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By Kymberley Martin

Support for the Federal Government among small and medium businesses (SMBs) has dipped to its lowest level since Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister, according to the latest Sensis Business Index (SBI) survey.

“After we saw Malcolm Turnbull take over as Prime Minister in 2015 we saw confidence in the government rise, with businesses telling us they were optimistic about the change, ” Sensis chief executive, John Allan said. However, since then the government’s approval rating has fallen nine points and is 20 points lower than the highest score under Tony Abbott, following the pro-business 2015 Federal Budget.

“To find a lower score we need to go back to the March 2015 survey, which was taken after Tony Abbott had survived a leadership spill. While perceptions of the economy remain strong, less than one in seven businesses have faith in the government’s policies, with the biggest concerns being excessive bureaucracy and red tape, as well as there being too much focus on the interests of big business,” Allan said.

The Index, which reflects the views of 1,000 small and medium businesses from across Australia, also revealed that despite a tough quarter for the Government the long term projections for the economy have improved to their best level in 2 ½ years.

Read more here.


This story first appeared on Appliance Retailer. 
                    [post_title] => Support for Turbull dips from small and medium businesses
                    [post_excerpt] => State by state results. 
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Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop's cash splash on helicopters, chauffered cars and European tours
launched a thousand memes on social media. 



Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull needs to urgently act on his promise to reform politicians’ work expenses before another one gets busted, say academics.

Parliamentary expenses have been under the spotlight again recently, with the high profile resignation of federal Health Minister Sussan Ley earlier this month.

Ms Ley quit after it emerged that she had purchased a $795,000 Gold Coast apartment ‘on impulse’ during a taxpayer-funded trip. News of her chartering and flying planes to attend work meetings back in 2015 delivered the coup de grace.

During the ensuing storm of negative public opinion and media commentary, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull committed to creating a new independent parliamentary standards authority to vet politicians’ expenses claims, similar to that established in the UK after the 2009 MP’s expenses scandal exploded.

It is understood that the new body’s board would include the President of the Renumeration Tribunal, as well as former public servants, judges and politicians and an auditing expert; probably taking over from the Department of Finance, which currently administers the system of complex laws and rules around politicians' expense claims.

Mr Turnbull has also pledged to address the 36 recommendations contained in a February 2016 Renumeration Tribunal Review into politicians’ work expenses led by Tribunal President John Conde and former Finance secretary David Tune.

The review was commissioned by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott following Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop’s notorious Choppergate scandal the previous year.

The Reviews’ 36 recommendations included making the distinction clearer between official and personal business and defining whether duties are party political, electorate or office duties.

Prof Rodney Smith, who teaches Australian politics and public sector ethics at Sydney University’s Department of Government and International Relations, said immediate action was needed to dispel the ‘widespread public suspicion’ that politicians fiddled their expense claims, overlaid by the general idea that politicians were in it for themselves.

“I think it’s probably at a point where if nothing happens or there are only superficial reforms, the government is only really going to be making a rod for its own back further down the track if someone else has been embroiled in another scandal,” Prof Smith said.

But he said the public sometimes lacked understanding about what the job entailed.

“[Australia’s] geography is very big. It’s inevitable that you’re going to need some kind of reasonable scheme for travel and associated costs for doing your job as minister.”

AJ Brown, Professor of Public Policy and Law at Griffith University’s Public Integrity and Anti-Corruption in the Centre for Governance, said the task of reforming the system “really is very urgent” and creating an independent regulatory body was a good start.

At the moment it was a system “that’s still fundamentally under the control of those who would stick their noses in the trough” leaving MPs to their own devices – and consciences.

But despite the positive move to take expenses away from the purview of politicians, he said the new body should also adjudicate on broader corruption issues such as conflict of interest, code of conduct and interest registers.

“I think they can get this moving but the pressure will mount for them to broaden its jurisdiction,” Prof Brown said. “It links in with having a stronger federal anti-corruption body generally because some of these issues are even more serious.

“My big fear is that this new authority won’t have the jurisdiction to cover all of these things that are sometimes more important and controversial, in terms of parliamentary ethics and standards: issues of public confidence.”

Prof Brown also backs creating a new role of Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, one originally suggested by former PM Julia Gillard and the Independents, to cover all areas of parliamentary standards.

Self-regulation has failed

Whatever occurs, it is clear that MPs regulating their own expenses’ claims has manifestly failed.

Prof Brown said that the independence of auditing and compliance needed to be upgraded because politicians had not been subject to sufficient checks and balances.

The rules that exist are too complex and have been built up ad hoc over many years, “The Finance Department have had a terrible time trying to administer it”, he added.

“I don’t think they’re [politicians] any more venal than the rest of the world and much of them are less venal but they have been the victims of weak systems.

“Just the assumption they don’t need some extra policing to help them keep in line like the rest of the world,” he said.

Australia had dropped the ball a bit when it came to clamping down on corruption.

“Australia has been very complacent about allowing these issues about corruption generally, both small and large scale. We’re really just catching up with the rest of the world," Prof Brown said.

“We need to make sure we’ve got our act together and our systems in place, especially because of how much more competiti­ve the world is and how much faster we are operating.”

Both men said that some politicians failed the pub test but still acted within the rules, partly because they belonged to a kind of insider community where what was viewed as convenient and acceptable to getting the job done could be at odds with broader public experience.

Prof Brown said: “It’s so easy for people in positions of power to confuse what they’re doing in the public interest with what they want to do in their own personal or political interest. It’s not about individuals, it’s about human nature.

“People set their standards on what they see other people do and think it’s ok or they see other people get away with it. The risk of people in high office losing their connection to the community is high.”

Prof Smith said that, for the most part, politicians did the right thing but sometimes just got sucked in to what appeared to be the ‘rules of the game’ and slipped up.

The big three areas of expense claims that need to be addressed by Mr Turnbull's government are probably: travel expenses, the definition of official business and family reunion allowances.


Prof Smith said parliamentary travel entitlements had long been one of the most problematic areas in Australian politics due to the sheer number of politicians caught up in questionable travel claims and because public opinion was often fierce around such debates.

Prof Smith said the rules need to be tightened up in some instances and clarified in others.

“They are much more specific than they used to be but there are still some fairly broad limits in the rules. An example is [the definition of] official business,” he said.

Travel expenses have generated some of the most egregious and colourful scandals over the years.

Federal MP Bronwyn Bishop famously fell foul of public opinion in July 2015.

Choppergate put paid to her time in the Speaker’s chair in the House of Representatives and launched a thousand memes on social media after she charged the taxpayer more than $5,000 for a cheeky 80-km helicopter trip from Melbourne to a Liberal Party function in Geelong, rather than drive.

Neither did it help when Ms Bishop blew $88,000 on a European trip, part of which included her campaigning for the presidency of Inter-Parliamentary Union; or charging taxpayers $600 for a return flight to fellow Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella’s wedding, an expense that Mr Abbott himself paid back and advised other pollies to do the same.

What counts as official?

A common argument from politicians is that their expenses claims – often relating to travel - are within the rules but later admitting that they would not have passed the ‘pub test’.

The problem is, of course, that travel claims like these appear [in Labor Leader Bill Shorten’s words] ‘colossally arrogant’ and out of touch to the general populace, particularly when the government is in the middle of a highly flawed benefits crackdown and gearing up to reduce maternity leave.

These stories feed the public perception that says politicians are ‘all the same’ and have their snouts in the trough, leading rarefied lives compared with the rest of us. It is not a good look; neither does it foster much public confidence in the political system or the people elected to serve inside it.

Deciding on what constitutes official business clearly needs to be addressed and this is one of the recommendations of the Conde Review.

Few things raise the hackles of ordinary folk more than politicians charging taxpayers when they attend major sporting or cultural events as guests of a private company.

Tasmanian Senator David Bushby, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Steve Ciobo stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy after they charged taxpayers thousands of dollars to attend the 2013 AFL Grand Final, dubiously excusing themselves by saying they had important work chats with the companies that invited them.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop charged taxpayers $2716 to attend a polo match in the Mornington Peninsula last year as guest of beer maker Peroni and car company Jeep. Ms Bishop defended her expenses claim, saying she was attending in her official capacity.

I miss my family

Family reunion travel – designed to reduce the isolation many politicians experience from being on the road a lot – has also attracted a fair amount of negative attention.

Labor’s Tony Burke spent nearly $13,000 on flights, a hire car and other allowances when his family joined him on a four-day trip to Uluru in 2012 when he was federal Environment Minister. Even the kids flew business class, which Mr Burke later admitted was 'indefensible'.

While Mr Burke claimed the taxpayer bill was legitimate because he was on official business and visiting aboriginal communities, others did not see it the same way. 

The $90 Comcar to travel to a Robbie Williams concert also failed to endear him to a critical public.

It is another area that the Review suggests needs changing, reiterating that family reunion travel can only be funded if the politician is at the location for work, underlining that it should not be used to sneak in a taxpayer-funded family holiday.

How should reform proceed?

Prof Smith said making data transparent is critical to good reform because it will increase public confidence in the system and keep MPs on their toes.

At the moment, expenses are published every six months. The Review has recommended this reporting be narrowed to monthly to help open up and demystify the process, as well as to give the public a better understanding of politicians’ jobs.

He said that abuses often came to light accidentally or through freedom of information requests from journalists. Many never came to light.

“Politicians would be more careful just as they are more careful about accepting political donations or ministers having meetings with lobbyists, because they know there is greater transparency and greater understanding of what’s legitimate and what’s not,” Prof Smith said.

The Conde Review’s key recommendations
  • Define ‘parliamentary business’ to determine legitimate expenses claims
  • ‘Entitlements’ or ‘benefits’ now to be referred to as ‘work expenses’
  • Create a single legal framework to deal with work expenses and guide politicians
  • Publish rules and details of work expenses on, quarterly and then monthly
  • Principle of value for money to be central
  • Helicopters cannot be chartered to cover short distances ‘in the absence of compelling reasons’
  • A 25 per cent penalty to be paid where expenses claims are ruled invalid, not just those relating to travel
  • Prohibit the use of car and driver, including COMCAR, for journeys that are primarily personal
  • Abolish the $10 per night travelling allowance for partners accompanying ministers or office holders
  • Explore the option of leasing vehicles, rather than buying private plated vehicles
  • Tighten family reunion eligibility – only fund trips for partners and children when they join the MP or Senator who is there for the parliamentary business
  • Reduced provision for former parliamentarians who don’t qualify for a Life Gold Pass
  • Provide politicians from the Big Six electorates (over 500,000sq km) with a third staff office, second vehicle offset and extra travel allowance for stopovers on official business
  Transparency International Australia will hold its National Integrity 2017 conference on March 16 and March 17 at the Novotel Brisbane. [post_title] => Crack down on politicians’ entitlements now, say academics [post_excerpt] => Travel expenses biggest rort. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26080 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-30 17:05:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-30 06:05:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26056 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-01-24 10:41:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-23 23:41:30 [post_content] => Inside the Fair Work Commission Sydney offices.    One of the most senior figures at the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has blasted Australia's workplace relations umpire on his way out the door as industry groups say it's proof the Commission has become dysfunctional.  FWC Vice President Graeme Watson launched a rapid fire attack against the Commission in his resignation letter to federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash last week. He was in his tenth year at the FWC. Mr Watson, a former partner at Freehills, the union-busting law firm that Ms Cash also once worked for, said businesses increasingly viewed the FWC as being “partisan, dysfunctional and divided”. He accused it of undermining Fair Work laws and said that the Commission’s approach was damaging jobs, investment and growth. "I do not consider that the system provides a framework for co-operative and productive workplace relations and I do not consider that it promotes economic prosperity or social inclusion. Nor do I consider it can be described as balanced,” Mr Watson said in his letter to Ms Cash. He said employers often paid off vexatious staff members who took their complaints to the FWC – even when they felt the worker had no case - because they had lost faith in the Commission’s ability to be impartial, particularly when judging unfair dismissal claims. He said the bargaining system was “unduly complex” and minimum wage safety net laws were outdated. “The workplace relations system is undeniably regarded as a “danger zone” for business. It no longer plays a constructive role in modern workplaces. It does not foster cooperation or productivity," Mr Watson concluded. He also raised the need for an independent appeals tribunal, which he said would improve the consistency of the Commission’s decisions. The Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) seized upon Mr Watson's resignation and said it proved the Commission has lost its way. The AMMA, who lists one of its five top priorities on its website as scrapping the FWC and reforming unfair dismissal laws, said Mr Watson was always fair, objective and pragmatic during his work for the employment tribunal. AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said: “While VP Watson’s resignation is a real loss to the Fair Work Commission, of even greater concern is the dysfunction in the tribunal and our workplace laws that has prompted the early resignation of one of its most senior and widely respected members." “The issues raised in the Vice President’s resignation letter add further weight to previous calls from the business community for the government to conduct an urgent review of the Fair Work Commission, its structures, powers and decision making,” Mr Knott said. He said Mr Watson was the second senior FWC member to leave well before their statutory retirement date. Senior Deputy President Peter Richards left in September 2016. Both men were appointed by the Howard government. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and ex-federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz have also piled into the fray calling Mr Watson’s resignation unprecedented and highlighting what they see as the FWC’s bias towards unions. Mr Abetz told The Australian that FWC President Justice Iain Ross had repeatedly attempted to sideline Mr Watson, which he said reflected poorly on Mr Ross’ leadership, “It also reflects poorly on Bill Shorten who stacked and packed the Commission with union cronies rather than meritorious and worthy appointments,” Mr Abetz said. Relations are known to have long been strained between Mr Watson and Mr Ross, particularly because they are at different ends of the political spectrum. Mr Ross was a Labor choice and Mr Watson was appointed by the Coalition. In the past, Mr Watson has spoken in favour of cutting Sunday penalty rates in the hospitality industry by one-fifth. The 2015 Productivity Commission review on Australia's Workplace Relations Framework mentioned that 'numerous stakeholders' had complained about the "apparent randomness" of the Commission's decision in regard to unfair dismissal but it laid blame for this at the over politicisation of staff appointments. The Productivity Commission recommended in its review that an expert panel be stablished to hire FWC staff so that appointments were based more on merit and less on the politics of the government of the day, which it said would minimise inconsistency in decisions.  The review also suggested splitting the functions of the FWC in two and creating a new body, the Workplace Standards Commission (WSC). The FWC would retain responsibility for the adjudication of individual and collective disputes and the approval of enterprise agreements, right of entry permits, and protected industrial action ballots, while the new WSC would take over responsibility for decisions with broader economic impacts, such as annual wage reviews and modern award reviews. [post_title] => Fair Work Commission a basket case, says Vice President on his way out the door [post_excerpt] => Appointments over-politicised, says Productivity Commission. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26056 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-24 10:41:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-23 23:41:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26036 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-01-18 16:44:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-18 05:44:06 [post_content] => were taken in hospital. Can new federal Health Minister Greg Hunt take the pressure?     Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has immediately been lobbied by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Opposition in his new job, in an early indication (if one were needed) that managing his new portfolio is going to be as tough as some of the seven marathons he has run.  Health was one of the key battlegrounds during last year’s federal election when Labor Leader Bill Shorten accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of having a secret agenda to privatise Medicare, holding up the possible outsourcing of Medicare payments as proof and wheeling out ex-PM Bob Hawke to star in an ad about it. The government denied the charge but damage was undoubtedly done to the Liberal vote. Decisions about health budgets and policies have often become political hand grenades, think back to the $7 GP co-payment in Joe Hockey’s 2014 budget or Tony Abbott attempting to wind back Kevin Rudd’s hospital funding agreements with the state and territories in the same budget. AMA President Dr Michael Gannon welcomed Mr Hunt’s appointment, beginning by buttering him up and listing his past achievements, including being named Best Minister in the World at the 2016 World Government Summit. There is no doubt that Mr Hunt represents a safe pair of hands and it doesn’t hurt that both his mother and his wife are nurses. Mr Hunt was Minister for the Environment between 2013 and 2016 and Shadow Minister for six years before that. He was appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science in July last year. A major issue for the Association and its members is the ongoing freeze on Medicare rebates, begun by Labor in 2013 and projected to last until 2020. The Medicare Benefits Schedule lists all the services the Australian Government will pay rebates for and the rebate is a percentage of the Medicare schedule fee. For example, the rebate is set at $37 for a GP consultation. Doctors have argued that neither the Schedule fees that doctors who bulk bill agree to charge, nor the rebate, have kept pace with the real costs of providing these services by medical practitioners, squeezing them from both sides. While doctors who don’t bulk bill can set their own fees the Medicare rebate covers a portion of these, leaving the patient to cover the gap. For an excellent explanation of the Medicare rebate freeze on The Conversation click here. Dr Gannon said he was keen to meet Mr Hunt as soon as possible to discuss policy and funding, particularly in the context of the upcoming budget in May. “The AMA would like to see Mr Hunt get off to a flying start by scrapping the government’s freeze of Medicare patient rebates, which is causing great hardship for patients and doctors,” he said. Labor has pledged to end the freeze and restore indexation. Dr Gannon said Mr Hunt also needed to get across the reviews set in motion by former Health Minister Sussan Ley, principally the MBS, but also the review on private health insurance examining whether it is delivering value for money or not. He also flagged public hospital funding, indigenous health, mental health, and prevention as areas that needed fixing. Shadow Health Minister Catherine King also demanded the government abandon the Medicare freeze, which she said was “already having an impact on bulk billing rates and will drive up out-of-pocket costs”. She accused the Turnbull Government of ‘changing their salesperson’ but not their health policy by appointing Mr Hunt and said she would be taking the new minister to task on cuts to pathology and bulk billing and cuts to dental programs for children. She also challenged him to drop the zombie cuts, such as the planned increases to PBS co-payments for general patients, concession patients and those with chronic illnesses. [post_title] => Is the 'Best Minister in the World' a panacea for Health? [post_excerpt] => Hunt immediately lobbied. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => best-minister-world-panacea-health [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-20 11:07:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-20 00:07:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25363 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-10-25 11:05:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-25 00:05:42 [post_content] => Portrait of a woman shouting among mannequins   Marie Coleman from the National Foundation of Australian Women has spent multiple decades campaigning for all women to have access to a decent paid parental leave (PPL) scheme but she now faces the painful prospect of those hard-won gains being snatched away from up to 80,000 Australian women. Ms Coleman, who has spent years lobbying various Prime Ministers, including John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on maternity leave, believes the federal government’s Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill will have serious consequences for women and their families if it is passed. She says she is “deeply, deeply unimpressed” by the government’s approach and believes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should look for savings elsewhere. “Clean up the administration of family day care and the cesspit of the private sector VET-FEE HELP,” Ms Coleman said. “If we have to save money – and I firmly believe we should save money – I don’t believe we should be putting the health of babies and months at risk by this extremely vindictive measure.” The Bill’s beginnings were far from auspicious. Witness the unedifying spectacle of then Treasurer Joe Hockey delivering the Abbott/Hockey budget, telling the nation’s women on Mother’s Day that they were a pack of freeloaders, “double dippers” and rorters, while conveniently forgetting the wives of senior politicians - including his own - had (legally) been doing exactly that. The new Bill aims to overhaul the current PPL scheme, ushered in under Labor’s Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, where new parents are entitled to 18 weeks of PPL at minimum wage, which is $11,826 per household, regardless of whether they also received PPL from their employer. Those earning more than $150,000 are not entitled to government-paid PPL. The original aim of the scheme was to fit together both sources of PPL where possible and to move towards giving women 26 weeks with their babies, the World Health Organisation’s target. The Productivity Commission reported in February 2009 that the evidence was incontrovertible that 18 weeks PPL was valuable and it found 26 weeks desirable. The new Fairer PPL Bill 2016 stipulates:
  • No paid parental leave from the government if a person receives PPL from their employer which is equal or more than the national minimum wage
  • Parents will no longer be able to receive employer-provided PPL as well as the full amount of parental leave pay under the government’s PPL scheme
  • Parents who get no employer-provided payments or receive less than the total amount of parental leave pay under the PPL scheme will get a top-up
  • Employers will have to opt in to administer government payments. Employees will be paid directly by the Department of Human Services, which will cost the government an extra $7 million over five years
  • Minor amendments  will include more generous backdating provisions so parents have more time to lodge a claim in certain circumstances
The government says the new scheme will save $1.1 billion and it could come in as early as January 2017. Although a 2015 senate committee report recommended the 2016 Bill proceed, Labor and Greens senators on the committee wrote dissenting reports. The Committee’s final report stated:  “It is also clear … that this Bill will not lead to any reduction in the length of parental leave taken, or any reduction or removal of employer funded PPL entitlements.” The new bill’s impact Disagreement has raged about how many women will be affected and who will suffer if the new measures are introduced. Social Services Minister Christian Porter has argued that more than half of the 90,000 of the families who are currently eligible for PPL will not be affected by the changes. He has also made a point of saying that it is not fair that high earning women can access both schemes. But Ms Coleman said: “Christian Porter is far too fond - as were Hockey and Morrison - of talking about women on $140,000. This is a piece of fluff from the minister. “He’s failing to recognise that his own department’s figures show very clearly that they’re going to be a huge number of women whose yearly income is around $40,000 who are going to lose $12,000 and I hope women rise up like a huge terrifying army.” Dr Sue Williamson, an academic with the School of Business at UNSW Canberra, who specialises in gender equality in the workplace, said the percentage of women on high incomes who were able to access both schemes was “really small.” “The vast majority of women earn average minimum wages. There’s just not that many women who earn $150,000,” Dr Williamson said. “I think it’s a way of trying to sell changes to the policy but it’s a distraction, a red herring. The people who are mostly going to be impacted are women on low incomes.” She said that even industry groups and the Australian Chamber of Commerce had supported leaving the PPL alone and said that it was working well, particularly by helping to drive women’s workforce participation. The Community Affairs Legislation Committee report on PPL contains a submission from Department of Social Services (DSS) – Mr Porters’ own department – which says  that 45,000 families will be partially affected and 34,000 families would no longer be eligible for government funded PPL if the Bill passes. This equates to 47 per cent of families who were previously eligible for both payments who will be affected. One-fifth would lose their eligibility entirely. The DSS table is further complicated by the reporting of media income for women and the median income of both partners together. Women on $43,000 (combined $108,000) will lose part of their PPL and the second group, where women earn an average of $73,000 (combined $149,000) will lose their right to government PPL entirely. Shadow Minister for Social Services Jenny Macklin told ABC radio yesterday (Monday): “We are talking about people who work in retail. They might work for Woolworths or Myer. They might work in McDonald’s. The vast majority of women who are going to be affected by Mr Turnbull’s attack on pregnant mothers are women who are working in retail and hospitality. “What this will mean is a very, very difficult choice for working mothers. Either they will have to cut short their paid parental leave to go back to work because they have to pay their bills, and that will of course mean they have to spend less time with their babies, or they decide to stay at home and of course that means they will be thousands of dollars worse off.” She said many firms had their own paid parental leave scheme on top of the government’s scheme, “that gives these mothers reasonable, not too generous paid parental leave and we want to make sure they can keep it.” Ms Macklin called the current PPL a “modest scheme by international standards.” Dr Williamson agreed and said Australia still lagged behind many European countries. The UK has a much more comprehensive system, as do most of the Nordic countries. “Europe is basically looking to increase PPL and Australian is winding it back. It just seems like an easy budget saving and it’s just not very imaginative," she added. Childcare Ms Coleman believes that the Bill could have major consequences for a childcare system already buckling under the pressure of intense demand, high childcare fees and labour shortages. It is pressure aggravated by the fact that more staff are mandated to care for children under two than other age groups. She said: “This country has a spectacular paucity of childcare for children aged under 18 months. Who is going to look after all these 19-week babies? If you’re going to make these cuts, get the childcare sorted out first.” She is “unimpressed” by the government’s insistence that it must reduce government-paid PPL in order to fund childcare, “this government hasn’t succeeded in doing anything so far in improving childcare.” Women in the public sector Ms Coleman says most women in the public sector are working in low paid jobs, such as nurses, teachers or ambulance workers, “These women are going to suffer very severe cuts, many of them work on a part-time basis anyway.” She said it was “an outrageous attack” on women working in both the public and private sectors who did not earn anything like $70,000. Sue Williamson agrees that most women who work in the public sector are not paid particularly well. She said that 56 per cent of women employed in the Australian Public Service were APS 5 or lower. “It’s not a bad income but it is these women who are going to miss out. They will lose their government paid PPL. They will lose time with their babies and have to go to work.” Ms Macklin said she had received an email from a nurse working nightshift who was already pregnant and concerned about the possible cuts. “Forty to fifty thousand of the women who are going to be affected by this cut are already pregnant. They included nurses and a whole range of people who are going to be affected because of this government’s attack on working women.” It has also been argued that women in the public sector have traded better PPL in the past for pay rises. Dr Williamson said that PPL in the public sector appeared to have plateaued and was not mentioned much any more during APS bargaining, whereas private sector companies were offering increasingly generous benefits, something she could not see changing any time soon. Who has the numbers? While the government is obviously keen to push the Bill through, the Greens and Labor have vowed to oppose the Bill’s progress in the Senate but the numbers are likely to rest with the nine crossbenchers. Pauline Hanson’s bloc of four senators and Senator David Leyonhjelm appear to support the government's changes while Derryn Hinch is undecided but is more likely to throw his support behind the government. It will be the Nick Xenophon Team who are likely to provide the deciding vote and prove critical to the Bill’s passage. The party is understood to still be considering its position. [post_title] => Women, rise up like a huge terrifying army: parental leave campaigner [post_excerpt] =>  Target dodgy childcare and private colleges first. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25363 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-25 12:05:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-25 01:05:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24851 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-08-31 12:43:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-08-31 02:43:09 [post_content] =>  Clover Moore at Mardi Gras_opt (1)   Pre-polling is now open for the NSW local council elections, as the NSW Electoral Commission raised concerns people may not realise they must vote. Seventy-eight councils will go to the polls next weekend (Saturday, September 10) but 48 councils have had their elections deferred, including many metropolitan Sydney councils. Elections have been postponed until September 2017 for the 19 new councils created in May, as well as for councils who are in limbo because they are challenging their mergers in court and councils under administration. A handful of elections in rural areas are uncontested for either the whole council or one or more ward. The split means that the Commission is anticipating some confusion among voters about whether they need to vote or not, particularly where voters live in areas whose bordering councils are doing the opposite. Some may not vote and be fined, others may turn up to vote and discover there is no election. Pre-polling closes at 6pm on Friday, September 9. NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole said people should check whether they needed to vote or not. “I would urge anyone who is uncertain about whether they are required to vote on September 10 to visit where they can check their enrolment details and look up their enrolled street address to find out whether they will need to vote,” Mr Toole said. “This resource is provided by the NSW Electoral Commission, which has responsibility for making people aware of local government elections, and it is reminding the community that voting is compulsory.” Meanwhile, tales of developers, breakaway candidates and smear campaigns have brought a soap opera quality to this year’s local government elections. City of Sydney remains the glittering prize with the major parties desperate to pry power away from Independent Mayor Clover Moore and unseat her from the Town Hall, scuppering her twelve-year reign. For the first time, businesses in the City of Sydney area are mandated to vote and they get two votes when they do, a change pushed for by City of Sydney councillor Ed Mandla and supported by NSW Premier Mike Baird. The impact of an extra 23,000 (business) voters – around one-quarter of the total vote - on the council election remains to be seen but it is likely to make a dent in incumbent Mayor Clover Moore’s chances, though not enough to topple her. Although Moore is a good bet to retain the mayoralty she is likely to finish up with fewer councillors on her ticket which would tip the balance of power at Town Hall. There are ten spots all up, including the Mayor. In 2012, Moore scooped more than 50 per cent first preference votes and five of her team secured places on the council. Moore’s ticket includes influential candidates Dr Kerryn Phelps, former President of the Australian Medical Association and a public health and gay rights activist, and prominent Sydney architect Phillip Thalis, a sign that the Mayor may be coaching her successor. Moore faces off against ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, representing the Liberals; Independent Angela Vithoulkas, who Mandla defected to (after directing a few choice barbs at his Liberal colleagues about lobbyists and factions) and Labor’s Linda Scott, who has rugby league star Ian Roberts on her ticket. Out west, candidates are limbering up for a fight but this time without Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun. The Liberal mayor recently announced that he will not stand for council this time around, claiming he wanted to spend more time with his family. Mannoun’s decision follows a raft of accusations aired against him and his family by Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak, who attacked Mannoun under parliamentary privilege in September last year. Mannoun has denounced Borsak for running a smear campaign. The mayor’s home and offices were raided by ICAC in August, apparently at the Mayor’s request. Instead, it has been left to Liberal Tony Hadchiti to take a run at the mayor’s job, with Mannoun’s backing. Another focal point of these elections will be around developers and real estate agents, particularly following events at the previous Auburn Council and the highly publicised excesses of former Deputy Mayor and property developer Salim Mehajer. Although the new Cumberland Council, formed by merging parts of Auburn, Parramatta and Holroyd Councils, will not be holding an election until September next year observers are sure to be watching to see if councillors in other areas declare any property interests. The Baird government brought in new rules in June requiring a cap on political donations and ruling that property developers and real estate agents must reveal their profession when running for election. They are not allowed to vote on issues where they have a pecuniary interest but the government stopped short of banning them from sitting on councils. NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has banned Labour candidates from being real estate agents or property developers, a ban backed also by the Greens. NSW Labor banned property developers from becoming candidates at a local, state and federal level in 2013. Fairfield Council’s elections have already attracted their share of controversy ahead of the voting. Fairfield Labor Mayor Frank Carbone was disendorsed by his party in the run-up to the local council elections, allegedly because some State Labor MPs got jumpy about his property interests. While Carbone has protested that he is not a developer his brother Pat (Pasquale) is a well-known developer. Events took a bizarre turn when Frank Carbone decided to run against Labor-endorsed candidate Del Bennett on an independent ticket with suspended Liberal councillor Dai Le.   Dai Le and Frank Carbone_opt Fairfield's unlikely duo: Dai Le and Frank Carbone.   Dai Le was handed a ten-year suspension from the party after running against an endorsed Liberal councillor. Carbone was expelled from NSW ALP this week for opposing Bennett, the endorsed Labour candidate. The 2016 local government elections are also liable to generate a chorus of complaints from residents whose councils are headed by administrators until September 2017. One thing is for sure, they won’t be dull. [post_title] => NSW local council elections promise drama and confusion [post_excerpt] => City of Sydney, the glittering prize. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-local-council-elections-promise-high-drama-confusion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-01 15:20:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-01 05:20:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24590 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-08-03 05:12:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-08-02 19:12:35 [post_content] => Close up of doctor's hand at computer typing   The new agency responsible for e-health records has secured the services of the man who oversaw the design of a new digital health strategy for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). Tim Kelsey, who was the first National Director for Patients and Information in NHS England, will head up the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), which came into being on July 1 this year. He will lead national digital health in Australia, including resuscitating the troubled My Health Record system, where patient’s health records are shared between doctors, hospitals, healthcare providers and specialists, with permission from patients. Kelsey’s CV shows a long-term commitment to transparency and forcing up healthcare quality by using data for public good but he has also been embroiled in some controversy in the past. During his time with the NHS, he drove patient participation, communication, marketing and brand in the role of National Director for Patients and Information, a role he describes as a combination of Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer. He was also the first chair of the National Information Board, which designed the UK’s new digital health strategy. Kelsey had further success as the force behind the 2007 launch of the NHS Choices Information website - NHS England’s official website - which now boasts one-quarter of all health-related web traffic in the UK and he spent 2011 – 2012 as Executive Director of Transparency and Open Data at the UK’s Cabinet Office. Most recently, he left the NHS to relocate to Australia and worked as commercial director at Telstra Health, where he led the development of digital mobile solutions before taking up his post at the ADHA.   Tim Kelsey_opt Tim Kelsey. Pic: Google Images.   Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the new CEO was “internationally regarded as a leader in digital health, in both the private and public sectors” and had a strong track record in digital health service delivery. “He is the right choice for the appointment as CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency to further the Australian Government’s commitment to use digital health to create a world-class health system for all Australians,” she said. Despite his stellar career, Kelsey has not been without his critics. He established the website Dr Foster in 2000, which made newspaper headlines in 2010 when it made comparative hospital data public, including publishing death rates by individual hospitals. But it was a deal done between Dr Forster and the NHS that caused a stir after the NHS brought a 50 per cent stake in the website. The transaction was labelled by the House of Commons’ Committee of Public Accounts, as a ‘hole and corner deal’ and criticised for not following the proper tender process or delivering value for money. Later rebranded Dr Foster Intelligence, the health analytics company was sold to Telstra in 2015. Putting in the hard yards Undeniably, Kelsey is an international heavy hitter in digital health but he faces a rocky road ahead when he starts his new job as CEO in mid-August. The My Health Record, previously named the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record, has been a stop-start time and money vampire since it was launched by Labor in 2012. Labor threw more than $1 billion at it but the opt-in system still had low buy-in from the public and then AMA President Brian Owler criticised it for being rolled out to GPs and leaving out specialists, thereby diluting the idea of an integrated electronic records system. A Deloitte 2014 report based on a review of the PCEHR found that although there was broad support for an eHealth record, it had a low level of public awareness and clinicians were concerned about the increased workload it could represent. There were also concerns about privacy and data security. It wasn’t just doctors and patients who were jumpy, vendors were too. The Deloitte report showed that vendors wanted more certainty around the timeframes for software development and redevelopment, a more collaborative approach to specifications and standards and sufficient lead-in time and the resources to bring it all together. But despite the concerns from different quarters, the report concluded that an electronic health record remained a goal worth pursuing. The report said: “Considerable good will exists to improve and hasten the achievement of an ubiquitous PCEHR used by clinicians and consumers in joint management of health – this can be harnessed though better identification of benefits, a clear path to implementation and extensive and ongoing consultation with and involvement of clinicians and consumers in the design of a redeveloped PCEHR going forward.” In 2005 the then federal Health Minister Tony Abbott famously said the scheme would count as a failure if it was not up and running within a year. "I want patients to see a difference in 12 months. If patients do not see a difference, we will have failed," Abbot told Computer World in 2005. "For too long we have tried to achieve too much. The best is the enemy of the good." Health Minister Sussan Ley announced a “rescue package” of $485 million last year to get doctors on board and start enrolling patients. The low take-up of only one in ten Australians was addressed by making the scheme opt-out (not opt-in) and mandating doctors to enrol patients. The Australian Digital Health Agency’s Promethean task It is clear that the political will to deliver an effective, widespread eHealth system remains strong. Ley has stressed that My Health Record is the new Agency’s most important task. “Most importantly, the new Agency is the system operator for the government’s recently launched My Health Record System which is a secure, online summary of people’s health information that can be shared with doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers with the permission of patients,” she said. “This gives people more control of their health and care and with access to new digital apps and online services the Australian community is benefiting from the modern information revolution.” She said the Agency would focus on “engagement, innovation and clinical quality and safety.” My Health Record also records and shares patient details such as pathology test results, allergies, x-rays, hospital discharge information and advanced care planning. [post_title] => Can UK digital whizz resurrect eHealth? [post_excerpt] => First Australian Digital Health Agency CEO. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => can-uk-digital-whizz-resurrect-ehealth [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-08-04 12:46:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-08-04 02:46:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24442 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-07-18 20:59:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-18 10:59:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24443" align="alignnone" width="287"]Frydenberg campaign_opt Environment & Energy: a Lycra Free Zone.[/caption]     When it comes to steady-as-she-goes reshuffles, it’s the subtle and incremental details that denote the real direction of the Turnbull ministry agenda for the parliamentary term ahead. That’s the take-out from the official cast list for 'Turnbull 2.0' after the Prime Minister survived a near death election after ruthlessly efficient negative campaigning from the Opposition inflicted far more damage than anticipated. Jobs and Growth? Most incumbent Ministers have kept their jobs, but there’s is anything but growth in government numbers essential to make policy into legislation. And you have to look right to the very end of the ministry list to see Turnbull’s real stamp of innovation.   Renewed Energy Listed literally last in the July 2016 class list, Victorian MP Josh Frydenberg has picked up what’s arguably the most eye opening ministry: Environment and Energy. The combination of those two policy areas under a single minister is clearly intended to send a firm message to stakeholders, industry and public servants. The message is this: what previously may have been opposing policy views must now pull together for a common good and a shared destiny. Sectoral cooperation must succeed sectoral conflict.If Tony Abbott went out of his way to punish the renewables sector through funding cuts and policies that favoured traditional energy sources like coal, gas and petroleum, Turnbull’s message is that both energy policy and industry needs look to a low emitting future to stay relevant. Sectoral cooperation must succeed sectoral conflict. If Tony Abbott went out of his way to punish the renewables sector through funding cuts and policies that favoured traditional energy sources like coal, gas and petroleum, Turnbull’s message is that both energy policy and the energy industry must look to a low emitting future to stay relevant. That's not so dumb. That's not dumb. Previously the portfolios had been split into Energy and Resources linking extraction, mining and generation while the development of the renewables industry was kept at bay by placing it in the Environment portfolio. Resources – read extraction and mining – now goes to ascendant Nationals Senator and former Barnaby Joyce staffer Senator Matt Canavan who also picks up the Northern Australia ministry for his talents and ambition. It’s a prescient move given the very public opposition of many farmers and Nationals to the encroachment of mining interests and polarising industries like Coal Seam Gas onto agricultural land. There is also a strong implicit message that any political debt owed to the mining industry following its relentless and generously funded anti-Mining Tax campaign during the Coalition's time in Opposition has been fully extinguished.   All regions are local Another Nationals winner is Senator Fiona Nash who – very logically – gets Local Government added to her duties alongside Regional Development. Local Government – which ministers to more than 500 Mayors under the thumb of state governments – had previously rested with Paul Fletcher, who now gets to devote his full concentration to Urban Infrastructure. Again, there’s a consistent theme in the new grouping of ministries along metropolitan and non-metropolitan lines. Having outlined a new federal interest in a coordinated approach to the development of cities and major infrastructure – think rail or major urban renewal – Turnbull has arguably returned policy for regional councils to a better fit.   Coordinating Infrastructure Although still in the outer ministry, Fletcher’s talent for understanding complex and technical industries and infrastructure can now be put to full use rather than being drained by distractions like unpopular local government mergers on his own doorstep. Fletcher’s role in demonstrating and selling Turnbull’s vision of cooperative federalism on the ground to voters – think opening roads and bridges – should also not be underestimated. Fletcher’s outer ministry also dovetails much more neatly with Angus Taylor’s Cities and Digital Transformation duties and provides two capable, younger and forward-looking junior ministers to help deliver coordinated national policies in areas that were previously largely left to the states. If both Taylor and Fletcher make headway, it will help Turnbull deliver on an agenda of national renewal and new industry creation that has so far proved evasive. The federal Local Government ministry didn't even get named under Abbott.   Defending votes South Australian MP Christopher Pyne’s move to Defence Industry Minister is about the strongest reflection yet of the urgent need to reinvigorate job creation in industrial sectors in transition. Pyne’s shift out of Industry, Innovation and Science (which goes to Greg Hunt) to building submarines, ships and warplanes may not be overtly upward, but it does underscore a rock solid intention to ensure that states like South Australia benefit directly from massive industries like military procurement in terms of jobs. Change management isn't always sexy, but it's crucial. Pyne’s other big challenge will be to ensure that big projects help create sustainable local industries like advanced manufacturing that can replace big losses in sectors like car building by spreading opportunities for local growth around, rather than just buying new kit off the shelf. The mission statement is clear: remake Defence into an industry that actually contributes to the economy rather than merely feeds off it. Shake down a few military industrial multinationals while you're at it. That’s no small task.   Revenue and Financial Services One of the real surprises in the mini-reshuffle is the replacement of the title of Assistant Treasurer with a sharply more contemporary post of Revenue and Financial Services – a role that goes to Kelly O’Dwyer who cedes Small Business to Michael McCormack. Fairly or otherwise, the relinquishment of one O’Dwyer’s previous ministries is certain to be regarded by many as a loss for the minister who remains in Cabinet. That interpretation could be missing the bigger policy picture. In recasting the former Assistant Treasurer ministry into a far more hands-on position, a capable plumber to ensure that the effectiveness of taxation works for the government and not against it isn't a glamour job, but it's prudent. In a digitised economy, where the physical location of payments and transactions have been routinely moved to minimise Treasury’s take, the development of effective revenue measures and mechanisms that tap into electronic commerce occurring in Australia remains a key challenge. Coupled with endemic transfer pricing and other tax minimisation techniques – of themselves part of the wider financial services market – it’s arguable a fully dedicated plumber minister unencumbered by other distractions has a better chance stemming revenue leakage. Given the Australian Taxation Office has already indicated it wants to eliminate the annual ritual of taxpayers filing an annual return through an agent when they have relatively simple affairs, an increase in the efficient targeting and collection of taxes could pay off in spades. If the likes of Google, Apple, Uber and other disruptors start paying the same level of tax locally as the industry players that came before them did it’s unlikely to hurt the Turnbull Government or O’Dwyer. [post_title] => Turnbull ministry tweaks quietly demolish Abbott’s policy agenda [post_excerpt] => Subtle, smart reforms lead rebuilding [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => turnbulls-ministry-tweaks-quietly-demolish-abbotts-policy-agenda [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-07-19 09:56:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-07-18 23:56:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23825 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-05-05 18:33:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-05 08:33:12 [post_content] => rejected photo_opt   Australian Taxation Office (ATO) chief Chris Jordan has all but shut down any prospect of a meaningful breakthrough in the bitter two year industrial battle over Australian Public Service pay and conditions, before a 2nd July election. He’s frankly told more than 20,000 ATO staff what happens next is simply unclear after they delivered a thumping 71.5 per cent rejection of the agency’s latest offer. The announcement of a negative result from the ATO’s Enterprise Agreement vote revealed on Thursday afternoon – in which 85 per cent of eligible staff voted – wasn’t the only big news though. It contained the strongest signal yet that agency heads are simply not prepared to try and force through any more deals based on the Abbott government’s hardline industrial bargaining policy. With as little as just one working day left before the public service and the Turnbull government hit caretaker mode, timing is everything. “I am very disappointed that we didn’t reach agreement,” Mr Jordan said in a communique to ATO staff. “Given that the Government is likely to announce an election soon, we are not in a position to give certainty about the next steps at this time.” Disappointment was not the sentiment expressed by the Community and Public Sector Union, for which the effective collapse of the Bargaining Framework will be a major victory. “ATO management pushed incredibly hard for staff to accept the harsh and unreasonable offer they put on the table,” said CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood. “This result makes it crystal clear that our members won’t settle for anything less than a fair deal that protects their rights and conditions while granting a decent pay rise to compensate them for two long years of negotiations.” The ATO’s up-front position on what comes next sets a strong precedent for other agency chiefs to follow after the Australian Public Service Commission blanked taking a public position on the caretake bargaining issue in late March. “The APSC will issue advice to agencies regarding bargaining during the caretaker period prior to the period commencing,” a statement from the Commission provided to Government News said at the time, with no further information provided. With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expected to head to Yarralumla on the weekend, the glaring absence of an official position on whether bargaining should continue effective draws a line under the two year-long battle that commenced with former Employment and Public Service Minister making the winding back of APS conditions and entitlements a frontline industrial issue. The announcement of the ‘No’ vote at the ATO is the second major rejection from public servants this week after Defence civilian staff also rejected their enterprise offer. While there have been a handful of smaller agencies signing off on their new workplace deals, the vast majority of federal public servants are now almost certain to head to the polls with their existing industrial deals expired and a new one no-where in sight. That scenario leaves the APSC, and its chief John Lloyd, in a decidedly awkward position of being the custodian of one of the Abbott government’s most visible failures. Labor has already announced that it will tear up the existing bargaining framework if elected, a move clearly intended to warn senior public servants of the potential dangers of trying to force a result before the election. There is also a widely held belief that retaining Mr Lloyd in the position of APSC Commissioner would be unworkable if Labor is elected. Much less clear is what a re-elected Turnbull government’s intentions for the APSC might be, with some Liberals known to be unconvinced of the need for the agency to exist at all. One of the biggest hints for what would be in store for the wider public service appeared in May 3 Budget which lumped together the theme of “Transformation” with the reviled Efficiency Dividend to slash $1.9 billion in spending, a savings measure that was ranked second in prominence in the so called Budget ‘Glossy’ that spells out spending and savings initiatives. With public service numbers already sheared back to levels of a decade ago, the anticipation is that government spending on back office functions, technology, paper and process heavy functions like procurement costs, property leases and vehicles will all be targeted. That expectation was fuelled by the tapering down of the renewed efficiency dividend in the later year of the forward estimates because there would be fewer efficiencies to be found. [post_title] => ATO wage deal rejected, Jordan boots failed APS bargaining into long grass [post_excerpt] => Caretaker mode bites. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => tax-wage-deal-rejected-jordan-boots-failed-aps-bargaining-into-long-grass [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-05 18:33:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-05 08:33:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23811 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-05-04 11:17:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-04 01:17:45 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23812" align="alignnone" width="287"]Road_Train_Australia_opt Infrastructure money: fuel for votes.[/caption]     Australia’s peak body for councils and municipalities, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), has cautiously welcomed the 2016-17 Budget, expressing relief that the Roads to Recovery program will get a little extra cash alongside an “indication” of a return to inflation-proofing annual grants from Canberra to councils. Funding for the popular scheme, which provides specific purpose funding for councils to fix key roads, has been boosted by $50 million a year with the forward estimates confirming it will continue beyond 2018-19. While abolishing the scheme would have equated to political suicide in the regions, the boost reflects a restoration of a prominent role for councils at the bigger national policy table after the Abbott government intentionally expunged the term ‘local government’ from the very portfolio that looks after it. ALGA President Mayor Troy Pickard said councils had called for additional funding for the Roads to Recovery program “and the extra funds indicated in the budget will be welcomed in helping to address the challenge of maintaining more than 640,000 km of local roads.” However the peak body has also cautioned that the money will only go part of the way to fixing Australia’s bitumen repair backlog and called for roads to be a national investment priority. “More needs to be done to ensure the local road network has the capacity required to address access, productivity and road safety issues, especially in regional areas,” Mayor Pickard said. “Additional investment in local roads must be part of the solution to increasing transport productivity on the nation's transport network." There was also palpable relief that indexation appears to be returning to the popular Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) program that suffered a sudden billion dollar hit under the Abbott government that caught many councils badly short on their own budgeting. According to ALGA, the numbers contained in the budget out years “signalled an expectation that annual indexation of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs), which will provide $2.3 billion in untied funding to local government in 2016-17, will return from 2017-18.” However the Turnbull government is keeping its options open on the re-indexation front, opting to communicate any move to restore inflation proofing through interpretation rather than specifically calling out and thus committing to such a move. One financially influential factor that won’t to be lost on councils is that while the $1 billion dollar hit via pausing indexation hurt, inflation has remained stubbornly low thus dulling the part of relief that indexation might have otherwise had. "The three-year pause on FAGs indexation implemented in the 2014-15 budget was unexpected and had a severe impact on the sector,” Mayor Pickard said. “We sought a specific commitment from the Government and the Opposition to restore indexation. The indication that indexation is expected to return in 2017-18 is welcome although it does not completely guarantee an end to the freeze, which will reduce ongoing funding for councils around Australia by more $300 million per year." At a wider level ALGA has applauded the vigorous reversal by the Turnbull government of Tony Abbott’s strong that Commonwealth needed to stay strictly out of state led public transport projects, especially at a funding level. Councils have the potential to directly benefit from public transport improvement because of the potential to raise property values on which rates are calculated as well as naturally attracting more residents to council areas well served by trains, light rail and busses. Mayor Pickard said a commitment to infrastructure is essential and “was one of the strong themes running through ALGA's budget submission and 2016 election plan” and welcomed top ups for roads black spots and bridges. “From ALGAs' perspective the additional $60 million in funding for the Bridges Renewal Program and Black Spot Programme will be very welcome,” Mayor Pickard said. [post_title] => Councils welcome Federal relief: Budget2016 [post_excerpt] => In from the cold. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => local-government-finally-gets-some-federal-relief [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-10 10:25:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-10 00:25:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23706 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-04-22 00:17:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-04-21 14:17:35 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23707" align="alignnone" width="287"]Brendan O'Connor rally_opt Let it rip: Brendan O'Connor (pic: Facebook)[/caption]   Labor’s Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor has finally put Australian Public Service chiefs on notice an election win by his party would immediately junk the current deadlocked bargaining policy and offer a better pay deal. The declaration by the Opposition creates a fresh headache for agency heads still officially tasked with attempting to secure workplace deals before the commencement of a pre-election caretaker period because it could force them to make an invidious gamble on which political side may win. “A Shorten Labor Government will remove the Abbott-Turnbull Government requirement that forces agencies to strip rights and we will provide a fair pay outcome that will ensure workers do not go backwards in real terms, unlike the Abbott-Turnbull Government,” Mr O’Connor said in a statement. It is understood some senior public servants had been hoping attempts to force the divisive bargaining process to a conclusion would be effectively parked by both the Coalition and Labor until after the anticipated July election, giving both the bureaucracy and whoever is elected clear air to reset the deadlocked process. Mr O’Connor’s statement on Thursday followed an extensive speech by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the public service the day before which conspicuously blanked the issue of bargaining and strikes and instead painted a broad picture of need for performance improvements that could be delivered by technology. Mr Turnbull’s speech was interpreted by many as a nuanced signal bargaining parameters would be substantially recalibrated in the event the Coalition is returned. With an election looming, Labor’s Shadow Employment Minister was not about to let the opportunity of highlighting one of the Turnbull government’s enduring problems slip away. Mr Turnbull is blackmailing workers,” Mr O’Connor said. Thousands of workers have already lost important workplace rights and many thousands more face doing so as the way out of the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s imposed wage freeze.” Labor is yet to put a number on what a new pay offer may look like, although the prominent commitment to come up with an offer that is not negative “in real terms” suggests it will need to be at least as good as inflation –which remains at record lows. A major absence from Mr O’Connor’s pledge is any commitment to back pay, an issue the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is likely to pursue in the event of a Labor win. The CPSU immediately welcomed Mr O’Connor’s stand. “Public sector workers and their bosses will both welcome Labor providing a sensible solution to this two-year bargaining dispute caused by the hard-line ideology of the Abbott-Turnbull Government,” said CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood. “It’s an absolute mess, with over 120,000 employees still without a new agreement.” [post_title] => Labor vows to kill toxic APS bargaining policy [post_excerpt] => New offer would be positive in “real terms”. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => labor-vows-to-kill-toxic-aps-bargaining-policy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-04-26 10:47:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-04-26 00:47:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23462 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-03-24 17:48:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-24 06:48:39 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23463" align="alignnone" width="300"]100821: Polling Day Imagery, Adelaide. pic: Australian Electoral Commission[/caption]   There are plenty of pitfalls for public servants and their agencies thanks to limitations placed on them through the Caretaker Conventions immediately before an election – but inking a new pay deal or enterprise agreement isn’t usually one of them. As the odds of a double dissolution election in early July continue to narrow, Australia’s largest public service agencies, and arguably unions, have had a new spanner thrown into the works of bargaining negotiations – whether deals can be done after writs are issued. It’s a rather curious question that has the Australian Public Service Commission treading very warily in terms of what agencies and departments are being be told, with a definitive position still yet to emerge … despite the clock ticking loudly. Asked what the APSC’s position is on finalising deals during the Caretaker period, the public sector’s industrial watchdog appears to be buying itself a little time before committing to any definitive answer. “The APSC will issue advice to agencies regarding bargaining during the caretaker period prior to the period commencing,” a statement from the Commission provided to Government News says, with no further information provided. With unionised staff at giants like Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Human Services, Defence and a swathe of mid-size and smaller agencies still all holding out (some only just) the knocking-out of the Caretaker period would act to either sharply truncate or extend already protracted negotiations. Any interregnum is likely to suit the Community and Public Sector Union no matter who is elected later this year. A re-election of the Turnbull government would likely produce a reset of the present bargaining framework, with many expecting much greater flexibility in terms of the what productivity offsets can be included. A return to Labor, under Bill Shorten, would give the CPSU a much more influential seat at the bargaining table, with the widely loathed efficiency dividend that took out 14,500 APS jobs would certainly be painted up as a target for attack. The worst case scenario for the CPSU, although a distinctly remote possibility, would be a Coalition return to power under deposed Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Those prepared to gamble on backing an Abbott comeback are getting long odds from Australia’s bookies. CrownBet has Mr Abbott at an unflattering $51 for an election win. Malcolm Turnbull is sitting on $1.02. [post_title] => Can agencies finalise pay deals in Caretaker period? Er, we’ll get back to you, says APSC [post_excerpt] => Election countdown continues. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 23462 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-29 10:44:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-28 23:44:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23180 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-02-29 15:08:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-29 04:08:35 [post_content] => 500_series_Shinkansen_train_at_Tokyo_Station_opt   Few nation building projects can both inspire and frustrate the public and potential investors as much Australia’s half-century long flirtation with building a high-speed East Coast railroad – aka a Very Fast Train – that is still yet to lay a single sleeper. But there are strong signs emerging that even right-leaning free market conservatives, who are normally sceptical about backing big government-driven infrastructure projects, could be about come on track and back the idea of a Very Fast Train (VFT) as a means to drive investment. Credible reports in Fairfax Media have reveal former trade Minister – and soon to be businessman – Andrew Robb has started passionately championing the building of a Very Fast Train to Australia’s corporate and transport sectors as a vital piece of infrastructure. According to the report, which is based on a recording of a speech by Mr Robb to a freight symposium just two days after he announced he was departing Cabinet, the combination of low interest rates across the globe and a strong international investment appetite for major projects in stable countries like Australia is now an opportunity to valuable to miss. “We should do it now whilst the world is awash with cheap money – in six or seven years it may not be – but it is at the moment,” Mr Robb is reported to have told industry at the symposium. The revelation of Mr Robb’s comments is fortuitous. It comes just a day before Federal Parliament’s Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities takes evidence from the Central Japan Railway Company and Japanese diplomats on the operation of its network of high speed rail lines for the last 60 years. The Standing Committee is running an inquiry into the role of transport connectivity on stimulating development and economic activity, a topic that is also close to the heart of the Coalition partner, the Nationals and will also hear from Torkel Patterson, the vice chairman of the International High Speed Rail Association. The promotion of building a Very Fast Train from a member of the right faction of the Coalition Turnbull government is highly significant because it opens the possibility that high speed rail along the East Coast could finally garner bipartisan support. The previous Abbott government largely directed government transport infrastructure focus towards motorway and toll road builds, such as Sydney’s controversial WestConnex, in an effort to relieve metropolitan congestion by completing ring roads and linking transport corridors so that trucks and cars had a faster path than existing suburban roads. While those road projects remain, what has changed significantly following the 2015 leadership change within the Coalition is that both rail and public transport are again strongly in the mix for federal funding as the Turnbull government tries to work with state governments on urban challenges through the creation of the “Cities and Built Environment” ministry. A notable element of Mr Robb’s latest backing of the Very Fast Train project is that private investors could be enticed to back the project by harnessing the so-called ‘Value Capture’ mechanism, where outlay is recouped by builders and the government taking a cut of the increase in property values and new building and economic development a fast transport corridor would bring. In New South Wales, the Baird government is heavily backing the Value Capture model, which is commonly used in Asia, to financially underpin its new Sydney Metro rapid transit rail line that will use driverless trains run at high frequency so that passengers won’t need a timetable. The Baird government is also piggy-backing a major renewal of presently run-down inner city public housing estates, revealing it will rebuild large sections of Waterloo into a mix of private and public that will be serviced by routing the Metro project literally underneath the redevelopment. Property developers are predictably cheering on the Sydney Metro development because it opens the door to more densely populated developments that are far less reliant on cars and buses thanks to their immediate proximity to rapid mass transit. The potential application of Value Capture to regional centres where a Very Fast Train would run through is also likely to be applauded by urban developers because it would likely produce higher yields on new dwellings than present regional and outer-suburban projects that usually sell at a discount to properties closer to cities. According to the Australasian Rail Association “the rollout of High Speed Rail (HSR) along Australia’s East Coast are long term solutions that will take cars off our roads, reduce road congestion and accidents, decrease travel time for all involved, reduce Australia’s carbon footprint and above all, improve Australia’s productivity and competitiveness.” The industry group is pushing for an East Coast Very Fast Train route of almost 1800 km that will run at 350km/h and has called on Federal and States governments to ensure a corridor is preserved to secure the run. The ARA advocated HSR route would be divided into two stages. Stage One would connect Sydney, Southern Highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga, Shepparton and Melbourne. Stage Two would connect Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle, Taree, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Casino, Gold Coast, Brisbane. According to travel times estimated by the ARA, a HSR would easily be competitive with air travel, especially after travel to the airport and check in times are factored in. Inter-city and regional travel times as estimated by the ARA are:
  • Brisbane – Gold Coast: 15 minutes
  • Canberra – Sydney: 1 hour
  • Sydney – Melbourne: 3 hours
  • Gold Coast – Sydney: 3 hours
  • Sydney – Newcastle: 40 minutes.
[post_title] => Is the Very Fast Train back on the Federal agenda? [post_excerpt] => Outgoing Andrew Robb revives huge project push. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => is-the-very-fast-train-back-on-the-federal-agenda [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-01 12:56:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-01 01:56:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23039 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-02-12 00:31:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-11 13:31:22 [post_content] => Kangaroos at peace: Lake George   Australia’s first ever National Wind Farm Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, might well fear his recently created role doesn’t enjoy the exceptional Prime Ministerial support it once had – and possibly the next Budget. But the man paid $205,000 a year and employed part time to investigate complaints into the propeller driven renewables industry has a bigger problem. Almost nobody can find his website, including Google. But he’s an optimist. Charged with leading “efforts to promote information availability, providing a central, trusted source for dissemination of information” about the rotating machines so loathed by former Treasurer Joe Hockey, Dyer this week publicly confessed his Commission’s online presence is so invisible he’s forced to email complainants the website address – after they call a 1800 number. [Go to the end of this story if you are after the National Wind Farm Commission mystery URL] “I have emailed, probably, over 150 people, including community groups, concerned residents and stakeholders. It is not an elegant way of getting it done, but it is certainly a better way to get the message out,” Dyer told a Senate Estimates hearing. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the main lodgement facility for complaints about those noisy windmills that make electricity was somewhere other than a main web page in stealth mode. And it would be unfortunate if people found it harder than otherwise necessary to complain. “How is this promotion of information availability happening since your appointment in October, now some five or six months ago, when there is no website and I cannot see how I can find any information?” queried Labor Senator Lisa Singh. Of course there is a website. It’s just kind of buried within the Environment Department’s website, so it doesn’t appear on Google until … well Government News went through 16 Google pages looking for National Wind Farm Commissioner and still couldn’t see it. Still, it’s only been up a couple of months. Give it time to catch on. It’ll be viral. “I would describe that as an interim website to get basic information out to the community,” Mr Dyer told the Estimates Committee. “We will need a robust version to be built once we can get resources in place.” Those in the know about wind farms clearly don’t need Google to find the National Wind Farm Commission. They have other antennae. “I can assure you people are finding us,” Mr Dyer said. “The Google search for the website is a matter that we will have to deal with on a technical basis.” Cynical and unkind wind power sceptics might smell a conspiracy in the apparent search engine cloaking of the windmill inquisitor general. They can rest assured there isn’t one. The Estimates hearing heard that the real root cause of the National Wind Farm Commission’s internet oblivion is its dogged pursuit of an independent website outside the loving confines of the Department of Environment. “I am in a process — which the secretary is aware of — of getting an independent URL. That will be, so it is far more accessible and hopefully more easily found on Google. But there is a process that I have had to work through to get that to happen,” Mr Dyer said. Enter those wretched party poopers from the Digital Transformation Office. Apparently it’s all their fault. “We have been wanting to set up an independent website with its own URL,” said Dr Rhondda Dickson, Environment’s Deputy Secretary, Climate Change and Renewables Innovation Group, throwing Mr Dyer a lifeline. Or overboard. “There is a process through the Digital Transformation Office that we need to go through to get permission to set up separate URLs.” Talk about red tape. Of course apologists would argue someone’s trying to stop people setting up random, confusing semi-functional government websites everywhere and create a cohesive, evidence driven structure based on what people actually say they need to find. Dr Dickson said that in order to get the National Wind Farm Commission’s site up and running “as an interim measure we set it up on Environment's website.” “We have done that for the Wind Farm Commissioner to get some preliminary information out, but clearly we are aiming to get to the independent site. I think we now have approval to go ahead on that.” Mr Dyer said: “It is progressing.” Senator Singh was particularly keen on dates and deadlines as to when the National Wind Farm Commission’s unshackled website might appear. Opposition Deputy Whip, Senator Anne Urquhart is after a list of those emailed information. Time for Dr Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary of the Department of Environment, to step and politely manage expectations. “It is very hard to provide a date of when we would get authorisation for approval,” Dr de Brouwer said. “We will follow up and expedite it as much as possible, and as soon as we find out, if it is satisfactory, we will inform the committee.” But who’s counting the days before Budget. And the Wind Farm Commission website that can’t be found? It’s here.     [post_title] => Why nobody can find the National Wind Farm Commission website: including Google [post_excerpt] => No big conspiracy. Or SEO. Just blame the DTO. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => why-nobody-can-find-the-national-wind-farm-commission-website-including-google [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-12 01:19:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-11 14:19:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27059 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-05 15:15:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-05 05:15:39 [post_content] =>   By Kymberley Martin Support for the Federal Government among small and medium businesses (SMBs) has dipped to its lowest level since Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister, according to the latest Sensis Business Index (SBI) survey. “After we saw Malcolm Turnbull take over as Prime Minister in 2015 we saw confidence in the government rise, with businesses telling us they were optimistic about the change, ” Sensis chief executive, John Allan said. However, since then the government’s approval rating has fallen nine points and is 20 points lower than the highest score under Tony Abbott, following the pro-business 2015 Federal Budget. “To find a lower score we need to go back to the March 2015 survey, which was taken after Tony Abbott had survived a leadership spill. While perceptions of the economy remain strong, less than one in seven businesses have faith in the government’s policies, with the biggest concerns being excessive bureaucracy and red tape, as well as there being too much focus on the interests of big business,” Allan said. The Index, which reflects the views of 1,000 small and medium businesses from across Australia, also revealed that despite a tough quarter for the Government the long term projections for the economy have improved to their best level in 2 ½ years. Read more here.   This story first appeared on Appliance Retailer.  [post_title] => Support for Turbull dips from small and medium businesses [post_excerpt] => State by state results. 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