Five new work health and safety Codes of Practice have been opened for a 12-week public comment period.
The Codes released for public comment today are:
- Safe Design, Manufacture, Import and Supply of Plant
- Working in the Vicinity of Overhead and Underground Electrical Lines
- Traffic Management in Workplaces
- Scaffolding Work, and
- Formwork and Falsework.
The Chair of Safe Work Australia, Mr Tom Phillips AM said that the public comment period provides businesses, industry, workers and the wider community with the opportunity to contribute to work health and safety issues that directly affect their workplaces and working lives.
“Despite significant improvement in work health and safety in recent years, there is still more that can be done to keep our nation’s workers free from work-related death, injury and illness.
“The Codes of Practice will provide businesses across Australia with important practical guidance to achieving the standards of health, safety and welfare required under the work health and safety (WHS) laws.”
This is the third set of Codes of Practice developed to support the WHS Act and Regulations. They are part of a suite of documents being developed by Safe Work Australia, the Commonwealth, states and territories, unions and employers as part of harmonised work health and safety laws across Australia.
The public comment period for these Codes of Practice will close on 22 June 2012.
For more information on how to submit comments or on the work health and safety laws, visitwww.safeworkaustralia.gov.au.
The Productivity Commission has released its Economic Regulation of Airport Services report after the Federal Government requested an investigation of current economic regulation of airports in supporting ongoing investment in infrastructure.
The Commission’s review suggests that the current regulatory framework should be maintained but ongoing oversight by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is required to ensue pricing abuses do not effect the industry.
The Federal Government has committed to the following:
- Extending monitoring of airport pricing by the ACCC for another seven years to 2020, including airport car parking prices and costs;
- Improving how the quality of service provided by airports is measured and monitored to make sure it is accurate and relevant;
- Encouraging the ACCC to use its existing powers to investigate if it believes there are concerns about airports abusing market power, including being able to recommend a full pricing inquiry to the Minister responsible for competition; and
- Continuing to implement the Government’s initiative of planning coordination forums and community aviation consultation groups to address ground transport and planning issues and improve community engagement.
“We will continue to monitor airport pricing closely and reserve the right to look at any regulatory options necessary if we find evidence of inappropriate behaviour by the major airports,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese said in a statement.
The Commission’s inquiry report can be found here
Legislation introduced into the parliament will give eligible dads and partners financial support to take time off work to bond with their new baby from 1 January next year.
The Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012 builds on the Australian Government’s successful Paid Parental Leave scheme, by introducing Dad and Partner Pay - a dedicated two-week payment to gives dads and partners the opportunity to stay at home for two weeks with their new baby.
Eligible working dads and other partners, such as same-sex couples, will have access to two weeks government-funded Dad and Partner Pay at the National Minimum Wage (currently about $590 a week before tax).
This new payment will give families more options to balance work and family commitments.
To be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay, a person must have an annual income of $150,000 or less. The new entitlement will be available to full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers who have worked at least 330 hours (just over one day a week) in 10 of the 13 months prior to the start of Dad and Partner Pay.
This payment will be especially important for dads and partners who work in casual jobs without annual leave entitlements, and self-employed people such as tradespeople, small business owners and farmers.
Dad and Partner Pay will cost the government $188.5 million over five years.
The former directors of Henna Group Pty Ltd, operators of ‘Scarpe Shoes’, have been fined a $220,000 for a history of underpaying staff.
The Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action against the Henna Group in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne and set a record for highest penalty in Victoria.
‘Scarpe Shoes’ had stores in Docklands, Chadstone, Fountain Gate and a warehouse in Hallam and the group has been fined $160,000.
A further $30,000 fine was handed to the company’s group manager Sahil Rasul and sole director and owner Bulbula Amin.
Federal Magistrate Grant Riethmuller found that Rasul and Amin were responsible for deliberately underpaying four staff a total of $16,036.
Federal Magistrate Riethmuller ordered that part of the fine be used to back-pay the workers, who are owed $5458, $4788, $3796 and $1994 respectively.
The employees, three store managers and a sales assistant, were underpaid their minimum hourly rate, penalty rates, leave entitlements and wages in lieu of notice in 2009-2010.
In addition, their wages were paid on an irregular basis and they sometimes did not get meal breaks. Federal Magistrate Riethmuller accepted evidence that five previous underpayment complaints against the Henna Group dating back to 2007 had been sustained, requiring the company to back-pay five employees a total of $6775.
“The history of the matter indicates a deliberate disregard of industrial obligations,” Federal Magistrate Riethmuller said in his judgment.
Federal Magistrate Riethmuller said there was no evidence of contrition and noted evidence that Rasul had told a Fair Work inspector he was winding-up the Henna Group and the Fair Work Ombudsman would not be able to “touch him”.
“The lack of co-operation with the Fair Work inspectors also suggests that the Respondents have a complete disregard for the entitlements of their employees,” Federal Magistrate Riethmuller said.
“There is a need for general deterrence and to send a message to the community, and in particular small employers, that employers must make steps to ensure correct employee entitlements are paid.”
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says the record penalty illustrates how seriously the Courts are now treating the deliberate underpayment of wages by some employers.
“An employee’s right to be paid their full lawful entitlements for work they perform is absolutely fundamental,” Mr Wilson said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has prosecuted the owner of a Sydney truck company for sham contracting activity and underpaying an employee.
The Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney has imposed a $13,024 penalty against Sydney man John Mineeff, who owned and operated Fairfield-based company, Villtruck Pty Ltd before it went into liquidation in 2010.
Villtruck was involved in purchasing, repairing and selling second-hand trucks.
Mineeff admitted being responsible for the company breaching the sham contracting provisions of workplace laws in relation to an employee who performed panel beating and vehicle detailing duties.
The employee, aged in his 30s, was dismissed in early 2009 and was not paid out his accrued annual leave entitlements.
He was then immediately re-hired as an ‘independent contractor’ to perform the same duties, when he should still have been classified as an employee.
The man was subsequently underpaid a total of $13,592.
Under the sham contracting provisions of workplace laws, it is unlawful to dismiss an employee in order to engage them as an independent contractor to perform the same duties.
It is also unlawful to misrepresent an employment relationship as an independent contracting arrangement.
Federal Magistrate Shenagh Barnes said Mineeff had shown a “careless disregard” for workplace laws and ordered him to pay his fine to the underpaid employee to partially rectify the underpayment.
Australian and New Zealand airlines are in the firing line for allegedly contravening workplace laws.
New Zealand’s Jetstar Airways Limited and Australian companies Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd and Jetstar Group Pty Ltd are facing court as the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action against them.
Jetstar Airways Limited engaged trainee pilots on New Zealand individual contacts, breaching workplace laws when it was foreseeable the work they were to perform was predominantly in Australia.
Documents lodged in the Federal Court reveal that six pilots were recruited between October, 2010 and January, 2011 and given six months training in Australia under the “Jetstar Cadet Program”.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, Jetstar representatives erroneously told the trainees that their employment was governed by New Zealand laws, not Australian laws, during the training period - and engaged them on NZ individual employment contracts.
The work performed by the pilots was exclusively in Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the pilots were actually covered by the Australian Air Pilots Award 2010.
Court papers allege that after the six employees completed the training, Jetstar sought to have them re-pay the cost of their training, despite this being prohibited under the Air Pilots Award.
The cadet pilots allegedly reimbursed Jetstar a total of $17,500 between June and September 2011 before the practice was ceased and the money was returned to them in November 2011. It is further alleged Jetstar did not pay superannuation during the training period.
“Multi-national companies with wholly or partly-owned overseas enterprises need to exercise caution and care if they engage workers under those entities and then have them work in Australia,” Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said.
“To do so can expose the companies to potential penalties and liabilities, particularly if those arrangements persist for a period of time and the terms and conditions their employees are engaged under are less than provided for by Australian law.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman is alleging multiple breaches and is seeking penalties. Each company faces a maximum fine of $33,000 per breach.
Chevron has launched its first major recruitment drive to find operations personnel for the company’s $29 billion Wheatstone liquefied natural gas project.
“We are searching for experienced and talented Australians to be the future of our energy industry,” Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski said.
“The Wheatstone Project is one of Australia’s largest natural gas projects and we have a range of interesting and challenging career opportunities for people wanting to join us.
“Not only will successful applicants have the opportunity to work on Wheatstone, but they’ll also work for a global company who offers global opportunities,” Krzywosinski said.
Chevron is holding recruitment information sessions throughout Australia until 2 April and candidates with industry experience are invited to apply. Applicants from other industry sectors will be considered and potentially offered a comprehensive training program to ensure they have the skills to succeed in their new operations role.
Chevron has announced the following positions:
- Maintenance and Production Superintendents
- Maintenance and Production Coordinators
- Maintenance and Production Specialists
- LNG Competency Assurance Specialist=
- Central Control Room Technicians
- Maintenance Technicians – Instrument and Electrical
- Maintenance Technicians – Mechanical
- Production Technicians
US-headquarted engineering supplier Park Hannifin has announced it will consolidate its Australia-New Zealand hose and fitting manufacturing operations in Wodonga.
State Minister for Manufacturing, Exports and Trade Richard Dalla-Riva said the move was thanks to a push by the State Government to upgrade equipment and facilities in the area.
"I am very pleased to see a major company choosing to invest even further in Victoria and take advantage of the conditions such as excellent rail, road and port freight channels across the state and a 24-hour airport at Melbourne that ensure Victoria is one of the best states in which to operate an international manufacturing business," Mr Dalla-Riva said.
The move is expected to generate 40 new local jobs.
The South Australian Government has appointed Mike Sinkunas as the state’s first Small Business Commisioner.
Mr Sinkunas will be tasked with championing the cause of the state’s 136,000 small businesses and assisting in the establishment of industry codes required to create a regulatory framework that can resolve disputes without court action.
“This Government wants the Commissioner to stamp out things such as predatory behaviour; unconscionable conduct and franchise churning that often target small business operators,” Minister for Small Business Tom Koutsantonis said.
The Commissioner also has the power to enforce mandatory codes of conduct that carry monetary penalties for breaches, he says.
Other key functions of the Small Business Commissioner are:
- Provide educative and guidance to help inform decision making to minimise disputes;
- Monitor and investigate unfair market practices and non-compliance with prescribed industry codes under the Fair Trading Act 1987;
- Offer other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms where appropriate;
- Work proactively with key stakeholders to encourage better business conduct and the principles of fair dealing and good faith and;
- Advise the Minister for Small Business on a range of matters affecting small business.
Mr Koutsantonis says the appointment of the Commissioner is to make the small business sector stronger by developing a set of standards – a set of codes - that will be the benchmark for equality in business-to-business relationships and transactions.
The South Australian Government has joined an Australia-wide initiative to reduce level crossing and trespass incidents on rail networks following the launch of a national rail safety foundation, trackSAFE.
Minister for Transport Services Chlo Fox, who is attending the annual Rail Safety Conference in Sydneytoday, said the foundation will pool industry resources and take a national, cohesive approach to safety on all rail networks, including SA.
ìIt is so important that we do all we can to ensure that here in South Australia and across Adelaide we have a safe rail network for those travelling on and around trains, as well as the employees running the network,” Ms Fox said.
“While the safety of customers and the community is of the utmost importance, itís the trauma that train drivers and other rail employees suffer as a result of witnessing near collisions, serious injuries or fatalities, that the community often forgets,”
The South Australian Government has announced that South Australian irrigators will begin the 2012-13 water year with 100 of their allocations.
State Minister for Water Paul Caica said the announcement will give irrigators and other water users the certainty required to make important business decisions for the coming year. The full allocations are in stark contrast to the drought period, which saw the season opening with as little as 2 per cent of the allocation.
“Over the past four months, there has been a sequence of substantial rainfall events across the Murray-Darling Basin,’’ Mr Caica said.
“This 100 per cent opening allocation is due to the high volume of water in upstream storages and confirmation by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority that South Australia will receive its full 1,850 gigalitre entitlement flow during 2012-13. It is the second successive year that our irrigators have started the water year on a full allocation.”
“This further emphasises the importance of the State Government’s preparedness to take all actions necessary to ensure we get a strong Basin Plan that is not only capable of restoring the Basin to a sustainable level of health, but which also underpins the security of all water entitlement holders.”
Mr Caica said the new carryover policy, developed in consultation with irrigators and other waters users, is operational from 2012-13.
“Given the current conditions, South Australia is prevented from deferring and storing entitlement flow for carryover under the Murray Darling Basin Agreement, therefore there will be no ability to carryover water into the 2012-13 water year,’’ he said.
The South Australian Government and the city of Adelaide have announced a comprehensive overhaul of the city’s planning laws.
The reforms to the planning and development system will unlock millions of dollars in investment potential according to the State Government.
Premier Jay Weatherill said the agreement has spelled the end of decades of disagreements between the city’s council and the state government.
“This plan was endorsed by the City Council nine votes to one and the consensus represents a new era in State Government and City Council co-operation,” he said.
“This reflects a new constructive approach to solving the big issues South Australia faces and adds to the growing confidence in our state’s future.
“South Australians are justifiably proud of Adelaide’s reputation as a beautiful city but want it to become more vibrant, while retaining its character and charm.”
The planning reforms include:
- a new Capital City Zone providing for framework to stimulate investment across the square mile, while also setting high standards for design excellence
- A change in allowable building heights
- greater mix of uses (housing, shops, cafes, restaurants and offices)
- better links between ground floors and public spaces and more vibrant main streets
- better defined boulevards (such as King William, Grote and Wakefield streets)
- activation of the city squares and park lands
- innovative development on ‘catalyst sites’ that encourage more vibrant neighbourhoods
- quality outcomes with design at the forefront of the planning process through theestablishment of a new city design review panel
- faster decisions - answers within 10 days of lodgement with design review panel input
Deputy Premier and Planning Minister John Rau said the reforms would bring more people into the city, more investment into the city and more jobs into the city.
“The city centre is the heart of the State’s civic, commercial and cultural life and must be a place we can showcase the best of South Australia to the rest of the nation and the world,” he said.
News Release“The measures outlined in this package represent a significant and dramatic reform to our city planning system, helping Adelaide to maintain and improve its edge as the nation’s most liveable capital city—a place to live, work and do business.”
The announcement comes after Adelaide scored the highest review of city infrastructure, land management and economics of all capital city’s in the latest review published by the Reform Council of COAG.
The Western Australian Government’s pay offer has been accepted by the state’s 27,000 teachers and school administrators after they voted in favour of the December agreement.
The total packaged deal includes wage increases of 12 per cent across three years (3.75 per cent, 4 per cent and 4.25 per cent) and includes initiatives to further support collaboration and school decision making.
“This outcome once again demonstrates the ability of Wages Policy to deliver fair, balanced and economically sustainable outcomes for the Government and its employees. This should send a strong message to groups currently negotiating with Government,” State Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said.
Education Minister Liz Constable said the deal would ensure WA school teachers remained the highest paid across the country.
“The majority of teachers will be earning in excess of $99,000 per annum by December 2013,” Dr Constable said.
“Teachers play an instrumental part in our society, and their pay continues to reflect the esteem in which they are held by this Government.”
The Northern Territory Government and Envirobank has announced the new cash for containers mobile depot will be operational shortly after Easter and will service large and small-scale volumes of returned containers.
“We’ve got normal depots, mini-depots, and now we’ve got mobile depots which can do it all,” Territory Minister for the Environment Karl Hampton said.
“I welcome today’s news from Envirobank that they are setting up a mobile depot in Shoal Bay to further expand the locations Territorians are able to turn their containers in for cash.
“Getting a scheme of this magnitude up was never going to be easy and we knew that, but we also realise Territorians want it, and is proven to be successful – that’s why the scheme is continues to grow.
“The ever increasing interest from the community and their involvement in Cash for Containers means that the flow of returned containers has not slowed down. If anything, it continues to increase, and a number of sporting groups and organisations are taking advantage of this scheme to raise funds to great effect.
The Federal Government has announced it will allow skilled workers from the United States, such as electricians, plumbers and other trades, to get their licence to work in Australia on arrival.
Federal Skills Minister Senator Chris Evans said the move will ease shortages in trades and engineering.
"This is a great opportunity to address skill shortages in Australia by filling shortfalls in particular areas with qualified candidates from the US, with applications expected to open from mid-April," Senator Evans said.
“While the Government’s first priority is to train Australians for jobs in the resources and construction sectors, projections show that we will need workers from overseas for a peak in activity in the next three to five years.”
“I understand some of the relevant unions have been talking to their US counterparts about the opportunities for skilled US workers to fill shortages in the resources sector over the next three to four years.
”Currently, such workers need to be assessed onshore which can mean waiting months between entry and starting work.”
The reform will allow for prompt offshore processing of applications, which have traditionally had to be done with the applicant in country and could take months.
Under the new agreement, US workers will be assessed against Australian requirements before entering the country.
To support employers in linking with potential skilled workers, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the Australian Government had also decided to run its overseas program of Skills Australia Needs expos in the United States for the first time to attract skilled workers in the resources, energy and infrastructure sectors.
Mobile wireless broadband connections (excluding mobile handsets) accounted for 47% of all internet connections as at 31 December 2011, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Overall, the number of internet subscribers in Australia climbed 6.3% to 11.6 million in the six months to December 2011, up from 10.9 million in June 2011.
There were 5.5 million mobile wireless broadband connections (excluding mobile handsets), an increase of 14.7% compared with June 2011. Over the same time period, DSL connections increased by 1.3%, to 4.6 million.
The number of internet subscribers with advertised download speeds of 24Mbps or greater reached the 1 million mark for the first time, accounting for 10% of subscribers.
However, the advertised download speed with the highest number of subscribers was the 1.5Mbps to less than 8Mbps range, with 5.1 million, or 44% of subscribers.
At the end of December 2011, there were 11 million mobile handset internet subscribers in Australia, an increase of 13.6% from June 2011.
Further information is available in Internet Activity, Australia (cat. no. 8153.0).
Energy Resources of Australia has announced it will invest $120 million to further explore its Ranger mine site.
ERA will invest a total of $120 million in the Ranger 3 Deeps Exploration Decline Project to conduct close spaced underground exploration drilling and to explore areas adjacent to the Ranger 3 Deeps resource. Work on the construction of the box cut and exploration decline is scheduled to commence in May 2012.
ERA's Chief Executive Rob Atkinson said the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline project formed a very important component of the business' future plans.
"This is a significant step in the process of determining the viability of an underground mine on the Ranger Project Area," Mr Atkinson said.
"With mining operations in Pit 3 nearing completion, we have increased our focus on potential exploration opportunities on the Ranger Project Area.
"In addition to investing in the Ranger 3 Deeps Exploration Decline Project, we have also invested in a three year drilling programme at a cost of $40 million to define and determine other resources at Ranger.
EPA announced it will award the contract to Macmahon holdings.
The Victorian Government has unveiled a new model for industry engagement which will aim to ensure employers’ and industries’ training needs are better met.
State Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall said the reforms are needed to better support the state’s demand driven training system and to promote a skills based economy.
Under the old model, which predates Victoria's move to a demand driven training system, 16 Industry Training Advisory Boards (ITABs) provide advice to government on the skills needs of the industries they represent.
Mr Hall said the changes, to be implemented over the next nine months, followed extensive consultation with business and industry and reflected the findings of two independent reviews of Victoria's industry advisory arrangements.
"The new industry participation model will enable government to engage more directly with industry and give industry a greater role in shaping training provision," Mr Hall said.
"While ITABs have previously played a constructive role in Victoria's training system, the new model will use the bodies and associations employers already value to directly influence the training market ensuring training is more responsive to the needs of a skilled workforce and economy."
Mr Hall said key elements of the reforms would:
- Establish a more direct model of consultation with industry built around strengthened partnerships between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)and other government departments, employers and industry associations.
- Strengthen industries' and employers' opportunity to talk directly to government about the effectiveness of the training market.
- Make better use of the existing industry consultation mechanisms across government to reduce duplication of efforts.
"Under the new model the DEECD will work in partnership with other government departments and their networks to access more than 12,000 direct industry consultations, a far greater network than previously available," Mr Hall said.
Mr Hall said those industry sectors that wished to retain their existing ITABs could elect to do so through their own funding.
The reform legislation will be introduced later this year.
The Reform Council of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has savaged the planning of the country’s capital cities, publishing a review that urges governments to do better in planning future land use, infrastructure assets and economies of the country’s major cities.
Chairman of the COAG Reform Council, Paul McClintock AO, said governments need to get better at bringing together different aspects of their city planning.
“Just like you can't solve a Rubik’s cube one side at a time, you can't deal with land use, infrastructure and economic development separately,” Mr McClintock said.
The council was critical of all major cities with the exception of Adelaide.
“Our report found that while governments have shown strong commitment to improve their planning systems, none of their systems are entirely consistent with COAG’s agreed criteria to re-shape our capital cities,” Mr McClintock said.
The report found that all governments share a number of common issues and challenges and that no one single government has all the policy assets and expertise to deal with issues.
Mr McClintock said that COAG’s reforms and the review process demonstrate the value of collaboration by governments on planning capital cities.
“It is absolutely essential that all nine governments continue to work together to achieve COAG’s objective for our capital cities.”
“The value of improving planning in our cities is clear–around 75 per cent of Australia’s population live in our major cities and these cities generate nearly 80 per cent of GDP.”
“Governments have shown a strong commitment to improve their planning systems and we appreciate their active participation in our review,” Mr McClintock said.
The council has made a number of recommendations to COAG on the need to engage more with community, businesses and other stakeholders; focus more on implementing plans and getting results in cities; and consider ways to improve investment and innovation by the private sector.
The review can be found at http://www.coagreformcouncil.gov.au/reports/cities.cfm
The Western Australian Government has passed the gas services Information Bill, with State Energy Minister Peter Collier saying the legislation will play a key role in securing the state’s gas supply and security.
The passage of the Gas Services Information Bill provides for the establishment of a Western Australian Gas Bulletin Board and Gas Statement of Opportunities and implements a governance framework that will enable the Independent Market Operator to operate the Bulletin Board and the publish Statement of Opportunities periodically.
“The Gas Bulletin Board will benefit consumers and industry by increasing the levels of transparency in the sector through a specific website containing near-term information on gas production, transmission, storage capacity and demand. It will also include an emergency management facility to help Government and industry manage gas supply disruptions,” Mr Collier said in a statement.
The Gas Statement of Opportunities will periodically publish a comprehensive picture of the gas industry in WA and provide an outlook of the industry for a period of up to 10 years.
Leighton Holdings has issued its second profit loss warning in six months as the company struggles to stem the losses incurred from its troubled Victorian desalination plant and Brisbane airport tunnel.
The company announced it expects the desalination plant to cost a further $106 million, while the airport tunnel link is expected to cost a further $148 million.
Leighton Holdings’ Chief Executive Officer, Mr Hamish Tyrwhitt, said that he was deeply disappointed with the results which represent a significant deterioration in performance since the December 2011 Quarterly Reviews.
“Following the December 2011 Quarterly Reviews, we believed that the operational performances at both the Airport Link and Victorian Desalination Project had stabilised and that good progress was being made on both projects.
“However, circumstances on each project have conspired to bring about the results today which are very frustrating. Wet weather in Brisbane, productivity below expectations at both sites combined with the complexity of the commissioning of the integrated systems at APL have see unanticipated increase in forecast costs and denied us the level of performance that we were expecting or needed on those projects,” said Mr Tyrwhitt.
The disappointing results are expected to slash between $100 and $150 million of profits, resulting In a slide to a net profit after tax of around $400 to 450 million.