13 August 2011

UK IP Offences

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) - the British counterpart of IP Australia - has released a 67 page IP Crime Report 2010-11 from its IP Crime Group.

The Group was formed by the IPO in 2004 to "bring together experts from industry, enforcement agencies and government to work together on piracy and counterfeiting issues".

Along with many official reports, more context would be nice. The report boasts that "More people than ever before are being successfully prosecuted for committing intellectual property crime in the UK", that "75 per cent of all criminal copyright cases end in a positive conviction" and that "80 per cent of all IP crime cases result in guilty plea prosecutions against the defendants". Regrettably there is no indication of how many offences don't make it to court, and whether many of the 'no-shows' are attributable to lack of resources for vigorous and effective prosecution.

The report characterises IP Crime as "the counterfeiting of trade marked goods such as clothes and the piracy of copyright material such as CDs and DVDs". Its authors indicate an increase in the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods over the net during the year. It also suggests there has been a decline in IP crime at venues such as outdoor markets.

Notably, it identifies highlights the significance of the Proceeds of Crime Act in dealing with "piracy and counterfeiting". Last year the Trading Standards arm of the London Borough of Enfield secured an £11 million confiscation order, one of the largest ever secured by a local council under that statute. The order followed successful prosecution of a local man in 2008 after seizure of a mere 30,000 pairs of counterfeit Burberry shoes. The defendant was also involved in a £72 million VAT fraud.

Six people were jailed for a combined total of 56 years for involvement in production of 1.3 million litres of vodka, ie infringing trade marks in 24 brands with an estimated value of £16 million.

The report notes that -
A man has been jailed for eight years after an investigation into the importation of fake cancer and other life saving drugs. Following a trial at Croydon Crown Court lasting four months and involving the most serious known breach of the UK regulated supply chain, a 64 year old man from Windsor, Berkshire was found guilty of all charges on 8th April 2011 and was sentenced to eight years imprisonment. Four other men on trial for their involvement were acquitted.

The case, known as Operation Singapore, involved the infiltration of counterfeit medicine into the UK legitimate supply chain during a five-month period in 2007. More than two million doses of fake life-saving drugs were imported into the UK and, although more than half of these were seized by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), almost 900,000 doses reached pharmacies and patients.

The MHRA carried out an immediate recall of Zyprexa (used for the treatment of psychosis), Plavix (used for the prevention of blood clots) and Casodex (used for the treatment of prostate cancer) and, as a result, a further 196,000 doses were recovered; however 700,000 doses were unaccounted for.

The tablets were manufactured in China and were transported to the UK via Singapore and Belgium. Further work on the products, to improve their appearance for UK supply, was undertaken at an industrial unit in Basingstoke where they were transferred into outer cardboard boxes to remove all evidence of their origin. The products, now purporting to come from Luxembourg but manufactured in France, were then supplied to two licensed UK wholesalers who, in turn, sold them on into the supply chain where they were eventually dispensed by unsuspecting pharmacists to UK patients
Less alarmingly from a public safety perspective -
Five men who had admitted possession of an infringing article with a view to sale (under Section 92 of the Trade Marks Act 1994) were convicted for their part in smuggling 25 tonnes of low quality fake washing powder in to the country and storing it at a warehouse in Cheshire. Flat pack boxes along with individual nine kilogramme bags of detergent were found.

Three of the men received sentences of 12 months in prison and another two were both given six month prison sentences suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. A sixth man found guilty of the same offence was jailed for two years. Following a confiscation hearing attended by the five men, they were ordered to hand over more than £37,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The sixth man was due to attend a confiscation hearing at a later date


The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research (BOCSAR) has released two studies.

The 14 page Trends and patterns in domestic violence assaults: 2001 to 2010 [PDF] by Katrina Grech & Melissa Burgess reports on trends in domestic violence and factors associated with reporting offences to police in NSW.

It is based on analysis of incidents of domestic assault recorded by the NSW Police between 2001 and 2010 in line with the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW). Factors associated with reporting of offences to police were examined using the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Crime Victimisation Survey 2008-2009.

The report indicates that -
over the last 10 years the trend in domestic assault has been stable across NSW and has fallen slightly in regional areas. The majority of incidents of domestic assaults occurred on residential premises between 6pm and 9pm, Saturdays and Sundays. Alcohol remains an associated factor in many of these incidents. Victims were predominantly female and offenders predominantly male. The overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians as both victims and offenders of domestic assault has not changed over the last decade. Less than half of all respondents who had been the victim of a domestic assault in the previous 12 months reported the incident to the police. Older victims, those who were married and victims of assaults that did not involve weapons or serious injury were less likely to report to police. ...

In 2010, nearly 40% of all assaults were recorded as domestic violence related. Similarly, a third of all incidents of harassment, threatening behaviour and private nuisance were considered to be domestic. Only a small proportion (4-5%) of indecent assaults, acts of indecency and other sexual offences were recorded by police as being related to domestic violence during this period. ...

41% of domestic assault incidents in NSW were flagged by police as alcohol-related. This percentage varied across NSW SDs, ranging from between 35% in the Sydney SD to 62% in the Far West SD.
The authors conclude that although the incidence of domestic assault has been stable across the past decade
it continues to be problematic at certain times, in certain places and particularly in some Indigenous communities. Efforts to increase reporting of assault may be best targeted at the subgroups identified in this report who are currently less inclined to report assaults to police.
The profile of offenders receiving suspended sentences [PDF] by Lucy Snowball explores whether the profile of those receiving suspended sentences (of any length) in NSW changed over the decade from 2000 to 2009 and whether those receiving suspended sentences have different characteristics from those receiving a full-time custodial sentence of the same length (in this case six months).

The report is based on analysis of the distribution of characteristics over the period amongst offenders who had received a suspended sentence. It indicates that
Over the period 2000 to 2009, there has been a reduction in the proportion of suspended sentences imposed on property offenders and an increase in the proportion of suspended sentences imposed on persons convicted of driving and traffic and ‘other’ offences. Offenders are more likely to receive a suspended sentence (than a full-time custodial sentence of six months or less) if they are female, older than 35 years of age, have been convicted of an offence that does not involve serious violence, theft or breaching an order, do not have concurrent convictions, do not have prior convictions and are not legally represented.
Snowball concludes that NSW Courts do not appear to reserve suspended sentences for offenders who would otherwise have gone to prison.


Following items in The Australian regarding apparent non-reporting of breaches of the national government's model litigant rules, inconsistent with the 'open government' philosophy highlighted in this blog over the past year but on occasion not embraced by the Attorney-General's Department.

Yesterday the Oz sniped that -
AT this stage, it is hard to know who is responsible for ending the practice of disclosing annual statistics on breaches of the government's own legal services directions.

Those figures were once published in the annual reports of the Attorney-General's Department and gave a rough guide to whether government agencies were adhering to "model litigant" obligations contained in those directions.

It is worth noting that the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, wants an urgent briefing not just on the apparent breaches of the rules that have been identified by the Rule of Law Institute, but also on the reporting of those breaches.

It is bad enough that courts have been accusing government agencies of conduct that seems to fall well short of that demanded by the legal services directions, but for McClelland's own department to stop publishing details of confirmed breaches sends exactly the wrong message to the rest of the bureaucracy.

The whole point about publishing those numbers was to cause intense embarrassment among those agencies that failed to meet the standard demanded in court.

It was the perfect example of how transparency serves the public interest. It's not very often that McClelland shows his temper, but the long statement he issued when alerted to these problems indicates that some people might have some explaining to do.

If that leads to some government lawyers being carpeted, all the better. Taxpayers expect much more than to have government agencies criticised in court for being "partisan" litigants who make "preposterous" submissions.

The best way to help stamp out that problem is to ensure those agencies that do fall short are named by the Attorney-General's Department.
The paper elsewhere states that the government -
has been accused of covering up breaches of its model litigant rules that have resulted in a series of government agencies being heavily criticised in court.

Judgments collated by the Rule of Law Institute [PDF] show courts have strongly criticised federal agencies over a series of incidents revealing apparent breaches of the model litigant rules.

The institute said breaches of the model litigant rules would once have been disclosed by the government, but no longer appear in the annual report of the Attorney-General's Department.

After being informed of apparent breaches, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said he took breaches of the government's legal services directions - which contain the model litigant rules - very seriously.

"I have requested urgent briefings from my department as to the cases raised by the Rule of Law Institute and to the reporting of these breaches," Mr McClelland said.

... The Rule of Law Institute chief executive, Richard Gilbert, said [PDF] problems uncovered by the institute justified a review by the Australian Law Reform Commission or the Administrative Review Council.

The model litigant rules require all federal agencies to conduct their legal affairs with efficiency and fairness. ... Figures compiled by the institute from early annual reports of the Attorney-General's Department show disclosure of breaches came to an end after a 289 per cent blowout in the number of confirmed breaches in 2008-09.

"The government should disclose the breaches of the rules because this was always intended," Mr Gilbert said.

12 August 2011

Black Review

The summary of the 'Black Review', ie the 128 page Review of the Defence Accountability Framework report [PDF] from earlier this year -
Defence has a complex accountability system that has evolved over many years. It has its strengths and weaknesses, however Defence has reached a point in its evolution where there is a strong case to redesign its accountability system.

Current arrangements are under stress and their failure damages Defence. This stress is manifested in poor outcomes for Defence. Recent examples include: delivery failures for capability projects; non-compliance with AusTender reporting; poor or inappropriate procurement decision-making; poor outcomes in pay for Special Forces and a lack of cost consciousness in the management of day-to-day activity. Current accountability arrangements also constrain leadership capability and management capacity by reducing the ability of decision makers to exercise strategic control over the construction and implementation of decisions. In addition, the context of a capped budget and reducing contingency provision increases the level of risk that accrues from ineffective management and consequently raises the bar substantially for effective Defence strategic management and decision-making.

Defence will need to be more agile, more efficient, and more effective. In practice this means that leaders need to make and implement better decisions faster and with more assurance. ...

To support Defence build a high quality accountability system, this report -
• Examines what is meant by accountability, what kind of organisational and individual characteristics this implies and the components of accountability in the specific Defence context
• Summarises the lessons of the past and analyses the current issues Defence is facing across each component of accountability
• Identifies the opportunities to build higher quality accountability systems
• Describes the approach required from Defence’s senior leaders to capture the opportunities on offer.
In discussing the 'Decision-making and strategic direction setting' the report comments that -
Defence requires an effective and efficient decision-making system which can translate strategic purpose into action effectively and efficiently. The ability to provide enterprise-wide strategic direction and exercise strategic control are critical for Defence. There are too many committees in Defence, which create diffused and confused accountability and their operation is often characterised by poor procedures.

Decision-making and accountability systems need to ensure that Defence functions as a single, integrated enterprise, and that accountability systems function as a force for organisational cohesion. Defence decision-making lacks the framework of clear priorities and direction which would flow from an enterprise level corporate plan. Defence can achieve stronger decisionmaking and strategic direction setting in three ways:
• Redefining committee structures and processes. Defence needs committee structures and processes that reinforce the concept that committees are only advisory to accountable decision makers. This can be achieved by
- Having fewer, smaller committees with individual ownership focussed on supporting decision makers’ accountability. We specifically outline a streamlined structure and processes for top-level committees

- Putting in place sunset clauses for existing subordinate committees and mandating clear rules for (re-)establishing them, resulting in a radically reduced number of committees

- Establishing more robust procedures uniformly across committees (e.g., ensuring committee agendas are structured around decisions; establishing formal mechanisms for making commitments; having more robust recording and follow-up).
• Instituting an enterprise-wide corporate plan to provide strategic direction, trade-off and agree priorities and set outcomes to be delivered by each Group and Service across Defence. In creating this plan, the Simplified Defence Business Model (SDBM) provides a point of departure around which to articulate Defence’s outcomes. The corporate planning process will also form the foundation for a more robust quarterly review mechanism across Defence

• Establishing mechanisms for increasing contestability of key decisions (eg red teams) in a nonadversarial way to improve the quality of decision-making by formalising and institutionalising contestability for key decisions.
As in the late Kingdom of Kakania, one cannot have too many committees, too many agendas, too much gold braid and too little meaningful analysis.

The report goes on to discuss the 'Vertical chain of personal accountability', commenting that -
Considerable work on the mechanisms of vertical accountability has been done in the past although many of the core mechanisms (eg Charters and Organisational Performance Agreements (OPAs)) have fallen into abeyance. Accountability for delivery needs to be assigned clearly to named individuals and, where there is joint accountability for delivery of an outcome, a clear articulation of who does what to deliver the outcome.

Defence needs to establish a framework in which it can hold its personnel accountable for delivery of outcomes and can achieve a stronger chain of personal accountability in two ways:
• Using the outputs of the enterprisewide corporate plan to cascade SMART outcome-based measures down each Group/Service and enshrining them in simplified business performance documentation aligned precisely with individual performance agreements and the enterprise-wide corporate plan

• Undertaking rigorous performance management (business and individual). Business performance conversations must take a new shape, focused on addressing the root causes of shortfalls against numeric (SMART) targets and addressing them. Individual performance management will similarly benefit from greater rigour and differentiation with more robust application of rewards and sanctions for consistent out- or underperformance of outcome delivery.
In terms of 'horizontal accountability' -
Much work has been done on the mechanisms to manage horizontal accountability across Defence and recent improvements in Materiel Sustainment Agreements (MSAs) and Customer Supplier Agreements (CSAs) have enhanced their effectiveness. The SDBM provides a good foundation for increased clarity and accountability. Despite much work in recent years, the capability development process continues to suffer from delivery shortfalls related to poor accountability. The reality of much greater scrutiny and the prevailing environment of a capped budget make resolution of these issues essential for the credibility of Defence and the delivery of its outcomes.

Defence can improve horizontal accountability in two ways:
• Continue to tighten Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to reinforce partnership outcomes. Defence can ensure greater responsibility for shared outcomes with an appropriate balance between customer/supplier type arrangements and partnership agreements

• Strengthen accountability for wholelife cost and delivery of capability. Defence can improve its capability outcomes by progressively tightening the boundary conditions around the capability development process, improving top-down incentives for better capability delivery in an environment of capped budgets and extension of the current use of integrated project teams (and project team leaders) across the
end-to-end capability development process.
What about the people? In referring to 'Culture and skills' the report indicates that -
To effect significant improvements in accountability, changes to the mechanisms of accountability are necessary but insufficient. To make changes in accountability ‘stick’, Defence needs to address underlying culture and skills issues in four areas:
• Embedding the use of outcomes-based language across the organisation

• Implementing a new model for personal skills development to improve skills

• Continuing reform of risk management practices
- Defence needs to define its risk appetite across all areas of the enterprise

- Defence should develop a ‘near miss’ register to proactively identify and problem solve risks.
• Using review forums and other interactions to role model new behaviours.

Shopping with violence

The BBC reports arrests regarding use of 'new media' in connection with the UK riots - aka 'shopping with violence' - of the past week.

Two men (aged 23 and 24) have been charged with inciting to commit violent disorder and are due in court on Friday. Gwent Police have arrested a 25 year old man on suspicion of encouraging or assisting the commission of a public order offence. Dyfed-Powys Police have arrested a 15 year old boy (on suspicion of committing incitement to violent disorder after posting on Facebook) and a 21 year old woman (on suspicion of encouraging public disorder by mobile phone messaging).

A 31 year old and 21 year old had earlier been arrested (on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of a public order offence and for incitement to commit an indictable offence), with a 27 year old receiving a caution.

An official stated that -
South Wales Police is continuing to monitor social networking sites and anyone who uses them to attempt to generate disorder in our communities will be traced and dealt with.
The BBC elsewhere notes that
Some Twitter postings, such as one saying: "Let's show London how it's done," are being investigated by officers to see whether they could be seen to incite disorder.

The spokeswoman said these sorts of comments had been saved and the author sent the following message: "It's an offence to commit or encourage riot. Your message has been referred for consideration for criminal investigation."
The UK Prime Minister is reported as launching an investigation of stopping people communicating via social media when "we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality". Others have gone further, proposing that messaging networks be shut down (nationally or on a regional basis) if there is a recurrence of unrest.

SMS, voice, social network and other services are subject to UK law, in the same way that their Australian counterparts are subject to Australian telecommunications law. Unsurprisingly, some service providers have been quick to indicate that they will cooperate with the authorities. The TeaMp0isoN hackers have defaced the InsideBlackBerry blog with a statement expressing their displeasure at the willingness of Research in Motion (RIM) to assist UK police in identify 'looters and rioters'. Authorities are meanwhile engaged in information gathering cum public name & shame exercises, publishing images of alleged rioters - some of whom may merely have been gawkers or unfortunate passers by - on Flickr and on large-screen displays being driven through affected areas.


The 191 page Crimes against international students in Australia: 2005–09 [PDF] report by Jacqueline Joudo Larsen, Jason Payne & Adam Tomison of the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) considers the nature and extent to which international students studying in Australia are victims of crime.

It is based on an analysis of Department of Immigration & Citizenship (DIAC) international student visa records - over 400,000 students - matched with police crime victimisation records. Context is provided by the AIC’s National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP) database and the Australian component of the 2004 International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS).

The report comments that -
Overall, the AIC determined that there was neither administrative nor victimisation survey data in existence that could provide adequate information about the extent of recorded crime against Indian and other international student populations studying in Australia, nor could existing data assist in identifying whether the rate of victimisation of international students was higher than the rate of victimisation of Australian students or a comparable Australian population. With the support of state and territory police agencies and DIAC, the AIC developed a study to estimate the extent to which international students were victims of crime, based on the matching of names and dates of birth from student visa information held by DIAC against police victim records.

Data was analysed for student visa holders from the five countries with the largest student populations living in Australia between 2005 and 2009 — India, the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea (South Korea), the United States and Malaysia. A total of 496,902 individuals were identified in the DIAC database. Of these 445,615 (90%) were primary applicants (ie seeking to study at an Australian institution). Australian state and territory jurisdictional analysis of student visa holders was made possible using the Commonwealth Register of Institutions & Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) identification number.

Of the 445,615 primary applicants with a known CRICOS number, 35% were listed as studying in New South Wales, 34 percent in Victoria, 15% in Queensland, 7% in both South Australia and Western Australia, 2% in the Australian Capital Territory, 1% in Tasmania and less than 1% in the Northern Territory.

Once identified, student visa data from DIAC was matched with each Australian state and territory police agency’s crime victim data. A de-identified dataset of victims was then provided to the AIC and analysed. The initial database contained 23,732 victimisation records for all possible offence types. Of these records, a proportion were later identified as ineligible for inclusion in the final analysis. This was mostly a result of duplicate records or records that were incorrectly selected during the application of Soundex in the matching process. Further, some records were for offence types (disorderly conduct, breaches, traffic and driving offences) which could not be reasonably counted as incidents of victimisation based soley on the offence description alone. These incidents were excluded from the analysis. Finally, a number of offence types (eg sex and fraud offences) were excluded because sample sizes and offence numbers were insufficient to conduct reliable comparative analysis at a jurisdictional level. Of the remaining data, three key offence types — assault, robbery and other theft — were chosen for comparative analysis. In all, the final database contained 13,204 unique victims (3% of all students) who reported a total of 14,855 records of assault (n=3,201), robbery (n=3,206) and other theft

Overall, international students from the five source countries generally experienced incidents of physical assault at significantly lower rates than in the general population in each state/territory jurisdiction in 2009. This was true for most nationalities in most jurisdictions and was a generally consistent finding for each year since 2005. In some cases, comparisons between students from different countries showed that for some years, in some jurisdictions, Indian students had experienced higher rates of assault than students from China, Korea, Malaysia and the United States.

The nature of assaults (day of week, time of day and location) experienced by international students was generally consistent between students of different nationalities and the reference Australian populations. The notable exception was that a greater proportion of male Indian students were assaulted in commercial (retail) locations and in, or near, public transport facilities.

Combined data for all jurisdictions illustrated that between 2005 and 2009, two in every five assaults (42%) of international students, occurred in an unspecified location on the street or in the open space. A further 21% occurred at a residential location, 12% at a commercial (retail) location and 10% at a commercial (hospitality and entertainment) location. The latter category includes, among other things, hotels, motels, nightclubs and restaurants. Further, approximately one in 10 incidents was recorded at, or in connection with, public transport facilities. This profile of assault is generally consistent with the profile of assault for the Australian general population.

There were a few notable differences evident between students from different countries. Indian male students, for example, were more likely to have been assaulted at a commercial (retail) location (16%) compared with Chinese (9%), Malaysian (9%), Korean (4%) and US students (4%). Similarly, Indian male students were more likely to have been assaulted on or around public transport facilities (12%) compared with Korean (4%), Chinese (5%), US (4%), or Malaysian students (2%). Conversely, Indian students had proportionally fewer residential assaults compared with Chinese students.

As with location, it was also possible to profile assaults against international students by examining the time of day and day of week on which the assaults took place. For all international students who were assaulted between 2005 and 2009, most were assaulted in the evening hours midnight and 4 am (31%) and between 8 pm and midnight (29%). Relatively few assaults occurred during the daytime hours between 8 am and 4 pm (15%) and the distribution of assaults across the week was relatively even, if not slightly skewed towards the weekend. There was no notable difference between students from different countries in the distribution of incidents across the week. While no nationally comparative data on time of day and day of week of assaults is available, crime statistics published for Victoria were used as a comparison; these statistics presented a similar temporal pattern for assaults.

Like assault, the nature of robbery was generally consistent between the countries and followed patterns consistent with the general Australian population. For international students between 2005 and 2009 -
• almost two in every three robberies (63%) occurred in an unspecified location on the street
or in an open space;
• eighteen percent occurred at a commercial (retail) location;
• nine percent on or near public transport; and
• four percent at a residential location.
Robberies recorded against Indian students were significantly more likely (25%) to have occurred in commercial (retail) locations and more detailed analysis found that of these cases, almost two in three occurred at service/petrol stations. By comparison, only 12% of Chinese students who were robbed at a commercial location were robbed at a service or petrol station; Chinese students were more likely than Indian students to have been robbed at a shop or store (39% cf 12%) and slightly more likely to have been robbed at a 24 hour convenience store (17% cf 12%).

On examining the temporal factors for the robbery of international students, patterns were consistent with what is known of robbery in general, with most robberies occur in the late evenings and early mornings. For all international students who were robbed between 2005 and 2009, most were robbed in the evening hours between 8 pm and midnight (47%), and midnight and 4 am (23%). Relatively few robberies occurred during the daytime hours between 8 am and 4 pm (9%), and the distribution of robberies across the week was relatively even, if not slightly skewed towards the weekend. As was the case for assault, the lack of difference identified between students groups for the temporal factors was expected, given that robbery is primarily an opportunistic crime which is not traditionally racially motivated.
Significantly, the authors conclude that -
This analysis of international students as recorded victims of crime in Australia, in essence, indicates that international students are less likely or as likely to be victims of physical assault and other theft. Further, that the level of crime experienced by international students of different nationalities varied, with Indian students typically experiencing the same or a heightened incidence of assault and other theft than other student nationalities. The findings for robbery were more concerning in that international students, again predominantly Indian students (males and females) but also Chinese males, were significantly more likely to be the victim of robbery for some jurisdictions for some years compared with Australian reference populations drawn from the ABS statistics for each jurisdiction.

Although the findings from this study indicated higher than average rates of robbery among Indian international students compared with the general population, and higher rates of assault for Indian students compared with students from other countries, they should not yet be interpreted as evidence of racism. As has been stated throughout this report, the nature of the data used in this study does not permit a reliable test for racial motivation. Further, there are a number of other differences (other than a person’s racial appearance) that are likely to vary significantly between different student groups that may be important contributors to one’s risk of victimisation.

International students in the main are a particularly vulnerable group due to a range of factors including demographic characteristics and a lack of economic security together with relatively limited options of employment, housing and transport. The types of employment, areas of residence and evening activities (including both shift work and use of public transport) are specific areas of risk for international students that appear to explain some of the incidence of robbery for Indian students, in particular. Other research has shown that a high proportion of migrants to Australia from both English and non-English speaking countries are employed in the accommodation and food services industries, followed by the retail sector. The employment of international students in low-skilled, low-paid roles follows this pattern, with the largest proportion (29%) employed in accommodation and food services, followed by the retail trade (16%)

Indian students in particular, are known to have a greater proficiency in English and, as such, appear much more likely than students from east Asian countries to find employment in the service sector. This includes service stations, convenience stores, taxi drivers and other employment that typically involves working late night shifts alone and come with an increased risk of crime, either at the workplace or while travelling to and from work.

Further, the limited availability of on-campus accommodation for higher education students, and the lack of on-campus accommodation for vocational students, have led many to secure private rentals in inner urban areas as well as to rely on public transport in areas with higher concentrations of crime. Together with their over-representation as employees in the hospitality and services sector, students are therefore faced with multiple risk factors that increase their probability of victimisation irrespective of their racial appearance. The finding that there was a substantial over-representation of Indian students in retail/commercial robberies lends support to this view.

10 August 2011

Blissed out

From Riki Sarah Dennis' review in 67(6) World Futures 449-452 of Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students' Inner Lives (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 2011) -
I am writing this piece from a place of spiritual privilege. Many of the contemplative practices lauded by the authors of Cultivating the Spirit have been a part of Naropa University since its inception. A recent graduate of their Master’s program in Contemplative Education, I have been known to gush about benefits stemming from the skillful sharing of contemplative practice by school faculty. Reminiscence of the lovingly appointed spaces for related activities can literally evoke a tear. My florid descriptions aside: Can contemplative practices be of use in today’s university? Can the college experience be enhanced through fostering spiritual growth? Can I back an affirmative answer with quantitative and qualitative data, expertly collected and assembled?

Schmaltzy personal stories are fine, but can I provide more believable testimony?
From my perspective, the answer is no. Enough with the gush.

Contemplative education is described by Dennis' alma mater as -
learning infused with the experience of awareness, insight and compassion for oneself and others, honed through the practice of sitting meditation and other contemplative disciplines. The rigor of these disciplined practices prepares the mind to process information in new and perhaps unexpected ways. Contemplative practice unlocks the power of deep inward observation, enabling the learner to tap into a wellspring of knowledge about the nature of mind, self and other that has been largely overlooked by traditional, Western-oriented liberal education.

This approach to learning captures the spark of East and West working within; it’s the meeting of two of the greatest learning philosophies in the history of higher education, applied at Naropa University in the context of today’s rapidly changing world. ...

Woven into the fabric of the curriculum are practices that include sitting meditation, t’ai-chi ch’uan, aikido, yoga, Chinese brushstroke and ikebana. The depth of insight and concentration reached through students’ disciplined engagement with contemplative practices alters the very landscape of learning and teaching at Naropa.

Through such a focused self-exploration, students and faculty acquire the ability to be present in the classroom and in their lives; to engage in active listening with an open mind; to analyze a subject; and to integrate what has been learned with personal experience.

09 August 2011

Happy pills

Given the high incidence of mental and physical ills among people who end up incarcerated it is unsurprising that many self-medicate. The Australian Institute of Criminology has released 'Prescription drug use among detainees: Prevalence, sources and links to crime' (Trends and Issues in crime and criminal justice no. 423) by Catherine McGregor, Natalie Gately & Jennifer Fleming.

The six page report is described as -
the first of its kind in Australia to examine the self-reported use of illicit pharmaceuticals among a sample of police detainees surveyed as part of the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program. In all, 986 detainees were interviewed, of which 19 percent reported having recently used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months — nearly five times as high as reported by the general Australian population.
The authors comment that -
Non-medical prescription drug use was found to be substantially higher in the detainee population by comparison with the general community. Among the detainees surveyed, more prescription drug users were unemployed, derived their income from welfare or benefits, considered themselves drug dependent, were currently on a drug-related charge and had been arrested or imprisoned in the previous 12 months by comparison with non-users.

Most pharmaceuticals were sourced from family and friends or from the person’s usual doctor and pharmacy. There was little support for the view that pharmaceuticals are commonly obtained through script forgery or over the internet. Benzodiazepines, followed by opioids, were the most commonly used pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes in this sample of police detainees.

This paper provides policymakers with valuable information about the reasons for use and the methods by which pharmaceuticals are typically accessed for non-medical purposes. Further research to investigate the methods of obtaining illicit pharmaceuticals from within the general community is needed.
The research indicates that -
non-medical prescription drug use was found to be substantially higher in the detainee population by comparison with the general community. Among the detainees surveyed, more prescription drug users were unemployed, derived their income from welfare or benefits, considered themselves drug dependent, were currently on a drug-related charge and had been arrested or imprisoned in the previous 12 months by comparison with non-users. Most pharmaceuticals were sourced from family and friends or from the person’s usual doctor and pharmacy. There was little support for the view that pharmaceuticals are commonly obtained through script forgery or over the internet. Benzodiazepines, followed by opioids, were the most commonly used pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes in this sample of police detainees. Further research to investigate the methods of obtaining illicit pharmaceuticals from within the general community is needed.
What sort of meds are being used? The authors indicate that -
Diazepam, followed by alprazolam, were the benzodiazepines used most frequently by prescription drug users. This pattern may reflect their availability at low cost on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. In 2007, diazepam and alprazolam were respectively the most frequently dispensed benzodiazepines through the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The relatively low use of flunitrazepam in this sample may reflect the difficulty of accessing this benzodiazepine since its rescheduling to an S8 drug in 1998. Of the opioids, morphine was most commonly used by prescription drug users in this sample. This again is consistent with other studies of Australian users. The low prevalence of other prescription drug use, including that of antipsychotics and antidepressants, probably reflects the lack of reinforcing properties of these drugs as they do not produce marked stimulating or sedative effects.
In commenting on demographics the report indicates that
Prescription drug use was higher in women, younger people, the unemployed and detainees who considered themselves drug dependent. Use was also associated with indicators of social disadvantage and offending behaviour. Specifically, more users had a current drugs-related charge, had been arrested in the previous 12 months and had been in prison in the previous 12 months. Prescription drug use appeared to have a specific purpose or function for most of the detainees using them. While a minority took pharmaceuticals for reasons of curiosity or availability, most took them to relieve negative emotional states, insomnia, pain or symptoms associated with drug dependence. Additionally, over one-quarter had taken prescription drugs for their reinforcing or hedonic properties.

Pirates of the ISPs

From Noah Shachtman's 51 page Pirates of the ISPs: Tactics for Turning Online Crooks Into International Pariahs (Brookings Institute) [PDF] -
At the beginning of the 19th century, piracy was an ongoing threat and an accepted military tactic. By the end of the century, it was taboo, occurring solely off the shores of failed states and minor powers. The practice of hijacking did not vanish entirely, of course; it is flourishing now on the world’s computer networks, costing companies and consumers countless billions of dollars.

Cybercrime today seems like a nearly insoluble problem, much like piracy was centuries ago. There are steps, however, that can be taken to curb cybercrime’s growth — and perhaps begin to marginalize the people behind it. Some of the methods used to sideline piracy provide a useful, if incomplete, template for how to get it done.

Shutting down the markets for stolen treasure cut off the pirates’ financial lifeblood; similar pushes could be made against the companies that support online criminals. Piracy was eventually brought to heel when nations took responsibility for what went on within its borders. Based on this precedent, cybercrime will only begin to be curbed when greater authority — and accountability — is exercised over the networks that form the sea on which these modern pirates sail.

In this new campaign, however, private companies, not governments, will have to play the central role, as Harvard’s Tyler Moore and others have suggested. After all, the Internet is not a network of governments; it is mostly an amalgam of businesses that rely almost exclusively on handshake agreements to carry data from one side of the planet to another. The vast majority of the Internet’s infrastructure is in the hands of these 5,000 or so Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and carrier networks, as is the ability to keep crooks off that infrastructure. If this relatively small group can be persuaded to move against online criminals, it will represent an enormous step towards turning these crooks into global pariahs.

The most productive thing ISPs can do to curb crime is put pressure on the companies that support and abet these underground enterprises. Currently, registration companies sell criminals their domain names, like "thief.com". Hosting firms provide the server space and Internet Protocol addresses needed to make malicious content online accessible. But without ISPs, no business, straight or crooked, gets online. A simple statistic underscores the ISPs’ role as a critical intermediary: just ten ISPs account for around 30% of all the spam-spewing machines on the planet.

ISPs are well aware of which hosting companies, for example, are the most friendly to criminals; lists of these firms are published constantly. But, currently, ISPs have little motivation to cut these criminal havens off from the rest of the Internet. There is no penalty for allowing illicit traffic to transit over their networks. If anything, there is a strong incentive for maintaining business-as-usual: the hosting company that caters to crooks also has legitimate customers, and both pay for Internet access. So ISPs often turn a blind eye, even though the worst criminal havens are well-known.

That is where government could help. It could introduce new mechanisms to hold hosting companies liable for the damage done by their criminal clientele. It could allow ISPs to be held liable for their criminal hosts. It could encourage and regulate ISPs to share more information on the threats they find. Government could also encourage more private businesses to come clean when they are victimized. Today, just three in ten organizations surveyed by the security firm McAfee report all of their data breaches. That not only obscures the true scope of cybercrime; it prevents criminals and criminal trends from being caught earlier.

Government can alter that equation by expanding the requirements to report data breaches. It could require its contractors to purchase network security insurance, forcing companies to take these breaches more seriously. And it can pour new resources into and craft new strategies for disrupting criminals’ support networks.
These steps will serve as important signals that America will no longer tolerate thieves and con artists operating on its networks. After all, 20 of the 50 most crime-friendly hosts in the world are American, according to the security researchers at HostExploit.

As the United States gets serious in curbing these criminals, it can ask more from — and work more closely with — other countries. China, for instance, sees itself as the world’s biggest victim of cybercrime, even as it remains a hotbed for illicit activity.

Not coincidentally, China is also only partially connected to the global community of ISPs. Dialogues to bring the Chinese closer into the fold will not only make it easier to marginalize cybercriminals; it will build momentum for broader negotiations on all sorts of Internet security issues.
In a recent item in The Conversation I pointed to research by Levchenko et al arguing that around "95% of spam-advertised pharmaceutical, replica and software products are monetised using merchant services" from a handful of financial institutions such as the Latvijas Pasta Banka, State Bank of Mauritius, St. Kitts & Nevis Anguilla National Bank and Azerigazbank. There is scope for crimping the pirates' sails - and sales!

Shachtman offers 13 recommendations -
1: Begin US-China Talks, Centered around cybercrime (It’s not just the most pressing issue; it’s the one with the most common ground)

2: Draw the Chinese into the larger community of ISPs and network carriers (It should speed the resolution of major network issues — and encourage China to become a more responsible actor on the global network stage)

3: Avoid national retaliation as a cybercrime solution (It is too blunt an instrument for the nuanced issue of cybersecurity; besides, many of the worst criminals set up shop in the United States)

4: Lean on the criminal support networks (Online crooks depend on these businesses. That makes them nodes of pressure and of vulnerability)

5: Motivate ISPs to pressure the criminal ecosystem (They are perfectly placed to interrupt illicit traffic)

6: Hold the worst hosting companies liable for their criminal clients and the worst ISPs liable for their criminal hosts (This will provide financial incentives to turn against the criminals, instead of profiting from their traffic)

7: Encourage ISPs to notify customers of infections (It is easy for the providers to tell which clients have been compromised, and it is better for everyone if those breaches get fixed)

8: Amend the laws to allow ISPs to share attack data (Spotting criminal trends early requires more information)

9: Push companies to expand reporting of network breaches (It is good for consumers; it may shame some firms into shoring up their networks; and it provides more data for cybercrime detection)

10: Require government contractors to carry cybersecurity insurance (It builds the market for insurance, which encourages companies to get more serious about network protection)

11: Expand and improve training for cybercrime specialists in law enforcement ("The FBI is underinvesting in cyberthreats right now in the same way that it underinvested in
counterterrorism in the 1990s")

12: Pursue Civil Strategies to disrupt criminal networks (The crooks move fast – and are often beyond American jurisdiction. Civil courts may be the only way to fracture their support system)

13: Avoid Schemes to strip away internet anonymity; continue to promote freedom of online expression (Corralling cybercrime does not mean curbing our ideals)

08 August 2011

Aged Care

The Productivity Commission - on occasion more arid than the sands of Saudi Arabia but without cute date palms - has released its report on aged care.

The Commission's recommendations are as follows - Assessing the current system

R4.1 To guide future policy change, the aged care system should aim to:
• promote the independence and wellness of older Australians and their continuing contribution to society
• ensure that all older Australians needing care and support have access to person-centred services that can change as their needs change
• be consumer-directed, allowing older Australians to have choice and control over their lives and to die well
• treat older Australians receiving care and support with dignity and respect
• be easy to navigate, with older Australians knowing what care and support is available and how to access those services
• assist informal carers to perform their caring role
• be affordable for those requiring care and for society more generally
• provide incentives to ensure the efficient use of resources devoted to caring for older Australians and broadly equitable contributions between generations.
Principles of funding

R6.1 The Australian Government should adopt separate policy settings (including for subsidies and co-contributions) for the major cost components of aged care, namely care (including personal and nursing care), everyday living expenses and accommodation.

Paying for aged care

R7.1 The Australian Government should remove regulatory restrictions on the number of community care packages and residential bed licences. It should also remove the distinction between residential high care and low care places.

R7.2 The Australian Government should remove regulatory restrictions on accommodation payments, including the cap on accommodation charges in high care. It should also abolish the charging of regulated retention amounts on accommodation bonds. The Government should mandate that residential aged care providers:
• offer and publish periodic accommodation charges
• where offered, publish accommodation bonds and any combinations of periodic charges and bonds.
The Government should require that, when a provider offers an accommodation bond, the bond does not exceed the equivalent of the relevant periodic accommodation charge. The paying of interest on accommodation bonds should be prohibited.

R7.3 The Australian Government should establish an Australian Age Pensioners Savings Account scheme to allow recipients of the age and service-related pensions to establish an account with the Government (or its agent) with some or all of the proceeds of the sale of their principal residence. The account would be exempt from both the Age Pension assets and income tests and would pay interest equal to the prevailing consumer price index to maintain its real value. All accounts would be free of entry, exit and management fees. Apart from the proceeds from the sale of a principal residence (including the sale of any subsequent principal residences), no other amounts should be able to be deposited into the account. Account holders would be able to flexibly draw upon the balance in the account.

R7.4 The Australian Government should charge residential providers a fee to reflect the costs of providing the Government guarantee on accommodation bonds.

R7.5 To ensure sufficient provision of the approved basic standard of residential aged care accommodation for those with limited financial means, providers should continue to be obliged to make available a proportion of their accommodation to supported residents. The Australian Government should set the level of the obligation on a regional basis. Where providers do not meet the supported resident ratio obligation in their region, a sliding scale of penalties should be levied, where the size of the penalty would depend on the severity of the non-compliance. The current pricing arrangements (which apply a 25% discount to the full rate of the accommodation supplement when facilities do not have more than 40% supported residents) should be abolished.

R7.6 For supported residents, the Australian Government should set a subsidy level for the approved basic accommodation standard of residential care which reflects the average cost of providing such accommodation. The subsidy should be set regionally and on the basis of the July 1999 building standard (an average of 1.5 beds per room). A lower subsidy level should be paid to those facilities which do not meet the July 1999 building standard. The Australian Aged Care Commission (AACC) - described in recomendation 15.1 below - should be empowered to consider exceptional circumstances for facilities that don't meet the July 1999 building standard and make an appropriate recommendation to the Government to increase the level of the supported resident accommodation subsidy for these facilities.

R7.7 To better target the supported resident accommodation subsidy, the relevant share of a person’s former principal residence should be included in the total assets test and the exemption of the principal residence when there is a ‘protected person’ remaining in the former principal residence should be abolished. To allow an existing ‘protected person’ to continue to remain in the former principal residence, there should be guaranteed access of the resident to the Government-backed Australian Aged Care Home Credit scheme and the existing option of deferred payments. Further research and modelling should be undertaken to consider the scope for assessing the total assets test thresholds for supported resident accommodation payments.

R7.8 The Australian Government should remove the regulatory restrictions on supplying additional services in all residential aged care facilities, discontinue the issuing of extra service bed licences and remove the distinction between ordinary and extra service bed licences.

R7.9 The Australian Government should:
• prescribe the scale of care recipients’ co-contributions for approved aged care services which would be applied through the Australian Seniors Gateway Agency
• set a comprehensive means test for care recipients’ co-contributions for approved aged care services. This test should apply the Age Pension income test. The test should also apply an assets test to the relevant share of a person’s assets which are excluded from the age pension means test (such as the principal residence, accommodation bonds and the proposed Australian Age Pensioners Savings Account).
To facilitate greater consistency in co-contributions across community and residential care, comprehensive aged care means testing to determine care recipient co-contributions to care costs in both settings should be undertaken through the Gateway Agency by Centrelink. The care recipients’ co-contributions scale should be regularly reviewed by the Australian Government based on transparent recommendations from the AACC.

R7.10 The Australian Government should set a lifetime stop-loss limit comprising the care recipients’ co-contributions towards the cost of approved aged care services (excluding accommodation and everyday living expenses). Once the limit has been reached, no further care recipients’ co-contributions would be required for those services. With a stop-loss limit in place, the Government should exclude aged care costs from the net medical expenses tax offset.

Broadening the funding base

R8.1 The Australian Government should establish a Government-backed Australian Aged Care Home Credit scheme to assist older Australians to make a co-contribution to the costs of their aged care and support.
• Under the scheme, eligible individuals would receive a Government-backed line of credit secured against their principal residence, or their share of that residence.
• In establishing the line of credit, the Gateway Agency would arrange a valuation of the principal residence and specify a minimum level of equity for the person’s share of the home. The individual could draw progressively down to that minimum to fund their aged care costs. The drawdown on the line of credit would be subject to interest charged at the consumer price index. If the outstanding balance and accumulated interest reached the minimum limit set by the Gateway Agency, the interest rate would fall to zero, and no further draw down would be permitted under the scheme.
• The outstanding balance of the line of credit would become repayable upon the disposition of the former principal residence including upon the death of the individual, except where there is a protected person permanently residing in the former principal residence.
• In the latter circumstances, the outstanding balance of the line of credit would be repayable when the protected person ceases to permanently reside in that former principal residence, or ceases to be a protected person. (Protected person is defined in the Aged Care Act 1997 and includes, for example, a partner, dependent child or a carer.)
Access to aged care

R9.1 The Australian Government should establish an Australian Seniors Gateway Agency to provide information, needs assessment, care coordination and carer referral services. The Gateway would deliver services via a regional structure.
• A platform within the Gateway would provide information on healthy ageing, social inclusion and participation, age-friendly accommodation, and information on the availability, quality and costs of care services from approved providers, and how to access those services.
• Assessments of the needs of older people would be undertaken for their potential entitlement to approved care services. The level of assessment resourcing would vary according to anticipated need.
• Assessments of financial capacity to make care co-contributions toward the cost of services would be undertaken by Centrelink on behalf of the Gateway.
• The assessment of the individual could lead to an entitlement to a set of aged care services which the older person and their carer may access from approved aged care providers of their choice.
• The assessment could lead to a referral or an entitlement to community support services and carer support services where such services form an essential part of a set of services to meet complex needs.
• Initial care coordination services would be provided, where appropriate and requested, as part of the Gateway. Further care coordination and case management, which may form part of the entitlement, would be provided in the community or in residential aged care facilities by an individual’s approved provider of choice.
The Gateway would:
• have a separate Australian Government Budget appropriation for the entitlement-based services that it approves
• be a Prescribed Agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (Cth).
The Gateway would operate via a network of regional centres to enhance local responsiveness, with operational regions defined with reference to those for Medicare Locals and/or Local Hospital Networks. These regional centres would offer the full range of information, needs assessment and care coordination services and their operation may be subcontracted to third party operators including other government agencies or non government or private entities.

R9.2 An intensive reablement service should be introduced to give greater focus on independence, rehabilitation and restorative care. Eligibility and entitlement for this service should be assessed by the Gateway Agency.

R9.3 A trial of more flexible arrangements for respite care, such as cashing out for respite services and extending the range of registered individuals who can be approved to provide respite, should be conducted as part of a broader introduction of an entitlement based approach to care services.

R9.4 The Australian Government should replace the current system of discrete care packages across community and residential care with a single integrated, and flexible, system of care entitlements (the Aged Care System). The System would have the following features:
• it would cover services including residential care, community care (domestic, personal, nursing), reablement, planned respite, home modification, palliative care, high level aids and equipment, and care coordination
• the Government should approve a schedule of aged care services to be provided to individuals on an entitlement basis, according to the Gateway’s assessment of their need. Individuals should be given an option to choose an approved provider or providers
• the entitlement provided to consumers as part of the Gateway assessment process should include a detailed statement of the care assessment, the care objectives, the type and intensity of services to meet those objectives, the total value of the entitlement, and the period of the entitlement. In addition the consumer would receive a statement of their co-contribution obligation
• the Government would set the scheduled price of approved services based on a transparent recommendation by the AACC
• the Government should fund an expanded system of aged care individual advocacy by initially expanding funding and access to advocacy under the National Aged Care Advocacy Program.
The Government should also support a range of community support services which would be directly accessible by older Australians and their carers and through the Gateway. Such community support services would include funding from the Government (including, for example, block funding for infrastructure and overheads) as well as user charges and financial and in-kind support from state, territory and local governments and the community. For some community services, where a person requires long term support, an assessment from the Gateway may be required.

R9.5 The Australian, state and territory governments should promote the expanded use of in-reach services to residential aged care facilities and the development of regionally or locally-based visiting multi-disciplinary health care teams (including from oral and mental health disciplines and dementia care specialists as appropriate).

R9.6 The Australian Government should set scheduled fees for the delivery of certain sub-acute services that are delivered in a residential aged care facility. These fees should be cost reflective and, in general, lower than the scheduled fee for the equivalent service provided in a hospital.

R9.7 The Commission notes that the Australian Government has agreed to assume funding responsibilities for specialist disability services delivered under the National Disability Agreement for people over the age threshold. In that context, the Australian Government should ensure that:
• a person with a disability eligible for and being supported within the disability care system prior to reaching the aged threshold should be able to be continue to be supported by services best able to meet their needs including through the disability care system
• such a person may at any time after reaching the age threshold elect to be supported through the aged care system and be subject to that system’s arrangements and shall be deemed to have done so upon permanent entry into a residential aged care facility.
Quality of aged care

R10.1 The quality assurance framework for aged care should be expanded to include published quality indicators at the service provider level to help care recipients and their families make informed choices about care and to enhance transparency and accountability about funds spent on care. The AACC should develop a Quality & Outcomes Data Set for use by care recipients and bring together evidence on best practice care, with the information openly accessible via the Gateway.

R10.2 The Medicare rebate for medical services provided by general practitioners visiting residential aged care facilities and people in their homes should be independently reviewed to ensure that it covers the cost of providing the service.

R10.3 The Australian Government should ensure that residential and community care providers receive appropriate payments for delivering palliative and end of life care. These payments should form part of the assessed entitlement determined by the Gateway assessment process. The appropriate payment for palliative and end of life care should be determined by the Government on the transparent advice of the AACC and in consultation with the National Hospital Pricing Authority.

R10.4 Providers of aged care services should have staff trained to be able to discuss and put in place advance care directives. Funding should be made available for community awareness education about advance care planning. Advance care directives should be included in the proposed electronic records.

Catering for diversity

R11.1 The Australian Government should ensure the accreditation standards for residential and community care are sufficient and robust enough to deliver services which cater to the needs and rights of people from diverse backgrounds including culturally and linguistically diverse, Indigenous and sexually diverse communities.

R11.2 The Gateway Agency should cater for diversity by:
• ensuring all older people have access to appropriate information and assessment services
• facilitating access for people with language and cultural needs through the development of specific hubs for older people from diverse backgrounds that have limited English skills and require access to bi-lingual staff
• ensuring that diagnostic tools are culturally appropriate for the assessment of care needs.
R11.3 The AACC, in transparently recommending the scheduled set of prices for care services, should take into account costs associated with catering for diversity, including:
• providing ongoing and comprehensive language services for clients from non-English speaking backgrounds
• ensuring staff undertake appropriate professional development activities to increase their capacity to deliver care with dignity and respect to all older people.
R11.4 The Australian Government should ensure that rural and remote, and Indigenous aged care services be actively supported before remedial intervention is required. This support would include but not be limited to:
• the construction, replacement and maintenance of appropriate building stock
• meeting quality standards for service delivery
• clinical and managerial staff development, including locally delivered programs and enhanced use of technology assisted training
• applying funding models that ensure service sustainability and support the development of service capabilities at a local level.
R11.5 The Australian Government should partially or fully block fund services where there is a demonstrated need to do so based on detailed consideration of specific service needs and concerns about timely and appropriate access. Such services might include dedicated aged care services for homeless older Australians and Indigenous specific, flexible aged care services. Direct access to these services would be available immediately but care recipients would be required to undergo a Gateway Agency assessment within three months of entering such care services and, where appropriate, pay relevant co-contributions.


R12.1 The Australian, state and territory governments should develop a coordinated and integrated national policy approach to the provision of home maintenance and modification services, with a nominated lead agency in each jurisdiction.
To support this national approach, all governments should develop benchmarks for the levels of services to be provided, terms of eligibility and co-contributions, and the development of professional and technical expertise.

R12.2 The Australian Government should develop building design standards for residential housing that meet the access and mobility needs of older people.

R12.3 The Council of Australian Governments (COAG), within the context of its agreed housing supply and affordability reform agenda, should develop a strategic policy framework for ensuring that an adequate level of affordable housing is available to cost effectively meet the demands of an ageing population.

R12.4 The regulation of retirement villages and other retirement specific living options should remain the responsibility of state and territory governments, and should not be aligned with the regulation of aged care services.

R12.5 State and territory governments should pursue nationally consistent retirement village legislation under the aegis of COAG.


R13.1 The Gateway Agency, when assessing the care needs of older people, should also assess the capacity of informal carers to provide ongoing support. Where appropriate, this may lead to approving entitlements to services for planned respite and other essential services. Carers Support Centres should be developed from the existing specialist carer support service programs to undertake a comprehensive and consistent assessment of carer needs. Such centres should be directly accessible to carers as well as through the Gateway and would also deliver carer support services, including:
• carer education and training
• emergency respite
• carer counselling and peer group support
• carer advocacy services.
R13.2 Funding for services which engage volunteers in service delivery should take into account the costs associated with volunteer administration and regulation, and appropriate training and support for volunteers.


R14.1 The AACC, when assessing and recommending scheduled care prices, should take into account the need to pay fair and competitive wages to nursing and other care staff delivering approved aged care services and the appropriate mix of skills and staffing levels for the delivery of those services.

R14.2 The Australian Government should promote skill development through an expansion of accredited courses to provide aged care workers at all levels with the skills they need, including:
• vocational training for care workers entering the sector and looking to upgrade their skills
• adequate tertiary nursing places to meet the anticipated demand from the health and aged care sectors
• advanced clinical courses for nurses
• management courses for health and care workers entering these roles.
R14.3 The Australian Government, in conjunction with universities and providers, should fund the expansion of ‘teaching aged care services’ to promote the sector and provide appropriate training for medical, nursing and allied health students and professionals.

R14.4 Given industry concerns about the variability in training outcomes for students, the Australian Government should undertake an independent and comprehensive review of aged care-related vocational education & training (VET) courses and their delivery by registered training organisations (RTOs). Among other things, the review should consider:
• examining current practices that may be leading to variability in student outcomes, including periods of training and practicum
• reviewing procedures to ensure that VET trainers and assessors possess required current practice knowledge
• identifying whether regulators are adequately resourced to monitor and audit RTOs using a risk-based regulatory approach and have appropriate enforcement regimes that allow for appropriate and proportional responses to non-compliance by RTOs
• identifying reforms to ensure students demonstrate pertinent competencies on a more consistent basis.

R15.1 The Australian Government should establish a new independent regulatory agency — the AACC. This would involve:
• the Department of Health and Ageing ceasing all its regulatory activities, except the provision of policy advice to the Australian Government on regulatory matters, including advice on the setting of quality standards
• establishing the Aged Care Standards & Accreditation Agency as a statutory office within the AACC
• establishing a statutory office for complaints handling and reviews within the AACC
• establishing a stakeholder advisory committee to provide advice to the AACC in relation to consumer and industry interests
• establishing it as a Prescribed Agency under the Financial Management & Accountability Act 1997 (Cth).
The AACC would have three full time, statutory Commissioners: a Chairperson, a Commissioner for Care Quality, and a Commissioner for Complaints & Reviews.

Key functions of AACC would include:
• administering the regulation of the quality of community and residential aged care, including compliance and enforcement
• promoting quality care through educating providers and assisting them with compliance and continuous improvement
• approving community and residential aged care providers for the provision of government subsidised approved aged care services
• administering prudential regulation and all other aged care regulation, such as supported resident ratio obligations
• monitoring, reporting and assessing costs and transparently recommending a scheduled set of prices, subsidies and a rate of indexation for approved aged care services
• handling consumer and provider complaints and reviews
• providing information to stakeholders, including disseminating and collecting data and information.
R15.2 The AACC Commissioner for Complaints & Reviews should determine complaints by consumers and providers in the first instance. Complaints handling should be structured into the three areas: assessment, early resolution and conciliation; investigations and referral; and communication, stakeholder management and outreach (including rural and remote and Indigenous outreach). A separate review office should be developed to hear and determine initial appeals of individual cases as well as to conduct ‘own motion’ systemic reviews within the AACC.

The Australian Government should abolish the Office of the Aged Care Commissioner.
The Gateway Agency should establish a separate complaints handling and review office to deal with complaints about its decisions, including assessments and entitlements. These matters would not be subject to complaint handling or review by the AACC. All appeals in respect of decisions of the AACC and the Gateway Agency should be heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The allowable time in which to appeal should be increased to 13 weeks from the current 28 days.

R15.3 The Australian Government should implement an independent statutory Community Visitors Program for residential aged care facilities akin to the operation of other types of statutory visitor programs operating in other residential settings (for example, disability and children’s residential services) and in other jurisdictions, to promote and protect the rights and wellbeing of residents.

R15.4 COAG should agree to publish the results of community care quality assessments using the Community Care Common Standards, consistent with the publication of quality of care assessments of residential aged care.

R15.5 The Australian Government should provide a broad range of enforcement tools to the AACC to ensure that penalties are proportional to the severity of non-compliance.

R15.6 In the period prior to the implementation of the Commission’s new integrated model of aged care, all governments should agree to reforms to aged care services delivered under the Home & Community Care (HACC) program to allow the Australian Government to be the principal funder and regulator. However, in the event that they do not agree, the Victorian and Western Australian Governments should agree to harmonise (from 1 July 2012) the range of enforcement tools in HACC delivered aged care services.

R15.7 The Australian Government should introduce a streamlined reporting mechanism for all aged care service providers (across both community and residential aged care) based on the model used to develop Standard Business Reporting.

R15.8 The Australian Government should amend the residential aged care prudential standards to require residential aged care providers to disclose (to care recipients or prospective care recipients) whether they have met all prudential regulations in the current and previous financial years. At the same time, providers should be required to indicate that the following would be made available on request, rather than automatically:
• an audit opinion on whether the provider has complied with the prudential standards in the relevant financial year
• the provider’s most recent audited accounts.
R15.9 The Australian Government should amend the missing resident reporting requirements in the Accountability Principles 1998 to allow a longer period for providers to report missing residents to the Australian Aged Care Commission, while continuing to promptly report missing residents to police services.

R15.10 COAG should identify and remove, as far as possible, onerous duplicate and inconsistent regulations, including in relation to infectious disease outbreaks, occupational health and safety, food safety, nursing scopes of practice, advance care plans, power of attorney, guardianship and elder abuse.

Policy research and evaluation

R16.1 To encourage transparency and independence in aged care policy research and evaluation, the AACC should be responsible for ensuring the provision of a national ‘clearinghouse’ for aged care data. This would involve:
• establishing a central repository for aged care data and coordinating data collection from various agencies and departments
• making these data sets publicly available in a timely manner for research, evaluation and analysis, subject to conditions that manage confidentiality risks and other concerns about potential data misuse.
To maximise the usefulness of aged care data sets, reform in the collection and reporting of data should be implemented through:
• adopting common definitions, measures and collection protocols
• linking databases and investing in de-identification of new data sets
• developing, where practicable, outcomes based data standards as a better measure of service effectiveness.
Research findings on aged care and on trial and pilot program evaluations, including those undertaken by the Department of Health & Ageing, should be made public and released in a timely manner.


R17.1 The Australian Government should establish an Aged Care Implementation Taskforce to coordinate and manage the transition to the new aged care system, chaired by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. To assist the Implementation Taskforce, a non-statutory Aged Care Advisory Group should be established comprising representatives from consumers (including carers), providers and the workforce.

R17.2 The Australian Government should negotiate with providers of care services to existing care recipients to harmonise care subsidies and other arrangements. It should reach an agreement within five years that would have the effect of removing grandfathering arrangements for existing and new places while protecting existing recipients of care from changes that would impose a new cost upon them.
The exemption from the supported resident ratio obligation provided to some extra service facilities should be removed at the end of the transition period as part of a negotiated settlement.

R17.3 The Australian Government should provide, during the transition period, capped grants to existing smaller approved residential care providers, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, for financial advice on business planning to assist in assessing their future options. Subject to an audit to demonstrate solvency, the Government should offer — during the transition period — existing smaller approved residential care providers a loan facility for the repayment of accommodation bonds. The Government should charge an interest rate premium on the facility to discourage its use when private sector options are available.

R17.4 The AACC should, during the transition period, formally monitor accommodation prices in residential care. If the price monitoring shows that residential providers are systematically charging excessive accommodation fees, the AACC should recommend that the Australian Government consider regulatory measures that might be implemented to reduce this practice.

R17.5 The Australian Government should introduce at the earliest opportunity a temporary intermediate community care package level to reduce the gap between Community Aged Care Packages and Extended Aged Care at Home during the first stage of the transition period.

R17.6 The Australian Government should conduct a pilot whereby providers could transfer (subject to approval by the AACC) up to 50% of their supported resident ratio obligation per facility with other providers within the same region (or subregion). This arrangement should be reviewed within five years with a view to assessing its widespread applicability and to consider the option of introducing a competitive tendering arrangement, or entitlement funding, for the ongoing provision of accommodation to supported residents as an alternative.

R17.7 In implementing reform, the Australian Government should announce a detailed timetable for changes and how the changes are expected to affect consumers (including carers), providers, workers, and the sector in general. In particular, the Australian Government should:
• carefully and fully communicate the design, objectives and implications of the reform measures
• be guided by the three-stage implementation plan

Data miner

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, the national trade practices regulator, has announced that it will not oppose ANZ, CBA, Citigroup, GE Capital, NAB and Westpac each taking a 4% shareholding in Experian Australia Credit Services, a subsidiary of Experian Group.

The latter is described as "a London based global provider of credit reporting services". It is one of the global consumer data and analysis giants that provides services to the private and public sectors, on occasion acting as a surrogate for national intelligence agencies.

Experian Australia Credit Services is described as a new body. In practice the dominant consumer credit groups are taking minor stakes in the local offshoot of a very big data cruncher. Experian has a substantial Australian presence.

The ACCC states that -
The financial institutions that will have minority interests in the proposed joint venture are currently the largest purchasers of credit reporting services and are important providers of a key input, credit information, to Australian credit reporting agencies.

"Following an extensive public review, the ACCC formed the view that the proposed joint venture would be unlikely to substantially lessen competition in any of the markets examined," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

The ACCC's investigation focused on whether the financial institutions would have the incentive to restrict the supply of credit information and customers to incumbent credit reporting agencies and in doing so negatively effect the competitive position of these agencies.

The ACCC also examined whether the financial institutions could leverage their position in the joint venture to discriminate against rival lenders.

The ACCC consulted with incumbent credit reporting agencies, as well as industry experts and customers of the incumbent reporting agencies. The ACCC also examined the joint venture parties' internal documents.

Mr Sims said the ACCC was satisfied that the six financial institutions are sponsoring Experian Group's entry in order to bring a new supplier into the market for credit reporting services and achieve lower prices.

The ACCC formed the view that the principal incentive of the financial institutions, in sponsoring Experian Group's entry to the Australian market and in their provision of credit information to credit reporting agencies, is to foster competition among their suppliers rather than to replace one dominant supplier with another.
The ACCC notes that -
A Public Competition Assessment detailing the ACCC's reasons for its decision will be available on the ACCC's website in due course.
As I've noted elsewhere, Experian originated as a data processing unit of US high technology conglomerate TRW before being acquired by GUS (the UK retailer - formerly Greater Universal Stores - with interests that include Burberry) in 1996. In 2001 it was estimated that Experian's North American revenue was over US$1 billion. Experian was spun off from GUS in 2006 and has since expanded aggressively. For example it paid US$240 million for internet metrics specialist Hitwise in 2007 and £600 million for 70% of Brazilian credit reference group Serasa (with 160 million files).

As of 2005 Experian claimed to maintain credit information on 205 million consumers and 14 million businesses in the US, to process 1.4 million consumer transactions per day and to have classified "more than one seventh of the world's population into demographic groups for target marketing".

In 2001 it states that -
Our information helps companies evaluate the risks and rewards associated with providing credit to consumers and businesses, and our services help clients maximize the profitability of their portfolios. Besides obtaining credit reports, clients can use Experian's notification services to drive marketing efforts, manage risk and improve customer relationships.

Experian's applications help retailers conduct secure transactions and prevent fraud. Our credit services also assist clients in every phase of debt collection. With our industry-leading information assets, lenders can make better lending decisions, thereby reducing processing time while minimizing risk. ...
Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2011 was US$4.2 billion. Experian employs approximately 15,000 people in 41 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil