vital signs, clinical test results, high resolution X-rays, images and video allowing them to provide diagnosis and treatment advice."
   Senator Conroy said the VTCCU would help overcome skills shortages in regional areas and boost the capacity of hospitals to improve patient welfare.
   He launched the Unit on behalf of the Loddon Mallee Health Alliance and its partners.
   "This is exactly the type of project that the Government is interested in funding as we work to maximise the benefit of our investments in broadband, such as the National Broadband Network," he said.
   The Federal Government recently announced $46 million in new funds to launch the Digital Regions Initiative.
   With State and Territory Governments, the program will fund digital projects enabling improved education, health and emergency services.
   Senator Conroy said draft guidelines for the competitive project assessment process would be released for comment in the coming months.
   More information on the Digital Regions Initiative was available from www.dbcde.gov.au/regionaltel

1 April, 2009

Grants shed light on mens’ sheds

Applications are invited for the second round of funding under the Victorian Government’s $2 million Men’s Shed grant program.
   The money can be used to build or renovate a community “shed” to build connections between men and strengthen communities said the Minister for Senior Victorians, Lisa Neville.
   “These sheds provide a relaxed place for men to make new friends, talk things over, learn new skills and get involved in their local community, which has great benefits for their individual health and well being,” Ms Neville said.
   “And by involving men in local community projects – such as making benches for public parks, building cubby houses for the local kindergarten – men’s sheds also provide practical benefits for the wider community.
   Last year the Victorian Government funded the establishment of 25 new Men’s Sheds.
   “As well as giving older men somewhere to get together and work, men’s sheds can link men to information and services for a range of health and well being related issues, which they often don’t actively seek out themselves,’’ Ms Neville said.
   “Victoria led the nation by being the first government to provide specific funding for the establishment of the sheds.”
   She said the State Government had invested $2 million over four years in the Men’s Shed grant program as part of the $1 billion Fairer Victoria initiative – a whole-of-Government social policy action plan to address disadvantage and promote inclusion and participation.
   For more information or to apply for the Men’s Sheds grants, visit www.grants.dpcd.vic.gov.au
   Applications close on 22 May.

1 April, 2009

No arguments about disputes paper

An issues paper promoting the use of non-Court methods for resolving disputes has been released by the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC).
   Attorney General, Robert McClelland, welcomed the paper entitled Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Civil Justice System, saying it would provide incentive to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
   Mr McClelland said the paper was an important step towards removing barriers to the use of ADR rather than the Courts, before and after the commencement of civil proceedings.
   “Access to justice is a critical issue and ADR is a key mechanism to deliver just that,” he said.
   “The legal system must be able to provide a framework that allows people to resolve their legal disputes in a simple, fair and cost-effective manner.”
   Mr McClelland said the paper examined how to increase public awareness of ADR; changes to civil procedure, costs and fees to provide greater incentives to use ADR; mandating ADR prior to litigation; improving assessment and referral services; and using ADR techniques to improve Court and tribunal hearings.
   Mr McClelland encouraged the public to comment on the issues raised by the paper, including the use of ADR by the Government and its Agencies.
   He said comments on improving data collection and research, professional education and training and standard setting for ADR services would also be welcomed.
   Further information and a copy of the paper were available from www.nadrac.gov.au
   Submissions closed 15 May, with NADRAC due to report back to Mr McClelland by 30 September 2009.

1 April, 2009
Records Office upgraded
The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) has advised that some services at its Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne may be disrupted during forthcoming building work.
   It said the Reading Room, transfer of paper records and venue hire may be affected by work over the six months from May.
   The Office says facilities are being upgraded to ensure archives are preserved to the highest standards.

Dividend fails in the West
The Western Australian Government has announced that its 3% efficiency dividend has failed to generate the savings it had hoped.
   State Treasurer, Troy Buswell said a number of Government Agencies had been unable to deliver the cuts and the Budget would be affected as a result.
   He said it was “pointless” of the Government to plan on achieving the savings if they couldn’t be achieved.
   PS unionists said it was unwise to cut public sector jobs to fund election promises.

Justice Health Conference
Staff from the Department of Justice will be among presenters at this year’s Public Health Association of Australia Justice Health Conference in Melbourne.
   Policy makers, researchers, ex-prisoners, prison workers, lawyers, employers, unions and community agencies working with prisoners and their families will be among the groups represented at the Conference on 6-7 April.
   The event, at Hilton on the Park, is also being supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Housework stats
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures showing while Australians were more likely to live in de facto relationships, women still did most of the housework.
   The ABS said in 2006 women did two-thirds of the housework while men did two-thirds of paid work.
   While men are doing more household work than in the past, in 2006 women still did nearly twice as much as men.
   Further information was available from http://www.abs.gov.au

Building slows
The number of building permits issued in Victoria fell 4.1 per cent in the eight months to February, compared to a year earlier.
   Building Commissioner, Tony Arnel said the value of work between July 2008 to February 2009 had eased to $12.9 billion. However work in inner Melbourne, Gippsland and North Central had increased.
   Residential, retail, industrial and hospital/healthcare building work fell 21.4, 14.9, 51.6 and 37.2 per cent respectively while commercial work jumped 16.8 per cent and public buildings grew 15.7 per cent.

Chinese back burn fund
The Chinese Government has donated US$500,000 to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund.
   Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett officially acknowledged the gift on behalf of Australia, following a meeting with a Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Li Changchun.
   “In accepting this gift, we acknowledge that China is all too familiar with the devastating impact of natural disasters,” Mr Garrett said.

Fair Pay in comment case
The Australian Fair Pay Commission has responded to media reports that it was planning to cancel the 2009 Minimum Wage Review, currently in progress.
   The Commission denied the reports saying a number of issues had been raised with it by stakeholders, including the new minimum wage-setting arrangements under Fair Work Australia and the separate process of Award Modernisation being undertaken by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
   “Consistent with past practice, the Commission sought the views of all stakeholders on these and other matters, to ensure the full range of views was canvassed and all parties had the opportunity to comment.”
   It said it would announce its decision in July.

Stamps mark Post Office’s 200th
Australia Post has released 10 new stamps to celebrate 200 years of postal services in Australia.
   The stamps highlight the contribution Australia Post has made to the lives of Australians since it was established in 1809.
   The stamps, designed by Lynette Traynor of the Australia Post Design Studio, feature key historic moments such as the appointment of Australia’s first postmaster, photographs of early regional post offices, early air mail services and the importance of the postie.

Licensing closes up on nightclubs
The Director of Liquor Licensing will not grant any new applications for bar, pub and nightclub licences to operate in inner Melbourne past 1am.
   This follows a Government decision to extend the freeze introduced in May last year until the end of this year.
   Consumer Affairs Minister, Tony Robinson said the ban applied to the Local Government areas of Melbourne (including Docklands), Port Phillip, Stonnington and Yarra.
   Restaurants and membership clubs are not affected by the freeze.

Retailers inspected
Inspectors from the office of the Federal Workplace Ombudsman have found one in five businesses at Melbourne’s Southland Shopping Centre, Dandenong Plaza and Chadstone Shopping Centre in breach of workplace laws.
   The inspectors checked the books of 386 businesses at the Centres between September and November last year.
   Executive Director of the Workplace Ombudsman’s Office, Michael Campbell said the audits revealed 82 employers (21 per cent) were failing to comply with their legal obligations under workplace legislation. Inspectors recovered $17,741 for 18 workers.

Gaming monitor on the cards
The State Government is looking for an independent monitor to oversee the integrity of gaming machine transactions.
   It has called for Expressions of Interest in a new Monitoring Licence, Gaming Minister Tony Robinson announced.
   “The successful licensee will conduct monitoring using an electronic system to which all gaming machines in Victorian venues must be connected,” Mr Robinson said.
   The Monitor will also provide data and information on gaming machines for regulatory, taxation and research purposes and facilitate any linked jackpots systems.

Active Casey knocks Knox
The City of Casey has lead the way in registrations for the Premier’s Active Families Challenge, narrowly beating the City of Knox.
   The Challenge, in which families commit to 30 minutes of physical activity over 30 days in March and April, drew registrations from 3,222 Casey residents and 3,112 from Knox.
   Other areas with high participation rates included Boorondara (2,689), Whitehorse (1,956) and Banyule (1,774).
   Minister for Sport and Recreation, James Merlino said more than 48,000 Victorians were taking part in the Challenge this year.

Kirby Cup taking acceptors
The Australian Law Reform Commission and the Australian Law Students’ Association have called on law students to register for the 2009 Kirby Cup.
   The 2009 Kirby Cup, one of Australia’s most prestigious law reform competitions, will focus on animal rights, with teams asked to consider key issues raised in Federal regulatory framework.
   Registrations close 10 April 2009, with further information available from www.alrc.gov.au