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Introduction and overview

 

Year in Review

Secretary Mike Taylor reports

I have much pleasure in delivering my second report as Secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Services. The department's Executive Team has identified the key priorities and implementation programmes to deliver on its legislative, regulatory and government policy undertakings. These priorities are focused around the core responsibilities of our department-assisting regions to manage their own futures and fostering a safe, secure and sustainable transport system.

This year we have built on those priorities and also placed considerable emphasis on improving governance and programme management. In parallel, we worked to improve our internal financial management and business planning processes.

Strengthened regional programmes and partnerships

Streamlined processes were introduced in 2005-06 to improve the Regional Partnerships Programme, and the department continued its active engagement with remote Indigenous communities via the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) East Kimberley Indigenous Trial.

Support for territories, local governments and disaster relief

The department was actively involved in relief efforts for tropical cyclones Larry and Monica, and has commenced a significant coordination role in addressing alternative governance arrangements on Norfolk Island, as well as providing extensive ongoing support for the Indian Ocean Territories. The department facilitated the Australian Government's programme of support for local government through grants of $1.6 billion and $615 million through the Roads to Recovery and Improving Local Roads programmes.

Transport safety

The department, through the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, continued to carry out major aviation, rail and maritime investigations and also sought to improve the timeliness of investigation reporting.

Transport security enhanced

We continued to deliver important aviation and maritime security programmes, progressed the implementation of the Wheeler Review of airport security and policing recommendations, and commenced the implementation of the Maritime Security Identity Card.

During the year we strengthened surface transport related links with state and territory governments and, in partnership, commenced a review of surface transport security in Australia.

Aviation and airport developments

The department supported a review of Australia's international air services policy settings, which resulted in a major policy statement in February 2006. A range of successful negotiations were undertaken with other governments to facilitate the growth of international air services which support Australia's aviation, business and tourism industries.

The department worked closely with airports, including on security of operations and on a range of development proposals at the leased federal airports.

The Asia Pacific region was a strong focus of the department's transport work during 2005-06, including engagement with regional neighbours in support of improvements in aviation safety administration. Work was also done in preparation for the March 2007 APEC Transport Ministers Meeting which will address safety, security and trade facilitation issues.

Infrastructure planning and investment-AusLink

Major and historic progress was made with the proclamation of AusLink legislation. Bilateral agreements with states and territories were finalised to facilitate the implementation of the government's revised and expanded land transport programme. Nearly $4.5 billion was spent by the Australian Government in 2005-06 on land transport infrastructure.

Maritime and land transport

Maritime policy continued to be developed proactively with industry, and a major policy improvement was made to emergency management arrangements for shipping in Australia.

Vehicle safety standards work, in conjunction with industry, continues to ensure that Australia has leading technical standards for its vehicle fleet.

Through COAG, the department contributed to the establishment of the National Reform Agenda. We are progressing this programme of transport reform in conjunction with the states and territories.

Portfolio strategic policy and research projects

The Strategic Projects team and the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics supported the work of the department and portfolio through the provision of advice, economic analysis and information about the factors affecting the transport sector and regional Australia.

Staffing and people initiatives

In late June 2006, the department lodged a collective agreement for the next three financial years, outlining salaries and conditions for the majority of our staff. During the year, a People Management Committee was established, the graduate recruitment programme was expanded, and learning and development opportunities were enhanced.

In summary

This year was one of excellent performance by the department's staff, with significant progress being achieved on all of the government's policy initiatives. The professional approach and personal commitment of our staff in carrying out our work is demonstrated by the summary results detailed in the following section of this annual report. Our staff and work are supported by our extremely capable senior executive and deputy secretary team. I pay tribute to all our staff for their dedication and contribution to the successful work of the department.

Signature of  Michael J. Taylor

Michael J Taylor
SECRETARY

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Regional Services

The Australian Government recognises the significant challenges facing regional Australia from globalisation, industry restructuring, skills shortages, ongoing population shifts and environmental impacts, and has put in place frameworks to enable regions to lead their own development, working in partnership with other state, territory and local governments, the private sector and regional communities.

Regional programmes strengthened

In 2005-06, the government provided grants for 309 projects under the Regional Partnerships Programme and for 55 under the Sustainable Regions Programme.

The Minister for Transport and Regional Services announced changes to improve the Regional Partnerships Programme by streamlining processes and improving decision making. The minister also announced a separate appropriation to support three-year funding for area consultative committees, commencing in July 2006, and four new priorities for increased attention by the committees and the programme (small and disadvantaged communities; youth; skills shortages and economic growth; and Indigenous communities).

The department supported the newly established Regional Partnerships Ministerial Committee. It has centralised its grants assessment function, resulting in project assessment times being halved, and completed a review of the programme guidelines.

In the May 2006 Budget, the government announced that some funding would be carried over to 2006-07 to allow projects in the eight initial areas of the Sustainable Regions Programme to be completed.

In 2005-06, the department made progress on 40 regional initiatives announced as election commitments, including the Rural Medical Infrastructure Fund; six regional icon projects; 14 projects across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia to create jobs, business opportunities and community benefits; 16 projects in the Strengthening Tasmania's Economy and Building a Better Community statement; and two new areas for the Sustainable Regions Programme. In addition, arrangements were made to have Bank@Post facilities installed in 132 licensed post offices across regional Australia.

In 2005-06, the government continued to provide air subsidies for 223 remote communities supporting transfer of goods, services and passengers through the Remote Air Subsidy Scheme. The government gave $500,000 to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to continue to provide small grants to communities in partnership with private sector donors.

Indigenous partnerships strengthened

Four remote Indigenous communities participating in the COAG East Kimberley trial continue to engage with governments, including the Australian Government, to better deliver tangible outcomes for their communities and regions.

Community members from Balgo, Billiluna, Mulan and Ringer Soak have set priorities, attended governance workshops, and identified projects to support youth, improve environmental health and strengthen community safety. Many of these activities are reflected in shared responsibility agreements, the number of which is increasing as communities gain confidence in negotiating arrangements.

Work on the trial is guided by a regional reference group with representatives from the community, the Australian Government, the Western Australian Government and Halls Creek Shire. The group operates as a forum for regional planning and cooperation and is achieving strong community engagement, increasing regional focus and providing strategic direction to the trial.

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Territories and Local Government

Local government supported to deliver essential services

We assisted the government finalise its response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration report Rates and taxes: a fair share for responsible local government (also known as the Hawker report), and continue to help the government implement the decisions it has made in relation to the report.

In April 2006, an intergovernmental agreement on local government issues was signed by the Australian Local Government Association, the Australian Government and all state and territory governments, under the auspices of the Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council.

Territory services on target and governance improving

The government spent a total of $58.0 million through the Services to Indian Ocean Territories Administered Programme. A range of services was provided to the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, either directly or through service delivery arrangements with the Western Australian Government or through contracted service providers.

In February 2006, the Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads announced consideration of far-reaching changes to Norfolk Island's governance arrangements in response to the territory's deteriorating financial situation. We are coordinating work across government to help develop an alternative governance framework.

Support for disaster relief, recovery and mitigation

Through its role in managing the government's Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements, the department helped to develop prompt relief assistance for the victims of tropical cyclones Larry and Monica. In 2005-06, we were notified of 51 major disaster events, including 6 cyclones, 21 bushfires, 13 storms and 11 floods.

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Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Safety enhanced

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) continued to initiate aviation accident investigations and release important investigation reports, and made good progress on the new Safety Investigation Information Management System. The ATSB improved the timeliness of marine and rail investigations, facilitated stakeholders' initiation of over 120 aviation safety actions, and made 22 aviation, 40 marine and 83 rail safety recommendations.

ATSB safety research and education activities were successful, and aviation and road safety research reports were well received by stakeholders.

Our safety website (www.atsb.gov.au) received 14.75 million hits, and the hit rate continues to grow.

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Office of Transport Security

Surface transport security enhanced

The continued threat to security in the transport sector, exemplified by the London bombings of July 2005, has reinforced the need for our continued vigilance.

Since the London terrorist attacks, and through the Transport Security Working Group, the department has worked closely with the National Counter-Terrorism Committee and senior transport officials from each state and territory to strengthen and build on Australia's surface transport security arrangements.

Through a range of measures, we continue to lead and support the further development and implementation of security enhancements in the surface transport sector. We have worked closely with transport experts in the states and territories to broaden the capacity of transport operators, their staff and the general public to contribute to the security of surface transport, facilitate incident planning and preparation by operators, and support an integrated approach to transport security.

COAG agreed on a national code of practice for closed-circuit television (CCTV) in the mass transport sector, and the department progressed the review of current CCTV technology.

The state and federal Transport Ministers have agreed to establish a working group of officials to work with the Inspector of Transport Security, Mr Mick Palmer AO APM, to report on the effectiveness of surface transport security arrangements. The report is likely to be finalised by December 2006, with results provided to the Australian Transport Council and National Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Aviation and maritime security tightened

Aviation security regimes were further strengthened in the past 12 months, as major airlines and airports developed new transport security programmes, consistent with the requirements of the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004. Enhanced national standards for screening were introduced and, since 1 January 2006, all outgoing checked baggage on international flights has had to be screened using X-ray screening equipment.

In September 2005, the government agreed to the 17 recommendations from the Wheeler Review. During the remainder of 2005-06, the department worked steadily to implement these recommendations, most of which will be fully implemented by early 2007.

The government allocated an additional $38 million to strengthen air cargo security arrangements. Major air cargo handlers have been provided with explosives trace detection equipment to be used in cargo terminals that handle international air cargo. The Regulated Air Cargo Agent Scheme was subjected to increased audit and compliance activities, and an additional 29 transport security inspector positions have been established to undertake this work.

Rollout of the Maritime Security Identity Card scheme commenced on 1 November 2005. The scheme is due to be implemented by January 2007. Everyone who needs unescorted access to maritime security zones is required to hold a valid card.

Further amendments to the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 were developed to increase the powers of maritime security guards and to simplify the approval process for changes to security plans. It is expected that parliament will debate the amendments in early 2006-07.

Regional aviation security regimes have been further improved by:

  • the installation of hardened cockpit doors on all passenger aircraft with a seating capacity of 30 or more
  • provision of metal detection equipment to more than 140 regional airports
  • the conduct of a CCTV trial at four regional airports
  • delivery of training packages addressing basic security awareness for regional airline and airport operators and their staff.

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Aviation and Airports

Helping to enhance transport safety in the Asia-Pacific region

In aviation, the department continued to participate in activities to promote and deliver enhanced safety in the Asia-Pacific region and to reinforce directions for ensuring that safety supervision obligations are well administered globally. This included providing ongoing assistance to Papua New Guinea's Civil Aviation Authority through the Enhanced Cooperation Programme, representation on the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) Council, hosting a conference of the International Civil Aviation Organization Asia-Pacific directors general of civil aviation, and sponsoring a meeting of Pacific islands aviation officials.

The establishment of PASO was a key element of the Regional Safety Regulation Oversight initiative in the Pacific Islands Forum's Aviation Action Plan. PASO is an example of how regional initiatives can enable economies of scale through collaboration on safety and security.

Our active participation on the PASO Council assisted the establishment of the organisation following the Asian Development Bank's declaration of loan effectiveness on 26 June 2006. It is expected that safety oversight services will be offered to the region in the latter part of 2006.

Following a request from the Government of Indonesia, the Australian Government provided assistance in the operations of the advanced air traffic system in the Makassar Air Traffic Management Centre in eastern Indonesia. This assistance was funded through the Australian Agency for International Development, and support was provided by Airservices Australia from January to March 2006.

Preparations for APEC 2007

The department is actively involved in the preparations for the 5th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Transportation Ministers Meeting, which is to be held in Adelaide in March 2007. The meeting is one of the APEC meetings that Australia is responsible for as APEC host in 2007, and the department is working closely with other government agencies to ensure a whole-of-government approach to the APEC Australia 2007 year. The meeting will provide an opportunity for transport ministers to advance liberalisation and facilitation of trade in all modes of transportation as part of the broader APEC agenda in the Asia-Pacific region. The key focus for the meeting will be safety, security and facilitation of trade in the transport sector.

The department regularly participates in the APEC Transportation Working Group, which meets twice each year. The working group plays an important role in progressing initiatives identified by APEC transport ministers and leaders as assisting trade facilitation in the Asia-Pacific region. The department recently assumed the role of chair of the working group.

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AusLink

Additional funds provided to local communities

The AusLink (National Land Transport) Act 2005 was proclaimed on 28 July 2005.

During the year, the department completed the negotiation of AusLink's bilateral agreements with all states and territories and administered $4.5 billion in grants for national land transport infrastructure, including $1.2 billion for more than 160 major projects for the AusLink National Land Transport Network. A further $7.8 million was spent on research and technology projects.

These funds included additional payments of nearly $2.4 billion in 2005-06, made up of:

  • $1.8 billion to states and the Northern Territory to complete major roadworks packages by the end of 2009
  • $308 million to about 700 councils around Australia for improving local roads
  • $270 million to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which has advised that these funds will be used to complete the installation of concrete sleepers on the main line from Melbourne to Brisbane.

In total, $220 million is being provided for a range of Strategic Regional Programme projects to mid-2009. In March 2006, the government called for project proposals for regional land transport infrastructure. The department is assessing applications, and the Australian Government expects to announce the successful projects later in 2006.

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Maritime and Land Transport

Council of Australian Governments National Reform Agenda

We contributed actively to the government's review of National Competition Policy in 2005, which culminated in COAG establishing the National Reform Agenda in February 2006. The agenda includes strong commitments to national transport reforms. This work will remain a key focus for the department in the coming year.

Maritime salvage

We were partners in the development and implementation of the National Maritime Emergency Response Arrangement, which provided the means for the establishment of a single national body to coordinate and manage responses to maritime incidents that occur around the Australian coastline.

Furthering transport reform

The National Reform Agenda aims to raise living standards and improve services by lifting the nation's productivity. Transport reform is a key element on the agenda, with objectives including identification of options for efficient road and rail freight infrastructure pricing to maximise net benefits to the community; harmonisation and reform of road and rail regulation, including access, safety and productivity-based reforms; the finalisation of the AusLink Corridor Strategies; and a review of urban congestion trends, impacts and solutions.

The department continues to work closely with the Australian Transport Council, the National Transport Commission and jurisdictions on these transport reforms, and will continue to engage closely with COAG officials.

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Portfolio Strategic Policy and Projects

Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics

In 2005-06, the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics (BTRE) released Freight measurement and modelling in Australia, a comprehensive analysis of trends in Australian freight transport since the 1970s and of the future outlook. BTRE also released Demand projections for AusLink non-urban corridors: methodology and projections, and commenced a collaborative project with states and territories to improve nationally available land transport data and analysis.

The BTRE Transport Colloquium, held in Parliament House, Canberra, with close to 200 participants, focused on transport reform. Issues addressed, such as urban congestion and rail harmonisation, were also the subject of BTRE research, for release in 2006-07.

BTRE also released a new report aimed at improving understanding of factors influencing regional social and economic development in Australia, Focus on regions no. 4: social capital.

Strategic Projects

During 2005-06, the department's Strategic Projects unit provided advice on a range of issues affecting the longer term interests of the portfolio. These included telecommunications services in regional Australia, water reform, natural resource management, reform of rail regulatory arrangements, and competition policy.

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Management

Continued growth of and support for staff

During 2005-06, departmental staff numbers grew by over 11 per cent to 1,287. A large part of this increase has been in the Office of Transport Security, which increased from 240 in 2004-05 to 306 employees in 2005-06. Our graduate programme increased from 31 to 37 graduates.

Detailed workforce planning has been implemented and is being incorporated into business plans and the quarterly business review process. The Senior Executive Service Management Team meets regularly to develop strategies to build the department's capability and to plan for likely future business priorities as part of the annual business planning cycle.

A new collective agreement was lodged, providing pay rises and improvements in conditions for employees (see page 183). Improvements in staff development have also been introduced, with new programmes in place for Indigenous cultural awareness, giving and receiving feedback, and working ethically and professionally in the Australian Public Service. Work is well underway for the introduction of a leadership programme during 2006-07.

Accommodation

The growth in staff numbers has resulted in changes in the department's accommodation requirements.

During 2005-06, the department continued with its National Office Accommodation Reconfiguration Programme. While some work was undertaken in other Canberra buildings, the main focus of the activity in the national office was in the 111 Alinga Street and 4 Mort Street buildings.

Regionally, the department undertook accommodation expansion, reconfiguration and refurbishment in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin. The primary growth factor nationally was the continued expansion of the Office of Transport Security as a result of its increased responsibilities and functions.

We also worked towards positioning the department strategically to consolidate its national office arrangements in future years.

Cost recovery

There were no changes to the department's cost recovery arrangements during 2005-06.

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Financial Performance

Parliament provides the department with two types of funding: departmental and administered. Departmental funds are used to produce goods and services (outputs) at a quantity, quality and price endorsed by the government. As well, the department administers funds, assets and liabilities on behalf of the Australian Government, which controls how the department uses them and requires the department to account for them separately.

Departmental finances

In 2005-06, the department reported a nearly balanced operating outcome, broadly in line with that projected at the time of the 2006-07 Budget (see Table 1.1).

After removing the one-off impact of the write-back of an asbestos-related disease claims provision, revenue rose by around $20.0 million, due largely to the impact of new measures announced in the 2005-06 Budget and subsequent estimates updates.

Expenses rose by $34.6 million, reflecting the full-year impact of 2004-05 Budget measures, together with activities associated with new measures announced in the 2005-06 Budget.

Removing the one-off impact, the department's net asset position improved by $20.2 million, largely due to:

  • an increase in appropriation receivables, most of which relates to depreciation
  • an increase in non-financial assets, reflecting leasehold improvements and enhancements to internally developed IT software.

This was partly offset by an increase in employee provisions.

The balanced operating result and increase in net assets continues to reflect the department's efforts in managing its resources and strengthening its balance sheet. These efforts are aimed at building a strong and sustainable financial future, and we will continue to strive for improvements.

Table 1.1 Summary of departmental financial performance and position

2001-02
$m

2002-03
$m

2003-04
$m

2004-05
$m

2005-06
$m

Change
last year %

Revenue from government

213.0

229.3

222.8

197.1

217.4

10.3

Other revenue

20.7

17.5

18.9

40.1

6.1

84.8

Total revenue

230.4

246.8

241.7

237.2

223.5

5.8

Employee and supplier expenses

169.7

194.2

195.8

176.6

209.5

18.6

Depreciation

11.2

12.8

14.0

8.2

9.7

18.3

Other expenses

14.6

19.6

91.2

7.2

4.0

44.4

Total expenses

195.5

226.6

301.1

192.0

223.2

16.3

Operating result (Loss)

34.7

20.1

(59.4)

45.2

0.3

99.3

Financial assets

A

38.8

109.6

160.7

93.0

105.0

12.9

Non-financial assets

B

225.0

250.9

247.9

46.8

63.9

36.5

Liabilities

C

40.3

48.3

108.9

74.1

51.1

31.0

Net assets = A + B - C

223.5

312.1

299.7

65.6

117.7

79.4

Note: Historical data reflect the respective year's financial statements as signed off by the Australian National Audit Office at the time. As such, it may not reflect current accounting policies or comparative figures published in later statements.

Administered finances - accuracy of estimates improves despite significant changes

The Australian Government provided appropriations totalling $6.4 billion for grants, subsidies and other administered expenses in 2005-06, including additional appropriations of $2.0 billion provided in the Portfolio Supplementary Additional Estimates Statements (see Table 1.3).

Expenses totalling $4.1 billion were recognised during the year, with the major contributors being:

  • AusLink infrastructure investment ($1,597.9 million)
  • Local Government Financial Assistance Grants ($1,618.6 million)
  • AusLink rail infrastructure investment ($270.0 million) Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme ($92.3 million)
  • Regional Partnerships Programme ($83.7 million)
  • Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements ($69.1 million).

In aggregate, the administered programmes managed by the department were under-expensed by $217.0 million or 5.1 per cent, of which $171.7 million was rephased (moved between years to a later year) or returned to the Budget, either at the Portfolio Supplementary Additional Estimates update or during the 2006-07 Budget process. The major variances are shown in Table 1.2.

Table 1.2 Administered programmes reporting variances of more than $5 million

Programme

Underexpenses ($)

Information

Canberra International Airport-runway strengthening

19.5 m

page 33

Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements

20.4 m

page 167

Taxation revenue collected on behalf of the Australian Government remained largely unchanged in 2005-06 with a rise in revenue from airport noise levies at Sydney and Adelaide airports ($2.4 million) and interstate road transport registration fees ($1.8 million), offset, in part, by a fall in stevedoring levies ($3.0 million).

Non-taxation revenue and gains rose $36.2 million overall, due mainly to increases associated with recognition of the Sidney Nolan art collection ($30.1 million) and the write-back of a provision for administered loans ($6.5 million).

Changes to the Finance Minister's Orders, consequent on adoption of Australian Equivalents to International Financial Reporting Standards whereby administered investments are valued at fair value rather than cost, had a substantial impact on the administered balance sheet, increasing net assets by $1,421.0 million.

Other events that affected net assets included:

  • the prepayment of grants under the AusLink and Canberra International Airport runway strengthening programmes ($2,144.5 million)
  • a drop in the value of the guarantee to cover borrowings by the Maritime Industry Finance Company Ltd, following the company's full repayment of its borrowings ($33.5 million).

Figure 1.1 illustrates the mix of administered assets at 30 June 2006. For more information, see the audited financial statements (see page 244).

Figure 1.1 Value of administered assets held at 30 June 2006

Figure 1.1 Value of administered assets held at 30 June 2006

Table 1.3 Summary of administered financial performance and position

2001-02
$m

2002-03
$m

2003-04
$m

2004-05
$m

2005-06
$m

Change
last year %

Taxation revenue

275.9

294.9

147.2

151.6

150.1

0.9

Non-taxation revenue

75.7

132.4

142.7

138.4

172.4

24.6

Total revenue

351.6

427.3

289.9

290.1

322.5

11.2

Grants

3,366.0

2,966.6

3,549.8

3,620.9

3,841.7

6.1

Subsidies

92.3

147.9

134.3

138.8

136.3

1.8

Other expenses

65.5

38.7

44.7

113.7

88.9

21.8

Total expenses

3,523.8

3,153.2

3,728.8

3,873.5

4,066.9

5.0

Financial assets

845.4

797.5

850.4

719.5

2,118.3

194.4

Non-financial assets

90.4

85.9

85.5

289.2

2,494.7

762.6

Liabilities

137.5

114.1

82.3

70.6

25.2

64.3

Net assets

798.3

769.3

853.6

938.0

4,587.8

389.1

Note: Historical data reflect the respective year's financial statements as signed off by the Australian National Audit Office at the time. As such, it may not reflect current accounting policies or comparative figures published in later statements.

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Environmental Performance

Environmental policy endorsed

In May 2006, the secretary endorsed the department's environmental policy. Through this policy, the department will implement measures to prevent pollution and comply with relevant legal and other environmental requirements.

The policy is the driver for establishing and maintaining the department's environmental management system (EMS). In particular, the EMS is focused on improving our environmental performance in purchasing practices, waste production, water consumption, energy efficiency and staff awareness. In many cases the EMS will formalise and build upon existing environmental management practices.

The EMS is compliant with ISO14001:2004, the international standard for environmental management systems. In this way, the department is meeting the global benchmark for better environmental practice.

Toner cartridges are now being recycled (Photo DOTARS)
Toner cartridges are now being recycled (Photo DOTARS)

Toner cartridge recycling proposed

As part of the EMS, the implementation of a national toner cartridge recycling programme is being investigated. The aim is to recycle as many non-biodegradable materials as possible in an effort to reduce landfill and long-term soil degradation. The programme is expected to 'go live' by the end of October 2006, with national implementation soon afterwards.

Christmas Island coastline (Photo DOTARS)
Christmas Island coastline (Photo DOTARS)

Maritime incident response unified

It is in the national interest to protect the marine environment from the consequences of significant pollution in the event of a maritime incident. While the incidence of significant pollution damage to the Australian coast has, fortunately, been relatively rare, international experience demonstrates the extremely damaging effect of even a single major oil spill near a nation's coastline. The Australian Government and the state and Northern Territory governments have agreed that effective management of first response to maritime incidents requires clear, unambiguous decision-making powers exercised by a single body. See page 94 for more details of the National Maritime Emergency Response Arrangement

Overlooking Kingston from Flagstaff Hill, Norfolk Island (Photo DOTARS)
Overlooking Kingston from Flagstaff Hill, Norfolk Island (Photo DOTARS)

Natural and cultural heritage protected

The department developed a heritage strategy to assist in effective management of the heritage values of its assets. The strategy was approved by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in March 2006. We have begun work on implementing the strategy by identifying and assessing the heritage values of all our assets so that they can be properly managed and cared for into the future. Through the Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area Management Board, we help to protect the cultural and heritage values of this pre-eminent site on Norfolk Island.

Lake Windermere, Jervis Bay Territory (Photo DOTARS)
Lake Windermere, Jervis Bay Territory (Photo DOTARS)

Human settlements made more sustainable

The department commissioned a consultancy to examine options for increasing the water supply to Home Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, in the Indian Ocean Territories. Implementation of recommendations to address the current water shortages on the island is expected to commence in 2006-07.

In the Jervis Bay Territory, we began investigations into the sustainability and management of the territory's water supply to ensure the availability of this resource in the future.

Flying Fish Cove Christmas Island - Indian Ocean Territories (Photo DOTARS)
Flying Fish Cove Christmas Island - Indian Ocean Territories (Photo DOTARS)

Land use managed

No breaches of environmental laws were reported for any capital works undertaken by the department in 2005-06, or for any other activity for which we were responsible.

During the year, we finalised the development of an asbestos register for the Indian Ocean Territories. This will be a key element of the future management of asbestos remediation, including training. 'A1 group' asbestos was removed from the territories by contractors. Asbestos products in Commonwealth-owned properties were labelled appropriately. Other asbestos products were replaced where appropriate through the ongoing housing upgrade programme. All contractors are required to follow industry best practice and guidelines when removing asbestos.

The department commissioned a site management plan for the remediation of the old Home Island power station site, including the removal of hydrocarbons in the soil, which present an unacceptable health risk. The work will be done in 2006-07.

On Christmas Island, we collected a levy from Phosphate Resources Ltd towards the costs of mine site rehabilitation on Christmas Island.

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Social Performance

Caring staff-support for charities and health research

The Social Club, with the support of the department's staff, was very active in fundraising for charities and health research. Donations from staff and fundraising activities brought in more than $3,000 for various causes, including:

  • the Children's Medical Research Institute
  • prostate cancer research
  • breast cancer research and awareness
  • juvenile diabetes
  • Relationships Australia.

The Snowy Hydro SouthCare Aero Medical and Rescue Helicopter Service and True Green are just two of the charities that the Social Club is supporting in 2006.

Three of the 2005 graduates who contributed significantly to fundraising for charities Photo DOTARS)
Three of the 2005 graduates who contributed significantly to fundraising for charities Photo DOTARS)

Community participation­-blood donated

In April 2006, the secretary endorsed the department's participation in the Canberra Sunday Times Corporate and Community Blood Donor Programme. Initially, the programme was available only to Canberra-based employees, but steps have been taken to roll out the programme to regional offices. Participation in the programme means that departmental staff can donate blood during work hours, with each donation recorded by the Red Cross Blood Bank as a contribution from the department.

Fred Leftwich, a member of the Indigenous Professional Development Network (Photo DOTARS)
Fred Leftwich, a member of the Indigenous Professional Development Network (Photo DOTARS)

Social justice-Indigenous network established

The department established its first Indigenous Professional Development Network in 2006. Members include all Indigenous employees in the department, whatever their level or location. The network provides professional support for Indigenous employees and advises on how to make the department a better employer of Indigenous people.

Secretary Mike Taylor congratulating two departmental staff on their participation in the programme (Photo DOTARS)
Secretary Mike Taylor congratulating two departmental staff on their participation in the programme (Photo DOTARS)

Occupational health and safety-health week initiative-
DOTARS biggest loser!

As a result of the department's annual Health Week programme, a number of staff took up a personal challenge to get fitter and lose some weight.

As an additional incentive, colleagues in the department were asked to support and encourage the participants by offering to sponsor them for each kilo lost, with a final weigh-in and collection of sponsorship money to be held on 1 November 2006. The sponsorship money is to be donated to a nominated charity.

Departmental staff (Photo DOTARS)
Departmental staff (Photo DOTARS)

Employee relations and remuneration-a new collective agreement

A new collective agreement was negotiated and signed off on 30 June 2006. The agreement provides for a range of new allowances for staff and improved conditions in a number of areas. Provisions for paid parental leave and paid adoption leave have been introduced to help the department become more attractive to prospective employees.