AUSTRALIA should enact a world-leading law, first actioned by the US against Russian nationals, to apply targeted sanctions to perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption, according to a new Australian Parliament report.

Tabling the report in December, chair of the Human Rights Sub-committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, the Kevin Andrews said Magnitsky-style targeted sanctions would align Australia with a global movement seeking to limit opportunities for human rights abusers, corrupt officials and their beneficiaries to enjoy the proceeds of their abuses.

"These recommendations would see Australia strengthen our commitment to protecting the human rights of people around the world. The report’s recommendations would see Australia implement a world leading version of Magnitsky legislation," Mr Andrews said.

The recommended targeted sanctions would include banning entry to Australia, and the capacity to seize assets. 

"We cannot control whether perpetrators are brought to justice within their home country, but targeted sanctions legislation will make Australian beaches, schools, medical care and financial institutions off-limits to people who have profited from unconscionable conduct," Mr Andrews said.

"A targeted sanctions regime for serious human rights abuse and corruption will close the gap of opportunity for perpetrators and stop Australia becoming a safe haven for these people."

LONG PREPARATION

The report follows a wide-ranging inquiry which commenced in 2019 and incorporates submissions from over 160 individuals and organisations from around the world.

During the inquiry, the sub-committee heard evidence from a range of expert witnesses including lawyer Geoffrey Robertson OAM QC, lawyer and human rights activist Amal Clooney and Russian world chess champion and human rights advocate Garry Kasparov.

Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Senator David Fawcett, endorsed the Sub-committee’s report. 

"The community, legal experts, victims of human rights abuse, and our allies have spoken and the Committee has listened," Senator Fawcett said. 

"Australia has an opportunity to become a leader in addressing human rights abuse and corruption, and we should do so at the first opportunity.

"Cooperation with like-minded nations on this matter has the potential to protect the human rights of countless citizens around the world. Australia is an attractive destination for investment and lifestyle, and we have the opportunity to reduce incentives for corrupt and unscrupulous human rights abusers.

"Respect for individuals and the freedoms that underpin the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lie at the heart of the values that have enabled the global rules based order to bring increased security and prosperity to the people of so many nations in recent decades."

Full report here.

ends

  • Created on .

THE Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit has released reports on Defence major projects and the administration of Commonwealth grants.

Report 483 focused on the 2018-19 Defence Major Projects Report and the Future Submarine Project.

“Reviewing the Major Projects Report each year has been a longstanding practice of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit and goes to the core of the Committee’s oversight role,” the Chair of the Committee, Lucy Wicks MP, said.

The Committee made seven recommendations, including that the ANAO consider improving the format and accessibility of the MPR. It also recommended that Defence commission an external performance review of the helicopter acquisition program in advance of its upcoming acquisition and clarify the thresholds that categorise Defence major projects listed as Projects of Concern.

The Committee’s report on the administration of government grants was based on Auditor-General reports concerning the National Competitive Grants Program; the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages; and the Community Sport Infrastructure Program.

Ms Wicks said, “The Committee made six recommendations, including that the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines be amended to strengthen record-keeping and reporting requirements, to ensure compliance and public accountability.”

The report also recommended that Sport Australia review its guidelines in relation to all current and future grants programs, to clarify the authority and duties of the Minister for Sport and the authority of the Australian Sports Commission.

Report 483 examined the following Auditor-General reports:

No. 19 (2019-20), 2018-19 Major Projects Report
No. 22 (2019-20), Future Submarine Program: Transition to Design

Report 484 examined the following Auditor-General reports:

No. 5 (2019-20), ARC Administration of the National Competitive Grants Program
No. 12 (2019-20), Award of Funding Under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages
No. 23 (2019-20), Award of Funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Program

For more information about this Committee, visit its website.

ends

  • Created on .

LAW FIRM Maurice Blackburn Lawyers filed a test case for the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in the Federal Court on December 9, 2020, seeking to overturn Qantas’s decision to outsource 2,000 workers. They claim the decision is unlawful under the Fair Work Act.

The case follows Qantas’s recent announcement that it was outsourcing 2,000 ground staff and replacing them with what the TWU described as "insecure labour hire workers".

Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein, who is acting for the TWU, said the case would test whether Qantas’s recent actions in sacking workers and outsourcing their jobs was unlawful.

“This legal challenge will put outsourcing on trial,” Mr Bornstein said.

“If Qantas can replace thousands of its employees with cheaper, insecure labour hire employees then this can happen to any other employee in any Australian workplace.  

“This important test case for the TWU will determine whether Qantas’s decision to sack 2,000 workers to outsource these jobs breaches workplace laws.

“The Fair Work Act makes clear that you can’t sack employees because they are entitled to collectively bargained employment conditions. By outsourcing this work, Qantas is seeking to avoid collective bargaining under the Fair Work Act," he said.

“If the outsourcing proceeds, Qantas will no longer have to negotiate with the workers who perform the work. Instead Qantas will be able to unilaterally impose a price for the services of outsourced workers, and those outsourced workers will not be allowed to bargain with Qantas under current IR laws.

“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the plight of insecure labour hire and outsourced workers: they aren’t paid properly, they work in unsafe conditions and they are forced to scrounge a living working at multiple jobs. Qantas has decided to pour petrol onto that fire,” Mr Bornstein said.

“This decision is bad for workers, customers and the Australian economy. More low wage, insecure jobs means less spending and more damage to a fragile economy. The only beneficiaries are big shareholders and Qantas executives,” he said.

ends

  • Created on .

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell has handed down her Insurance Inquiry final report, finding widespread market failure in regards to the availability and affordability of essential small business insurance products.

“Our Insurance Inquiry has revealed we are in the grip of a national crisis that is killing small businesses,” Ms Carnell said.

“The local insurance market has been hardening for years as insurers adapt their risk weightings to increasing threats. As a result, far too many Australian small businesses are on the brink of collapse because they cannot secure a range of insurance products necessary for their operation.

“Small businesses have told us they have either been denied insurance outright or their premiums have as much as tripled in just a few years, effectively pricing them out of the market," Ms Carnell said.

“Hundreds of small businesses have told my office they face closure if insurance remains unavailable to them. In reality, it means thousands of small businesses are likely impacted and there could be dire consequences for the Australian economy if left unaddressed.”

The final report makes a suite of recommendations designed to rebalance risks taken on by insurers and make small business insurance products more accessible.

A major recommendation included in the report is to expand the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation to provide reinsurance for all natural disasters on commercial property insurance.

“Following the devastating bushfires we saw earlier this year, many small businesses are struggling to get insurance for natural disasters,” Ms Carnell said.

“This is severely impacting small businesses such as rural pubs and regional accommodation businesses that say natural disaster coverage is inaccessible, extraordinarily costly or they have been refused coverage outright.

“In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack in the US, the government set up the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation, in response to a withdrawal of terrorism insurance by insurers and reinsurers," she said.

“This should be expanded to cover small businesses in the event of a significant natural disaster by providing a vital increase in reinsurance options for commercial insurers.”

Ms Carnell said the insurance industry urgently required a mandatory Code of Practice, recommending the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) be given additional powers to deliver dispute resolution and enforcement.

“Self-regulation in the insurance industry has failed,” Ms Carnell said.

“As it stands the insurance industry’s service and practice standards are set by voluntary codes of practice that are rarely enforced and not taken seriously by the industry.”

The report highlights a lack of availability of public liability and professional indemnity insurance, pin-pointing the unlimited nature of injury claims and potential for large damages as a key factor.

“Public liability insurance has become almost impossible for small businesses to obtain, particularly those that offer recreational activities such as caravan parks, quad bike tours or jet boating to name a few,” Ms Carnell said.

“Our report recommends Australia follow the lead of New Zealand, which has applied statutory caps on liability for personal injury. The risk environment for public liability litigation can only change through government intervention and the current framework of fault-based injury compensation creates uncontrollable risks for insurers and small businesses. It’s clear we need a civil liability framework that actually works.

“The government should also implement the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to roll out a no-fault National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS) to cover lifetime care for catastrophic injuries. It’s been nine years since the Productivity Commission released its Report into Disability Care and Support and yet the NIIS is still under consideration, much to the detriment of the small business sector.”

Ms Carnell thanked the 800-plus small businesses that took the time to complete the insurance survey, describing their feedback as both insightful and concerning.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response from the small business community, many of whom told us that insurance is one of their largest expenses and a lot are under-insured,” Ms Carnell said.

“We also heard reports of poor conduct by insurers, including very late notice of renewal terms and price hikes, effectively putting the small business in the position of accepting the terms or being uninsured.

“For a significant number of small businesses, insurance has become a daily stressor and a major reason for considering closure.

“In addition to the response we had from small businesses, we also welcome the 20-plus submissions we received from industry stakeholders, which helped in the development of this comprehensive report.

“Ultimately insurance is a necessity for small businesses to operate, which is why it is vital these products are fit-for-purpose and accessible so they are protected when things go wrong.” 

www.asbfeo.gov.aqu

ends

  • Created on .

AUSTRALIA'S peak caravan and camping industry group has welcomed the handing down of the Insurance Inquiry Report December 2020 by Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell,

The Caravan Industry Association of Australia has worked closely with its members and industry organisations to strongly advocate on the challenges that caravan park operators are facing in accessing and affording public liability and natural disaster insurance. 

Caravan Industry Association of Australia CEO, Stuart Lamont, said these challenges had "put many business operators against the ropes" following the devastating bushfire season and COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Ombudsman’s acknowledgment of market failure and the need to provide certainty to small business operators is a welcomed and accurate summary of the current insurance sector,” Mr Lamont said.

"Caravan Park operators, who are fully regulated by relevant state and federal legislation regarding work health and safety, are not seeking to avoid their responsibility regarding public liability and natural disaster management.  They are, however, seeking a consistent framework that ensures their significant investments and liability are able to be protected.

“The recommendations by the Ombudsman are a step in the right direction to support the caravan park industry," Mr :Lamont said. "Specifically, expanding the Australian Reinsurance Pool to cover all-natural disasters and adopting statutory caps on public liability will provide ongoing confidenceto operators that they will be able to find and be covered by adequate policy.”

www.caravanindustry.com.au

ends

  • Created on .

Contact Us

 

PO Box 2144
MANSFIELD QLD 4122