Govt acts fast on Cole recommendations

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Govt acts fast on Cole recommendations

The taskforce would work in close co-operation with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Tax Office, and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and would operate until the Government implemented its response to Cole's final report.

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The Federal Government has granted the Cole Royal Commission's request to set up an interim building and construction taskforce within six weeks, to investigate and police breaches of the Workplace Relations Act and other laws.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament yesterday that in response to an interim report presented last week by Commissioner Terence Cole to the Governor-General, the Government aimed to have a taskforce operational by the end of September.

In that paper, Cole flagged that his final report, due on 6 December, would call for the establishment of a national body to investigate and prosecute illegalities which existing law enforcement agencies lacked the expertise or resources to tackle.

But because setting up that body could take some time, and because the commission's own investigators would shortly be withdrawing from the industry, Cole recommended the establishment of an interim taskforce using the Government's existing powers.

Abbott said Cole was especially concerned to protect those who had testified from 'retribution'.

'Reports of last week's strike at Grocon [in Melbourne], allegedly designed to have the company withdraw its evidence, can only underscore his concerns,' Abbott said.

'The Commissioner is also concerned that a temporary reduction in scrutiny could see a new outbreak of illegal practices associated with an imminent round of enterprise bargaining.'

Abbott said the evidence presented to the commission so far justified the inquiry. 'Workers and contractors have testified that intimidation and threats are commonplace in workplace negotiations,' he said.

'There is a business culture under which irregular, unethical and illegal payments are frequently made to secure a fleeting industrial peace. Powerful figures in the industry exploit the law when it suits them and otherwise ignore it.'

The taskforce would work in close co-operation with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Tax Office, and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and would operate until the Government implemented its response to Cole's final report.

 
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