Australian Productivity Commission recommends skills training outside apprenticeships


The Commission has also recommended the expansion of student loans for more certificate and diploma courses and says greater contestability in funding arrangements for publicly-owned TAFE providers would help governments get a better return on the $6.4 billion spent on vocational education and training (VET). A more nationally consistent approach to course subsidies and fees was also recommended.

Craig Robertson, chief executive officer for peak body TAFE Directors Australia conceded that some private providers may try to exploit the opportunity to provide trade qualifications without completion of on-the-job training. But many experienced workers could benefit from training options outside formal apprenticeships for trades including electrical, engineering and plumbing.

“There needs to be a fair pathway those people who have got the work experience but just need some new skills to become a tradesperson, but without compromising quality,” he said.

“While this recommendation may have merit it is a matter for industry and unions to settle in conjunction with governments.”

The Australian Industry Group backs a new national agreement to support skills training reform in Australia, but believes engineering and electrical skills still need to be delivered through workplace apprenticeships.

Ai Group’s head of workforce development Megan Lilly said the Australian apprenticeship system needed to develop “critical skills to help drive the economy”.

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“This reform needs to be driven from a clear understanding that trade skills are best developed in the context of work, and continuing with apprenticeship-only qualifications for some trades is necessary,” she said.

“We need to develop complex skills through real work application over time. This is the best guarantee for job-readiness, relevance and employability.”

Ms Lilly said the VET sector has long needed a more coherent national approach that focuses upon meeting the current and future needs of employers and students.

Training sector analyst Claire Field said the commission’s recommendation to expand non-apprenticeship training options for traditional trade training was likely to be resisted by a majority of employers and unions “who will worry that learners won’t learn the practical, on-the-job knowledge they need”.

“As we’ve seen during COVID with training moving online and out of the classroom or workplace, some flexibility can be accommodated and make sense,” she said. “This kind of option could be useful to help unemployed students enter a trade but they’d still need some time in the workplace. These kinds of recommendations have been made before and not been widely taken-up because the on-the-job component is seen as so important.”

Robin Shreeve, a former deputy director-general of TAFE NSW agreed with the commission’s view that TAFE needed to be more autonomous, similar to universities, to compete with other providers for funding.

“There are limitations to what competition and marketisation can achieve,” he said. “I’m a great believer in extending access but you can do that by means other than just more income contingent loans.”

The Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe said the Commission’s recommendation that governments should make VET funding would narrow course options for students and diminish TAFE. She said the majority of registered training organisations provide fewer than 15 courses while TAFEs provide up to 500 because of guaranteed public funding.

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Employment and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash said the Productivity Commission’s final report into the National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD) confirms it is “no longer fit for purpose and a new national skills agreement is needed”.

“This report shows that our world-class VET system can be improved with a more transparent and consistent funding model,” Minister Cash said.

“It’s clear the NASWD is overdue for a replacement, but with a major overhaul we could achieve a better return on public investment.”

The federal government is negotiating a new National Skills Agreement with state and territory governments. Senator Cash said the agreement needed to ensure resources targeted the skills needed for Australia’s economic recovery. A spokeswoman for Senator Cash said the Morrison Government wants to move to a more transparent and consistent funding model that is linked to the level of training activity, “so we can be confident we are funding training linked to jobs”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the federal government’s $7 billion investment in the VET system would help support Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and future growth.

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Investigations caseload blows out in Tasmanian child protection service, according to Productivity Commission



New figures reveal Tasmanian children who are the subject of child protection investigations are being exposed to blowouts in the time taken to begin and conduct inquiries — and the situation is getting worse.

The annual Productivity Commission Report on Government Services has revealed Tasmania took more than 29 days to begin child protection investigations in 78 per cent of cases in 2019-20, with just 6.9 percent opened within seven days.

The figures have been steadily rising since the Liberal Government came to power in Tasmania in 2014.

In 2013-14, 44 per cent of investigations were opened within a week, and just a quarter of investigations took more than four weeks to be opened.

Queensland recorded 40.5 per cent of investigations taking more than 29 days to begin last financial year, followed by New South Wales at 10.4 percent, however the report cautions that the data is not comparable across jurisdictions.

The number of Tasmanian child protection investigations taking longer than three months to complete has also skyrocketed — rising to 72.9 percent in 2019-20, from 22.4 per cent in 2013-14.

The next highest rate was recorded by Western Australia, at 38.3 percent, but the report said that data also was not comparable.

According to the Productivity Commission, the proportion of child protection investigations in Tasmania where claims were eventually substantiated was 89.5 per cent in the past financial year — the highest figure recorded across the country, and the highest rate recorded for the state in at least a decade.

New South Wales and Victorian investigations were substantiated in just over 52 per cent of cases.

The cost for each child protection notification that is investigated in Tasmania also rose substantially, to $6,154 in 2019-20, up from $3,862 the previous year.

The Tasmanian Government has undertaken a redesign of the state’s child protection system since being elected nearly seven years ago.

In a statement, Human Services Minister Roger Jaensch said the Productivity Commission child protection data remained stable across the majority of indicators, despite challenges presented by the pandemic in the last part of the reporting period.

“The Government remains committed to the Strong Families, Safe Kids reforms, and we are already seeing the benefits through improved service provision to families, children and young people across Tasmania,” he said.

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“Banner Drinker Register” To Be Mandated In The Barkly Region

The remote part of Northern Territory, Barkly region, is now under proposed changes to its alcohol policies, which requires people to provide ID in order to buy a drink.

This recommendation is just one among many others made by the Northern Territory Liquor Commission which follows a two-year review opting to reduce any alcohol-related risks in the area.

Under the proposed amendment, should one’s ID show that they are on the Banned Drinker Register (BDR), patrons would be barred from buying drinks from three licensed premises — the Goldfields Hotel, the Tennant Creek Hotel and the Elliott Hotel. Yet, thus far, the BDR only applies to takeaway alcohol sales.

Jason Groves of the Goldfields Hotel described this tentative measure to be “a bit of a farce”.

He said “They’ll need to put ID scanners in all the bars, so that’ll be a major expense … it’s also going to increase staff on the doors. It’ll just be another cumbersome thing for people to do to enjoy a legal product.”

This mandatory ID check and other measures suggested in the review will be considered by the NT Government.

Further recommendations saw The Liquor Commission’s changing the takeaway license conditions of three Tennant Creek outlets — the Goldfields Hotel, the Tennant Creek Hotel and the Headframe Bottle Shop.

Should the change be approved, this means that in a household, no more than three people would be allowed to purchase takeaway alcohol in the same day. The commission said police stationed outside outlets could enforce that measure using “iPads linked to police databases”.

The region’s major population hub, Tennant Creek, has long suffered from social issues related to high rates of alcohol consumption, and its 3,000 residents already face some of the strictest alcohol restrictions in the country.

On the other hand, takeaway bottle shops have currently reduced opening hours and limit the purchase are imposed to one 750ml bottle of spirits, two 750ml bottles of wine or 24 cans of full-strength beer per day.

(Image source: ABC News)

Mamata Banerjee Criticises BJP For Abolishing Planning Commission


Mamata Banerjee attacked the BJP-led government at the Centre for abolishing the Planning Commission.

Kolkata:

Hitting out at the BJP-led government at the Centre for abolishing the Planning Commission conceptualised by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said that her government would come up with a similar body to take forward the nationalistic leader’s ideas and vision.

She urged Nobel laureate economists Amartya Sen and Abhijit Banerjee, and Subhas Chandra Bose’s grandnephew Sugata Bose, a historian and former Trinamool Congress MP, to advise the state government on this.

“The Planning Commission has been dissolved by the central government. They have named the new body (which replaced the Planning Commission) Niti Aayog or Niti Niyog, I do not know. It does not have any ideology, nor any method (to work). Earlier, I used to go for meetings of the Planning Commission which sought suggestions from each state. Now we cannot share our views,” Ms Banerjee said.

The Narendra Modi government disbanded the Planning Commission in 2014 and had formed the Niti Aayog.

“We will start a Bengal Planning Commission to take Netaji’s vision to the world level,” Ms Banerjee told reporters after a meeting of a committee set up by the TMC government to plan year-long celebrations to mark the 125th birth anniversary of the freedom fighter.

She also demanded that Netaji”s birthday on January 23 be declared a national holiday.

Ms Banerjee also stressed on her demand that the Centre declassify all the files on Netaji.

“We have already done it (declassified some files). We are demanding that the Centre declassify all files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,” she said.

Abhijit Banerjee and other members of the committee attended the virtual meeting.

Netaji’s birthday on January 23 will be celebrated as ”Desh Nayak Divas” in West Bengal, Ms Banerjee said adding that a ”Azad Hind Fauj” monument will be soon erected in Rajarhat area of Kolkata.

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The chief minister also proposed forming a ”Jai Hind Bahini” along the lines of the National Cadet Corps in state-run schools and colleges in memory of Netaji.

Elaborating on it, she said the Jai Hind Bahini will be like the government’s flagship ”Kanyashree” project. Those who join it will get priority in getting scholarships and will be trained by the government.

“We will be investing the money for the future generation. The colleges and university and the education department will take the initiative to provide fellowships to those in the Bahini,” she said.

She advocated a short film or a documentary on Netaji for schoolchildren.

Besides, a CD of songs related to Netaji will also be brought out, she said adding the state government will set up a ”national university” named after Netaji.

“We will set up a national university without taking help from anybody. This university will have links to world class universities like Havard, Cambridge and Oxford,” she announced.

The chief minister said that on Netaji’s birthday a rally will be organised from Shyambazar in north Kolkata to

Red Road in the central part of the city. A tableaux on the life of Netaji will be taken out during the Republic Day parade here on January 26, while during this year’s Independence Day rally will be themed on the nationalistic leader.

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A Women’s Commission for Telangana, at last


HYDERABAD: After two and a half years, Telangana state can now boast of fully functional Women’s Commission. The state government late on Sunday night announced the appointment of Vakiti Sunitha Lakshma Reddy as chairperson and six members of the statutory body.

Sunitha Lakshma Reddy has earlier served as a minister in the cabinets of Chief Ministers Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy and K. Rosaiah.

 

As per the government order, the commission will have a five-year tenure. The other members of the commission include Shaheena Afroze, Kumra Eshwari Bhai, Kommu Umadevi Yadav, Gaddala Padma, Sudham Lakshmi and Katari Revathi Rao.

’Women’s Commission Matters’, an NGO that was in the forefront for the fight for a fully functional women’s panel in the state, and its leader Spurthi Kolipaka hailed the decision.

“This is a victory for all those who fought legal battles and challenges for this day. We can finally have a body that can prioritise the safety and issues concerning women in the state, and make policies, accordingly. I believe that those appointed today are experts in their respective fields and will do well for us’,” said Spurthi.

 

This is a surprising move by the state government as it was expected to fill corporation and commission posts after Sankranti.

Kumra Eshwari Bai, 45, a former mandal president of Indravelli, was personally informed about the nomination by minister K.T. Rama Rao. Her husband Kumra Raju is a teacher. Eshwari Bai is district vice president of the Kolam Seva Sangam. 

Eshwari Bai belongs to  Kolam tribal group which is considered as a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG). She is probably the first person in her community to reach this position. She has been associated with Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao since the inception of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and actively participated in the statehood agitation.

 

Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Eshwari Bai said she joined the TRS just three months after its inception and added that she joined the party being the MPP in the interest of the Telangana agitation.d



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Margaret Thatcher wanted to overhaul ‘non-democratic’ European Commission

He also recorded the former Prime minister’s strong opposition to conferring powers on the European Central Bank.

Mrs Thatcher also branded the Commission’s plans for a single currency as a “rush of blood to the head”.

She hit out at the “politburo” in Brussels and vowed not to be dictated to, during talks with her Irish counterpart.

The Tory Eurosceptic likened giving away powers of taxation to gifting sovereignty to Europe, Dublin archives from 1990 show.

She told Mr Haughey that cultural differences between member states over the internal market in goods would remain.

“The Italians will continue not to pay taxes.”

She accused the European Court of giving more powers to the Commission.

“The days of appointed commissioners must be numbered.

“We must give power to the Council of Ministers.

“I am not handing over authority to a non-elected bureaucracy.”

Mr Haughey said the Commission was contacting Irish local authorities and inviting groups over to Brussels.





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Commission publishes full text of UK-EU Brexit trade agreement – POLITICO

LONDON — The European Commission published the full text of the trade agreement in principle between the U.K. and EU on Saturday morning.

The text is dated December 25. A version obtained by POLITICO on Friday was dated December 24.

The deal still has to be approved by all 27 EU countries, the U.K. and European parliaments. EU ambassadors are reviewing the agreement following a meeting of the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States (Coreper) on December 25.

Given so few days are left until the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, the European Parliament is expected to vote retrospectively in January. The British Parliament will be recalled on December 30.

The U.K. government published the text on its website shortly after. Both the UK and the Commission also published additional texts covering economic, security and nuclear cooperation. One includes joint declarations in areas such as financial services.

This article has been updated.

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NT Government’s appeal against Indigenous housing court ruling sparks Human Rights Commission intervention

The Australian Human Rights Commission is set to intervene in a legal fight between residents of the remote community of Santa Teresa and the NT Government over public housing conditions.

The case began in 2016, in the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, before making its way to the NT Supreme Court after 70 remote public housing tenants in Santa Teresa launched complaints about the state and standard of their housing.

In September this year the NT Supreme court ruled in favour of the tenants and ordered the lead claimant be paid compensation, but the NT Government said it would appeal the court’s decision.

Supreme Court Justice Jenny Blokland had ruled a “habitable” home should be “humane and reasonably comfortable”, not just “safe”.

Under its major ground for appeal, the NT Government said it would argue that Justice Blokland’s expanded interpretation of “habitable” was an error of law.

Commission to detail NT obligations under international law

Human Rights Commission lawyer Sera Mirzabegian told the NT Supreme Court on Wednesday the commission had a duty to intervene in proceedings that involved human rights issues.

“The commission considers this case as having potential to affect human rights for even a cohort of people who are not parties, but namely tenants in the Northern Territory,” she said.

“That includes remote public housing tenants, it includes Indigenous tenants, and people with a disability.”

The Human Rights Commission was granted leave to appear in the appeal hearing as “amicus curiae”, or someone who can assist by providing relevant information but who is not a party to the case.

The commission asked to provide information on three grounds, but Justice Southwood only allowed one, which is to give context on Australia’s international human rights obligations related to adequate housing.

“There is some law on the concept of habitability in the international arena,” Ms Mirzabegian said.

“We think it’s important that this court have the opportunity to consider the extent to which international human rights obligations owed by Australia ought to inform the construction of the concept of habitability,” she said.

Ms Mirzabegian told the court she believed Justice Blokland’s decision, which is being appealed by the NT Government, was in line with international human rights law.

She said when it came to Australian laws that were ambiguous, or where there were questions about the definition of words, such as “habitable” in this case, there was an assumption Parliament did not intend to violate international law.

“It is well established that legislative provisions which are ambiguous are to be interpreted [with] the presumption that Parliament did not intend to violate Australia’s international law obligations,” she said.

The lawyer representing the NT chief executive of Housing, Matthew Littlejohn, said the Government neither opposed nor prevented the commission’s application to intervene, but did request some extra time to deal with it.

The Australian Human Rights Commission will make more submissions during the appeal hearing in the NT Supreme Court scheduled for February 2021.

It is not unprecedented for Australia’s Human Rights Commission to intervene in a legal case concerning human rights but it is less common for it to appear at matters happening at a state, rather than national, level.



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Almost 40 per cent of residents in aged care facilities have been abused, data released by royal commission shows


Research into Australian aged care facilities shows 39.2 per cent of residents have experienced some form of abuse.

The data released by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was calculated using responses to a survey of 391 aged care residents in 67 homes.

Joe Ibrahim, head of the health, law and ageing research unit at Monash University, said the findings did not surprise him.

“There’s a great deal of neglect and abuse that has been underreported,” he said.

The survey was not conducted for the purpose of measuring the level of elder abuse in care facilities but it estimated the prevalence of abuse by examining elderly residents’ responses to questions.

Residents answered questionnaires about their quality of life, the level of care and their concerns or complaints about the facility where they lived.

The survey did not look into social, financial and sexual abuse.

‘Neglect is a huge factor in aged care homes’

From the responses received, the researchers reported 30.8 per cent of respondents experienced neglect.

This included concerns about how they were helped to shower, toilet, eat and use continence aids, as well as how medication was managed, how wounds were looked after and how pain was addressed.

Vivian Poloni, who discovered her father was being roughly treated in the dementia ward at Bupa Templestowe, said she witnessed ongoing neglect at the facility during her weekly visits.

Ms Poloni and family members noticed Ernie Poloni’s teeth were not being brushed and he was not being given a shower.

Ernie Poloni’s family discovered he was being neglected and handled roughly by carers at the facility where he spent four years.(Supplied)

“Neglect is a huge factor in aged care homes,” said Ms Poloni, who first revealed concerns about how her father was treated in September 2019.

“They don’t have the staff or they won’t put on the staff.”

Professor Ibrahim said it was appalling to discover nearly a third of residents were being neglected and said more research was needed to work out why it was happening and how it could be stopped.

“There’s very little funding or support to investigate or interrogate this type of information,” he said.

“I think the regulator, the Government and the general population do not like or find it challenging to confront the reality of abuse and neglect.”

One in 20 reported physical abuse

A photo of Ernie Poloni's pyjamas taken by one of his relatives shows a large tear in the fabric.
Ernie Poloni’s family became concerned he was being handled roughly when they noticed his pyjamas were being torn.(Supplied)

The report also showed an estimated 22.6 per cent of residents experienced emotional or psychological abuse, including feeling like they were being treated like children, being shouted at, or not having their concerns listened to.

One in every 20 residents reported having been physically abused, which included people being roughly treated by staff, restrained, or not being allowed out of their bed, chair or room.

Over 200,000 Australians currently live in aged care facilities, which means more than 10,000 elderly people could be subject to physical abuse.

Ms Poloni suspected her father was being roughly handled after the family noticed his pyjamas were being ripped.

They installed a hidden camera in his room and discovered staff at the care home were pushing Mr Poloni around when they changed him.

Ms Poloni and other family members felt they had to constantly check how her father was being cared for.

One lady in the facility, whose family rarely visited, “lost so much weight she just deteriorated because no-one was making sure she was fed”, Ms Poloni said.

Bupa has apologised “unreservedly” for failures across its network of aged care facilities.

Professor Ibrahim said the findings pointed to widespread abuse in care homes, given residents from so many homes were surveyed.

In his view, abuse of elderly people is a major problem in every type of facility, no matter who the owners are, and the onus is on regulators and the Government to set standards that address the issues.

He is hopeful the report will provide a catalyst for more research into how the abuse of elderly people can be addressed.

But he is concerned few people can see how bad the problem is.

“You can’t believe that people would be so awful in an environment that is supposed to be one that cares for you,” he said.



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EU Commission raises doubts over new Italian media law – paper


December 14, 2020

ROME (Reuters) – The European Commission last week raised questions over the validity of a recently approved Italian media law, which could potentially curb French group Vivendi’s interests in the country, daily la Repubblica reported on Monday.

In a letter sent to Italy’s Industry Ministry on Friday, the Commission said the law was not notified to Brussels, making it potentially inapplicable, according to the la Repubblica report.

The new rule could be “incoherent with European treaties,” the report said, citing the document.

Last month, Italy approved stop-gap legislation allowing national communications regulator AGCOM to start a probe into Vivendi’s Italian assets, to evaluate whether these holdings are harmful to media plurality.

Vivendi, controlled by billionaire Vincent Bollore, holds a 29% stake in Italy’s top commercial broadcaster Mediaset, and is also top investor in former phone monopolist Telecom Italia (TIM) with a 24% holding.

The new law could help Mediaset – controlled by the family of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi- in a long-running dispute with its second-largest shareholder Vivendi.

The two groups have been locked in a fight since 2016 when Vivendi ditched an accord to buy Mediaset’s pay-TV unit and built its 29% stake, which the Italian broadcaster considers hostile. Attempts to reach a compromise have been unsuccessful so far.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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