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By Andy Young The NSW RSL is set to face an independent inquiry, which will look into allegations of financial misconduct which have plagued the organisation. The NSW State Government will reveal the details of the inquiry later today, but it will be headed by former NSW Supreme Court justice Patricia Bergin SC. It is expected the inquiry will have royal commission-like powers to compel witnesses to appear and be able to seize evidence. The inquiry comes after a series of allegations of financial rorting by the RSL's NSW branch, which have already seen an inquiry by Australia's charities watchdog. In December former NSW RSL president Don Rowe was referred to NSW Police over claims he used his corporate credit card to withdraw $200,000 in cash. NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean today told the ABC, that enough was enough and it was time to be clear on what was happening at the RSL. "We will get to the bottom of these allegations once and for all," Kean said. "These are serious complaints and the fact that they've allegedly been committed in the name of one of our oldest and most respected institutions is totally unacceptable. "We want to clean up the mess and make sure it never happens again." Veterans Affairs Minister David Elliott told Fairfax Media that he was "completely fed up". "Based on the emails, letters and conversations I have with veterans around NSW, as well as their sub-branches, there is overwhelming support for the government to intervene," Elliott said. "It is heartbreaking to see the NSW RSL trashed in such a way and this is an opportunity to restore public confidence in this iconic organisation." Ministers Elliott and Kean will address media this afternoon to announce the full details of the inquiry.   This story first appeared in The Shout. 
[post_title] => NSW Government to launch independent RSL inquiry [post_excerpt] => Amidst allegations of financial rorting. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-government-launch-independent-rsl-inquiry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-16 15:50:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-16 05:50:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27126 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25923 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-21 10:59:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 23:59:48 [post_content] => artificial-intelligence   By Anthony Wallace   As we enter another year much transformed to the one passing, you are not alone in wondering what changes the next 12 months will bring. For technology-led sectors like surveying and spatial, it is a difficult path to predict. Thankfully, the Cooperative Research Council for Spatial Information (CRCSI) has been busy in recent months compiling a global outlook report that identifies and assesses the 18 trends that are most likely to shape the spatial and surveying sectors in the coming years. Overall, the Global Outlook 2016: Spatial Information Industry report provides an update on the specific technological trends and advances that have a high likelihood of converging with the industry, as well as how these are set to evolve over the coming years. The report groups the 18 following trends into four categories, ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Smart systems’, ‘People’ and ‘Issues’: Read more here. This story first appeared in Spatial Source.  [post_title] => 18 spatial industry trends to watch in 2017 [post_excerpt] => Virtual reality, smart systems. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25923 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-21 10:59:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 23:59:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25923 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25790 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-07 10:45:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-06 23:45:57 [post_content] => Man putting a ballot into a voting box.   Public servants working at the Department of Defence have rejected the government's most recent pay offer for the third time, this time by 58.4 per cent - an increased margin from both of the last votes.  The turnout was high, with 84 per cent of staff voting on the proposed enterprise agreement.  Of those, 58.4% voted ‘no’ and 41.6% voted ‘yes’.   The vote was always expected to be extremely close, after the second agreement was voted down in May by 55 per cent. The first vote in March led to a 50.9 per cent ‘no’ vote. The federal government will be wringing its hands over its failure to get the 18,500-strong department over the line, dashing its hopes of persuading other large hold-out agencies, such as Human Services and the Australian Tax Office (ATO), to follow suit. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) advised its members at Defence to vote down the agreement, which it says represents only a 1 per cent pay rise each year; removes rights and conditions from the EBA and into policy (which can be changed later); removes the need to consult about issues like major organisational change and attacks areas such as performance pay and fair dispute resolution. The Union's National Secretary, Nadine Flood said: “Just days after Minister Cash rejected the outcomes of the senate inquiry into this three year dispute, Defence staff have delivered another damning indictment of the Turnbull Government’s public sector bargaining policy. This is now the third time Defence staff have voted 'no' to dud deals framed under the policy, and it’s telling the margin of the defeat has grown each time. “This mess in Defence started three years ago with an attack on ADF pay and conditions and it's still not fixed. Minister Michaelia Cash’s pretence there isn't a problem with government’s bargaining policy looks completely threadbare when the opposition in a major agency like Defence is growing each time they go to a vote.” The CPSU and the technical union Professionals Australia, representing many Defence scientists and engineers, have said that a third ‘no’ vote would motivate them to ask the Fair Work Commission to step in an arbitrate, something that is already happening with staff at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, but the Defence Department is known to be highly resistant to the move. Another critical vote for the government opens tomorrow (Thursday), when 20,000 staff at the ATO cast their votes, with the result expected a week later. Public Service Minister Michaelia Cash has pledged to continue the government’s hard-line bargaining approach, commenting that she will completely ignore the recent Labor/Greens senate report into the three-year APS bargaining slog. The report, which was countered by a dissenting report from Coalition senators, called the government’s approach to the dispute “toxic” and “cruel and heartless”. [post_title] => Defence votes 'no' for the third time [post_excerpt] => Cash fails to get Defence over the line. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => defence-votes-no-third-time [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-09 09:50:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-08 22:50:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25790 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25774 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-06 14:42:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-06 03:42:45 [post_content] =>  malcolm-turnbull-1_opt   The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has mounted a campaign to force Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to act on senate recommendations and end the divisive enterprise bargaining stand-off for tens for thousands of public servants. The three-year Australian Public Service (APS) dispute over pay and working rights and conditions was the subject of a recent Senate inquiry, which found Mr Turnbull’s bargaining policy “cruel and heartless”, although Coalition senators wrote a dissenting report accusing the union of “unrealistic wage demands” and of refusing to compromise. The Education and Employment References Committee released its report Siege of attrition: the Government's APS Bargaining Policy last week with a list of recommendations including:
  • Public Service Minister Michaelia Cash should sit down with union representatives and agencies to reach “a reasonable conclusion” to the extended bargaining dispute
  • Savings accumulated from a three-year wage freeze should be used to compensate workers with higher pay offers
  • Staff affected by machinery of government changes, e.g. Department of Immigration and Border Protection, should not have their pay or working conditions diluted
  • Ending the prohibition on back pay or finding another way to compensate staff for the protracted dispute
  • Retaining access to family friendly conditions, including hours of work protections to support workers with caring responsibilities
  • Supporting domestic violence leave
  • The Australian Public Service Commission and the CPSU to establish a framework to deal with future enterprise bargaining well before agreements expire
  • Retaining rights to consultation and dispute resolution 
The report concluded: "This is shabby and appalling treatment of hard working and dedicated public servants across the APS. It stands as a shameful indictment of a cruel and callous government that it has turned its back on tens of thousands of its own workers on average and below average incomes and dismissed their legitimate claims with comments that are not only snide and insulting but also deliberately false and misleading." The CPSU is encouraging its members and the public to sign an online petition and to write, ring or visit their MP and to pressurise the Prime Minister into acting on the senate report and dropping the government's hardline bargaining approach.    cpsu-breaking-news Pic: CPSU website.    There are two ballots under APS bargaining happening this week: Defence, which closes today (Tuesday December 6) with the results expected by tomorrow and the Australian Tax Office (ATO), which opens on Thursday and the results will probably be known a week later. The Defence vote is impossible to predict with any accuracy. The last vote in May was so close, with a 55 per cent ‘no’ vote. The ATO vote, also in May, rejected the government’s offer by 72 per cent. The ballot for Australian Bureau of Statistics interviewers opens on December 13 and closes three days later. Over at the 36,594-strong Department of Human Services, union members are striking over four days this month, which will include staff at call centres and customer service centres, and end on Friday December 16. Meanwhile, the Fair Work Commission is currently arbitrating between the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the CPSU after the two sides failed to reach an agreement but with no clear end date in sight. [post_title] => Union petitions PM to change “cruel and heartless” APS bargaining stance [post_excerpt] => Pressure mounts: Strikes, ballots, petitions. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25774 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-09 09:51:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-08 22:51:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25774 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25675 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-11-28 16:41:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-28 05:41:05 [post_content] =>   Gold Coast, Australia - April 25, 2010: Two elderly, unidentified, Australian military veterans wearing suits adorned with service medals make a speech at an ANZAC Day memorial service. This image focuses on body language and medals, no faces are visible.   State and territory governments and the federal government have agreed to work together to collect better data on areas such as veterans’ suicide, homelessness and incarceration rates and to press for a new military service question on the next Census. Veterans’ Affairs ministers from every state and territory have agreed to co-ordinate their efforts to give governments more accurate and meaningful data about veterans’ lives after they leave the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and transition to civilian life. A recent parliamentary inquiry by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee highlighted the current paucity of data on ex-service men and women. The Committee’s report, due on March 30 2017, is likely to recommend better data collection about the lives of veterans in order to track trends and to better target support services. It is likely that rates of suicide and poor mental health among veterans is under-reported. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) told Government News last week that it did not have a complete picture of suicides among veterans. “While Defence records all incidences of suspected or confirmed suicide among current serving members of the ADF, DVA does not have a complete picture of suicides in the ex-serving population. This is because DVA only becomes officially aware of a death by suicide of a veteran if a claim for compensation is lodged by a dependant in respect of the death of a veteran.  In this case, a cause of death must be investigated to establish a relationship with service," said the DVA. Data improvements agreed by the ministers:
  • Ask for a military service-related question in the next Census
  • Developing standardised military service history indicators to use in data collections for suicide and homelessness
  • To meet with state-based and national ex-service organisations to discuss better coordinating efforts addressing homelessness and other services
  • NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia currently collect data on veteran incarceration; other states and territories will investigate following suit
  • NSW and Victoria to share information on their veterans’ homelessness programs
  • State and territory governments to provide information on their services as part of every ADF transition session for those leaving the military
  • Commonwealth to advise states and territories when ADF personnel are medically-discharged to help plan support services
  • Commonwealth to ensure all medically-discharged veterans have a Medicare card when they leave the ADF
The federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said the first ever meeting of Veterans’ Affairs Ministers had underscored their joint commitment “to re-double our efforts tackling the challenges faced by our veterans".  “All levels of government are providing important support and services to our veterans that recognise their service and sacrifice but we have to ensure we are coordinating our efforts,” Mr Tehan said. “Our veterans will benefit from a more unified approach as a result of getting all the relevant ministers together in one room to better coordinate services and gather important data.”   [post_title] => State governments to co-ordinate veterans' data [post_excerpt] => Military service question on Census? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25675 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-29 10:45:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-28 23:45:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25675 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25643 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-11-23 15:03:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-23 04:03:24 [post_content] => Feet of soldiers marching at an ANZAC Day parade on the streets of a regional country town     Suicide rates for serving military personnel and veterans are likely to have been underestimated, says an ex-serviceman working with Australian Defence Force (ADF) members who have been wounded, injured or got sick from serving. Recent unofficial figures from a Herald Sun investigation of suicide among serving military and veterans suggested that as many as 50 ADF personnel have killed themselves this year, more than the 41 who died over 13 years in the Afghanistan conflict. Simon Sauer is CEO of Mates4Mates, an organisation which runs physical, social and psychological support programs for current and ex-servicemen and women. He said suicide figures were “potentially under-reported”. Mr Sauer said the government had “no handle” on how many suicides occurred because once people left the service Defence did not track veterans, except if they were registered with the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA). Veterans usually registered with the DVA because they had been wounded and got sick or injured during service and needed to pursue compensation claims. “If you’re leaving Defence and you think you’re ok, or you have made the choice not to register with DVA because you don’t trust them then there’s nothing in your record that flags you as ex-Defence,” Mr Sauer said. “You could be Korean War veteran and your wife may not know you had ever served.” In the US, the social security numbers of individuals match their number in the forces and the two are linked.  This is not the case in Australia. Mr Sauer said it was important to collect the statistics and track what was happening. He said other professions such as police, paramedics and farmers also tended to have higher suicide rates. “Maybe Defence hasn’t got a problem. We don’t really know,” he said. “It comes back to mental health. Yes, it’s a problem for each of these [professions] but it’s actually a national problem and that’s what we need to be focusing on right from early school. Young boys need to be able to ask for help.” The recent parliamentary inquiry by Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References into suicide among veterans has been brought the issue into sharp focus and highlighted the fact that there are no official statistics available. Voluntary organisation Soldier On, which helps veterans of contemporary conflicts adapt to civilian life, wrote in its submission to the inquiry that the government needed to make a much bigger effort to collect these statistics and gain a better understanding of how to tackle suicide. Soldier On CEO John Bale said there was no one answer to explain why Australian veterans were taking their own lives at such high rates but that it was “often a complex mix of multiple factors”, such as family and relationship issues; financial stress; unemployment; housing uncertainty, depression and anxiety; PTSD; alcohol and drug use and addiction and chronic pain. He wrote: “The number of veteran suicides in 2016 alone indicated that a significant number of ex- service personnel who have been adversely affected by their service, are not receiving the level of care and ongoing support they require.” Mr Bale said ADF members often experienced problems when they transitioned to civilian life and they started to feel lonely and isolated. This was particularly acute when they were medically discharged. “In the ADF, members are constantly surrounded by like-minded individuals, rules and systems they understand and a purpose greater than themselves,” Mr Bale wrote. “When they transition from the ADF to the civilian life, they often lose their friends, their job and their understanding of how life operates.  Their sense of identity, tribal connection and purpose disappears in that one moment.” Government News understands that the DVA is currently collecting suicide statistics by cross-checking coroners’ reports with service records - possibly going back to 2002 – in an attempt to get a clearer picture of suicide rates. A DVA spokesperson said suicide prevention and supporting families affected by suicide was its highest priority. "While Defence records all incidences of suspected or confirmed suicide among current serving members of the ADF, DVA does not have a complete picture of suicides in the ex-serving population. This is because DVA only becomes officially aware of a death by suicide of a veteran if a claim for compensation is lodged by a dependant in respect of the death of a veteran.  In this case, a cause of death must be investigated to establish a relationship with service." The DVA has been working with Defence and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare since 2014 to understand the incidence of suicide among former serving members of the ADF, and  investigating whether there is a difference compared with the Australian population. Preliminary findings of this research will be released by the end of the month. The DVA is also developing a new pilot suicide awareness and prevention training program to complement its current suicide prevention programs, which includes face-to-face Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshops delivered by the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service. The new pilot program for veterans and their families is expected to equip individuals with the skills and confidence to identify and respond to veterans who might be at risk of suicide, or who have attempted suicide, and give ex-serving members and their families self-care strategies. The DVA is also working on its Early Engagement Model, which it says will engage ADF members early in their careers so that they are aware of what support and services are available to them and promote early intervention and prevention of any mental or physical health conditions. Meanwhile, veterans will be hoping that this model will help streamline their compensation claims by sharing data between Defence and the DVA, something that has been held up in the past due to privacy concerns over data sharing between the two departments. This would mean that people would have to provide some information only once, for example, about their injuries and treatment. But this step forward needs substantial investment. The federal government announced in February this year that it would spend billions to upgrade Defence’s retro ICT systems under its Integrated Investment Program in the Defence White paper. Both organisations have been strongly criticised because compensation claims can be demanding to prove and take many years to conclude thus exacerbating mental health problems for veterans and leaving them and their families struggling financially. Mr Sauer said the DVA had introduced non-liability healthcare so that veterans could access treatment immediately while their claim was being processed, which he said this was a positive step but did not help families survive financially, particularly when claims can take multiple years to be settled. In a submission to the inquiry, the Partners and Veterans Association of Australia said that the ADF and the DVA paid lip service to the partners and families of service men and women but often failed to give them any tangible help. “Little thought is given to the financial situation of the veteran and family when a veteran’s disability precludes his/her ability to work,” the submission said. “Often the claim process through DVA is difficult, with stumbling blocks at every turn and may drag on interminably, leading to extra stress on top of an already volatile home life. Loss of income and the extra strain this puts on the family is one of the major hurdles to overcome.”   [post_title] => Military and veteran suicides probably underestimated [post_excerpt] => DVA trying to collect statistics. 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By Andy Young The NSW RSL is set to face an independent inquiry, which will look into allegations of financial misconduct which have plagued the organisation. The NSW State Government will reveal the details of the inquiry later today, but it will be headed by former NSW Supreme Court justice Patricia Bergin SC. It is expected the inquiry will have royal commission-like powers to compel witnesses to appear and be able to seize evidence. The inquiry comes after a series of allegations of financial rorting by the RSL's NSW branch, which have already seen an inquiry by Australia's charities watchdog. In December former NSW RSL president Don Rowe was referred to NSW Police over claims he used his corporate credit card to withdraw $200,000 in cash. NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean today told the ABC, that enough was enough and it was time to be clear on what was happening at the RSL. "We will get to the bottom of these allegations once and for all," Kean said. "These are serious complaints and the fact that they've allegedly been committed in the name of one of our oldest and most respected institutions is totally unacceptable. "We want to clean up the mess and make sure it never happens again." Veterans Affairs Minister David Elliott told Fairfax Media that he was "completely fed up". "Based on the emails, letters and conversations I have with veterans around NSW, as well as their sub-branches, there is overwhelming support for the government to intervene," Elliott said. "It is heartbreaking to see the NSW RSL trashed in such a way and this is an opportunity to restore public confidence in this iconic organisation." Ministers Elliott and Kean will address media this afternoon to announce the full details of the inquiry.   This story first appeared in The Shout. 
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Defence