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                    [post_content] => 

Dean Lacheca

Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms - chatbots, virtual assistants and messaging-based applications - are opening new government service delivery channels. Government CIO need to quickly determine the role of these channels, adjust their digital service delivery strategies and extend their digital government platform to exploit these new opportunities.

Many are already taking notice. Governments are prioritising the implementation of virtual assistants more than many other industry vertical. A recent Gartner survey indicates that 60 percent of government organisations undertaking artificial intelligence and machine learning projects identify virtual assistants as a project goal.

This is in line with growing expectation from citizens of being able to access government services via conversational applications. The Australian Taxation Office recently introduced virtual assistant Alex on its website to help support general taxation enquiries from Australian citizens. Platforms like these consist of multiple related AI technologies that support an interactive and intuitive style of communication.

Conversational applications aim to increase customer satisfaction by reducing customers' need to navigate a complex website or transactional portal. At the same time, they reduce the wait time and resources required to respond to basic government inquiries. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across engagement channels.

Service provider and government-to-government interactions can also be delivered through conversational applications. Large departments and agencies can use virtual employee assistants to offer more consistent and efficient delivery of internally facing services such as IT help desk, legal, HR and financial services.

Most government services, however, particularly those that involve care or case management, will require human involvement for the foreseeable future. Virtual customer assistants or chatbots can be offered as an alternative or supporting channel to many direct citizen and business-facing services.

Where to start

1. Educate IT and customer experience leaders

Conversational applications suffer from negative customer experience perceptions based on older technologies and involvement with poor implementations.

Customer experience leaders need to comfortable with, and have confidence in, the quality and consistency of the service delivered by the conversational applications. This will require effort to dispel historical misconceptions. Confidence will grow as understanding and experience of the quality and potential for the service grow.

It's equally important to set expectations with the business regarding the take-up of these alternate channels. Though conversational applications should form part of a multichannel service delivery strategy, accept that these channels won't be accepted by all citizens or staff in the short term.

Educate customer experience leaders on the potential for conversational applications and establish vendor showcases or workshops to offer firsthand experience. Then implement an internal pilot of a virtual employee assistant to develop technical skills and create an example to help guide decisions and future strategy.

2. Identify and prioritise opportunities

Many uses for conversational applications exist throughout government. They deliver the best results when the right style or combination of applications is implemented to support the right type of service. Implementing a conversational application is a significant investment and should only be considered for services that are used frequently.

Given conversational applications won't be accepted by all citizens, it's important to understand the service consumer. When targeting citizens, consider factors such as demographics, including language background. When targeting businesses, assess the nature of the business digital maturity of the industry. When targeting government-to-government services, consider the digital maturity of other agencies. When targeting staff, consider the digital maturity of your own agency.

Start by preparing a list of conversational application opportunities based on potential uses and the services delivered by your agency. Work in partnership with your customer experience leaders to refine and prioritise this list based on the complexity of the responses, the demand for the services and the demographics of the targeted audience, including language background.

3. Revise your digital government strategy

Citizens already engage governments across different channels, and their expectation is to receive the same quality of service across all channels. Unfortunately, many agencies struggle to see service delivery channels beyond traditional digital channels like websites and portals.

A digital government strategy should embed multichannel citizen engagement as a foundation of service delivery. The strategy should reinforce the importance of consistency across channels and seamless transition between channels. Multichannel service delivery should apply equally to services aimed at government staff, forming part of the digital workplace strategy.

A strategic focus on multichannel service delivery will influence the architecture of your citizen/customer experience platform to support conversational applications. Develop a business case to secure funding for further AI research and projects.

Dean Lacheca is a public sector research director at Gartner, helping government CIO and technology leaders with their transition to digital government. He will speak about digital government trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Australia, 30 October-2 November 2017.

 
                    [post_title] => Conversational AI in government
                    [post_excerpt] => Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms are opening new government service delivery channels.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-14 14:43:08
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                    [post_content] => The Federal Government announced in the 2017-18 Budget context a number of initiatives to encourage the continued development of the SII market in Australia, including funding of $30 million.

By pure coincidence, the Government also gifted $30m to Foxtel. The difference between this and Foxtel’s $30m is that Foxtel will get it over two years, while SII will have to wait ten years - Ed.

The government’s package includes funding of $30 million over ten years, the release of a set of principles to guide the Australian government’s involvement in the SII market, and notes that the government will continue to separately consider ways to reduce regulatory barriers inhibiting the growth of the SII market.

Social Impact Investing, the government says, is an emerging, outcomes‑based approach that brings together governments, service providers, investors and communities to tackle a range of policy (social and environmental) issues. It provides governments with an alternative mechanism to address social and environmental issues whilst also leveraging government and private sector capital, building a stronger culture of robust evaluation and evidenced-based decision making, and creating a heightened focus on outcomes.

It is important to note that social impact investing is not suitable for funding every type of Australian government outcome. Rather, it provides an alternative opportunity to address problems where existing policy interventions and service delivery are not achieving the desired outcomes. Determining whether these opportunities exist is a key step in deciding whether social impact investing might be suitable for delivering better outcomes for the government and community. Government agencies involved in social impact investments should also ensure they have the capability (e.g. contract and relationship management skills, and access to data and analytic capability) to manage that investment.

The principles

The principles (available in full here) acknowledge that social impact investing can take many forms, including but not limited to, Payment by Results contracts, outcomes-focused grants, and debt and equity financing.

The principles reflect the role of the Australian Government as an enabler and developer of this nascent market. They acknowledge that as a new approach, adjustments may be needed. They also acknowledge and encourage the continued involvement of the community and private sector in developing this market, with the aim of ensuring that the market can become sustainable into the future.

Finally, the principles are not limited by geographical or sectoral boundaries. They can be considered in any circumstance where the Australian Government seeks to increase and leverage stakeholder interest in achieving improved social and environmental outcomes (where those outcomes can be financial, but are also non‑financial).

Accordingly, where the Australian Government is involved in social impact investments, it should take into account the following principles:
  1. Government as market enabler and developer.
  2. Value for money.
  3. Robust outcomes-based measurement and evaluation.
  4. Fair sharing of risk and return.
  5. Outcomes that align with the Australian Government’s policy priorities.
  6. Co-design.
[caption id="attachment_27829" align="alignnone" width="216"] The Australian Government's six principles for social impact investing.[/caption]   [post_title] => Social Impact Investing to get $30m [post_excerpt] => The Federal Government has announced a number of initiatives to encourage Social Impact Investing. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27828 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-14 14:46:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-14 04:46:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27828 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27798 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 15:36:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-10 05:36:04 [post_content] => The NSW Government has voted down Labor legislation that would decriminalise cannabis possession. The proposed legislation was to ensure that sufferers of terminal and serious medical conditions who rely on medicinal cannabis to ease their pain, would no longer be treated as criminals. The legislation would also create the mechanism to create a safe and lawful supply chain of product, to make access a practical reality for sufferers. The legislation sought to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis (up to 15 grams) for treatment of chronic and serious medical conditions for medically certified sufferers and their carers, requiring them to receive photo identification and medical certification from NSW Health in order to possess medicinal cannabis. These amounts could be adjusted by regulation, according to medical treatment need. Currently, people who purchase cannabis to alleviate the pain and distress associated with chronic and terminal illnesses face criminal penalties under the Crimes Act (1900). The proposed legislation adopted the key recommendations from a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, which received unanimous support from five political parties including NSW Labor, Liberal Party, National Party, the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. "The unanimous recommendations of the Parliamentary inquiry were delivered in 2013,” said Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council Adam Searle. “Labor has always been ready, willing and able to work with the NSW Government to make access to medicinal cannabis a reality.” “Those who are suffering from terminal and serious medical conditions deserve sympathy and support- and they should not be treated like a criminal for seeking respite from relentless and unwavering illness,” said Opposition Leader Luke Foley. “It is deeply disappointing that the Government has denied legislation that will restore dignity to those people seeking temporary relief from the pain and suffering of their affliction.” A number of other states have already legalised medicinal cannabis use (including Victoria and the ACT), and at one point NSW was expected to  overtake Victoria with the legislation. Illnesses that would be taken to be terminal or serious medical conditions:
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV);
  • motor neurone disease;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • the neurological disorder known as stiff person syndrome;
  • severe and treatment-resistant nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy;
  • pain associated with cancer;
  • neuropathic pain;
  • an illness or condition declared by the regulations to be a terminal or serious medical condition.
  [post_title] => NSW medicinal cannabis bill fails [post_excerpt] => The NSW Government has voted down legislation that would decriminalise cannabis possession. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-medicinal-cannabis-bill-fails [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 12:05:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 02:05:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://governmentnews.com.au/?p=27798 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27784 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-07 13:13:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-07 03:13:10 [post_content] => Parents need a fair and informed choice, writes incoming CEO of Primary Ethics Evan Hannah. Allowing parents to make an informed choice when enrolling their children in NSW public schools is simply a matter of fairness. But in NSW, you cannot enrol your child in ethics classes on the enrolment form, as you can for religious instruction. The burden is on parents to work through the current confusing process before they finally get the chance to access ethics classes for their child. I became involved with ethics education as a volunteer ethics coordinator three years ago at my son’s school in Sydney’s inner west. As an ethics coordinator, I’ve seen that the unfair approach to enrolment into ethics classes continues to frustrate parents and school staff alike. The government has made it as difficult as possible for parents to access ethics classes for their children. It rejected recommendations from an independent report for parents to be provided with better access to information and enrolment opportunities, and it cannot explain why that is fair or reasonable. Quite simply, we just seek equal treatment for all parents. We’ll continue to work with the Department of Education to streamline the enrolment process for both parents and school staff. Who is Primary Ethics? Primary Ethics was established in 2010 at the request of the NSW Government to provide ethics education for children in NSW public schools. From 1,530 students in the first year of classes, Primary Ethics is now taught to more than 36,000 students by 2,500 volunteers in weekly classes at 450 schools across NSW. An ethics program is launched at a new school approximately every 10 days, but the government enrolment policy is a huge impediment to fulfilling the Primary Ethics goal of offering the program to the rest of the estimated 70,000 students who are currently spending one lesson a week in the holding pattern of ‘non-scripture’. The continuing confusion about enrolments obviously affects our growth. We know when one school decides to start Primary Ethics classes, and we train volunteers who then begin teaching, it has a domino effect on nearby schools as awareness grows. Removing the ridiculous block on informed choice would give more NSW children a chance to learn skills to make better decisions. Public support for an ethics-based complement to Special Religious Education (SRE), began in the early 2000s and culminated in an amendment to the NSW Education Act in 2010 to enable Special Education in Ethics (SEE) classes to be delivered alongside religious instruction during the designated timeslot. This was significant, because it was the first time since 1866 that children who did not take scripture could instead take part in an activity of benefit to the child, instead of effectively doing nothing. Until 2010, the Education Act mandated that children who did not attend scripture could not undertake any learning during this timeslot to ensure that children receiving religious instruction did not miss out. Discussion-based ethics classes are facilitated by trained local volunteers using a curriculum written by specialist in philosophy and education, Dr Sue Knight, and reviewed by both an internal committee and the Department of Education. The stage 3 (years 5 & 6) lesson materials were completed in 2011, the first year that the ethics program was rolled out. A new stage-based curriculum was developed each year, and from 2015, the program has been available for delivery across all primary-school stages, from kindergarten to year 6.     We now have an excellent, world-first ethics curriculum available free for communities to use to educate their children. And thanks to donations, we are also able to provide recruitment, screening, and free training and support for volunteers willing to be involved in delivering those lessons. Primary Ethics is the sole provider of ethics classes in NSW. The free program is taught by trained volunteers following a curriculum written for various primary school stages, covering years K-6. The curriculum is approved as age-appropriate by the Department of Education. Evan Hannah is a former journalist and news media manager who became CEO of the not-for-profit organisation in July.     [post_title] => Schools: we need clarity around the ethics option [post_excerpt] => Parents need a fair and informed choice, writes Evan Hannah. 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Cr Jennifer Alden, Craig Lloyd and Cr Andrea Metcalf (L-R).[/caption] Recent audits of local waste and recycling bins have shown that Greater Bendigo residents are still sending significant amounts of recyclables straight to landfill by placing many items that could be recycled into their waste bins. In an effort to improve recycling rates, the City of Greater Bendigo has launched a new community education Sort it out before you throw it out! advertising campaign. The campaign will provide useful information about the items that residents are currently not recycling to make them aware that they can. It will utilise television, radio, print, social media and signage to encourage residents to think about and improve the way they sort their waste, organics and recycling. City of Greater Bendigo Presentation and Assets director Craig Lloyd said the City’s recent waste bin audits showed that 40% of the contents of local waste bins should have been placed in the recycling bin while 22 per cent could have gone in the organics bin. “The audit is backed up by State Government figures that place Greater Bendigo in the bottom 50 per cent of Victoria’s 79 local government areas for waste resource recovery,” said Mr Lloyd. “Unfortunately, many Greater Bendigo residents are still placing recyclables such as paper and cardboard, glass bottles and jars, cans, plastics and organic garden and food waste in their red lid waste bin. “Objects that can be recycled are a valuable resource and the cost of sending waste to landfill will continue to rise so the more we recycle and the less we send to landfill the better. “Greater Bendigo wants to become one of, if not the best, local government area for resource recovery in the future. “Many people may be surprised to learn that Greater Bendigo residents are not very good at recycling and we want to see this change for the better in the near future.” Results from the audit:-
  • The average residential red lid waste bin contains 40% recyclable items, 22% organics and 38% actual waste.
  • The recyclable materials found in the red lid waste bin were mostly paper and cardboard, glass, plastic and metals.
  • The organic materials found in the red lid waste bin were mostly grass clippings and leaves, general food waste and food in packaging.
  • The average residential recycling bin contains 9% contamination. This is comprised of 5.3% general waste and 3.7% of materials such as clothing, crockery and scrap metal that cannot be processed through the kerbside recycling collection.
  • The average organics bin contains 2% contamination. This is comprised of 1% general waste and 1% recyclables such as glass, plastics and metals.
  [post_title] => Recycling audit hopes to educate [post_excerpt] => City of Greater Bendigo has launched a community recycling education campaign. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => recycling-audit-hopes-educate [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-03 18:55:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-03 08:55:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27754 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27740 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-01 10:32:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-01 00:32:28 [post_content] => Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Ministerial Advisory Panel (the Panel) has been working on developing a safe and compassionate voluntary assisted dying framework for Victoria. The Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee (the Parliamentary Committee) provided a broad policy direction for voluntary assisted dying that focused on allowing a person to self-administer a lethal dose of medication. The role of the Panel was to consider how this could work in practice and to ensure only those making voluntary and informed decisions and at the end of their life could access voluntary assisted dying. The Panel determined that voluntary assisted dying implementation should be considered in the context of existing care options available to people at the end of life. Guiding principles In formulating its recommendations, the Panel relied on a number of guiding principles. These principles are that:
  • Every human life has equal value.
  • A person’s autonomy should be respected.
  • A person has the right to be supported in making informed decisions about their medical treatment and should be given, in a manner that they understand, information about medical treatment options, including comfort and palliative care.
  • Every person approaching the end of life should have access to quality care to minimise their suffering and maximise their quality of life.
  • The therapeutic relationship between a person and their health practitioner should, wherever possible, be supported and maintained.
  • Open discussions about death and dying and peoples’ preferences and values should be encouraged and promoted.
  • Conversations about treatment and care preferences between the health practitioner, a person and their family, carers and community should be supported.
  • Providing people with genuine choice must be balanced with the need to safeguard people who might be subject to abuse.
  • All people, including health practitioners, have the right to be shown respect for their culture, beliefs, values and personal characteristics.
The Panel recognised the need to balance respect for autonomy with safeguarding individuals and communities in relation to voluntary assisted dying. The Panel believes that the eligibility criteria, the process to access voluntary assisted dying, and the oversight measures recommended appropriately balance these aims. Eligibility criteria To access voluntary assisted dying, a person must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
  • be an adult, 18 years and over; and
  • be ordinarily resident in Victoria and an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
  • have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying; and
  • be diagnosed with an incurable disease, illness or medical condition, that:
    • is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
    • is expected to cause death within weeks or months, but not longer than 12 months; and
    • is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.
The recommended eligibility criteria ensure voluntary assisted dying will allow a small number of people, at the end of their lives, to choose the timing and manner of their death. There is no intention to give people who are not dying access, and the legislation will not give these people an option to choose between living and dying. The eligibility criteria ensure the voluntary assisted dying framework provides a compassionate response to people who are close to death and choose to request voluntary assisted dying to give them greater control over the timing and manner of their death. The Panel recommends that a person must have decision-making capacity throughout the voluntary assisted dying process. This requirement is fundamental to ensuring a person’s decision to access voluntary assisted dying is their own, is voluntary, and is not the product of undue influence or coercion. The Panel recognises that this will mean some people who may want to request voluntary assisted dying will be excluded. People with dementia who do not have decision-making capacity, for example, will not be able to access voluntary assisted dying. People will also not be able to request voluntary assisted dying in an advance care directive. This may disappoint many people in the community, but the Panel is of the view that having decision-making capacity throughout the voluntary assisted dying process is a fundamental safeguard. In addition, the Panel sets out detailed guidelines as to the qualifications of the medical personnel involved in the approval process, as well as the actual procedure and safeguards in regards to the handling and disposal of the medications used in the voluntary assisted dying process. The full report is available here. [post_title] => Voluntary Assisted Dying: how the Victorians will do it [post_excerpt] => Victoria has developed a safe and compassionate voluntary assisted dying framework. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => voluntary-assisted-dying-victorians-will [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-01 11:33:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-01 01:33:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27740 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27721 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-28 09:58:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:58:49 [post_content] => While the headlines are (rightly) awash with the shady dealings surrounding the Murray-Darling Basin, new research released by The Australia Institute examines the economic and employment effects of the Ord River irrigation schemes – and it’s not pretty. Expansion of Ord irrigation is part of the Federal Government’s vision for developing northern Australia, but faces opposition from indigenous groups, the Northern Territory government and is dogged by decades of economic failure. The new report finds that over $2 billion has been spent on the Ord irrigation scheme, yet it supports only around 260 jobs. The last expansion of irrigation cost taxpayers $334 million, a budget overrun of $114 million, but resulted in just 61 jobs in 2016. “The last expansion of the Ord scheme cost taxpayers $5.5 million for every job created. Clearly this isn’t an economically viable way to bring development to northern Australia,” said lead author Rod Campbell. “Cost benefit analysis shows that for every dollar taxpayers have invested in the Ord scheme since inception, they’ve been returned around 17 cents. “The lesson here is that large-scale irrigated agriculture is not the way to increase prosperity and populations in the north of Australia. Even if the economic losses were much smaller, irrigated agriculture is capital intensive – it uses lots of machines and pumps lots of water but employs very few people. “The Ord region has around 260 agricultural jobs, but at least 60 were in non-irrigated agriculture. This shows that northern regions do have viable agricultural enterprises and agriculture can be a part of northern development, but that large scale irrigation isn’t the way to do it. “There is scope for further development of agriculture in northern Australia, but efforts should be directed towards enterprises that are commercially viable, sustainable and generate employment and other benefits for northern Australian communities. “Irrigation enterprises working with existing infrastructure can be viable and worth supporting now that the infrastructure is already built – in economics jargon the costs are ‘sunk’. The key message to come out of decades of losses on Ord infrastructure is that new irrigation infrastructure in northern Australia is unlikely to be viable or provide significant community benefits. The money can be far better spent. “Investment in services and infrastructure that directly benefit communities will be vital if these communities are to retain existing populations and attract new people and businesses. Transport, communications, health and education are all likely to bring greater benefits. “Another industry that is labour intensive and has strong potential in northern Western Australia is the tourism industry. According to Tourism Western Australia, in the year ending September 2016 there were 1.4 million visitors to the north west of WA, who spent $1.2 billion. Tourism and transport infrastructure will also play a major role in developing the north. “Investing in the indigenous community should also be a focus for northern development. Programs such as the Indigenous Protected Area and Indigenous Rangers schemes provide training and employment for indigenous people in environmental management. Cost benefit analyses of indigenous social programs consistently show that they provide large net economic benefits. “In short, there is no shortage of industries, infrastructure and community projects that can help develop northern Australia in an way that is economically viable, community-oriented and sustainable. Long experience with the Ord River Irrigation Area shows that government spending on irrigated agriculture is financially dubious and not likely to lead to development that benefits the wider community of northern Australia.”   [post_title] => Money down the river [post_excerpt] => Dam the expense: new research on Ord River irrigation shows how not to develop northern Australia. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => money-down-the-river [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 09:58:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:58:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27721 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27681 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-24 18:00:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 08:00:17 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23593" align="alignnone" width="300"] Centrelink is using the services of spyware company, Cellebrite.[/caption] Monique Mann, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Deakin University, and Ian Warren, Deakin University An Australian Tax Office (ATO) staffer recently leaked on LinkedIn a step-by-step guide to hacking a smartphone. The documents, which have since been removed, indicate that the ATO has access to Universal Forensic Extraction software made by the Israeli company Cellebrite. This technology is part of a commercial industry that profits from bypassing the security features of devices to gain access to private data. The ATO later stated that while it does use these methods to aid criminal investigations, it “does not monitor taxpayers’ mobile phones or remotely access their mobile devices”. Nevertheless, the distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia. This is generally considered to be lawful surveillance. But without proper oversight, there are serious risks to the proliferation of these tools, here and around the world. The dangers of the spyware market The spyware market is estimated to be worth millions of dollars globally. And as Canadian privacy research group Citizen Lab has noted, spyware vendors have been willing to sell their wares to autocratic governments. There are numerous examples of spyware being used by states with dubious human-rights records. These include the surveillance of journalists, political opponents and human rights advocates, including more recently by the Mexican government and in the United Arab Emirates. In Bahrain, the tools have reportedly been used to silence political dissent. Commercial spyware often steps in when mainstream technology companies resist cooperating with law enforcement because of security concerns. In 2016, for example, Apple refused to assist the FBI in circumventing the security features of an iPhone. Apple claimed that being forced to redesign their products could undermine the security and privacy of all iPhone users. The FBI eventually dropped its case against Apple, and it was later reported the FBI paid almost US$1.3 million to a spyware company, reportedly Cellebrite, for technology to hack the device instead. This has never been officially confirmed. For its part, Cellebrite claims on its website to provide technologies allowing “investigators to quickly extract, decode, analyse and share evidence from mobile devices”. Its services are “widely used by federal government customers”, it adds. Spyware merchants and the Australian Government The Australian government has shown considerable appetite for spyware. Tender records show Cellebrite currently holds Australian government contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the specific details of these contracts remain unclear. Fairfax Media has reported that the ATO, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Department of Employment , Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Department of Defence all have contracts with Cellebrite. The Department of Human Services has had a contract with Cellebrite, and Centrelink apparently uses spyware to hack the phones of suspected welfare frauds. In 2015 WikiLeaks released emails from Hacking Team, an Italian spyware company. These documents revealed negotiations with the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the AFP and other law enforcement agencies.

Laws and licensing

In Australia, the legality of spyware use varies according to government agency. Digital forensics tools are used with a warrant by the ATO to conduct federal criminal investigations. A warrant is typically required before Australian police agencies can use spyware. ASIO, on the other hand, has its own powers, and those under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, that enable spyware use when authorised by the attorney-general. ASIO also has expanded powers to hack phones and computer networks. These powers raise concerns about the adequacy of independent oversight. International control of these tools is also being considered. The Wassenaar Arrangement, of which Australia is participant, is an international export control regime that aims to limit the movement of goods and technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. But there are questions about whether this agreement can be enforced. Security experts also question whether it could criminalise some forms of cybersecurity research and limit the exchange of important encryption technology. Australia has export control laws that apply to intrusion software, but the process lacks transparency about the domestic export of spyware technologies to overseas governments. Currently, there are few import controls. There are also moves to regulate spyware through licensing schemes. For example, Singapore is considering a license for ethical hackers. This could potentially improve transparency and control of the sale of intrusion software. It’s also concerning that “off-the-shelf” spyware is readily accessible to the public.

‘War on math’ and government hacking

The use of spyware in Australia should be viewed alongside the recent announcement of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s so-called war on maths. The prime minister has announced laws will be introduced obliging technology companies to intercept encrypted communications to fight terrorism and other crimes. This is part of a general appetite to undermine security features that are designed to provide the public at large with privacy and safety when using smartphones and other devices. Despite the prime minister’s statements to the contrary, these policies can’t help but force technology companies to build backdoors into, or otherwise weaken or undermine, encrypted messaging services and the security of the hardware itself. While the government tries to bypass encryption, spyware technologies already rely on the inherent weaknesses of our digital ecosystem. This is a secretive, lucrative and unregulated industry with serious potential for abuse. The ConversationThere needs to be more transparency, oversight and strong steps toward developing a robust framework of accountability for both the government and private spyware companies. Monique Mann, Lecturer, School of Justice, Researcher at the Crime and Justice Research Centre and Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Lecturer in Criminology, Deakin University; and Ian Warren, Senior Lecturer, Criminology, Deakin University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Spyware merchants: the risks of outsourcing government hacking [post_excerpt] => The distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => spyware-merchants-risks-outsourcing-government-hacking [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-25 12:20:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-25 02:20:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27681 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27665 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 10:37:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 00:37:35 [post_content] => An ACCC report into the private health insurance industry has found that affordability of private health insurance remains a significant concern for consumers. The complexity of policy information provided by insurers is another key issue, reflected in increasing complaints about the industry. “Our report found that people are shifting towards lower-cost policies with lower benefits,” ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said. “We are also concerned that consumers continue to have trouble understanding their policies, particularly when they are trying to make a claim. “It is in the interests of both insurers and their customers to be clear and transparent about policy details. This helps people to make informed decisions about the level of insurance cover they need and can afford,” Ms Rickard said. Key industry developments and trends in 2015-16:
  • The affordability of insurance remains a significant concern for consumers, which is supported by research that shows household spending on private health insurance premiums has increased steadily over the past decade.
  • Consumers are shifting towards lower-cost policies with lower benefits. Between June 2014 and June 2016 there was a 400,000 reduction in hospital policies with no exclusions (which can be equated with ‘top cover’), whilst an additional 600,000 hospital policies with exclusions were taken out.
  • The amount of hospital benefits paid by health insurers per person increased by 4.2 per cent, along with a 2.9 per cent increase in general benefits per person.
  • Average out-of-pocket expenses incurred by consumers from hospital episodes increased by 6.9 per cent, compared to only 0.7 per cent for general treatments.
  • Overall consumer complaints to the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO) rose for the third consecutive financial year, although the year-on-year increase of 3.5 per cent followed much larger increases of nearly 16 per cent in 2013-14 and 24.5 per cent in 2014-15.
  • The PHIO continued to receive the highest level of complaints regarding the benefits paid by insurers to consumers (over 30 per cent of total complaints in 2015-16). The main issue of consumer concern relating to benefits was hospital policies with unexpected exclusions and restrictions.
  • Consumers increasingly rely on information provided by commercial comparison websites when making decisions about their private health insurance. Around 40 per cent of consumers who made comparisons between insurers prior to selecting their current policy utilised a commercial comparison website, such as iSelect and Compare the Market, to assist their decision making.
Each year, the ACCC is required by the Senate to produce a report on key competition and consumer developments and trends impacting on people’s health cover. This report covers the 2015-16 period. The report is available here. The ACCC has recently taken action: Not good enough: dentists The Senate inquiry must go further than ACCC and hold private health insurers accountable, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), as the report neglects to unequivocally call out private health insurers’ anticompetitive behaviour. The ADA is urging the Senate Inquiry into private health insurance to highlight the damage health insurer practices, such as discriminatory rebate practices and the shift towards a conflicted corporatised insurer-owned dental practice model impacts on consumers’ continuity of care and quality of treatment, and recommend legislative change to outlaw such practices. General treatment or ancillary policies also known as ‘extras cover’, cover more Australians (13.5 million) than hospital policies (11.4 million). The majority (52%) of claims paid out to policy holders are for dental care. The Senate inquiry must scrutinise private health insurers’ activities as they impact on policy holders accessing ancillary health services, including dentistry. ADA federal president Dr Hugo Sachs strongly criticised the ACCC report: “While the ACCC report outlined some thrust of the ADA’s concerns, it has downplayed the significance of insurers’ actions on patients’ access to continuity of care, on their ability to receive value for money, and on the overall competitive impacts on the dental sector. Stating that certain behaviour ‘does not represent best practice’ does not cut it. “Not all policy holders are treated equal. For years, insurers have imposed a regime of discriminatory rebates. If you want to maintain your relationship with your existing dentist who chooses not to be contracted to an insurer, you get less back on your claim. You get less back even though you pay the same amount of premium for the same policy as another person. This practice, combined with reports we have about insurers’ call centre staff shifting the blame for their own discriminatory rebates by suggesting the non-contracted dentist’s fees are expensive is misleading and deceptive; not to mention distorting the market by steering policy holders away to their own affiliated or owned dental practices.” Over the years, insurers have also used their claim processes to obtain sensitive price and fee information from non-contracted dentists to ultimately set up competing dental practices and inform their rebate setting practices. Dr Sachs continued: “This model of corporate/insurer owned and run health services should not be permitted. There is a glaring conflict of interest. An insurer owns the practice, employs the health practitioner, determines the fee for the service at one end and also sets the rebate the policy holders get back at the other end, and is vulnerable to pressure from shareholders to deliver a return. Ultimately, policy holders stand to lose in the long term.” Public hospitals overrun: ambulance The health cover report comes at a time when the NSW Ambulance Service is highlighting the shortage of beds. On several days so far this winter, NSW Ambulance paramedics have found some of Sydney’s largest hospitals struggling to maintain services because they were full. The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) is concerned that hospital bed block has all but paralysed Liverpool Hospital, Bankstown Hospital and Fairfield Hospital over a number of days.  “Ambulance crews are being stuck at these hospitals waiting for hours, tending to patients on ambulance trolleys in the hallways because Emergency Departments are being overwhelmed and each of these large hospitals is full,” said APA (NSW) president Steve Pearce. “We have seen up to ten ambulances queued up for hours at Liverpool Hospital unable to unload patients and that is pushing the already stretched resources of NSW Ambulance, making it very difficult to service the public,” Mr Pearce said. “NSW Ambulance does not employ enough paramedics to manage the normal workload around the state, let alone during a huge surge like this. “The hospitals are full with a lot of very sick patients and we are seeing new patients with a range of ailments and injuries having to wait way too long to see a doctor. “This coincides with the height of the flu season but there simply are not enough hospital beds or enough ambulances on the road to handle the demand.” [post_title] => ACCC, ADA, Ambulances concerned about health cover and hospitals [post_excerpt] => Whilst an ACCC report blasts the health insurers, dentist and ambulance paramedics say more needs to be done. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => accc-ada-ambulances-concerned-health-cover-hospitals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 10:37:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 00:37:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27665 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27635 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 22:30:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:30:02 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27636" align="alignnone" width="300"] The Rheinmetall Boxer CRV.[/caption] One of the contenders for a looming $5 billion defence contract will base itself in Queensland if it is successful, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced. Rheinmetall Defence Australia would establish its Australia-New Zealand headquarters and a manufacturing and vehicle maintenance facility in South East Queensland if it wins the upcoming LAND 400 Phase 2 contract to supply Australia’s new armoured vehicles, potentially generating 450 long-term jobs and contributing more than $1 billion to the state’s economy over the next 10 years. Currently the largest supplier of military vehicles to the Australian Defence Force, Rheinmetall will establish the MILVEHCOE as a sovereign industrial capability for the continuous design, manufacture, export and support for military vehicles, turrets and tactical systems. The MILVEHCOE will also draw on a supply network across Australia to deliver products and services from local industry into Rheinmetall’s global supply chain. Rheinmetall is delivering more than 2,500 logistics trucks to the Australian Army under the LAND 121 Phase 3B program and is currently bidding for the supply of the armoured combat reconnaissance vehicle under the Commonwealth of Australia’s Land 400 Phase 2 program. Rheinmetall Defence Australia has selected Queensland as its preferred location to build the ‘military vehicle centre of excellence’ (MILVEHCOE) if it wins the contract to deliver 225 combat reconnaissance vehicles for the Australian Army.  Around 100 of these vehicles are expected to be located at the Townsville and Enoggera bases. Defence industries employ approximately 6,500 people across the state and generate more than $4.2 billion in annual revenue. Most of the new jobs would be expected to be highly skilled, highly paid advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs. Under the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract, Rheinmetall would need to have its facility completed by mid-2020 to supply the first Boxer CRV by 2022. Rheinmetall is one of two companies vying for the Department of Defence’s Land 400 Phase 2 contract, which is expected to be announced in the first quarter of next year. The other company is BAE Systems Australia, which has yet to announce where it would manufacture its vehicles if it were to win the Land 400 contract. An existing network of Queensland-based companies supports many of Rheinmetall’s current projects in Australia and overseas, including Nioa, Penske, Holmwood Highgate, Hilton, Harris Communications, Haulmark, ELBIT and LaserDyne Technologies. Supashock: from partnership to purchase In the lead-up to the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract decision, Rheinmetall has purchased one of its suppliers, South Australia-based Supashock. Supashock creates active suspension for motorsport and automotive applications to improve performance, safety and ride quality. Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) provided funding to Supashock in May 2017 to develop an integrated active suspension system and intelligent load handling system for the Australian and international markets that will substantially increase the capability and safety of RMMV’s military trucks in demanding on and off-road environments. Through comparative testing, Supashock’s suspension technology has been shown to substantially improve the mobility of Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) trucks, while at the same time enhancing on-road safety and reducing the shock and vibration experienced by the load the truck is carrying.   [post_title] => Queensland in line for billion-dollar defence contract [post_excerpt] => One of the contenders for a $5bn defence contract has undertaken to base itself in Qld. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => queensland-scores-billion-dollar-defence-contract-battle-maybe [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-18 19:04:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-18 09:04:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27635 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27605 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-13 19:22:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-13 09:22:19 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27606" align="alignnone" width="300"] Our national wellbeing probably peaked with Australia’s population at roughly 15 million in the 1970s, when this photo was taken in Hunters Hill, Sydney.
John Ward/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA[/caption] Peter Martin, University of South Australia; James Ward, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, University of Denver
Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion, and neither currently has a policy about it. The Greens think population is an issue, but can’t come at actually suggesting a target. Even those who acknowledge that numbers are relevant are often quick to say that it’s our consumption patterns, and not our population size, that really matter when we talk about environmental impact. But common sense, not to mention the laws of physics, says that size and scale matter, especially on a finite planet. In the meantime the nation has a bipartisan default population policy, which is one of rapid growth. This is in response to the demands of what is effectively a coalition of major corporate players and lobby groups. Solid neoliberals all, they see all growth as good, especially for their bottom line. They include the banks and financial sector, real estate developers, the housing industry, major retailers, the media and other major players for whom an endless increase in customers is possible and profitable. However, Australians stubbornly continue to have small families. The endless growth coalition responds by demanding the government import hundreds of thousands of new consumers annually, otherwise known as the migration intake. The growth coalition has no real interest in the cumulative social or environmental downside effects of this growth, nor the actual welfare of the immigrants. They fully expect to capture the profit of this growth program, while the disadvantages, such as traffic congestion, rising house prices and government revenue diverted for infrastructure catch-up, are all socialised – that is, the taxpayer pays. The leaders of this well-heeled group are well insulated personally from the downsides of growth that the rest of us deal with daily. A better measure of wellbeing than GDP The idea that population growth is essential to boost GDP, and that this is good for everyone, is ubiquitous and goes largely unchallenged. For example, according to Treasury’s 2010 Intergenerational Report:
Economic growth will be supported by sound policies that support productivity, participation and population — the ‘3Ps’.
If one defines “economic growth” in the first place by saying that’s what happens when you have more and more people consuming, then obviously more and more people produce growth. The fact that GDP, our main measure of growth, might be an utterly inadequate and inappropriate yardstick for our times remains a kooky idea to most economists, both in business and government. Genuine progress peaked 40 years ago One of the oldest and best-researched alternative measures is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Based on the work of the American economist Herman Daly in the 1970s and ’80s, GPI takes into account different measures of human wellbeing, grouped into economic, environmental and social categories. Examples on the negative side of the ledger include income inequality, CO2 emissions, water pollution, loss of biodiversity and the misery of car accidents. On the positive side, and also left out of GDP, are the value of household work, parenting, unpaid child and aged care, volunteer work, the quality of education, the value of consumer goods lasting longer, and so on. The overall GPI measure, expressed in dollars, takes 26 such factors into account. Since it is grounded in the real world and our real experience, GPI is a better indicator than GDP of how satisfactory we find our daily lives, of our level of contentment, and of our general level of wellbeing. As it happens, there is quite good data on GPI going back decades for some countries. While global GDP (and GDP per capita) continued to grow strongly after the second world war, and continues today, global GPI basically stalled in 1970 and has barely improved since. In Australia the stall point appears to be about 1974. GPI is now lower than for any period since the early 1960s. That is, our wellbeing, if we accept that GPI is a fair measure of the things that make life most worthwhile, has been going backwards for decades. What has all the growth been for? It is reasonable to ask, therefore, what exactly has been the point of the huge growth in GDP and population in Australia since that time if our level of wellbeing has declined. What is an economy for, if not to improve our wellbeing? Why exactly have we done so much damage to our water resources, soil, the liveability of our cities and to the other species with which we share this continent if we haven’t really improved our lives by doing it? As alluded to earlier, the answer lies to a large extent in the disastrous neoliberal experiment foisted upon us. Yet many Australians understand that it is entirely valid to measure the success of our society by the wellbeing of its citizens and its careful husbandry of natural capital. At the peak of GPI in Australia in the mid-1970s our population was under 15 million. Here then, perhaps, is a sensible, optimal population size for Australia operating under the current economic system, since any larger number simply fails to deliver a net benefit to most citizens. It suggests that we have just had 40 years of unnecessary, ideologically-driven growth at an immense and unjustifiable cost to our natural and social capital. In addition, all indications are that this path is unsustainable. With Australian female fertility sitting well below replacement level, we can achieve a slow and natural return to a lower population of our choice without any drastic or coercive policies. This can be done simply by winding back the large and expensive program of importing consumers to generate GDP growth – currently around 200,000 people per year and forecast to increase to almost 250,000 by 2020. Despite endless political and media obfuscation, this is an entirely different issue from assisting refugees, with whom we can afford to be much more generous.
The ConversationYou can read other articles in the Is Australia Full? series here. Peter Martin, Lecturer, School of Natural & Built Environments, University of South Australia; James Ward, Lecturer in Water & Environmental Engineering, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Why a population of, say, 15 million makes sense for Australia [post_excerpt] => Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => population-say-15-million-makes-sense-australia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-13 19:22:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-13 09:22:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27605 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27576 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-10 15:18:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-10 05:18:36 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27577" align="alignnone" width="300"] The WestConnex project has not been immune to land preservation issues.[/caption] Infrastructure Australia has launched a new policy paper urging Australian governments to act to protect vital infrastructure corridors and avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption when delivering new infrastructure. The third paper released as part of Infrastructure Australia’s Reform Series, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term shows that protection and early acquisition of just seven corridors identified as national priorities on the Infrastructure Priority List could save Australian taxpayers close to $11 billion in land purchase and construction costs. These corridors are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line.  “Meeting Australia’s future growth challenges requires long-term vision. As our cities and regions undergo a period of considerable change, strategically important infrastructure corridors need to be preserved early in their planning to avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption during the project delivery phase,” said Infrastructure Australia chairman Mark Birrell. “Australia’s governments have an immediate opportunity to deliver an enduring infrastructure legacy to future generations. “If we protect infrastructure corridors we will reduce project costs and especially minimise the need for underground tunnelling, where the cost to government and therefore taxpayers can be up to ten times higher than it would have been,” he said. Protecting seven of the corridors identified on the recently revised Infrastructure Priority List could save close to $11 billion. This is the equivalent of more than two years’ spending by the Australian Government on land transport such as major roads, railways and local roads. “State and territory governments historically have shown leadership in protecting infrastructure corridors, but more needs to be done now. Experience clearly shows that planning the right infrastructure early, timing delivery to meet demand and ensuring it is fit for purpose enhances economic opportunity and delivers the best community outcomes,” Mr Birrell said. He quoted the M4, M5 and M7 motorways in Sydney, the M1 and EastLink motorways in Melbourne and the rail line to Mandurah south of Perth as examples where the protection of infrastructure corridors allowed the construction of vital links. Mr Birrell said the most urgent priority for protection is the east coast high-speed rail corridor, as this critical corridor faces immediate pressure due to its proximity to major population centres. He highlighted the cost of tunnelling in comparison to the cost of land acquisition, pointing out that recent tunnelled motorway proposals are expected to cost in the order of $100 million per lane kilometre to build. The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has supported the policy paper from Infrastructure Australia (IA), saying it demonstrates the importance of corridor protection in preventing cost blowouts, project delays and community disruption on infrastructure projects. “ALC has consistently worked to highlight the necessity of corridor preservation as part of a consistent and coherent approach to developing Australia’s national freight infrastructure,” said ALC managing director, Michael Kilgariff. “Good planning leads to good infrastructure outcomes for the community. Preserving corridors to accommodate the infrastructure needed to meet our future freight task lies at the heart of responsible planning policy.” [post_title] => Don’t sell the land [post_excerpt] => More action needed to protect vital infrastructure corridors. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dont-sell-land [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-10 15:24:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-10 05:24:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27576 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27557 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-06 19:16:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-06 09:16:21 [post_content] => The ACCC is urging small business owners to start preparing for the ban on excessive payment surcharges that will apply to all businesses across Australia from 1 September 2017. The new law limits the amount that a business can charge customers for use of payment methods such as EFTPOS (debit and prepaid), MasterCard (credit, debit and prepaid), Visa (credit, debit and prepaid) and American Express cards issued by Australian banks. It came into effect for large businesses last year. “Small businesses that choose to impose payment surcharges should review their surcharge levels to ensure they are compliant when the ban starts applying to them in under two months,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said. “Businesses can only pass on to customers what it costs them to process a payment such as bank fees and terminal costs. For example, if your cost of acceptance for Visa Credit is one per cent you can only surcharge one per cent on Visa credit card payments onto your customers.” Small businesses will shortly be receiving information from their bank, which will help them to calculate appropriate surcharges when accepting debit and credit cards. The ACCC has also published a fact sheet so business owners can better understand their obligations. “Banks are required to send businesses merchant statements that clearly set out the business’ costs of acceptance for each payment method. The ACCC urges businesses to follow up with their bank if they have not yet received these statements,” Dr Schaper said. Passing on the cost of processing debit and credit card payments is not mandatory for businesses and the ban has no effect on those that do not impose a payment surcharge. “In the lead-up to last year’s excessive surcharging ban on large businesses, many reviewed and amended their surcharging practices to reflect the costs to the business and we hope small businesses will do the same,” Dr Schaper said. The ACCC has published guidance material for consumers and businesses. Background The ACCC has been given new powers to enforce the ban. A surcharge will be considered excessive where it exceeds the permitted cost of acceptance, as defined by the Reserve Bank of Australia. The RBA’s website also provides detailed information for businesses about the Standard, including how businesses can identify and quantify those costs that can be passed on to a consumer as a surcharge. Payment types that are not covered by the ban include BPAY, PayPal, Diners Club cards, American Express cards issued directly by American Express, cash and cheques. [post_title] => Excessive credit card surcharge ban to start 1 September [post_excerpt] => Business owners must prepare for the ban on excessive payment surcharges. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => excessive-credit-card-surcharge-ban-start-1-september [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-06 19:25:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-06 09:25:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27557 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27533 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-03 20:36:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-03 10:36:04 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27538" align="alignnone" width="287"] Geelong’s relatively high creative industries score, coupled with a robust rate of business entries, provides a solid foundation for steady growth. Photo by paulrommer from www.shutterstock.com.[/caption] Leonie Pearson, University of Canberra Investing in regional cities’ economic performance makes good sense. Contrary to popular opinion, new research shows regional cities generate national economic growth and jobs at the same rate as big metropolitan cities. They are worthy of economic investment in their own right – not just on social and equity grounds. However, for regional cities to capture their potential A$378 billion output to 2031, immediate action is needed. Success will see regional cities in 2031 produce twice as much as all the new economy industries produce in today’s metropolitan cities. Drawing on lessons from the UK, the collaborative work by the Regional Australia Institute and the UK Centre for Cities spotlights criteria and data all Australian cities can use to help get themselves investment-ready.

Build on individual strengths

The Regional Australia Institute’s latest work confirms that city population size does not determine economic performance. There is no significant statistical difference between the economic performance of Australia’s big five metro cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide) and its 31 regional cities in historical output, productivity and participation rates. So, regional cities are as well positioned to create investment returns as their big five metro cousins. The same rules apply – investment that builds on existing city strengths and capabilities will produce returns. No two cities have the same strengths and capabilities. However, regional cities do fall into four economic performance groups – gaining, expanding, slipping, and slow and steady. This helps define the investment focus they might require. For example, the report finds Fraser Coast (Hervey Bay), Sunshine Coast-Noosa and Gold Coast are gaining cities. Their progress is fuelled by high population growth rates (around 2.7% annually from 2001 to 2013). But stimulating local businesses will deliver big job growth opportunities.
Rapid population growth is driving the Gold Coast economy, making it a ‘gaining’ city. Pawel Papis from www.shutterstock.com
Similarly, the expanding cities of Cairns, Central Coast and Toowoomba are forecast to have annual output growth of 3.2% to 3.9% until 2031, building on strong foundations of business entries. But they need to create more high-income jobs. Geelong and Ballarat have low annual population growth rates of around 1.2% to 1.5%. They are classified as slow and steady cities. But their relatively high creative industries scores, coupled with robust rates of business entries, means they have great foundations for growth. They need to stimulate local businesses to deliver city growth.

Get ready to deal

Regional cities remain great places to live. They often score more highly than larger cities on measures of wellbeing and social connection. But if there’s no shared vision, or local leaders can’t get along well enough to back a shared set of priorities, or debate is dominated by opinion in spite of evidence, local politics may win the day. Negotiations to secure substantial city investment will then likely fail. The federal government’s Smart Cities Plan has identified City Deals as the vehicle for investment in regional cities. This collaborative, cross-portfolio, cross-jurisdictional investment mechanism needs all players working together (federal, state and local government), along with community, university and private sector partners. This leaves no place for dominant single interests at the table. Clearly, the most organised regional cities ready to deal are those capable of getting collaborative regional leadership and strategic planning. For example, the G21 region in Victoria (including Greater Geelong, Queenscliffe, Surf Coast, Colac Otway and Golden Plains) has well-established credentials in this area. This has enabled the region to move quickly on City Deal negotiations.

Moving past talk to be investment-ready

There’s $378 billion on the table, but Australia’s capacity to harness it will depend on achieving two key goals.
  • First, shifting the entrenched view that the smart money invests only in our big metro cities. This is wrong. Regional cities are just as well positioned to create investment returns as the big five metro centres.
  • Second, regions need to get “investment-ready” for success. This means they need to be able to collaborate well enough to develop an informed set of shared priorities for investment, supported by evidence and linked to a clear growth strategy that builds on existing economic strengths and capabilities. They need to demonstrate their capacity to deliver.
While there has been much conjecture on the relevance and appropriateness of City Deals in Australia, it is mainly focused on big cities. But both big and small cities drive our national growth.
The ConversationYou can explore the data and compare the 31 regional cities using the RAI’s interactive data visualisation tool. Leonie Pearson, Adjunct Associate, University of Canberra This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Bust the regional city myths and look beyond the 'big 5' for a $378b return [post_excerpt] => Investing in regional cities’ economic performance makes good sense, writes Leonie Pearson. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27533 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-04 11:08:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-04 01:08:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27533 [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] => 27852 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-17 20:00:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-17 10:00:35 [post_content] => Dean Lacheca Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms - chatbots, virtual assistants and messaging-based applications - are opening new government service delivery channels. Government CIO need to quickly determine the role of these channels, adjust their digital service delivery strategies and extend their digital government platform to exploit these new opportunities. Many are already taking notice. Governments are prioritising the implementation of virtual assistants more than many other industry vertical. A recent Gartner survey indicates that 60 percent of government organisations undertaking artificial intelligence and machine learning projects identify virtual assistants as a project goal. This is in line with growing expectation from citizens of being able to access government services via conversational applications. The Australian Taxation Office recently introduced virtual assistant Alex on its website to help support general taxation enquiries from Australian citizens. Platforms like these consist of multiple related AI technologies that support an interactive and intuitive style of communication. Conversational applications aim to increase customer satisfaction by reducing customers' need to navigate a complex website or transactional portal. At the same time, they reduce the wait time and resources required to respond to basic government inquiries. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across engagement channels. Service provider and government-to-government interactions can also be delivered through conversational applications. Large departments and agencies can use virtual employee assistants to offer more consistent and efficient delivery of internally facing services such as IT help desk, legal, HR and financial services. Most government services, however, particularly those that involve care or case management, will require human involvement for the foreseeable future. Virtual customer assistants or chatbots can be offered as an alternative or supporting channel to many direct citizen and business-facing services. Where to start 1. Educate IT and customer experience leaders Conversational applications suffer from negative customer experience perceptions based on older technologies and involvement with poor implementations. Customer experience leaders need to comfortable with, and have confidence in, the quality and consistency of the service delivered by the conversational applications. This will require effort to dispel historical misconceptions. Confidence will grow as understanding and experience of the quality and potential for the service grow. It's equally important to set expectations with the business regarding the take-up of these alternate channels. Though conversational applications should form part of a multichannel service delivery strategy, accept that these channels won't be accepted by all citizens or staff in the short term. Educate customer experience leaders on the potential for conversational applications and establish vendor showcases or workshops to offer firsthand experience. Then implement an internal pilot of a virtual employee assistant to develop technical skills and create an example to help guide decisions and future strategy. 2. Identify and prioritise opportunities Many uses for conversational applications exist throughout government. They deliver the best results when the right style or combination of applications is implemented to support the right type of service. Implementing a conversational application is a significant investment and should only be considered for services that are used frequently. Given conversational applications won't be accepted by all citizens, it's important to understand the service consumer. When targeting citizens, consider factors such as demographics, including language background. When targeting businesses, assess the nature of the business digital maturity of the industry. When targeting government-to-government services, consider the digital maturity of other agencies. When targeting staff, consider the digital maturity of your own agency. Start by preparing a list of conversational application opportunities based on potential uses and the services delivered by your agency. Work in partnership with your customer experience leaders to refine and prioritise this list based on the complexity of the responses, the demand for the services and the demographics of the targeted audience, including language background. 3. Revise your digital government strategy Citizens already engage governments across different channels, and their expectation is to receive the same quality of service across all channels. Unfortunately, many agencies struggle to see service delivery channels beyond traditional digital channels like websites and portals. A digital government strategy should embed multichannel citizen engagement as a foundation of service delivery. The strategy should reinforce the importance of consistency across channels and seamless transition between channels. Multichannel service delivery should apply equally to services aimed at government staff, forming part of the digital workplace strategy. A strategic focus on multichannel service delivery will influence the architecture of your citizen/customer experience platform to support conversational applications. Develop a business case to secure funding for further AI research and projects. Dean Lacheca is a public sector research director at Gartner, helping government CIO and technology leaders with their transition to digital government. He will speak about digital government trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Australia, 30 October-2 November 2017.   [post_title] => Conversational AI in government [post_excerpt] => Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms are opening new government service delivery channels. 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