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Diabetes Australia Walk to Work Day set for October 6

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DIABETES Australia Walk to Work Day is just four weeks away and organisers are saying “no more excuses!”. With one Australian diagnosed with type 2 diabetes every eight minutes there has never been a better time to get walking and start on the path to a healthier workplace and a healthier you.

Now in its 19th year, Walk to Work encourages employees and employers to build walking into their everyday lives – not just on Friday 6 October 2017, but every day.

Walking meetings, walking to and from work, taking a walk at lunchtime, and using the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator are just some of the ways you can start. You also have the opportunity to help raise vital funds for Diabetes Australia.

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said while family history and cultural background play a strong role in risk of type 2 diabetes - the risk is greatly increased if people are inactive, sedentary or overweight.

"With around 280 Australians developing diabetes every day – diabetes is the single biggest challenge facing Australia’s health system. Walking is one of the best ways to help people reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It also helps people who have type 2 diabetes manage their condition,” he said.

Prof Johnson said employers can play an important role in encouraging their staff to build walking into their daily routine.

“Employees who walk regularly are generally more productive, have less stress and are less likely to be sick or absent. Companies like Energizer Australia have partnered with us this year to demonstrate their dedication to the health of their employees. We hope more will follow,” he said.

Pedestrian Council Chairman Harold Scruby said: “Taking positive steps to reduce sedentary behaviour and prevent type 2 diabetes can also reduce other risk factors like stroke, heart disease and various types of cancer.

“Let’s not make any more excuses - no more ‘due to a previous engagement’. Most of us can walk at least 1km to and from work, set the alarm 30 minutes earlier and create a great example for all Australians. Regular walking helps relieve feelings of depression or anxiety and improves our environment by reducing car dependency and traffic jams - best of all walking is free!”

Start raising money for Diabetes Australia. It’s easy to get involved:

  • Go to www.walk.com.au and donate directly or fundraise vital funds for Diabetes Australia.
  • Donate or collect $12 for each hour you walk to represent the 12 Australians developing diabetes every hour. Download your digital Walk to Work fundraising guide from here.

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Credit and Investments Ombudsman slams one-stop-shop announcement

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THE Ombudsman and Chief Executive of the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO), Raj Venga, today excoriated the government’s move to introduce legislation into the Senate to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ ombudsman, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). 

AFCA is intended to replace CIO, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) from 1 July 2018, and is in response to a review of financial sector ombudsman schemes led by Professor Ian Ramsay.

"The one-stop shop is being trumpeted as something entirely new, but the government has simply dusted off and reproduced benchmarks that were first published in 1997, and which already apply to CIO and FOS," says Mr Raj Venga, CEO and Ombudsman, CIO.

"There’s nothing new here.  AFCA will essentially have the same powers and jurisdiction as CIO, FOS and the SCT:

  • The SCT already possesses the ‘additional powers’ that are being given to AFCA for superannuation complaints.
     
  • CIO and FOS need only amend their existing terms of reference to incorporate those few extra requirements that are to apply to AFCA which do not already apply to CIO and FOS.
     
  • The proposal to allow ASIC to issue ‘directions’ to AFCA adds little, if anything, to ASIC’s regulatory oversight. There is already the ability to revoke CIO or FOS’ approval. This is a far greater incentive for CIO and FOS to comply with regulatory requirements than the threat of a direction from ASIC.

"More significantly, since only one scheme will be authorised by the Minister, it is inconceivable that the Minister would revoke AFCA’s authorisation and leave hundreds of thousands of consumers with absolutely no redress against financial firms other than through costly legal proceedings. What then is the sanction for poor performance or non-compliance by AFCA?  A single scheme will result in a weaker system of external dispute resolution.

"We’re being sold a pup. AFCA will have no greater or effective powers than FOS, CIO and the SCT.  It ticks none of the boxes and it fixes nothing.  AFCA is a pitiful attempt to fend off calls for a Royal Commission.

"It also makes absolutely no sense to design a scheme such as AFCA without the benefit of the findings of a Royal Commission’.

"AFCA is not fit for purpose. It will neither provide better consumer outcomes nor be able to address past, or prevent future, financial scandals.

"AFCA is not equipped to weed out poor entrenched corporate culture or address the string of financial scandals that regularly grace the pages of our newspapers. Only a Royal Commission can do this.  Not being able to investigate the root cause of these scandals, AFCA will be powerless to prevent their re-occurrence to the detriment of consumers. 

"Not having statutory powers, AFCA will not be able to redress the power imbalance between big banks and small businesses and primary producer borrowers, or deal effectively with small business claims against banks, even with expanded monetary limits and compensation caps. 

"For example, AFCA will not be able to join, bind or obtain information from third parties that have been appointed by a bank, such as valuers, investigative accountants and receivers.  Nor will it be able to make or enforce decisions against them.

(This was specifically recommended by both the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services (The Impairment of Customer Loans) and the Small Business Loans Inquiry Report by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO)).

"AFCA will not be able to accept complaints from primary producer borrowers who have previously undertaken farm debt mediation, another recommendation of the ASBFEO.

"Nor will AFCA be able to accept small business complaints against commercial lenders that are not required to be licensed. Presently, no licensing is required for commercial lending creating an obvious work-around.

"Consumers will also not be able to enforce AFCA’s decisions or seek a judicial review of an unfavourable AFCA decision.

"AFCA is a rebadging exercise that achieves nothing.  Referring to it as an ‘Authority’ doesn’t magically make this non-statutory body a statutory one.

"AFCA is nothing more than a political announcement and the appearance of action."

 


* CIO is an alternative dispute resolution scheme approved by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to provide consumers with an alternative to legal proceedings for resolving financial services-related disputes with members of CIO, which include finance brokers, non-bank lenders, payday lenders, timeshare operators, mutual banks, financial planners and debt purchasers.

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Improving Commonwealth procurement

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THE Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit has tabled its report on Commonwealth Procurement based on the following Auditor-General’s reports:

  • No. 1 (2016-17), Procurement of the International Centre for Complex Project Management to Assist on the OneSKY Australia Program;
  • No. 13 (2016-17), Delivery of Health Services in Onshore Immigration Detention; and
  • No. 16 (2016-17), Offshore Processing Centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea: Procurement of Garrison Support and Welfare Services.

Procurement is core business for Commonwealth agencies and achieving value for money is expected to be a central consideration.

Committee Chair Senator Dean Smith said the Committee had made a number of recommendations in its report to improve procurement management by the agencies under review.

“Effective Commonwealth procurement will continue to be a strong focus of the Joint Committee for Public Accounts and Audit in its role in scrutinising the governance, performance and accountability of Commonwealth agencies,” Senator Smith said.

The report makes nine recommendations, including that:

  • Airservices Australia provide the Committee with a post-implementation progress report for each of the audit recommendations; report back on a number of matters to demonstrate its improved management of probity in procurement; and report back on implementation of the audit findings of Audit Report No. 46, Conduct of the OneSKY Tender;
  • the Department of the Finance consolidate procurement guidance as it relates to corporate Commonwealth entities, to ensure such entities more strictly apply the Commonwealth Procurement Rules;
  • the Australian National Audit Office consider a third-stage audit into the conduct of the OneSKY tender by Airservices and any associated matters; and a performance audit of the next Department of Immigration and Border Protection procurement of garrison support and welfare services; and
  • the Department of Immigration and Border Protection provide the Committee with a post-implementation progress report for each of the audit recommendations in Audit Report No. 16 (2016-17); and report back on its implementation of appropriate performance monitoring of the contractor for the provision of health services in onshore immigration detention and implementation of a risk-based remediation plan.

 Interested members of the public may wish to track the Committee via the website

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Hearings on several public works projects

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THE Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works will hold public hearings in Canberra tomorrow to examine three proposed projects:

  • Construction of the Treloar E Large Technology Objects Store to accommodate the planned acquisition of large technology objects in Mitchell, ACT.  The estimated cost of the project is $16.1 million (excluding GST).
  • Delivery of a Satellite Ground Station to provide anchoring of Wideband Global Satellites. This is part of a multi-phase project to provide the requisite range of strategic and tactical satellite communications capabilities. The estimated cost of the project is $33.9 million (excluding GST).
  • Building refresh and fit-out of Discovery House in Woden, ACT.  The estimated cost of the project is $39.7 million (excluding GST).

 

Public hearing details: 9:15 am to 2:30 pm, Friday, 15 September 2017, Committee Room 1R3, Parliament House, Canberra 

9.15 am – 10.00am:     Australian War Memorial
11.15am – 12.00pm:     Department of Defence
1.15pm – 2.00pm:        IP Australia
2:30pm:                          Close

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

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New financial dispute resolution a landmark initiative

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has welcomed the Government’s landmark move to establish a new one-stop-shop to resolve small business disputes with banks – the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the initiative addressed a key recommendation from ASBFEO’s Small Business Loans Inquiry and would significantly improve access to justice, especially for capital-intensive enterprises.

AFCA will consolidate the existing Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT). 

A small business will be able to seek resolution of a dispute where the credit facility is up to $5 million and potentially receive compensation up to $1 million.

Ms Carnell said the FOS was currently limited to considering disputes of not more than $500,000 arising from a credit facility no higher than $2 million.

“This excludes many small businesses,” she said.

“Small businesses do not have the money or time to challenge banks through the court system and there is a significant power imbalance between banks and small businesses.

“Small businesses do not have the financial capacity to hire expert legal advice to help them overcome this disadvantage.”

The new one-stop-shop will be able to make binding determinations.

Ms Carnell said the higher compensation cap should incentivise banks to resolve disputes through internal processes before progressing to the AFCA.

“The Government’s proposed model will provide a genuine alternate dispute resolution option in a forum where the needs of small business are understood,” she said.

“It will save time and money by significantly reducing the need for litigation.”

Ms Carnell also welcomed the proposed transitional arrangements and the Government’s commitment to consult on AFCA’s terms of reference.

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