PS from the past: May 23 – 29, 2012

by John J. Williams

1. This week, ten years ago, Prime Minister Julia Gillard signed an agreement with the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, to support the country’s security, development, and governance following the withdrawal of Australian troops in 2014.

The agreement included an Australian commitment to help build the capacity of the Afghan government and its national institutions to promote and protect human rights and to fight cross-border threats such as terrorism, narcotics, and people smuggling.PS from the past: May 23 – 29, 2012

Ms. Gillard said a joint Commission would be established to review the partnership’s implementation and provide a forum for regular dialogue on issues of shared strategic importance.

2. New laws were announced to tackle problem gambling, Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Families and Community Services.

Ms. Macklin said the new legislation requires all new poker machines produced from late 2013 to be able to support a pre-commitment scheme in which players decide in advance how much they intend to invest.

“The government is also sponsoring a large-scale trial of mandatory prior commitment in the ACT,” Ms. Macklin said.

“We have introduced new provisions into the legislation to ensure that the trial is independently designed, managed, and evaluated.”

3. One of the world’s most advanced marine research institutes opened at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) in Mosman.

NSW Secretary of Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson said over $20 million in major improvements had been made, including state-of-the-art aquarium facilities, new cell and molecular microbiology, field biology, geology labs, renovated teaching labs, new lecture theaters, and a convention center.

“This world-class marine research facility will advance our knowledge and understanding of Australia’s east coast and Antarctic oceans and will also attract researchers and Ph.D. students from across the state, country, and world,” said Ms. Hodgkinson.

4. The rollout of the problematic HealthSMART system in Victoria was halted, with Health Secretary David Davis saying the plan had been scrapped in favor of individual plans for each hospital.

HealthSMART was launched in 2003 as an integrated health service IT system butt was behind implementation deadlines and faced high costs.

Mr. Davis said the state government had decided not to “throw more good money at bad money” and would instead look to the $100 million innovation fund announced in the recent state budget for solutions to the health system’s ICT needs.

He said he would set up a panel of experts to advise him on hospital requirements and the best ways to address them.

5. The Western Australian and Tasmanian state governments announced cuts in their staff and public service services in their 2012-2013 budgets.

WA Treasurer Christian Porter handed over the WA budget, forecasting a $196 million surplus, with further excesses forecast on the forward estimates through 2015-16.

Mr. Porter said that despite strong economic growth of 4.75 percent for 2012-2013, the state faced challenging earnings and fiscal prospects.

Tasmania’s Prime Minister and Treasurer Lara Giddings said the magnitude of the 2012-2013 state budget challenge made it impossible to quarantine the provision of frontline public services due to proposed budget cuts.

6. This week, ten years ago, Mungkan Kandju National Park was returned to its traditional ownersCape York’s central peninsula, Queensland Prime Minister Campbell Newman said the handover of the 381,560-acre national park to the Wik Mungkan, Southern Kaanju, and Ayapathu People was a momentous occasion.

“With the return of this land, we are closing a chapter in history and building a collaborative approach to conservation, building a strong working relationship with traditional owners,” said Mr. Newman.

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