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                    [post_date] => 2017-06-23 10:36:19
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27464" align="alignnone" width="300"] Department of Defence photo from the Royal Australian Air Force taken during Exercise Diamond Storm.[/caption]

Department of Defence staff will have a new enterprise agreement after three years of negotiations, with staff voting on a deal that improved on the three previously rejected offers, with more rights protected.

These include:
  • Comprehensive Terms of Reference for the National Workplace Relations Committee (NWRC), which includes representation rights for members and workplace delegates, and dispute escalation and settlement protocols;
  • The application of enforceable policy and process in areas of the agreement that cover situations where members’ jobs may be at risk, such as performance management and excess declaration; and
  • A proper performance management process written into the agreement.
The ballot saw 61% voting Yes to the agreement. 84% of eligible staff participated, in the first Defence ballot since December last year. Defence is one of several major agencies voting in June, with Agriculture staff also approving a new deal earlier this week and ballots soon in the Tax Office, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and CSIRO. CSIRO staff have also narrowly voted to approve a new enterprise agreement, with their reluctance underlining the importance and difficulty management faces in rebuilding trust in the organisation. The agreement was secured with a 57.74% Yes vote. The ballot closed late on Thursday night, with 77% of eligible CSIRO staff participating. CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “Defence staff have finally voted up a new agreement, albeit reluctantly. This deal is a real improvement on those they’ve previously rejected but it’s far from perfect and also massively unfair that they're copping a three-year plus pay freeze.” The deal includes a 6% pay rise over the three-year term of the agreement. The deal has been negotiated on a single-agency basis, as are the other public service agreements. This despite calls for single-agency negotiations to be discontinued by former public service commissioner Andrew Podger, currently a professor at the Australian National University, who was the public service commissioner between 2002 and 2004. As reported in Government News (Dump single agency bargaining in the APS, says former Public Service Commissioner), Professor Podger said single agency bargaining has had serious, negative consequences for the public service which have outweighed the promised benefits, chiefly around flexibility. “This has caused very serious damage to the integrity of the whole pay system in the Public Service with tangible impact on mobility within the service, serious management problems for agencies affected by machinery of government changes, justified complaints of unfairness across and within agencies, and unknown impacts on attraction and retention of the skills the APS requires,” Prof Podger told the 2016 senate inquiry into APS bargaining. Prof Podger said single agency negotiations have created pay disparities for similar jobs  in different departments and agencies and has also damaged staff morale and caused resentment. “What’s happened is they’ve all gone their different ways and none of them have been able to focus on the market,” says Prof Podger. “Strict central rules led to different pay rates, not because they are useful but because they are forced to be there.” [post_title] => Defence, CSIRO to finally get a pay rise [post_excerpt] => Department of Defence staff will get a pay rise after three years of negotiations. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => defence-finally-get-pay-rise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-23 11:11:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-23 01:11:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27463 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27435 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-06-20 09:46:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-19 23:46:27 [post_content] => The government has succeeded in securing an industry funding model for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), with the ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Bill 2017 and related bills passing through the Senate. The industry funding model will deliver ASIC an additional $127.2 million funding package, which the government says “will significantly enhance data analytics and surveillance capabilities and facilitate proactive enforcement” – in short, more people and stronger powers. ASIC has welcomed the passage of legislation enabling a more secure and accountable funding of the model for regulation of the Australian corporate sector, indicating an increase in its specialist officer numbers overlooking the financial industry. Effective from 1 July 2017, ASIC’s regulatory costs will be recovered from all industry sectors regulated by ASIC through annual levies. The total figure mentioned in the Government’s White Paper was at the $240 million mark for the coming financial year, with the top five banks accounting for approximately half of the levy. ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft welcomed the legislation's passage, and highlighted the fact it enjoyed widespread support across the political spectrum. “This is an important milestone not just for ASIC, but also for the companies and wider corporate sector that we regulate,” he said. “Industry funding, in one form or another, applies to other areas of public oversight in Australia and in many comparable economies around the world. Not only will the different elements of the broad business sector more fairly share the load, but the taxpaying public will benefit through the more accountable use of the funds provided for the task.” ASIC has gone through a few years of upheaval in terms of its staff numbers, reportedly losing 80 in 2011 and a further 230 following Tony Abbott’s budget cut in 2014. Whilst ASIC had its personnel numbers largely restored once its $120 budget cut was restored last year, the regulatory burden of the financial market will require it to add further to its financial specialist team. The increased total revenue will also allow the regulator to boost its numbers in other areas of responsibility. The industry funding model is in large part a response to the recommendations of the 2014 Murray Financial System Inquiry and the 2013 Senate Inquiry into ASIC’s performance, both of which were largely critical of the organisation’s ability to respond effectively due to it having “limited powers and resources”.         [post_title] => ASIC to collect its revenue direct from industry [post_excerpt] => The ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Bill 2017 and related bills have passed through the Senate. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => asic-collect-revenue-direct-industry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-22 13:17:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-22 03:17:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27435 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27369 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 12:00:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 02:00:08 [post_content] =>   By Charles Pauka CASE builds the machines for the long haul. And as councils typically keep their plant and equipment for 8+ years, they can rest assured knowing that their CASE machine will not only perform for its first life with Council, but continue to perform through its 2nd and 3rd lives once replaced and sold to a new owner. For performance, reliability and resale value, councils around Australia continue to place their trust in CASE equipment – again and again. Founded in 1842, CASE Construction Equipment has over the last 175 years built a reputation as a leading and respected global manufacturer of construction equipment. Today, CASE offers a full line of equipment with over 90 different models around the world, including heavy excavators, wheel loaders, crawler dozers, skid-steer loaders, mini excavators, and backhoe loaders. CASE equipment and technologies deliver productivity, efficiency, fuel economy and cost-effectiveness to the benefit of its customers’ bottom line. CASE innovates to design equipment that is intuitive and straightforward to use so that operators maximise their productivity. GovernmentNews.com.au would like to congratulate CASE Construction Equipment on its 175 years of building productivity, and to celebrate, you can view a comprehensive and informative guide to CASE’s history, products and capabilities by clicking on this link. Government agencies and contractors need access to a full line of equipment, including heavy excavators, wheel loaders, crawler dozers, skid-steer loaders, mini excavators, and backhoe loaders, for maximum productivity and fast results. Read on to find out where to get your hands on the best equipment and back-up in Australia today. Full report here.    [post_title] => Governments trust CASE [post_excerpt] => Machines built for the long haul. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27369 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-20 10:47:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-20 00:47:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27369 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27415 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 11:31:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 01:31:34 [post_content] =>   By Charles Pauka Australian governments, vehicle manufacturers, transport technology providers and other interested parties have been asked to contribute to the development of a national safety assurance regime for automated vehicles. The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a discussion paper Regulatory options to assure automated vehicle safety in Australia, which examines the balance between government oversight and industry self-regulation for automated vehicle safety. The paper identifies four regulatory options for a safety assurance system for automated vehicle technology. Chief executive of the NTC Paul Retter said Australia’s transport ministers asked the NTC to look at what level of regulation is needed to ensure automated driving technologies are safe now and into the future. “Australian governments are starting to remove legislative barriers to more automated road vehicles. Without a safety assurance system, these vehicles could potentially be deployed with no government oversight or regulatory intervention,” Mr Retter said. Read more here. This story first appeared in Transport and Logistics News.  [post_title] => National safety scheme for automated vehicles [post_excerpt] => National Transport Commission releases discussion paper. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27415 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 11:56:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 01:56:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27415 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27391 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-15 09:28:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-14 23:28:52 [post_content] =>   Chemist Paul Mavor with the first medicinal cannabis imports from Canada last month. Pic: supplied.   Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Michael Gannon has criticised Tuesday’s senate vote, which makes it easier for terminally ill patients to buy unregistered medicinal cannabis from overseas, saying he fears the drug could end up in the wrong hands but cannabis experts have called his reaction unfounded. The vote was led by Greens leader Richard Di Natale after he lost the same vote in May, but this time it won the support of Labor, One Nation and various crossbenchers after a procedural loophole allowed a re-vote. Medicinal cannabis will now be classed as a category A drug on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) list, making it easier for doctors to prescribe the medication to terminally ill people and drastically reducing the time it takes for patients to get hold of it. The senate vote also means terminally ill people can legally import the drug more easily from regulated overseas markets, provided they have a prescription. The first medicinal cannabis imports came into Australia in May from Canadian company CanniMed. The Australian medicinal cannabis market is currently in its infancy after it became legal to cultivate, produce and manufacture medicinal cannabis products on October 30 2016. Good domestic product is probably 12 to 24 months away so securing an overseas supply is a necessary option for sick Australians. Supply is not the only problem, draconian rules around prescription are too. When the federal government legislated to make medicinal cannabis legal for some terminally ill patients last year, it also tightened up the conditions that had to be met before it could be prescribed. The drug was previously classified as a category B drug under the special access scheme, which meant doctors had to get prior approval from the TGA, their state or territory health department and their hospital ethics committee or relevant association, before treating terminally ill patients, rather than just informing the TGA they intended to prescribe it. It has obviously had an impact. Fairfax reported this week that only 133 people have been able to access medicinal cannabis since new laws came in. But some doctors aren’t in favour of relaxing the rules. Dr Gannon told Sky News he was ‘disappointed’ with the senate’s decision and said that giving patients access to unregistered medicinal cannabis products from overseas would knock doctors’ confidence in prescribing it.  “You’ve already got a situation where doctors are querying exactly how effective medicinal cannabis is. If you in any way put any doubt in their minds about the safety, you're simply not going to see it prescribed by many doctors,” Dr Gannon said. But he admitted the risks to patients were minimal. “Certainly, in the palliative care setting, we're not worried about addiction and, to be honest, we're not too worried about major potential side effects. But we remain concerned about potential diversion into the general community.” Dr Gannon said cannabis was still a major source of mental illness in the wider community and it was ‘absolutely essential’ any imports were safe. “If cannabis was the panacea that the people who seem desperate to import it - if it really was that good, then it would be in liberal use across the entire medical system,” he said. “We're excited about its potential in palliative care, we're excited about its potential when it comes to juvenile epilepsy, and forms of spasticity, but let's look for the evidence.” His views echo those of federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who called the senate’s decision ‘reckless and irresponsible’ and argued that cannabis could end up in the pockets of criminals and out on the streets. AMA’s fears unfounded, says expert But medicinal cannabis expert Rhys Cohen, who works for the Australian subsidiary of Israeli medicinal cannabis company Cann10, called Dr Gannon’s statements contradictory and ‘completely unfounded’. He said medicinal cannabis was unlikely to be diverted illegally, partly because it was already ‘incredibly cheap and incredibly accessible’ in Australia and medicinal cannabis was considerably more expensive. He said only a few countries, including Israel, Canada and the Netherlands, legally exported cannabis and they all tightly controlled their product. Companies needed export licenses and permits and Australian companies needed import licenses and permits. Prescriptions could still come only from specialist medical practitioners. “The changes allow people who are very soon going to die to access it faster than previously,” Mr Cohen said. “We’re not talking about Joe Bloggs with a bad leg here but people on their death beds dying of cancer wanting to get relief from pain. “The idea that there’s a chance they will sell it on the street is just ridiculous.” While Dr Gannon has argued that cannabis should be treated the same as every other drug, operation or therapy Mr Cohen said it had always been treated very differently from other drugs. “Any unregistered drug in the medicine world was accessible through special access A, except cannabis,” he said. Mr Cohen said he thought the AMA’s misgivings were that doctors would be put under more pressure to prescribe medicinal cannabis, especially given pent up demand. However, while he agreed these concerns were legitimate he said doctors were responsible for educating themselves about medicinal cannabis, especially when it had been proven to work so well for chronic pain, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. [post_title] => Doctors on a downer over medicinal cannabis imports [post_excerpt] => Concerns unfounded, says Australian cannabis expert. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => doctors-downer-medicinal-cannabis-imports [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 12:05:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 02:05:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27391 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27374 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-06-13 12:52:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-13 02:52:02 [post_content] =>   By Lucy Marrett  The 7-Eleven wage repayment scheme has so far repaid over $110 million in unpaid wages. However former wage repayment chairman Professor Allan Fels has raised concerns about minimal fines. The current payout has eclipsed penalties under existing laws and raised questions about a new law that the Federal Government has proposed, Sydney Morning Herald reported. Mr Fels said the fines imposed under the existing laws would be minimal in comparison to the 7-Eleven payouts. “The far stronger deterrent effect for others is if they know they have to make up the underpayments in full – in this case $110 million plus, compared to if they just have to pay a fine,” he said. “The Fair Work Act system just imposes fines and very limited compensation on the individuals whose cases are considered. But the court system works quite badly for systematic underpayment of thousands of people.” Read more here. This story first appeared in C&I Week.  [post_title] => 7-Eleven compensation claims hit $110m [post_excerpt] => Payouts better than fines, says Fels. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 7-eleven-compensation-claims-hit-110m [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-13 12:58:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-13 02:58:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27374 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27340 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-06-08 05:00:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-07 19:00:15 [post_content] => Pic: University of Sydney Union.   By Danielle Bowling  The cuts to penalty rates announced earlier this year won’t be completed until 2020, according to a ruling by the Fair Work Commission (FWC). The FWC announced that the reformed penalty rate conditions for part-time and full-time hospitality employees working on Sundays would be phased in over three years, commencing from 1 July 2017. Sunday penalty rates would be reduced from 175 percent to 170 percent in 2017-18, from 170 percent to 160 percent in 2018-19, and from 160 percent to 150 percent in 2019-2020.
Public holiday penalty rate reductions for both Hospitality and Restaurant Awards will take effect from 1 July 2017.
Sunday rates for casual employees will not change.
“Hotels will now be able to make long term decisions about the future operation of outlets on Sundays,” said Ferguson. “The reform could lead hotels to increasing trading hours and services and employing more staff.” Read more here. This story first appeared in Hospitality Magazine.  [post_title] => Penalty rate cuts won’t be fully implemented until 2020 [post_excerpt] => Sunday penalty rates down to 150% by 2020. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => penalty-rate-cuts-wont-fully-implemented-2020 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 10:02:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 00:02:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27340 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27322 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-07 12:59:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-07 02:59:07 [post_content] =>   Graduates at Southern Cross University. Pic: Facebook.   NSW universities recorded a combined operating surplus of $631 million last year and have coped with government funding cuts by reining in spending and increasing their income from student fees and other sources, an audit has found. Auditor-General Margaret Crawford’s report, Universities: 2016 Audits, released yesterday (Tuesday) by the Audit Office of NSW, found that the state’s ten universities were managing to stay afloat despite government cutbacks. Ms Crawford said: “Universities are managing the impact of continued downtrend in Commonwealth government grants by diversifying revenue and constraining expenditure.” She said universities were now ‘less reliant’ on government grants. The audit found that all of the universities recorded a surplus in 2016 and their combined growth in revenue exceeded their expenditure growth by 1.1 per cent, compared to a negative position (of 1.3 per cent) in 2015. However, at an individual level, five universities saw their rate of expenditure growth surpassing their revenue growth. Charles Sturt University had the highest negative earnings gap at 1.8 per cent, due to increased tuition contracts, while Sydney University’s negative earnings gap of 1.7 per cent was primarily due to an increased wage bill and a write down of capitalised project costs. Three other universities also had a negative earnings gap: University of New England (1.2%), University of Western Sydney (1.1%) and the University of Wollongong (0.9%). Southern Cross University had the highest positive earnings gap at 10.7 per cent, driven primarily by an increase of $13.4 million in Commonwealth Government Education Investment Fund. Next was University of Technology Sydney at 3.9%; University of NSW with 3.7 per cent; Newcastle University 2.9% and Macquarie University with 2.3%. Much of this financial buoyancy appears to be from a 25 per cent increase ($458 million) in overseas student revenue, a massive jump of 71.4 per cent since 2012. Last year was the first time NSW universities have earned more from overseas students’ course income than from domestic students’ course income. Ms Crawford said: “Some NSW universities' business models depend on international students' intake to be financially sustainable. These universities manage income concentration risk by focusing on increasing the geographical diversity of overseas students.” The balance between income gained from student course fees and government grants has been shifting over the last five years. Income from student course fees jumped from 39 per cent in 2012 to almost 46 per cent in 2016, whereas Commonwealth grants have dropped from 42 per cent of universities’ income in 2012 to 36 per cent in 2016. The report echoes an earlier Deloitte Access Economics study using data from 17 Australian universities, which found that Australia’s universities receive sufficient revenue through government funding and student fees to cover the cost of teaching most degrees. Two major exceptions were dentistry and veterinary science, which were both found to be underfunded. The study compared the average cost of delivering courses and said this had increased by 9.5 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while revenue went up by 15 per cent over the same period. Managing the risks Despite these encouraging numbers from both surveys, universities face an uncertain future after federal Budget measures slugged them with an efficiency dividend of 2.4 per cent in May, alongside hiking up student fees and pushing graduates to repay loans more quickly. The report identifies the top five strategic risks to NSW universities:
  • Government policy changes
  • Technology disruption
  • Increasingly competitive market for international students
  • Future financial sustainability
  • Investment in research not providing the desired outcomes and excellence
The Auditor-General said some universities’ heavy reliance on overseas students made them vulnerable to fluctuations in overseas student numbers and this risk needed to be planned for and managed. Ms Crawford also said universities needed to keep pace with the practical demands of the job market, particularly where technology was concerned. The report said that NSW universities' current course enrolment statistics did not appear to mirror published skills shortages. “Courses with the highest proportion of enrolled students such as creative arts, society and culture do not mirror the skills shortage requirements in NSW for health, ICT and engineering,” it said. “Aligning students' enrolment with the fields of skill shortages within the state would ensure funds are directed to educate graduates that can be employed.” Another risk flagged was the need for universities to have a strategy for dealing with cyber threats and threats to intellectual property by tightening up their information security. “NSW universities need to review the design and effectiveness of their information security controls to ensure intellectual property, staff and student data are adequately protected,” the Auditor-General recommended. This was mainly around password settings and administration of user access. User password settings need to be improved on the financial systems to help to reduce the risk of data leaks and inappropriate access. The 2016 Threat Report of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, identified intellectual property as a potential target for cyber criminals. “Universities generate a significant amount of intellectual property through their investment of public and commercial funds into research. The report also noted that cyber criminals are using increasingly sophisticated ways to elicit this high value,” said the audit. Ms Crawford said that some universities were addressing these risks through ‘stress testing and scenario analysis models’ to understand and plan appropriate responses. [post_title] => NSW universities are doing ok, says audit [post_excerpt] => Overseas student numbers soar. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-universities-ok-says-audit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 10:03:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 00:03:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27322 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27315 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 11:19:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:19:37 [post_content] =>   Governments must consider ways to manage the transition to driverless trucks in order to avoid potential social disruption from job losses, according to a new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) with three partner organisations. Self-driving trucks will help save costs, lower emissions, and make roads safer. They could also address the shortage of professional drivers faced by road transport industry, the study says. But automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers by 50-70% in the US and Europe by 2030, with up to 4.4 million of the projected 6.4 million professional trucking jobs becoming redundant, according to one scenario. Even if the rise of driverless trucks dissuades newcomers from trucking, over 2 million drivers in the US and Europe could be directly displaced, according to scenarios examined for the report. The report makes four recommendations to help manage the transition to driverless road freight:
  • Establish a transition advisory board to advise on labour issues.
  • Consider a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption.
  • Set international standards, road rules and vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks.
  • Continue pilot projects with driverless trucks to test vehicles, network technology and communications protocols.
These recommendations were agreed jointly by organisations representing truck manufacturers, truck operators and transport workers’ unions, under the auspices of an intergovernmental organisation. This broad coalition of stakeholders lends the call to action particular weight. Read more here. This story first appeared in Transport and Logistics and News.  [post_title] => Governments must manage transition to driverless trucks and job losses [post_excerpt] => The human side of driverless trucks. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27315 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 11:19:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:19:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27315 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27302 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 05:00:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-05 19:00:58 [post_content] => Who is going to rush to the rescue of renters?   I am a single parent with two school-aged children earning a decent income but around 60 per cent of my pay every month goes on rent; childcare takes a good chunk of the rest. I pay $650 per week for a small two-bedroom flat in an apartment complex in Petersham in Sydney’s Inner West. Ten years’ ago the same apartment was leased for $390 per week. In that time the flat’s value has more than doubled and it is now estimated to be worth around $885,000.   This puts me squarely in the category of Sydney renters paying ‘extremely unaffordable rents’, according to the Rental Affordability Index (RAI), produced by National Shelter, Community Sector Banking and SGS Economics, and well above the definition of households in housing stress, defined as being a household paying more than 30 per cent of income in rent. May figures from the RAI showed that pensioners and working parents have been priced out of the rental market in all metropolitan areas across Australia and that rental affordability dropped over the last quarter in all metropolitan areas, except Perth. For me, it is an unsustainable situation and part of the reason I’m moving back to the UK and to my family this month after 12 years in Australia. But there are thousands of other Sydney and regional NSW renters who are also paying a fair whack of their wages in rent and it appears that there is little help in sight for them. Census 2011 figures show that just over one-quarter of NSW households rent privately and a further 5 per cent rent in social housing. In NSW, 76 per cent of lower-income renter households, that’s those in the bottom 40 per cent of income distribution, were considered to be in rental stress in 2013- 14. National Shelter's and Choice's report Unsettled: Life in Australia's private rental market says that 49 per cent of  renters in metro areas personally pay more than $301 a week rent versus roughly a quarter in regional areas and 42 per cent of renters overall. This rises to 55 per cent for renters in Sydney and Melbourne.  The house price boom has not only hurt first home buyers it has also hurt renters. As more and more middle income earners are priced out of home ownership they swell the ranks of renters and they can often afford to pay higher rents, effectively pushing lower income households further out of the rental market as landlords charge what they can get away with. While the most vulnerable groups are pensioners, single parents, people with disabilities, students and anyone on benefits, single people and couples on low wages or where one partner doesn’t work are also in the firing line. That's a lot of people (and a lot of voters). But the situation is unlikely to be eased by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s housing affordability reforms announced last week, which focused mainly on expanding stamp duty concessions for first home buyers and slugging foreign property investors with higher duties and taxes. Tenants NSW says the NSW government needs to remember renters  Tenants NSW Senior Policy Officer Ned Cutcher is underwhelmed by the NSW measures. "It’s not an increasing affordable housing package, that’s an access to debt package," Mr Cutcher says. “It is disappointing. Clearly there are a lot more people for whom home ownership is more of a dream than an aspiration and they’re doing it tough."  “We would have liked to have seen something more direct tackling the issue of rental affordability [although] the government has left it open to have a look at housing affordability targets.” The government needs to look at what’s driving rising rents and pay more attention to renters, he adds.   Indeed, the new reforms could aggravate the situation for renters as the government steers first home buyers towards new apartments and shifts investors away from them. Instead, he suggests there needs to be a raft of reforms and at least some of these should address negative gearing and capital gains tax discount, perhaps limiting negative gearing to new properties (as the Opposition has suggested) and reducing capital gains tax discounts, hoping to encourage long-term investment. “The combination of negative gearing and capital gains discount encourages investment churn: buying and selling properties because they’re interested in gains rather than yields,” Mr Cutcher says. Changes to negative gearing and capital gains discount would be significant because they could ‘change the way investors consider how and why they’re borrowing large amounts of money and investing in property’. But he cautions: “People [investors] aren’t going to give this up lightly but it isn’t sustainable.” Changing these price signals would enable landlords to continue to make money out of leasing property but could shift their attitudes to viewing rentals less as bricks and mortar that goes up in value and more like somebody’s long-term home. “It’s all about keeping things going the way they [have]been going - helping a few people out on the margins - but if you’re not actually looking at the systems in place, we’re going to be here in another three or four years’ time having the same conversation about stamp duty concessions and first home buyers’ grants. It’s not a very imaginative solution.” He also backs affordable housing targets for new developments to help increase supply and introducing a broad-based land tax to encourage investors to make the most effective use of their land, reducing vacant blocks and ensuring density and development where land is more valuable, for example in employment hubs. He is an advocate for new social housing being built and the government offering more Commonwealth Rental Assistance for those on benefits, especially where it has not kept pace with the private rental market. At a federal level, Mr Cutcher says Treasurer Scott Morrison’s idea of a bond aggregator model has legs. This is where investors - companies or super funds for example - buy government bonds and the government loans the money cheaply to community housing associations to create relatively affordable rental housing. He says renters would also benefit from having stronger legal rights in NSW because at the moment landlords can put up rents and terminate tenancies fairly easily. Ultimately, he believes that the growing army of renters will force the government’s hand, at state and federal level and prove the catalyst to more decisive action. “We need to be hearing from people raising families who have been renting for ten or 15 years but who don’t know where they’re going to be living next year. Increasing the visibility of people who rent, that’s going to drive these decisions." Economist and Mosman Mayor Peter Abelson says low income households under rental stress and first home buyers struggling to scrape together a deposit are the two critical housing problems in NSW. “People at the lower end are really suffering from high rents. There are real problems.” Long waiting lists for social housing, for example there are 40,000 households on the list in Sydney, and the widening gap between Commonwealth Rent Assistance and rental levels make the situation worse. He suggests developers pay an affordable housing levy of 1.5 per cent of house sale value on new units. This is preferable to rent controls, Abelson says, which can be an administrative headache (for example, if tenants’ incomes change or they sublet) and reduce capital values with minimal impact on the affordable housing available. The centrally-controlled fund could then subsidise rents for low income households.   [post_title] => OPINION: Renters left behind in NSW housing reforms [post_excerpt] => Tenant body urges action. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opinion-renters-left-behind-in-nsw-housing-reforms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 09:36:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-05 23:36:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27302 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27306 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-06-05 18:41:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-05 08:41:50 [post_content] =>

 

Is the federal government two Tim Tams short of a packet?

 

By Lucy Marrett 

The federal government is backing a principles-based approach for product packaging in response to industry calls to review measurement labelling laws. The government was responding to calls to address industry requests to cut red tape with options to change measurement marking placement rules. At present, a products exact weight and/or volume must appear on the front of the packet under the national trade measurements regulations (NTMR) 2009 Part 4. If the industry proposal is successful, weight and volume markings could be moved from the front of packaging making it difficult for consumers to compare products and value for money. The current proposal to review the NTMR outlines three possible options: leave regulations as they are; clarify the regulations; implement a principles-based approach. The government is in favour of the third option, which, if implemented will see the removal of regulations controlling size, orientation, and position of the measurement mark. Read more here.  This story first appeared in C&I Week.
[post_title] => Industry vs consumer in labelling laws review [post_excerpt] => Removing weight and volume markings from packaging. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => government-vs-consumer-packaging-laws-review [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 11:26:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:26:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27306 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27273 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-31 16:33:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-31 06:33:43 [post_content] => A crowdfunding campaign to restore Pittwater Council and enable it to break away from the Northern Beaches Council reached 75 per cent of its target in a matter of days. The campaign, led by newly-formed community group Protect Pittwater, aims to raise $10,000 through crowdfunding platform Chuffed. So far $7,125 has been raised and 58 people have donated since the campaign went live at 1pm on Tuesday this week. Pittwater, Manly and Warringah Councils were the subject of a forced council merger and became the Northern Beaches Council in May 2016. Ex-Pittwater councillor and retired barrister Bob Grace said the initial goal of $10,000 was enough for legal advice and a statement of claim. “I think it’s really a super response and it shows by the number of people donating that the people out here in Pittwater want to go back, fight the government and get Pittwater back,” Mr Grace said. “It’s really exciting, the way that people have responded. It’s unbelievable.”   The campaign has been partly inspired by the recent success of Ku-ring-gai Council, which won an appeal against a forced merger with part of Hornsby Shire Council after the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” and ordered the NSW government to pay the council’s costs in March. Woollahra Council won a victory of sorts earlier in the High Court in May when it was granted special leave to appeal its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley Councils after losing its Land and Environment Court case in December 2016. Another local residents’ group, Local Democracy Matters, has also been formed to fight the merger and is meeting this Saturday at Bondi Pavilion. Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she will press ahead with the mergers.  [post_title] => Crowdfunded council de-merger campaign starts strong [post_excerpt] => Residents fight NSW government on mergers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => crowdfunding-campaign-break-away-pittwater-northern-beaches-council-starts-strong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 14:54:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 04:54:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27273 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27254 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-30 11:35:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-30 01:35:53 [post_content] => By Stephen Duckett, Director, Health Program, Grattan Institute This story first appeared in The Conversation   Leaked documents reported by Fairfax Media yesterday reveal Commonwealth bureaucrats are considering a proposal to simplify how public hospitals are funded in Australia. While Labor has jumped on the leaks as further proof of the government’s risky approach to public health, Health Minister Greg Hunt has said the proposals would never be government policy. A byproduct of Australia’s fractured federalism is that both the Commonwealth and state governments fund public hospitals. Currently, public hospital funding is split 38% to 53% between the Commonwealth and state governments respectively – the remaining 9% is private funding. The Commonwealth also funds a major share of private hospital costs, albeit indirectly through the private health insurance rebate. So about 50% of private hospital funding comes from private health insurers, with a further 30% coming through health insurers, but sourced from the Commonwealth government, because of the private health insurance rebate. So complex are these arrangements that a funding flow diagram for public hospitals resembles an upended bowl of spaghetti. The leaked plan proposes a seemingly tidy new funding formula dubbed the “Commonwealth Hospital Benefit”.  
Public hospital funding is a complex arrangement. National Health Funding Body

What we know so far

The leaked plan’s reported headline proposal is that the government rebate, which aims to encourage people to take out private health insurance, be transformed into a direct private hospital subsidy. In other words, the private health insurance rebate – which subsidises up to 35% of the cost of both hospital and general (ancillary) insurance – would be abolished, as would the Medicare rebate for medical services for private patients in hospitals. Instead, a new rebate would be paid directly to private hospitals, with the level of the payment depending on the type of treatment and procedures provided. Similarly, Commonwealth block grants to the states for public hospital care would be replaced by a direct payment to public hospitals, again depending on the treatments and procedures provided. The Commonwealth Hospital Benefit would work in a similar way to the Medicare Benefit Schedule. So the Commonwealth would publish a list of fees it would pay for particular types of hospital care. These fees would be equally available to public and private hospitals. Presumably the fees would be based on what is called the National Efficient Price – currently used to determine Commonwealth payments to states for increases in public hospital activity – published by the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority. Basing payment on a National Efficient Price will help make the private hospital sector more efficient, in the same way that it has improved efficiency in public hospitals.

Neat and tidy, but…

A Commonwealth Hospital Benefit would certainly be neat and tidy. It would increase transparency of Commonwealth funding support for both public and private hospitals. And it would replace the complex arrangements for private hospitals, where Commonwealth support for private hospital care is partly channelled through private health insurers and partly offered through the MBS rebate and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). But important questions remain. At present, Commonwealth support for public hospitals is capped: it can grow no faster than 6.5% each year. Commonwealth support for private insurance, however, grows with any growth in membership; and growth in MBS and PBS outlays is uncapped. Will the proposed scheme be capped? If so, how? Current Commonwealth support for public hospitals is conditional on there being no out-of-pocket costs to patients. Would the new scheme retain that condition? Similarly, the Commonwealth’s indirect support for private hospitals is available only to those with private health insurance – because it is paid through the private health insurance rebate. About 7% of overnight-stay patients and 9% of same-day patients in private hospitals pay in full for their own care.
Further reading: The multi-billion-dollar subsidy for private health insurance isn’t worth it
Will these patients also become eligible for Commonwealth subsidies? That is, will the new private hospital subsidy be available only to those with private insurance and, if so, will any type of private insurance fulfil this condition? Fairfax claims the leaked report suggests that, on current modelling, the share of Commonwealth support for public hospitals might decline from around 40% now to around 35%. This would require the states to devote a bigger proportion of their already tight budgets to health care. The premiers could be expected to object loudly to any reduction. They might pass on the budget cut to public hospitals, and sheet home the blame to the Commonwealth. Certainly, the political optics for the federal Coalition – still reeling from Labor’s 2016 election “Mediscare” campaign – would not be good.

What about private hospitals?

Private hospitals and doctors might also not welcome the proposed arrangement. Private hospitals might enjoy the reduced scrutiny by private insurers, but some negotiations would presumably still be needed between insurers and hospitals about what level of out-of-pocket costs members could face. Private hospitals might also become responsible for paying medical rebates to surgeons, psychiatrists and other doctors who treat patients in their hospital. The private hospital administrators might find dealing with insurers much easier than negotiating how to divide the new “hospital benefit” between the doctors, pharmacists, allied health staff and the hospital, all of whom currently bill separately. Alternatively, private insurers might be expected to cover these costs. Again, this would require complex negotiations on precisely what payments might be appropriate. If there was no net change in Commonwealth funding to private hospital care, the financial position of private insurers would be unchanged, because their outlays would be reduced in line with the reduction in the Commonwealth subsidy. But again, there are risks here for insurers. If the benefit was available to all patients, and not just the insured, private insurers might lose business as members downgrade to the minimum acceptable product. And it could become harder for insurers to persuade people to take up private insurance, given many people see the current private health insurance rebate as ensuring they get value for money from their insurance purchases. There are good reasons to want to simplify and make more transparent the extremely complex flows of Commonwealth funding to both public and private hospitals. But there are also risks in the change. [post_title] => Why the seemingly tidy, leaked proposal for hospital funding may be a problem policy [post_excerpt] => Will the scheme be capped? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27254 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-30 12:50:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-30 02:50:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27254 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27229 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-25 15:35:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-25 05:35:09 [post_content] =>

The Health Star Rating System has been slammed as unhelpful and misleading. 
By Lucy Marrett
Championed to make packaged food choices simpler, the HSRS was launched three years ago but of late has been receiving criticism suggesting there is a fundamental flaw in the system. The federal government’s Heath Star Rating System (HSRS) has been referred to as flawed and in urgent need of review. What exactly is the HSRS? According to the official HSRS website it is: “a front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars. It provides a quick, easy, standard way to compare similar packaged foods. The more stars, the healthier the choice.” It was designed as a way to make choosing healthy options simple and quick, taking the hassle out of reading nutrition labels, and instead provide a clear visual guide.   Read more here. This story first appeared in C&I Week.
[post_title] => Flaws in the health star rating system [post_excerpt] => The HSRS remains voluntary for food companies. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27229 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-25 16:24:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-25 06:24:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27229 [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] => 27463 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-06-23 10:36:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-23 00:36:19 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27464" align="alignnone" width="300"] Department of Defence photo from the Royal Australian Air Force taken during Exercise Diamond Storm.[/caption] Department of Defence staff will have a new enterprise agreement after three years of negotiations, with staff voting on a deal that improved on the three previously rejected offers, with more rights protected. These include:
  • Comprehensive Terms of Reference for the National Workplace Relations Committee (NWRC), which includes representation rights for members and workplace delegates, and dispute escalation and settlement protocols;
  • The application of enforceable policy and process in areas of the agreement that cover situations where members’ jobs may be at risk, such as performance management and excess declaration; and
  • A proper performance management process written into the agreement.
The ballot saw 61% voting Yes to the agreement. 84% of eligible staff participated, in the first Defence ballot since December last year. Defence is one of several major agencies voting in June, with Agriculture staff also approving a new deal earlier this week and ballots soon in the Tax Office, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and CSIRO. CSIRO staff have also narrowly voted to approve a new enterprise agreement, with their reluctance underlining the importance and difficulty management faces in rebuilding trust in the organisation. The agreement was secured with a 57.74% Yes vote. The ballot closed late on Thursday night, with 77% of eligible CSIRO staff participating. CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said: “Defence staff have finally voted up a new agreement, albeit reluctantly. This deal is a real improvement on those they’ve previously rejected but it’s far from perfect and also massively unfair that they're copping a three-year plus pay freeze.” The deal includes a 6% pay rise over the three-year term of the agreement. The deal has been negotiated on a single-agency basis, as are the other public service agreements. This despite calls for single-agency negotiations to be discontinued by former public service commissioner Andrew Podger, currently a professor at the Australian National University, who was the public service commissioner between 2002 and 2004. As reported in Government News (Dump single agency bargaining in the APS, says former Public Service Commissioner), Professor Podger said single agency bargaining has had serious, negative consequences for the public service which have outweighed the promised benefits, chiefly around flexibility. “This has caused very serious damage to the integrity of the whole pay system in the Public Service with tangible impact on mobility within the service, serious management problems for agencies affected by machinery of government changes, justified complaints of unfairness across and within agencies, and unknown impacts on attraction and retention of the skills the APS requires,” Prof Podger told the 2016 senate inquiry into APS bargaining. Prof Podger said single agency negotiations have created pay disparities for similar jobs  in different departments and agencies and has also damaged staff morale and caused resentment. “What’s happened is they’ve all gone their different ways and none of them have been able to focus on the market,” says Prof Podger. “Strict central rules led to different pay rates, not because they are useful but because they are forced to be there.” [post_title] => Defence, CSIRO to finally get a pay rise [post_excerpt] => Department of Defence staff will get a pay rise after three years of negotiations. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => defence-finally-get-pay-rise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-23 11:11:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-23 01:11:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27463 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1405 [max_num_pages] => 101 [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 ) )

Federal