Building industry workers face jail for not answering questions

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Building industry workers face jail for not answering questions

Employees in the construction industry will have to answer Building Industry Taskforce investigators’ questions and produce documents or face jail, under guidelines passed in the Senate this sitting.

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Employees in the construction industry will have to answer Building Industry Taskforce investigators’ questions and produce documents or face jail, under guidelines passed in the Senate this sitting.

The guidelines were passed with the support of Senator Andrew Murray of the Democrats.

Under legislation applying to the construction industry workers face fines of $22,000 for unprotected industrial action and unions can be fined $110,000.

The guidelines now allow for a person in the industry to face the following criminal charges and penalties if they do not answer a Taskforce investigator’s questions satisfactorily:

  • obstructing, hindering, intimidating or resisting an Investigator. Penalty: imprisonment for 2 years;
  • knowingly misleading an investigator or providing false information, including false or misleading documents. Penalty: imprisonment for 12 months;
  • failing to produce documents pursuant to a valid notice from an Investigator. Penalty: imprisonment for 6 months.

More powers of task force

The guidelines say investigators can interview employees or ‘any person on the business premises’.

Documents requested by the investigator must be produced at the time or within 14 clear days of receiving a notice to produce the documents.

The investigator can inspect, make copies and/or take extracts from the documents if they are produced at the premises.

If documents are produced after receiving a notice, the investigator can keep the documents for as long as is necessary for their inquiries.

The major building industry union, the CFMEU, has described the new laws as ‘draconian’.

Reasons for delay

Although the original legislation was passed in June 2004, the Taskforce could not exercise the new powers until the guidelines passed the disallowance period in the Senate.

‘For the past 12 months, the ALP has been doing all it can to prevent the guidelines passing through the Senate,’ the Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews said.

This week Andrews warned workers taking part in the ACTU’s industrial action in protest over the government’s IR reforms that they faced dismissal or heavy fines.

The guidelines are available at the Building Industry Taskforce website.  

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