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                    [post_date] => 2018-02-19 09:46:36
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29177" align="alignnone" width="296"] We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore ...[/caption]

They’re mad as hell down Tumbarumba way. The Snowy Mountains town best known for John O’Brien’s wonderful poem ‘Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos’ has become the touchstone for renewed opposition to the NSW Government’s disastrous forced council amalgamation strategy.

In May 2016 the local council was merged with neighbouring Tumut Shure to form Snowy Valleys Council. Since then many local residents have been campaigning to reverse the merger.

The issue is not going away. If anything, the voices for a demerger are getting stronger. Those advocating for the restitution of Tumbarumba Shire have joined the Save Our Councils Coalition, a group representing councils that have – successfully and unsuccessfully – resisted mergers in NSW.

Its vociferous campaigning ensures that council mergers and demergers will remain a significant issue at the next NSW state election, due in a little over a year on 23 March 2019.

Last week Tumbarumba came to town. It was Valentine’s Day, but there was little love for the NSW Government. A vocal band of Tumbarumba residents, dressed in orange, held a noisy protest outside State Parliament.

They were addressed by representatives of all political parties represented in the NSW State Parliament except the governing Liberal-National Coaltion.

Dr Neil Hamilton from the Save Tumbarumba Shire group said: “We are here today to initiate an inquiry into the merger process that will hopefully get our council back. This forced merger is bitterly opposed by the community. It is also strongly opposed by Save Our Councils Coalition and many communities across NSW.”

The delegation left with the NSW Minister for Local Government a petition signed by 700 residents – more than a quarter of the adult population – to re-instate Tumbarumba Shire on its old boundaries, bordered by the Murray River to the west and the Snowy Mountains to the east.

Since the forced merger the Tumbarumba community has held many protests, including a candlelight march, and conducted an optional citizen plebiscite asking residents whether they wanted to reverse the merger, which returned a 93 percent ‘yes’ vote.

The opponents of the merger point out that Tumbarumba Council, despite its small size (just 3,500 residents), was the second best 'fit for the future' council in NSW and was not recommended for a merger in an inquiry held after the Government’s initial proposal.

“The Baird/Berejiklian Government simply went ahead and merged Tumbarumba anyway,” said Dr Hamilton. “The merger was a disgraceful and unforgiveable act.”

Addressing the protest, NSW Greens’ David Shoebridge said:”We are here today in solidarity with the people of Tumbarumba and from shires and councils around the state who are demanding they get their councils back.

“If Gladys Berejiklian thinks that the issues of forced council mergers are going away, she is going to have a hell of a fright in 12 months’ time when she is told she will be out of office if she hasn't given them their councils back.”

Tumbarumba is in the state electorate of Albury, nominally a safe Liberal Party seat. But the Coalition vote in the last two NSW election has been at historic highs since the scandal-ridden Labor Government was defeated in 2011, and the Government is no certainty to be returned in the March 2019 poll.

“What happens in local communities should be a decision for local people. Labor’s policy is that if communities choose to demerge, that is a decision for them and they should be allowed to demerge,” said Labor’s Peter Primrose, addressing the protest.

“Gladys Berejiklian has not yet fixed the problem of forced amalgamations,” said Robert Brown from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. “There has to be an opportunity for communities to decide if they wish to demerge. We will continue to fight. We will support legislation for a plebiscite to enable you to have your say.”

His party scored a surprise win over the incumbent National Party in the 2016 Orange by-election dominated by dissatisfaction with Government policies. It saw one the largest swings against a government in Australian political history.

Fred Nile from the Christian Democrats said that his party had always been against forced council amalgamations. “We call upon Gladys Berejiklian today to agree to de-amalgamate Tumbarumba and also Guyra.” (Guyra was forcibly amalgamated into the new Armidale Regional Council at the same time as the Tumbarumba-Tumut merger).

“Every political party except the Liberal and National Parties are strongly against forced council mergers, and is strongly for giving communities whose councils were forcibly merged a plebiscite to allow them to de-merge,” said Dr Hamilton.

“Unless the Government allows communities who have lost their council this opportunity to demerge, it is highly likely that the Liberal-National Party will be thrown out at the next state election.”

‘But as for me, I'm here to say the interesting piece of news
Was up at Tumba-bloody-rumba, shootin' kanga-bloody-roos’.
                    [post_title] => Tumbarumba amalgamation protests intensify
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                    [post_date] => 2018-02-15 14:37:39
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29157" align="alignnone" width="300"] Walter van der Merwe - Electoral Commissioner no longer[/caption]

Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) head Walter van der Merwe has resigned, two days after being suspended for allegations of serious misconduct. Current ECQ Assistant Electoral Commissioner Dermot Tiernan will be Acting Electoral Commissioner.

In a short statement, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said Mr van der Merwe “has delivered his resignation to the Governor this morning … Acting Electoral Commissioner arrangements are already in place and a recruitment process will begin shortly. In the meantime, the allegations against Mr van der Merwe will be investigated to finalise the issues raised.”

Mr van der Merwe was suspended from duties by the Queensland Government on 13 February after Ms D’Ath said there were “serious allegations” against him “which could amount to misbehaviour under Section 25 of the Electoral Act 1992.” She was not any more specific than that, other than to say that they did not amount to inappropriate interference in the outcome of elections.

In 2017 Mr van der Merwe was the first witness to be called before the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission’s (CCC) Operation Belcarra, initiated after serious concerns about corruption in the 2016 Queensland local government elections.

He said then that there were a significantly higher number of complaints about that election than in previous elections, but that he did not know why that was the case. He said the ECQ lacked the resources to properly investigate all allegations.

A Parliamentary Inquiry into the elections, chaired by former Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley, handed down a report in June 2017 which was extremely critical of the ECQ.

“Throughout the inquiry’s process of reviewing the ECQ’s conduct, and during many staff interviews, it became apparent the management style within the ECQ is authoritarian and lacks consultation, consensus and integration. The culture is one of insecurity and avoidance, with poor staff engagement and communication.”

Report recommended many changes to the ECQ’s culture and structure. Mr Soorley, in an interview with the ABC after the release of the report, was even more scathing. He said the ECQ's own internal review "glossed over many issues and problems within the organisation.”

“Senior management staff often did not attend, or would leave early from, important meetings regarding election issues and planning.

“The review panel was unable to meet with electoral commissioner Walter van der Merwe on his own, as he was always accompanied by the assistant commissioner who took the lead on responding to most issues. Their interactions and behaviour had the semblance of 'good cop, bad cop' management style.”

Mr van der Merwe was appointed to the $300,00 job by the former Newman Government in 2014. A native of Zimbabwe and a graduate from South Africa’s University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal). He migrated to Australia in 1989 and had a quick rise in the Queensland public service, serving as Executive Director of Corporate Capability with the Department of Premier and Cabinet from 1993 to 2010.

 
                    [post_title] => Operation Belcarra claims Queensland electoral commissioner
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                    [post_date] => 2018-02-13 10:23:55
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-12 23:23:55
                    [post_content] => 

Australia’s states and territories are building more and more prisons, trying to outdo each other on law and order. Crime rates across Australia are falling , but incarceration rates have never been higher. So are the costs of locking up so many people. Australianj ails are becoming increasingly overcrowded, with many at breaking point. They also don’t work. Recidivism rates are very high, with released prisoners more likely to return to jail than not. Yet all this is happening as crime rates, in most jurisdictions and for most offences, are falling. Something just doesn’t add up. Recent numbers from the Justice chapter of Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS show that in 2016-17, an average of 40, 059 people per day were held in Australian prisons, of which 8.1 percent were female and 27.6 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The numbers are up from 35,000 in 2015 and 25,000 in 2005. Another 68,110 offenders per day were serving community corrections orders, of which 19.1 percent were female and 20.1 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders. Nationally, state and territory corrective services agencies operated 114 prisons at 30 June 2017 (not counting police station lockups). Total expenditure across Australia was $4.1 billion, a real increase of 7.2 percent from the previous year. Imprisonment rates are increasing, in every jurisdiction. The report pays special attention to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The national imprisonment rate per 100,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 2,411.5 in 2016‑17, compared with a rate of 156.6 for the non-indigenous population. In other words, you are more than ten times more likely to be imprisoned if you are indigenous than if you are not. Imprisonment rates the Northern Territory, which has a much higher proportion of indigenous people, were much higher than the rest of the country. Indigenous prisoners are also much younger than the national average. Yet crime rates are decreasing. Statistics are notoriously out of date, but by most measures most crimes are decreasing. Some people argue that this is because more criminals are locked up, but this is fallacious reasoning – the rates were dripping long before the jail numbers went up. Public perceptions that crime is increasing are at odds with the statistics. Politicians of all persuasion and sensationalist media exaggerate the numbers for their own ends. It’s much easier to lock people up and be seen to be doing something than to tackle the causes of crime. The Productivity Commission report also looked at reoffence rates across Australia – measured by the proportion of people back in jail within two years of leaving it. In 2016-17, 44.8 percent of prisoners released in 2014-15 returned to prison within two years and 53.4 percent returned to corrective services (prison or community corrections). Nationally, these rates have increased over the last five years. This would seem to indicate that prison is not an effective deterrent, or at least that Corrective Services do not ‘correct’. But the report points out that it also been an effect of higher policing rates. Because the time period measured is comparatively small, and many more people may reoffend beyond the two-year limit. So, the number of jails and the number of prisoners just keep on increasing. In 2016 the NSW Government announced a$3.8 billion plan over four years to create 7000 extra beds in the state’s jails. A new ‘pop-up’ jail to deal with rampant overcrowding was opened in the Hunter Valley city of Cessnock in January, following another at Wellington in the state’s Central West. The inmates are housed in dormitory style accommodation, rather than cells. In January Victoria announced a major new prison at Lara near Geelong, to help “keep Victorians safe.” The Opposition has criticised the Government for not building more jails. Queensland suffers from chronic prisoner overcrowding. Assaults on guards and prisoners are increasing. Tasmania will get a new jail, no matter who wins the election in March. Australia has an incarceration rate of 168 prisoners per 100,000 population. It is lower than New Zealand’s 202, but higher than the UK’s 140. The major countries of Western Europe are all much lower: Germany, 78, Spain 131, Netherlands 69, France 103, Italy 89. The US is the outlier amongst western democracies. The Land of the Free locks up its population at alarming rates – 693 prisoners per 100,000 population. Australia has a long way to go before we reach those obscene numbers, but we are trying hard. Even on current numbers, the overcrowding, the recidivism rate, and the eagerness of governments to jump on the law and order bandwagon is a national disgrace. [post_title] => Opinion – Australia’s jails a national disgrace [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opinion-australias-jails-national-disgrace [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 08:05:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-15 21:05:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29138 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29118 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-12 11:49:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-12 00:49:57 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29120" align="alignnone" width="300"] Something is rotten in the City of Logan[/caption] Logan City Council has sacked its CEO Sharon Kelsey, who was appointed only in June 2017 after an intensive nationwide search. The council has refused to give any reasons for her termination, and Ms Kelsey herself has said she cannot comment for legal reasons. The Council meeting that decided on the move ended in uproar as ratepayers and staff in a packed public gallery were ejected from the chambers before the vote was taken. Seven councillors voted for Ms Kelsey to be sacked, with five opposing. Mayor Luke Smith, who is under investigation for corruption, had absented himself. The sacking is the latest episode in a tumultuous two years for Logan City Council. She replaced Andrew Milner, who had been in the job only seven months when he and his deputy John Oberhardt resigned. Mr Milner, a former army officer and Rio Tinto director, said he wanted to return to the private sector, but it is generally agreed there was much more to it than that. Ms Kelsey was previously Executive Director of Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). She is a lawyer by training and was a barrister before joining IBAC. She was CEO of Glenelg Shire Council in Adelaide for four years and is a former South Australian police officer. She was hired as CEO after Logan City Council became one of the Queensland councils being investigated by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) as part of Operation Belcarra, initiated after concerns about the possibly corrupt behaviour of many councillors in the 2016 Queensland local government elections. Other councils being investigated are Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, and Ipswich. Mayor Smith is being investigated by the CCC over allegations he attempted to influence council decisions on development applications that would benefit donors to his 2016 election campaign. He set up a company called Logan Futures to handle the campaign funds, which totalled nearly $400,000. Logan City Council, which takes in the southern suburbs of Brisbane and stretches down to the Gold Coast, is one of the largest in Australia, with over 300,000 residents. ABC News has reported that “a tearful Ms Kelsey declined to comment as she hugged staff and supporters.” It also quoted Councillor Darren Power, who voted against Ms Kelsey’s dismissal: “This is a disaster. We've just taken Ipswich off the front page, now we're the laughing stock of south-east Queensland. I don't know why she was sacked — councillors have never expressed to me why she was sacked.” He said she was popular with the staff and the community. The Council’s statement was short and said very little. Conspicuously absent was any reason for Ms Kelsey’s dismissal: “A special meeting was held today by Logan City Council regarding the employment agreement between Council and Chief Executive Officer Sharon Kelsey. “Council’s decision was in relation to Ms Kelsey’s six-month probationary period where it was decided she would not be appointed to the role of CEO. Council’s longest serving member of Executive Leadership Team, Mr Silvio Trinca (Director, Road and Water Infrastructure), has been appointed Interim CEO, effective immediately until a suitable replacement is found. “The special meeting was chaired by Acting Mayor Cherie Dalley with all divisional councillors present. Mayor Luke Smith was not present and did not participate in the vote. “Council will not be making any further comments in relation to this matter.” They maintain the fiction that she was not technically sacked, because she was on probation. Who will be Logan’s next CEO? Not counting people acting in the position, they will be the fourth in less than four years. Many will see it as a career-limiting choice. It certainly appears they will be handed a poisoned chalice.   [post_title] => Logan City Council in uproar as CEO sacked [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => logan-city-council-uproar-ceo-sacked [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-12 11:49:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-12 00:49:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29118 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29093 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-07 13:22:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-07 02:22:33 [post_content] =>

Australia’s ‘Four Pillars’ banking policy is redundant, there is not enough competition in the insurance industry, and the banks are using their market power to gouge their customers. That’s what the Productivity Commission thinks. The independent government agency has released its Draft Report on Competition in the Australian Financial System. It does not paint a pretty picture. The report comes just five days before the first public hearings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, the inquiry the Federal Government was forced to call in November last year after strongly resisting calls to do so for over a year. The Government is unlikely to be happy with the timing of the Productivity Commission report, nor with its findings. The report paints a damning picture of a Government asleep at the wheel. It criticises virtually every aspect of the regulation of financial services in Australia, in what for a report of this nature is very strong language. The Productivity Commission has become something of a thorn in the Government’s side in recent years, its forthright analysis often a little too close to the bone. The first comments in the press have come out within hours of the draft report being released. The Fairfax press calls it ‘scathing’ and ‘withering’. The usually Government-friendly Murdoch press calls it ‘damning’ and ‘at odds with the Government’s claims’. So what does it say? The detailed analysis takes hundreds of pages, but some brief extracts will give you the flavour.

Four pillars policy

“Australia’s four-pillars policy … is an ad hoc policy that, at best, is now redundant, as it simply duplicates competition and governance protections in other laws. At worst, in this consolidation era it protects some institutions from takeover, the most direct form of market discipline for inefficiency and management failure. Raising the cap on ownership would offer a greater threat of market discipline, without green-lighting mergers.”

General insurance

“Market concentration is high and camouflaged, with a proliferation of brands but far fewer actual providers. Consumer confusion on product differences is attributable to the poor quality of information required to be provided to consumers and, to a lesser degree, the incentives faced by advisers.”

Industry oversight

“The institutional responsibility in the financial system for supporting competition is loosely shared across APRA, the RBA, ASIC and the ACCC. In a system where all are somewhat responsible, it is inevitable that (at important times) none are.”

Switching banks

“Barriers to switching can make loyal customers ripe for exploitation. The RBA reports that the variable interest rates of existing home loan customers average around 0.3 to 0.4 percent points higher than rates on new home loans. These higher rates are paid by around 15 percent of existing customers and equate to an extra $66 to $87 per month on the average home loan balance.” (Across the economy, this translates to a windfall to the banks of more than $1 billion a year).

Lack of competition

“Compared to banks overseas, Australia’s banks offer products that have comparatively low fees but give the banks moderately high interest margins. While industry participants point to lower fees and falls in some loan interest rates as indicative of price competition, lower input costs (the RBA’s target cash rate has fallen from 7.25 percent to 1.5 percent over the past decade) are substantially responsible. “The fall in the cash rate does not appear to have been fully passed on in lower prices across the board. Instead, the spread between home loans and the cash rate, for example, has largely increased in recent years. The RBA reports similar increases in interest rate spreads for business lending. In credit card markets, interest rates were estimated by CHOICE to be around 3 percentage points higher than they would be had the reduction in the cash rate in recent years been reflected in credit card interest rates.”   There’s a lot more in the same vein. The report dissects the regulatory landscape so thoroughly that it is hard to see how the Government can defend it. The Government called the Royal Commission because it could no longer resist the pressure to do something. It tried to muddy the waters by increasing its scope to superannuation, where it likes to criticise union involvement in industry funds (which actually perform better than those run by the big banks). It also hobbled the Royal Commission by giving it an impossibly short deadline – just 12 months – to complete its work. The Productivity Commission report shows that the real problem is with the whole structure of Australia’s financial system, which needs a root and branch overhaul. This is, it should be noted, a draft report. The Productivity Commission is seeking further submissions, and intends to send its final report to the Government on 1 July. The draft report can be found here.   [post_title] => Productivity Commission savages financial regulatory system [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => productivity-commission-savages-financial-regulatory-system [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-08 09:53:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-07 22:53:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29093 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29085 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-07 10:29:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-06 23:29:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29104" align="alignnone" width="300"] Steve Martin - Senate bound[/caption] Australia’s High Court has said that mayors and other councillors are eligible to stand for state and federal parliaments, ruling that they do not hold ‘an office of profit under the Crown’. The judgement came with a unanimous decision by the Court in a case brought by One Nation against Devonport mayor Steve Martin, who replaced Jacqui Lambie as a Senator from Tasmania after Ms Lambie resigned over citizenship concerns. A solicitor for One Nation’s Kate McCulloch, who would have been in line for the seat if Mr Martin was ruled ineligible, said that Mayor Martin’s appointment would breach section 44(iv) of the Australian Constitution. It is section 44(i) of the Constitution regarding ‘allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power’ that has attracted the most attention recently, but section 44(iv) has The entire section 44 has been criticised as being poorly worded and in need of updating. Section (ii) deals members’ ineligibility because of criminal convictions, section (iii) with members’ bankruptcy or insolvency, and section (v) with members having a ‘pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth’. All have been used on occasion to disqualify sitting members. The High Court has previously judged that the definition of ‘office of profit’ includes teachers in state schools and other public servants, but it has now ruled that local councillors are exempt, as they are elected by the people and the Crown had no influence over their appointment. Section 44 has become a serious issue since the start of the citizenship imbroglio, which has seen nine MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, excluded from Parliament after doubts emerged about their citizenship. Steve Martin has been mayor of Devonport, on Tasmania’s north coast, since 2011. Also in the Senate will be former Tourism Minister and Senator Richard Colbeck, defeated in the 2016 election, who will return to the Senate as a replacement after the Liberals’ Senator Stephen Parry resigned in November 2017 over the citizenship issue. Mr Colbeck is also from Devonport. The ruling clarifies what has been for many a grey area. It clears the way for any councillor to stand for any Australian parliament, with no concern about their possible eligibility. [post_title] => Councillors not in ‘office of profit’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => councillors-not-office-profit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-08 09:58:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-07 22:58:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29085 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29065 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-05 13:33:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-05 02:33:42 [post_content] =>

In 2016 the NSW Government amended the Local Government Act to change the legal definition of the role of councillors in the state. As well as motherhood statements such as being active and making considered decisions, one of the new responsibilities was “to uphold and represent accurately the policies and decisions of the governing body” (Section 232, (1) f). Taken at face value, this would seem to indicate that councillors should not publicly dispute decisions made by council, even if they do not agree with them. This is similar to the way a company’s board works, or Cabinet or a political party caucus. Trouble is, councils are not like that. They are composed of individuals with wildly differing views. This can lead to acrimony and divisiveness. Councillors sometimes actually come to blows. But many would argue that it is the soul of local politics. When the law was changed, there were some protestations that the new definition would lead to problems, and that councils would use it to stifle opposition. Now, it seems, those concerns are being realised. Armidale Regional Council, the sleepy university and cathedral city in the cold and rugged New England region of northern NSW, has released a draft media policy which, if implemented, will greatly curtail the rights of councillors to speak out on matters they do not agree with. The policy states that councillors must “support council’s official decisions” and “support Council’s official release of information rather than releasing information independently.” It goes on to state: “To ensure consistency of communication with media, key messages will be developed and used. Council acknowledges that not all media coverage will reflect positively on the organisation however it will seek to ensure that any media coverage of matters is balanced. Staff delegated to speak to the media and the process for escalation of issues will be identified in communications plans.” The policy is a direct result of the changes to the Local Government Act. It is a blatant attempt to stifle any councillor who disagrees with what the majority of the Council believes to be the ‘key messages’, and implicitly prohibits councillors who may disagree with council decisions from communicating their concerns to the media, “including on social media.” The full policy can be found here. Not surprisingly, the draft policy has been met with outrage. Fairfax Media has quoted NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge as saying that the policy will set a dangerous precedent, and Opposition Local Government spokesman Peter Primrose as saying it reflects a corporatisation of council activities. “The change was designed to silence dissent and now Armidale Regional Council has a draft policy that tries to do just that,” said Mr Shoebridge. “Councillors are elected to represent their local community, not spout approved lines from management or the majority on council.” Mr Primrose was equally forthright: “If a majority makes a decision, that doesn't mean the minority should be silenced and they can't continue advocating their positions. That's how corporations work but we’re talking about people elected to represent local communities." Independent councillor Margaret O'Connor said the policy "effectively tries to put the media department of council in charge of what councillors can say, quite an extraordinary attempt to limit our freedom of speech.” The only Labor Party member on council, Debra O’Brien, told local newspaper The Armidale Express that it is her duty to publicly question council decisions. “People didn’t vote for us to toe some hidden party line They voted for us so we’ll be accountable and answer their questions honestly. Anything less than that would be ripping off the ratepayers and residents,” she said.

Deputy mayor Dorothy Robinson, a Green, said the draft could prohibit councillors from saying anything that undermines public confidence, even when they have justifiable concerns.

 “If councillors can’t disclose relevant non-sensitive information how can they explain their decisions or consult the community prior to making a decision? A lack of transparency could undermine public confidence in council decisions.”

[post_title] => Armidale policy will ‘undermine public confidence’ in local government [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => armidale-policy-will-undermine-public-confidence-local-government [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-06 04:59:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-05 17:59:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29065 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29017 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-30 12:47:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-30 01:47:01 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29019" align="alignnone" width="295"] Michael Bradley, AAA[/caption] Detailed analysis by Australia’s peak motoring body shows that nearly 90 percent of the targets in the 2011 National Road Safety Strategy will not be met. It says this is because governments are failing to fulfil the commitments made. The findings are contained in the Australian Automobile Association’s report ‘Benchmarking the Performance of the National Road Safety Strategy’. The AAA is the umbrella group for Australia’s state-based motoring associations. Chief executive of the AAA Michael Bradley said that eight of the 33 indicators set out in the Strategy are not even being measured, or do not have agreed targets. “This analysis is a damning indictment of those who have been responsible for the Strategy’s implementation since 2011. It reflects a disjointed and disorganised approach to road safety in this country. “Fewer than one in ten KPIs are likely to be met. That, and the fact that a quarter of KPIs still aren’t even being measured, reinforces the widely held view that government does not take this problem seriously. “We have just experienced the deadliest month on Australian roads since 2011. This should serve as a wake-up call to government that continued inaction is having devastating consequences.” The analysis has been done as part of the AAA’s submission to the Government’s recently announced inquiry into the Strategy. Signed by state and federal governments in 2011, the National Road Safety Strategy specifically aims to reduce death and injuries by 30 percent through the decade to 2020. It contains 33 individual safety performance Indicators. The AAA analysis shows only four of those 33 indicators are ‘on track’ to be met. A further six have been classified as ‘not on track, and 15 more have been deemed to be ‘unlikely to be met’. Road deaths in NSW and across Australia have declined sharply in the last 40 years, because of a range of factors including compulsory seatbelts, better roads, safer cars, random breath testing for alcohol, and stronger enforcement mechanisms such as speed cameras. By any measure, Australia has been very successful in reducing its road toll. The decline in absolute numbers is notable, and even more impressive is the reduction in fatalities per kilometre travelled. There are many more vehicles on Australian roads than there were 40 years ago. That metric is down by an extraordinary 80 percent. The AAA report compares data from regional, remote and metropolitan roads and displays the results in an easily understood traffic-light (red-amber-green) format. While most indicators show an improvement since 2011, this has slowed in recent years, with 2017 going backwards. In no state or territory is the trend line of decline in road fatalities exceeding the target. In Tasmania and the ACT the six year trend is up, and in NSW it is even. In 2016 Australian driver deaths were down by 7.7 percent, but passenger deaths were up by 13.0 per cent. Pedestrian deaths were down 12.6 percent and motorcycle deaths were down 15.3 percent, but cyclists’ deaths were up 31.0 percent. In 2016 Victoria has the lowest number of road deaths per 100,000 population, at 4.00. AAA analysis shows that if this figure were to be achieved nationally, 253 lives would have been saved across the country. “The results of this benchmark report indicate it is increasingly unlikely that Australia will achieve the NRSS target,” said Mr Bradley. “A significant increase in Commonwealth funding and leadership is required to improve this outlook. “The AAA has urged the Government to adopt the recommendations made in its National Road Safety Platform to get the Strategy back on track.” The AAA report is available here.     [post_title] => Governments failing on road safety, says AAA [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => governments-failing-road-safety-says-aaa [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-01 14:48:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-01 03:48:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29017 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28984 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-25 05:55:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-24 18:55:16 [post_content] =>

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) also covers Justice – Police, Courts and Corrective Services. Total government expenditure for the justice services measured in RoGS was almost $16 billion in 2016-17, around 7.2 percent of total government expenditure on services. Police services were the largest contributor (65.4 percent of this amount), followed by corrective services (25.3 percent) and courts (9.3 percent). Nationally, expenditure per capita on justice services was $660 in 2016-17. The RoGS Justice section is available here. A key measure used by RoGS across this sector is the reoffence rate. In most jurisdictions this means the proportion of  people back in jail within two years of leaving it. In 2016-17, 44.8 percent of prisoners released in 2014-15 returned to prison within two years and 53.4 percent returned to corrective services (prison or community corrections). Nationally, these rates have increased over the last five years. This would seem to indicate that prison is not an effective deterrent, or at least that Corrective Services do not ‘correct’. But the report points out that it also been an effect of higher policing rates. Because the time period measured is comparatively small, many more people may reoffend beyond the two-year limit.

Police Services

In 2016‑17 there were 72,680 police staff across Australia, 92.0 percent of who were in operational roles This equates to 274 police per 100, 000 people. Total recurrent expenditure was $10.9 billion. Just over 30 percent were female, a figure broadly consistent across all jurisdictions. Across Australia, the proportion of Magistrates’ Court adjudicated defendants resulting in a guilty plea or finding was 98.1 percent, a very high figure. Community satisfaction with police was also high, at around 80 percent (the figure was a little higher people who had had contact with the police in the previous 12 months. A similar number of people believe the police treat people fairly and equally. An important metric in the report is the proportion of reported offences that result in police proceedings. Homicide and armed robbery have very high clearance rates, above 90 percent. Your car is more than twice as likely to be stolen in Victoria and New South Wales, but you also have a much higher chance of getting it back in Victoria. Break-in rates are highest in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. One interesting measure is the proportion of the population who believe that various crimes are a problem in their neighbourhood. Around half of population is fearful of illegal drugs and two thirds say speed or dangerous driving is a problem. The numbers are very consistent across jurisdictions.

Courts

Total court administration recurrent expenditure less income (excluding fines) by court authorities across Australia was approximately $1.4 billion in 2016-17, comprising $1.2 billion for the State and Territory courts and $214.6 million for the Australian courts. In 2016-17, in the criminal jurisdiction of the supreme, district and county, magistrates’ and children’s courts, 825,202 cases were lodged, and 864 923 cases were finalised. In the civil jurisdiction of these same courts approximately 436,333 cases were lodged and 440,523 cases finalised. In the Australian courts, approximately 121,961 cases were lodged, and 117,027 cases finalised. Court metrics in RoGS include number of judicial officers per capita, court backlogs, disposals (the age of cases which have been finalised), attendance rates, clearance rates, and cost per finalisation. These all vary significantly by jurisdiction, and it is hard to generalise on which states and territories have the more efficient court systems. But the wide variation indicates there is significant room for improvement in many areas.

Corrective Services

In 2016-17, an average of 40, 059 people per day were held in Australian prisons, of which 8.1 percent were female and 27.6 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Nationally, corrective services agencies operated 114 custodial facilities at 30 June 2017. Community corrections is responsible for a range of non-custodial sanctions and also manages prisoners who are released into the community and continue to be subject to corrective services supervision. In 2016-17, an average of 68,110 offenders per day were serving community corrections orders, of which 19.1 percent were female and 20.1 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders. Nationally in 2016-17, net operating expenditure on corrective services including depreciation was $4.1 billion, a real increase of 7.2 percent from the previous year. Imprisonment rates are increasing, in every jurisdiction. The report pays special attention to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The national imprisonment rate per 100,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 2,411.5 in 2016‑17, compared with a rate of 156.6 for the non-indigenous population. Imprisonment rates the Northern Territory, which has a much higher proportion of indigenous people, were much higher than the rest of the country. Indigenous prisoners are also much younger than the national average. Key Performance Indicators examined in the report include proportion of in education and training, proportion employed (around two thirds nationally), time out of cells, prison utilisation (most prisons are over capacity), deaths in custody, assaults, cost per prisoner, and escapes. It is not a pretty picture. Australian prisons are overcrowded, even as re-offence rates are rising. Something is not working.   [post_title] => PC Report on Government Services – Justice [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => pc-report-government-services-justice [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-25 05:55:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-24 18:55:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28984 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28977 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-24 09:21:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-23 22:21:26 [post_content] =>

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) contain a large section on Community Services. It breaks the sector into four categories: aged care, services for people with disabilities, child protection services, and youth justice services. It is an enormous sector, second only to health. Total Federal, state and territory government recurrent expenditure on community services was $31.2 billion in 2016‑17, around 13.9 percent of total government expenditure on services covered in RoGS analysis. Aged care was the largest contributor ($17.4 billion, , followed by services for people with disability ($7.8 billion), child protection services ($5.2 billion) and youth justice services ($0.8 billion). The Community Services section of RoGS is available here.

Aged care

The report estimates that 80 percent of older people will access some form of government funded aged care service before they die. The Federal Government funds residential aged care, home care and home support, with state, territory and local governments also funding and delivering some of these services directly. But most services are delivered by non‑government providers such as private-for-profit, religious and charitable organisations. The Australian population is ageing rapidly, with the proportion of people over 65 years projected to increase from 15.3 percent in 2017 to 21.8 percent in 2056. The report compares a large number of metrics across states and territories. One measure, the average number of hospital waiting days used by patients waiting for residential day care, varies enormously by jurisdiction. In Victoria, the average is just one day. In the ACT, it is nearly a month. The national average is 11 days. Other metrics examined include affordability, client experience, complaints received, and efficiency (cost per output unit). It is a very thorough examination.

Services for people with disabilities

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which is still in the process of being implemented, means this sector is in transition and many comparisons are invalid. The NDIS will largely replace the existing system of disability care and support provided under the 2009 National Disability Agreement (NDA). But not all existing NDA service users will be eligible for the NDIS, and not all specialist disability services will be rolled into the NDIS. Governments have agreed that existing service users will not be disadvantaged during the transition under ‘continuity of support’ arrangements. RoGS quotes ABS estimates of 4.3 million Australians – or 18.3 percent of the population – with a disability in 2015, with 1.4 million – 5.8 percent – with a profound or severe core activity limitation. The proportion of the population accessing disability services varies significantly by state and territory. Accommodation support is most common in South Australia and Tasmania (the two states with the oldest populations), and lowest in NSW and Victoria. Community support is highest in Tasmania and lowest in Queensland. Community access is highest in South Australia. Respite care is highest in Victoria, and lowest in Tasmania. The report looks at such things as carer health and wellbeing, employment and social participation of people with disabilities, and use of ‘mainstream services’ by people with disabilities. As with other sections of RoGS, it stops short of drawing conclusions or making recommendations, but it paints a picture of very disparate disability services provisions across Australia, with non-metropolitan areas faring worst.

Child protection services

Child protection services provide support and interventions to promote child and family wellbeing, and to protect children and young people up to the age of 17 who are at risk of abuse and neglect within their families, or whose families do not have the capacity to provide care and protection. Total recurrent funding across Australia was $5.2 billion in 2016-17, with nearly half a million children the subject of some sort of intervention. Per capita spending was by far the highest in the Northern Territory, at nearly $3,500 per child, compared to the national average of around $1,000. The Northern Territory, which has by far the highest proportion of population indigenous, is an outlier in most of the comparisons in the report.

Youth justice services

Youth justice services are responsible for administering justice to those who have committed or allegedly committed an offence while under the age of 18. In 2015-16, 11,000 children nationally were supervised by some aspect of the youth justice system. More than 80 percent were in the community, with the remainder in detention. More than 80 percent were males. With indigenous children 25 times more likely than non-indigenous to have come to the attention of various youth justice services. The greatest disparity was in Western Australia, where they were 40 times more likely to attract attention.     [post_title] => PC Report on Government Services – Community Services [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => pc-report-government-services-community-services [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-30 10:13:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-29 23:13:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28977 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28894 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-16 08:45:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-15 21:45:40 [post_content] =>

New South Wales is the first Australian state to test drivers for cocaine use. All Australian states now have random driver drug testing, similar to random breath testing for alcohol. But the existing kits in all states test only THC (Cannabis), methamphetamine (speed and ice) and MDMA (ecstasy). Cocaine, a drug widely associated with more affluent users, has not previously been tested. This has led to accusations that drug testing unfairly targeted lower socio-economic groups. But the technology for effectively testing for cocaine has only recently become available. NSW Police conducted a major in what the Daily Telegraph referred to as ‘Sydney’s coked up Eastern Suburbs’ in September last year. Now cocaine testing will be formally introduced across the state. Random drug testing is the latest tool in the continuing fight to reduce the road toll. In 2017, 392 people were killed on NSW roads. The Christmas period was extremely bad, with a number of high-profile fatalities. The toll has risen annually since the lowest ever year, 2014, when 307 people died. But it is still much lower than the peak year of 1978, when 1384 people lost their lives. Road deaths in NSW and across Australia have declined sharply in the last 40 years, because of a range of factors including compulsory seatbelts, better roads, safer cars, random breath testing for alcohol, and stronger enforcement mechanisms such as speed cameras. By any measure, Australia has been very successful in reducing its road toll. The decline in absolute numbers is notable, and even more impressive is the reduction in fatalities per kilometre travelled. There are many more vehicles on Australian roads than there were 40 years ago. That metric is down by an extraordinary 80 percent. But in NSW, as in other states, the road toll has stopped falling in recent years. Announcing the new cocaine tests, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it had become clear that more action was needed to boost road safety. “Preliminary data shows that drug affected drivers were a major contributing factor in 36 fatal accidents in the first half of 2017, resulting in 42 deaths,” she said. “This summer has been a tragic time for too many on our roads. “Many families and friends have been left with the heartache of losing loved ones while thousands will now live with lifelong injuries from crashes.” Measures announced by the NSW Government on 15 January were:
  • Doubling the number of roadside drug tests from 100,000 a year to 200,000 a year by 2020.
  • Adding cocaine to the list of drugs subject to roadside testing.
  • Increasing maximum penalties for drug drivers to two years imprisonment, fines of $5500 or licence disqualification for up to five years.
  • Providing for appropriate restrictions on people who drive after using other drugs, in consultation with health experts.
“There are also prescription drugs that may significantly impair the performance of drivers,” Ms Berejiklian said. “We need to ensure that drivers are not impaired and a risk to others on the road. We will be seeking advice from police and road safety and medical experts on the appropriate restrictions to balance the need of people taking medication and the safety of the broader community on the road. “We know that we need to continue to be vigilant to ensure we keep our community safe on our roads. That includes ongoing assessment about the most appropriate restrictions for repeat driving offenders.” Currently, drivers caught driving under the influence of drugs are subject to lower maximum penalties than the highest range drink drivers. The NSW Government will be changing this so that the maximum penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are consistent with the highest range drink driving offences. [post_title] => NSW adds cocaine to driver drug testing [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-adds-cocaine-driver-drug-testing [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-19 10:28:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-18 23:28:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28894 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28853 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-09 07:23:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-08 20:23:54 [post_content] =>

Who’s reading your health information now? There can be benefits from sharing health and other personal information among health care professionals and researchers. But any such sharing must be based on an understanding of potential risks. It must occur only within an effective legal framework, with controls appropriate for those risks. A ‘Trust me, I’m from the government’ approach is a recipe for disaster. So is the sharing of sensitive data with government without full openness, transparency and a legal framework that prevents it from being misused out of the public eye. Australia’s current health data privacy framework is utterly inadequate. There is inadequate risk assessment, inadequate law, and inadequate enforcement. This was demonstrated recently by a major independent study from Chris Culnane, Benjamin Rubinstein and Vanessa Teague at Melbourne University, released in the last days of 2017. Their report is here. In 2016 the Australian government released a large-scale data set relating to the health of many Australians, under the fashionable rubric of ‘open data’. This 10 percent sample included all publicly reimbursed medical and pharmaceutical bills for selected patients, spanning the thirty years from 1984 to 2014. The data as released was meant to be ‘de-identified’, meaning that it supposedly could not be linked to a particular individual. That was meant to mean that there would be no privacy issues, and the data could be released ‘into the wild’ without controls. Unfortunately, the government got it wrong. This weak protection was able to be breached. IT security researchers demonstrated that this sensitive health data could be ‘re-identified’. With minimal effort it was possible to get a picture of the health of prominent Australians, or of you and your neighbours. The research follows similar studies in the US and Europe which have demonstrated the unreliability of existing de-identification techniques in the face of rapidly-evolving artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data tools. It must be taken seriously. In response to that earlier study, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), the national privacy watchdog formerly known as the Privacy Commissioner, announced that it is “investigating the publication of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) datasets.” OAIC has been investigating since September 2016, after the same researchers initially revealed problems with the data by demonstrating it was possible to re-identify practitioner records. More than a year later, in early 2018, the OAIC is still investigating. Meanwhile:
  • There has been no public report, nor any warning about the bug in open data – the ability to re-identify it.
  • There is no indication of when the report will be released.
  • There has been no indication of whether the report will be released in full rather than in the usual redacted version.
  • There has been no requirement to reconsider the misplaced trust in the de-identified open data in the face of evidence of its unreliability.
We should be able to trust governments to care for sensitive personal data about ourselves and our families. Clearly some of those who are handling this data either lack expertise, or are careless: Open data protections can be breached. The Health Department and its Minister should be held to account. Overseas governments have responded effectively to similar problems: for example, the major Caldicott reports in the UK saw the end of the Care.Data plan to sell the health records of most people in Britain. (The architect of that plan is now the CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency.) The OAIC needs to be held to account. The delay of more than a year is unacceptable. So is the fact there is no end in sight, and the fundamental, controversial flaw in the rhetoric about the claimed safety of open data remains unrecognised. It may be that the OAIC lacks expertise and other resources. That is no excuse. Extensive research work done by NICTA, and by independent university researchers like those at Melbourne and other institutions internationally, has identified the growing risks to de-identification as a safe basis for the release of data derived from personal information into a hostile global environment. Efforts by proponents of open data to promote the safety of de-identification must be met with a more skeptical view. New Attorney General Christian Porter should provide adequate resources for the national privacy watchdog, so Australians can expect them to investigate the fundamental risks in open data properly, independently, and promptly. The OAIC should act like a watchdog, not like a timid snail. Bernard Robertson-Dunn is Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) health committee chair. David Vaile is APF chair. Kat Lane is APF vice chair.   [post_title] => Open data – too much sharing, too little care [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => open-data-much-sharing-little-care [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-12 09:39:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-11 22:39:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28853 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28820 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-04 10:55:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-03 23:55:32 [post_content] =>

A spate of elections in 2018 could well change the Australian political landscape. There is the strong possibility of a Federal election, and the states of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania will definitely be going to the polls. There will also be local government elections in Tasmania and South Australia. The Federal Government does not have to face the people until November 2019, but an election must be held by 18 May 2019 if the House of Representatives is to be synchronised with an election for half the Senate, as is the norm. The half Senate and House elections can be held together at any time after 4 August 2018, so it is almost certain the next Federal election will be held between August and May 2019. Given the fractious nature of Australian politics, and the fact that the timing of the election is at the discretion of the Prime Minister, it is altogether possible that we could go to the polls in late 2018, barely two years since the last election, which was a double dissolution. The issue of fixed terms and election dates for Federal Parliament has been revisited from time to time, but it would require a successful referendum and nothing is likely to happen for many years. A 1988 referendum on four year fixed terms for both the House and the Senate was resoundingly defeated, with less than one third of voters in favour. An earlier referendum, in 1984, proposing that Senate and House elections be held on the same day – which would have meant that Senate terms would automatically be that of two house terms rather than the current six years – was also defeated, despite a majority of Australians supporting it. (It failed to gain a majority in a majority of states, as required by the constitution). More definite is the timing of state elections, as most states now have fixed terms. First will be South Australia, due to go the polls on 17 March 2018. Australia’s longest running government, headed by the ALP’s Jay Weatherill, could finally be defeated. The candidacy of Nick Xenephon means an uncertain result. Based on current polling, the man could even become Premier. Whatever the case, it will be an election to watch. Next is Tasmania, where the Liberal government of Premier Will Hodgman is well behind in the polls. The election is due on 19 May. Tasmania’s Hare-Clark electoral system, which sees five members elected from each of the state’s five federal electorates, makes it difficult to achieve a majority, and a Labor-Greens coalition is the most likely result. Victoria will hold its election on 24 November. Premier Daniel Andrews’ Labor government is ahead in the polls, but far from certain of winning. Much may depend on the timing of the Federal election. The local government electoral scene is much quieter. Only Tasmania (in October) and South Australia (in November) are having council elections in 2018. [post_title] => 2018 a busy year for elections [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 2018-busy-year-elections [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-04 10:55:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-03 23:55:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28820 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28772 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2017-12-12 07:45:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-11 20:45:41 [post_content] =>

The Australian urban streetscape has long featured video surveillance via high definition cameras. But there is more to security than high quality hardware – you need the right systems and techniques behind it. Many countries are now stepping up their security in terms of technology, budget and the number and skills of people involved in the process. Increased concerns about terrorism and other aspects of security underscore the need for more sophisticated surveillance systems. Theses systems need to do more than simply record content and play it back when required. They should also provide progressive functionality to include analytics for insights, data compression for efficient storage, and protection against cyber attacks. IP surveillance systems (which use the Internet as a platform) offer more flexibility and higher scalability than traditional surveillance systems. IP technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are major growth drivers for new security applications. IP camera systems are commonly used to monitor the physical environment and human activities. Innovative governments are coupling this with citizen and government-produced data to gain new insights to inform policy making and predict trends affecting communities. But the proliferation of IP-connected security systems also means it is more important to protect the cameras and the underlying network, as knowledge about how to attack those systems is becoming easier to obtain, particularly over the Internet. Increasingly, governments are faced with slow access and transfer of my volumes of video data across diverse networks. Many are suffering from ‘infotoxification’ as the volume of data collected continues to grow exponentially. This results in issues with filtering, understanding and acting upon data. So how can government agencies better protect and utilise data intelligence from security systems? There are three key aspects for security through enhanced surveillance that government should consider in 2018:  
  1. Securing surveillance systems against cyber attacks
Cyber attacks on IoT devices have risen in recent years. IP video surveillance systems are by definition run over the Internet, driven by the desire for remote access, better control, integration, and drastically reduced cloud storage costs. With the Federal Government committing to spending $630 million to boost national security against cybercrime, the seriousness of breaches and the ease in which they often occur is starting to hit home. Resistance to cyber attacks should be a key factor when selecting surveillance systems. Cybercrime exploits weaknesses around storing data in multiple locations as more and more devices become connected to the Internet. Anonymous snooping, evidence tampering and malicious disabling are very real threats facilitated by weaknesses in security systems. Some surveillance cameras can prompt to change default passwords to ensure the platform is secure before the system can be enabled. They can encrypt communications, detect alteration, and prevent spoofing and snooping as soon as they are set up. Users can check for the preinstalled digital certificate that these cameras have. By equipping systems with embedded data encryption functions, a highly secure and robust protection layer is ensured, and countermeasures against data leakage can be performed end-to-end.  
  1. Advanced analytics for deep insights and safety
It is crucial that, once captured, data is used appropriately and capable of being analysed easily. Security analytics is now incredibly advanced – from heat mapping, people counting, vehicle detection, licence plate recognition right through to face recognition for gender and age analysis. Data can be utilised and analysed in a multitude of ways. These advanced insights can then enable safer and smarter cities. The speed at which this can be turned around means much more effective and efficient access. Sophisticated security analytics is popular in many countries and across a variety of industries. For government organisations they are crucial, as they allow security staff to easily pinpoint important footage while bypassing hours of inconsequential video. For example, they can spot unusual behaviour which may not initially register as criminal, such as entering via an exit, or they can be used to quickly identify people who have been previously banned from the premises.  
  1. Data compression to reduce storage cost and save footage for future use
Surveillance cameras and security systems naturally capture huge amounts of data, most of which is never utilised again. Currently, 34 percent of organisations delete their surveillance footage after 60 days or less, with a good proportion of these citing a lack of storage space as the reason. More sophisticated surveillance systems possess a compression feature, which can significantly reduce storage needs. It is often necessary for organisations to house data to comply with regulations, and it is essential that this be managed effectively. Smart compression techniques in security systems enable governments to save money and bandwidth by automatically distinguishing which data is important to keep and store – such as moving objects and people’s faces – and compressing what is not important, such as static backgrounds. This is achieved without compromising high definition video formats and decoding functionalities.   Government agencies which possess sensitive and important data simply cannot afford to be half-hearted when it comes to security. Sophisticated and affordable systems are now available, so there really is no excuse for these organisations not to be fully-equipped to face potential security attacks in the future. The move towards highly-functional IP systems has already begun and it is important for government agencies not to be left behind. If you are considering installing a new digital surveillance system or upgrading an existing product, seek guidance from an industry expert on how to best integrate and leverage these ecosystems, and save on operational costs.   Ranjit Sohoni is Product Marketing Manager, Security for Panasonic Australia. He has over 20 years of data storage and imaging experience. Panasonic provides security solutions including network cameras, video recorders, interfaces, and controllers. [post_title] => Effective security means better systems [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => effective-security-means-better-systems [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-14 14:26:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-14 03:26:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28772 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29176 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-19 09:46:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-18 22:46:36 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29177" align="alignnone" width="296"] We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore ...[/caption] They’re mad as hell down Tumbarumba way. The Snowy Mountains town best known for John O’Brien’s wonderful poem ‘Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos’ has become the touchstone for renewed opposition to the NSW Government’s disastrous forced council amalgamation strategy. In May 2016 the local council was merged with neighbouring Tumut Shure to form Snowy Valleys Council. Since then many local residents have been campaigning to reverse the merger. The issue is not going away. If anything, the voices for a demerger are getting stronger. Those advocating for the restitution of Tumbarumba Shire have joined the Save Our Councils Coalition, a group representing councils that have – successfully and unsuccessfully – resisted mergers in NSW. Its vociferous campaigning ensures that council mergers and demergers will remain a significant issue at the next NSW state election, due in a little over a year on 23 March 2019. Last week Tumbarumba came to town. It was Valentine’s Day, but there was little love for the NSW Government. A vocal band of Tumbarumba residents, dressed in orange, held a noisy protest outside State Parliament. They were addressed by representatives of all political parties represented in the NSW State Parliament except the governing Liberal-National Coaltion. Dr Neil Hamilton from the Save Tumbarumba Shire group said: “We are here today to initiate an inquiry into the merger process that will hopefully get our council back. This forced merger is bitterly opposed by the community. It is also strongly opposed by Save Our Councils Coalition and many communities across NSW.” The delegation left with the NSW Minister for Local Government a petition signed by 700 residents – more than a quarter of the adult population – to re-instate Tumbarumba Shire on its old boundaries, bordered by the Murray River to the west and the Snowy Mountains to the east. Since the forced merger the Tumbarumba community has held many protests, including a candlelight march, and conducted an optional citizen plebiscite asking residents whether they wanted to reverse the merger, which returned a 93 percent ‘yes’ vote. The opponents of the merger point out that Tumbarumba Council, despite its small size (just 3,500 residents), was the second best 'fit for the future' council in NSW and was not recommended for a merger in an inquiry held after the Government’s initial proposal. “The Baird/Berejiklian Government simply went ahead and merged Tumbarumba anyway,” said Dr Hamilton. “The merger was a disgraceful and unforgiveable act.” Addressing the protest, NSW Greens’ David Shoebridge said:”We are here today in solidarity with the people of Tumbarumba and from shires and councils around the state who are demanding they get their councils back. “If Gladys Berejiklian thinks that the issues of forced council mergers are going away, she is going to have a hell of a fright in 12 months’ time when she is told she will be out of office if she hasn't given them their councils back.” Tumbarumba is in the state electorate of Albury, nominally a safe Liberal Party seat. But the Coalition vote in the last two NSW election has been at historic highs since the scandal-ridden Labor Government was defeated in 2011, and the Government is no certainty to be returned in the March 2019 poll. “What happens in local communities should be a decision for local people. Labor’s policy is that if communities choose to demerge, that is a decision for them and they should be allowed to demerge,” said Labor’s Peter Primrose, addressing the protest. “Gladys Berejiklian has not yet fixed the problem of forced amalgamations,” said Robert Brown from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. “There has to be an opportunity for communities to decide if they wish to demerge. We will continue to fight. We will support legislation for a plebiscite to enable you to have your say.” His party scored a surprise win over the incumbent National Party in the 2016 Orange by-election dominated by dissatisfaction with Government policies. It saw one the largest swings against a government in Australian political history. Fred Nile from the Christian Democrats said that his party had always been against forced council amalgamations. “We call upon Gladys Berejiklian today to agree to de-amalgamate Tumbarumba and also Guyra.” (Guyra was forcibly amalgamated into the new Armidale Regional Council at the same time as the Tumbarumba-Tumut merger). “Every political party except the Liberal and National Parties are strongly against forced council mergers, and is strongly for giving communities whose councils were forcibly merged a plebiscite to allow them to de-merge,” said Dr Hamilton. “Unless the Government allows communities who have lost their council this opportunity to demerge, it is highly likely that the Liberal-National Party will be thrown out at the next state election.” ‘But as for me, I'm here to say the interesting piece of news Was up at Tumba-bloody-rumba, shootin' kanga-bloody-roos’. 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Law

tumbarumba

Tumbarumba amalgamation protests intensify

They’re mad as hell down Tumbarumba way. The Snowy Mountains town best known for John O’Brien’s wonderful poem ‘Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos’ has become the touchstone for renewed opposition to the NSW Government’s disastrous forced council amalgamation strategy. In May 2016 the local council was merged with neighbouring Tumut Shure to form Snowy Valleys […]

Walter van der Merwe

Operation Belcarra claims Queensland electoral commissioner

Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) head Walter van der Merwe has resigned, two days after being suspended for allegations of serious misconduct. Current ECQ Assistant Electoral Commissioner Dermot Tiernan will be Acting Electoral Commissioner. In a short statement, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said Mr van der Merwe “has delivered his resignation to the Governor this […]

jail

Opinion – Australia’s jails a national disgrace

Australia’s states and territories are building more and more prisons, trying to outdo each other on law and order. Crime rates across Australia are falling , but incarceration rates have never been higher. So are the costs of locking up so many people. Australianj ails are becoming increasingly overcrowded, with many at breaking point. They […]

logan CC

Logan City Council in uproar as CEO sacked

Logan City Council has sacked its CEO Sharon Kelsey, who was appointed only in June 2017 after an intensive nationwide search. The council has refused to give any reasons for her termination, and Ms Kelsey herself has said she cannot comment for legal reasons. The Council meeting that decided on the move ended in uproar […]

pcmoney

Productivity Commission savages financial regulatory system

Australia’s ‘Four Pillars’ banking policy is redundant, there is not enough competition in the insurance industry, and the banks are using their market power to gouge their customers. That’s what the Productivity Commission thinks. The independent government agency has released its Draft Report on Competition in the Australian Financial System. It does not paint a […]

steve-martin

Councillors not in ‘office of profit’

Australia’s High Court has said that mayors and other councillors are eligible to stand for state and federal parliaments, ruling that they do not hold ‘an office of profit under the Crown’. The judgement came with a unanimous decision by the Court in a case brought by One Nation against Devonport mayor Steve Martin, who […]

armidale

Armidale policy will ‘undermine public confidence’ in local government

In 2016 the NSW Government amended the Local Government Act to change the legal definition of the role of councillors in the state. As well as motherhood statements such as being active and making considered decisions, one of the new responsibilities was “to uphold and represent accurately the policies and decisions of the governing body” […]

Michael Bradley

Governments failing on road safety, says AAA

Detailed analysis by Australia’s peak motoring body shows that nearly 90 percent of the targets in the 2011 National Road Safety Strategy will not be met. It says this is because governments are failing to fulfil the commitments made. The findings are contained in the Australian Automobile Association’s report ‘Benchmarking the Performance of the National […]

rogs justice

PC Report on Government Services – Justice

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) also covers Justice – Police, Courts and Corrective Services. Total government expenditure for the justice services measured in RoGS was almost $16 billion in 2016-17, around 7.2 percent of total government expenditure on services. Police services were the largest contributor (65.4 percent of this amount), followed by […]

rogs comm

PC Report on Government Services – Community Services

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) contain a large section on Community Services. It breaks the sector into four categories: aged care, services for people with disabilities, child protection services, and youth justice services. It is an enormous sector, second only to health. Total Federal, state and territory government recurrent expenditure on community […]

stop police

NSW adds cocaine to driver drug testing

New South Wales is the first Australian state to test drivers for cocaine use. All Australian states now have random driver drug testing, similar to random breath testing for alcohol. But the existing kits in all states test only THC (Cannabis), methamphetamine (speed and ice) and MDMA (ecstasy). Cocaine, a drug widely associated with more […]

open data

Open data – too much sharing, too little care

Who’s reading your health information now? There can be benefits from sharing health and other personal information among health care professionals and researchers. But any such sharing must be based on an understanding of potential risks. It must occur only within an effective legal framework, with controls appropriate for those risks. A ‘Trust me, I’m […]

CastingAVote1

2018 a busy year for elections

A spate of elections in 2018 could well change the Australian political landscape. There is the strong possibility of a Federal election, and the states of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania will definitely be going to the polls. There will also be local government elections in Tasmania and South Australia. The Federal Government does not […]

panasonic security

Effective security means better systems

The Australian urban streetscape has long featured video surveillance via high definition cameras. But there is more to security than high quality hardware – you need the right systems and techniques behind it. Many countries are now stepping up their security in terms of technology, budget and the number and skills of people involved in […]