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Defence jobs could be cut

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 04 April 2015 | 23.50

Overhaul ... Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has commented on a report into the operations of the Australian Defence Force. Picture: News Corp Australia Source: News Corp Australia

THE Australian Defence Force is set for its biggest shake-up yet after an independent review recommended transformational reforms that could see up to 1650 public service jobs cut.

The long-awaited first principles review, "One Defence", unveiled in Canberra yesterday is the Government's plan to lift the under-fire organisation's efficiency.

Its panel found Defence is akin to a loose federation which suffers from a proliferation of structures, processes and systems, with unclear accountabilities, institutionalised waste, delayed decisions, duplication and flawed execution.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the review delivered on a Coalition election commitment to ensure that Defence is appropriately structured and organised "in the 21st century".

The organisation costs taxpayers almost $30 billion a year.

Review ... Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, second from left, at Parliament House. Picture: News Corp Australia Source: News Corp Australia

"The review found that Defence has implemented significant changes and improvements since the 1990s and has a proven record of delivering in the field, on operations and in humanitarian and emergency support roles at home and abroad," he said.

"However, despite Defence's outstanding operational record, it is clear that there needs to be a better balance between operational excellence and organisational effectiveness."

The Review proposes transformational change across Defence to ensure it can deliver on the future requirements that will be outlined in the Government's forthcoming Defence White Paper.

There have been some 45 major and minor reviews of different aspects of Defence Since 1973.

This latest rules them all, making 76 recommendations of which the federal government agreed — or agreed in principal — to 75.

The review did not specifically set out to boost Defence efficiency or cut jobs, but some 1650 public service jobs will go as reforms are implemented over two years.

The restructure involves abolishing one of seven three-star general positions and six senior executive service positions, of which there are currently 174.

Changes ... Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said Defence needed a 'better balance'. Picture: News Corp Australia Source: News Corp Australia

Defence will retain its diarchy, with the chief of the defence force and department secretary as joint leaders, but some senior civilian and uniformed positions will go.

The defence equipment acquisition arm, the Defence Materiel Organisation, will be disbanded and core responsibilities transferred to a new capability acquisition and sustainment group to make defence more of a smart buyer.

The Review outlines a two-year implementation plan, with key milestones, which provides high-level direction for Defence.

This comes after The Australian newspaper last week published leaked details, indicating the report was scathing of defence for its excessive number of managers and lengthy bureaucratic processes.

The review was conducted by former Australian head of Rio Tinto David Peever, assisted by a panel comprising former army chief Peter Leahy, former Howard government defence minister Robert Hill, former Labor finance minister Lindsay Tanner and a former head of defence company BAE Systems Jim McDowell.

'Shortcomings' ... Defence Materiel Organisation will be disbanded in the wake of the review. Picture: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

"The shortcomings identified by the Review affect all of Defence and need to be urgently addressed," Mr Andrews said.

"To achieve this, Defence must move from the current inefficient, federated approach into a single, integrated organisation that delivers enhanced joint capability."

The Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force will begin work immediately to implement the recommendations within two years and their progress will be monitored by an Oversight Board.

The four recommendations that received only in-principle agreement relate to increasing the approval thresholds for capability development projects; ceasing the use of net personnel operating costs (NPOC); increasing the thresholds for referring proposed works to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and changes to other budget operating rules; and disposal of estate.

The Government did not agree to the recommendation relating to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation becoming part of the new Capability and Acquisition Group at this time. However, it has explicitly stated that this recommendation will be further considered as part of the annual updates on implementation progress.

Originally published as Defence jobs could be cut
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Being too clean could be bad for you

Bad ingredient ... bleach has been linked to an increase in flu and other respiratory illnesses in children. Picture Thinkstock Source: Supplied

BEING too clean can be a health risk with a new study linking the use of bleach in the home to higher rates of flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia in kids.

Researchers are speculating that airborne irritant compounds released during cleaning with bleach may damage the lining of lung cells, sparking inflammation and making it easier for infections to take hold.

Bleach might also be suppressing the immune system, the Belgian research suggests.

Researchers looked at exposure to bleach among 9,000 children in five European countries and found respiratory infections were higher among children whose parents used bleach to clean their homes.

Researchers speculate ... bleach may irritate the lining of lung cells making kids susceptible to infection. Picture Thinkstock Source: ThinkStock

The study found the risk of flu was 20 per cent higher in children who lived in households where bleach was used and recurrent tonsillitis 35 per cent higher.

The risk of any recurrent infection was 18 per cent higher among children whose parents regularly used bleach to clean.

"The high frequency of use of disinfecting cleaning products — caused by erroneous belief, reinforced by advertising, that our homes should be free of microbes — makes modest effects reported in our study of public health concern," the study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine says.

The study found the use of bleach was common in Spain with 72 per cent of parents using it to clean the home but rare in Finland where only 7 per cent of households used it.

Children exposed ... to more bacteria at a young age are less likely to develop allergies studies show. Picture Thinkstock. Source: ThinkStock

All Spanish schools were cleaned with bleach, Finnish schools were not.

The research follows previous studies which found infants who encountered a wider range of bacteria had a reduced risk of developing allergic diseases later in life.

A 2011 study of over 400 children by the University of Copenhagen found a direct link between the number of different bacteria children had and the risk of development of allergic disease later in life.

Reduced diversity of intestinal microbes during infancy was associated with increased risk of allergic disease at school age.

There has been a fourfold increase in allergies in Australia in the last 20 years and they are costing $30 billion a year in medical costs and lost work days.

One in ten children develop a food allergy before their first birthday and overall one in five Australians is allergic.

Last year the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in the US reported that infants exposed to rodent and pet dandruff, roach allergens and other bacteria in the first year of life were less likely to suffer from allergies, wheezing and asthma.

Originally published as Being too clean could be bad for you
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Levy could be approved within weeks

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 04 Mei 2013 | 23.50

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she will legislate to increase the Medicare levy. Picture: Hamish Blair Source: Herald Sun

THE federal government's tax hike to help pay for a new national disability care scheme could pass parliament in two weeks, after the coalition offered to support the measure.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has agreed to consider a 0.5 percentage point rise in the Medicare levy to two per cent, neutralising a key election issue for Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Following talks with shadow ministers overnight and Thursday, Mr Abbott said the coalition recognised the need to secure funding for DisabilityCare, despite Labor's "mismanagement" of the federal budget.

This morning Mr Abbott said the Coalition was prepared to consider supporting a "modest increase" to the Medicare levy to help fund the scheme.

The Opposition Leader said he wanted the issue to be dealt with in this parliament, but called on Julia Gillard to release more details on how the scheme would be fully funded.

Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott says the coalition will consider supporting an increase to the Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. Picture: Mark Brake

"We want this scheme to come into being as soon as possible because we want millions of vulnerable Australians to have the security and assurance they deserve," Mr Abbott said.

"But at the same time … it is important the Prime Minister come clean with all of the details on this scheme. How will it be fully funded?"

"We do want to see this come into the parliament in this term."

Ms Gillard now plans to introduce a bill during the budget session of parliament beginning May 14.

All eyes will be on Tony Abbott today as he responds to the PM's challenge to back an NDIS funding proposal.

"I am very pleased that today the leader of the opposition has said ... he is prepared to support an increase," she told reporters in Launceston.

"The leader of the opposition has changed his mind on this matter.

"On the basis of that change of mind by the leader of the opposition, I will bring to the parliament the legislation to increase the Medicare levy by half a per cent."

This means the bill to enact the increase will be introduced to parliament before the September federal election.

Mr Abbott's consideration rests on a number of conditions and he's promised to scrap the impost if the coalition wins the September election and the budget returns to strong surplus.

Ms Gillard said most of the detail had already been legislated, while work on the remainder was under way. Other funding details will be available in the budget due on May 14.

Labor could have had the support of the Greens and enough cross-benchers to pass the bill, although it risked a battle with the Greens in the Senate if the minor party tried to link the bill with a widening of the mining tax.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a 0.5 percent increase to the Medicare Levy to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Courtesy ABC News

The prime minister said to get lasting reform she needed the coalition's support.

Ms Gillard yesterday announced Labor would seek to increase the Medicare levy from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent to pay for disability support.

The Medicare levy increase will raise about $3.3 billion a year - less than half the $8 billion or more annual cost to run the disability care scheme when it begins full operation from 2018/19.

To fill the funding gap, Labor needs to make further budget savings and the states and territories will also need to contribute.

There are just five sitting weeks left of parliament in the Lower House before the September election. The Senate will sit for just three weeks before September 14.

Mr Abbott said he had always been supportive of a National Disability Insurance Scheme and a bipartisan approach to seeing it made reality.

"I would not be riding more than 1000 kilometres to support Carers Australia if I wasn't fair dinkum about a NDIS," Mr Abbott said.

"I am profoundly committed to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. I have been calling from the beginning for a bipartisan approach to this."

Mr Abbott said it was important that the issue be dealt with in this parliament so that it had a "substantial monument".

Disability campaigner and former NSW Labor minister John Della Bosca said Thursday's outcome was "fantastic".

"We've seen the best of Australian politics in Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott showing great leadership," he said.

Meanwhile, department store Myer has apolgosied after its chief executive Bernie Brookes sparked outrage and boycott threats by saying the levy rise wasn't "good for our customers", who would have less money to spend at his department stores.

Disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes was furious about Mr Brookes' comments and demanded Myer employ 10 per cent more disabled people by 2015.

Earlier this morning Mr Abbott called on Ms Gillard to release the full eligibility criteria for the scheme.

He said when that came out a lot of Australians would be "disappointed" when they realised they would not be included.

But Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin brushed off his concerns.

"The Leader of The Opposition should read the legislation that he voted for at the end of March," Ms Macklin said.

"The eligibility of criteria is very clear in the legislation. It is not responsible to raise these issues when you have voted for this legislation just over a month ago."

The indication of support from Mr Abbott came as Tasmania became the fourth state to sign up to the multi-billion-dollar NDIS.

Ms Gillard and Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings signed a deal this morning to secure funding for the scheme.

In a statement following his press conference Mr Abbott said the NDIS was "too important to become a partisan football".

"Australians with a disability and their carers want the confidence that the NDIS means a permanent change in the way that our country supports people with a disability," he said.

"People with a disability should not have to wait any longer than is necessary for the support they need."

Mr Abbott said if elected the Coalition would ensure the Medicare levy increase was only temporary.

"If elected to government the Coalition would resolve to ensure that the increase to the Medicare levy is a temporary increase and will be removed when the budget returns to strong surplus and the NDIS can be funded without it," he said.

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A test of honesty for foreign workers

A ''Genuineness' test is being considered to  preventing 457 visas being used to fill unskilled positions. Source: Supplied

A ''GENUINENESS'' test for foreign workers on 457 visas is being considered by the government as it contemplates expanding a crackdown.

The test, if adopted, would be applied through a criteria aimed at preventing 457s being used to fill unskilled positions or as a back door way to move family and friends to Australia.

A government discussion paper was released today as former Labor MP Maxine McKew slammed the government's rhetoric about foreign workers, saying it could offend Australia's neighbours.

''Loud declarations about 'foreigners getting to the back of the queue' and 'Aussie jobs first' are a very unpleasant throwback to a time when unions demanded a protected labor market,'' she told the Australia India Institute today.

''Historically, that meant it was white labour that had to be protected - and if some in the region saw echoes of that historic artifact, I wouldn't be surprised.''

The discussion paper outlines 12 measures that were previously considered by former Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor, who was yesterday in Sri Lanka where he is meeting officials about people smuggling, has implemented five of the recommended changes with the remainder under consideration.

If the ''genuineness'' criteria was adopted a visa applicant could be scrutinised about ''whether the nomination is genuine in circumstances where the nominee is a relation or personal associate of an owner or relevant person of the sponsoring business.''

Businesses could also be required to account for the number of 457 visa holders after previously businesses who had intended to sponsor a small number of workers then employed hundreds.

Meanwhile, a 35-year-old Sri Lankan asylum seeker died of a suspected heart attack after arriving on an asylum boat at Christmas Island this week.

The man's distraught nine-year-old son travelled to Australia with him and has been comforted since the death of his father on Wednesday by an adult cousin who was also on the vessel.

Australian authorities rushed the man to Christmas Island Hospital, where he died.

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Boy bashes teacher with baseball bat

A SCHOOL has been closed after a teacher was hit on the back of the neck by a primary school student with a baseball bat.

The attack, which happened on Monday, was the latest in a string of violent assaults on staff at Angurugu School on Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, The Northern Territory News reports.

Ther Year 7 student has been suspended for a month. The male teacher is recovering.

Other attacks include a student smashing a window in the principal's office with an axe and a teacher having her hand broken after a student threw a chair, a table and a rubbish bin at her.

Another teacher was left bleeding after being bitten and one staff member was stabbed in the leg with sharpened pencils.

The NT News reported on a male teacher who was choked by a student and a female teacher who had to be flown off the island after a student threatened to rape her in March.

Education Union NT president Matthew Cranitch said the school had a long history of violence against teachers, which resulted in staff asking for the school to be closed yesterday.

"Sadly these types of attacks are continuing and it just highlights that this is a dangerous job, particularly in some remote communities," he said.

Read the full report on the baseball attack in The NT News

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Missing fisherman sparks croc fears

POLICE are investigating a possible crocodile attack in far north Queensland after concerns about a missing fisherman.

Police have released images of a cast net and thongs found on a beach near Weipa and are asking people who can help identify the owner of the property to come forward.

Volunteers from the State Emergency Service are currently searching the area, which is a known crocodile habitat.

The gear was found by a member of the public about 7am today on the bank of the creek near the carpark of a hotel. 

Weipa Town Authority posted a warning of a large "aggressive" crocodile stalking people and dogs on the beach just ten days ago.

WTA chief executive Ian Pressley said police had found a cast net and pair of thongs and were treating the matter as "suspicious"

"There are no signs of a body or an attack," said Mr Pressley.

"We are not aware if anyone has even been reported missing yet.

"But at this stage it is being treated as a possible croc attack, there has been a big one hanging around."

One local Weipa fisherman said tourists had been seen fishing off the beach at in knee deep water in recent days.

The WTA warning on April 24 said: "Recent sighting of a large size crocodile has been reported along the Rocky Point Beach area over the last few days.

"Reports indicate that the crocodile has been stalking people and dogs moving along the beach.

"Numerous sightings of Large Aggressive Crocodile have been reported in Trunding Creek near the Albatross Hotel Resort and Weipa Camping Grounds.

"Please be extra vigilant and cautious while in these areas, but also remember that crocodiles inhabit most waterways on Cape York so caution applies to all these areas."

In the last near-fatal attack, Todd Bairstow, was lucky to survive after he was trapped in the jaws of a crocodile in March 2011.

The Rio Tinto bauxite mine worker was fishing on the banks of Trunding Creek near the Albatross Hotel in Weipa when a 4m crocodile lunged out of the water.

He told how the croc kept rolling "around and around" in the death roll trying to drag him into deeper water.

He revealed how he battled the monster croc which lunged "out of nowhere" and latched onto his leg for 40 minutes by punching it, poking it in the eyes and trying to pull its jaws apart.

Both his legs were broken in the death rolls and he was up to his neck in water when a hero rescuer heard his screams.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au.


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Clive Palmer in TV ad blitz

Aspiring prime minister Clive Palmer has released a series of clips promoting his United Australia Party which he says will run on commercial television networks from Monday.

Clive Palmer has expanded on his plans for the United Australia Party. Picture: Mark Calleja Source: The Courier-Mail

BILLIONAIRE aspiring prime minister Clive Palmer will launch a television advertising blitz next week, insisting he wants to keep his campaign positive and steer clear from negative personal attack ads.

Professor Palmer has released a series of clips promoting his United Australia Party which he says will run on commercial television networks from Monday.

The mining magnate declined to detail the budget for the campaign or how long the ads would continue for but insisted he would campaign until September 14 and do "whatever it takes for people to have an alternative".

While he criticises the major parties' involvement with lobbyists, the short ads mainly feature Professor Palmer looking relaxed, calling for support, talking about how he will unite Australians, promoting his website and talking about his desire to cut taxes.

Although they are light on policy detail, Mr Palmer said he wanted to get the basic themes of his party out there after its recent launch.

Professor Palmer said he did not know how much of his own money had been given to the party but that there were other contributes as well.

"There is a party executive and a committee," he said.

"I do contribute but it's not all my money."

But he said he would not participate in the vicious attacks ads that the major parties relied on during campaigns.

"I can't see us doing that," he said.

"Our basic philosophy is that politics should be about ideas, not attacking people."


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Defence to get new jets, patrol boats

Julia Gillard launching the 2013 Defence White Paper in Canberra today. Picture: Ramage Gary Source: News Limited

AUSTRALIA will purchase 12 new electronic warfare fighter planes to cover the delays in the Joint Strike Fighter project, Julia Gillard has announced.

The Prime Minister this morning unveiled the 2013 Defence White Paper and said $1.5 billion would be allocated over four years to make the aircraft purchases.

Ms Gillard said the JSF program had experienced cost overruns and delays and in order to cover the gap in capability 12 Growler aircraft would be added to Australia's fleet.

The Prime Minister made the announcement along with Defence Minister Stephen Smith who said Australia would be ''the only country outside of the US'' to have access to the Growler planes - an electronic version of the super hornet.

Last year it was announced in the budget that 12 of the first 14 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters would be delayed by two years, creating a potential gap in Australia's air force capability.

The first three of the JSF fleet are now not expected to arrive in Australia until 2020.

''Defence remains committed to the JSF program and anticipate its delivery,'' Ms Gillard said.

In addition to the aircraft announcement Ms Gillard also outlined a $25.5m plan to improve mental health services for serving and ex-serving troops.

She said work on ''off-the-shelf'' submarine options would be suspended and the focus would turn onto looking at creating an ''evolved Collins class or entirely new design''.

''Decisions about Defence, however cannot be made in isolation of our fiscal position,'' Ms Gillard said.

She said the government would seek to increase spending to 2 per cent of GDP ''when fiscal circumstances allow''.

Both Ms Gillard and Mr Smith said there would not be any cut to the overall Defence budget, in light of last year's $5.5 billion purge.

''Defence spending will rise in absolute terms,'' Ms Gillard said.

''Once again we have allocated more than $100 billion to defence over the forward estimates period.''

Ms Gillard said the white paper ''reaffirms the central and enduring importance of our alliance relationship with the United States''.

It also underscores the deeper Defence partnerships in the region, including with China, she said.

''We welcome China's rise,'' Ms Gillard said.

''We seek to have a constructive and co-operative relationship with China. We also recognise that China's rise and military organisation is pivotal to our region.

''Our posture here is one of continuity.''

Ms Gillard said the government remained committed to manufacturing 12 advanced new submarines in South Australia.

However, due to the need for detailed design analysis, any further work on buying an existing or modified overseas model was off the table because it was unlikely to meet Australian requirements.

The government would work on the remaining two options - an all-new design or an evolution of the existing Collins-class submarines.


Main technology decisions:

Australia remains committed to buying the advanced Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter;

Australia to buy an additional 12 Boeing Super Hornets, configured in the electronic warfare Growler version, giving the RAAF a total of 36;

Government committed to buying 12 new submarines, based on an evolved version of the Collins class. Rules out buying an existing model from a European manufacturer;

Navy supply ships HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success will be replaced;

Government to ramp up plans to replace the navy's Armidale-class patrol boats;

No plans for a fourth air warfare destroyer.

Overall thrust of the White paper:

More conciliatory to China than the 2009 White Paper;

Welcomes China's rise and the modernisation of its military as a legitimate outcome of its growth;

Unlike the 2009 White Paper, new document makes no commitment to a particular level of defence funding;

Government committed to fiscal discipline and wants a defence budget that meets operational requirements

Source: Federal Government

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Asylum seeker boat arrival biggest

Asylum seekers arrive on Christmas Island. Source: Supplied

AUSTRALIAN authorities have intercepted a vessel carrying 184 asylum seekers and two crew - the largest boatload to arrive this year.

The overloaded fishing boat was found north west of Christmas Island on Wednesday.

Asylum seekers were taken to Christmas Island for initial healthy, security and identity checks.

The mega boat follows a record month of arrivals in April with 3316 people reaching Australia by boat.

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Kiesha's step-father jailed over death

Robert Smith stood by and did nothing as Kiesha was killed, before he burnt her body.

Kiesha Weippeart's step-father Robert Smith has been sentenced over her death. Source: The Daily Telegraph

THE man who left Kiesha Weippeart to die then hid her body in a shallow grave will spend at least 12 years behind bars.

Kiesha's step-father Robert Smith was this afternoon sentenced in the Supreme Court over the six-year-old's 2010 death.

The young girl was reported missing from her family's Mt Druitt home in August, but her remains were not found until April the following year.

In a secretly-recorded conversation with undercover police, Smith said he heard a "loud bang" from the girl's bedroom more than two weeks before she was reported as having disappeared.

He found Kiesha lying on the floor unconscious and tried to wake her, but instead of calling an ambulance he went to bed then to work the following day.

When Smith returned home he found the girl dead.

Kiesha's body was hidden in a suitcase for several days before he took it in a taxi to nearby Shalvey, where it was doused in petrol and set alight before the remains were buried.

About two weeks later, emergency services received a triple-0 call reporting the girl missing from her bedroom after the from door of the unit was left open.

For the next eight months Smith maintained the young girl has disappeared, with the 33-year-old even telling police he had been like a father to Kiesha.

"She's not my daughter, you know, but I treat her like she was," he said.

In April 2011, Smith finally admitted to undercover officers that Kiesha was dead and he had hidden her body.

"She wasn't waking up or nothing. I was like 'how can this shit happen to me?'," he said.

Smith was eventually charged with the girl's murder, but he later pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of "gross criminal negligence".

He also admitted to being an accessory to her murder.

Justice Megan Latham today sentenced Smith to a maximum 16 years in jail with a 12-year, non-parole period.

She said his crimes were among the most serious imaginable of their type, with his decision to burn the young girl's body a "particularly heinous act".

Justice Latham said Smith made a "simple and cowardly choice" to protect his own interests – rather than those of a vulnerable and "gravely injured" child.

"These were not spontaneous, ill-conceived acts carried out in panic, such as are usually encountered by the courts when dealing with this offence," she said.

Justice Latham said finding an unconscious six-year-old would move anyone except the most "callous and unfeeling of adults" to seek medical help.

With time already served, Smith will be eligible for release in 2023.

A woman, who can't be identified for legal reasons, is expected to face trial for Kiesha's murder later this year.

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