This section provides the department’s highlights for the 2010-11 financial year.
Advance of the COAG Seamless National Economy Reform Agenda
The Consumer Protection Division has been actively involved in the implementation of the COAG’s Seamless National Economy Reform Agenda. This year saw the successful development of the Fair Trading Amendment Bill 2010, which amongst other things provided for the implementation of the Australian Consumer Law in Western Australia on 1 January 2011. Since its commencement the division has focused on educating consumers and traders on the provisions of the new law.
In addition to this, other legislative changes necessary for the reforms included developing and assisting the Minister for Commerce on the Trade Measurement Legislation (Amendment and Expiry) Bill 2010; the Occupational Licensing National Law (WA) Bill 2010; the Personal Property Securities (Commonwealth Laws) Bill 2011; and the Personal Property Securities (Consequential Repeals and Amendments) Bill 2011.
The division has continued to advance policy development as well as prepare for the transition of the registration of business names and registration of encumbered vehicles (REVS) to the Commonwealth in 2012.
Retail trading hour changes
A number of significant reforms were implemented during the year through changes to the Retail Trading Hours Act 1987 and the associated Regulations. This included amendments allowing all general retail stores within the Perth metropolitan area to trade until 9pm on weeknights; changing the Perth and Fremantle tourism precincts to ‘Special Trading Precincts’; designating three new ‘Special Trading Precincts’ in the metropolitan area and introducing the Retail Trading Hours Amendment Bill 2011 to increase the staff cap applied to small retail shops. The Whitegoods and other Consumer Durables Issues Paper was released to facilitate public consultation on a variety of options for allowing Sunday trading in whitegoods and other consumer durable goods.
Building regulation reform package
The Building Commission Division progressed the regulation reform package resulting in four new pieces of building legislation being passed by Parliament in June 2011. These were the Building Act 2011 and the Building Services (Complaint Resolution and Administration) Act 2011, Building Services (Registration) Act 2011 and the Building Services Levy Act 2011. These replace old legislation (Builders’ Registration Act 1939, Painters’ Registration Act 1961 and sections of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1960) to ensure a coherent, efficient and effective building standards and regulatory framework for Western Australia.
National Construction Code
Implementation of the National Construction Code occurred on 1 May 2011. This Code brings together building and plumbing technical standards into a single code. This will provide improved consistency between building and plumbing standards; improved framework for regulation of plumbing on a national basis; a regulatory framework better able to respond to future policy challenges; and better opportunities for innovation in the construction industry.
Bunbury pensioner in Australian Taxation Office scam
A Bunbury pensioner lost her life savings and took out a bank loan after becoming a victim of an overseas scam, sending a total of $57,000 to conmen in India. The 80 year old woman received a call from the scammers, claiming that she was the recipient of a grant of $7,000 from the Australian Taxation Office, but she needed to send them $200 by wire transfer to access the grant. After the woman sent the initial amount, further requests for money came and the amount of the grant increased over a five week period. The Consumer Protection Division organised a media conference at the woman's home which was attended by acting Commissioner, Gary Newcombe. Media coverage of her story and the department's warning and advice was extensive, being carried by national television and radio stations, as well as metropolitan and local press and online news internet sites.
Safety and Employment Protection
Public Sector Wages Policy
All public sector agreements negotiated across this reporting period have been successfully delivered within the parameters of the Public Sector Wages Policy. A total of 22 agreements, covering more than 50,000 public sector employees, were registered. All wage and conditions outcomes were delivered between the CPI and Wage Price Index forecast figures, and outcomes above CPI were supported by efficiencies and/or productivity improvements.
ThinkSafe Small Business Assistance Program
The ThinkSafe Small Business Assistance Program promotes occupational safety and health systems and policies to small businesses in high risk industries, not-for-profit organisations and Indigenous groups. During the year, as part of the program, the WorkSafe Division delivered a free and independent safety and health system consultation to 750 small businesses on a
one-to-one basis. In addition, nine safety and health system seminars, three group sessions and services to three Indigenous communities were provided. The WorkSafe Division delivered 59 per cent of its services to businesses in the metropolitan area and 41 per cent to businesses in the regions. Additional assistance on key occupational and health issues was provided to 101 small businesses that opted to be part of a program of follow-up visits.
The department has recovered almost $900,000 of unpaid employee entitlements through its first step, conciliation, investigation and prosecution functions, by the Labour Relations Division after investigating complaints from individual employees alleging their employer had failed to pay appropriate entitlements under State industrial laws, awards or agreements.
The RCD campaign was officially launched by the Minister for Commerce, Hon Simon O'Brien MLC, on 17 January 2011. The campaign, organised by the EnergySafety Division, comprised of television, press, online and radio advertisements. The campaign objective was to encourage home-owners of properties built prior to 2000 to voluntarily organise to have two RCDs fitted to their premises. Results of the survey to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign were encouraging, with 79 per cent of 560 homeowners interviewed agreeing that the campaign would make them want to install an RCD.
Gas Appliance Rectification Programme
The Gas Appliance Rectification Programme is designed to facilitate the rectification and/or removal of pre-1980 domestic natural gas appliances in support of the Western Australian Government’s plan to promote a broader specification gas into the market and allow for more competition in the supply of natural gas. A broader gas specification will have safety ramifications for some pre-1980 domestic natural gas appliances still operational in homes around the State. The first stage of the Programme involved calls from the public and the provision of investigative services. This was fundamentally completed with only a small number of consumers now remaining to register their pre-1980 gas appliances. The tender for stage two, which is the supply of, installation, disposal and/or service of domestic gas appliances was awarded to Alinta Assist. Almost 12,000 appliances were identified in the initial stage for replacement and a further 6,000 for servicing. The work on the ‘change-out’ appliances, commenced in May 2011 and is expected to continue through to December 2012. The timetable for the ‘change-out’ of appliances is undertaken according to post codes and has been published on the EnergySafety section of the department’s internet site.
WorkSafe compliance activities
During the year, the WorkSafe Division focused on occupational safety and health compliance and proactive educational programs on nationally agreed priority industries and State priority areas. In implementing the priority approach, the WorkSafe Division completed more than 9,400 investigations, issued more than 10,400 improvement notices and more than 600 prohibition notices, and signed 66 prosecution notices.
Industry, Science and Innovation
International Association of Science Parks comes to Perth
After an international bidding process Western Australia won the right to host the 14th International Association of Science Parks and Asian Science Park Association Joint Conference on Science and Technology Parks. The conference, organised by the Industry, Science and Innovation Division, was held from 24 to 26 November 2010. More than 160 delegates from 19 countries attended to discuss the theme 'The Asia Pacific Region's Innovation Hot Spots - Opportunities for Sustainable Collaboration' and feedback indicated it was successful. By hosting this event, Western Australia demonstrated that it is an active, informed contributor to and participant in, the global science and technology park community and interested in the opportunities such alliances generate.
In the past 12 months the Industry, Science and Innovation Division continued to support the State’s contribution towards the Australia and New Zealand bid to host the SKA, an international project to develop the world's largest, most advanced radio telescope. This support included negotiations with the Australian Government to establish a co-existence framework that will support a high level of radio quiet within the vicinity of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, and the development of a strategic approach to guide all future negotiations surrounding the establishment of land tenure, required to host the SKA in Western Australia.
The year also marked the conclusion of the Premier’s Fellowship awarded by the State Government to eminent astronomer Professor Lister Staveley-Smith. Professor Staveley-Smith was involved in developing the science for the $150 million Australia SKA Pathfinder telescope. During the Fellowship, he supported the activities of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and the Radio Astronomy Science and Engineering Centre of Excellence.
Subsea industry takes off in Perth
Today, the majority of the oil and gas developments on the North West Shelf have a subsea component, and the State Government is working to ensure that Western Australia is a centre of capability for this industry sector. The department has encouraged the development of the subsea industry’s capability in Perth through:
- Supporting the establishment of a Perth branch of the Society for Underwater Technology, a society for the promotion and application of subsea technology, particularly in the oil and gas industry. The Society for Underwater Technology holds regular technology and networking sessions, usually with around 100 attendees, and provides a range of technical courses, including the popular Subsea Awareness Course.
- Supporting the establishment of Subsea Energy Australia, a business development association for the subsea industry. Subsea Energy Australia now has 92 member companies, and recently organised its first awards dinner, attended by over 300 people.
- Sponsoring the Australasian Oil and Gas exhibition, and the establishment of the associated Subsea Conference. The exhibition has now grown to be the largest oil and gas exhibition in the southern hemisphere, and the Subsea Conference is an important event in the global subsea industry calendar.
- Facilitating, at the Australian Marine Complex, the development of a subsea cluster, which includes companies such as FMC Technologies and Matrix Composites and Engineering, both of whom have recently opened new facilities at the complex.
Projected capital expenditure on gas-related projects in Western Australia exceeds $140 billion over the next decade, and as these projects move into deeper water, the subsea industry in Perth is thriving.
Code of Conduct
The Department of Commerce's revised Code of Conduct was released and promoted to all employees during 2010-11. The Code of Conduct outlines the standards of behaviour and conduct expected of employees as representatives of the department, to achieve both the Government's and department's objectives. The Code of Conduct builds on the State Government's Code of Ethics and is integral to the values outlined in the department's Corporate Plan 2009-2012. The Code of Conduct was also referenced in the accountability and ethical decision making online training which employees completed during the year.
Establishment of a Kimberley regional office
During the year, the Department of Commerce established an office in Broome providing a contact point for the department’s services in the Kimberley. Officers from the Building Commission Division, Consumer Protection Division, Labour Relations Division and WorkSafe Division are now based in Broome and deliver services throughout the region. The department shares accommodation with the Department of State Development.
Safety and injury management in Chief Executive Officer Performance Agreements
The Department of Commerce worked in partnership with the Public Sector Commission to include safety and injury management initiatives in Chief Executive Officer Performance Agreements. Strong leadership in occupational safety and health in the public sector sends a message to employees that their safety, health and wellbeing is valued. During the year, the department encouraged Chief Executive Officers to include safety and injury management initiatives along with strategic business commitments in their Performance Agreements with their Minister. At the close of the year, the department was working with the Public Sector Commission to monitor the performance of safety and injury management commitments.
Transition to the Department of Finance’s Shared Services Centre
On 11 November 2010, the department transitioned into the whole of government shared service centre. This was a significant organisational change project for the department as the transactional and processing activities within the finance, human resource and procurement functions of corporate services were transitioned. A joint partnering project with the Department of Finance’s Shared Services Centre was established shortly afterwards to monitor, manage and resolve outstanding issues and this achieved some limited successes. The State Government has subsequently announced the decommissioning of the Department of Finance’s Shared Services Centre.