The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, chaired by Independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, has called for the Australian Taxation Office to report back in six months on action it has taken to improve complaint handing and to address the causes of complaints.

In its report on the eighth biannual hearing with the Commissioner of Taxation, the Joint Committee expressed concerns about the ATO’s performance in handling complaints and the increase in the number of complaints received. It acknowledged that the increase in complaints had coincided with implementation of the ATO’s  Information and Communication Technology (ICT) change program which began seven years ago.

The ATO said that implementation of the new integrated core processing system as part of the change program had caused some delays to the processing of refunds, which caused complaints to spike over the past twelve months.

In its annual report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), Infrastructure Australia has warned that ‘frustratingly slow’ progress of reforms to infrastructure planning and delivery had caused a slowing of Australia’s productivity.

Appointments to the inaugural governing board of the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) have been announced, effective from 1 July, 2011.

The dispute between the Federal Greens and the mining industry has intensified after the party urged a debate on measures to slow down the $65.3 billion iron ore sector according to an article published the Australian Financial Review.

The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, has announced the establishment of an independent probity board that will guide decision making within the Defense Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

The Federal Government has announced the membership of its new employment advisory panel that will provide advice on reducing unnecessary red tape for employment services providers.

A new data matching initiative between Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office is expected to claw back millions of dollars from welfare recipients who have debts with the Australian Government.

 

Minister for Human Services Tanya Plibersek said the new initiative will enhance Centrelink’s debt recovery ability and is expected to recover more than $71 million over four years.

 

Beginning on July 1 this year, Centrelink and the ATO will automatically match data on a daily basis as a way of cross-checking former welfare recipients who have a debt with the Commonwealth.

 

Those who are identified as having debts and who haven't made repayment arrangements with Centrelink may have their tax refunds garnisheed when they lodge their income tax return.

 

"The Government prefers to work with people and provide them with flexible debt repayment options, rather than having to garnishee their tax refunds," said Ms Plibersek. "But if people fail to come to an arrangement to settle their debts, the Government has a responsibility to taxpayers to recover that money."

 

Ms Plibersek said Centrelink customers sometimes incurred a debt with the Commonwealth because they either inadvertently or intentionally claimed a benefit they were not entitled to.

 

Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said the tax garnishee process had been carried out manually once a year for the past 15 years and involved a significant amount time on the part of the departmental officers.

 

"The automation of this process will free up resources and result in more people being referred to the tax garnishee process, retrieving more outstanding debt on behalf of taxpayers," he said.

 

He said more than $27.5 million was recovered from over 43,000 former Centrelink customers' tax refunds in the 2009/10 financial year through the tax garnishee process.

 

"The new data matching link is expected to increase the number of former customers identified for this process by an additional 65,000, above current detection levels, over the four years."

 

Mr Shorten said under the new initiative people experiencing financial hardship will continue to have the opportunity to enter into an alternative repayment arrangement.

 

Centrelink is currently writing to over 90,000 people with outstanding debts who are not currently receiving a payment from Centrelink or the Family Assistance Office.

The ABC’s contract for the provision of Network Australia has been extended by six months while the Federal Government seeks additional information from tenderers for the new contract.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has bowed to pressure from doctors and consumer health groups after listing 13 new drugs on the national subsidised medicine scheme.

The Productivity Commission has published its Trade and Assistance Review 2009-10 outlining the state of trade and sovereign assistance in the country over the last two years.

Federal Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown has announced his party’s portfolio responsibilities as they prepare to take control of the country’s Upper House.

Geoscience Australia has released its Toward Future Energy Discovery, detailing the outcomes and achievements of the Australian Government’s five-year $134 million Energy Secrurity Initiative.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised that Indigenous Australians will have a greater say on how to best address the disadvantages suffered by their communities after the Government’s intervention strategy expires next year.

Federal Minister for Regional Develoment and Local Government Simon Crean has announced the creation of an expert advisory panel to lead a ‘national discussion’ on a referendum on recognising local government in the Australian Constitution.

The Federal Government has announced that it will provide more than three quarters of a billion dollars to help build two of the largest solar power stations in the world.

The Australian Government has secured passage of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Job Seeker Compliance) Bill 2011 through the Parliament.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced Australian Government disaster assistance is now available in fourteen Local Government Areas affected by severe flooding in New South Wales.

The Federal Government has announced it will contribute more than $9 million toward research for the protection of soldiers of the Australian Defence Force.

The Federal  Government will continue its matching contributions to rural research and development corporations, following the release of a review on RDCs by the Productivity Commission. 

A CSIRO research report has found that a extending the life of existing iron ore mines in Australia and optimising marginal deposits would contribute an additional $56 billion to the national budget.

The Collie South West Hub capture and storage (CCS) trial project in Western Australia is to receive up to $104 million in matching Federal and State funding for the completion of a detailed storage viability study.

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