The Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have agreed that the Productivity Commissions of each country will conduct a joint scoping study to identify options for further reforms which might boost productivity, increase competitiveness and drive deeper economic integration between the countries.

The Commissions’ report will provide analysis on:

  • potential areas of further economic reform and integration, including identification of the areas of reform where benefits are likely to be most significant, with particular focus on critical issues for business like investment and productivity;
  • the economic impacts and benefits of reform;
  • any significant transition and adjustment costs that could be incurred;
  • identification of reform where joint net benefits are highest;
  • the means by which they might be best actioned; and
  • the likely time paths over which benefits are expected to accrue.

The Commissions will report by 1 December 2012 for consideration by Leaders in 2013.

NBN Co has signed a contract with Space Systems/Loral for the delivery of two Ka-band satellites and associated tracking, telemetry and control systems, as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) long term satellite service.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has released its report on the administration of government advertising arrangements introduced in 2008 which required that campaign development be undertaken by the commissioning department or agency to avoid the use or perceived use of taxpayer funds by ministers to gain political advantage.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has released its report on the operation of the Gateway Review Process phased in by the Federal Government over three years after the 2006-07 Budget to cover government projects of $10 million and over for IT projects, and $20 million and over for other procurement and infrastructure projects that were assessed as representing a high risk in Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agencies.

With just 11 months until governments are due to deliver their seamless national economy reforms, the COAG Reform Council has found 12 reforms are at risk of not being completed by December.

Federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has accused the Victorian government of deliberately frustrating progress on the national occupational health and safety harmonisation initative.

A global search is underway for the CEO of the new independent National Heavy Vehicle Regulator based in Queensland.

The Federal Government has announced it will move to expedite the rehabilitation work along the main North South rail line connecting Sydney to Melbourne.

A research report published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) has found ‘dramatic’ improvement in waiting times in Western Australia.

The Federal Government has reportedly struck a deal with the Northern Territory Opposition that could result in the country’s first ever Nuclear Waste Dump likely being constructed in the territory.

Skills Australia has released a discussion paper and called for submissions on the development of a comprehensive workforce development strategy for the Defence materiel supply industries.

 

Releasing the discussion paper, the Minister for Defence Materiel, Senator Kim Carr, said that over the next decade the Australian Government will spend more than $200 billion on the Defence force.

 

As part of this, the Government is planning a substantial increase in Defence equipment acquisitions across all services, with the most recent Defence Capability Plan including projects or phases of projects valued at approximately $150 billion in current prices.  This acquisition plan includes the Future Submarine Project – expected to beAustralia’s largest ever single defence project.

 

“A skilled workforce will be key to success and the Defence Industry Workforce Strategy plans to better position Australian industry to participate in Defence procurement,” Senator Carr said.

 

Last September, the Australian Government asked Skills Australia to work with the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) to prepare a comprehensive workforce strategy for the Australian defence materiel supply industries.

 

 “On average, about 50 to 55 per cent of defence acquisition work (by value) has historically been won by highly competitive Australian-based firms including many small to medium enterprises.  If Australian industry is to continue to be competitive, access to an appropriately skilled workforce will be crucial,” Senator Carr said.

 

“A steady supply of steelworkers, welders, electricians and mechanics is needed, among many other trades.  And we also need engineers, systems analysts, accountants and specialists in air and marine transport. 

 

“Defence suppliers can expect to face significant competition for skilled labour from the resources sector and large-scale infrastructure projects including the National Broadband Network.

 

“This competition for skills could create challenges for the Australian defence industry.  The Paper provides a preliminary, but much needed, assessment of the skills outlook for the Australian defence materiel supply industries.”

 

It is designed to provoke debate and invite ideas and input from the defence community.  To assist this discussion, public submissions on the Strategy are invited by 5 April, 2012.  The insights gained from these submissions and consultations will form a key input to the final report, which is due in June 2012. 

 

Senator Carr said he strongly encouraged all to get involved and have a say in the process.

 

A background paper to this Discussion Paper and information on the public submission process can be found on the Skills Australia web site at www.skillsaustralia.gov.au.

Two key defence industries – combat clothing and acoustic technologies and systems – have passed their first ‘health check’, showing that Australia can remain self reliant in these priority industry capabilities.

The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, has announced that further steps have been taken by the Defence Leadership to implement the Review of the Defence Accountability Framework (the Black Review).

The Deputy Secretary Strategy in the Department of Defence,  Peter Jennings, has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). His appointment will take effect shortly for a term of five years. 

Four short-listed proponents for Australia’s first large-scale, solar photovoltaic (PV) power station under Round 1 of the Federal Government’s Solar Flagship have been asked to provide updated applications after the preferred applicant, Moree Solar Farm, proposed major changes to its project.

The Australian National Audit Office has released its audit of the Federal Government’s implementation and administration of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS).

The Reserve Bank of Australia has announced it has left the official cash rate unchanged at 4.25 per cent.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has outlined plans to provide vocational students with access to HECS-style loans and training subsidies in selected technical and service sector fields.

Fair Work Australia has ruled in favour of a large number of community sector workers, ordering a pay rise of between 19 and 41 per cent.

The Federal Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Tony Burke, has hit out at a proposal by the Victorian Government to reintroduce cattle grazing to the state’s Alpine National Park.

The Federal Government has announced it will be allowing same-sex couples to apply for Certificates of No impediments to allow them to marry overseas.

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