Industrial inspectors must specify purpose when seeking  records

Cases

Industrial inspectors must specify purpose when seeking records

A federal industrial inspector had failed to outline the purpose for which she wanted to obtain certain workers’ banking details and this invalidated the notice she issued, the Federal Court has found.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

A federal industrial inspector had failed to outline the purpose for which she wanted to obtain certain workers’ banking details and this invalidated the notice she issued, the Federal Court has found. 

The Federal Court provided guidance for the activities of inspectors appointed under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth).

This case focused on inspectors' powers under sec 86of the Workplace Relations Act. Justice Shane Marshall found the inspector's notice was invalid.  

The inspector had failed to outline the purpose for which she wanted to obtain certain workers’ banking details. The allegation was that the workers illegally received strike pay after a work fatality. The Building Industry Taskforce inspector sought the pay records of CFMEU members from a building company.  

Inspector’s failure 

The inspector had not identified the award, agreement or statutory requirement she was investigating in her notice. By doing so, she failed to demonstrate a relevant purpose for the recipient of the document. 

Justice Marshall concluded: 

‘ … the notice purportedly issued by the inspector on 7 June 2004 is invalid on its face. In summary, it failed to set out the purpose the inspector had in mind, that is, the purpose of ascertaining whether the requirements of s187AA had been observed. In so doing, it failed to give the recipient an opportunity to consider whether what it was required to produce was referable to any specific purpose. This occurred in circumstances where draconian penalties and abrogation of a right to protect oneself against self-incrimination potentially flowed.’ 

The inspector argued that there was no requirement in s86(1) that an inspector have a specific purpose in mind, and the inspector was entitled to engage in a roving inquiry. Justice Marshall disagreed: 

‘Such a submission is tantamount to saying that an inspector may target an employer or employee or any other person, and fish through that person's records to see what may be extracted for some still further unstated purpose.’ 

Thorson v Pine [2004] FCA 1316 (12 October 2004) 

Related

Abbott lays down new laws for building and construction industry

Abbott reveals details of construction taskforce

 
 

Post details