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ASIC's 2017-20 data strategy launched

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THE Australian Securities and Investments Commission has today launched its data strategy for 2017-20. The strategy, which outlines how ASIC will capture, share and use data, will transition ASIC into a more data-driven and intelligence-led organisation.

ASIC's data strategy outlines a number of data initiatives that have been completed or will be put in place over the next three years, including:

  • creating a Chief Data Office
  • establishing a number of frameworks and bodies aimed at strengthening data governance
  • ensuring cyber resilience and privacy protection
  • establishing a data science laboratory, and
  • engaging nationally and internationally to improve data management and analytics capabilities.

In launching the strategy, ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft said that good quality, well-governed data was a key foundation for good regulatory decision making.

'Our data strategy outlines how ASIC will improve the way we capture, share and use data. The intelligence and insights we derive from analysing our data will give us a better understanding of the regulatory environment, so that we can detect, understand, respond appropriately and ultimately, contribute to the financial well-being of all Australians.'

The strategy is part of the 'One ASIC' approach, which is aimed at utilising data to connect the dots to achieve better regulatory outcomes through people, processes, technology and culture and governance.

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Amazon asked to ensure compliance with Australian unfair contract terms legislation

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has written to Amazon to ensure the company complies with Australia’s unfair contract terms legislation.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the pending arrival of Amazon Marketplace in Australia represented an opportunity for many small businesses to compete online and extend their reach.

But Ms Carnell also wants to remind the company of its obligation to treat small businesses fairly in accordance with Australian law.

“Some businesses are concerned about the threat of competition while others are excited to embrace the opportunity that Amazon offers,” Ms Carnell said.

“For consumers the Amazon Marketplace promises to expand choice and put downward pressure on prices.

“I’m interested to see how Australian small businesses can accelerate sales and broaden their customer base though the Amazon platform.”

Ms Carnell said analysis of the Amazon Marketplace contract terms in the United States suggested they would have to be changed in Australia to comply with federal legislation.

“From 12 November 2016, changes to the Australian Consumer Law protect small business from unfair terms in standard-form contracts,” Ms Carnell said.

“A standard-form contract is one that has been prepared by one party and where the other party has little or no opportunity to negotiate the terms.

“An unfair term is one that causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations and causes detriment to a small business if it were applied or relied upon.” 

Ms Carnell said in Amazon’s United States terms and conditions, the company reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, terminate rights to use Amazon services, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at its sole discretion.

“This may be considered unfair as action can be taken by one party, Amazon, but not the other party, the vendor, to terminate the contract,” she said.

“I’ve requested that Amazon review the terms and conditions in use for standard form contracts in its Australian operations to ensure they comply with the unfair contracts terms legislation.”

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Apply now for Festivals Australia funding

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Applications are now open for the latest funding round of the Festivals Australia program.

The Federal Government program provides funding to support individual art projects at festivals or significant one-off community events, such as a town’s centenary celebration or opening of a new major community resource.

The program supports projects in regional and remote areas of Australia that provide access to high quality arts experiences that grow and encourage audience participation in regional Australia.

Each year the program provides around $1.2 million to support arts and festival organisations.

Applications for this round close on 20 October 2017 for projects commencing from 1 February 2018.

The next funding round is expected to open in early 2018.

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Forum fights crime with clever ideas

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WHAT DO do slush funds, smart home safety, smuggling and sport have in common? 

All will be put under the legal microscope and scrutinised at the Organised Crime and Corruption Forum (18-21 September) organised by The University of Queensland’s TC Beirne School of Law and the Australian Institute for Business and Economics (AIBE).  

TC Beirne School of Law Deputy Dean (Research) Professor Simon Bronitt said the four-day event aimed to develop practical outcomes for policy development and law reform.

“The Organised Crime and Corruption Forum will see and exchange of new ideas for combatting corporate corruption, technology-enabled domestic violence, cheating in sport, and illegal immigration,” Professor Bronitt said.

“It is about bringing together people from government, industry, the judiciary, legal professions and academia to tackle four topical law issues that Australians are concerned about.

“For example, criminalising migrant smuggling and promoting safe migration poses a complex problem for criminal justice, international relations and human rights which prompts the question – are migrant smugglers criminals or Good Samaritans?”

Another topic to be addressed will be the task of combatting uses of smart technologies and connective devices by domestic violence perpetrators.

Australia’s efforts to plug enforcement gaps and legal loopholes in instances of corporate corruption will also be discussed, as will ensuring fair play triumphs in the $US1.5 trillion global sports industry.

“These are kind of challenges each of the four sessions will pose, and we believe some very innovative solutions will emerge,” Professor Bronitt said.

International experts joining UQ academics and local specialists for the Forum include Dr Federica La Chioma (Procura della Repubblica, Italy); Professor Peter Lewisch and Dr Farsam Salimi (University of Vienna, Austria); Professor Liz Campbell (Durham University, UK); and Dale Sheehan (International Centre for Sport Security, Qatar).

The program includes public lectures, panel discussions, roundtable workshops and a mini hackathon to examine the implications of contemporary organised crime.

The forum is open to the public, with one session each afternoon:

Monday 18 September 2-5 pm –  Criminalising Migrant Smuggling; Promoting Safe Migration

Tuesday 19 September 4-7 pm – The Smart Home as a Safer Space

Wednesday 20 September 2-5 pm – Anti-Corruption in the Company

Thursday 21 September 2-5 pm – Sports Corruption: Transnational Perspectives

To register online, visit https://law.uq.edu.au/occ-forum

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New Fair Work laws start toiday

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FAIR WORK Ombudsman Natalie James has welcomed new laws protecting vulnerable workers coming into effect today.

After gaining royal assent yesterday, the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 has now come into effect. This means new, higher penalties for serious contraventions of workplace laws and record keeping breaches start today.

New obligations extending liability for underpayment and other breaches in franchise and subsidiary networks to head offices will start in six weeks on 28 October, 2017.

The changes apply to all employers, companies and employees covered by the Fair Work Act but are particularly important for:

  • franchisors and holding companies
  • vulnerable employees
  • people or companies who do not voluntarily cooperate with Fair Work Ombudsman investigations.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has published a range of information and resources on its website at www.fairwork.gov.au aimed at assisting all workplace participants to understand and comply with their obligations.

This includes information on who the changes affect, what the changes mean for you and what the changes are.

The Act includes a range of measures including an increase in the maximum penalties for employers who deliberately flout the minimum wage and other entitlements under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Ms James says employers also need to make sure they are meeting pay slip and record-keeping obligations.

“Businesses that don’t keep the right records, don’t give proper pay slips, or who make false or misleading records and payslips can face higher penalties,” she said.

Ms James says franchisors and holding companies could be liable if their franchisees or subsidiaries don’t follow workplace laws, so it is important for them to make sure they take reasonable steps to prevent breaches of workplace laws in their networks.

“We will be consulting with businesses about how these laws affect them, starting with a roundtable focusing on the new franchisor liability provisions early next month,” Ms James said.

Ms James said employees should be aware that strengthening of laws relating to cashback schemes means that if their employer requires an employee to use their own money unreasonably, or makes an employee give some of their pay back to their employer or another person, this could be unlawful.

“In passing the new laws, the Parliament has reflected the community’s concerns about deliberate exploitation of vulnerable workers,” Ms James said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman will apply the laws judiciously and fairly, and work with business to ensure employers understand their obligations under workplace laws. Employers should always check their obligations, either by accessing our free and comprehensive tools on our website, or asking their employer organisation or another qualified workplace relations adviser.

“But for those who are underpaying workers, failing to keep proper records or coercing workers to pay their wages back in cash, we will not hesitate to deploy the full set of tools in our toolbox, including using the new examination powers and seeking maximum penalties from the courts.

Employees can get help resolving workplace issues and also report a workplace concern anonymously on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s ‘Record My Hours’ smartphone app is aimed at tackling the persistent problem of underpayment of vulnerable young workers by using geofencing technology to provide workers with a record of the time they spend at their workplace. The app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

Employers and employees seeking assistance can also contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

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