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                    [post_content] => It was hard but very effective day at work

 

Council amalgamations in NSW have created a revolving door of staff as new councils struggle to hold on to their general managers.

The game of management musical chairs has gathered pace recently and many of those parachuting belatedly into the top jobs have been from NSW Premier Mike Baird’s Northern Beaches stomping ground.

Rik Hart became the latest (interim) General Manager of Sydney’s fledging Inner West Council last week after respected GM Vanessa Chan resigned.

Hart spent ten years as one of the state’s highest paid GMs during his tenure at Warringah Council before the council merged with Pittwater and Manly and he was appointed Deputy GM of the new Northern Beaches Council, which turned out to be a brief gig.

Chan’s reasons for resigning have been kept on the down-low, although she cited “personal reasons” but bringing three councils together while keeping the new council’s daily operations going and dealing with fierce public hostility to the merger would not have been an easy task. Chan was previously GM at Ashfield Council and had notched up more than 15 years working in local government.

The inner-west merger between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils has already claimed the scalps of Leichhardt GM Peter Head and Marrickville’s Brian Barrett, who both quit rather than take on a deputy GM role.

A slew of other senior staff joined them in walking out the door, including Leichhardt’s Director of Corporate Services Matthew Phillips; Marrickville’s Director of Planning and Environment Tim Moore; Director of Infrastructure Services Neil Strickland and Director of Corporate Services Steve Kludass.

The freshly minted Northern Beaches Council has haemorrhaged senior staff since the merger between Pittwater, Manly and Warringah was pushed through in May.

The mass exit is unsurprising given the council was top heavy at its inception, with an administrator, interim general manager and eight deputies.

Henry Wong quit as Deputy GM and ended up as Strathfield Council’s acting GM after spending years in the same role at Manly Council.

Other senior managers dropped in from the Northern Beaches and scattered further afield include former Warringah Council Deputy General Manager Malcolm Ryan, who left for Western Sydney to take up a job as GM at Cumberland Council – an amalgam of parts of Auburn, Holroyd and Parramatta local government areas, a contract which runs until March 2018.

Deputy GM Melinda Hewitt (previously Pittwater Council’s Deputy GM) left Northern Beaches Council in August after seven years on the peninsula, as did former deputy Stephen Clements.

CEO at Local Government Professionals Australian NSW, Annalisa Haskell said some senior managers left before they lost their jobs or had to work in a new set up they did not like under a merged council.

“There are people going everywhere,” Haskell said.

She said that movement at the top was “inevitable” following council mergers, particularly because merged councils would be creating a “new order”, which may jar with established staff.

“The leadership needs to establish a new organisation and that can be challenging if you have got the incumbents there. Change is always difficult. In any organisation there is a positive and negative.”

The situation had the potential to create conflict between general managers and their deputies, most of whom had served as GMs before the mergers.

 

Businessman standing in front of revolving door, checking time on wristwatch, picking up briefcase

 

Instability at the top has also affected those councils threatened with amalgamation but who have not yet merged. Their respective general managers are well aware that their necks are on the guillotine.

Arthur Kyron left his GM post at Waverley Council in April, citing the uncertainty created by mergers as the reason for his resignation. A proposal to merge Waverley, Randwick and Woollahra is still on the table, with Woollahra resisting. One interim GM would be appointed to oversee the transition.

Cabonne Council lost General Manager Andrew Hopkins in August after four years in the job after Hopkins said he had to think of his family and career while the merger between Cabonne, Blayney and Orange was still going through the courts.

Strathfield Council is on its fifth Acting General Manager (Henry Wong) since its long-serving General Manager David Backhouse walked out the door in February. The council remains locked in a court battle resisting the government’s proposal to merge it with Canada Bay and Burwood Councils.

Local government veteran Backhouse quit Strathfield Council after 30 years, ten spent as GM. Two other senior staff quit too: Corporate Affairs Director Neale Redman and Head of Planning David Hazaldene.

But their departures may not have been solely precipitated by amalgamations.

An October 2015 Office of Local Government investigation found that Strathfield Council spent almost $900,000 on legal services and advice from International Property Group over a four-year period and concluded that it had little to show for it.

The investigation identified ‘systemic deficiencies’ and failures in administration and slapped a performance improvement order on the council.

Not even the lower north shore has proved a safe haven for general managers. The state government’s proposal to merge Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Councils is likely to have created a sense of unease among the people who work there.

Mosman’s GM Veronica Lee chucked in her job in August and left to become Executive Director of Corporate Service at the NSW Office of Sport. North Sydney GM Warwick Winn jumped ship for Manningham Council in suburban Melbourne in April.

President of Local Government NSW Keith Rhoades said he was aware of a great deal of movement at senior level within councils, much of it due to the uncertainty created by mergers.

“They’ve got to think about their families and their futures and their careers, if there’s a position come up that might be more secure for them. Job security is something to be treasured these days,” Rhoades said.

Haskell agreed: “When you’re in a state of unknown it’s always hard so I guess some people are changing to make active decisions about their careers. I think you would see more movement there just because of the uncertainty.”

Some managers have left councils under threat of merging for those that have already gone through the process. Haskell said: “there are opportunities coming up in merged councils for people who may be want surety.”

Lee Furness hotfooted it out of the doors as Director of Corporate Policy at Shellharbour Council (slated to merge with Wollongong) this month to become Executive Director at Hilltops Council.

Haskell said the massive personnel changes presented both opportunities and dangers.

There was a possibility the sector could lose skills and corporate memory but she said this was part of a wider trend with the retirement of baby boomers at senior level.

Another fear was that the sector could become fragmented into three: councils where there had been no change, amalgamated councils and those councils which might be merged.

“Although there were lots of little councils before it was quite cohesive,” she said. “It feels a little bit more fragmented at the moment. We have people who are not changing that are stable, groups that are waiting and people who have changed. It’s very abnormal at the moment.”

Haskell said councils were stronger when they connected and shared best practice.
                    [post_title] => Best of 2016: Musical chairs at the top for NSW local councils since mergers
                    [post_excerpt] => Northern Beaches execs go west.
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                    [post_content] => phone hammer drop 


One year on and Human Services clients are still tearing their hair out in frustration over the Department’s dysfunctional, bug-ridden mobile apps.

According to user reviews, the three main apps -- Express Plus Centrelink, Express Plus Medicare and Express Plus Child Support -- are still giving users headaches and holding up benefit payments and Medicare claims.

Government News covered this sorry state of affairs in March last year and it appears few improvements have been made over the last 12 months. The same problems continue to occur and many customers remain disenchanted.

Apps designed to save time for customers and DHS staff end up driving people to despair and into their nearest DHS office or phone queue, twice as frustrated as before.

This app is crap photo1_opt (1)Express Plus Centrelink 

The Centrelink app was probably the most complained about of the three apps, with many reviewers hitting their caps lock and exclamation marks to vent their spleen. It is also probably the most heavily used, by students, job seekers, seniors and families to update family income estimates, report wages and update study details.

The most frequently mentioned gripes - using only current reviews from February to April 2016 - were:
  • Log-in problems
  • Long loading times
  • Difficulties reporting earnings or hours or updating personal details
  • Bugs in the registration screen, where users could not see the whole password they entered (Tip: if your password is longer than 8 characters keep typing then hit submit)
  • Frequent crashing
  • Poor layout
  • No notices about maintenance or outages
Customers had some choice words for the Department and its apps and many people were upset that they could not use the app to report their earnings or their hours. One Centrelink customer said: “It’s constantly down. Hopeless app. Hopeless system that keeps referring us to use the broken app. How is it that a department that so many people have to report to keeps getting it wrong?” Another said: “Tells me to report. Tells me I have not reported. The list goes on.” One enterprising wag suggested drug-addled rodents would do a better job: “Warning to anyone who plans to download this app: don’t, it will not let you report. A hamster on speed could report for you better. FFS!” “Had to spend an hour on the phone just to report my earnings because this app wouldn’t let me. Should have had this running properly before shutting down the job seeker’s app, which worked perfectly fine!!! Doesn’t even deserve one star!!! NOT HAPPY,” said another unsatisfied customer. Some people complained that they were not allowed to report their income until after the reporting date, at which time the app informed them they were too late: “Constantly down, won’t let me report yet tells me daily I’m overdue for reporting.” More seriously, some people said they had missed their benefit payments because of glitches in the app. “Says report has been submitted but not processed and I haven’t been paid. Will have to spend hours on the phone. Grr,” one frustrated person said. Another had also missed out on payments: “Not sure Centrelink are getting my updates for the past month. I updated my study twice. Now I’ve missed out two fortnights of payments so I’ll be expecting back pay. Says my claim is incomplete so I click on it and it won’t do anything. I’m going to have to go into office and get it sorted.” One Express Plus Centrelink user said: “If DHS employees had these many hoops and roundabouts to get paid there’d be a senate inquiry. Alan Tudge sir, you suck!” There were a few words of cold comfort for Human Services, “Yeah, not bad. Considering that this is a government app it appears to work ok.” “App has improved recently and is really helpful” and “very well laid out application. Easy to report my income using the timesheet option.” Express Plus Medicare The Express Plus Medicare app, which can be used to claim Medicare benefits and view information such as immunisation records and your Medicare Safety Net balance, came in for a bit of a serve too. Claimants reported difficulty installing and opening the app, constant crashing and over-compressing images of photographed documents so that claims could not be read or processed. Comments included: “Can’t even take clear photo of invoice through app (photo is pixelated). What is the point if we can’t take a clear picture? This app is really terrible. Please get your act together and stop wasting the taxpayers’ money and produce an app that functions as it should. The government wants us to use these news tools to innovate but can’t even write a simple app!” “Stupid app is stupid. When are claimants going to be able to claim Medicare rebates easily?” One Medicare user said it took him four attempts to claim resulting in him receiving a Medicare letter by post demanding more information: “this app is so buggy it makes going to a Medicare office the quick and easy option.” “Even giving it one star is favouring it. The most useless app ever.” “The level of suckyness (sic) of this app is unending.” “Your stupid app only crashes and your staff insist I use it and won’t help me in person.” “What a convoluted process to try and make a claim. Linking accounts, have a My Gov account, need a user names, password, secret questions, PIN! Need to go to the My Gov website, will not accept personal details! Dozens of prompts in help section! You cannot be serious about citizens using this app!” Express Child Support There were similar but fewer rotten tomato reviews for the Department’s child support app, with users complaining about loading problems, log-in difficulties, limited functionality and not being able to load documents. One said: “Worst app of all time … doesn’t ever load. Need to check apps before u (sic) make them available.” “This app has never opened since I installed it. It keeps saying “unfortunately child support has stopped working. EVERY SINGLE TIME I OPEN IT!!” This app won’t log in at all.” “So far it’s still downloading and has been for five and a half hours.” An app developer's view App developer Danny Gorog from Outware took a look at the Express Plus apps and gave Government News his verdict, one year on from his last comments. Mr Gorog, who is currently designing apps for Transport NSW, said he could see little improvement since he last reviewed the apps for Government News in March 2015. He said the user interface (UI) remained very complicated. “It’s a non-native app … it feels very clunky and it feels like a situation that no-one is really taking seriously,” Mr Gorog said. “I’m sure they’ve spent a lot of money on it but it feels like it has been built as a cross-platform app, using the same code for Android and Apple.” He was also heavily critical of the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities, such as vision impairment. “Apple and Google have very strict accessibility guidelines so people with disabilities won’t find it hard to use. The accessibility and the UI should be thought through. “I had a look at it and I’m disappointed,” he said. “It needs to conform to iOS and Android guidelines of how apps should look and work on the platform and this doesn’t conform to any of them. I would be building native code.” Mr Gorog said those responsible for developing the app needed to trawl through customer complaints and start fixing things. “The truth is that it’s often hard for government. They’ve got a budget for app development for the year. The number is normally too low and the government wants cheaper solutions. “[they might say] “we are over budget and you can’t spend any more.” Response from Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen (in full) Government News  sought comment from Human Services regarding the user experience and performance of the department's apps. Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said: "The multiple award winning Express Plus mobile apps continue to be a highly popular way for our customers to self-manage their routine business with the department, with the number of downloads approaching 7 million as of February 2016. "As technology evolves, we continue to make enhancements to our mobile apps to ensure they remain world class and continue to provide superior digital access to services for our customers. "We’ve added new functionality like booking appointments and Income Management to enable our customers to use mobile apps for more services. Further improvements are planned for next financial year and will be communicated to customers when they become live. "Our apps have proven to be hugely popular with our customers and demand continues to grow with more than two million new app downloads and more than 54 million transactions made using the apps in the 2015-16 financial year to date. At any one time we have an average of 80,000 concurrent connections through our gateway. "All customer complaints and feedback made through our feedback channels are responded to in accordance with the DHS complaints and feedback policy. While we do monitor customer feedback on iTunes and Google Play, we do not respond to comments, leave reviews or post information in the reviews section. "We work as one digital team across the Department and in close collaboration with the Digital Transformation Office. This approach ensures all digital products are developed in multi-disciplinary teams that include insights from technologists, specialist, and frontline staff and often directly from our customers as well. This ensures an end-to-end solution approach and greater uptake." [post_title] => Best of 2016: This app is STILL crap: Centrelink and Medicare clients [post_excerpt] => One year on: "The most useless app ever". [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => this-app-is-still-crap-centrelink-and-medicare-clients [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:44:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:44:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23640 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 9 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23502 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:42:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:42:12 [post_content] => Census3   Plans to retain people’s names and addresses for this year’s Census have sparked fear that the information could be used by Centrelink, the Tax Office and ASIO and may lead to mass civil disobedience or people lying on their forms, privacy groups believe. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which has been around since 1905, conducts a Census every five years on the second Tuesday in August. While this has always involved collecting names and addresses, the difference is that this time it wants to hold on to all of this information. The Agency has said it wants to be able to combine Census data with other datasets, such as health and education statistics, to get a “richer and dynamic statistical picture of Australia.” Statisticians argue this could provide insights into many areas, for example, the employment outcomes of different educational programs or designing mental health services, and result in better service planning and delivery. Keeping names and addresses would also make surveys more efficient and reduce the cost and burden on Australian households, said the ABS. But Jon Lawrence from the Electronic Frontiers Australia said retaining such information was unwarranted and intrusive and “an exceptionally bad idea.” “At its very essence, it’s a massive invasion of the privacy of every Australian,” Mr Lawrence said. He said it could be used by successive governments to pursue Australians over Centrelink or tax misdemeanours or to investigate suspicions of terrorism or other criminal activity. “Once it’s there, the scope of these things tends to increase, data matching with the ATO and Centrelink. I don’t see any justification as to why these changes have been made.” Mr Lawrence said ASIO would love to get their hands on such a comprehensive dataset. For example, they could use it to identify Muslims and pinpoint where they lived. The most serious repercussions would be felt if people refuse to complete the survey or lie on their forms, leading to a dramatic drop in the quality and coverage of Census data, he said. "The biggest risk is that people will actually write rubbish. We have seen quite a lot of angst already and we haven’t really even started the campaign. This is just starting to get mainstream coverage and I think there’s a genuine issue there.” ABS statistician David Kalisch has insisted the Agency has never - and never will - release identifiable Census data. He said names and addresses will be stored securely and separately from other Census data. Despite these assurances, Mr Lawrence believes Census data is so detailed that people could be re-identified. “De-identification is a furphy,” Mr Lawrence said. “You can still do it in many circumstances. The reality is that people will be able to be identified by certain bits of Census data is very, very real (and) that information can be used.” Anna Johnston from Salinger Privacy, who is also a former NSW Deputy Privacy Commissioner, believes the ABS cannot give a cast-iron assurance that the data won’t be misused. In her blog for Salinger Privacy, Ms Johnston said opportunistic hackers, organised criminals, ABS staff or just negligence and human error could leak damaging, highly personal information and make fraud and identify theft a risk. “Seeking to justify the proposal by saying that the ABS will never release identifiable information ignores the point that they shouldn’t have it in the first place,” Ms Johnston said. “And, as my mother taught me – you shouldn’t make promises you cannot keep. “This is the greatest potential impact of the proposal – that the ABS becomes the unwitting tool of a government intent on mass population surveillance.” Ms Johnston said the agency’s own 2006 privacy review had identified the danger of “function creep”, where stored information is used more broadly than for the purpose it was originally intended. “The statisticians must be living in fantasy land if they think that once they hold identifiable data on all 24 million people in Australia, that not a single government department, minister or police force will be interested in tapping into that data for their own, non-research purposes,” she said. “Just look at the agencies queueing up to get their hands on the metadata that telecommunications companies must now keep by law.” She said it would give the government “a rich and deep picture of every Australian’s life, in an identifiable form.” A backlash has already begun on the agency's Facebook page. Andrew Graham said: "Australian Bureau of Statistics ... If you think I'm writing my personal data on the 2016 census, you can kindly shove it." Marc Zanin told the ABS: No matter what the govt of the day's says, they do NOT need this identifying information. They can't be given any chance of using it against their population. This is a nightmare for the ABS!!! A disaster! "If you lose the trust of the populace who can't fill it out, because it's just too scary, then why not return to the previous model? Please? It's a total and absolute FAIL, FAIL, FAIL for the ABS." For its part, the ABS has said data privacy is a “fundamental pillar of an official statistical system” and that function creep was highly unlikely: “In Australia these protections have existed since the foundation of the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1905. This will not change.” The Agency said that names and addresses will be removed from personal and household Census information after data collection and processing and stored separately. Statisticians will not be able to match Census answers with the person they were from. Proposals were floated last year to make the Census every decade, rather than every five years, as already happens in countries such as the US, the UK and most European countries. The Abbott government also had a discussion about abolishing the Census entirely in favour of data sampling, which would be much cheaper. The Census is an expensive undertaking. ABS statistician Mr Kalisch said the 2011 survey of every household cost $400 million to produce and employed 43,000 temporary workers. The Australian Bureau of Statistics was contacted for comment. [post_title] => Best of 2016: Centrelink, the Tax Office and ASIO could use Census 2016 data: privacy groups [post_excerpt] => Mass Census boycott possible. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => centrelink-the-tax-office-and-asio-could-use-census-2016-data-privacy-groups [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:43:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:43:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23502 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23907 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:29:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:29:07 [post_content] => Baird_Hospital_construction   There are some giant question marks hanging over NSW newly-created councils; one of the biggest unknowns is what happens to development applications and planning while administrators are running the show. NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole has insisted it's business as usual for council planners and that administrators will be able to decide any development applications (DAs) that can't be dealt with by council officers. Will planning rules change? Mr Toole has promised that administrators at the state’s 19 new councils will not tinker with local environment plans (LEPs), leaving them static until mayors and councillors are elected at the September 2017 local government elections. LEPs are critical to guiding planning decisions and because they regulate land use and development, for example land zonings. The plans are written by local councils but subject to state government approval. However, there is no specific mention of not touching LEPs in the Local Government (Council Amalgamations) Proclamation 2016 that accompanied the announcement of new councils last week. The Proclamation says former council areas will keep their development control and contributions plans but adds: “To avoid doubt, nothing in this clause prevents the new council from amending a development control plan or contributions plan.” Development control plans provide detailed planning and design guidelines to support LEP planning controls. Associate Professor Roberta Ryan, from the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney, said the Proclamation Amalgamation was silent on LEPs, other than to say all plans, strategies and codes of former councils remained in force as they were prior to amalgamation. But she said that although the technical documents informing decisions, such as LEPs, DCPs and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, would not change administrators might interpret them differently from councillors. “All planning instruments of the pre-amalgamated entities remain in force until they are repealed (i.e. new ones prepared by the post-merger entities),” Dr Ryan said. “However, nothing in the Amalgamation Proclamation prohibits the Council (i.e. the administrator until new elections are held) from amending DCPs or development contribution plans.” She said experience had shown that one of the biggest challenges ahead for councils that merge was developing land use planning instruments for entirely new councils. This had taken a substantial amount of time to update following the 2008 Queensland mergers. “NSW’s recent lengthy experience with the standard instrument process (which took about seven years to transition all councils) underscores just how extensive and time consuming this task will be,” A/Prof Ryan said. Councils would also need to wrestle with integration of computer systems development application which allocate application numbers. There is also a question of whether planning officers would stick to DAs from their former council areas because they know the LEP/DCP provisions or if they would also make decisions on other locations too. Planning during the administrator phase: different camps, different worries Property developers Parts of the property industry are fearful that administrators will be gun-shy and either disallow DAs, or put them on ice for 16 months. Chris Johnson from Urban Taskforce said: “We’re very concerned that the administrators may well feel as though they need to be very community sensitive under the circumstances of councils being sacked and in a caretaker mode and not be willing to make big decisions.” Mr Johnson said this could exacerbate housing shortages, particularly in Metropolitan Sydney, and hold up the voluntary planning agreements and rezoning needed for bigger developments to go ahead. He said: “A lot depends on what instructions are given to administrators in relation to planning matters.” Some council LEPs are four or five years out-of-date and did not include new rail lines and metros, where more density is now expected to occur. He suggested the Department of Planning and Environment or the Greater Sydney Commission could make final decisions on larger developments. “We need some confidence that the administrators are not going to be too risk averse.” NSW Executive Director of the Property Council, Jane Fitzgerald, said she was not panicking about planning under the new councils, but was keeping a watchful eye. “We would be concerned if there is evidence of delays in the DA process, for instance, but given that this was announced a week ago and administrators are just getting their feet under their desks I think it’s a little early to get hysterical about it." She said there were DA timelines in place and administrators would be applying the same rules as councillors used. “We need to keep in mind the broader objectives in what we’re dealing [and] what’s intended: less red tape, larger council areas being able to deliver more and better services because of economies of scale.” Community groups, councillors and residents While the property industry is worried the planning process will be held up by having administrators in charge, some mayors, councillors and community groups are worried that the reverse is true and that unpopular developments could be rubber stamped. There is also anxiety that there will be no community voice at the table during discussions on major projects such as WestConnex, the Bays Precinct or North Parramatta Urban Renewal Project. Former Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne – whose inner-west Sydney council merged with Ashfield and Marrickville to create Inner West Council last week – said he feared that sacking councillors and mayors would give NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes carte blanche to push through controversial developments like WestConnex. “[They could] rush through high-rise development in the Bays Precinct, Parramatta Road and the Sydenham to Bankstown rail line corridor without any opposition,” Mr Byrne said. “I expect that these things will be speeded up. The administrators were handpicked by Mike Baird and won’t properly investigate state government proposals. They will just take the view of Mike Baird at face value.” He said sacking councillors and appointing administrators was “an extreme concentration of power that’s ripe for improper decision making". “Local residents and former councillors are all feeling fearful and I think they’re right to be.” The new City of Parramatta Council is the consent authority for some state significant developments, including the proposal to build around 3,000 apartments on a large heritage site in North Parramatta, which contains the Parramatta Female Factory and Roman Catholic Orphan School. North Parramatta Residents Action Group President Suzette Meade, who is also on the Parramatta City Council Heritage Advisory Committee, said council sackings meant residents had “lost the ability to lobby councillors". “We are extremely concerned that local residents will not be heard or listened to,” she said. “We’re saying, just slow down and let the site form the development into a tourism and culture site. It’s a bit of a faux tourism and culture site at the moment.” Ms Meade said the state government had pursued forced amalgamations in order to “administer key development programs in key areas” and that Parramatta was becoming a super council along the key urban growth development corridor. Meanwhile, UrbanGrowth NSW, the lead government agency on the Parramatta North Urban Renewal Program, said it would work with the new council to ensure further consultation on the site. “We held three community information sessions this year where we sought feedback from the local community,” an agency spokesperson said. “Our development applications will be subject to statutory exhibition periods where the community can examine the plans and make formal submissions. In addition, we are looking forward to working with the local community on ensuring the significant heritage buildings have an ongoing, viable use.” “It has always been the intention of UrbanGrowth NSW to lodge future development applications with Parramatta Council.” Parramatta North was rezoned by the planning minister in November 2015.   A statement provided to Government News by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment said: The Department of Planning and Environment is developing a guide for new councils to help transition their planning processes. The Department will provide support to new councils during this period so that they can continue to provide key planning and assessment services to their communities. New Councils will continue to process development applications and other planning activities. Joint Regional Planning Panels will continue to make decisions based on council assessment planning reports. Individuals and businesses should continue to deal with their councils and submit applications for assessment as they would normally. This is an opportunity for new councils to improve their delivery of planning services and the Department will support them to make these improvements.   [post_title] => Best of 2016: Planning under NSW forced council mergers, confusion reigns [post_excerpt] => Administrators to decide development applications. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => planning-nsw-forced-council-mergers-confusion-reigns [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:32:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:32:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23907 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22764 [post_author] => 664 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:29:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:29:00 [post_content] => Yea Post Office   In the wake of Australia Post's new two-speed letter deliveries, announced earlier this month, we revisit what went wrong. All is not well with Australia Post. It is losing money with the death of the stamped letter. It is making money from parcels, but the numbers don’t add up. Australia Post recently announced a full-year loss of $222 million in 2014-15. It is the first time the organisation has been in the red since it was corporatised in 1989. The reason is clear. Hardly anybody sends letters any more. Personal mail hardly exists in the Internet era, except for Christmas cards, and even they are in serious decline. Business mail has been the mainstay of the postal system in recent years, but is also declining quickly with the move to online invoicing and statements. The decline has been obvious for years, but it has been accelerating, not declining. Last year alone addressed letter volumes fell by 7.3 per cent, with ordinary stamped letters falling by 10.3 per cent, off bases that had already declined sharply. Australians now send a billion fewer letters a year than they did in 2008, when mail was already in serious decline. Australia Post would have got out of this loss-making business years ago if it weren’t for its Community Service Obligation (CSO), a statutory requirement to deliver mail and keep post offices open. For many years the big money has been in its parcel division, now separately branded as StarTrack (Australia Post bought out Qantas’s half share in 2012). The parcels business is booming, in large part because of Australia’s love affair with Internet shopping, which is growing as quickly as ordinary mail is declining. Products can be ordered on the Internet, but someone still has to deliver the things, and Australia Post is doing well in a very competitive market against the likes of FedEx, UPS and Toll (recently acquired by Japan Post). Australia Post is led by Ahmed Fahour, Australia’s highest paid public servant. He was brought in to restructure the organosation, but he is having to balance this against the Community Service Obligation. No Australian government wants to be seen to be cutting postal services. It is a continuing battle, one which will eventually have to confront commercial reality. The numbers are stark. Australia Post’s loss of $222 million last year was an enormous turnaround from its $116 million profit the previous year. Revenue was constant at $6.37 billion, with the parcel business comprising more than half for the first time, up 3.6 per cent to $3.21 billion. Last month Australia Post asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to allow it to increase the price of a stamp by more than 40 per cent, from 70 cents to $1, to “better reflect the cost of the regulated letters service.” The government supports the application, which also. includes keeping the concession stamp price at 60 cents for 5.7 million concession cardholders, and the price of Christmas cards at 65 cents. Concession and season greeting (Christmas) mail comprise nearly half of all mail sent by consumers. The great majority (97 per cent) of regular mail now comes from business and government, with very few personal letters. Last week the Senate approved the reforms, which also include reducing the number of post boxes nationally from over 15,000 to the 10,000 specified by the CSO, and cutting 1900 jobs (from 32,000 current full-time and part-time employees). Regular post will still be delivered every day, but it will be slowed down by up to two days to allow for savings on air freight. It is not certain the changes will be enough to cut the losses. Mr Fahour’s enormous $4.6 million salary will remain, though there may be some cuts to the 400 Australia post managers who earn more than $195,000 a year (a figure from last year’s annual report). Mr Fahour has, unsurprisingly, defended his salary as consistent with that paid to his private sector counterparts. He was formerly CEO of National Australia Bank. “We continue to make headway with reforming our letters business and we are investing in the infrastructure and digital capabilities – vital to servicing the changing needs of our customers,” said Mr Fahour last week. “We are confident we have the resources, infrastructure and support in place to manage the ongoing transition of our letters business as we become a more e-commerce-centric organisation.” Last month Mr Fahour announced the establishment of an industry working group to consider regulatory reform of the letters business and “other strategic issues facing the postal sector.” It follows a Senate Inquiry into the Licensed Post Office network, which recommended the establishment of the group. It will be chaired by former Victorian Liberal Senator Helen Kroger, and will include representatives from the printing industry, mail houses, post office licensees and unions (the Communications Workers Union is the main union covering Australia Post workers). Ms Kroger, married to Victorian Liberal Party powerbroker Michael Kroger, lost her Senate seat at the last federal election to Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party senator Ricky Muir. The Communications Workers Union recognises the need for change, but says reforms should be done “sensibly” and without forced job losses. “It is abundantly clear that the letter side of the business cannot be profitable in its current form,” said CWU National Secretary Greg Rayner after the losses were announced. “The very encouraging part is the parcel side of the business, which is a huge growth area and will see substantial jobs growth in coming years. “The digital disruption to letter volumes we are seeing now is nothing new to Australia Post. The company, its hardworking loyal staff and the CWU have adapted before and will adapt again. “This union was working with Australia Post when it was horses and carts. Our members have transformed it from a network of telegraph wires to one of fibre optics and modern precision logistics. “We are committed to partnering with Australia Post to transform the business again because that’s the only way to guarantee secure, quality jobs for our members and a reliable, useful service for all Australia.” Mr Rayner said with the right approach, these results and the reform they demand lay a path to more jobs, better conditions and greater job security for postal workers. “We have been at the table with Australia Post at the highest level for months now preparing a long term response to reform. In the coming weeks we hope to unveil an Accord to support our members and all Australia Post employees through reform and help guide Australia Post into the future,” Mr Rayner said. Good luck to him, to Mr Fahour, and to the government. It is something of a race against time, and one that Australia Post has been losing thus far. The postal business continues to decline faster than the parcels business is growing – if losses continue expect Mr Fahour to depart (with his millions) and his successor to initiate a new round of restructuring. This story first appeared in Government News magazine in October/November 2015. In January 2016, Australia Post announced it would create a two-speed letter delivery system. Priority letters would cost $1.50 and arrive within one to four business days (depending on the destination), while Regular mail - which increased from 70 cents to $1 - could now arrive up to two business days afterwards, potentially taking more than one week to reach the recipient’s letterbox.   [post_title] => Best of 2016: Where to now for Australia Post? [post_excerpt] => Going postal: what went wrong. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => where-to-now-for-australia-post [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:31:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:31:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=22764 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 6 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23184 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:27:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:27:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23188" align="alignnone" width="491"]Salim3 Auburn councillors, including Deputy Mayor Salim Mehajer have been suspended while a public inquiry investigates planning and development decisions. Photo: Facebook.[/caption]   The NSW government has been too soft on local government fraud, corruption and bad behaviour, says a researcher specialising in governance and political structures. Nicole Campbell, Associate at the University Technology of Sydney’s (UTS) Centre for Local Government, has spent years researching governance– including examining the scale of fraud and corruption in councils – and said processes need to be tightened up, dodgy councillors brought to book and councillors made more aware of unacceptable behaviour. She said it was difficult to ascertain the extent of fraud and corruption in NSW local government. “The short answer is, we don’t know,” Ms Campbell said. “I think there is a lot of corruption that’s occurring that is not being reported and I don’t say that lightly because I’m passionate about local government.” It’s an area that has attracted a great deal of scrutiny in the midst of some recent high profile cases of local government chicanery. The biggest circus has been that surrounding Auburn Council. It was the story that had it all: limos, helicopters, ambitious developers, flamboyant councillors, dubious planning decisions and a few whistleblowing councillors risking their necks to speak out. NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole suspended every Auburn councillor in February and has appointed an administrator while a public inquiry investigates allegations that some councillors made planning and development decisions for their own benefit. The news isn’t much better at Hurstville or North Sydney Councils. The Office of Local Government (OLG) is currently pursuing property developer and former Hurstville Mayor Con Hindi  for alleged misconduct. Mr Toole ordered a public inquiry into allegations of conflict and dysfunction North Sydney in January after infighting paralysed decision making in the council chamber, while over at Rockdale Council, Liberal councillors have stage numerous walkouts to stymie a vote on selling a car park to fund a new aquatic centre and library. The fault lines Director of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney, Associate Professor Roberta Ryan, said procurement and decision making, particularly around planning and development, offered the greatest opportunity for duplicitousness and self interest. A/Prof Ryan said another fault line in local government could be the relationship between council general managers and the mayor or CEO. “The mayor holds the key to the general manager/CEO’s job and pressure can be put on general managers to do things that they shouldn't,” she said. “All jurisdictions, through the state government local government departments and the professional associations, have systems in place to support senior officials when they face this situation but it can get tricky. “The more worrying aspect is probably corruption - if it is systematic across organisations – [it] means there are a number of people involved and there is a lack of process and systems for proper transparency.” She added, “I would say there is not any evidence that fraud and corruption is widespread in NSW – [no] worse than in other jurisdictions or in other levels of government. We have seen isolated examples across the public sector in Australia. Tightening the system Ms Campbell said current local council processes were not capturing corruption effectively and action was not taken where it was identified. She said one of the biggest mistakes in recent years was passing the Local Government Amendment Act 2011, which allowed councillors who were also property developers to vote on decisions where they had a vested interest, providing they declared it. “I really think it’s an example of state-sanctioned corruption; where the state government has a law that allows property developers or those with a pecuniary interest to vote on a decision and that gives them a clear benefit. This is a massive problem,” Ms Campbell said. “Evidence of councillor misconduct by councillors with pecuniary interests will have increased because they can say they were acting within the law but not ethically or morally. It’s extraordinary that the government felt the need pass that in the first place.” She said it was also important to examine how many complaints about councillor conduct were made to the OLG and how many were substantiated. “I’m dismayed that the government has not taken the opportunity to pursue many of these.” Few cases of councillor misconduct appeared to have reached the Pecuniary Interest and Disciplinary Tribunal or the Administrative Affairs Tribunal. “I think it’s because the process is so unwieldy, people give up.” A former councillor herself, Ms Campbell has lived through some of “the trouble” at Ryde Council between 2011 and 2014. Former Ryde Mayor Ivan Petch is currently being prosecuted for misconduct in public office, blackmail and giving false or misleading evidence to a corruption inquiry. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) have also recommended that several former Ryde councillors face charges for breaching electoral funding laws after accepting free advertising from a local newspaper. She said the councillors got off scot-free because the Electoral Funding Authority said it was not worth taking it any further because of cost but also lack of evidence, despite the recommendations of the DPP and ICAC. “There was no follow up action and that sends a message to councillors they can get away with it.” She pointed to a “clunky” code of conduct, where complaints against councillors are investigated internally by the General Manager. Even where complaints are upheld, councillors can still vote to take no action. “If the numbers sit with the person that has done the wrong thing [or they have the casting vote] the report has to go back to council for investigation. Council staff see the note which says “no further action”.” It would be better to have an independent inquiry which made recommendations to the OLG. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for councillors to be sitting in judgement on one of their own.” Another major improvement would be to make it harder councillors to remove general managers. At the moment, councillors can sack general managers without even having to give a reason and the process is not transparent. “There are so many examples of general managers being sacked on a whim by councillors because a particular decision hasn’t gone their way. Paying out GMs is also very expensive. The OLG should have acted many years ago.” But Ms Campbell said Mr Toole had been too blunt in suspending every Auburn councillor when some had spoken out against poor planning and development decisions. She said it punished all of the councillors and deprived ratepayers of their elected representatives. It was likely that the appointed administrator would hand straight over to the new council – Auburn is slated to merge with Holroyd and parts of Parramatta – and suspended councillors may never return. “You should remove those councillors whose conduct is unworthy of holding public office but those councillors that are doing the right thing should be able carry on their roles as elected representatives,” she said. An amendment to the Councillor Misconduct Bill, which went through in December 2015, gave Mr Toole the power to suspend individual councillors, not just the whole council. Ms Campbell said: “The vast majority of elected representatives work very, very hard for their local communities. It’s a few rotten apples that spoil the barrel and that’s a shame because local government is an important sector.” Will fraud and corruption grow under larger, merged councils? Both women take the view that there is no reason that larger councils with more power and bigger budgets should equate to an increase in fraud or corruption. A/Prof Ryan said: “[It’s] not likely to be worse - bigger councils can have more complex systems of accountability - it goes to the legislative frameworks and the codes of conduct - they will either stay the same or it will be strengthened. “Regarding councillors - their role is strategic leadership - not operational management. There are checks and balances in the system to ensure accountability - and a focus on training to ensure councillors understand not just the codes of conduct but how to behave ethically. “Public sector rules for officers are very clear on how to make transparent decisions and there are layers of sign offs - delegations etc.” Ms Campbell agreed that good governance was critical to running a tight ship. “If you’ve got an executive management team and a group of councillors that are aware of the rules and their responsibilities and which work together within a strong governance framework, I don’t think it matters how big the council is.” Possible solutions Both agreed that compulsory training on the code of conduct and ethics was the best way to guard against wrongdoing. Mentoring using alliances between several councils could help too. Ms Campbell said: “Councillors are responsible for multi-million dollar budgets. It’s critical to get councillors and people who want to be councillors aware of the rules and responsibilities of their positions and ethical decision making processes before they get elected. [At the moment] they learn as they go along.” The most common misunderstandings, she said, were around donations towards election campaigns - including in-kind donations - and more education was needed from the Electoral Commission and the OLG to counter these. Bullying, hectoring and noisy behaviour should be clamped down on too, Ms Campbell said. “Behaviour in chambers is appalling and the bullying that goes on has no place in any level of government I think councillors take their cues from noisy Question Time. They think this is how to behave. Well, it most certainly is not.” She said the government needed to take a much stronger role in addressing rude and hectoring behaviour, including sanctioning councillors that rendered meetings inquorate to delay decisions. “Ministers can regulate that behaviour and it’s a shame there hasn’t been more focus on improving the governance of councils,” Ms Campbell said. ACELG runs an elected members program which looks at ethics, governance and the theory behind administrative processes. A/Prof Ryan said: “You can only regulate people's behaviour up to a point. People have to be constantly engaged in process to help them understand what corrupt behaviour looks like and what they can do to guard against it. There should also be strong enforceable protections for whistle blowers.” [post_title] => Best of 2016: Corruption allegations at Sydney councils tip of the iceberg, says researcher [post_excerpt] => Developers voting on councils “state-sanctioned corruption.” [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => corruption-investigations-at-auburn-hurstville-and-rockdale-councils-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-says-researcher [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:32:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:32:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23184 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 9 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24232 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 15:50:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:50:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24233" align="alignnone" width="300"]Baird Maroons jersey_opt Commitments... he's made a few. pic: Facebook[/caption]   The Baird Government has moved to seize direct financial control of councils across New South Wales under sweeping new laws that hand ultimate power over local government spending to specially appointed “controllers”, with oversight duties handed to the State Auditor General. Revealed in the immediate wake of this week’s NSW Budget, the new legislation — the Local Government Amendment (Governance and Planning) 2016 — proposes to impose the tightest controls yet on how elected representatives and council staff spend money and includes the right to shut out general managers from financial probes of expenditure and governance. The new laws could also hand State Government appointed administrators the power to make ‘opt-in’ decisions on behalf of electors and elected representatives on controversial issues like the use of postal voting at merged councils thanks to the delay of polls until September 2017. Rushed into the Legislative Assembly this week, the new controls won’t be debated until the August sitting of State Parliament but have already sent shockwaves across a sector still reeling from the sacking of 37 councils in May. [quote]One of the legislative changes sure to raise hackles is a bid to “remove procedural requirements relating to the community strategic plan, community engagement strategy, resource ng strategy, delivery program and operational plan.”[/quote] Local Government Minister Paul Toole is making no apologies and said the new laws make “important changes to ensure councils are always putting the interests of local communities first.” That includes far greater powers for direct ministerial intervention. “It will enable the Government to appoint a financial controller to councils that have a consistent record of poor financial performance and get those councils back on track,” Mr Toole said. The hotly contested financial state and sustainability of local governments across NSW was the main trigger for forcing council amalgamations across the state, premised on the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s heavily disputed ‘Fit of the Future’ report card. But many councils – amalgamated or otherwise – have attacked the financial assessments made of them in the run-up to mergers as flawed, particularly smaller and more buoyant local governments amalgamated with fiscally challenged neighbours.  

Councils hit back

Local Government NSW (LGNSW), the peak representative body for councils in the state, is suspicious of the bid to parachute-in financial controllers as the Minister sees fit, cautioning some of the state government’s financial assessment methods simply lack credibility. “Many of these moves seem designed to establish new avenues for central oversight and control, rather than recognising that local government is an autonomous, elected sphere of government,” said LGNSW President Keith Rhoades. “There needs to be agreed parameters around the Government appointing a financial controller, and objective measures of "poorly performing" or "high financial sustainability risk" need to be established. Lack of specificity could allow the Government to apply the same discredited methods used to declare many NSW councils "not fit for the future," Cllr Rhoades said. City of Sydney Councillor Ed Mandla, a Liberal, also had reservations as the the efficacy of the new laws. "Surely the best oversight for council books is the ballot box," Cllr Mandla told Government News. [quote]"The real problem for for Councillors is if they have a problem with the GM (general manager) they have to tell the mayor and if they have a problem with the mayor they have to tell the GM — what if they are in cahoots?"[/quote]  

Questionable Timing

The latest laws are the second major tranche of legislation to hit this week, with another bill dealing with the donations and the pecuniary interests of councillors – the Local Government and Elections Legislation Amendment Integrity Bill – introduced on Budget night. The timing of the new legislation prompted Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley to accuse Mr Toole and Premier Baird of trying to sneak through the new laws and of reneging on a promise to introduce limits on donations, especially from property developers. “Mr Baird has broken a clear and unequivocal commitment to introduce spending and donation caps for council elections,” Mr Foley said. [quote]“Caps on donations are not much use without limits on election spending. Predatory interests will be able to spend as much as they like to capture control of a local council.”[/quote] Shadow Local Government Minister Peter Primrose said while it was still too early to give a definitive assessment of the latest laws, people needed to remember that decisions at amalgamated councils – including ones that could flow from the new laws –were being made by government appointed administrators rather than councillors answerable to electors until September 2017. Mr Primrose also questioned whether the Baird Government was really committed to ensuring integrity in council decisions given Budget cuts meted out to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that had persistently uncovered graft and dodgy decisions. “The Premier who is behind this bill is also responsible for slashing staff at ICAC – one of the most important institutions that that maintains integrity in local government,” Mr Primrose told Parliament on Wednesday. Referencing State Budget papers, Mr Primrose said ICAC’s “corruption prevention presentations will drop from 160 to 100” and that the average time to deal with complaints would rise from 30 days to 42 days. "So much for promoting integrity measures,” Mr Primrose said.  

Massive Audit Office Workload

While the new legislation is yet to pass, a clear intention of the new laws is to remove the ability of councillors to appoint their own auditors and hand oversight power to the directly Auditor General. [quote]The changes mean that while the government will get a centralised and consistent view of local government finances, the Audit Office of NSW will need to compile literally hundreds of new council reports a year to perform its new duty.[/quote] A spokesperson for Mr Toole said changes brought NSW “into line with most other Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand and will provide greater consistency and certainty across the sector.” “It will also ensure that reliable financial information is available that can be used to assess councils’ performance and for benchmarking. Mr Toole’s Office also confirmed that the Auditor-General will have powers to “conduct sector-wide performance audits to identify trends and opportunities for improvement across the sector” in line with similar powers in relation to state agencies. The total cost of the audits – which are typically charged back to agencies – is still yet to be determined. A state public service source suggested that putting councils under the watch of the Auditor General was “unquestionably” the right move, but one that may not work in Macquarie Street’s favour if ministers relied on rubbery numbers. Premier Baird in February 2016 announced that Margaret Crawford,  who has been Deputy Secretary at the state’s Department of Family and Community Services, would become the new Auditor General of NSW.

Key changes as flagged by the Minister for Local Government

  • Appoint the Auditor-General as the auditor of all councils;
  • clarify roles and responsibilities of councillors, mayors, administrators and general managers;
  • introduce new guiding principles for local government;
  • improve governance of councils and professional development for councillors;
  • consolidate the ethical conduct obligations of councillors;
  • establish the framework for strategic business planning and reporting; and
  • streamline council administrative processes.
[post_title] => Best of 2016: Baird seizes financial control of NSW councils [post_excerpt] => Oversight powers sent to Auditor General. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => baird-seizes-financial-control-of-nsw-councils-under-new-laws [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 15:51:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:51:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24232 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 12 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24433 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 15:48:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:48:13 [post_content] => Pokemon at State Library Vic_opt Pokemon hunters outside the State Library Victoria.   Some of Australia’s most famous public libraries are becoming sought after locations for Pokemon GO players, while other libraries are going out of their way to attract Pokemon fans as the craze to catch 'em all explodes. Now you’re just ask likely to spot Pikachu hiding behind a column as you are to see people studying or combing digital collections. Pokemon Go has has overtaken Twitter in popularity since it was launched three weeks ago in Australia by app developer Niantic Labs, Nintendo and the Pokemon Company. It’s a handheld video game which uses GPS and the internet to encourage players to walk around with their smartphones while hunting for Pokemon: Japanese anime characters that have appeared in video games, TV, films, comic books and trading cards. Since then, demand for the Pokemon Go app has smashed records and drawn every age group into the game in regional and metropolitan Australia. It works like this. As Pokemon Go players walk around with their smartphones the phone will occasionally vibrate, alerting the user to a nearby Pokemon.  The monster is caught by throwing a Pokeball, which can be collected alongside other handy free items at a designated Pokestop, often a church, museum, mural or monument. Some of Australia’s public libraries have been drawn unwittingly into the phenomenon because they are often designated Pokestops, where fans restock their Pokeballs and grab potions and incense to attract monsters. Libraries have become Pokemon heaven for fans as some players drop lures, an action which attracts a cluster of Pokemon ripe for the catching. Swarms of Pokemon trainers follow the signal of the delicate pink petals that appear floating on the screen once a lure is in place, giving them 30 minutes to bag their target. CEO of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Sue McKerracher, cheerfully admits she spent last night wandering around the National Library of Australia in Canberra catching Pokemon with her teenage son. She said libraries were seeing a surge in visitors on a Pokemon mission, although not all came through the doors. “The National Library is an absolute hotspot for Pokemon, particularly the rarer type,” Ms McKerracher said. Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin (and the nearby National Library) attract some of the rarer water monsters, like Magikarp, Slowpole, Tentacruel and Tentacruel, making the library a drawcard for fans. Ms McKerracher said libraries had definitely run with the game and capitalised on its success. “I was most impressed at how quickly libraries got onto the trend and started to set up and encourage people in. Quite a few social media savvy libraries have got involved already,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for libraries to have people who may not normally be library users to go in and look up from their screens for a moment and realise that libraries have changed a lot in the last ten years: multi-media hubs [for example].”   ALIA bat Zubat, hovering over a desk at ALIA   Meanwhile, State Library Victoria has become a premium Pokestop, a transformation which occurs when a huge number of lures have been used in one place. A spokesman for the State Library of Victoria said there had been thousands of people playing Pokemon on the library forecourt. “State Library Victoria hasn’t done anything to seed Pokemon play in or near the library. We are simply a busy hub for the game,” the spokesman said. He said it had got staff talking too: “There have been some corridor conversations, people saying ‘maybe we need to seed some of our spaces for this.’ “Location based gaming has a lot of potential for institutions like us and we will be looking at it and other interactive digital technologies that bring our collections and space to life.” The craze has taken hold of public libraries in NSW too. A State Library NSW spokeswoman said NSW libraries were using social media to alert players if they were a Pokestop or Pokegym, or to flag when lures had been set off, by using the hashtag #CatchEmAll. She said a few libraries were cheering for their favourite teams battling it out in Pokegyms: Team Mystic, Team Valor or Team Instinct. Others had interactive displays inviting library visitors to list the Pokemon they had captured in the library and put up signs welcoming Pokémon trainers. “We have definitely noticed more people in the library and anecdotally we know they are playing Pokemon Go. We have promoted our Pokemon visitors on our Instagram account,” the spokeswoman said. She said public libraries were safe places to capture Pokémon and librarians could help out new players. “Library staff are skilled at finding the answers to difficult questions.  If library clients need advice about how to play the game, how to find PokéStops and gyms in the area, how to set off lures, how to engage in the social media conversation about Pokémon Go and how to submit a location for consideration as a Pokéstop or gym public library staff can help them out.” Orange City Librarian Sean Brady did not bother waiting for fans to come to the library, he bought lures for $1.49 each in the app, advertised them and set them off last weekend. “I told people I would be setting them off at a particular time and invited them to come to the library and recharge their phones (Pokemon is a phone battery vampire),” Mr Brady said.  

Central West Libraries Poke_opt

The lures snowballed as people set their own off outside the library. Mr Brady said the library was considering putting in a request to become a Pokestop but there was already a Pokegym and four Pokestops around Civic Square, where the library is located. But he said that most people who came in looking for Pokemon were not getting involved with library activities to any great extent, although he saw value in getting people through the library doors. Niantic has hinted that the app will be further developed to add trading and competitions and Mr Brady said this could be a boon for libraries. “Once that kind of stuff kicks in I can see more value for us because we can hold Pokemon competitions in the library and provide space where there’s phone charging that’s warm and safe.” Many libraries get involved with International Games Day and Pokemon could be part of this. [post_title] => Best of 2016: Public libraries lure Pokemon GO fans [post_excerpt] => Thousands play Pokemon on State Library Victoria forecourt. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => public-libraries-lure-pokemon-go-fans [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 15:52:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:52:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24433 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25096 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 15:46:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:46:29 [post_content] => census4_opt       Census staff have spoken out about how budget cuts and indecision paralysed preparations for the 2016 Census and contributed to the system’s embarrassing failure on Census night. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) staff have lifted the lid on events leading up to Census night on August 9 when thousands of Australians could not complete their Census forms online after denial of service attacks crashed the website. The comments came from public servants and contractors, who were also members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), and were contained in the union’s submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics, which is conducting an inquiry into what went wrong during this year’s Census. What emerges is a picture of the titanic statistics agency careening towards disaster, something its staff said was painful but predictable after work was delayed because of speculation around the Census. Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott was exploring possibilities that the Census could be carried out every decade, instead of every five years, or even pulled completely to save money. The cash was needed to fund an urgent upgrade of the Bureau’s ICT system that was on its knees and vulnerable to attack or error. A public backlash to the proposed changes meant the Census was retained but the CPSU argued that delays had by then irretrievably hobbled the Census by interrupting ICT work. The Union also said that its members reported that only half the money needed to drive the ICT transformation program found its way to the ABS. One staffer said: “The decision to try to save money by trying to cancel the Census in 2016 stopped planning for six months at a critical juncture. It was then restarted too late to ensure systems would be ready.” Another said: “The decision to proceed was too late, resulting in extreme work pressures, programme cuts and patchwork outputs.” The disjointed workflow meant that an under-tested product was unleashed on Census night. “The end result was that systems testing were still more than six months behind and decisions to prioritise key issues had to be made. A lot of the systems being used are a long way short of ideal, simply because we did not have enough time to build them properly,” said one. Another agreed the testing process had been rushed and incomplete, “We only ran tests on a couple of targeted systems and processes.” CPSU Deputy National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said in the union’s submission: “The preparation, administration and management of the 2016 Census was significantly affected by uncertainty in the ABS about the funding, scope and future of the Census.” She said there were 700 fewer staff at the ABS now than when the Census was last conducted in 2011. This had meant the loss of experienced staff in key positions, increased used of casual staff and falling morale of those left behind shouldering the extra work. One worker said they had worked at least half the weekend for months, banking more than 150 hours of flexitime. Donnelly said: “Members spoke about the continual loss of expertise and knowledge. The constant shedding of staff has meant that corporate knowledge is not maintained, which makes it increasingly difficult to address issues when they arise.” The Union made it clear that it did not blame ABS workers for the problems and said they displayed “a high level of professionalism under difficult circumstances.” “Had the ABS been funded in a correct and appropriate manner, many of the problems that arose may have been avoided,” Donnelly said. But is seems likely the Bureau will suffer further budget cuts because it is undergoing a review in November as part of the Commonwealth Contestability Programme.   Failure inevitable: Staff The union said that a number of its members pointed to the inevitability the system would fail and highlighted the lack of a Plan B if it did. There have also been criticisms levelled at IBM, who won the $10 million contract, and the Bureau over the lack of back-up systems or an upstream provider to keep the site accessible to the public in the event of an attack. “I was alarmed by how ill prepared ABS was for the major incident,” said one employee. “It seemed like the approach to risk managing was to risk assess the hell out of it – “yep, it could go pear-shaped” but there did not seem to be any preparations or contingencies ready to go.” They said there was little planning should a critical incident take place, “we had nothing and had not been required to prepare anything or ‘practice’ any kind of responsiveness ahead of the main event. We spent a few days scrambling to pull something together.” Another person said: “It was clear from the start of my contract that the Census would probably fail. Very few aspects of the project were free of mistakes and delays. Obstacles that were obvious to me were ignored.”   IT nightmares The union’s submission makes it clear that “an overwhelming number” of its members are deeply concerned about the under resourcing of ICT at the Bureau with staff cuts meaning that anything except urgent work cannot get done. One person said the Bureau’s IT problems were ‘crippling.’ “We experience constant and ongoing technical problems with all our systems. This severely affects our ability to do our work in a timely way and with high quality.” Another union member said they could not get a response from their IT section regarding core services they should provide. “I think they’re just run off their feet. I think many sections across the ABS have been overstretched, understaffed and under delivering for several years.”   Doing it better next time Union members were asked what would make the process smoother next time. They named funding, better planning and reviewing the questions contained on the Census form. Skilling up Bureau staff on ICT and obtaining better external specialist support was also mentioned with one member saying: “The ABS is drastically under-skilled in the areas of modern web-based ICT and public relations. Given this, they sought outside advice, which turned out to be insufficient but still seems like the right call. Increasing skills across these areas should be a priority.” It will be interesting to discover how much the Census cost to run this time round. The 2011 Census cost about $440 million but this was projected to fall by $100 million in the 2016 Census with the move to more people completing it online. The ABS target was to double the e-census return rate to 65 per cent of Australians, or 16 million. However, it is likely that more paper forms may have been returned than originally predicted given problems accessing the system and privacy concerns about linking datasets and personal information being kept for up to four years. Submissions to the senate inquiry on the Census closed this week and the final report is due on November 24. [post_title] => Best of 2016: Census staff spill the beans and it’s not pretty [post_excerpt] => From paralysis to analysis. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => census-staff-spill-beans-not-pretty [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 15:49:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:49:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25096 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23243 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 15:22:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:22:01 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23264" align="alignnone" width="400"]Freeze2 Navigating recruitment freezes.[/caption]   External recruitment freezes have become a harsh reality of life for Australian public servants as governments seek to contain wages and make savings, but is it possible to turn a no-hire zone into something positive? The usual rules are that when a freeze is on, jobs can only be filled internally, although there are often exemptions such as some frontline staff, fixed-term positions linked to specific projects and critical or revenue-raising positions that cannot be filled internally. Responses to the hiring ban can include staff acting up or people being transferred or seconded, or the dreaded: hiring contractors. The painful Australian Public Service hiring freeze began late in 2013 and lasted until mid-2015, after more than 10,000 jobs were shed. Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett announced a six-month halt to external recruitment in December last year, after forecasting a $3.1 billion hole in the state’s finances by the end of June 2016. Karen Evans, Managing Director of talent management company Acendre, which has many public service clients, spoke to Government News about how to survive and thrive when non-essential hiring shuts down. On paper a hiring freeze might appear grim and morale sapping but it can give also managers a chance to take stock of the people and range of skills that they have and to concentrate on training, developing and promoting them. It can also force people to think more strategically and critically about how efficiently they are working and to streamline processes. Of course, it may also leave staff feeling overworked or fearful about losing their jobs in the future. Ms Evans said human resources had an “absolutely critical role” to play - even in the short term - to support staff, explain the changes and manage them through it. “HR needs to get itself geared up to support their organisation, particularly initially,” she said. “A lot of managers will be wanting to fill critical roles where they may not be able to. How does HR support them? “There are changes but there are also huge opportunities with something like this. It’s a chance to think outside the box,” Ms Evans said. “Personally, I would be saying don’t try to sit tight and just wait it out.” She suggested managers looked at the roles and skills of the staff that they do have and list the skills and roles needed within the organisation. “Put development plans in place to revise or change roles that you actually need.” The focus should then be on upskilling staff and giving them opportunities to take on different responsibilities, perform new tasks or accept leadership roles in order to drive their enthusiasm. “People can get a lot of up and cross-skilling and their engagement really lifts. Put development plans in place for individuals. [Ask] can you merge or upskill roles?” There is also the chance to work more closely with other departments and agencies and collaborate on projects or even share staff. For example, the federal government's hiring freeze, it set up a business centre made up of part-time staff and underused staff and funnelled excess work from various teams. Ms Evans said it was also important to look at staff ready to redeploy and think about how to get them working in another department or agency. It can also be useful to seek advice from other departments or the same department at a different level of government that have already been through a hiring freeze. Brisbane City Council reduced the number of contracts it had and moved functions in-house. “It was a huge saving and it really drove engagement from people within the organisation, being able to do different things and increase their capabilities. It also helped teams work together in a more effective way,” she said. Despite the opportunities available, there is no point pretending that everyone will be happy about the freeze. It could lower morale, hit productivity or lead to employees walking out the door. The key to preventing this situation is to engage staff early on, explain what the changes might mean to them and come up with a plan to mitigate the more harmful effects, said Ms Evans. "Use this as an opportunity because I do think it is one.” [post_title] => Best of 2016: How to survive and thrive under a public sector hiring freeze [post_excerpt] => Upskill, collaborate, communicate. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-survive-and-thrive-under-a-public-sector-hiring-freeze [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 15:39:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:39:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23243 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23674 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 14:06:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 03:06:42 [post_content] => KPMG By Martin Bass Tuning in to the news recently it was hard to avoid the barrage of media attention regarding management consultants BIS Shrapnel’s economic modelling of Labor's proposed changes to negative gearing policy. Across radio and television reports, much time and attention was given to criticism of the ‘dark art’ of economic modelling and its apparent capacity to deliver whatever results or findings are required by those commissioning it. In NSW at present, economic modelling is providing strong support and justification for the Baird Government’s plans for council amalgamations. Consulting company KPMG was contracted to perform the economic modelling and prepare the 45 amalgamation proposals currently under consideration at a reported cost of $400,000. Reading through the proposals, two characteristics stand out. The first is KPMG’s modelling that indicates the consistently positive economic impacts that will flow to NSW communities as a result of the amalgamations. The second is the absence of any account of the assumptions or detailed data underpinning this modelling. Some disturbing insights into the ‘variability’ of this economic modelling are evident in examining the three-into-one amalgamation proposal for Cooma Monaro, Snowy River and Bombala Councils in the State’s south-east. According to introductory statements in the document, “The proposal .... is supported by independent analysis and modelling by KPMG.”  The proposal provides a strong rationale for the amalgamation of these councils, citing numerous financial and other benefits to both the new council and its communities. With amalgamations on the horizon in early 2015, these three councils commissioned KPMG, for a total cost of $80,000, to do some economic modelling for them and prepare a ‘Merger Business Case Analysis’. In light of the recent criticisms of economic modelling and in a quick game of ‘spot the contradictions’, a comparative assessment of the two reports makes interesting reading. Consider the following statements from the reports: State Government amalgamation proposal: "The efficiencies and savings generated by the merger will allow the new council to invest in improved service levels and/or a greater range of services and address the current infrastructure backlog across the three councils." Council merger business case analysis: "... a merged council is likely to materially underperform against benchmarks relating to asset renewal and infrastructure backlog." or: State Government amalgamation proposal: "This merger proposal will provide the new council with the opportunity to strengthen its balance sheet and provide a more consistent level of financial performance. Overall, the proposed merger is expected to enhance the financial sustainability of the new council." Council merger business case analysis: "The assumptions adopted in the financial analysis are conservative and acknowledge the likely difficulties in generating efficiencies and economies of scale from the proposed merger." or: State Government amalgamation proposal: "These communities are bound by their sense of place as an alpine region. Box 2 provides examples of community organisations, services and facilities that have a presence across the region, which indicate the existence of strong existing connections between the communities in the existing council areas." Council merger business case analysis: "... a merged council entity may also encounter challenges in tailoring programs and initiatives to diverse community interests and profiles across a region spanning more than 15,000 km2." Think about these statements - they are some of the outcomes of two economic modelling exercises performed by one consultant [KPMG] focusing on the same amalgamation scenario. Total public money expended - $480,000. Yet reading these statements, it’s hard to believe that the two reports came from one single source. The apparent contradictions are alarming. What makes this more concerning is that whilst the full KPMG report prepared for the councils is freely available, that prepared for the State Government, along with any supporting analysis and assumptions, has not been publicly released despite numerous requests from councils, communities, the State Opposition and others. In his essay in The Monthly in April 2015 titled Spreadsheets of power - How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate’, Australian economist Richard Denniss observed that “Economic models are at their most powerful when only the powerful are aware of what they contain: thousands of assumptions that range from the immoral and implausible to the well-meaning but estimated. However they are made, the conclusions of a model are only as reliable as its assumptions.” In the end, the economic modellers may get these NSW amalgamations over the line. But these reports should sound warning bells for the State Government, that if they’re about to introduce sweeping changes across the State that may have far-reaching impacts on communities, modelling only for the outcomes they want is probably not good practice. There are risks and costs involved in amalgamations – any council that has been through the process will say the same. If the State Government’s own consultants found them in one case, they can probably find them in the other 44.   Martin Bass is a Sydney-based, independent local government consultant. [post_title] => Best of 2016: Cash for contradictions: KPMG's model for council mergers [post_excerpt] => Model behaviour for $480k. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => cash-for-contradictions-kpmg-council-merger-reports [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 15:38:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:38:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23674 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23281 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 14:00:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 03:00:35 [post_content] =>   virtual-identity-69996_1280_opt   Australians will see an ‘alpha’ version prototype of a new, national opt-in digital identity credential for government services as early as August this year; with a fuller version likely to emerge in 2017 according to the new Head of Identity at the Digital Transformation Office (DTO). That’s the take from Rachel Dixon, the woman hand-picked to galvanise the agency’s efforts to develop a new user friendly, multi-agency key to provide secure and easy online access to government services and transactions for consumers. The recent appointment of Ms Dixon is a critical step forward for the DTO as it attempts to dramatically improve the public’s experience of dealing with government services by shifting to a so-called ‘user centric’ development model – one that is based on catering to the real world needs of citizens instead of forcing them conform to myriad of disconnected portals, passwords, information requirements and standards. Not everyone in the public service is happy with the DTO’s rapid and highly delivery focused schedule. But fewer, most of all agency customers, are satisfied with protracted waiting times and online services stuck a decade behind that of the mainstream digital economy. Notably, the revelation of the DTO’s big digital identity push comes hot on the heels of the disclosure that the existing myGov online access facility – which has been copping plenty of flak from users over recent months — is now be the subject of a formal audit from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to determine its effectiveness. Few if any in government expect the latest ANAO probe into myGov’s performance to deliver any good news, especially after the monumental scale of dysfunction and chronic under-resourcing of welfare agency Centrelink’s call centres was laid bare in an excoriating audit report last year. Although the DTO’s big ramp-up on digital identity and the ANAO probe into myGov are not formally linked, the timing of the two announcements is so fortuitously close that it’s again rammed home the urgent need to arrest what DTO chief Paul Shetler has previously labelled the unacceptably high “failure cost” of poor and disconnected public services.   Public Services, private products The announcement of the rapid, ground-up development of a new national digital identity credential has far-reaching implications for the private sector too. Apart from the clear necessity for the federal government to urgently improve access to its services and transactions online, the appointment of a digital identity project chief has already aroused strong interest within the private sector, where online and offline identity verification requirements remain a significant cost and a major handbrake on rolling out integrated transaction services that can span business lines. Elements of the private sector – particularly banks, telecommunications carriers and other ‘identity regulated’ industries – have for at least a decade been hoping Canberra will get its act together on the digital identity front to replace costly paper and photographic based checks originally based on the 100 points identity verification scheme. Crucially, the DTO has confirmed it is actively evaluating the potential for a private sector digital identity marketplace here in Australia, hiring consultancy Deloitte to research and map the size of the opportunity. Getting business inside the tent to try and sell the idea won’t hurt either, especially given some banks have been more strident than others. Under a so-called ‘federated’ digital identity model such as that used in the UK, private sector organisations that provided trusted online services can also feed into customer verification mix – often using authorised private brokers – a model that at face value offers major synergies and cost savings across both government and private services and transactions. While the DTO’s Australian digital identity project is still in ‘discovery’ – that’s developer speak for researching and establishing core user and product requirements – Rachel Dixon is refreshingly frank about the challenges that Australia’s comparatively small population and complex system of government presents. “The thing I would say is that the market here is different than some other countries,” Ms Dixon told Government News. One of the key differences is that the federal government in Australia is already a market participant in identity verification services through the Document Verification Service (DVS) which is run out of the Attorney General’s Department and processed 21 million transactions last year. Originally an internal government facility, in 2014 the DVS was expanded substantially to offer checking services to the private sector, a move that created a sought-after new source of revenue for the government, especially the Attorney General’s Department. (In May 2014, Attorney General George Brandis cited a “study by the Secure Identity Alliance and Boston Consulting Group” that he said had estimated “that e-Government services, enabled by trusted digital identities, are set to yield an estimated $50 billion in annual global savings by 2020.”) While Ms Dixon flatly refused to discuss DVS pricing, Government News has previously attended presentations where the charge of an ID check – which is electronic – was outlined to be around $1 per transaction. That kind of turnover, especially at scale, has increasingly aroused the interest of private sector providers who are authorised to use the DVS to provide commercial identity verification services, a quagmire the DTO will soon have to navigate through. Although Ms Dixon candidly admits that a lot of people are now using the DVS, she’s equally unequivocal that commercial providers don’t always get it right when it comes to estimating the size of a market or the level of competition in it. “If you look at the experience in the UK, with that market, the original identity providers that went there with Verify, all overestimated the share of market they would get,” Ms Dixon said. “That is a risk in setting up a private market; unless they get to a viable business case, the boards of those companies are going to be unhappy with those business models. That’s a risk because at a certain point one … of the providers that is less successful may want to leave.” One of the problems for government is when a private provider does exit the market, what happens to its customers. Dixon makes no bones about the risk of taxpayers potentially propping up a half-broken business. “The issue then becomes do you expose the government to rent seeking at that point from a provider that wants to exit, but instead uses it to negotiate a better deal in order to stay in the market,” Ms Dixon says. “And that has happened where there has been monopoly providers. That’s something that obviously we’d want to take into account in our [DTO’s] commercial arrangements. If we were going to establish that market, that would be a big consideration in our negotiations.”   Opting in: what a Digital Identity will – and won’t – do It’s no secret that Australia two most recent attempts to launch a national, government issued identity credential or document ended in failure thanks to the complex and often toxic politics that surrounded them. Both Bob Hawke’s ‘Australia Card’ (essentially a national photo ID card) and later Joe Hockey’s ‘Access Card’ (a multi-agency government services smartcard also with a photo) died swiftly amid fears the instruments could give government new and invasive powers to keep tabs on citizens. Even the far less contested rollout of e-health has taken more than a decade thanks to the fractious politics of federation, privacy and various stakeholder groups. Although the debate around privacy in Australia has arguably changed (partly thanks to people increasingly putting more and more in the public domain through social media) two major problems that have endured are frustration with access to government services and stubborn rates of fraud and identity theft, also largely enabled by the internet. According to the DTO, a force fit is off the cards and foisting digital identity onto consumers is something Ms Dixon clearly doesn’t believe in. Rather she wants consumers to first buy-in to the functionality and convenience that any new credential can deliver, insisting it has to be designed to meet the public’s actual needs rather than the government’s. “If the history of successful systems tells us anything, it’s that just mandating something from on high – especially in Australia – that the government mandating a digital identity is not necessarily the path to success,” Ms Dixon says. “We have to give people a reason to want to have a credential to interact with government. In order for government to get the economic benefit of people doing things online, that comes back to consumers … what is good for people who use the system that are not in government.” That, Ms Dixon says, is why the DTO’s primary concern in terms of its research requires an “unpacking” of “where the problem points are in authentication and verification for consumers right now.” There is also a need to start defining how what is commonly called ‘identity’ works in enabling real-life transactions. “If you try and talk to consumers about identity it’s a difficult discussion because the question is ‘what is identity for?’ What is it used for and what are they exposed to?” Ms Dixon says, making a careful distinction. “Identity is better thought of as the ability to have trust online. That’s the key piece. The ability for the government to trust that you are who you say you are. And for you to trust that the government will deal with you in a fair and protective way … that they won’t spread your data around the universe or open you up to fraud.”   Brokering Trust A big part of the implicit bargain governments have to negotiate around trust, identity and online transactions is just getting the balance right in terms of what data needs to be provided to gain a credential for a service – or the number of hoops a customer has to jump through – versus the relative value of that service to a customer. Ms Dixon observes that while government services need a certain level of technical assurance in terms of you being who you say you are, the potential for friction starts in the trade-off between assurance and convenience. “Where you fall down is if the amount of data, or the amount of steps the government is asking people to go through – too much data or too many steps of verification – relative to what’s at stake in the transaction,” Ms Dixon says. “Different transactions need different levels of assurance,” she notes. “Do you need to know absolutely what the person looks like for this particular transaction?” Asked outright whether a photo will be part of a new digital identity credential, her response is forthright. “I think that’s the wrong question,” Ms Dixon says. “The first question is ‘what is the problem we are trying to solve’? The second one is ‘what are the tools we will use to do this?’” “There is a difference between the verification or the authentication of an identity versus the authentication of a transaction.”   Are Biometrics in the Digital Identity Mix? Of all the identity security and verification technologies that have climbed onto the digital bandwagon, biometrics was one of the fastest. For decades police and security services around the world have had access to electronic fingerprint matching, followed more recently by biometric photos and algorithms being embedded into passports and licenses. Despite being more and more pervasive, biometric technologies still attract their fair share of controversy ranging from the ability of surveillance cameras to spot and track faces in a crowd or mall to insurance companies using the tone of a person’s voice to detect if they are likely to be lying. What government agencies, as well as businesses, are now confronting is at what point consumers might opt to use biometrics as part of a digital identity mix or authentication ecosystem, especially if it’s easier than entering a password. Again, Ms Dixon stresses the distinction between authenticating a transaction and actually identifying a person. Apple’s iPhone doesn’t really care if it’s actually you putting your fingerprint on its scanner. “If you look at a thumbprint on an iPhone, that doesn’t have anything to do with your identity, Ms Dixon says. “That’s just a signal to a key that unlocks your phone. You don’t use the thumbprint for assurance, you use it for authentication.” The argument really comes down to what consumers are comfortable with and if it gets them into what they need more easily and reliably, especially if passwords become so onerous they risk locking you out of a service after multiple failed efforts (think iPhone and FBI). Dixon is clearly cautious about the implications of biometrics, but again defers to what consumers actually prefer to use as the real test. Certain biometrics could be convenient for people in authenticating access to something; that’s different than the establishment of an identity in the first place, which is the assurance. “The nice thing about thumbprints is that they get you over the hurdle of passwords,” Ms Dixon says. “You use the technology that suits the use case. The first thing to do is to map out what people want. Not the government mandating [what people must use]. Base it on some actual research with actual use cases.” One thing’s for sure. If the Digital Transformation Office’s research actually manages to accurately map consumer needs and sentiment, and then produces a working digital identity prototype that the public embraces in less than a year, banks will be queuing up to buy it. That may not be a bad thing. [post_title] => Australian Digital Identity ‘alpha’ launch by August: Digital Transformation Office [post_excerpt] => User centric rebuild of national online credentials. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 23281 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-02 15:08:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-02 05:08:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23281 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24142 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 14:00:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 03:00:15 [post_content] => dd-buses-web_opt  

Double decker buses will soon become a common sight on Sydney’s streets once more after the New South Wales Government revealed it will commission a proper fleet of the high capacity vehicles to boost capacity on crowded runs as part of a $108 million service boost and refresh in the 2016-17 NSW Budget

Exact details on who will manufacture and how many of the new 80-seat beasts will be deployed are still to be finalised, but the firm commitment to reinstate double deckers into mainstream route service in Sydney cements major turnaround in public transport thinking 30-years after the last Leyland Atlantean made its from Wynyard to Avalon in May 1986.

While the Baird Government started trialling Bustech double deckers North-West T-Way at the end of August 2012, the pre-Budget essentially embeds the top deck vehicles as part of the city’s core fleet for the foreseeable future.

The announcement is also the second major public transport ‘back to the future’ flip for Transport for NSW after the commitment to reinstate light rail services (or heavy trams) in the city and eastern suburbs, with deployments in the West also highly likely to be commissioned.

Heavy crowding and more demand than capacity during peak-hour services for Sydney buses has been a serious and persistent problem for at least the last decade, as urban renewal and residential infill push more commuters onto the bus system. The biggest headaches for authorities and commuters alike include passengers who are closer to a bus route destination often missing out on scheduled morning trips because vehicles are filled to capacity well before they get near their terminus. Efforts to deploy more, larger single decker and articulated or ‘bendy’ busses have also created knock-on effects as busses get stuck long queues to unload passengers on approaches to the city and other major centres. A big benefit of double decker buses is that even though they carry 65 per cent more passengers than regular buses – 130 people when completely full on seated and standing capacity – they only occupy the space of a single bus making it easier to cram more services into smaller areas and tighter streets. leyland atlantean_optWith major residential developments now replacing industrial real estate on the city fringe, authorities are looking to boost both capacity and frequency. “Thousands of Sydneysiders rely on bus travel every day to get from A to B and we know demand for services is continually increasing, particularly in growth centres in the North West and South West, as well as in inner city areas like Green Square,” said NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.

“Since coming to office, the NSW Government has delivered more than 15,800 extra weekly public transport services for customers and today’s announcement is further proof that we’re committed to putting on even more where and when they’re needed most.

“This is all about staying ahead of the curve to ensure customers have sufficient levels of service well into the future.”

sydney-bus-museum-vintage-bus-sydney-comedy-festiv1_optFor people that remember Sydney’s original double decker bus fleet, it’s actually more like replacing something many feel, like trams, should never have been taken away in the first place. Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian – who spearheaded many of the key public transit reforms when she held the Transport portfolio – said the upcoming NSW Budget would continue to fund more services and infrastructure. “These double decker buses have allowed us to deliver good customer outcomes and we are pleased to be rolling out more of them across Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said before cataloguing where new money was going to be spent. The Treasurer said that under the NSW Budget 2016-16 commitment, 12 new or extended routes will come online. They include a new cross suburban link between the Inner West and Lower North Shore, all night services seven days a week for Green Square and Zetland as well as Abbotsford, Five Dock and Rouse Hill on weekends. The addition of new all-night services has long been called for by groups representing essential services and the hospitality sector where the availability and cost of labour have been hit by the shortage of car spaces and a lack of alternative transport options. Fleet renewal and replacement is also a strong focus, with older non-air conditioned buses finally dropped from service in favour of climate controlled accessible (or ‘kneeling’) busses that allow wheelchair users to roll-on and roll-off regular services – an important addition given many older Sydney railway stations still don’t have lifts.   Specifics for the 2016/17 Growth Bus Services Program Western Sydney (including Hills District and South West) More than 1,350 new weekly trips, including 5 new or extended routes.
  • New route 605 (North Kellyville to Rouse Hill Town Centre)
  • Extended route 751 (Marsden Park to Blacktown via Colebee)
  • Extended route T72 (Blacktown to Rouse Hill Town Centre via Alex Avenue)
  • Extended route T74 (Blacktown to Riverstone via Hambledon Road)
  • Extended route 783 (Penrith to Jordan Springs)
Enhanced services:
  • 607X (Rouse Hill to City via M2)
  • 610X/M61 (Rouse Hill and Castle Hill to City M2)
  • 611 (Blacktown to Macquarie Park via M2)
  • 615X (North Kellyville to City via M2)
  • 619 (Rouse Hill to Macquarie Park via Kellyville and M2)
  • 620X-621 (Castle Hill and Cherrybrook to Macquarie Park and City via M2)
  • 700 (Blacktown to Parramatta via Prospect)
  • 740 (Plumpton to Macquarie Park via M2)
  • 841 (Narellan to Leppington)
  • T65 (Rouse Hill to Parramatta via Westmead)
  • T80 (Liverpool to Parramatta via Bonnyrigg)
Sydney Metropolitan More than 1,950 new weekly trips, including 2 new routes.
  • New route 530 (Burwood to Chatswood via Five Dock, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove)
  • New route 985 (Miranda to Cronulla via Woolooware Shores)
Enhanced services on the following routes:
  • Various Northern Beaches routes between Mona Vale and the City
  • 197 (Mona Vale to Macquarie Park via Terrey Hills)
  • 270-274 (Frenchs Forest District to City)
  • 343 (Kingsford to City)
  • 370 (Leichhardt to Coogee)
  • 433 (Balmain to Railway Square via Harold Park)
  • 477 (Miranda to Rockdale via Sans Souci)
  • 506 (Macquarie University and East Ryde to City via Hunters Hill)
  • 518 (Macquarie University to City via Ryde)
  • M20 (Zetland to Wynyard via Central Station)
  • M41 (Burwood to Macquarie Park via Ryde)
New all-night services on the following routes:
  • 301 (Zetland to City via Surry Hills) – seven days
  • 438 (Abbotsford to City via Five Dock and Leichhardt) – Friday and Saturday only
  • 607X (Rouse Hill to City via M2) – Friday and Saturday only
Lower Hunter – More than 170 new weekly trips, including 2 new or extended routes:
  • New route 178 (Anambah to Rutherford)
  • Extended routes 260 and 261 (Minmi and Fletcher to Jesmond and University)
Central Coast – 45 new weekly trips, including 1 extended route:
  • Extended route 40 (Gosford – Wyoming)
  • Enhanced services on routes 67 and 68 between Terrigal and Gosford
  • Enhanced services on route 33 between Gosford and Mangrove Mountain
Blue Mountains – More than 30 new weekly trips on route 686 between Katoomba, Echo Point and Scenic World Illawarra – More than 240 new weekly trips, including 2 new or extended routes:
  • New route 75 (Tullimbar to Stockland Shellharbour)
  • Extended route 32 (Dapto to Brooks Reach)
  • Enhanced services on route 1 between Austinmer and Wollongong
  • Enhanced services on routes 31-33 between Wollongong and Dapto District
  • Enhanced services on route 34 between Warrawong and Wollongong
[post_title] => Best of 2016: High & mighty: double decker buses return to mainstream Sydney route service [post_excerpt] => Back to the Future II [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => double-decker-buses-return-to-mainstream-sydney-route-service [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 15:26:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:26:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24142 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24663 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 14:00:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 03:00:14 [post_content] =>  Census2_opt   The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has taken to social media to reassure people they will not be fined if they complete the Census late because they’ve lost their log-in details. The Census Australia Facebook page has been inundated with people who have not been able to get through to the helpline or by email to request the 12-digit log-in code needed to complete the Census online or to request a paper form, after losing their log-in details. One worried person said: “I have emailed a few days ago and have the email support number and nothing else and have also turned my house upside down searching for the letter with login.” Another said they had spent four days emailing and calling but had not received a response. The anxiety of the Facebook posters was evident as the queries piled up online. “I've been emailing and calling all week with no reply or answer. I have not received my letter and wish for someone to contact me ASAP” and another “Have sent two emails as I have moved and can't access my old place hence no pin. Would really like to get an email back so I don't get fined.” One poster was more blunt: “Census Australia your online idea is not working it won't let me log in it’s stuck on trying to get the page and left waiting on a blank page that won't change. We should now fine you $ 180 per day until you fix the problem.” Other people were determined not to complete the Census online and insisted on a paper form because they feared computer hackers would access their personal data. “2 weeks Census, 2 bloody weeks no-one has been able to get through on ANY of the numbers on the initial letter with our code that was sent to request the paper form to be sent out. “So much for requiring accurate information from us if you can't answer the dam (sic) phones! And no, I will not be using the online form, this year’s Census is riddled with enough privacy issues, let alone with the issue of online security!” There were also some sad and sorry Census tales, including one woman having to blow dry her Census form after her dog urinated all over it and a man who claimed he had dropped his form down the toilet. But the Bureau has remained steadfastly unruffled in the face of all the ‘a dog ate my homework’ excuses. “You will not be fined for accurately completing and returning your census after census night,” many of its posts said. “Don't worry, there is plenty of time to complete the Census and you won't be fined for being late. We would recommend calling back after August 10 to avoid long wait times. You could also submit a request via our online contact form.” The online form is open until 24 September. The ABS said people would receive reminder letters and that Census field officers would visit households that hadn’t completed the Census to make sure everyone was counted. This year’s Census – Australia’s 17th national headcount - has been mired in controversy after the ABS announced that it would keep data for up to four years and potentially cross-match it with other data sets, instead of destroying after processing, as has happened previously, Some have taken umbrage with the fact that data linkages keys will be kept indefinitely, which could mean some information, e.g. such as birthplace or religion, could be auto-filled when completing the next survey or used to link Census data to medical, criminal and administrative records. However, ABS Census chief Duncan Young has insisted that linkage keys are not released to a third party, that researchers would not see the keys and that the Bureau would be in charge of the linking. Young has maintained that linkage keys, the ability to use linkage keys to link data sets and the data sets themselves are three, mutually exclusive steps and that no one person can access more than one of these steps. The federal Minister responsible for the Census, Michael McCormack has also waded in - after earlier criticisms from the Opposition accusing him of going AWOL – and tried to soothe the public backlash against the survey. "I think we're making far too much of this, names and addresses and privacy breaches," McCormack said. "Anybody with a supermarket loyalty card, anybody who does tap-and-go, anybody who buys things online, they provide more information indeed probably to what is available to ABS staff." But organisations such as the Australian Privacy Foundation have not been mollified by his response and privacy concerns have also led to a handful of senators, led by Nick Xenophon, refusing to put their names on Census forms and risking a fine of up to $180 per day. Census Australia’s Facebook page justified the Bureau’s requirement for people to add their names saying it resulted in better data quality and helped households record the relevant information for each person. “Having names on the form also helps the ABS to identify if any people were missed during the Census, or accidently counted twice,” said the online response. “It can also assist in improving the quality of data we produce on families, especially where complex relationships, like blended families, exist. International studies have demonstrated that an anonymous Census results in poor quality data.” [post_title] => Best of 2016: ABS moves to quell Census panic on social media [post_excerpt] => Lost log-ins melt hotline. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => abs-moves-quell-census-panic-social-media [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 14:55:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 03:55:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24663 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25064 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:45:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:45:09 [post_content] => It was hard but very effective day at work   Council amalgamations in NSW have created a revolving door of staff as new councils struggle to hold on to their general managers. The game of management musical chairs has gathered pace recently and many of those parachuting belatedly into the top jobs have been from NSW Premier Mike Baird’s Northern Beaches stomping ground. Rik Hart became the latest (interim) General Manager of Sydney’s fledging Inner West Council last week after respected GM Vanessa Chan resigned. Hart spent ten years as one of the state’s highest paid GMs during his tenure at Warringah Council before the council merged with Pittwater and Manly and he was appointed Deputy GM of the new Northern Beaches Council, which turned out to be a brief gig. Chan’s reasons for resigning have been kept on the down-low, although she cited “personal reasons” but bringing three councils together while keeping the new council’s daily operations going and dealing with fierce public hostility to the merger would not have been an easy task. Chan was previously GM at Ashfield Council and had notched up more than 15 years working in local government. The inner-west merger between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils has already claimed the scalps of Leichhardt GM Peter Head and Marrickville’s Brian Barrett, who both quit rather than take on a deputy GM role. A slew of other senior staff joined them in walking out the door, including Leichhardt’s Director of Corporate Services Matthew Phillips; Marrickville’s Director of Planning and Environment Tim Moore; Director of Infrastructure Services Neil Strickland and Director of Corporate Services Steve Kludass. The freshly minted Northern Beaches Council has haemorrhaged senior staff since the merger between Pittwater, Manly and Warringah was pushed through in May. The mass exit is unsurprising given the council was top heavy at its inception, with an administrator, interim general manager and eight deputies. Henry Wong quit as Deputy GM and ended up as Strathfield Council’s acting GM after spending years in the same role at Manly Council. Other senior managers dropped in from the Northern Beaches and scattered further afield include former Warringah Council Deputy General Manager Malcolm Ryan, who left for Western Sydney to take up a job as GM at Cumberland Council – an amalgam of parts of Auburn, Holroyd and Parramatta local government areas, a contract which runs until March 2018. Deputy GM Melinda Hewitt (previously Pittwater Council’s Deputy GM) left Northern Beaches Council in August after seven years on the peninsula, as did former deputy Stephen Clements. CEO at Local Government Professionals Australian NSW, Annalisa Haskell said some senior managers left before they lost their jobs or had to work in a new set up they did not like under a merged council. “There are people going everywhere,” Haskell said. She said that movement at the top was “inevitable” following council mergers, particularly because merged councils would be creating a “new order”, which may jar with established staff. “The leadership needs to establish a new organisation and that can be challenging if you have got the incumbents there. Change is always difficult. In any organisation there is a positive and negative.” The situation had the potential to create conflict between general managers and their deputies, most of whom had served as GMs before the mergers.   Businessman standing in front of revolving door, checking time on wristwatch, picking up briefcase   Instability at the top has also affected those councils threatened with amalgamation but who have not yet merged. Their respective general managers are well aware that their necks are on the guillotine. Arthur Kyron left his GM post at Waverley Council in April, citing the uncertainty created by mergers as the reason for his resignation. A proposal to merge Waverley, Randwick and Woollahra is still on the table, with Woollahra resisting. One interim GM would be appointed to oversee the transition. Cabonne Council lost General Manager Andrew Hopkins in August after four years in the job after Hopkins said he had to think of his family and career while the merger between Cabonne, Blayney and Orange was still going through the courts. Strathfield Council is on its fifth Acting General Manager (Henry Wong) since its long-serving General Manager David Backhouse walked out the door in February. The council remains locked in a court battle resisting the government’s proposal to merge it with Canada Bay and Burwood Councils. Local government veteran Backhouse quit Strathfield Council after 30 years, ten spent as GM. Two other senior staff quit too: Corporate Affairs Director Neale Redman and Head of Planning David Hazaldene. But their departures may not have been solely precipitated by amalgamations. An October 2015 Office of Local Government investigation found that Strathfield Council spent almost $900,000 on legal services and advice from International Property Group over a four-year period and concluded that it had little to show for it. The investigation identified ‘systemic deficiencies’ and failures in administration and slapped a performance improvement order on the council. Not even the lower north shore has proved a safe haven for general managers. The state government’s proposal to merge Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Councils is likely to have created a sense of unease among the people who work there. Mosman’s GM Veronica Lee chucked in her job in August and left to become Executive Director of Corporate Service at the NSW Office of Sport. North Sydney GM Warwick Winn jumped ship for Manningham Council in suburban Melbourne in April. President of Local Government NSW Keith Rhoades said he was aware of a great deal of movement at senior level within councils, much of it due to the uncertainty created by mergers. “They’ve got to think about their families and their futures and their careers, if there’s a position come up that might be more secure for them. Job security is something to be treasured these days,” Rhoades said. Haskell agreed: “When you’re in a state of unknown it’s always hard so I guess some people are changing to make active decisions about their careers. I think you would see more movement there just because of the uncertainty.” Some managers have left councils under threat of merging for those that have already gone through the process. Haskell said: “there are opportunities coming up in merged councils for people who may be want surety.” Lee Furness hotfooted it out of the doors as Director of Corporate Policy at Shellharbour Council (slated to merge with Wollongong) this month to become Executive Director at Hilltops Council. Haskell said the massive personnel changes presented both opportunities and dangers. There was a possibility the sector could lose skills and corporate memory but she said this was part of a wider trend with the retirement of baby boomers at senior level. Another fear was that the sector could become fragmented into three: councils where there had been no change, amalgamated councils and those councils which might be merged. “Although there were lots of little councils before it was quite cohesive,” she said. “It feels a little bit more fragmented at the moment. We have people who are not changing that are stable, groups that are waiting and people who have changed. It’s very abnormal at the moment.” Haskell said councils were stronger when they connected and shared best practice. [post_title] => Best of 2016: Musical chairs at the top for NSW local councils since mergers [post_excerpt] => Northern Beaches execs go west. 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