Push for industrial manslaughter penalties

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Bosses should face 20 years in jail and $20 million in fines if they are found to be responsible for workplace deaths, unions say.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress voted on a motion calling on federal and state governments to introduce industrial manslaughter laws to hold company directors accountable for people who die on the job.

“Whether it be a Labor government or a Liberal government, let’s fight the bastards ’til we get it,” the maritime union’s Christy Cain told delegates on Wednesday.

Mr Cain recounted seeing a man who was married with three children pinned between two shipping containers on a ship at shore.

He remembered other workers who died at work and visiting their loved ones.

“I’ve seen a man in Queensland, and this is what gets you, where we took $72,000 across from Western Australia to deliver to that widow. Three kids all under the age of six,” Mr Cain said.

Then he told the story of a crushed wharfie comforted by his brother as he lay dying at work.

And a young woman in WA who fell 30 floors down a lift shaft when she stood on a bucket.

“That rotten stinking boss got fined $80,000,” Mr Cain said.

The maritime union’s WA secretary said he never wanted to have to lay another wreath at parliament for a someone killed at work.

“Whether (bosses) go to jail or they don’t, we want legislation that protects workers.”

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Tougher fines to deter company wrongdoers

Karen Sweeney
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Strict new penalties for companies that breach Australia’s consumer laws will match the severity of the wrongdoing, the Turnbull government has warned.

Tougher penalties including fines of $10 million or 10 per cent of the company’s annual turnover will act as a deterrent to bad behaviour, assistant minister to the treasurer Michael Sukkar says.

Alternatively, businesses also face handing over three times the amount of any benefit gained from their wrongdoing if that figure is higher, under legislation that passed the lower house on Wednesday.

“The increases to these maximum penalties will hold companies who breach the law accountable and impose a real financial cost instead of it just being a cost of doing business,” Mr Sukkar said.

Individuals face penalties up to $500,000.

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Budget boost for community legal centres

(Australian Associated Press)

 

NSW community legal centres – which give free legal help to more than 50,000 people annually – are set to get a $12 million funding boost in coming years.

The state government on Tuesday said it will be committing a total of $22 million over four years in next week’s budget for the centres and for civil justice initiatives to help small businesses and individuals resolve disputes quickly and cheaply.

There are more than 30 community legal centres across the state, which receive about $6.5 million in core funding each year.

That will be supplemented by top-ups worth more than $12 million over four years, starting with $3 million in 2018/19.

“This funding represents more funding certainty and (is a) significant increase in NSW government funding for CLCs to continue that often life-changing work supporting small business and some of the most disadvantaged people in our community when their chips are down,” Attorney-General Mark Speakman said in a statement.

The government is also promising $7 million in this year’s budget to improve the way small businesses resolve legal disputes using online tools.

“If small business operators can resolve their legal disputes at the click of a mouse or a tap of a touch screen, less time will be spent fighting legal battles and there’ll be more time to concentrate on the bottom line,” Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.

The Law Society of NSW welcomed the announcement but remains concerned about “ongoing inadequacies” in court resourcing and legal aid.

President Doug Humphries also warned of “unforeseen issues” for legal practitioners and litigants by using new technology as part of the government’s civil justice strategy.

“Reliance on technology to administer and deliver court services may also have a disproportionately adverse impact on people who do not have ready access to online services,” he said in a statement.

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Citizenship wait times blow out by months

Daniel McCulloch
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Wait times for Australian citizenship have blown out by several months, with senior bureaucrats attributing the blowout to a ballooning number of applications and stricter security checks.

The average time from lodging an application to conferral of citizenship has stretched from 12 months in March 2016 out to 16 months this financial year.

Home Affairs officer Luke Mansfield said there were a range of factors behind the increase.

“One is that the department has increased the integrity screening and checking processes from a national security and criminality risk perspective,” Mr Mansfield told a Senate committee in Canberra on Tuesday.

“The second factor driving that change is growth in the number of applications. The number of applications has been increasing year-on-year from a very significant base.”

Mr Mansfield said the nature of applications coming into the department had also changed.

“There has been an increase in the number of applications from people who arrived some years ago without any form of identity documentation, and the processes around positively establishing identity obviously take quite some time to achieve,” he said.

There are almost 210,000 citizenship applications “on hand” as of April 30.

These include lodgements which have not yet been assessed, others that are still being scrutinised, and people who have not yet attended citizenship ceremonies.

Mr Mansfield said there had been a 16 per cent increase in processing staff since July 2016, in an effort to keep pace with demand.

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Citizenship wait times blow out by months

Daniel McCulloch
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Wait times for Australian citizenship have blown out by several months, with senior bureaucrats attributing the blowout to a ballooning number of applications and stricter security checks.

The average time from lodging an application to conferral of citizenship has stretched from 12 months in March 2016 out to 16 months this financial year.

Home Affairs officer Luke Mansfield said there were a range of factors behind the increase.

“One is that the department has increased the integrity screening and checking processes from a national security and criminality risk perspective,” Mr Mansfield told a Senate committee in Canberra on Tuesday.

“The second factor driving that change is growth in the number of applications. The number of applications has been increasing year-on-year from a very significant base.”

Mr Mansfield said the nature of applications coming into the department had also changed.

“There has been an increase in the number of applications from people who arrived some years ago without any form of identity documentation, and the processes around positively establishing identity obviously take quite some time to achieve,” he said.

There are almost 210,000 citizenship applications “on hand” as of April 30.

These include lodgements which have not yet been assessed, others that are still being scrutinised, and people who have not yet attended citizenship ceremonies.

Mr Mansfield said there had been a 16 per cent increase in processing staff since July 2016, in an effort to keep pace with demand.

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Family trusts explained

(Feedsy Exclusive)

A family trust simply refers to a trust set up by a family group who wish to safeguard their collective assets. Such trusts can be used to provide tax benefits to the group in question, to protect assets from individual liability, or to ring-fence them for inheritance or investment purposes.

Read on and importantly seek advice when deciding if a trust is right for you;


Key Terms

Before getting down to the benefits of a family trust, it is important to establish a few key terms;


Trust Deed

The trust deed is a document which outlines the provisions of the trust, and the terms and conditions it is bound by. This document will be signed by the settlor and trustee(s) before it becomes valid.


Trustee

The trustee is basically the manager of the fund, the person who is trusted with certain executive powers and responsibilities as outlined in the trust deed.


Settlor

The settlor is a third party, not otherwise involved in the activities of the trust. They are responsible for handing over assets to the trustee on behalf of the beneficiary.


Beneficiary

A beneficiary is anyone named in the trust deed who can benefit from the assets and wealth held in the trust.


Family Trust Benefits, Explained

Family trusts enable beneficiaries to enjoy the following benefits;

  • Family assets are protected from any liabilities or actions brought against individual trustees or beneficiaries
  • The assets are also protected within the trust by family control tests, which control the management of the fund
  • Family trusts are exempt from all but one of the trust loss tests, limiting the tax which can be drawn from the trust
  • No tax is payable on distribution of funds between nominated members of the family group (although Family Trust Distribution Tax is applied when money is paid to other parties)
  • Funds are secured and can easily be passed on to future generations


When Is a Family Trust Useful?

Any family which has assets worth protecting or comes into a substantial amount of money is recommended to set up a family trust. Remember that there can be more than one trustee – just as there will usually be more than one beneficiary – so creating a family trust does not just sign over the family’s assets to the control of one member.

It is difficult to predict when someone might get into financial trouble or when an inheritance may need to be paid to a family member in the next generation. As such, it is better to set up a trust when times are good. This will then act as a financial shield on rainier days.


If you think a Family Trust might work for your family’s assets, first talk to your accountant or financial adviser for more specific advice.

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Phone app helps witnesses record evidence

Jamie McKinnell
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Memory experts hope a new smartphone app to help people record information after witnessing crimes will lead to more reliable testimony in future court cases.

iWitnessed, launched on Tuesday, uses guided questioning to prompt users to record facts about an event including its nature, location, whether there were injuries and the witness’s emotions at the time.

The content, which can be taken as text, voice recordings or images, is also time and GPS stamped with the option to forward a copy to police or a secure email address.

The app has the backing of former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC, who says the content could be relied upon in court in the same way as contemporaneous notes or recordings to refresh a person’s memory.

“Contemporaneous notes, even if scribbled on the back of a napkin, can strengthen the reliability and strength of the evidence being given in court proceedings,” he said in a statement.

The free app was developed by researchers from the University of Sydney and UNSW, who consulted with police and lawyers.

Dr Helen Paterson, a senior forensic psychology lecturer at the University of Sydney who worked on the project, says recalling an event within 24 hours of when it occurred helps consolidate a memory.

“That’s a critical time period – that’s what our research has shown,” she told AAP.

“You have to try to give it as soon as possible after the event, but within 24 hours.”

The recall process can also help a person resist misinformation later on, for example in a police interview that includes leading questions.

The app includes an “emotions” tab for users to record how they felt at the time – an addition that came about after police suggestions.

“That can have implications for prosecutions,” Dr Paterson said.

“For example, if you feel intimidated or scared, that might mean different crimes have been committed.”

Lawyers frequently question the reliability of witness memories as part of a defence argument, particularly when a trial takes place many years after a crime.

Dr Paterson said she hopes the app will help courts get to the truth of the matter.

“I hope that it’s going to lead to more reliable testimony in court.”

iWitnessed can be downloaded from the Apple or Android app stores from Tuesday.

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Phone app helps witnesses record evidence

Jamie McKinnell
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Memory experts hope a new smartphone app to help people record information after witnessing crimes will lead to more reliable testimony in future court cases.

iWitnessed, launched on Tuesday, uses guided questioning to prompt users to record facts about an event including its nature, location, whether there were injuries and the witness’s emotions at the time.

The content, which can be taken as text, voice recordings or images, is also time and GPS stamped with the option to forward a copy to police or a secure email address.

The app has the backing of former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC, who says the content could be relied upon in court in the same way as contemporaneous notes or recordings to refresh a person’s memory.

“Contemporaneous notes, even if scribbled on the back of a napkin, can strengthen the reliability and strength of the evidence being given in court proceedings,” he said in a statement.

The free app was developed by researchers from the University of Sydney and UNSW, who consulted with police and lawyers.

Dr Helen Paterson, a senior forensic psychology lecturer at the University of Sydney who worked on the project, says recalling an event within 24 hours of when it occurred helps consolidate a memory.

“That’s a critical time period – that’s what our research has shown,” she told AAP.

“You have to try to give it as soon as possible after the event, but within 24 hours.”

The recall process can also help a person resist misinformation later on, for example in a police interview that includes leading questions.

The app includes an “emotions” tab for users to record how they felt at the time – an addition that came about after police suggestions.

“That can have implications for prosecutions,” Dr Paterson said.

“For example, if you feel intimidated or scared, that might mean different crimes have been committed.”

Lawyers frequently question the reliability of witness memories as part of a defence argument, particularly when a trial takes place many years after a crime.

Dr Paterson said she hopes the app will help courts get to the truth of the matter.

“I hope that it’s going to lead to more reliable testimony in court.”

iWitnessed can be downloaded from the Apple or Android app stores from Tuesday.

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When it comes to family business disputes, what are your client’s most urgent needs?

(Kate Russell)
Adelaide Conflict Management

I recently attended a great workshop by Bernie Mayer entitled “Getting to the Heart of Conflict”. Bernie is a significant thought leader in the area of managing conflict.

Two specific issues he raised during that workshop really struck a chord with me with respect to my family business dispute clients. Firstly, our clients often have issues of security and safety that they need addressed first before they can focus their attention on the issue at hand. Secondly, some conflict is so entrenched that the best that can be expected is that the parties work out ways to manage it; not resolve it.

Let me explain.

Meet your client’s need to feel “safe” first

We, as mediators and financial service providers, are often looking at solving our clients’ long term issues; for example what will this business look like in five to ten years’ time, is this business viable in the long term in light of the relationship issues etc.. But when a person is very stressed due to financial and relationship issues they are usually focused on dealing with their short term pain. They often do not have the capacity to deal with anything else in that moment.

Moreover a client under a lot of stress may behave in a way that does not reflect their best self. They may lash out, blame others for their pain or the situation and become quite aggressive if they think that they are being challenged.

We need to take the time to ensure that our client’s short term needs are met as best as possible. That might mean providing additional information to help them feel like they have some control over their situation. It might mean ensuring that your client has the opportunity to feel heard and respected particularly when they are doubting themselves; this usually often means providing your client with more time and in person appointments where you do a lot of listening and not much else. Your client does not usually need you to tell them that they made a mistake or that they could have made a different decision; they need someone they can trust, who will take their call, who will listen to them. You will be able to provide advice, challenge their thinking and/or decisions made once you have given them that extra time and support; once the trust is well and truly established.

Then you can focus more on the long term issues.

We can’t fix everything

Entrenched conflict in a family business is often extremely difficult to “resolve”. That conflict usually has significant history; and the issues that caused the conflict may have no relevance to the day to day running of a business. The conflict might be about the fact that their parents bought the oldest brother a new bike when he was 10 and the younger brother only ever got his brother’s hand me downs. There might be a history of drug and alcohol abuse that has been a problem for many generations and continues to raise its ugly head. Or certain members of the family may have been “at war” for many generations and it has become part of who they are.

There is no magic bullet for some of these disputes.

As mediators and conflict specialists we need to work out whether we should open every Pandora’s box or whether, in some circumstances, it is better to leave some issues alone, because it may exacerbate the conflict.

Sometimes it is just best to call the issue out; make sure that everyone is aware that this is a significant issue and that it is not something that can easily be resolved; but then say that with limited time and resources, we need to focus on this business related problem and only this issue right here and now. To acknowledge that the problem will still be there; but that’s ok, it is something they can come back to later. But for now, we need to work out how to move forward; to make some decisions about how we deal with the issue at hand and what are the next 3-5 steps to get them out of this current situation.

It is often difficult for a family member to walk away from a family business without potentially damaging relationships within the family. There is so much at stake.

Additional support services

Finally it should also be noted, that members of a family business dealing with significant conflict may need access to a range of services to ensure that they have the capacity to deal with the issues at hand. In addition to financial advice and the help of a mediator, it may also be useful for the family to have access to a counsellor or psychologist to help them deal with the emotional fall out that will inevitably come up.

Family businesses dealing with entrenched conflict often just continue on, suffering in silence, because dealing with the conflict seems too overwhelming. This is not good for their mental and/or physical health. With mediation family members can explore different ways to communicate and manage the day to day running of the business while they consider their long term options.


Kate Russell
Adelaide Conflict Management
kate@adelaideconflictmanagement.com.au 

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When it comes to family business disputes, what are your client’s most urgent needs?

(Kate Russell)
Adelaide Conflict Management

I recently attended a great workshop by Bernie Mayer entitled “Getting to the Heart of Conflict”. Bernie is a significant thought leader in the area of managing conflict.

Two specific issues he raised during that workshop really struck a chord with me with respect to my family business dispute clients. Firstly, our clients often have issues of security and safety that they need addressed first before they can focus their attention on the issue at hand. Secondly, some conflict is so entrenched that the best that can be expected is that the parties work out ways to manage it; not resolve it.

Let me explain.

Meet your client’s need to feel “safe” first

We, as mediators and financial service providers, are often looking at solving our clients’ long term issues; for example what will this business look like in five to ten years’ time, is this business viable in the long term in light of the relationship issues etc.. But when a person is very stressed due to financial and relationship issues they are usually focused on dealing with their short term pain. They often do not have the capacity to deal with anything else in that moment.

Moreover a client under a lot of stress may behave in a way that does not reflect their best self. They may lash out, blame others for their pain or the situation and become quite aggressive if they think that they are being challenged.

We need to take the time to ensure that our client’s short term needs are met as best as possible. That might mean providing additional information to help them feel like they have some control over their situation. It might mean ensuring that your client has the opportunity to feel heard and respected particularly when they are doubting themselves; this usually often means providing your client with more time and in person appointments where you do a lot of listening and not much else. Your client does not usually need you to tell them that they made a mistake or that they could have made a different decision; they need someone they can trust, who will take their call, who will listen to them. You will be able to provide advice, challenge their thinking and/or decisions made once you have given them that extra time and support; once the trust is well and truly established.

Then you can focus more on the long term issues.

We can’t fix everything

Entrenched conflict in a family business is often extremely difficult to “resolve”. That conflict usually has significant history; and the issues that caused the conflict may have no relevance to the day to day running of a business. The conflict might be about the fact that their parents bought the oldest brother a new bike when he was 10 and the younger brother only ever got his brother’s hand me downs. There might be a history of drug and alcohol abuse that has been a problem for many generations and continues to raise its ugly head. Or certain members of the family may have been “at war” for many generations and it has become part of who they are.

There is no magic bullet for some of these disputes.

As mediators and conflict specialists we need to work out whether we should open every Pandora’s box or whether, in some circumstances, it is better to leave some issues alone, because it may exacerbate the conflict.

Sometimes it is just best to call the issue out; make sure that everyone is aware that this is a significant issue and that it is not something that can easily be resolved; but then say that with limited time and resources, we need to focus on this business related problem and only this issue right here and now. To acknowledge that the problem will still be there; but that’s ok, it is something they can come back to later. But for now, we need to work out how to move forward; to make some decisions about how we deal with the issue at hand and what are the next 3-5 steps to get them out of this current situation.

It is often difficult for a family member to walk away from a family business without potentially damaging relationships within the family. There is so much at stake.

Additional support services

Finally it should also be noted, that members of a family business dealing with significant conflict may need access to a range of services to ensure that they have the capacity to deal with the issues at hand. In addition to financial advice and the help of a mediator, it may also be useful for the family to have access to a counsellor or psychologist to help them deal with the emotional fall out that will inevitably come up.

Family businesses dealing with entrenched conflict often just continue on, suffering in silence, because dealing with the conflict seems too overwhelming. This is not good for their mental and/or physical health. With mediation family members can explore different ways to communicate and manage the day to day running of the business while they consider their long term options.


Kate Russell
Adelaide Conflict Management
kate@adelaideconflictmanagement.com.au 

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The pitfalls of an office romance

Belinda Tasker
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Barnaby Joyce’s extra-marital affair with his former media adviser has made him the latest poster boy for the pitfalls of office romances.

Workplace and relationship experts say each case is a wake-up call for employers and employees about how to handle themselves when office romances bloom.

With office relationships increasingly common, they advise employers to have clear policies in place about what happens when co-workers become a couple.

And a key plank of those policies should be for loved-up colleagues to declare their relationship pretty early on to a human resources executive or their boss, especially when a manager and subordinate are involved.

Mr Joyce, 50, has repeatedly stressed his relationship with Ms Campion, 33, who is expecting his baby in April, is private.

Australian Human Resource Institute chairman Peter Wilson says while inter-office romances are not illegal and there’s little point banning them, bosses sharing intimate relationships with staff have a duty to declare it because of potential conflicts of interest.

“Where people who are working together side by side and they have power over finances or decisions of the organisation where that has a risk of being compromised, that’s where the problem comes, especially when it’s not declared,” he told AAP.

“You can see the problems that the Barnaby Joyce revelations have had on both counts, declaration and implications in terms of allegations about what it might have meant for the appointments of his partner.”

Mr Wilson says if a manager and subordinate reveal they are in a relationship, their employers should separate them to avoid any conflict of interest and calm any worries among co-workers.

“Co-workers can feel that their rights to fair treatment in the workplace for promotion can be influenced by pillow talk, so they might think their chances for promotions or pay rises are prejudiced,” he said.

“We did a survey on business ethics recently and it found that people expect leaders to be ethical, and the higher ethical obligations fall with people in the most senior positions.

“So whether it’s the chief executive of a top company or the deputy prime minister or prime minister, people expect those people to hold the higher standards.”

Associate Professor Angela Knox, of the University of Sydney’s Business School, says a boss who declares their relationship with a subordinate is ultimately protecting their lover.

“More than anything it’s to protect the subordinate because there is a power imbalance,” she said.

“You never know; yes, it might turn into 50-odd years of marriage but it also might turn sour and very nasty.”

A Relationships Australia survey in 2011 found 40 per cent of 35 to 49-year-olds met their spouse or partner at work.

The head of the organisation’s NSW branch, clinical psychologist Elisabeth Shaw, says while the workplace is an obvious source of dating opportunities, office affairs involving married people can have huge impacts.

“It depends how popular the people are. If everyone likes them and understands the attraction there can be a certain amount of benevolence towards it even if it’s not appropriate,” Ms Shaw said.

“But it can be that you find people are morally compromised. If you have social functions where you’ve brought your partner along routinely and so everyone knows them, it’s harder (for colleagues) to disengage and say, ‘well what they do is their own business’.

“I think if you know their partners, people can feel all sorts of compromise if they are asked to keep a secret.”

Careers can also be put at risk for those dallying in office affairs.

 

Read it on Apple news

The pitfalls of an office romance

Belinda Tasker
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Barnaby Joyce’s extra-marital affair with his former media adviser has made him the latest poster boy for the pitfalls of office romances.

Workplace and relationship experts say each case is a wake-up call for employers and employees about how to handle themselves when office romances bloom.

With office relationships increasingly common, they advise employers to have clear policies in place about what happens when co-workers become a couple.

And a key plank of those policies should be for loved-up colleagues to declare their relationship pretty early on to a human resources executive or their boss, especially when a manager and subordinate are involved.

Mr Joyce, 50, has repeatedly stressed his relationship with Ms Campion, 33, who is expecting his baby in April, is private.

Australian Human Resource Institute chairman Peter Wilson says while inter-office romances are not illegal and there’s little point banning them, bosses sharing intimate relationships with staff have a duty to declare it because of potential conflicts of interest.

“Where people who are working together side by side and they have power over finances or decisions of the organisation where that has a risk of being compromised, that’s where the problem comes, especially when it’s not declared,” he told AAP.

“You can see the problems that the Barnaby Joyce revelations have had on both counts, declaration and implications in terms of allegations about what it might have meant for the appointments of his partner.”

Mr Wilson says if a manager and subordinate reveal they are in a relationship, their employers should separate them to avoid any conflict of interest and calm any worries among co-workers.

“Co-workers can feel that their rights to fair treatment in the workplace for promotion can be influenced by pillow talk, so they might think their chances for promotions or pay rises are prejudiced,” he said.

“We did a survey on business ethics recently and it found that people expect leaders to be ethical, and the higher ethical obligations fall with people in the most senior positions.

“So whether it’s the chief executive of a top company or the deputy prime minister or prime minister, people expect those people to hold the higher standards.”

Associate Professor Angela Knox, of the University of Sydney’s Business School, says a boss who declares their relationship with a subordinate is ultimately protecting their lover.

“More than anything it’s to protect the subordinate because there is a power imbalance,” she said.

“You never know; yes, it might turn into 50-odd years of marriage but it also might turn sour and very nasty.”

A Relationships Australia survey in 2011 found 40 per cent of 35 to 49-year-olds met their spouse or partner at work.

The head of the organisation’s NSW branch, clinical psychologist Elisabeth Shaw, says while the workplace is an obvious source of dating opportunities, office affairs involving married people can have huge impacts.

“It depends how popular the people are. If everyone likes them and understands the attraction there can be a certain amount of benevolence towards it even if it’s not appropriate,” Ms Shaw said.

“But it can be that you find people are morally compromised. If you have social functions where you’ve brought your partner along routinely and so everyone knows them, it’s harder (for colleagues) to disengage and say, ‘well what they do is their own business’.

“I think if you know their partners, people can feel all sorts of compromise if they are asked to keep a secret.”

Careers can also be put at risk for those dallying in office affairs.

 

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China eyes Japan-Aust defence visits pact

Lisa Martin
(Australian Associated Press)

 

China appears unimpressed that Australia and Japan are set to sign a defence pact for military visits.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to travel to Japan this month to sign a visiting forces agreement with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

The agreement will make it easier for Australia, Japan and the US to conduct military exercises together on Japanese soil.

The agreement sets out the legal status for military personnel visits.

A spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy in Canberra said China was aware of the reports about the agreement being signed.

“This is a bilateral issue between Japan and Australia,” she said.

“At the same time, China believes that the military cooperation among the countries concerned should not undermine the security interests of other countries or affect the regional peace and stability.”

Japan and Australia have been negotiating an agreement since 2014.

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What should you consider when hiring your first staff member?

(Feedsy exclusive)

Starting a business is an exciting experience, but it can also be challenging – especially when it’s time to hire your first staff member. Here are some of the essential steps you need to take to ensure you’re complying with Australian law and doing the right thing by your new employee and yourself as a business owner.


What kind of employee do you need?

Obviously, if you need to hire an employee, you have work for them to do, but you have to think realistically about how much of it there will be. There’s no point hiring a full-time employee if the work can be completed in part-time hours.

If you’re not sure how long the work is going to last, you may consider hiring a temporary staff member through an employment agency – or if you need someone in the short term with a specific skill, you can hire an independent contractor. It all depends on the nature of the work and whether or not you need an employee on a permanent basis.


Your legal obligations as an employer

As an employer, you have a number of legal obligations to your workers. Many of these are financial responsibilities, including:

  • Paying them the right wages
  • Ensuring they receive pay slips
  • Making sure they are reimbursed for any expenses they incur related to their job
  • Making PAYG tax payments to the Australian Tax Office
  • Paying the right contributions under the Superannuation Guarantee legislation.

You are also legally obliged to make sure the workplace is safe for your employees, and you must have workers compensation insurance for each one of your staff members.

In addition, you are expected to maintain certain standards of behaviour – you must treat your employees with respect, and not say or do anything that could humiliate them, distress them or damage their reputation.

Please be aware that employment laws differ between different states and territories – you must make sure you are complying with the law where your business is based.


If you decide to hire an independent contractor

Your legal responsibilities are different if you choose to hire an independent contractor instead of a permanent employee. An independent contractor is legally self-employed, so you are not their employer. They are responsible for paying their own tax and super. The fees you pay them for their services are negotiated between you and them, and they will invoice you for their fees, so you do not have to provide wage slips.

If you hire a permanent employee, it is illegal to claim they are an independent contractor – some business owners attempt to do this to avoid having to abide by their legal obligations as employers. This is known as “sham contracting”, and it carries a penalty of $54,000.


How to find the right person for the job

Most business owners find new employees through advertising the job and interviewing the strongest candidates. You should choose someone who has the skills and experience you’re looking for, to make sure they will be able to do the job proficiently from the outset.

It is your responsibility to check that the person you hire is legally allowed to work in Australia, even if they’re an independent contractor. You can be penalised for employing an illegal worker, even if you were unaware of the fact.

Citizens and permanent residents of Australia, and citizens of New Zealand can legally work in Australia. People from other countries may also be able to, depending on the conditions of their visa. There may be limitations on the number of hours a visa holder can work, or their visa may not allow them to work in Australia at all. If you’re unsure, you can check with the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service, which is free.


When you employ your new staff member

Once you’ve decided on the person you want to hire, you should make them an offer in writing. The more well-documented everything about their employment is, the better you are both protected legally. You have a legal responsibility as an employer to keep copies of employment records, wage slips and tax contributions for all your employees.

You are also obliged to make sure the conditions of employment you offer them meet the National Employment Standards. These are ten minimum employment standards that all employees are legally entitled to, including:

  • Maximum weekly hours
  • Leave entitlement in a variety of different circumstances
  • Public holidays
  • Provision for flexible working hours
  • Redundancy pay
  • Fair Work Information Statement.

Any contract you offer to a permanent employee must meet these standards. In addition, the wage you offer them must be equal to or greater than the national minimum wage.

Once your chosen candidate accepts your offer of employment, you’ll need to make sure they have a clear idea of what the job involves and what you expect from them. It’s important to invest time in building a positive and productive relationship with them to achieve the best outcomes for both of you.

Becoming an employer is a big responsibility, but if you do it right and remain aware of your legal responsibilities it is a hugely positive step. Hiring the right person will make all the difference to the success of your business.

References

https://www.business.gov.au/info/run/employ-people/employees-and-record-keeping/legal-obligations-for-employing-people

https://www.business.gov.au/info/run/employ-people/recruitment-hiring-employees/taking-on-an-employee-checklist

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/rights-and-obligations/independent-contractors-and-employees

http://www.border.gov.au/Busi/visas-and-migration/visa-entitlement-verification-online-(vevo)

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/national-employment-standards

 

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What should you consider when hiring your first staff member?

(Feedsy exclusive)

Starting a business is an exciting experience, but it can also be challenging – especially when it’s time to hire your first staff member. Here are some of the essential steps you need to take to ensure you’re complying with Australian law and doing the right thing by your new employee and yourself as a business owner.


What kind of employee do you need?

Obviously, if you need to hire an employee, you have work for them to do, but you have to think realistically about how much of it there will be. There’s no point hiring a full-time employee if the work can be completed in part-time hours.

If you’re not sure how long the work is going to last, you may consider hiring a temporary staff member through an employment agency – or if you need someone in the short term with a specific skill, you can hire an independent contractor. It all depends on the nature of the work and whether or not you need an employee on a permanent basis.


Your legal obligations as an employer

As an employer, you have a number of legal obligations to your workers. Many of these are financial responsibilities, including:

  • Paying them the right wages
  • Ensuring they receive pay slips
  • Making sure they are reimbursed for any expenses they incur related to their job
  • Making PAYG tax payments to the Australian Tax Office
  • Paying the right contributions under the Superannuation Guarantee legislation.

You are also legally obliged to make sure the workplace is safe for your employees, and you must have workers compensation insurance for each one of your staff members.

In addition, you are expected to maintain certain standards of behaviour – you must treat your employees with respect, and not say or do anything that could humiliate them, distress them or damage their reputation.

Please be aware that employment laws differ between different states and territories – you must make sure you are complying with the law where your business is based.


If you decide to hire an independent contractor

Your legal responsibilities are different if you choose to hire an independent contractor instead of a permanent employee. An independent contractor is legally self-employed, so you are not their employer. They are responsible for paying their own tax and super. The fees you pay them for their services are negotiated between you and them, and they will invoice you for their fees, so you do not have to provide wage slips.

If you hire a permanent employee, it is illegal to claim they are an independent contractor – some business owners attempt to do this to avoid having to abide by their legal obligations as employers. This is known as “sham contracting”, and it carries a penalty of $54,000.


How to find the right person for the job

Most business owners find new employees through advertising the job and interviewing the strongest candidates. You should choose someone who has the skills and experience you’re looking for, to make sure they will be able to do the job proficiently from the outset.

It is your responsibility to check that the person you hire is legally allowed to work in Australia, even if they’re an independent contractor. You can be penalised for employing an illegal worker, even if you were unaware of the fact.

Citizens and permanent residents of Australia, and citizens of New Zealand can legally work in Australia. People from other countries may also be able to, depending on the conditions of their visa. There may be limitations on the number of hours a visa holder can work, or their visa may not allow them to work in Australia at all. If you’re unsure, you can check with the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service, which is free.


When you employ your new staff member

Once you’ve decided on the person you want to hire, you should make them an offer in writing. The more well-documented everything about their employment is, the better you are both protected legally. You have a legal responsibility as an employer to keep copies of employment records, wage slips and tax contributions for all your employees.

You are also obliged to make sure the conditions of employment you offer them meet the National Employment Standards. These are ten minimum employment standards that all employees are legally entitled to, including:

  • Maximum weekly hours
  • Leave entitlement in a variety of different circumstances
  • Public holidays
  • Provision for flexible working hours
  • Redundancy pay
  • Fair Work Information Statement.

Any contract you offer to a permanent employee must meet these standards. In addition, the wage you offer them must be equal to or greater than the national minimum wage.

Once your chosen candidate accepts your offer of employment, you’ll need to make sure they have a clear idea of what the job involves and what you expect from them. It’s important to invest time in building a positive and productive relationship with them to achieve the best outcomes for both of you.

Becoming an employer is a big responsibility, but if you do it right and remain aware of your legal responsibilities it is a hugely positive step. Hiring the right person will make all the difference to the success of your business.

References

https://www.business.gov.au/info/run/employ-people/employees-and-record-keeping/legal-obligations-for-employing-people

https://www.business.gov.au/info/run/employ-people/recruitment-hiring-employees/taking-on-an-employee-checklist

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/rights-and-obligations/independent-contractors-and-employees

https://www.border.gov.au/Busi/visas-and-migration/visa-entitlement-verification-online-(vevo)

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/national-employment-standards

 

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