26 September 2023

Reflect on PS from the PaSt: 13 – 19 December 2011

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1. This week 10 years ago, ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher and NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell signed the ACT–NSW Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Regional Collaboration, saying it heralded a new era of economic development and service delivery for the people of the ACT and south east NSW.

The Chief Minister and Premier said the MoU would enable both Governments to work collaboratively on key challenges and opportunities in the region.

Mr O’Farrell said the agreement built on the long history of collaboration between the two jurisdictions, and both Governments wanted people living in the region to have seamless access to Government services regardless of which side of the border they lived or worked.

2. A law creating Victoria’s first independent Freedom of Information (FoI) Commissioner was introduced into State Parliament.

The Minister responsible for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission, Andrew McIntosh said this was the most significant change to Victoria’s FoI laws since their introduction almost 30 years earlier.

“For the first time, Victorians will have access to an independent umpire if they are dissatisfied with the initial result of a Freedom of Information application,” Mr McIntosh said.

He said the changes would bring greater oversight, scrutiny and transparency to FoI decisions than ever before.

3. Also in Victoria, a memorial honouring the lives of 27 Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) firefighters who died in the line of duty was unveiled. Surviving families of the firefighters gathered at a special ceremony at the MFB Burnley training facility to mark the occasion.

Chief Executive of the MFB, Nick Easy said the last death in the line of duty was in 1976 and while firefighters were now safer than ever, there would never be a time when it would be a risk-free profession.

“We pay tribute to those firefighters with the opening of a memorial that firefighters and members of the public will be able to visit and reflect that the safety we enjoy today comes because of the sacrifices made in the past,” Mr Easy said.

4. Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh announced Queensland Health would be divided into two Agencies after a string of financial debacles.

Ms Bligh said a missing $16 million revealed the previous week was the “final chapter” in the life of the incident-prone Agency. She said it would be split into a Hospitals and Health Care Agency (delivering through frontline health networks) to focus on managing the hospital system, waiting lists and service delivery; and a Health Services Support Agency to provide corporate services including finance, HR and ICT.

“Queenslanders can no longer tolerate the sick administrative performance of this mammoth organisation,” Ms Bligh said.

“For some time now the administration of Queensland Health has been suffering because the current organisation is just too big.”

5. In the wake of the alleged financial fraud at Queensland Health, Premier, Anna Bligh also announced the State’s Public Servants would face tighter criminal history checks.

Ms Bligh said Queensland Police conducted background checks via the Federal Government’s CrimTrac national database, which was limited to Australian jurisdictions.

She said there was a need to broaden CrimTrac to include New Zealand’s criminal records database.

She said she had spoken directly with Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key to discuss how the Governments could work together to share information that would stop criminals from exploiting the apparent loophole.

6. Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin announced a partnership between the Australian Government and Rio Tinto Iron Ore in Western Australia’s Pilbara region would deliver sustainable benefits for Indigenous people.

The deal would see key Native Title groups receiving governance support and assistance, which would help ensure the creation of robust corporate structures to manage the significant benefits they would receive under a Native Title agreement reached with Rio Tinto the previous June.

“The benefits from the mining boom must be used to improve the lives of current and future generations of Indigenous Australians,” Ms Macklin said.

“The private sector also has an important role to play in ensuring that the mining boom delivers sustainable benefits.”

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