Case Studies

Year in review

Building a better transport system through AusLink

AusLink map of AustraliaAusLink differs from the previous approach in that it focuses on key transport corridors and the best way to address transport needs. It goes well beyond the existing National Highway system and includes nationally significant urban links as well as rail.

Investment in these corridors will be focused on those projects and solutions that deliver the best results from a national perspective - whether this is a new road, a rail enhancement or a new technology (such as might be used to change speed limits to reflect conditions).

Consistent with a much broader National Network, the Australian Government will share funding responsibility with the states and territories. This will mean a new way of working with states and territories. Private sector partnerships will also be encouraged where appropriate.

Funding also will be guided and underpinned by a five-year national plan with a 20-year horizon. This provides the longer-time frames and certainty to ensure strategic investment, which is so important in the planning and construction of major infrastructure works.

In recognition of the unique opportunity AusLink provides, the Australian government has committed significant additional investment to road and rail. Over the next five years, we will administer payments totalling:

  • $7.7 billion on the AusLink National Network, with substantial increases in funding to all states and the Northern Territory on road and rail, and
  • $1.5 billion to local councils for spending on local and regional road priorities (Roads to Recovery).

Combined with funding for roads through Financial Assistance Grants and the National Black Spot Programme, this package will bring total Australian Government funding for road and rail over the next five years to $12 billion - the equivalent of two Snowy Mountain schemes a.

a This estimate reflects additional funding announced since the release of the white paper.

Outlook for 2004-05 and beyond

Working behind the scenes to help Ansett staff

After the collapse of the Ansett group of companies in September 2001, the government announced a $10 ticket levy to fund employee entitlements.

Since then, around $335 million has been paid to 12 900 former Ansett staff to ensure they receive all of their basic entitlements - unpaid wages, leave, pay in lieu of notice and redundancy entitlements up to a community standard of eight weeks.

While actual payments were handled by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), we administered the scheme on behalf of the government. We provided guidance to airlines, monitored compliance to minimise errors and kept in touch with DEWR about when the levy could be ceased a.

Our efforts were acknowledged in a report released by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) in 2003-04, which found that we implemented the levy well.

a The decision to cease the levy, which was announced after the 2003-04 Budget, explains why our administered revenues were much lower than originally forecast for 2003-04.

Improving access to aviation routes and rights

In 2003-04 we reached important agreements about air services with three major international markets: the People's Republic of China (China), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (Hong Kong) and the Republic of Singapore.

A stronger relationship with China

Australia reached an agreement with China in 1984 and negotiated a supporting memorandum of understanding (MOU) in 1996. We have been attempting to negotiate an updated, more liberal agreement with China since 2000. An informal visit in December 2002 seemed to break the ice. We agreed to go back in March 2003, but were delayed by the outbreak of SARS.

We returned to Beijing in July 2003, with a delegation including representatives of Qantas, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (DITR). Great goodwill developed over two long days, and some major breaks in the aviation 'great wall' developed. A new agreement, which was formally signed by our minister in March 2004, provides Australia with:

  • the right to fly to any international airport in China, compared to just four airports previously
  • fully liberalised freight rights - something we had not anticipated, and
  • increases in passenger capacity to meet forecast growth in the market.

China has stated that it is the most liberal agreement that it has yet signed. It has opened up valuable new markets to Australian airlines in the world's fastest growing region. It has also added a new impetus to liberalisation in the region.

Hong Kong - a new aviation hub

Another landmark deal was negotiated in April 2004 between Australia and Hong Kong. Although part of China since 1997, Hong Kong maintains its own air services arrangements under the 'one country two systems' policy. It is a major transport hub in the world's fastest growing region.

After six rounds of unsuccessful negotiations since 1999, we returned to Hong Kong in April 2004 with a delegation including representatives of Qantas and DITR. Australia's Consul General and Deputy Consul General to Hong Kong also participated in these talks.

The new deal benefits tourism and aviation operators in both countries, and provides new inbound tourism and export trade opportunities for regional Australia. It:

  • doubles the level of capacity available on the Australia-Hong Kong route over two years, to 70 frequencies each week
  • allows Australian carriers to operate services beyond Hong Kong to the United Kingdom (UK) and relaxes restrictions on services to other destinations in Asia and Europe
  • allows Hong Kong's second carrier, Dragonair, to commence services to Sydney in 2005, and
  • allows airlines on both sides to operate unrestricted passenger and all-cargo flights to all international airports in Australia other than Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Hong Kong has the potential to grow into Australia's third major Asian hub, particularly on the 'kangaroo' route between Australia and the UK/Europe.

Other markets

China and Hong Kong are clearly important markets - but these were not the only major negotiations we pursued. Singapore, for example, is currently Australia's largest trade and investment partner in South-East Asia and our eighth-largest trading partner overall.

An MOU signed in September 2003 has removed limits on numbers of flights/passengers between Australia and Singapore. It is only the second time we have agreed to remove capacity limits, the first time being with New Zealand three years ago.

By removing capacity restrictions, the MOU provides all gateways in Australia with greater opportunities to market their destinations and to attract direct flights from Australian and Singaporean carriers. It complements the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement signed in July 2003.

We will continue to negotiate for more liberal aviation routes and rights with other countries, and to pursue global liberalisation of air services through multilateral bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

We have also amended the International Air Services Commission regulations to enable fast-tracking of uncontested applications for air services capacity negotiated bilaterally.

Investing in Australia's security

Security issues dominated much of our work in 2003-04. Implementing change was not easy for industry or the department due to the sheer amount of work involved within tight deadlines. The change was led by a new Office of Transport Security and supported, as the year progressed, by a new 24-hour Transport Security Operations Centre within the department.

Positive report card for aviation security

Australia's current aviation security measures fit well with current threat levels and are flexible enough to adapt to any change in threat, according to a parliamentary review of aviation security released in June 2004.

The department is pleased with this public recognition of our work. We have worked closely with other agencies, governments and industry to achieve this. In 2003-04, we held workshops nationwide to ensure airports, airlines and other key players were aware of, and would comply with, the enhanced security regime. We also worked with industry to:

  • begin installing hardened cockpit doors on all regular passenger and charter aircraft
  • extend the existing regimes for international air freight to domestic services, and improved compliance checking of international air cargo agents
  • complete background checks for all pilots and trainee pilots, and prepare a Bill to prevent people who receive adverse background checks from holding a pilot's licence a
  • re-issue some 65 000 Aviation Security Identification Cards to people working in the industry in a new tamper evident format (completed August 2004), and
  • develop the capacity to screen 100 per cent of baggage going out of Australia on international flights by 31 December 2004, a full year ahead of the ICAO deadline.

Our challenges for 2004-05 will be to continue to monitor and respond to changes in compliance and in the broader security environment. As part of this we will:

  • continue to audit the security of all major airports and of every domestic and foreign airline operating in Australia at each of their operating ports
  • develop the capacity for 100 per cent baggage screening at all major domestic airport passenger terminals, and
  • work with regional airports and aviation operators to improve their security capabilities.

Maritime security tightened

In December 2004 the Australian Government introduced a new maritime security regime through the Maritime Transport Security Act 2003. Implementing the new regime, which affected around 400 industry participants, was a major effort.

To ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements and minimise impacts on industry, we:

  • gazetted details of the 70 ports subject to new security regulations
  • worked closely with industry and developed guidance materials to help it meet mandatory requirements for measures such as security plans and signage
  • reviewed and revised guidelines on coastal trade licences and permits, and
  • worked closely with government agencies including AMSA, Customs, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) and the Department of Defence.

As at 1 July 2004, we assessed, reviewed and approved 248 port and ship security plans in line with the requirements of the IMO's International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. We will monitor compliance with security plans on an ongoing basis from 200405.

Land transport security under review

After the Madrid bombings of March 2004, the Australian Government increased its focus on land transport security issues. Once again, we worked closely with other governments and industry. Our secretary also led a working group of senior transport and police officials on an official mission to North America, Europe and Asia.

The group developed an action plan on land transport which was agreed by Australian Transport Ministers. Ministers are to consider a detailed intergovernmental agreement on land transport security in November 2004. If accepted, the agreement will then be considered by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

Australian support for international efforts

In 2003-04, Australia undertook to help its neighbours in the Asia Pacific to meet their obligations under international security treaties. We worked with the Australian Customs Service to deliver capacity building workshops in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Indonesia. We will continue to build these relationships in 2004-05 through:

  • staff based in Jakarta and Manila for an initial period of three years
  • capacity building projects to tackle aviation security at Denpasar and Jakarta Airports in Indonesia and port security in the Phillipines, and
  • staff deployed to PNG as part of Australia's Enhanced Cooperation Package.

The Australian Government will provide more than $5.7 million over four years to assist regional countries to improve transport security and strengthen border control mechanisms b.

a This Bill was introduced into the Parliament in August 2004.
b The costs of the tri-partite border strengthening measure will be absorbed by relevant agencies including Customs ($0.3 million), DIMIA ($0.4 million) and DOTARS ($0.3 million).

Testing emergency response capabilities

The Border Mail - October 1, 2003More than 200 emergency service personnel tested their skills as they tackled the nightmare simulation of a plane crash at Wirlinga Army Base just outside Albury - codename Operation Popflot.

The mock alarm was raised by a '000' phone call at 7am on 1 October 2003. Five emergency crews were on the scene within half an hour, closely followed by police, ambulance and State Emergency Service crews.

The accident scene was frighteningly realistic, with casualties sporting makeup and fake blood. Further hurdles like a fictitious fuel spill were also thrown into the mix, but the potential environmental disaster was promptly dealt with by alert crews.

Umpires were on hand to judge the overall exercise, and senior personnel were unanimous in their view that all nine separate emergency services worked well together. The lessons learnt are also being disseminated throughout Australia.

The exercise, which was coordinated by the ATSB, took more than six months of painstaking planning and involved numerous volunteers from the ATSB and the rest of the department.

Above: Image reprinted courtesy of the Border Mail.

Assessing the feasibility of major infrastructure projects

The department has been publicly recognised for its contribution to a study to select the route for the F3 to Sydney Orbital Link - a tunnel linking the M2/WestLink Motorway and the F3 Sydney-Newcastle Freeway.

Conducted by consultants Sinclair Knight Merz, the study was highly commended by Engineers Australia Sydney Division Excellence Awards in September 2004 a.

According to judges, it 'set new benchmarks for feasibility studies of major road infrastructure projects'. Approximately 120 000 households and businesses were consulted in the complex study, which began in March 2002 and ended in early 2004.

Two departmental officers worked alongside consultants from Sinclair Knight Merz and officers of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority to complete the project.

'A key aspect of our success was the cooperation, good will and good humour of the DOTARS members of the project team,' acknowledged John French, the NSW quality manager for Sinclair Knight Merz.

The judges also commented favourably on the team's commitment to social inclusion, emphasis on sustainability and use of interactive design tools and risk management to execute the project successfully. Future road and rail growth, land use in the corridor and public transport needs were amongst the economic, environmental and social issues studied.

a Engineers Australia was formerly known as The Institution of Engineers, Australia.

Celebrating the bicentenary of rail in style

Two hundred years ago, in February 1804, Richard Trevithick tested the world's first steam railway locomotive at the Pennydarren Iron Works in South Wales.

There were many sceptics. The master of one ironworks bet a vast amount of money, 500 guineas, that the wheels of the locomotive would just spin around uselessly. Instead, it pulled 10 tons of iron and 70 men along the tramway.

It inspired other engineers - including George Stephenson - to develop the locomotives that powered the first commercial railways, starting with the Stockton to Darlington line in 1825.

New national rail network announced in New South Wales

Almost two hundred years later and half a world away, New South Wales signed its interstate and Hunter Valley rail tracks over to the ARTC under a 60 year lease. We played a key role in brokering the historic agreement, which has ended 150 years of division in the management of Australia's railways. It enables one body, the ARTC, to sell interstate track access to train operators from Perth to the Queensland border - over 3400km in all.

While the lease only came into effect in September 2004, the ARTC is already setting new records for rail. For the first time, during March 2004, it shifted more than 2.8 billion gross tonne kilometres in one month. This is even more remarkable since this is traditionally one of the quieter times of the year for rail.

The Ghan arrives in Darwin

Australia marked the bicentenary of rail in style with the historic arrival of the Ghan in Darwin on 3 February 2004.

It was the end of a long journey that began in August 1929 when the first steam train left Adelaide for Alice Springs. The passengers had to change trains onto the Ghan at Quorn, near Port Augusta, because it ran on narrow gauge tracks.

Now the Ghan, built to a standard of comfort and style that would have astounded its original passengers, has arrived in Darwin as the longest passenger train in Australian history.

The Adelaide to Darwin railway stands as one of the world's great engineering achievements. It completes Australia's interstate rail system and will become our land bridge to Asia. Over the years, the Port of Darwin will be able to develop into a great freight hub for Australia's exports.

The department administered payments totalling $179 million to the project on behalf of the government. These payments equated to roughly 14 per cent of the estimated $1.3 billion cost of the railway.

Regional outputs and programs

Listening to rural women

More than two million women live outside Australia's big cities. These women play a pivotal leadership role in family, business and community life and are often the energising force in their communities.

Since 1999 the Regional Women's Advisory Council has advised the Deputy Prime Minister on issues affecting regional, rural and remote Australia. It draws on the perspectives and networks of women from different ages, backgrounds and lifestyles living in these areas.

The department provides the secretariat for the council, and supported it to host three major events in 2003-04. The information gathered at these events helps the government better target policies and programmes to meet the needs of regional Australians.

Identifying local issues

In November 2003, more than 200 women came together in Gippsland, Victoria, to tackle critical issues facing their communities at a conference on national water reform, small business opportunities and the changing needs of rural communities.

The one-day conference, held in partnership with the Gippsland Women's Network, included a series of workshops led by some of the region's most capable women. The success of the conference and the enthusiasm shown by participants has encouraged the council to repeat the experience in other regions in 2004.

Women and water

In May 2004, prominent and active women from around Australia came together in Armidale, NSW, to discuss the critical water issues facing our nation.

The women, representing a diversity of views and interests, spoke as one on the urgent need for all governments to agree on national water reforms and a clear implementation schedule. This was achieved at the June 2004 COAG meeting.

Indigenous women's gathering

A unique gathering of women from eight COAG trial sites has been heralded as the start of something positive for the future of indigenous Australians, especially women.

The gathering, held in Alice Springs in May 2004, was a wonderful opportunity for indigenous women to get together and discuss difficult issues in a safe environment. They heard from community leaders about what works and what doesn't when dealing with family violence, child abuse, justice, health, education, housing, mental health, drug and alcohol problems, and money management.

Plans are in place for more women's gatherings under a new indigenous leadership programme administered by the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination.

For more information about the council visit www.dotars.gov.au/regional/councils/rwac/index.aspx

Building regional partnerships

Our regional programs are essentially about working in partnership with communities, government and the private sector to build self-reliant communities and regions.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the story of the Kodja Place (pronounced 'koitch'), an awardwinning project supported by us in partnership with the Kojonup community and WA Government.

Kojonup is a small country town in the south-west of WA, three hours drive from Perth. It is home to a multicultural community comprising the local Noongar people, who have lived there for thousands of years, and more recently-arrived European immigrants.

Since 1998 these groups have been working together to share their common story and create an innovative museum - Kodja Place Interpretative Centre.

The Kodja Place, which opened in September 2003, presents indigenous and migrant experiences using artefacts, quotes, interactive displays, photography, hands-on activities and a spectacular rose maze. It tells of the creation and development of Kojonup through the stories of the Noongar people and white settlers, presented side by side.

Built to strengthen reconciliation between the communities, the project has been locally driven, with community-led project management and curating. It acknowledges the impact of other cultures on the local Aboriginal way of life and presents a clear demonstration of reconciliation in action.

In all, around 600 people from across the community have contributed to its success. Predecessors of the Regional Partnerships Program contributed $460 000 to the project. Other major sources of funding have included the Federation Fund ($650 000), the WA government ($649 000), the Shire of Kojonup ($150 000) and local volunteers ($70 000).

The Kodja Place has won major national and state awards, and was the subject of an ABC Radio National program. The ABC program was nominated for the 2004 Media Peace Awards run by the United Nations Association of Australia.

For more information about Kodja Place, visit www.kodjaplace.net.au

Improving services to Australia's territories

We are working to achieve high standards in all the services we provide to the 2700 residents of Australia's non self-governing territories.

IOTs

In March 2002 the Australian Government announced plans to develop a purpose-built immigration reception and processing centre (IRPC) on Christmas Island. We completed work on the centre's staff quarters and transferred responsibility for these to DIMIA in July 2003.

During 2003-04 we also completed a review of welfare housing needs. We began selling surplus housing stock in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and expect to complete subdivision of Commonwealth land in Buffett Close on Cocos' West Island, to create 18 new residential blocks. On Christmas Island we started strata titling houses identified as suitable for sale, and property upgrades to facilitate strata titling.

During the year we also:

  • completed works to protect Christmas Island's unique red crabs from a possible increase in road traffic associated with the IRPC (see photos below)
  • signed an agreement with National Jet Systems to provide air services between Perth and the IOTs for the next five years, ensuring certainty of air services to the territories, and
  • negotiated the amount of compensation payable to Phosphate Resources Limited (PRL) as the lessee of the IRPC site before it was resumed by the Commonwealth in 2002 - PRL accepted the offer in July 2004.

In 2004-05 we also expect to:

  • complete an all weather seaport for Christmas island, which is otherwise inaccessible for days or even weeks during the wet season from November to May each year
  • complete a dedicated sports and recreation facility on Christmas Island and finalise arrangements for its management
  • continue work to get the IOTs Health Service, which is based on Christmas Island, accredited to Australian Council of Healthcare Standards
  • start work to expand Christmas Island's water supply further, and
  • start building a 'state of the art' power station for Home Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, with about 20 per cent of power needs to be produced by wind turbines a.

We will also administer a grant towards the cost of replacing Christmas Island's analogue mobile phone network under the Regional Partnerships Programme (page 111).

Jervis Bay Territory

In 2003-04 we supported a new health clinic to become fully operational. We also improved water quality monitoring and progressed social justice issues including the availability of legal aid to all of the territory's 500 or so residents.

In 2004-05 we plan to distribute a local directory for Jervis Bay with contact details for government and community groups.

a The power station in the Cocos Islands is a joint initiative with the Australian Greenhouse Office.

Local councils: more than rates, roads and rubbish

Local governments play a significant role in the daily lives of all Australians. They respond to priorities at the community level and provide essential services in areas like health, education, social security and roads.

While our major local government responsibility is to administer grants to fund these activities, we also work closely with local governments to support 'best practice' in their daily activities. A key vehicle for this is our National Awards for Local Governments, which celebrate local government innovation and achievement.

Among the winners in 2003 was Nillumbik Shire Council. Nillumbik won two awards in the same year - one for a project to help meet the challenges of an ageing community, the second for a biodiversity conservation strategy.

Located less than 25 km north-east of Melbourne, the Shire of Nillumbik is home to a closeknit community of 58 160 residents. It contains environmentally significant habitats, flora and fauna, including many rare or threatened species. This makes ecological integrity a key issue for the shire and its community.

Two challenges confronting the community are:

  • meeting the needs of a rapidly ageing population, and
  • balancing development pressures with the preservation of the natural environment.

Both of these issues were addressed in the council's award winning projects.

The central component of Nillumbik's ageing-related project is a handy guide, HomeWise. Available free of charge, it provides helpful hints for builders, renovators and residents to make home design more age-friendly, and to support older people to live independently at home for longer.

Nillumbik won its second award for an innovative strategy - Sustaining a Diverse Future - which integrates biodiversity conservation into council planning and operations. This represents an important shift in the council's approach to land management and strengthens its commitment to protecting unique environmental values, including biodiversity.

A key aspect of the strategy has been community participation in both its development and implementation. This provided new and welcome opportunities for the community to influence biodiversity conservation outcomes in their own 'back yard'.

The Nillumbik Council has won a number of other awards for environment and planning initiatives. These two awards recognise local government's pivotal role in population planning and natural resource management and conservation.

The winners of the 2004 National Awards for Local Governments were announced in Canberra on 7 November 2004. For more information call freecall 1800 065 113 or email awards@dotars.gov.au

Report on management and accountability

Reporting performance at the departmental level

Performance reporting is back in the spotlight with the April 2004 release of Better Practice in Annual Performance Reporting. The guide was prepared jointly by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and the Department of Finance and Administration (Finance).

This annual report

While there is always room for improvement, the department's 2003-04 annual report has a much stronger focus on readability and on results rather than activity. As part of this, it:

  • offers handy 'progress reports' at strategic points throughout the report
  • presents information on related outputs and programmes together
  • analyses trends in financial and other indicators, often over a period of years
  • includes cost-benefit data where available, and
  • uses case studies, maps and other materials to help put our activities into context.

Isolating our contribution to outcomes that we share with other bodies remains a challenge. Transport security and safety is one obvious example; regional development is another. To help address this, our 2003-04 report:

  • lists the main bodies that contribute to each outcome at the start of each report on performance, and
  • provides more information in individual output and programme reports, such as estimates of the funds contributed by other bodies to specific activities.

We value feedback about what we have done well and can do better. If you have comments or queries about our annual report, please contact our annual report team (see inside back cover for details).

Other reports

As well as providing an annual report against our PBS, we are required to provide annual reports to a range of bodies on specific issues. We have chosen to include the substance of two of these in our 2003-04 annual report as a matter of better practice. They are:

  • our annual report to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs on our implementation of the Australian government's Charter of Service in a Culturally Diverse Society (Appendix A), and
  • our annual report to Department of Industry Tourism and Resources on our contribution to the Australian Government's National Research Priorities (Appendix B).

The department will continue to report separately on issues including the operation of the Local Government (Financial Assistance PDF: 718 KB as Adobe Acrobat PDF file) Act 1995 and the activities of the ATSB. These reports usually run to several hundred pages in their own right.

Making the department a better place to work

Since 1996 the department has conducted staff surveys every two years to give our people an opportunity to say what they think about their job and working with us.

These surveys help us monitor our 'corporate health' and provide the raw material to help us create a better workplace. They tell us:

  • where, and to what extent, we have improved
  • where we need to do more work and which groups or staff need attention, and
  • how we compare with (and what we can learn from) a range of other bodies.

Findings from our previous staff survey in September 2002 helped us:

  • produce clearer, simpler planning documents and more transparent reporting
  • refine governance structures and report regularly to staff on issues and decisions
  • negotiate a new certified agreement, and
  • develop a new learning and development strategy - Developing in DOTARS.

The results of our latest survey, which was conducted in September 2004, are still being analysed. Early feedback is that 75 per cent of staff participated in the survey. This is a great response, and means we can place a high degree of reliance on the results.

More information about the results will be presented to staff later in 2004, with the presentation to be videotaped for distribution to regional offices.

Partnering with indigenous communities

Eight indigenous communities across Australia are involved with government in an innovative two-year trial to help build stronger more independent communities.

The trial, agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in April 2002, involves working in partnership with indigenous communities to provide services and programmes based on priorities agreed with the communities.

A unique element involves departmental secretaries sponsoring trial sites in different geographical locations. Our secretary is the sponsor for the Far East Kimberley site in Western Australia.

This region takes in five discrete Indigenous communities - Billiluna (Mindibungu), Balgo (Wirrimanu), Ringers Soak (Kundat Djaru), Mulan and Yagga Yagga. It is home to around 1000 people in an area covering more than 39 000 square kilometres.

Working with the five communities, the WA Department of Indigenous Affairs and Halls Creek Shire Council, we have identified and funded a range of initiatives as part of the trial:

  • a study on key issues and how communities would like to deal with them
  • a 'Community Safety - Grog and Justice' initiative
  • an administration centre for community meetings and a community initiatives coordinator to provide on-the-ground Australian Government presence
  • ten community consulting agent positions to liaise between governments and community members a, and
  • the Interim Munjurla Reference Group to support increased participation by the five communities in decision-making and community governance activities.

Our involvement with the COAG trial is important and rewarding. It complements other activities we undertake in the region through the Kimberley Area Consultative Committee, the Sustainable Regions Program and broader departmental programs.

a Funding for this initiative was also provided by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services agency.

Other

Improving government travel policies and outcomes

Over the last few years, we have simplified and rebuilt our travel policies and processes to deliver better results for the department and its staff.

Defining the 'best fare of the day'

Since September 2002, our outsourced travel provider has been required to offer all available options and the 'best fare of the day' for domestic flights, and to record and report reasons for not selecting the best fare of the day 7.

This purchasing policy has resulted in a threefold increase in the use of smaller airlines, as well as cost savings to the department.

The Department of Finance and Administration has since directed all other departments to make similar arrangements (Finance Circular 2004/13).

Making life easier for staff

Staff who need to travel are provided with a travel card to pay for their fares and all other travel-related expenses such as meals and accommodation.

Staff can also make their own travel bookings online using the RezPort system. Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex and Virgin Blue tickets can all be booked through this system, which came online in December 2003.

The vast majority of staff who have used the new system report that they are very happy with the service. About 30 per cent of travel bookings are now made online, and we expect usage to increase as staff become more confident doing business this way.

7 We have defined the 'best fare of the day' as the least cost fare available at the time of booking to suit the traveller's business needs and entitlements, and within one hour either side of the requested flight time.