New task force and IR laws pass Parliament

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New task force and IR laws pass Parliament

Building Industry Task Force (BITF) powers that force people to handover information and laws that treble IR penalties in all industries passed federal Parliament over the weekend.

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Building Industry Task Force (BITF) powers that force people to handover information and laws that treble IR penalties in all industries passed federal Parliament over the weekend. 

The passage of the amended Workplace Relations Amendment (Codifying Contempt Offences) Bill 2003 enables the BITF to force people to produce documents, answer questions and provide information relevant to a BITF investigation.

Failure to cooperate may lead to financial penalties or up to six months jail.

Investigators will be constrained in their investigations to ensure civil liberties remain intact. The Senate will draft guidelines on how the information gathering powers can be used and the Commonwealth Ombudsman will conduct an annual review on how the powers are being implemented.

According to Democrat Senator Andrew Murray, individuals required to answer questions cannot be detained, can have legal representation and cannot self incriminate.

‘The powers do not allow the Building Industry taskforce to tap phones, make secret recordings or detain people. The amendments do not increase the Taskforce's power to initiate or intervene in prosecutions,’ he said.   ‘The powers are based on s155(7) of the [federal] Trade Practices Act.’

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Tax Commission, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) have similar information gathering powers and much wider powers, such as search and entry and prosecution, he said.

In relation to all industries, the legislative reform trebles penalties under the federal Workplace Relations Act to $33,000 for a corporation and $6,600 for an individual; disqualifies office holders convicted of a criminal offence and who receive a suspended sentence from holding office; and provides whistleblower protection to employees of registered organisations.

Super and tax changes

The Government’s proposed super and tax changes including reducing high-income superannuation taxes - discussed in a previous story - also passed federal Parliament over the weekend.

Related

For a copy of the amended Workplace Relations Amendment (Codifying Contempt Offences) Bill go to the Parlinfo website browse page, under Legislation.

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Senate rejects industrial contempt laws

Super and tax changes unfair: ACOSS and unions

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