26 September 2023

PS from the PaSt … ! 18 – 24 April 2012

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1. This week 10 years ago, a review of Jobs Services Australia (JSA) found some contractors were exploiting the system.

The review by former national Treasury and Finance executive Robert Butterworth involved 14 organisations operating at 87 sites and, according to the Commonwealth Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis, confirmed the need to reform the JSA payment system.

“While JSA continues to perform better than the previous system, the review has shown evidence of inappropriate claims of provider-brokered outcomes,” Ms Ellis said. “The review has found an unacceptably high rate of claims by JSA providers that should have been paid at the lower rate.”

2. The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) announced the establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis to play a key role in furthering Australia’s capabilities to analyse and manage potential risks to biosecurity.

Assistant Secretary for Biosecurity Policy at DAFF, Dr Vanessa Findlay said the Centre would allow researchers to identify and develop advanced risk-analysis techniques and methods in line with the strategic objectives for Australia’s biosecurity system.

“This includes finding practical rigorous solutions to combat future and current potential risks that could be harmful to Australia’s environment,” Dr Findlay said.

3. The Australian Government recognised reform in Myanmar (Burma) by easing autonomous sanctions and normalising trade.

The sanctions adjustment reduced the number of people subject to Australia’s financial sanctions and travel restrictions from 392 to about 130. Civilians, including the President and other reformists within the Government and Parliament, were removed from the list while serving military figures and individuals of human rights concern remained.

Australia would also retain its arms embargo.

4. A group of 60 Australian scientists rejected findings in the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, claiming there was insufficient transparency to justify the system’s estimated water needs.

Director of the Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre at the University of New South Wales, Professor Richard Kingsford said the proposed plan was based solely on historical data and failed to account for future climatic changes, despite unequivocal evidence that global temperatures were rising, leading to corresponding changes in rainfall, evaporation and stream run-off.

“As well, it takes insufficient account of likely increasing groundwater extraction in the future, possibly as much as 2,600GL a year,” Professor Kingsford said. “Groundwater and surface-water resources should be managed together, given that groundwater often underpins surface water flows.”

5. A new male gorilla arrived at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo from France as part of an international breeding program for the critically endangered western lowland gorillas.

Senior Curator at the Zoo, Erna Walraven said the gorilla, named Kibali, was an 11-year-old who had been specially selected to introduce new genetics to Taronga’s gorilla group. Ms Walraven said Taronga’s current “silverback” gorilla had sired 14 offspring but to maintain genetic diversity within Australasia and provide those offspring with a breeding mate, it was important to introduce an unrelated male.

She said Taronga staff had travelled to Europe in 2011 to work with European zoos to select a male with the best genetic and behavioural characteristics.

6. And a decade ago, the NSW Office of Water began trialling new technology to provide real-time monitoring of potential “blackwater” events — natural events that can occur during times of drought or floods involving decaying organic matter that uses up oxygen and darkens water.

The phenomenon places stress on fish and other aquatic life forms, potentially leading to fish kills.

The Office said the aim of the project was twofold: to provide an early warning system for dropping oxygen levels so water managers could better control water quality impacts; and to benefit water users, especially during crisis events and in drought conditions when fish were subject to oxygen-related stress.

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