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                    [post_content] => 

 

An audit of underperformance in eight Commonwealth agencies and departments, including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), has found there is ‘significant room for improvement’ in dealing with poor performers and that managers avoided tackling the problem and encouraged workers to take redundancy or retire instead.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) looked into underperformance of eight federal government agencies and departments between 2012 and 2016, including the Attorney-General’s Department; Australian Taxation Office; Department of Agriculture and Water Resources; Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; Department of Social Services; Department of Veterans’ Affairs; IP Australia; and the National Film and Sound Archive. These eight were chosen to provide a mix of size and function, as well as a mix of how they had been rated for managing poor performers by their staff.

The audit focused on how well agencies managed underperformance through policies, procedures and management practices and said it was important to address because weak performance management could impact negatively on productivity, efficiency and morale.

“In most agencies underperformance is not being accurately identified and the proportion of employees undergoing structured underperformance processes is very low in all agencies," said the report, although it found that where it was addressed agencies stuck to procedural fairness.

“Probation processes are not generally used robustly to test the suitability of newly appointed employees (except in the Australian Taxation Office and the National Film and Sound Archive).”

The Audit Office said managers should not rely on encouraging badly performing staff to take redundancies or opt for retirement, “while these may be cost-effective approaches in situations of excess staffing or in particularly complex cases they should not be used to replace or undermine ongoing, robust underperformance management procedures.”

The number of staff going through structured underperformance processes was 'very low', with the lowest rate of the eight departments being 0.03 per cent of staff at the ATO. The highest was the National Film and Sound Archive at 0.28 per cent. 

It said management culture and the lack of support and training for senior and middle managers were the main barriers in dealing with underperformance in the workplace, noting an unwillingness to tackle poor performers, give feedback or set clear expectations from some managers. 

Staff perceptions of how well government departments and agencies were doing were also unfavourable. Between 70 to 84 per cent of staff thought their department did not do a good job of managing substandard workers, although around half considered their supervisors did a decent job.  

It acknowledged that the causes of underperformance could be complex and include mental health or physical problems and personal issues as well as lax recruitment processes that fail to hire the right person for the job.  Access to training and development could also play a role.

Main findings
  • Managers often avoided addressing underperformance, mainly due to lack of support, capability or incentives to do so
  • Managers shied away from confronting poor performers, relying instead on redundancies or retirement, against Australian Public Service Commission guidelines
  • The performance management process was being underused to manage poor performers
  • Probation procedures were deficient in every agency
  • Underperformance policies needed cleaning up and the procedures managing senior staff should be made more transparent
  • Managers in every agency need to make a stronger commitment to dealing with poor performance, including setting clear expectations and giving feedback to staff
Recommendations
  • More commitment from managers to tackle poor performance, rather than using retirement or redundancy
  • Better training and support needed for managers, including the early involvement of an HR professional to help 
  • Clearer guidelines to make it easier for managers to identify inadequate performance
  • Holding managers more accountable for the way they manage underperformance
  • Improve the performance management framework with more ‘check-ins’ between managers and staff
The audit used a variety of data sources including Australian Public Service Commission data from the annual employee census and annual agency survey; agency policies and procedures and interviews with employee representatives, corporate support staff and academics. It cost the ANAO $530,000 to conduct. [post_title] => APS underperformance ignored by managers, says audit [post_excerpt] => Poor performers encouraged to resign or retire. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => aps-underperformance-left-fester-managers-says-audit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-24 14:31:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-24 04:31:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27207 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27196 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 12:33:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:33:54 [post_content] =>
 
By Linda Cheng This story first appeared in ArchitectureAu and appears here by kind permission of the author. In its 2017–18 budget, the federal government released what it called “comprehensive plan to address housing affordability.” While promising “no silver bullet,” the government claimed its plan was “designed to improve outcomes across the housing spectrum.” The plan includes measures such as a $1 billion National Housing and Infrastructure Facility (NHIF), releasing surplus Commonwealth land for housing, a Western Sydney City Deal that will provide opportunities for planning and zoning reform, as well as a range of financial incentives to assist first-home buyers, downsizing for older Australians and to encourage private-sector investment in affordable housing. The Australian Institute of Architects and the Planning Institute of Australian have cautiously welcomed the measures. Ken Maher, outgoing president of the Australian Institute of Architects characterized the government’s housing affordability plan as having “good intentions,” but said there were a number of “missed opportunities” on “critical” issues such as density, climate change and public transport. “There’s a real absence of mention in the budget of climate change,” Maher said. “In the built environment area, there’s quite a lot that can be done to reduce carbon emissions.” He pointed to the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council’s (ASBEC) Low Carbon, High Performance report released in May 2016, which outlined “the potential for the Australian built environment sector to make a major contribution to” reaching a zero-net emissions goal by 2050. The report called on policy makers to adopt a nation plan that includes minimum standards for buildings and targeted incentives. Read more here
[post_title] => ‘Good intentions’ or ‘cruel hoax’? Budget 2017’s housing affordability plan draws vexed reactions [post_excerpt] => Architects cautious, some critical. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27196 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-23 12:42:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:42:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27196 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27192 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 12:20:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:20:08 [post_content] =>   The federal government’s troubled myGov website has had a digital makeover to make it more intuitive to navigate, nicer to look at and easier to access using mobile phones or tablets. The overhaul was made more pressing by the large jump in traffic to the government services portal over the last two years. The federal government said that myGov had 10 million users and dealt with more than 242,000 logins every day: twice the number of logins from just two years’ ago. It is a pivotal website that millions of Australian must interact with daily, dealing as it does with a huge range of services. MyGov was launched in 2013 to provide a single access point for ten different agencies providing services including Medicare, tax, Centrelink, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Health Record. The government has recognised that any failure of myGov or rising customer frustration with the system can be a very public and vocal affair. Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said in March this year: “The public will ultimately judge us when they go on to the myGov website, when they pay their tax or ask for a refund, when they come through immigration, when they are engaging with the industry portfolio as a small business, they will judge us on how that goes. “They’ll accept that there are speed humps along the way. But they will be unforgiving if that experience doesn’t continually improve.” The changes were in response to ‘hundreds of hours of user research’ which revealed common complaints about the website, including the difficult language used, confusing instructions and dumping large swathes of information on users.   People also complained about how often they were locked out of their accounts and the difficulty in getting these unlocked. The joint statement by Mr Taylor and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge about the myGov revamp said this problem had been addressed to make signing in easier and to allow users to unlock their own accounts once they had been suspended.  They claimed the changes had resulted in incorrect logins being reduced by 37 per cent. Mr Taylor said: “We listened and we got it. The new look myGov also demonstrates how the DTA can partner with other agencies and departments to transfer skills and transform delivery.” The sign-in process had already been tinkered with over the past year to show users passwords as they typed them (to cut down on login failures and account suspensions) and allowing people to use email or mobile numbers instead of just alphanumeric usernames. Mr Tudge said the government had incorporated user feedback and collaborated with other departments to fast-racked changes. “Our investment in myGov is transforming the way people do business with government - making life easier for 10 million Australians,” Mr Tudge said. “In response to user feedback, we’ve also made it easier for users to find and access the services they need.” The rollout, which occurred over the weekend, was a joint project between the Department of Human Services and the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Tax Office. The government said the Discovery and Alpha phases were completed by the Digital Transformation Agency while the prototype stage and the beta product were a partnership between the ATO and DHS. [post_title] => MyGov: “we listened and we got it” says minister after digital makeover [post_excerpt] => Users double over two years. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => mygov-listened-got-says-minister-digital-makeover [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-23 12:38:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:38:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27192 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27187 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 11:05:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 01:05:39 [post_content] => The Department of Health has said 22,000 home care packages have been released under the new system and it will release detailed data in July on how it’s performing. Bonnie Carter says her 84-year-old mother has been waiting for a high-level home care package for more than 70 days. Ms Carter says that since an Aged Care Assessment Team assessed her mother as needing the package, “nothing has happened.” “There’s been no contact other than me calling My Aged Care several times to see where she is in the queue and how long she might have to wait,” Ms Carter says. “Apparently no one can tell anyone anything about this mythical queue until the end of this year,” she adds. Under the latest aged care reforms that came into force on 27 February, the Department of Health has created a new centralised process for allocating home care packages directly to consumers. As part of the new system a “national prioritisation process” has been created: after a senior is assessed as needing a home care package they join a new national queue where they wait to be allocated a package. How long a senior waits on the queue is based on various factors – such as their level of need, how long they’ve been waiting and how quickly a package at their level of need becomes available (the number of packages is increasing but remains capped by government). It’s a complex new system and, in the absence of transparency around how it is working, confusion is mounting among providers and consumers. Read more here. This story first appeared in Australian Ageing Agenda.  [post_title] => Confusion reigns over Health's new aged care queue [post_excerpt] => My Aged Care under fire. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => confusion-reigns-healths-new-aged-care-queue [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-23 12:44:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:44:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27187 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27182 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 10:47:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 00:47:59 [post_content] => Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash. Pic: Colin Bettles.    Local councils have called upon the federal government to be transparent about its decentralisation drive and make it evidence-based and free from politicking, rather than leaving them to battle one another for government jobs, a public inquiry has heard. A public hearing in Townsville last week (Friday) was the first time most regional councils have been able to make their feelings known about the possibility of moving public servants from Australia’s capital cities out into rural and regional areas. The federal government decentralisation initiative, spearheaded by Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, has put government ministers on notice. Ministers have been told to justify why jobs and departments should stay in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne or to nominate a region to move to by December. Ms Nash has said the criteria for assessment will be finalised by mid-2017. There are currently 155,000 public servants, or 14 per cent of the APS, located outside capital cities. The hearing was part of the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee’s inquiry into the relocation of Commonwealth departments and specifically into the potential impact of the controversial plan to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) form Canberra to the northern NSW town of Armidale, in Mr Joyce’s New England electorate, by 2019. The APVMA relocation, which involves about 190 staff, most of whom are highly specialised, failed a government-commissioned cost-benefit analysis and led to many staff walking out the door, including Chief Executive Kareena Arthy and some top regulatory scientists and lawyers. Ernst and Young estimated the move would cost at least $23.19 million. This includes redundancies for 85 per cent of the APVMA staff the report identified as unwilling to move to Armidale. The plan to move the agricultural chemicals regulator exposed the government to further ridicule after Ms Arthy​ revealed that Canberra-based public servants were working out of Armidale MacDonalds using the free wi-fi because they had nowhere else to work, at a February Senate Estimates’ hearing, a remark Ms Arthy later said was taken out of context. The situation blew up again after a document was leaked to Fairfax in April which gave APVMA staff suggested scripted replies to recite if they were asked about the relocation during "BBQ conversations" and other "social settings". The guidelines came from APVMA’s Chief Operating Officer Stefanie Janiec. Meanwhile, Committee Chair Labor Senator Jenny Mcallister said last week’s public inquiry showed that councils wanted the decentralisation process depoliticised ‘rather than agencies or departments being moved on a minister's whim’. She said councils also felt bypassed by the federal government, which had not spoken to them about its decentralisation agenda. She said that while every council wanted public service jobs they should not have to individually petition ministers for favours. “The community can't have that confidence in Barnaby Joyce's decisions,“ Ms Mcallister said. “The Nationals should back Cathy McGowan's proposal for a broad inquiry into decentralisation as a first step to rebuilding that trust.“ Acting Chair of Regional Development Australia Townsville and West Queensland, Frank Beveridge agreed that every region ‘would fight tooth and nail’ to have even one government department in their backyard but he said it was important to ’get away from the politics and actually have some legitimate figures backing it up, supporting it‘. Fears that regional councils could cannabilise each other’s growth look to be well-founded. All the councils spruiked their own areas at the inquiry, whether talking up their internet connectivity, educational institutions, transport links or affordable housing and insisted their area was unique and should get Commonwealth jobs. Toowoomba and Gatton (which has the University of Queensland) were both vying for APVMA before the decison to move the authority to Armidale was finalised. Cessnock City Council Mayor Bob Pynsent said the application process needed to be open and fair to councils. “The process would need to be transparent, so that every local government area has the opportunity to apply. And when those assessments are made, the decision would not be a political one but be based on the criteria that have been made available to the people who have applied,“ Mr Pynsent said. Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said ‘transparency is extremely important to the community to provide confidence that we are doing the right thing‘ and Peter Hargreaves from Bendigo Council said the planned relocation ‘must be a planned process based on clear objectives’. Councils are keen to have the criteria for regional development made clear, for example, the importance of closeness to a university, internet speed or available office space, and for regions to be properly defined. The Senate Committee will issue its report on June 9. [post_title] => Play fair on decentralisation, say councils at APVMA inquiry [post_excerpt] => Don’t make us fight each other for jobs. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => play-fair-decentralisation-councils-say-apvma-inquiry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-24 13:54:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-24 03:54:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27182 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27177 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-19 11:10:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-19 01:10:51 [post_content] => By Charles Pauka The latest statistics from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) have underlined the Transport Workers’ Union’s claims that truck drivers are overly represented in road statistics and that the statistics are getting worse.   BITRE’s latest report found that during the 12 months to the end of March 2017, 217 people died from 196 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks or buses. These included:
  • 118 deaths from 104 crashes involving articulated trucks, 87 deaths from 77 crashes involving heavy rigid trucks and 25 deaths from 24 crashes involving buses.
  • Fatal crashes involving articulated trucks: increased by 7.2 per cent compared with the corresponding period one year earlier and increased by an average of 0.9 per cent per year over the three years to March 2017.
  • Fatal crashes involving heavy rigid trucks: increased by 4.1 per cent compared with the corresponding period one year earlier and increased by an average of 2.5 per cent per year over the three years to March 2017.
  Read more here.  This story first appeared in Transport & Logistics & News. [post_title] => Truckies over-represented in fatal crash stats, Bureau confirms union claims [post_excerpt] => Statistics worsening for truck driver deaths. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27177 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 11:10:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 01:10:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27177 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27165 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 15:50:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 05:50:21 [post_content] =>   By Allen Koehn, Associate VP and GM – Public Sector at Infosys We are entering a new phase of human evolution. However, it is not one comprising new limbs or larger eyes. Rather, it involves the pursuit of ultimate control, despite human error, through technological innovation. The robotic automation of society alluded to in the science fiction of our past is finally becoming a reality - one technological advancement at a time. Human involvement, paper-heavy administration and room for error are exponentially decreasing as technologies like blockchain digitise and automate entire processes and interactions. What started as a platform for the transaction of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies now has the potential to span industries and verticals across the globe. There has been much hype about blockchain, with banks reporting annual savings of US$8-12 billion after its implementation1, but seemingly little understanding about what exactly it is and how it can be put to valuable use in different sectors. What is blockchain? Transactions - financial or otherwise - occur across networks every second. With blockchain, each time a transaction occurs, a network of computers carry out a series of algorithms, identifying the originating device and its user, and validating the transaction. This transaction is then added to a digital ledger (public or private) and attached to an irreversible chain of transactional “blocks”. Verified transactions are permanently recorded, traceable and updated across the entire network every 10 minutes. Blockchain is decentralised – it does not have a central server or administrator, but rather exists on and is managed by the network itself. Unimaginable computational processing power is needed to override the network. There are no singular points of vulnerability and the corruption of any one bit of data results in its network-wide corruption. Ultimate visibility and control makes unauthorised actions impossible. Consequently, blockchain is almost entirely secure in the face of human-led threats.  It’s not just about security Blockchain’s automation makes paper trails redundant, exponentially decreasing lost documents or delayed payments. Imagine a future where financial transactions within governments are automatically and irreversibly recorded, or citizens can transact confidentially without physical presence at a government office. Costs are reduced, efficiency is improved and the way for ultimate transparency is paved. Governments and organizations alike can achieve a true competitive advantage with blockchain (and its accompanying applications and digital technologies). So, for those working in government, scratching your head about how to leverage this new technology, here’s five ways that I see blockchain being used in the public sector:
  1.  Identification
Gone are the days of a 100 point ID checks. With digitised birth certificates and ID documents, blockchain enables a single personal identifier. It is an entirely new and reliable way of identifying members of an ecosystem – from citizens to government agencies – enabling everything from digital voting (which is in the works for Australia’s 2017 elections) to confidential legal disputes.
  1. Registries
Blockchain enables the digitization of property titles, car registrations, medical records and more. Once recorded, documents become digital proof, available – for example – for trusted use in legal battles. Printing and tracking costs decrease and smart contracts can automate actions when conditions are met. For example, a digital driver’s license can notify its owner of expiration, or simply auto-renew by triggering a debit off the owner’s account.
  1. Payments
There is room for (and talk of) the use of blockchain and cryptocurrencies in place of existing financial institutions. But blockchain technologies also have immense potential to eliminate fraud and tax avoidance, thanks to built-in transparency and trust protocols. Social benefits, grants, compensation, tax returns and inter-government payments can be automated, recorded and possibly even accessed by the public.
  1. Accountability
On that note, blockchain makes ultimate accountability in all spheres possible. Financial movements can be permanently recorded and traced, or voting results can be updated on a public network, keeping voters in the loop. Each time a change is made to a law recorded on the ledger, the public has full visibility. Public services can be delivered with ease to a trusting population, thanks to this layer of transparency.
  1. Automation
The processes of filing applications, making and receiving payments or benefits, getting visas and transferring permissions or titles can all be streamlined beyond what was previously possible – making blockchain particularly beneficial to developing markets whose existing infrastructure cannot otherwise accommodate such radical change. As with most innovations, the possible use cases of technological advancements like Blockchain are often only discovered much later in their lifecycle. Preconceived notions should not hinder the exploration of evolutionary innovations in new and unique contexts. The true power of technology is only truly realised when it evolves outside its original borders. Only when we colour outside our existing lines can we truly evolve. We believe that Blockchain has the potential to truly evolve the way our governments, organisations and society functions. [post_title] => Five ways blockchain will transform the public sector [post_excerpt] => Making paper trails redundant. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27165 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 10:50:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 00:50:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27165 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27154 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 10:46:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 00:46:53 [post_content] =>     Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim. Pic: YouTube. A new Australian Public Service (APS) Privacy Code covering the data citizens give to the federal government will be in place by 2018, prompted by the outcry over Centrelink robo debt and data matching. Today’s [Thursday] joint announcement by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) said the two would work collaboratively on the new code, which aims to ensure a balance between data protection and privacy and data innovation and its use by Commonwealth agencies. Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim told the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, which is conducting a public hearing into the Department of Human Services’ Online Compliance Initiative (OCI) in Canberra today, that the code would cover how data should be ‘respected, protected’ and regulated into the future, consistent with community expectations. Mr Pilgrim said the code would be binding and failure to comply would be a breach of the Privacy Act. The current guidelines are voluntary. He said penalties could range from asking for a written undertaking that an organisation would change their processes and comply - ultimately enforceable in the federal court – to civil penalties in a federal court which could reach up to $1.8 million for serious breaches. The OAIC will lead on the code’s development due to the organisation’s specific privacy expertise and the code will be implemented APS-wide. All agencies will also need to have a privacy management plan in place under the new code. The Department and the OAIC said the code was vital to maximise the value of publicly held data. “The code can therefore be a catalyst to transform the Australian government’s data performance – increasing both internal capacity and external transparency to stakeholders,” they said. Commissioner Pilgrim said the code would ‘support government data innovation that integrates personal data protection’ while giving the APS the ‘skills and capabilities’ it needed to manage personal information. A storm over data privacy occurred after Fairfax published a piece by blogger Andie Fox in February which was highly critical of the DHS’ automated debt recovery drive, designed to claw back more than $1.5 billion over five years. In her article, Ms Fox claimed she had been pursued and ‘terrorised’ by DHS for money she did not owe after a relationship breakdown. In response, DHS disputed Ms Fox’s account and leaked some of her personal information to a journalist, including her Family Tax Benefit claims and relationship details. The government later defended itself arguing that it was allowed to release personal information to correct inaccurate public statements under social security legislation. Federal Labor MP Linda Burney later referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police but the AFP concluded that Human Services Minister Alan Tudge had not breached Commonwealth legislation. The government said the new privacy code would be developed in close collaboration with the APS and data stakeholders and it would apply to all Australian Government entities subject to the Australian Privacy Act 1988.   [post_title] => New APS privacy code on the back of Centrelink robo debt [post_excerpt] => Penalties of up to $1.8m for serious breaches. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-aps-privacy-code-back-centrelink-robo-debt [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 10:51:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 00:51:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27154 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27117 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-15 17:25:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-15 07:25:03 [post_content] =>     NSW government can learn from other governments internationally about how to develop and promote a culture of open data and data sharing, says a report commissioned by the Information and Privacy Commission of NSW and the NSW Open Data Advocate. The UNSW Law report, Conditions Enabling Open Data and Promoting a Data Sharing Culture 2017, released yesterday (Monday) looks at the progress of five other countries – the UK, France, Canada, the US and New Zealand – towards recognising the importance of open data and doing something about it. All five are considered to be leading the way globally. Open data is data that can be freely used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose and offered free or at minimal cost. The data can come from a wide range of sources, including government departments and agencies; universities; corporations; charities; NGOs; groups and individuals and it can encompass statistics, maps, scientific research, reports, and weather amongst other things.   To qualify as open, data should be available in bulk and able to be processed by a computer. The UNSW Law report identified six main drivers for achieving open data and went on to show how the NSW government could use international best practice and put more emphasis on open data. These drivers included:
  • Leadership and public support by government, ministers and agency heads to create processes and a culture that encourage the release and sharing of data
  • Legislation that sets out the rights and responsibilities governing access, sharing and protection of data for those who want the data and those who keep it. For example, the UK, US and France have mandated that data be open by default and be machine-readable and in in a standardised format
  • Policies to guide agency and staff decisions and priorities around open data and privacy, data security and collaboration
  • Regulations to provide certainty and to set expectations and obligations, as well as providing oversight and punishing non-compliance. These should balance rights to data with concerns over privacy and anticipating risk
  • Promoting culture and collaboration that supports open data within government and with the public, for example co-operation between agencies and between international, national and sub-national levels of government
  • Developing strategies to make data open, including funding open data, sharing success stories and engaging communities and individuals, for example the UKAuthority.
NSW Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd said the independent research report was the first of its kind in Australia. “The research demonstrates how open data is being achieved internationally through an examination of leading jurisdictions,” Ms Tydd said. “The research acknowledges NSW’s progress and, importantly, offers new and significant insights to inform our approach to opening up valuable NSW data resources.”   She said opening data was “an impactful, contemporary approach to opening government” that promoted “effective and accountable government and enables meaningful public participation”. A recent IPC community attitudes survey found strong support for Open Data in NSW with 83 per cent of people agreeing that de-identified information should inform government service planning and delivery. The report provides suggestions on how NSW can move further towards open government and open data. These include recommendations to:
  • Publish a complete catalogue of all datasets, including restricted datasets
  • Moving from a legislative framework authorising data release to one that proactively encourages it
  • Mandating departments to open specific datasets and set quotas for datasets to force collaboration
  • Identify which datasets are important economic drivers for growth in regional areas and prioritise these
  • Mandate departments to create machine-readable standardised formats for datasets to allow analytics and linked data applications
  • Explicitly fund departments opening up high-value datasets in machine-readable format
  • Adopt an anticipatory regulatory approach that promotes open data but ensures ongoing evaluation and assessment of security and privacy risks
  • Develop in-depth guidelines on anonymisation and de-identification
  • Identify workforce skills/knowledge gaps and opportunities to work with local government and other government agencies
  • Adopt an incubator model where an open data company is embedded with an agency to co-develop ideas and applications on models, or engage with entities such as Code for Australia to bring in ideas and expertise
The research underpinning the report was guided by a steering committee comprising NSW agencies and experts, including the Data Analytics Centre, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Data61, the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation and the Department of Justice.  [post_title] => Global open data leaders give NSW lessons in data sharing [post_excerpt] => Promoting a culture of open data and data sharing. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27117 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-16 11:54:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-16 01:54:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27117 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27112 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 11:41:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:41:48 [post_content] => By Charles Pauka   While Scott Morrison’s 2017 Federal Budget has been praised for some of its big announcements for freight and infrastructure, the shortage of immediate commitment has earned it the moniker of the “planning to plan budget”. The positive The Australian Logistics Council’s Michael Kilgariff heaped praise on the budget. “The Government should be commended for making clear commitments to two significant infrastructure projects crucial to the freight and logistics industry,” said the ALC managing director. “The transformative potential of the Inland Rail project has been talked about for decades, with incremental progress being made over the past several years, including a positive assessment of the business case by Infrastructure Australia. The $8.4 billion commitment announced in the Treasurer’s speech will finally allow its construction. At long last, we can stop merely talking about this project’s potential, and instead begin to witness it. “Establishing a safe, reliable port-to-port rail link for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane is the only way we can simultaneously meet Australia’s burgeoning freight task, alleviate congestion on existing freight networks, create regional jobs and boost growth,” he said. “To fully unleash the benefits of this project, the line must run to the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane, and comprise efficient rail linkages to the ports of Botany, Kembla and Newcastle in NSW. We must also support the development of intermodal freight hubs at appropriate intervals along the route.”   Read more here. This story first appeared in Transport and Logistics and News.  [post_title] => Budget 2017: wishful thinking [post_excerpt] => Infrastructure and freight announcements. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27112 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:44:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:44:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27112 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27106 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 11:29:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:29:31 [post_content] => First medicinal cannabis import: CanniMed cannabis oil.    Seriously ill Australians can now access imported medicinal cannabis after the first licensed imports of the drug arrived in Perth last week. The drug was imported by Australian wholesale company Health House International and ASX-listed cannabis company Creso Pharma, a Swiss company. The cargo contained three different types of cannabis oil from Canadian company CanniMed, each designed to tackle different symptoms and retailing for about $350 a bottle, which should last patients about a month. The federal government gave the go ahead for companies to grow and manufacture medicinal cannabis late last year but it will still be a while before patients can access Australian product, said Health House Director Paul Mavor. Mr Mavor said it would take some time for companies to get permission to set up their operations and then get them reinspected and licensed. “Within 12 to 24 months we will be starting to see some really good [Australian] product and hopefully we will be exporting that,” Mr Mavor said. Health House International was granted one of the first medicinal cannabis import licences in February, soon after Health Minister Greg Hunt gave the go ahead to fast-track medicinal cannabis imports while local cultivation catches up. Australian product should be cheaper for patients as there will be much lower shipping costs and no freight duties but this will also depend on domestic (and possibly overseas) demand and whether companies can achieve economies of scale. Around 100,000 Canadians currently use medicinal cannabis and Mr Mavor is predicting about 70,000 Australians will eventually follow suit. Interestingly, Mr Mavor said that he had been speaking to some private insurance funds who had indicated they may be interested in subsidising the drug for some people, for example, those involved in car crashes or war veterans, because it could keep them out of hospital and keep costs down. In a few years it is possible that medicinal cannabis will be listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, once it has been tested in the local market, says Mavor. “It is likely. Some conditions that some patients are using medical cannabis for, they don’t have any other options.” Cannabis is cost-effective because it has five different uses in one hit: it can relieve nausea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. Health House International's Paul Mavor. Pic: Supplied.   But Mr Mavor said while demand in Australia is strong, the process for prescribing medicinal cannabis had been made torturously difficult by the federal government, which has left states and territories to set their own rules. Many demand that patients get approval from both the federal and state or territory health departments because the drug is listed as a Special Access category B drug. Federal legislation to make the drug category A, which would have allowed doctors to complete online form and obtain instant approval, was blocked in the senate this week by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Nick Xenophon team. Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale said he was deeply disappointed that politicians had put the needs of terminally ill patients second to “their own political games”.  “Patients are currently waiting weeks and sometimes months for access to these treatments. This motion could have reduced that to a day or possibly hours,” Mr Di Natale said. “For some of these patients, speedy access to medicinal cannabis is the difference between being able to eat or wasting away. These changes add time, stress, and difficulty for terminally ill patients accessing medicinal cannabis.” Mr Mavor says the strictest prescription regime is in Western Australia, where a huge amount of information is demanded and approval must be sought from federal and state health departments and from the practitioner’s ethics board. He said the easiest system was in South Australia, where doctors could prescribe the drug for two months for patients at any one time and Queensland, Victoria and NSW were passable. Once prescription problems are ironed out the industry looks set to have a bright future ahead of it. David Russell, Chief Operating Officer of Creso Pharma said the first successful import of medicinal cannabis products into Australia was “a ground-breaking moment for patients and the medical industry”.  “The Australian market has been catching up with community expectations while the regulatory framework around medicinal cannabis was being developed,” Mr Russell said. “Now these products will allow patients to have the option of medicinal cannabis treatments if it is prescribed by their physician. This is particularly important given the unmet but often immediate need to access a timely medicinal cannabis supply across Australia.” To be prescribed medicinal cannabis products, patients must see a physician who is an authorised prescriber, or apply for SAS Category B prescription under the Therapeutic Goods Administration regulations. [post_title] => First medicinal cannabis imports arrive in Australia [post_excerpt] => Prescription rules hold patients up. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => first-medicinal-cannabis-imports-arrive-australia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:29:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:29:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27106 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27102 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 10:52:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:52:13 [post_content] =>   By Associate Director, Business Intelligence & Analytics, University of Western Australia Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is under real pressure for the first time since the 2016 election, as the government attempts to wedge Labor with a circuit-breaker budget. Shorten used his budget-in-reply speech to appeal to middle Australia, putting forward an argument that Labor is the only party that can be trusted to deliver a fair go. He argued the government’s so-called “Labor-lite budget” is unfair, bringing benefits only to rich. Since the election, it seems everything – including the polls – has gone Labor’s way. The Turnbull government has been plagued by infighting and its messages have failed to resonate with the electorate. However, over the last few weeks – starting with changes to 457 visas and the expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme – the Coalition has begun a new conversation with the electorate.

Shorten’s pitch

The 2017 budget positioned the government as more centrist. It contained several policy positions ordinarily associated with Labor. The government’s three-word slogan for the budget was “fairness, opportunity and security”. It has tried to position itself as a “doing government”, taking on good debt to invest in infrastructure, funding the NDIS into the future, and adopting measures from the Gonski schools funding plan. Shorten’s speech was framed around modern class politics. He claimed Labor is the only party that can be trusted to protect low-income workers, and look after the interests of the middle class in terms of Medicare, universities and schools. Shorten refuted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that the budget is a fair one:
This prime minister of many words has learned a new one – fairness – and he’s saying it as often as he can. But repetition is no substitute for conviction … This isn’t a Labor budget – and it’s not a fair budget … Fairness isn’t measured by what you say – it’s revealed by what you do.
It is highly unlikely that this budget will be viewed as negatively as the 2014 budget. But Labor needs to convincingly discredit it to the point that the government cannot use it to help restore its standing in the eyes of voters. Labor will need to attack on two fronts. The first will be scare tactics. Voters will need to be convinced they are unnecessarily worse off under this budget. Shorten claimed:
There’s nothing fair about making middle-class and working-class Australians pay more, while millionaires and multinationals pay less.
He highlighted higher tax rates for low-income workers, as a result of the increase in the Medicare levy, as well as the traditional Liberal threat to Medicare. Shorten also posited schools would be much worse off due to the gap in promised funding between Labor and the government. The second line of attack will be providing an alternative set of policy options that voters view as more attractive than those put forward by the government.

What is Labor offering voters?

In his speech, Shorten promised a Labor government would remove the Medicare rebate freeze, rather than wait for indexation to begin in July 2020 – thereby reducing the cost of health care. Labor will also restore A$22 billion to the schools sector. As an alternative to the measures to assist first home buyers through a savings scheme, Shorten said Labor had a plan for affordable housing that would include the construction of 55,000 new homes over three years, and create 25,000 new jobs every year. He also noted Labor’s commitment to developing more public housing. In what is likely to prove a popular idea, Labor will seek to close the loopholes allowing multinational companies avoiding tax in Australia. Likewise, in an effort to halt tax avoidance by wealthy individuals, Labor plans to limit the amount an individual can deduct for the management of their tax affairs to A$3,000 per year. Shorten claimed that less than 1% of taxpayers would be affected, and that measure would save the budget A$1.3 billion over the medium term. Shorten continued to argue that a royal commission into the banking industry is required.

Where does Labor stand on individual budget items?

Labor needs time to review the proposed legislation resulting from the budget in order to determine what it is willing to support. But Shorten outlined Labor’s position on several measures.
  • It supports the additional Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. However, it wants to limit the levy to the top two tax brackets, so that only those earning more than $87,000 per year will be impacted.
  • It supports the bank levy – but simultaneously put pressure on the government, claiming it is responsible for stopping the banks from passing the cost onto customers.
  • It does not support the cuts to universities or the proposed increase in university fees for students.
  • It does not support the plan to allow first home buyers to use up to $30,000 in voluntary superannuation contributions. Shorten described the policy as “microscopic assistance”.

In this game, it’s the message that matters

This is a political budget, and so we should expect in the coming weeks that both parties will attempt to appeal to voters’ base instincts, rather than presenting considered arguments for or against policies. Thus, the government is focusing on forcing greedy banks to “pay their fair share”, secure in the knowledge that former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, as head of the Australian Bankers’ Association, is unlikely to be able to cut through the bank-bashing mentality of the average Australian voter. Likewise, Shorten will campaign hard on the natural end of the temporary budget repair levy, which was introduced in the 2014 budget. He is claiming this is a tax cut for the rich at the same time as the government is making everyday Australians pay more tax through a higher Medicare levy.

Interesting times ahead

Shorten is right: this budget is about trust. The government and the opposition both need to convince average working and middle class voters that their policies will provide Australians with the best outcome. In some ways, this is politics as usual. But, with the polls leaning to Labor and voters’ faith in the government’s ability to deliver low, the stakes seem higher than normal – especially as voters are presented with two positions not as divergent as they have been in recent years.   This story first appeared in The Conversation.  [post_title] => Shorten fights on fairness in budget reply, but will it be enough? [post_excerpt] => Labor's lines of attack. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => shorten-fights-fairness-budget-reply-will-enough [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:54:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:54:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27102 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27098 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 10:42:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:42:57 [post_content] =>   Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers some welcome relief to local councils in his 2017 Budget speech.    Treasurer Scott Morrison has given Australia’s local councils a boost by unfreezing the indexation of federal financial assistance grants (FAGs) from July 1 and extending funding for local roads. The Abbott government decreed an indexation freeze of the grants in its 2014 Budget, much to the horror of councils, who saw inflation eat away at their bank balances. The government’s estimates indicate that the measure cost councils more than $600 million in lost income. FAGs are vital to councils, particularly regional and rural councils who tend to have a lower rates’ base and fewer revenue raising options, because they are not ring fenced and can be spent on community priorities such as parks, pools, roads and libraries. But councils are counting the cost of the three-year freeze at the same time, arguing that it has permanently reduced the grants and damaged local government’s ability to maintain community infrastructure, roads and services. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the freeze had had a “harsh impact” on NSW councils, which were also dealing with rate capping and cost-shifting from other levels of government. Mr Rhoades estimated that it had cost NSW councils up to $300 million in lost funding over this period. “Unfortunately despite this welcome restoration, the freeze has resulted in a permanent base reduction of around 13 per cent.” Mr Rhoades said. “It is exactly these sort of financial constraints that make it almost impossible for councils to get ahead. “The significant financial losses sustained as a result of the FAGs indexation freeze cannot help but impact on the quality of local services and infrastructure councils currently provide.” Municipal Association of Victoria President Mary Lalios agreed that ending the freeze was good news for local government. “This will be good news for councils, particularly councils in rural areas as their communities have been hurting as a result of the lost funding,” Ms Lalios said. “The grants help councils to meet the costs of providing more than 100 essential services to local communities and maintaining $80 billion worth of community infrastructure. “However, councils will still be left playing catch-up as they recover from the $200 million that has been lost since the freeze began.” Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) President Mark Jamieson called the decision a “welcome relief” to the state’s councils. “Returning indexation to these grants has been an advocacy priority for the LGAQ and the Australian Local Government Association since the freeze on indexation in 2014. “We welcome the common sense decision by the government to return this vital funding to Queensland councils who now have some certainty in their ability to plan and invest in important infrastructure and projects in their communities”. Mr Jamieson said. Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association, Damien Ryan said councils could now begin to pick up the pieces. “Financial Assistance Grants are an important untied payment that councils invest in providing better infrastructure and better services for our local communities,” he said. “By restoring indexation to this important payment, the government is honouring its commitment to communities to ensure that, as far as possible, every citizen regardless of where they live can have equitable access to municipal services. “However, there is still a long road ahead before councils recover from the freeze as it permanently reduced the base level of the Financial Assistance Grants payments.” Local Government Association of South Australia’s Executive Director of Public Affairs, Lisa Teburea, said the freeze had cost the state’s councils 36 million over the past three years and wiped 13 per cent off the total value of the fund. “These grants are particularly valuable as they are un-tied, meaning councils can use this funding to provide the facilities and services most needed by their ratepayers,” Ms Teburea said. “The government’s decision to freeze indexation on FAGs in its 2014/15 budget has had a significant impact on South Australian councils, with regional communities – where the grants make up a higher proportion of councils’ total revenue – the hardest hit.” Roads  A further budget bonus for Australia’s local councils has been a two-year extension of federal government’s Roads to Recovery funding beyond the 2018-19 cut-off date. The fund is directed at local councils and is earmarked for maintaining and upgrading local roads.  It was introduced in 2000 to address the growing maintenance backlog. “Roads to Recovery provides much-needed funding to help councils maintain 85 per cent of Victoria’s road network, to achieve better safety, economic and social outcomes for their communities,” Ms Lalios said. Program funding is $700 million for 2017/18, $364.5 million in 2018/19, and increases to just below $400 million in 2019/20 in line with the government promise to boost funding for this program by $50 million per annum from 2019/20. Mr Rhoades said the funding extension was “very welcome recognition of the dire state of many roads across the nation” but added “it is important to note the delay before the additional funding kicks in, as well as the fact that the funding boost is spread nationally”. “It’s sobering to think that even if the entire $50 million for R2R was invested in NSW, it would still be insufficient to bring thousands of kilometres of particularly country roads up to the standard our communities need and deserve.” South Australia will receive supplementary road funding of $40 million over two years, after having this pulled in 2014-15. Ms Teburea called this “another significant win” for South Australian communities. “South Australian councils manage 11 percent (75,000km) of the nation’s local road network, have over 7 percent of the nation’s population, and yet receive only 5.5 percent of Identified Local Roads Grant funding,” Ms Teburea said. “This was rectified in 2004/05, through an annual ‘top-up” supplementary payment of around $18 million per annum to South Australia.  However, this payment was removed in 2014/15. “Over the past three years we’ve continued to advocate for the return of this payment, and we appreciate the federal government restoring fair and equitable road funding to South Australian councils in this year’s Budget.”   [post_title] => ScoMo’s Budget boost for local councils [post_excerpt] => Financial assistance grants unfrozen. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => scomos-budget-boost-local-councils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 10:44:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:44:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27098 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27086 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-09 11:31:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-09 01:31:40 [post_content] =>   By Anthony Wallace Australia and New Zealand have been named among the top nations in providing open government data. The latest results of an global open data index reveal that Australia is ranked equal first out of 94 countries. Tying equal first with Australia was the nation of Taiwan. New Zealand also had a strong result, beating the Unites States and Brazil to take out number seven on the index. The Global Open Data Index (GODI) aims to provide the most comprehensive snapshot available of the state of open government data publication. Published by The Open Knowledge Institute annually, GODI ranks how well nations publish open government data against 14 key categories. Australia scored full marks in three of the spatial categories including, “Administration Boundaries,” “National Maps,” and “Locations.” The datasets where Australia did not perform well include “Land Ownership,” “Government Spending” and “Water Quality.” Australia’s Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor, said the GODI results confirmed the Australian Government was on track with its commitment to making data more openly available. Read more here.   This story first appeared in Spatial Source.  [post_title] => Australia leads the world in open govt data [post_excerpt] => Ties with Taiwan. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27086 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-09 11:31:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-09 01:31:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27086 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27207 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-24 12:33:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-24 02:33:44 [post_content] =>   An audit of underperformance in eight Commonwealth agencies and departments, including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), has found there is ‘significant room for improvement’ in dealing with poor performers and that managers avoided tackling the problem and encouraged workers to take redundancy or retire instead. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) looked into underperformance of eight federal government agencies and departments between 2012 and 2016, including the Attorney-General’s Department; Australian Taxation Office; Department of Agriculture and Water Resources; Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; Department of Social Services; Department of Veterans’ Affairs; IP Australia; and the National Film and Sound Archive. These eight were chosen to provide a mix of size and function, as well as a mix of how they had been rated for managing poor performers by their staff. The audit focused on how well agencies managed underperformance through policies, procedures and management practices and said it was important to address because weak performance management could impact negatively on productivity, efficiency and morale. “In most agencies underperformance is not being accurately identified and the proportion of employees undergoing structured underperformance processes is very low in all agencies," said the report, although it found that where it was addressed agencies stuck to procedural fairness. “Probation processes are not generally used robustly to test the suitability of newly appointed employees (except in the Australian Taxation Office and the National Film and Sound Archive).” The Audit Office said managers should not rely on encouraging badly performing staff to take redundancies or opt for retirement, “while these may be cost-effective approaches in situations of excess staffing or in particularly complex cases they should not be used to replace or undermine ongoing, robust underperformance management procedures.” The number of staff going through structured underperformance processes was 'very low', with the lowest rate of the eight departments being 0.03 per cent of staff at the ATO. The highest was the National Film and Sound Archive at 0.28 per cent.  It said management culture and the lack of support and training for senior and middle managers were the main barriers in dealing with underperformance in the workplace, noting an unwillingness to tackle poor performers, give feedback or set clear expectations from some managers.  Staff perceptions of how well government departments and agencies were doing were also unfavourable. Between 70 to 84 per cent of staff thought their department did not do a good job of managing substandard workers, although around half considered their supervisors did a decent job.   It acknowledged that the causes of underperformance could be complex and include mental health or physical problems and personal issues as well as lax recruitment processes that fail to hire the right person for the job.  Access to training and development could also play a role. Main findings
  • Managers often avoided addressing underperformance, mainly due to lack of support, capability or incentives to do so
  • Managers shied away from confronting poor performers, relying instead on redundancies or retirement, against Australian Public Service Commission guidelines
  • The performance management process was being underused to manage poor performers
  • Probation procedures were deficient in every agency
  • Underperformance policies needed cleaning up and the procedures managing senior staff should be made more transparent
  • Managers in every agency need to make a stronger commitment to dealing with poor performance, including setting clear expectations and giving feedback to staff
Recommendations
  • More commitment from managers to tackle poor performance, rather than using retirement or redundancy
  • Better training and support needed for managers, including the early involvement of an HR professional to help 
  • Clearer guidelines to make it easier for managers to identify inadequate performance
  • Holding managers more accountable for the way they manage underperformance
  • Improve the performance management framework with more ‘check-ins’ between managers and staff
The audit used a variety of data sources including Australian Public Service Commission data from the annual employee census and annual agency survey; agency policies and procedures and interviews with employee representatives, corporate support staff and academics. It cost the ANAO $530,000 to conduct. [post_title] => APS underperformance ignored by managers, says audit [post_excerpt] => Poor performers encouraged to resign or retire. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => aps-underperformance-left-fester-managers-says-audit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-24 14:31:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-24 04:31:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27207 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1390 [max_num_pages] => 100 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => 1 [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => fb72b5c23e7ec9459b9165c170bf8d06 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

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