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Appendix D : Report under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy

This appendix summarises our progress in implementing the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, which aims to ensure people with disabilities are able to participate fully in community life.

The strategy challenges us to consider how we approach, and requires us to report on our performance in terms of, five broad roles: policy adviser, regulator, purchaser, provider and employer. More information on our progress in each of these roles follows.

Policy Adviser

(Policy and Research Group, Regulatory Group, Safety and Investigations Group)

Description
Performance indicators
The policy adviser is responsible for initiating and developing government policy. They consider the needs of different groups and advise on what the government should achieve for the community as a whole.New or revised policy/programmes that impact in different ways on the lives of people with disabilities are developed in consultation with people with disabilities.

New or revised policy/programme proposals assess the direct impact on the lives of people with disabilities prior to decision.

New or revised policy/programme initiatives have a communication strategy developed and sufficiently resourced to inform people with disabilities.

The department researches and advises ministers on a range of transport and regional issues. We deliver:

In developing policies and programmes, we travel extensively to meet directly with clients and peak bodies. We are in regular contact with over 150 different groups, as listed in Appendix F.

The department includes people with disabilities in consultations and supports several forums through which their needs are considered. These include the:

  • Accessible Public Transport National Advisory Committee (APTNAC), and
  • Accessible Public Transport Jurisdictional Committee - established to discuss issues raised at APTNAC meetings.

All of the new policy proposals we present to government are required to describe their likely impact on the community, including people with disabilities. Ministers rate our advice highly - in 2003-04, we achieved satisfaction ratings of over 97 per cent for the third year running.

The department uses a variety of strategies to make our information on new policies and programmes accessible to stakeholders. For example, in 2003-04, we:

  • continued to post announcements of new policies and programmes on our website promptly - generally within 24 hours of release
  • ensured our web text is provided in hypertext mark up language (HTML) and used software recommended by the National Office of the Information Economy to ensure information is provided in the most appropriate format, and
  • through the Commonwealth Regional Information Service, answered more than 1700 calls from people asking about the new Regional Partnerships Programme.

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Regulator

 

(Regulatory Group, Policy and Research Group)

Description
Performance indicators
The regulator is responsible for enforcing legislation or other government 'rules'. These rules may include quasi-regulations such as codes of conduct and advisory instruments of notice.Resources are provided so that publicly available and accessible information on regulations is communicated appropriately to people with disabilities, and especially to those identified as having a high level of noncompliance.

The department administers aspects of transport regulations and standards and works closely with other relevant regulators. To ensure that information on the regulations we administer is available and accessible, we:

  • publish a regulatory plan early each financial year
  • use plain English in preparing regulation impact statements and guidance materials
  • publish publicly available information on regulations on our website http:/www.dotars.gov.au/, and
  • offer toll-free telephone numbers in key areas such as motor vehicle imports (see inside back cover for details).

In 2003-04 the department conducted a review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002. This led to amendments to bring disability standards up to date with current Australian Standards and to make public transport more accessible (see below, Did you know?).

Did you know?

Australia's disability standards came into effect in August 2002. They help people with disabilities participate fully in community life and alert providers to what they need to do to avoid unlawful discrimination.

The standards establish minimum requirements for things like access paths, ramps, handrails, doorways, signs and payment of fares. This means that when transport infrastructure and conveyances reach the end of their service lives, they must be replaced with new items which comply with the standards.

Australia's standards seek a sensible balance between eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, while ensuring that industry is not unduly burdened. The compliance timetable allows for incremental compliance over 30 years, with milestones at the fifth, tenth, fifteenth, twentieth and thirtieth years.

Transport providers are also able to apply to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for exemptions (lasting up to five years) from the standards. All applications must be considered by the Accessible Public Transport Jurisdictional Committee, which includes representation from our department.

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Purchaser

 

(All groups particularly Programmes Group and Corporate Group)

Description
Performance indicators
The purchaser determines what is to be purchased and from whom. Purchased items may include outsourced government services, grants and cultural items for public display.Purchasing processes that impact in different ways on the lives of people with disabilities are developed in consultation with people with disabilities.

Tendering specifications and contract requirements for the purchase of goods or services are consistent with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Complaints mechanisms enable people with disabilities to address issues and raise concerns about the performance of service providers (contracted or other), and the purchasing agency.

The department administers a range of grants, subsidies and other payments on behalf of the Australian Government. In 2003-04 we made payments totalling $3.7 billion. These payments mainly related to:

In our day-to-day operations, we purchase a range of goods and services. In 2003-04 we reported $113 million in supplier expenses.

All the entities that we make payments to are required to comply with relevant state and federal laws including the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

Two major regional development programmes are discretionary, in that the minister or department has discretion in determining whether a particular applicant receives funding and what if any conditions are imposed on the payment.

To administer these programmes effectively, we work with regionally-based advisory bodies to identify and support projects that will benefit local communities. A case study on the essence of our regional programmes is provided on page 109. For more information on the diversity of projects approved in 2003-04, see the:

The department recognises and respect the right of clients to provide us with feedback about our services, regardless of whether services are delivered directly by us or through a third party. In this context, we have provided a single report on our complaints mechanisms under the 'provider role'.

We also consult with staff about purchasing issues that may impact on the lives of staff from different backgrounds (see 'employer role').

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Provider

 

(Programmes Group, Safety and Investigations Group, Corporate Group)

DescriptionPerformance indicators
The provider delivers services, often under contract by government. Providers can be government, private or not-for-profit organisations.Providers have established mechanisms for planning for implementation, monitoring and review that comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Providers have an established service charter that specifies the roles of the provider and consumer and service standards which address accessibility for people with disabilities.

Complaints mechanisms enable people with disabilities to address issues and raise concerns about the performance of providers.

In 2003-04, several of the department's top 20 priorities related to new mechanisms for planning and delivering government intervention in transport and regions. We:

These mechanisms emphasise principles of access, equity, communication, responsiveness, effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.

While we provide few services directly to individuals, we do seek feedback about the activities we deliver or pay for through a range of mechanisms. Examples can be found throughout our report on performance (Chapters 4 and 5). The main ways we seek feedback are through:

  • reports from the bodies who receive funding - usually as projects pass key milestones but sometimes on a regular basis as in the Roads to Recovery Programme
  • clients surveys where the beneficiaries of services can be identified, such as the individual households in airport noise insulation programmes, and
  • formal evaluations of programmes, usually on a three to five-yearly cycle.

We welcome client feedback as issues arise, and have client service charters explaining how clients can contact us on different issues. Clients who are not satisfied with the way we handle their concerns may also choose to contact our ministers' offices, the Human Right and Equal Opportunity Commission, and the Ombudsman.

For more information on how we manage our client and stakeholder relationships, see Chapter 6.

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Employer

 

(All groups but particularly Corporate Group in setting HR policies)

Description
Performance indicators
The employer provides a range of work conditions including wages in exchange for labour to produce goods and services. All portfolio agencies undertake this role.Employment policies, procedures and practices comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Recruitment information for potential job applicants is available in accessible formats on request.

Agency recruiters and managers apply the principle of 'reasonable adjustment'.

Training and development programmes consider the needs of staff with disabilities.

Training and development programmes include information on disability issues as they relate to the content of the programme.

Complaints/grievance mechanism, including access to external mechanisms, in place to address issues and concerns raised by staff.

The department is an employer under the Public Service Act 1999. At 30 June 2004, we employed 107 people in the Indian Ocean Territories, and 901 people in other locations around Australia.

Our employment policies and practices reflect the requirements of relevant laws including the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and Disability Discrimination Act 1992. In addition, in 2003-04 we:

  • had a range of mechanisms in place for communicating and consulting with staff at all levels (see figure 6B)
  • used feedback from staff to help us create a better workplace and prepare for our 2004 staff survey (see case study)
  • offered flexible working arrangements and opportunities for personal and professional development to staff, and
  • consulted our internal Diversity and Equity Network on issues including our new certified agreement, the availability of car parking for staff with impaired mobility, and the guidance provided to selection panels on diversity issues.

We also provide a modest budget to the network to promote better awareness and understanding of workplace diversity. In 2003-04 the network:

  • presented awards to individual staff nominated for their contribution to workplace diversity
  • promoted broader issues of diversity of style through a hypothetical 'Is it OK to disagree?' with guests from the Australia Institute and St James Ethics Centre, and
  • supported staff to improve their business writing skills through classroom and online learning.

We have received positive feedback from staff about our workplace diversity programme. We asked staff about their experiences in our recent staff survey (see case study), and plan to review the diversity plan formally in 2005.

In the event that a member of staff has a specific complaint or grievance, we encourage them to take the matter up with their supervisor. If this does not resolve the matter, our certified agreement sets out the preferred process for resolving disputes.