Parliamentary Secretary for School Education, Senator Jacinta Collins, launched the second phase of the Gillard Government’s Positive Partnerships to provide classroom and family support for students with autism.
Senator Collins said the Gillard Government reinvestment of over $21 million is a great kick start to Autism Awareness Month throughout April.
“The first phase of the Positive Partnership initiative was so widely successful that the number of teachers and staff we expected to train in helping students with autism was exceeded,” Senator Collins said.
Since 2008, Positive Partnerships has trained more than 8,000 parents, carers and school staff across Australia in how better to meet the needs of students with autism, and has provided online resources for more than 28,000 people.
Senator Collins said Australia’s significant progress in supporting school-aged students with autism spectrum disorder is also making the jobs easier for their parents, their carers, their teachers, school leaders, teaching support assistants and occupational specialists.
"I am pleased to announce that a new consortium will train more than 450 additional teachers and 1,450 parents each year until 2015,” Senator Collins said.
The Partnerships between the Education and the Autism Community (PEAC) group will deliver the program between 2012 to 2015.
Members of this group include Autism Queensland, Autism South Australia, Flinders University and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) who will lead the consortium.
Global consultancy firm Golder Associates has announced the appointment of Adam Kilsby as the company’s new leader for Australasia.
Effective from April 6, Mr Kilsby will lead a division of over 1,200 employees and an annual turnover of $200 million.
Mr Kilsby will replace Darren Watt as Managing Director for Australia and Region Vice President for Australasia, a key position for the expanding global company.
Having joined Golder in 1997, Mr Kilsby has led Golder's environmental services team in South Australia for four years. Between 2003 and 2007 he managed the Adelaide office, before being appointed National Operations Manager in 2008.
Mr Watt has been appointed Golder's global Vice-President, People after over seven years successful leadership. He will assume his new role in May.
Welcoming the appointments, Golder Associates President and CEO, Brian H. Conlin, said Mr Kilsby brought a wealth of experience to his new and important role.
"Adam has made an impressive contribution to Golder, representing our company as a civil and geotechnical engineer, environmental services consultant, project manager, operations manager and Principal," Mr Conlin said.
"I am very confident he will continue the Australasian region's record of outstanding achievement."
The Federal Government and the European Union have confirmed their ‘strong commitment’ to working towards linking their respective Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS), during bilateral talks in Brussels.
Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet said that the move will further develop a strong international carbon market.
"Linking our schemes is a priority for the Australian government. The European Union's ETS is the largest emissions trading scheme in the world. Together, the schemes will provide access to a wider range of options for cost-effective emission reduction," Mr Combet said.
The Federal Government has announced close to $12 million in funding to bolster developments in the solar technology sector.
The Round 3 funding for the Australian Solar Institute is aimed at accelerating solar energy technology development in Australia.
Amongst those projects to receive grants are the CSIRO’s solar hybrid fuels initiative (A$1.6 million), and collaboration between BlueScope Steel Limited and German researchers (A$0.5 million).
A total of A$2.3 million has been committed to projects of the successful Australia-Germany Collaborative Solar Research and Development Program to accelerate the commercialisation of solar technologies.
Australia’s Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, said the latest round of ASI funding would build on the significant solar technology advances made by Australian researchers to date.
“From a CSIRO project looking at how to reduce peak electricity grid demand by "turning on" a guaranteed solar driven air conditioner, rather than a conventional air conditioner, to a trial by Chromasun Pty Ltd of an advanced rooftop product to simultaneously provide electricity and hot water, the projects reflect Australia’s excellent track record in developing game-changing solar technology," Minister Ferguson said.
The practice of companies asking for potential employee’s Facebook usernames and passwords has become increasingly mainstream in recent months, prompting a statement from Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan.
The statement, found here, reiterates Facebook’s commitment to their user’s privacy and their ongoing attempts to engage policymakers, initiate legal action and shut down applications that abuse their privileges.
Egan touches on unforeseen circumstances that could confront the employers when undertaking such a practice, including possible discrimination if an employee is dismissed based on information found on the social networking site. For example, if a potential employee is not hired based on questionable photographs, he/she could argue unfair dismissal based on his/her religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, all of which is revealed when gaining access to a Facebook site.
Other problems arise when an employer is privy to private information and has no training to handle the repercussions and responsibility of this information I.e. information which suggests the commission of a crime.
Swinburne University of Technology has awarded Baulderstone the $70 million contract for the construction of the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Centre.
Baulderstone has described the contract as a significant addition to the company’s portfolio of education and research facility projects in Victoria.
The AMC will house a new research and teaching facility comprising laboratories, academic and administrative offices, auditorium, office suites and student amenities. The new building will have a gross floor area of 16,700m2 over eleven storeys with associated basement parking and restoration of the existing Burwood Road and John Street facades.
Baulderstone General Manager Pat Cashin explained the project represents a critical piece of infrastructure for the leading university.
"Baulderstone has a strong background in delivering a range of major education projects so we are delighted that we have been selected to deliver this important centre for Swinburne University of Technology. The project will be undertaken within a fully-functioning university campus and we'll be working closely with the University to minimise disruption.
"This building will be a demonstrable example of the University's Engineering & Design research excellence as well as their strong links with industry.
"We pride ourselves on our ability to deliver complex, time-critical projects within budget, whilst maintaining our absolute commitment to safety. We look forward to a successful partnership with Swinburne University of Technology," Mr Cashin added.
The Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Bank, Westpac and GE Money have applied to Fair Work Australia to include weekends in the definition of ordinary hours of work under the banking, finance and insurance award, arguing that it would promote flexibility in the workplace.
In their joint submission to Fair Work Australia, the banks say they will retain existing penalty rates for employees who work on weekends.
“"The banks are, in substance, in no different position to many retailers or other retail providers such as telecommunications service providers and contract call centre operators, each of which has access to a modern award facility permitting ordinary hours to be worked on Saturdays and Sundays," the banks said in their submission to FWA.
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said that while he will meet with banks regarding the move, he remains cautious.
“I'd be pleased to meet with the CEOs of Australia's leading banks and to hear the case why they want to extend ordinary hours from Monday to Friday the bank workers are under, to Saturdays and Sundays. I've also contacted the Financial Services Union. They're happy to attend the meeting,” Mr Shorten said
Mr Shorten stressed that the move would be heavily scrutinized, with the Financial Services Union being involved in any consultation process. He also warned that the move might compromise childcare.
“So if all of a sudden as part of your ordinary time, absent penalty rates, you've got to also find childcare. If you're trying to make ends meet on thirty-five or forty-five-thousand dollars, this proposal to just cut - the proposal which a consequence of is to cut penalty rates, can have a disastrous effect on the bottom line of the family,” Mr Shorten said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman found a woman dismissed by a Melbourne real estate agent because of her “overall young look” as unfair.
Buxton (Sandringham) Pty Ltd, a franchise of the Buxton Group, has agreed to pay the woman $1200 compensation and revamp its workplace policies following investigations by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The woman was employed as a personal assistant on a casual basis in June, 2010, when she was 23, but dismissed a month later, shortly after she had assisted at an auction by recording bids.
A male sales consultant told her that some of the company’s directors who had seen her at the auction were concerned she looked too young, was too short and would not have the presence to effectively negotiate at auctions.
He said he “needed someone he could turn into a sales person and that this was not possible for her because of her overall young look.”
The consultant terminated her employment, saying: “The reason I have done this now is because the training I would need to do would be a waste of time if I then have this concern six months later”.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated the matter after the employee lodged an official complaint. â€¨Following the co-operation of Buxton (Sandringham), the Fair Work Ombudsman has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the company as an alternative to litigation.
As part of the Enforceable Undertaking, the company has agreed to apologise to the former employee and pay her $1,200 compensation for the six weeks following her dismissal in which she was not able to gain alternative employment.
The company has also agreed to develop new recruitment and termination policies, commission workplace relations compliance training for its directors and alert other Buxton Group franchisees to its breach.
Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.
Discriminatory behaviour can include dismissing an employee, threatening to dismiss an employee, denying training and promotion opportunities or refusing to employ, promote or train an employee.
The South Australian Government has blasted the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) draft plan, saying the allocated 2750 gigalitres for environmental flow is not enough to return the system to a state of health.
The government’s attack is backed by the Goyder Institute for Water Research, who’s investigation into the draft plan shows that the proposed quantity for environmental flow is inadequate.
Releasing the Institute’s review, Premier Jay Weathrill and State River Murray Minister Paul Caica warned of the consequences of following the draft plan.
“As the state at the end of the Murray Darling Basin South Australia has the most to lose if we don’t get the plan right,” Mr Weatherill said.
“The science shows that less than half of the MDBA’s own environmental water requirements for the internationally-significant Riverland-Chowilla floodplain would be achieved.
“The State Government has always maintained that the Basin Plan must be based on the best available science.
“The Goyder Institute has found that while there could be some improvements with an extra 2750GL, it is not enough to ensure we can withstand droughts and protect our Ramsar-listed sites.
Mr Caica said the analysis shows that, in its current form, the Basin Plan is unlikely to maintain the ecological character of the Riverland-Chowilla and Coorong Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Ramsar sites.
“The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth remain at risk of low water levels and high salinities which will have serious consequences for the aquatic animals and plants in this region,’’ Mr Caica said.
“Under the proposal, there will still be insufficient flows to export salt out of the Basin and ensure the Murray Mouth will remain open during times of drought.”
The analysis shows under the 2750GL proposal:
- The middle and high elevation areas of the floodplains, where most black box and river red gum woodlands occur, will receive little or no additional water and declining vegetation health is likely to occur
- In the longer term, the contraction of river red gum and black box distributions on floodplains, with losses of organic carbon production and habitat
- Ongoing degradation of mid-and high-elevation floodplain wetlands caused by salinity and other factors, with a loss of habitat
- An accumulation of salt in the lower Murray region during drier periods as a result of insufficient salt export through the Murray mouth
- Extreme low water levels and salinities may still occur in the Lower Lakes and Coorong under extended drought conditions, which would reduce the habitat available for fish and migratory water birds and may threaten several endangered native fish in the CLLMM region.
- The likelihood that the Murray Mouth will still require some dredging to be kept open during extended droughts.
The report can be found here
$41 million in funding is being allocated to up to 29,000 Queensland school students with disabilities. The Gillard Governement’s More Support for Students with Disabilities initiative will provide greater access to classroom support and specialized equipment.
This will enable students with disabilities to finish their schooling and secure a job.
“Parents, carers, teachers and health specialists in QLD and around the country have been calling for action to help students with disability stay in school and get the best education possible,” said School Education Minister Peter Garrett.
“This funding, part of our overall $200 million national initiative, will provide much-needed specialist support and assistance to many thousands of students in government, independent and Catholic schools across the state.”
Under the More Support for Students with Disabilities initiative, QLD students and schools will receive:
- $1.8 million to pay for allied health services in up to 100 schools, such as occupational therapists, audiologists, nurses, psychologists and speech pathologists
- $8.9 million to help employ 450 new teacher aides or train existing aides
- $15 million to train up to 1250 staff in adapting their curriculum to the needs of students with disability, including individualised learning plans
- funding for up to 185 students in Catholic schools to participate in work readiness programs and work placements
- more options for assistive technology and ‘hands on’ courses for teachers;
- training for teachers to strengthen their skills in classroom assistive technology, for example, to support students with learning disability such as dyslexia
- more support for classroom teachers to undertake post graduate study in the area of special education.
The Federal and Victorian governments have announced work has begun on the next section of the $2.25 billion M80 upgrade, marking the commencement of the state’s largest road infrastructure project.
“As Victoria's biggest road project on the ground, the M80 Upgrade is providing a much needed boost to the state's economy, directly supporting up to 6500 jobs over the life of the project, with thousands of other flow on jobs for services and suppliers,” Victorian Transport Minister Terry Mulder said.
“When completed, the improved freeway with extra lanes and better access will help ease congestion, and reduce travel times and costs for commuters, and importantly for road freight industry, with 20,000 trucks currently using the Ring Road each day.
So far, the Federal Government has invested $900 million in the project, while the State Government has contributed $300 million.
The project is considered a vital part of the Federal Government’s Nation Building Program.
Work has begun on the next stage of the $172 million rail upgrade at Port Botany to improve freight efficiency and reduce associated congestion on Sydney roads.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese announced the next stage had begun, saying the project will significantly contribute to efficiency of the port’s operations and reduce congestion in the surrounding region.
It will also add additional capacity, increasing the number of containers which can be transported along the line from 700,000 to around 1 million a year,” Mr Albanese said.
“With more freight on the back of trains, there will over time be up to 300,000 fewer trucks coming and going from the Port each year.”
Five new work health and safety Codes of Practice have been opened for a 12-week public comment period.
The Codes released for public comment today are:
- Safe Design, Manufacture, Import and Supply of Plant
- Working in the Vicinity of Overhead and Underground Electrical Lines
- Traffic Management in Workplaces
- Scaffolding Work, and
- Formwork and Falsework.
The Chair of Safe Work Australia, Mr Tom Phillips AM said that the public comment period provides businesses, industry, workers and the wider community with the opportunity to contribute to work health and safety issues that directly affect their workplaces and working lives.
“Despite significant improvement in work health and safety in recent years, there is still more that can be done to keep our nation’s workers free from work-related death, injury and illness.
“The Codes of Practice will provide businesses across Australia with important practical guidance to achieving the standards of health, safety and welfare required under the work health and safety (WHS) laws.”
This is the third set of Codes of Practice developed to support the WHS Act and Regulations. They are part of a suite of documents being developed by Safe Work Australia, the Commonwealth, states and territories, unions and employers as part of harmonised work health and safety laws across Australia.
The public comment period for these Codes of Practice will close on 22 June 2012.
For more information on how to submit comments or on the work health and safety laws, visitwww.safeworkaustralia.gov.au.
The Productivity Commission has released its Economic Regulation of Airport Services report after the Federal Government requested an investigation of current economic regulation of airports in supporting ongoing investment in infrastructure.
The Commission’s review suggests that the current regulatory framework should be maintained but ongoing oversight by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is required to ensue pricing abuses do not effect the industry.
The Federal Government has committed to the following:
- Extending monitoring of airport pricing by the ACCC for another seven years to 2020, including airport car parking prices and costs;
- Improving how the quality of service provided by airports is measured and monitored to make sure it is accurate and relevant;
- Encouraging the ACCC to use its existing powers to investigate if it believes there are concerns about airports abusing market power, including being able to recommend a full pricing inquiry to the Minister responsible for competition; and
- Continuing to implement the Government’s initiative of planning coordination forums and community aviation consultation groups to address ground transport and planning issues and improve community engagement.
“We will continue to monitor airport pricing closely and reserve the right to look at any regulatory options necessary if we find evidence of inappropriate behaviour by the major airports,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese said in a statement.
The Commission’s inquiry report can be found here
Legislation introduced into the parliament will give eligible dads and partners financial support to take time off work to bond with their new baby from 1 January next year.
The Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012 builds on the Australian Government’s successful Paid Parental Leave scheme, by introducing Dad and Partner Pay - a dedicated two-week payment to gives dads and partners the opportunity to stay at home for two weeks with their new baby.
Eligible working dads and other partners, such as same-sex couples, will have access to two weeks government-funded Dad and Partner Pay at the National Minimum Wage (currently about $590 a week before tax).
This new payment will give families more options to balance work and family commitments.
To be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay, a person must have an annual income of $150,000 or less. The new entitlement will be available to full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers who have worked at least 330 hours (just over one day a week) in 10 of the 13 months prior to the start of Dad and Partner Pay.
This payment will be especially important for dads and partners who work in casual jobs without annual leave entitlements, and self-employed people such as tradespeople, small business owners and farmers.
Dad and Partner Pay will cost the government $188.5 million over five years.
The former directors of Henna Group Pty Ltd, operators of ‘Scarpe Shoes’, have been fined a $220,000 for a history of underpaying staff.
The Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action against the Henna Group in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne and set a record for highest penalty in Victoria.
‘Scarpe Shoes’ had stores in Docklands, Chadstone, Fountain Gate and a warehouse in Hallam and the group has been fined $160,000.
A further $30,000 fine was handed to the company’s group manager Sahil Rasul and sole director and owner Bulbula Amin.
Federal Magistrate Grant Riethmuller found that Rasul and Amin were responsible for deliberately underpaying four staff a total of $16,036.
Federal Magistrate Riethmuller ordered that part of the fine be used to back-pay the workers, who are owed $5458, $4788, $3796 and $1994 respectively.
The employees, three store managers and a sales assistant, were underpaid their minimum hourly rate, penalty rates, leave entitlements and wages in lieu of notice in 2009-2010.
In addition, their wages were paid on an irregular basis and they sometimes did not get meal breaks. Federal Magistrate Riethmuller accepted evidence that five previous underpayment complaints against the Henna Group dating back to 2007 had been sustained, requiring the company to back-pay five employees a total of $6775.
“The history of the matter indicates a deliberate disregard of industrial obligations,” Federal Magistrate Riethmuller said in his judgment.
Federal Magistrate Riethmuller said there was no evidence of contrition and noted evidence that Rasul had told a Fair Work inspector he was winding-up the Henna Group and the Fair Work Ombudsman would not be able to “touch him”.
“The lack of co-operation with the Fair Work inspectors also suggests that the Respondents have a complete disregard for the entitlements of their employees,” Federal Magistrate Riethmuller said.
“There is a need for general deterrence and to send a message to the community, and in particular small employers, that employers must make steps to ensure correct employee entitlements are paid.”
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says the record penalty illustrates how seriously the Courts are now treating the deliberate underpayment of wages by some employers.
“An employee’s right to be paid their full lawful entitlements for work they perform is absolutely fundamental,” Mr Wilson said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has prosecuted the owner of a Sydney truck company for sham contracting activity and underpaying an employee.
The Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney has imposed a $13,024 penalty against Sydney man John Mineeff, who owned and operated Fairfield-based company, Villtruck Pty Ltd before it went into liquidation in 2010.
Villtruck was involved in purchasing, repairing and selling second-hand trucks.
Mineeff admitted being responsible for the company breaching the sham contracting provisions of workplace laws in relation to an employee who performed panel beating and vehicle detailing duties.
The employee, aged in his 30s, was dismissed in early 2009 and was not paid out his accrued annual leave entitlements.
He was then immediately re-hired as an ‘independent contractor’ to perform the same duties, when he should still have been classified as an employee.
The man was subsequently underpaid a total of $13,592.
Under the sham contracting provisions of workplace laws, it is unlawful to dismiss an employee in order to engage them as an independent contractor to perform the same duties.
It is also unlawful to misrepresent an employment relationship as an independent contracting arrangement.
Federal Magistrate Shenagh Barnes said Mineeff had shown a “careless disregard” for workplace laws and ordered him to pay his fine to the underpaid employee to partially rectify the underpayment.
Australian and New Zealand airlines are in the firing line for allegedly contravening workplace laws.
New Zealand’s Jetstar Airways Limited and Australian companies Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd and Jetstar Group Pty Ltd are facing court as the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action against them.
Jetstar Airways Limited engaged trainee pilots on New Zealand individual contacts, breaching workplace laws when it was foreseeable the work they were to perform was predominantly in Australia.
Documents lodged in the Federal Court reveal that six pilots were recruited between October, 2010 and January, 2011 and given six months training in Australia under the “Jetstar Cadet Program”.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, Jetstar representatives erroneously told the trainees that their employment was governed by New Zealand laws, not Australian laws, during the training period - and engaged them on NZ individual employment contracts.
The work performed by the pilots was exclusively in Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the pilots were actually covered by the Australian Air Pilots Award 2010.
Court papers allege that after the six employees completed the training, Jetstar sought to have them re-pay the cost of their training, despite this being prohibited under the Air Pilots Award.
The cadet pilots allegedly reimbursed Jetstar a total of $17,500 between June and September 2011 before the practice was ceased and the money was returned to them in November 2011. It is further alleged Jetstar did not pay superannuation during the training period.
“Multi-national companies with wholly or partly-owned overseas enterprises need to exercise caution and care if they engage workers under those entities and then have them work in Australia,” Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said.
“To do so can expose the companies to potential penalties and liabilities, particularly if those arrangements persist for a period of time and the terms and conditions their employees are engaged under are less than provided for by Australian law.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman is alleging multiple breaches and is seeking penalties. Each company faces a maximum fine of $33,000 per breach.
Chevron has launched its first major recruitment drive to find operations personnel for the company’s $29 billion Wheatstone liquefied natural gas project.
“We are searching for experienced and talented Australians to be the future of our energy industry,” Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski said.
“The Wheatstone Project is one of Australia’s largest natural gas projects and we have a range of interesting and challenging career opportunities for people wanting to join us.
“Not only will successful applicants have the opportunity to work on Wheatstone, but they’ll also work for a global company who offers global opportunities,” Krzywosinski said.
Chevron is holding recruitment information sessions throughout Australia until 2 April and candidates with industry experience are invited to apply. Applicants from other industry sectors will be considered and potentially offered a comprehensive training program to ensure they have the skills to succeed in their new operations role.
Chevron has announced the following positions:
- Maintenance and Production Superintendents
- Maintenance and Production Coordinators
- Maintenance and Production Specialists
- LNG Competency Assurance Specialist=
- Central Control Room Technicians
- Maintenance Technicians – Instrument and Electrical
- Maintenance Technicians – Mechanical
- Production Technicians
US-headquarted engineering supplier Park Hannifin has announced it will consolidate its Australia-New Zealand hose and fitting manufacturing operations in Wodonga.
State Minister for Manufacturing, Exports and Trade Richard Dalla-Riva said the move was thanks to a push by the State Government to upgrade equipment and facilities in the area.
"I am very pleased to see a major company choosing to invest even further in Victoria and take advantage of the conditions such as excellent rail, road and port freight channels across the state and a 24-hour airport at Melbourne that ensure Victoria is one of the best states in which to operate an international manufacturing business," Mr Dalla-Riva said.
The move is expected to generate 40 new local jobs.
The South Australian Government has appointed Mike Sinkunas as the state’s first Small Business Commisioner.
Mr Sinkunas will be tasked with championing the cause of the state’s 136,000 small businesses and assisting in the establishment of industry codes required to create a regulatory framework that can resolve disputes without court action.
“This Government wants the Commissioner to stamp out things such as predatory behaviour; unconscionable conduct and franchise churning that often target small business operators,” Minister for Small Business Tom Koutsantonis said.
The Commissioner also has the power to enforce mandatory codes of conduct that carry monetary penalties for breaches, he says.
Other key functions of the Small Business Commissioner are:
- Provide educative and guidance to help inform decision making to minimise disputes;
- Monitor and investigate unfair market practices and non-compliance with prescribed industry codes under the Fair Trading Act 1987;
- Offer other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms where appropriate;
- Work proactively with key stakeholders to encourage better business conduct and the principles of fair dealing and good faith and;
- Advise the Minister for Small Business on a range of matters affecting small business.
Mr Koutsantonis says the appointment of the Commissioner is to make the small business sector stronger by developing a set of standards – a set of codes - that will be the benchmark for equality in business-to-business relationships and transactions.