The Federal Budget has included a $54 million package to improve standards of science and maths teaching in Australian schools.

 

The package responds to the report by Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, Mathematics, Engineering And Science In The National Interest.

 

The package includes:

National leadership to drive inspirational and high quality teaching in maths and science

  • $10.9 million to improve the quality of teacher training through innovative delivery of maths and science teaching programs for prospective teachers.
  • $3.0 million for national support and advice for teachers, including funding for a national advisory and linking service, online videos to illustrate new teaching standards, practical activities for school science laboratories and to provide advice for school science laboratory technicians and science teachers on safe practices.
  • $5 million for the Science Connections program to equip teachers with the ability and confidence to deliver inquiry-based science education and to provide a suite of high quality curriculum resources linked to the Australian Curriculum for Science (Foundation to Year 10).

National initiatives to set new benchmarks for raising the engagement, curiosity and participation of students at primary and secondary school levels

  • $20 million to establish the Australian Mathematics and Science Partnerships Program to support innovative partnerships between universities, schools and other organisations to improve secondary students’ engagement in maths and science and increase the number of students who go on to study these subjects at university.
  • $2.0 million for the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, providing students with access to advanced programs in the fields of mathematical and scientific research including through summer schools and vacation scholarships.
  • $6.5 million for expanding the Science Partnerships: Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program.
  • $2.4 million to support the participation of Australia’s most talented science and maths students in the international Science and Mathematics Olympiads.

National leadership to promote sustained awareness of mathematics, science and statistics targeted at industry, school and higher education sectors.

  • $4.3 million for a National Mathematics and Science Education and Industry Adviser, an important new post to be located within the Office of the Chief Scientist to champion the role of mathematics, science and statistics across education and industry.

The Government has also taken the decision to simplify student contribution amounts for maths and science units at universities by reinstating amounts for all students to Band 2 from 1 January 2013. This treats all students studying these units equally.

The Government will consider the Chief Scientist's recommendations regarding student incentives and career pathways for maths and science students in its response to the Lomax-Smith report on the base funding of universities later in 2012.

The Queensland Government has confirmed it will not look to challenge the Federal Government’s carbon tax in the High Court.

 

“The LNP is opposed to the introduction of the Gillard Government’s carbon tax because of the negative effect it will have on industry development, jobs and the cost of living for families as companies pass on the cost of the tax,” Mr Bleijie said.

 

“Unfortunately, we’ve been advised that a challenge is unlikely to be successful, so we won’t waste taxpayers’ money fighting a losing battle.”

 

Mr Bleijie confirmed the State Government will push for the carbon tax to be costed separately on all residential electricity bills from 1 July. 

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The Victorian Government is encouraging stakeholders to comment on the development of metropolitan planning laws in Victoria.

 

State Planning Minister Matthew Guy urged everyone to contribute to the conversation that will shape the future of Melbourne’s planning and development.

 

"We need to build on the best of past planning strategies and bring fresh thinking to our consideration of projected growth and change and to how we address the challenges in front of us," Mr Guy said.

 

"The next 12 months will be critical to the successful development of the metropolitan strategy, as we embark on further consultation across the broader community.

 

"Strong linkages with the Regional Growth Plans will be key to integrating Melbourne with the rest of the state.

 

The State Government launched the Metropolitan Planning Strategy website that can be found here

 

 

 

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The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Select Council on Climate Change has reached a bipartisan agreement for a national approach to reforming climate change policies and programs.

 

The council agreed to fast track a range of programs that are not complementary to a carbon price and will ensure no duplication occurs with existing reporting requirements.

 

“Today we’ve seen the Council agree to seven national priorities for collaborative adaptation action - water resources, coasts, infrastructure, national ecosystems, agriculture, emergency management and vulnerable communities,” Tasmanian Minister for Climate Change, Cassy O’Connar said.

 

Victorian Environment and Climate Change Minister Ryan Smith welcomed the agreement.

 

"Victoria will do its fair share towards reducing Australia's overall greenhouse gas emissions with practical measures to achieve this, such as improving energy efficiency,” Mr Smith said.

 

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The Gillard Government will provide $7.1 million over four years to ensure five Community Based Employment Advice Services (CBEAS) can continue to assist thousands of Australia’s most vulnerable workers.

 

CBEAS are not-for-profit organisations which provide advice, assistance and information to Australians who experience difficulties in asserting and exercising their rights at work.

 

Clients of CBEAS include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, working Australians with disability, women, mature-age workers, migrants and young people.

 

The five Community Based Employment Advice Services which will receive funding grants are:

  • The South Australian Working Women’s Centre
  • The Queensland Working Women’s Centre
  • The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre
  • Employment Law Centre in Western Australia, and
  • JobWatch (Victoria).

 

Services offered by the CBEAS include self-help information sessions for people representing themselves before Fair Work Australia, evening legal advice services, community legal education and research services, and telephone advisory services.

 

The new funding arrangements will commence on 1 July 2012.

Economist, business-owner and environmentalist, Peter Whish-Wilson has been selected by the Tasmanian Greens to replace Bob Brown in the Senate.

 

"Peter will be a superb representative for Tasmania. As an economist, business owner and campaigner to stop a polluting pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, he brings great experience and an excellent skills-set to the Senate and the Greens party room,” Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

 

Mr Whish-Wilson said "I feel honoured to have been chosen by the Greens to be their new Tasmanian Senator, and I'm very excited to be working with Christine Milne.”

The Queensland Government has announced a new wages framework providing pay increases of up to 3 per cent to public servants in return for productivity savings that deliver better services and value for money for Queensland taxpayers.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the State Government was committed to good faith bargaining and delivering fair wage outcomes for public servants.

“With headline inflation running at 1.6 per cent nationally, the Newman LNP Government’s wages framework is very fair and reasonable and fulfils our commitment to good faith bargaining," he said.

“The Newman LNP Government is removing Labor’s arbitrary 2.5 per cent wage cap because we know the public service can and will deliver real benefits through savings and improved productivity in return for higher wages.

“This is about delivering fair wages in return for fair outcomes.

“Labor left the state’s finances in a mess, with a $2.8 billion deficit and debt heading towards $85 billion, and we need the assistance of unions and public servants to identify waste and deliver real, bankable productivity savings.

“We believe it is possible to properly reward staff, while also ensuring financial sustainability and good returns for the public.

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The Federal Government ihas announced it will provide $490 million over five years for the Medicare Teen Dental Plan.

 

Since 1st July 2008, Medicare has provided vouchers to eligible teenagers towards an annual preventative dental check, including an oral examination and, if required, x-rays, a scale and clean, removal of calculus, fluoride treatment, oral hygiene instruction, dietary advice, and/or fissure sealing.

 

Vouchers may be used through either a private dentist, or through the public oral health service.

Two Queensland councils have received top awards at the 2012 Planning Institute of Australia Awards for Planning Excellence.

 

Brisbane City Council's Urban Renewal Program Urban Renewal Brisbane - 20 years took out the inaugural category From Plan to Place Award.

 

Urban Renewal Brisbane is a program of rejuvenation started by the council in 1991. It is responsible for managing and revitalising Brisbane's inner city areas and has been awarded a dozen PIA planning awards in the past 20 years.

 

The project was judged to be a clear demonstration of a long-term vision being delivered in partnership with the private sector and the community over two decades.


Redland City Council played a key role in the Best Planning Ideas Award which was presented for a project called Child and Youth Friendly City. The project was classified by the judges as a case study for city planners to consider.  The project team of Redland Council, Griffith University, Laurel Johnson and Play Environment Consulting provided an important insight into how planning and design of the built environment should consider young people with exercise at the centre of child and youth happiness.

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The Federal Government has announced it will start work on a new Defence White Paper, to be delivered in the first half of 2013.

 

The Minister for Defence has asked Dr Allan Hawke, Mr Ric Smith and Mr Paul Rizzo to form a Ministerial Advisory Group to assist in the development of the 2013 Defence White paper.

 

Dr Hawke and Mr Smith are both former Secretaries of the Department of Defence.  Mr Rizzo is a Director of a number of major Australian corporations including the National Australia Bank and Mallesons Stephen Jacques and is the Independent Chair of the Defence Audit and Risk Committee. He led the development of the plan to address problems in the repair and management of the amphibious and support ship fleet. 

 

The 2009 Defence White Paper proposed that a new White Paper be produced at least five yearly, but the Government has decided to it bring forward by a year in the light of “significant developments internationally and domestically since the 2009 White Paper which are influencing Australia’s defence posture, future force structure and defence budget”.

 

These developments include:

 

The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) operational drawdown

As recently outlined by the Prime Minister, training and mentoring forces in Afghanistan will be drawn down and return to Australia in line with the ISAF transition strategy. 

 

In addition, it is likely the ADF’s deployments in East Timor and Solomon Islands will potentially start to draw down during 2013.

 

These transitions will involve a major readjustment to ADF posture and Australia’s defence priorities.

 

The Australian Defence Force Posture Review (FPR)

 

The FPR assessed whether the Australian Defence Force is correctly positioned, geographically, to meet Australia’s current and future strategic challenges. It was the first review since work done in the mid 1980s by Professor Dibb for then Defence Minister Beazley.

 

The FPR also addressed the range of present and emerging global, regional and national strategic and security factors which require careful consideration for the future.

 

The judgments outlined in the FPR report will  be considered in the  White Paper process.

 

The ongoing effects of the Global Financial Crisis

The 2009 Defence White Paper noted that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was the most serious global economic and financial crisis in decades, and that its strategic impacts were still unfolding.

Since then, the GFC has continued to have a significant impact on the global economy.

Following the GFC, the defence forces of major developed countries have increased efficiencies and reduced their budgets, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper was completed before the unfolding of these events. Financial circumstances clearly present a real challenge to the 2013 White Paper.

 

Strategic change in our region

The Strategic change described in the 2009 White Paper has continued, particularly the shift of economic weight to our region.

 

Defence reform

In 2011, Defence commenced implementation of a wide ranging reform program, including in the areas of capability development, procurement and acquisition, the Defence Budget and the strengthening of personal and institutional accountability.

 

Australian defence industry skills

Australia needs to have the necessary skills and capacity in the Australian defence industry to support the future requirements of the Australian Defence Force, including building and sustaining new capabilities.

The 2013 White Paper will build on work already completed or underway since 2009, including:

The Defence Planning Guidance

The classified Defence Planning Guidance (DPG) is Defence’s lead strategy document. It articulates the strategic priorities that guide Defence to produce the military outcomes sought by Government.

The DPG includes analysis of the future strategic environment, identifying the contingencies Australia might face in the bracketed timeframes of 0 to 5, 5 to 15 and 20 or more years.

The DPG is updated annually to set strategic guidance for force structure and capability development, corporate planning, resource planning, preparedness management and critical enabling functions.

The update to the 2011 DPG has been completed and will be considered by Government in the near future.

The Australian Force Structure Review

In the Defence White Paper 2009, the Government determined a development process for future White Papers, with Defence to prepare, prior to a White Paper, a Force Structure Review (FSR).

The FSR will provide costed force structure options for use in developing the White Paper – assessing the equipment and capabilities the ADF needs to deliver national security and defence priorities.

Defence commenced its FSR in November 2011.

The Defence Capability Plan Review

Defence has completed a full review of the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) including an audit of the plan and the development of new frameworks and methodologies for its management.

The DCP Review was considered in the 2012-13 Budget process.

The Australian Force Posture Review

The range of strategic and security factors addressed by the Australian Force Posture Review include:

  • the rise of the Asia-Pacific as a region of global strategic significance;
  • the rise of the Indian Ocean rim as a region of global strategic significance;
  • the growth of military power projection capabilities of countries in the Asia Pacific;
  • the growing need for the provision of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief following extreme events in the Asia Pacific region; and
  • energy security and security issues associated with expanding offshore resource exploitation in our North West and Northern approaches.


The Defence Budget

At the time of the 2011-12 Budget it was determined that there would be a $1.6 billion underspend for the 2010-11 financial year.

In this context, Defence has conducted a comprehensive stock take of the Defence budgeting system, taking into account all budget processes, estimation methods and underlying budget assumptions. 

This includes the way in which Defence’s Capital equipment budgets are formulated and managed, including the ongoing utility of contingency, slippage and over-programming. 

Australia’s tourism ministers have pushed ahead with efforts to streamline regulation in order to stimulate investment and future growth in tourism.

 

Commonwealth, state and territory tourism ministers met in Melbourne to discuss Australia’s Tourism 2020 strategy, which aims to enhance industry growth and competitiveness and increase overnight visitor spending to $140 billion by 2020.

 

Ministers also agreed to commit $1.2 million to help fill labour and skills shortages in eight key tourism regions through Tourism Employment Plans which will develop strategies for tourism businesses to address skills and labour shortages.

Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, Mark Dreyfus, announced the 2012 Australian Clean Technologies Competition open for nominations.

"This year's Australian Clean Technologies Competition is a unique opportunity for Australian clean technology firms to develop their capabilities and gain market exposure for their innovations."

Through the Competition, entrants will link with business mentors, access training opportunities and showcase their capabilities to potential customers, investors and the media.

Competition finalists are given access to the Cleantech Business Accelerator Program through which they are provided with mentoring on commercialisation pathways, business modelling, funding solutions and successful techniques for pitch delivery.

2011 Competition winner, SMAC Technologies, with its innovative air-conditioning technology that reduces energy consumption, represented Australia at the International Global Ideas Competition in the USA.

For further information on how you can participate in the Australian Clean Technologies Competition visit www.cleantechopen.com.au

The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has appointed Dr John Skerritt as the new National Manager of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods including medicines, medical devices, blood and blood products.

In making the announcement today, the Secretary of the DoHA, Professor Jane Halton, said Dr John Skerritt, who has a PhD in Pharmacology and is an adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland, is currently the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries in the Victorian Government and will come to the TGA with extensive experience in medical, agricultural and environmental policy, regulation, research, research management, technology application and commercialisation.

Dr Skerritt is the former Deputy CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (a commonwealth statutory authority) and a two term Ministerial appointee on the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee (Office of Gene Technology Regulator). He has experience on Boards of international and national organisations and more than 25 years experience in negotiating, leading major technical and commercial collaborations with OECD and Asia-Pacific countries.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is aware of satellite phone carriers promoting zero up-front payment schemes for satellite phones in Australia.

 

The Department wants to ensure consumers are aware that unless a payment plan indicates a specific charge for the phone itself, phones included under such plans will not be eligible for support under the Australian Government’s Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme.

 

The Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme is an Australian Government initiative to help people living or working outside of terrestrial mobile phone coverage areas to purchase satellite mobile phones.

 

The Australian Government recognises satellite phone handsets can be more expensive than terrestrial mobile handsets. The subsidy program is offered to make the cost of the handset more affordable for eligible applicants.

Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth Peter Garrett visited the Mount Rogers Early Links to Learning Playgroup in Canberra to launch the second data collection for the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI).

 

More than 7500 government and non-government schools across Australia are expected to participate in the second national study into young children. This national approach, which is a world first initiative, will provide insights into the development of children as they start school.

 

Director of the Centre for Community Child Health Professor Frank Oberklaid said the 2012-14 index was the second delivery of the AEDI following the first collection in 2009 and an opportunity to build a more detailed picture of children’s development in communities.

 

“While the 2012-14 AEDI is the second delivery of the index, it will be the first set of comparative data results. This will not only provide a greater understanding of current conditions within communities but also emerging trends,” Professor Oberklaid said.

 

This is Australia’s, and the world’s, most comprehensive collection of information on the development of children as they start school. This information will enable communities and governments to understand what is working well and what may need to change to better support families.

 

The AEDI measures five key areas of young children’s development: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge.

 

Data on children in their first year of full-time school will be collected on an ongoing basis every three years and will help ensure governments and communities continue to have the information they need to make a difference to the lives of young children and their families.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Australia has the potential to become a future food superpower in an address to the Global Foundation in Melbourne.

 

"Just as we have become a minerals and energy giant, Australia can be a great provider of reliable, high-quality food to meet Asia's growing needs," she said.

 

"In doing this, we are not just an exporter of commodities but a partner in growing international markets and a provider of higher value products and services for the global food industry."

 

Ms Gillard’s also anticipates Australia providing methods for food production to Asia also.

 

"It's not just about more exports. It is about developing the systems and services that add extra value to them and participating in the development of a market-based solution to food security across the region," she said.

 

"Building our food processing industry so that it can supply Asia's growing consumer markets and developing the research, technologies and logistics that strengthen irrigation, grow higher-yield crops and improve safety."

 

"If you think the change we have lived through already in our region and in our nation is amazing, then hang on to your hats because so much more change is still to come," she said.

 

"Today, for example, 30 per cent of global output is created within 10,000 kilometres of Australia's shores. That may double by 2050."

A draft of the Productivity Commission’s Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation report has found that local governments are likely to play a leading role in the relation to key risks, including longer term sea level rise.

 

The report concludes that state and territory governments will need to support local governments in adapting to the effects.

 

The Commission will be holding public hearings in July and is seeking responses to its draft recommendations and a number of information requests contained in the draft report. A final report will be submitted to the Australian Government in September 2012.

 

The draft can be found here

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The South Australian Government has introduced a Bill before State Parliament to form an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

 

The legislation will give the ICAC ‘significant powers’ to gather evidence and compel witnesses to answer questions and will be based on the Australian crime Commission model established in 2002.

 

Premier Jay Weatherill  said the ICAC would be completely independent of the Government, with the Bill including several measures to ensure accountability and transparency.

 

“A new joint committee of Parliament will be formed to examine the ICAC’s report to Parliament and reports from the Police Ombudsman and the Commissioner of Police,” Mr Weatherill said.

 

The seven-member Crime and Corruption Policy Review Committee will report to both Houses of Parliament on any matter of policy affecting public administration arising out of any of these reports.

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The New South Wales Government has announced a final period of public consultation for the amended Model Code of Conduct for NSW Councils, which will aim to improve the standards of ethics and behavior that is expected of councillors and council staff.

 

The amendments made to the Model Code of Conduct during 12 months of analysis and periods of public comment, ensure it can no longer be used by feuding councillors for political gain, aim to reduce the often large costs to councils when investigating Code of Conduct matters, and extend and clarify the bans on gifts to councillors and council staff.

 

“I requested that the Division of Local Government review the Code and put their findings on public display, for comment. Submissions came from Councils, Code of Conduct reviewers, unions and industry bodies, MPs, ICAC, the Ombudsman, and the public,” State Minister for Local Government Don Page said.

 

“Now, towards the end of that process, I am pleased to announce that the Model Code of Conduct has been amended to further improve professional standards in councils, for the benefit of council staff, elected councillors, and ratepayers who deal with their Council.”

 

The full code of conduct draft can be found here

 

 

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The New South Wales Government has announced remuneration packages for councillors and mayors, allowing rise by up to 2.5 per cent for the next financial year.

 

The announcement comes after the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal recommended councils be permitted to increase wages of councillors’ and mayors’ fees by a maximum of 2.5 per cent from July 1.

 

NSW councils have different scales of fees for councillors and mayors, depending on their population and other factors, as determined by the Division of Local Government (see table, below). Mayors receive councillor fees in addition to mayoral fees.

 

“As Minister, I believe it is appropriate that the people who take the time to represent their fellow ratepayers and their communities are considered as part of the broader public sector of NSW, and have their remuneration determined in the same fair, independent and transparent way as other members of the public sector,” New South Wales Minister for Local Government Don Page said.

 

“Therefore, I agree with the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal’s recommendations to increase the fees paid to councillors and mayors by up to 2.5%, should councils decide the rise is necessary.

 

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The New South Wales Senate’s General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5 has published a report into the environmental, economic and social impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) mining in NSW, delivering 35 recommendations for Government action.

 

“A key theme throughout the report is the level of uncertainty surrounding the potential impacts of the coal seam gas industry. More data needs to be gathered to assess potential impacts, and in order to do this, we need to allow the exploration phase to proceed. While exploration and drilling are of great concern to many community members, they are unavoidable if we are to assess whether it is safe for the industry to proceed to production,” said the Committee Chair, Rober Brown said.

 

The report urges a moratorium on all CSG approvals before the Government ensures that all deficiencies in the regulatory framework are addressed. The inquiry also expressed concern over property rights.

 

“With regard to property rights, we found an imbalance between landholders and mining companies with regard to land access. The Committee therefore recommends that the  Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 be reviewed with a view to strengthening landholder rights and achieving a fair balance between the rights of landholders and coal seam gas operators.”

 

The full report can be found here

 

 

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