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Filter by August, 2011

Hendra virus

Hendra virus is in the news again. In the last month, the disease has struck in the Gold Coast hinterland and again in northern New South Wales. The Queensland and New South Wales governments have provided additional funding of $6 million over three years for further research.Hendra virus can live in horses, bats, humans and, as recent events have demonstrated, dogs. This is a nasty virus. About 70% of horses who get the disease will die from it. Of even more concern is the fact that it has also proved fatal to people. Where did it come from, and what can be done about it? It seems that the virus probably originated in ‘flying foxes’ (also known as fruit bats). These animals don’t show signs... Read more...

Proposed Changes to Environmental Protection law

The principal federal environmental legislation over the past eleven years has been the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In 2008 the then Minister for the Environment Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, commissioned an independent review into the EPBC Act. The review was undertaken by an expert panel led by Dr Allan Hawke, and the report was tabled in Parliament on 21 December 2009. The review put forward 71 recommendations. The Australian Government has now released its response to the review on 24 August 2011. In a speech to the National Press Club, the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, outlin... Read more...

Tampa: ten years on

 Image source: Project Safecom 26 August 2011 marks the tenth anniversary of the beginning of what became known as the ‘Tampa incident’ where 433 asylum seekers were rescued from an Indonesian fishing boat by a Norwegian container ship—the MV Tampa. Australian authorities spotted the fishing boat during a routine surveillance flight and broadcast a call to ships in the area to render assistance even though the boat was within the Indonesian search and rescue zone. A five day standoff ensued between the Howard Government and the captain of the Tampa over where the rescued passengers were to be taken. In a speech in Parliament on 29 August 2001, the Prime Minister made the Government’s pos... Read more...

Australian Public Service staffing

Australian Public Service (APS) staffing levels have received attention recently with the Opposition indicating the possibility of abolishing one government department if it is in government and reportedly searching for further public service expenditure reductions.The Opposition has had a policy of reducing public service staff numbers for some time as part of a broader drive to identify savings in government expenditure. In its May 2010 response to the 2010–11 Budget the Opposition stated that in government it would reduce staff numbers by 12 000 over two years through a recruitment freeze and natural attrition (i.e. without redundancies), with exemptions for front-line service and uniform... Read more...

Caring for Older Australians report: a sector in need of reform

    Last week, the Government released the Productivity Commission’s (PC) report, Caring for Older Australians. Most stakeholders have broadly welcomed the recommendations although concerns have been raised in relation to the capacity of the workforce. Concerns also persist among some pensioner groups about the prospect of having to sell their home in order to pay for aged care. The main differences between this final report and the earlier draft report is the proposed arrangements for accommodation bonds and the accommodation subsidy for supported residents. Analysis on the recommendations on the draft report can be found here. The PC has provided more detail on the implementation o... Read more...

Science Weeks and Years

National Science Week (13-21 August) is now upon us, with more than one thousand events across the country. Also unfolding, with perhaps less publicity, is the International Year of Chemistry. Both foster public awareness of science and technology and associated careers.International Year of Chemistry 2011 The United Nations declared 2011 the International Year of Chemistry (IYC) under the unifying theme ‘Chemistry—Our Life, Our Future’. Here, the International Year of Chemistry celebrates the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind, with opportunities for public participation (particularly for young people and women), at the local, regional, national a... Read more...

National Health Reform Agreement: what might it achieve?

After nearly four years in government, an 18 month independent inquiry into the health system, a Prime Ministerial listening tour of the nation’s hospitals, several fraught Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meetings and one unsuccessful attempt, the federal Labor Government has finally secured a health reform deal with all states and territories.The National Health Reform Agreement announced this week is essentially a detailed implementation plan for the Heads of Agreement on National Health Reform, which was negotiated at COAG in February 2011. Most commentators agree that the scope of reform has been scaled back over time. The reforms outlined in this Agreement and the earlier... Read more...

National Homeless Persons' Week

This week is National Homeless Persons’ Week. The theme title this year, MY Address: diversity in homelessness, seeks to draw attention to the many different people who are homeless for many different reasons. A previous FlagPost briefly considered the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) current review of the way in which homeless people are counted in Australia. This review proposed a number of changes to the Counting the Homeless methodology with a view to improving estimates of the number of homeless Australians. The ABS has already introduced some initiatives that should help to improve the enumeration of the homeless population in the 2011 Census, to be conducted next Tuesday. Thes... Read more...

Putting citizens first

 In March 2010 the Australian Government released its blueprint for reform of the Australian Public Service (APS) entitled Ahead of the Game. But rather than leading with a focus on policy and values, the blueprint makes citizens the focus. In Australia and elsewhere, concepts such ‘co-creation’ and ‘co-production’ have emerged to describe the deep collaboration needed between public servants, professionals, citizens and communities. Such approaches constitute a major shift in how the task of public administration is conceived and carried out. A recent national conference, Putting Citizens First, was devoted to the theme of citizen engagement, and the Parliamentary Library has also publishe... Read more...

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