26 September 2023

PS from the PaSt: 5–11 December 2012

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1. This week 10 years ago, Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harry Jenkins launched an eLearning package developed by the Attorney-General’s Department to raise awareness among Australian PS employees of the importance of human rights.

Mr Jenkins said that armed with this knowledge, PS employees could have a positive impact on the policies they designed and how the people they served were treated.

“The package demonstrates how human rights can be considered in your day-to-day work and provides some tools to assist you with this task,” Mr Jenkins said.

“It gives you an overview of Australia’s Human Rights Framework, and how this affects your responsibilities as a public sector official.

2. Customs and Border Protection celebrated the first anniversary of its rebranded Customs Watch program.

National Director, Intelligence and Targeting with the Agency, Jan Dorrington said Customs Watch had encouraged industry and the community to report suspicious activities related to the movement of people and goods across Australian borders and about five per cent of all detections made by Customs and Border Protection could be attributed to positive referrals by industry and the community.

“Referrals to Customs Watch mean fewer criminals, weapons and drugs on our streets,” Ms Dorrington said.

3. Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Dr Russell Reichelt launched a five-year plan to improve the Reef’s health and better equip it to cope with stress and climate change.

Dr Reichelt said the plan outlined what marine managers would do to protect the species and habitats of the Reef that were most at-risk from climate change.

“A healthy ecosystem is better able to cope with stress,” Dr Reichelt said. “We all have a role to play in protecting the Great Barrier Reef.”

4. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) called for an increase in efforts to stop what it claimed was a rising number of attacks on Centrelink and Medicare staff.

Deputy National President of the CPSU, Lisa Newman said the union would raise with the Government the issue of how to confront the increasing number of incidents of abuse and physical threats directed towards staff, with customer aggression in service centres at an all-time high according to official statistics.

She said the union would call on the Department of Human Services to increase its staff in centres to cut waiting times and so relieve bottlenecks within reception areas that staff said were flashpoints for trouble.

Ms Newman said that there was a clear link between staff cuts and a rise in violence and abuse.

5. Victoria’s Auditor-General, Des Pearson released a report saying the State’s prisons were becoming unsustainable and could run out of room for new prisoners by 2016.

Mr Pearson said a 38 per cent increase in prisoner numbers over the previous decade and a heavy reliance on temporary beds had resulted in the existing prison infrastructure nearing capacity.

The report found evidence that prison capacity constraints were having adverse impacts outside the system, including the high number of prisoners in police cells.

“Police cells are not designed as a substitute for long-term accommodation and prisoners do not receive rehabilitative support,” Mr Pearson said.

He said this created unacceptable risks for the prisoners, compromised rehabilitative outcomes and placed an additional strain on police operations.

6. And a decade ago in Queensland, Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie said proposed tough new laws would see the assets of a drug trafficker, whether obtained legally or illegally, and including gifts given by the offender to others in the six years pre-dating the offence, confiscated by the State Government.

Mr Bleijie said Queensland Health estimated illicit drug use had cost the State $1.6 billion in 2004–05, $39 million of which was in health care.

“These amendments will mean Queensland can be compensated for the burden the drug trade places on the community, health and justice systems,” Mr Bleijie said.

“Queenslanders should not be made to foot the bill for the damage these people cause.”

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