Monthly Archives: August 2019

Public servants the weak link in $1.5 billion welfare reform job

The Department of Human Services’ John Murphy. Photo: Louise KennerleyBosses at the giant Department of Human Services have more faith in technology than in their 36,000 public servants in delivering welfare payment reform, a conference in Canberra has been told.
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DHS deputy secretary John Murphy said technology, an area where his department has struggled, was likely to be “the easiest part of the journey”€ of spending $1.5 billion in taxpayers’€™ money replacing the Centrelink payment system.

The former NAB banker has told a tech conference the biggest challenge of the change program would be engaging and winning over the department’™s 35,000 employees, according to news site Government News.

The department has been riven by industrial strife since 2014 with workers now having rejected three times a new workplace agreement they fear would strip them of conditions and entitlements.

The atmosphere in the department has become so volatile that at one point the human resources boss claims he was subjected to a death threat from an infuriated public servant and there was no end in sight to the dispute.

Human Services has also struggled in the technology realm, enduring a barrage of criticism for its management of the troubled myGov web portal.

The department has also kept under wraps big problems with its internal Customer First platform.

Insiders were dismayed when SAP, the tech giant that sold DHS the technology underpinning the Customer First platform, was chosen as “preferred vendor” to supply the core software for the new $1 billion project which it will also co-design and build.

Two other “usual suspects” in government tech procurement, Capgemini and Accenture, are vying to secure to secure the systems integration contract for stage one of the WPIT project.

But despite DHS’s patchy record, Mr Murphy told the GovInnovate summit in Canberra this week technology was the least of the department’s worries.

“€œGiven enough time and money the technology is the area that we would be the most confident about,” he said.

He told the conference the DHS was likely to bring in more private sector specialists, and a change management outfit, to help with the department’s transformative change.

He said Department of Human Services staff would have to get used to new ways of working.

“We want them to spend more time talking to welfare recipients about their needs rather than answering questions: ‘I lodged my claim three weeks ago. When will it be processed’?” Mr Murphy told his audience.

“A lot of calls are very routine.

“I want to focus the efforts of those people on helping people who are the most in need.”

The department envisaged a system where data gathered on its customers would allow it to build a profile on a client, vastly reducing the traditional reliance on forms that must be filled-in, checked and process, a costly and time-consuming process.

“We are very much looking to adopt the philosophy we’ll play back information to welfare recipients and ask them to confirm it, rather than many, many forms, questions and definitions of incomes,” Mr Murphy said.

“It is incredibly difficult for citizens to understand what they’re entitled to and what information to tell the department.

“We want to make it easier for people to understand what they’re entitled to and tell them straight away that they’re not eligible.”

Clarification: An earlier version of this article inferred the department of Human Services was managing the $1.5 billion project to replace the Centrelink and Medicare payment systems. Human Services is managing the replacement of the Centrelink system while the Health Department has carriage of the Medicare replacement.

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RSL payments scandal: Local branches turn against NSW leadership

RSL national president Rod White has been stood down. Photo: Jeff de Pasquale James Brown has described the RSL as being in crisis. Photo: Brendan Esposito
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The leadership of the RSL in NSW is facing the threat of removal, with a number of sub-branches in the state working to sack the entire state council over its handling of the consultancy payments scandal that has engulfed a number of councillors.

Castle Hill, one of the state’s largest and most influential RSL sub-branches, and more than 20 sub-branches in Newcastle are calling for a special meeting where the state council could be voted out and replaced by either an administrator or an interim leadership made up of three district presidents from around the state.

Fairfax Media has learnt that talk has already turned to a potential new state president, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law James Brown, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the names in the frame.

Former Liberal state MP Charlie Lynn, a Vietnam veteran, is also being pushed as a replacement for acting president John Haines if the board is swept aside by the grassroots branches.

Mr Brown, who is married to Mr Turnbull’s daughter Daisy, contested for the presidency in September but came second to Mr Haines in a five-candidate ballot.

Last week, the RSL asked national president Rod White to stand down because of his alleged acceptance of fees during his time as state president, while treasurer Bill Hardman stood aside and councillor Don Rowe quit.

Councillors Bob Crosthwaite and Bill Humphreys have refused to step aside but are barred from all committee duties while investigations into the alleged misuse of funds continues.

In an opinion piece for Fairfax Media last week, Mr Brown described the RSL as being “in crisis”, referring to allegations that state council members appointed to the RSL-owned LifeCare nursing home group shared in $2 million or more “consultancy payments” since 2007, despite LifeCare being a registered charity.

“Restoring the RSL must begin by acknowledging the culture among the organisation’s leaders that has allowed these problems to fester,” he wrote.

“New voices are needed at the very top. It is odd that despite having three very capable women running the RSL’s district councils, none have yet been incorporated into the state leadership. Nor are younger veterans adequately represented.”

Mr Turnbull has mentioned Mr Brown in a number of speeches to veterans, including one at the launch of a veterans’ employment scheme on Thursday.

Mr Brown, who first went to Iraq as a troop commander with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in 2003, did not return calls on Thursday.

David Edmond, president of the RSL Newcastle District Council, which incorporates 24 sub-branches, said anger at the state council was running high.

“A lot of people didn’t know what was going on and it’s not good enough,” he said. “State council has been getting away with blue murder.

“The sub-branches have been made to send all this money to Sydney over the years and we didn’t know what happened to it. Nobody was upfront and now we learn of these allegations.”

To force a special congress and a vote on the fate of the state council, 75 of the state’s 360 sub-branches need to demand one. Mr Edmond said his district would.

Castle Hill sub-branch, whose members include NSW Veterans Affairs Minister David Elliott, has already passed a motion calling for the state council to be removed an administrator appointed.

Castle Hill president Don Tait said he was working to bring on a special congress.

“I’m going to do everything I can to sort this bloody thing out,” he said. “If you think I’m annoyed, you’d be right.”

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St Paul’s College boycotting Elizabeth Broderick review into college culture

Former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick is leading a cultural review. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen St Paul’s College at Sydney University. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
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In a move destined to raise questions about its commitment to changing student behaviour, Australia’s oldest university college is refusing to participate in a university-wide cultural review led by former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

The all-male St Paul’s College, where students still sit down to dinner every night in full academic dress, is the only residential college at the University of Sydney that is not co-operating with the university’s review of culture and behaviour at the residential colleges, triggered in May by student and Fairfax Media reports of sexual misbehaviour and “slut-shaming” across two of its oldest institutions.

St Paul’s Warden Dr Ivan Head said the college has instead “exercised its liberty as a self-governing body” to run its own confidential review of college life.

In May, reports revealed students at Wesley and St Andrew’s colleges were publicly shamed for their alleged sexual activities.

It followed widespread publicity in the US and Australia around the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment – much of it unreported – on campuses.

In 2009, students at St Paul’s set up a “pro-rape” Facebook page and in 2012 a female St John’s student was rushed to hospital after being forced by seniors to down a toxic cocktail of shampoo, sour milk, dog food, Tabasco sauce and alcohol.

Announcing the review in May, Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence said: “These stories have been a thorn in our flesh. I do not want to see any more of them. The Chancellor and I have invited the heads of college councils to meet with Ms Broderick to see how we can address concerns that have been legitimately raised. I am sure they will co-operate.”

The colleges are independent from the university and cannot be compelled to comply with the Broderick review. The refusal by St Paul’s to participate is likely to set the college administration at loggerheads with the university.

The university administration was reportedly considering the “nuclear option” of disaffiliating with colleges or stripping them of their land if they did not take action to improve the situation.

Dr Head said: “The College Council notes that cultural review and cultural excellence are good ideas.

“Council has exercised its liberty as a self-governing body to pursue the same outcomes in its own way.

“College has thus engaged its own independent professional in the field of the quantitative and qualitative review of communities and workplaces and is completing a thorough review of core dimensions of College life from the student perspective.”

Dr Head said it was a “stretch” to speak of disaffiliation. He said the review by St Paul’s would not be made public.

A student committee was on Wednesday briefed on the progress of the Broderick review, which has so far involved seven focus groups with college students, meetings and briefings with the heads and chairs of a number of colleges.

The university said in a statement that Women’s College, Sancta Sophia College, Wesley College and St Andrew’s College were involved and St John’s College would commence working with Ms Broderick and her team in early 2017.

“The feedback to date indicates that the students have found the focus groups engaging and informative. They have appreciated the opportunity to share their views on cultural renewal and enrichment as well as describing the great strengths of college life,” a spokeswoman said.

Ms Broderick, who spent eight years as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner before becoming the United Nations Special Adviser for Gender Equality, declined to comment on the progress of the cultural review while it was ongoing.

The university spokeswoman said: “Ms Broderick and her team advise they have been impressed by the colleges’ openness and enthusiasm for the project and are confident about the long-term benefits of the process.”

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Parramatta’s Pirtek Stadium timeline on track despite asbestos finds

Redevelopment on track: Action from a Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory match at Pirtek Stadium last season. Photo: Cameron SpencerThe NSW government is confident asbestos contamination at Pirtek Stadium will not delay the start of construction on the new $300 million Western Sydney Stadium at Parramatta.
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Planning approval for the 30,000-seat stadium is expected to come through by the end of next month and with the government close to choosing which of the final three construction companies will be awarded the project, demolition is expected to start early next year.

The site of the proposed state-of-the-art rectangular stadium is peppered with asbestos contamination as a result of its history as a dumping ground for construction manufacturer James Hardie, with the Environment Impact Statement warning it could pose an “unacceptable risk to future site users/workers if not appropriately managed”.

It will fall to the successful bidder – down to shortlisters Brookfield Multiplex, John Holland or Lendlease – to draw up a detailed asbestos management plan in accordance with environment and planning laws.

Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres said on Thursday he was confident the safe removal of the contaminated material, understood to be about three tonnes worth of soil on filled-in sites, would not affect the project’s timeline.

“At this stage we’re not envisioning any delays, we knew there would be contamination in the site, we’d planned for that. You’re never quite sure of what all the contamination is going to be, but we built that into our timelines,” Ayres said.

“We will undertake demolition of the new stadium early in the new year and that’s consistent with what we’d planned previously. We’re very close to finalising the contracts, when that’s completed we’ll be out in the public domain telling everyone who’s building the new stadium.”

The project’s EIS, published in July, identified a long list of contaminated areas within the redevelopment zone and also singled out the Parramatta Swimming Centre for further testing, once it shuts its doors to the public ahead of the rebuild.

“Asbestos impacts in soil, in the form of friable fibre bundles, weathered cement fragments and non‐friable (bonded) ACM, have been identified in fill material within the study area during the previous and current investigations. The asbestos in soil impacts have the potential to represent an unacceptable risk to future site users/workers if not appropriately managed,” the EIS reported.

“Sampling locations with identified concentrations of asbestos … are generally associated with elevated areas of the study area, including the north and south spectator areas of the existing stadium; the raised former practice field to the south of the stadium; a landscaped mound at the northern extent of the study area; and a filled existing carparking area at the west of the study area.

“However, it is noted that asbestos in soil has also been identified at several isolated sampling locations within the carpark in the northern portion of the study area and also one location to the south‐east of the stadium.”

The minister said the contamination was foreshadowed from the beginning and would not impact construction or budget timelines, nor plans by the Western Sydney Wanderers and Parramatta Eels to give chairs from the current stadium to members as souvenirs.

“No hazardous material has been identified in the existing stadium structure,” a spokesperson said.

“Mitigation strategies will be implemented to manage a small amount of asbestos which was disposed underground before the original stadium was built. The successful contractor will be required to maintain strict environmental controls to remove the asbestos as detailed in the EIS.

“There is no impact to project delivery timelines and no impact to the recycling of assets from within the stadium from the work.”

The EIS reports that investigators could not access the swimming centre at the time of the site investigation.

“Based upon the conceptual site contamination model as presented in this assessment, it is considered likely that contamination issues within this site portion will be consistent with those identified for the balance of the project site, primarily being asbestos impacts,” the report states.

The new stadium is due to open in 2019.

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Australian Test batsman Adam Voges cops sickening blow to the head

Adam Voges has been ruled out of the rest of Western Australia’s Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania with concussion after being hit in the head by a bouncer.
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Voges retired 16 not out after he was hit on the helmet by Tasmanian quick Cameron Stevenson on day one of the clash at the WACA.

He was struck on the helmet when he tried to turn away and avoid a Stevenson bouncer shortly before lunch on day one.

He dropped to his arms and knees, before being carried off the field by two trainers after receiving some medical treatment.

“Voges has been diagnosed with concussion. He is ok, naturally a bit groggy. Being monitored by medicos. Ruled out of rest of game,” the WACA said on social media.

Taking to the crease in front of interim national chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, Voges, 37, had been fighting to save his Test career after a modest tour of Sri Lanka and four failures against South Africa.

The Australian team for the third Test against the Proteas will be selected on Sunday night. Already under immense pressure to save his spot, being ruled out of the rest of the Shield clash will make it difficult for selectors to justify handing Voges what would be his 21st Test.

His average has dropped from 95 at the end of the tour of New Zealand in February to 61 after his duck and two in a dismal Hobart Test against the Proteas.

It’s the second serious concussion Voges has suffered this year. He also took a serious knock to the head during the English county season.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, he revealed he was left feeling as if he had a “hangover” for more than a week after a freak head injury while captaining Middlesex in May.

The Australian middle-order batsman was hit on the back of the head after a throw by substitute fieldsman Ollie Rayner at third man missed wicketkeeper John Simpson and sconned Voges at slip during a clash against Hampshire. Voges was hospitalised briefly but said he did not recover for 10 days. JUST IN: Adam Voges has been hit on the helmet by a bouncer at the WACA. He has been taken off the field by medicos. #9Newspic.twitter南京夜网/diNxyAK0Af— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) November 17, 2016This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net. Continue reading

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