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In other public sector ICT and digital news for the 6th of July

by Cameron Sinclair •
Free resource

In other public sector ICT and digital news for the 5th of July

The past week coincided with the end of another Financial Year, the end of a senate term, the start of some Machinery of Government changes, the publication of a wide range of reports, statistics, audits, and work plans, plus the introduction of a sweep of new legislative and policy adjustments – including to procurement rules.

Changes from 1 July 2022

In addition to moving quickly to make changes of their own, the incoming Albanese Government inherited a raft of ‘decisions taken’ by the former Morrison Government, that came into effect on 1 July – many have Budget implications, some were legislated by parliament (baked in), but others were decisions that could be reversed or amended with the stoke of a pen.

Changes: Procurement rules

There are a raft of new changes to Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPRs), including the addition of Climate change impacts in considerations of value for money, and a commitment to sourcing 20% of procurements from SMEs

Changes: Machinery of Government

As we have noted, the changes confirmed on 1 June increased the number of portfolio departments from 14 to 16, but new emergency management arrangements got off to a rough start, with flooding across much of central NSW. National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) had been moved from the PMC to Home Affairs, which already had responsibility for Emergency Management Australia (EMA). They will now be combined as the National Emergency Management, Resilience and Recovery Agency (NEMRRA) from 1 September.

Changes: job seeking moves online

Stuart Robert’s massive overhaul of job placement services began on Monday 4 July, with the launch of the Workforce Australia online employment platform. Unsurprisingly, it had some teething issues, with many unable to access the platform and others struggling with the location function (resulting being offered interstate job opportunities).

Changes: Senate inquiries

The terms of nine senators expired on 30 June. While few are household names, the departure of so many will completely overhaul the nature of senate committees, inquiries, estimates and the passage of legislation in this parliament. The expiry of the senate also means all inquiries lapse, leaving the new senate to decide whether to re-constitute them, or move on to new matters.

Changes to COVID payments

From 1 July, the Commonwealth will no longer be providing Covid ‘crisis payments’ for people required to stay at home under State health guidelines.

Changes to your payroll

Several changes to payroll came into effect on Friday 1 July, including employer superannuation contributions increasing from 10% to 10.5% (of ordinary time earnings); and the abolition of the $450 week income threshold, which will affect an estimated 300,000 people, or 3 per cent of employees. The changes are automated in most payroll software. There was also third change to the super system on its 30th anniversary, the introduction of the ‘retirement income covenant’, which you should look into it you think you might ‘outlive your savings’. The minimum wage and Industry Award rates also went up.

Changes: Robodebt 2.0

In a little noticed announcement on 16 June, Minister Amanda Rishworth confirmed that Services Australia will be recommencing “efforts to recover existing debts” from the unemployed through compliance audits. Law firms and welfare advocates were quick to characterise the decision as Robodebt 2.0. Watch this space.

No change: ability to repay debt

For anyone nervous that Treasurer Jim Chalmers may take the axe (or scalpel) to existing ICT spending in the October Budget update, the financial year ended with Moody’s affirming Australia’s AAA credit rating, with a stable outlook.

New Zealand: Good Sign for Disabled

There was also a notable change on 1 July in New Zealand, which is currently going through major reforms to the administration of the health system, including the establishment of a new Ministry of Disabled People. The name of the new entity is in three parts –English, Māori (Whaikaha), and it will be the first ministry or government department to have a name that includes New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL).

Labour market: still tight

In what will not be a newsflash to any employers, there are currently almost half a million job vacancies in Australia.

The ABS confirmed there were 480,000 in May 2022, up 58,000 from February 2022, and more than double February 2020 (227,000). Several economists have called on the government to scrap the ‘skilled occupations’ list to allow employers more flexibility to recruit foreign workers into Australia, reiterating concerns raised by a (government-chaired) parliamentary inquiry into the skilled migration program in August2021.

Politicised: Public Service appointments

In what will not be news for most readers, the controversy around the appointment of former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro to a plum role as the state’s Trade Commissioner in New York finally came to an end last week. The brouhaha began when with the announcement on Friday 17 June, and overshadowed the state Budget on 21 June, Upper house inquiry began on 29 June. He resigned on 30 June, succeeding in completely overshadowing Treasurer Matt Keane’s first Budget.

De-politicised: Public Service appointments

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth has paused the appointment of the inaugural family domestic and sexual violence commissioner the day before she was due to start the job, but will allow her to apply for the role in a new, transparent recruitment process.

Minister of Health Mark Butler has tasked former public servant Jane Halton to conduct an investigation in vaccine deals made by the Morrison government. The former secretary of both the departments of Health (2002-14) and Finance (2014-16), was kept busy during the pandemic, serving on the national Covid Commission, co-chairing the global COVAX initiative, and leading a review of national hotel quarantine procedures.

Staff benefits: Electric Vehicles

Labor’s Tesla-driving Energy Minister Chris Bowen used a Press Club speech to confirm the government will be introducing legislation to remove tariffs (5%) and the FBT (47%) on EVs, making them a more attractive option as a business vehicle.

Training: New Starters

35 new politicians in the ‘Class of 2022’ attended their on-the-job training in Canberra last week.

Vacancy alert: spies wanted

We missed this little nugget last week: in an extraordinarily unusual example of a public sector recruitment drive, the Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, ASIS, the overseas arm of our national intelligence capability, sat down for an interview with Leigh Sales on Monday 27 June. Among the spy skills being sought are data scientists and data engineers; and he appealed to people looking for a change at the ‘mid-stage’ of their career. The full transcript is here.

No Vacancy: Military Chiefs

Australia’s yoga-practicing Defence Minister Richard Marles has rolled over the appointments of the ADF Chief, Vice Chief, and Chief of Joint Operations by another two years, but replaced the heads of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. No word yet on whether changes are afoot at the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG).

Audits

The end of the Financial Year is also when many of the country’s auditors are required to table reports and work plans.

The ANAO issued three reports on the effectiveness of contracting arrangements at Veterans Affairs , Services Australia, and Defence. All three raise specific concerns about compliance with the the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF).

The NSW Auditor General looked at the state’s universities, finding four out of 13 entities experienced a significant cyber incident during 2021, and recommending improvements could be made in assessing cyber risks relating to IT vendors.

An audit of local councils in WA also identified problems with cyber and IT security.

The Tasmanian Auditor-General presented its annual work plan to parliament, with two audits of note currently underway, ‘local government procurement’ (due November 2022), and ‘Review of digital projects and initiatives’ (due March 2023). The ‘Effectiveness of shared services arrangements in the General Government Sector’ is proposed for 2023-24

The Victorian Auditor General published their work plan three weeks ago, noting it is currently looking at ‘Spending on Contractors and consultants in the Victorian public service’ and ‘Cybersecurity of cloud computing platforms’. It has flagged an audit of government procurement activities in 2023-24 (which would put any current procurement activity in scope).

International

NATO summit: more drones, less cyber?

Last weeks NATO summit dominated the international news headlines. The jump in Defence Budgets across the globe will see more spending on R&D and critical technologies, such as quantum and AI. There may also be IT implications for Australia’s decision to send drones among the additional military hardware promised to Ukraine, given the recent Budget scrapped the $1.3 billion SkyGuardian armed drone program, and redirected the funds to the new mega cyber security initiative, Project Redspice

EU Free Trade: more digital?

The PMs visit to Spain also reignited the prospect of a free trade agreement with the Eurozone, after some frictions related to the AUKUS deal. New Zealand completed negotiations for a free trade agreement with the EU on Friday. As we have noted, digital trade has become a staple of all contemporary FTAs.

Roe v Wade: Digital implications

Australian companies operating in the US are providing financial support to employees who need to travel from their home state to access abortion services. Police in several states are already using texts and web searches as evidence in abortion related prosecutions. Google confirmed it will delete location data showing users visited an abortion clinic. Also, for anyone keeping tabs, new Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson (KBJ) was sworn in on 30 June (US time), replacing Stephen Breyer, who has retired.

You’re getting Old

The iPhone turned 15. The first version went on sale on 29 June 2007.

British Taxpayers take ownership in niche tech firm

Just in case you read all the way to the end, as part of a pandemic-era scheme to help innovative companies, the British Treasury has taken a 1.5% stake in sex party planning firm Killing Kittens. We only included it in our round up of public sector news because the Financial Times described the members-only club as a “sextech firm.” Good for them.

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