FINES of up to $250,000 and potential jail time are key planks of proposed legislation aimed at protecting subcontractors from unscrupulous builders who refuse to pay their bills on time.
Under amendments to the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2009, to be introduced to South Australian Parliament tomorrow, anyone who assaults, threatens or intimidates someone seeking payment for work will face fines of up to $50,0000 or two years’ jail.
Companies may face fines of up to $250,000.
Small Business Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said subcontractors deserve to be paid without fear of intimidation.
“Businesses working in the building and construction sector are entitled to be paid in a timely manner for work properly completed or goods which have been supplied,” he said.
“We need to keep the cash moving in this important industry and the Act provides one of the means in which this can occur.”
The Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2009 came into force in 2011 and was formally reviewed after three years by former District Court Judge Alan Moss. Following the multi-million dollar collapse of the Adelaide building group, Tagara, Small Business Commissioner John Chapman proposed further changes in a consultation paper which was released in June 2016.
But Master Builders SA chief executive Ian Markos said the penalties made a “mockery’’ of the government’s commitment to reducing red tape.
”Why duplicate an existing crime of assault?” he said.
“We agree there is no place for threats and intimidation when it comes to getting paid. But who will investigate the alleged breaches and prepares briefs of evidence for the Crown Prosecutor?
“We understand and applaud the intention behind this new crime, but in practice we are concerned it may create disputes rather than resolve them.”
Mr Chapman said he has received $250,000 in the State Budget to implement the legislative changes, with part of the funding for an officer to investigate claims of bullying and intimidation.
“I also have powers under other acts that require people to do certain things and if they don’t I can launch a prosecution through the Crown (Solicitor),” he said. “It’s only going to be a problem if people are behaving badly.”
Among other amendments included in the proposed legislation will be tougher reporting criteria and accountability benchmarks for private adjudicators in building disputes.
Mr Chapman said adjudicators will no longer have open-ended contracts and their decisions will have to be published in full on the Small Business Commissioner’s website to provide “greater transparency”.
Mr Chapman had sought for his office to have sole discretion to hear building disputes but he said the government thought that was a “step too far”.
For a nation that prides itself on a right to a ‘fair go’, Australia has an arguably embarrassing record when it comes to bullying in the workplace.
According to research by the University of South Australia, when compared to 31 European countries, Australia ranked sixth highest for workplace bullying, with seven per cent of Australian workers reporting instances of bullying at work in the six months prior to the study’s publication.
Workplace bullying can have a devastating impact on its victims – something that’s now being reflected in the consequences negligent employers can potentially face. In the past year, judgements handed down around the country have resulted in damages in bullying cases being paid in hundreds of thousands of dollars – not to mention a new law in Victoria providing for up to 10 years imprisonment for serious bullying. The incentives for businesses to create firm anti-bullying policies have never been greater.
More: Watch Ai Group’s webinar ‘Boss or bully’ on giving constructive feedback and correctly handling negative performance reviews.
In safeguarding your own workplace against a potentially expensive bullying claim, what can you learn from some of Australia’s worst bullies?
Lesson 1: Never ignore complaints of bullying
Whether or not you believe there is any merit in a bullying complaint, it is never wise to dismiss it out of hand without proper investigation.
Take the case of a worker who was promoted to a new role by her employer ahead of her former manager. In team meetings, she was openly demeaned and denigrated, before being excluded from a meeting called specifically to undermine her.
Despite her complaints, her supervisor resisted measures to address the situation, dismissing her reaction as “groundless and obtuse”. The Supreme Court of NSW disagreed, finding her employer had been “negligently passive” in its response to her requests for help over two years, confirming on appeal an award of almost $340,000for psychiatric injury.
Lesson 2: Ensure your managers are trained in complaint handling procedures
Over a two-year period, a female labourer was shown pornographic material, slapped on the bottom, grabbed from behind, had a sex act simulated on her and told by a male colleague that he would follow her home.
In such a situation, the woman should have been able to turn to a capable manager aware of his responsibilities – but when she did complain, her supervisor responded by laughing. While eventually moved to a different area for nine months, she was inexplicably returned and the previous behaviours resumed.
The Supreme Court of Victoria accepted she was unlikely to ever work again as a result of her treatment and the severe psychiatric condition it left her with, imposing $1.36 million in damages.
Lesson 3: Ensure your employees know how to raise a complaint
Employers have a duty of care to their employees in ensuring a safe working environment. An important part of that duty is making sure your staff know what to do when they are subject to, or witness, bullying in the workplace.
If a security guard, subjected to extensive bullying at the hands of his manager over a five-year period, had been afforded such assistance from his fellow employees – who witnessed the poor conduct – he may have been saved from years of abuse, and his employers may have avoided the imposition of almost $2 million in damages.
Lesson 4: Promptly take action
A female sales assistant worked in a university law book shop, alone with a single male supervisor who habitually subjected her to “sarcasm, hostility and rudeness” – culminating in an incident in which he violently threw a book at her.
The sales assistant brought the behaviour to the attention of the board, which promised to take measures to improve the situation, but failed to follow through – a pattern that subsequently continued across a further five years of torment.
Eventually succumbing to a major depressive and anxiety disorder that rendered her indefinitely unfit for work, the sales assistant was awarded more than $290,000 by theSupreme Court of Victoria for loss of past and future earnings, along with $300,000 in damages.
Lesson 5: Do not tolerate bad behaviour
Brodie Panlock was a 19-year-old café worker who suffered bullying six days a week for more than a year. She was spat upon and derided for her appearance, held down by her workmates, was teased about a failed suicide bid, and had rat poison left in her pay envelope, with encouragement to succeed in her next attempt at suicide.
The owner of the business was not only aware of some aspects of the bullying, but was present on occasions and sometimes condoned it.
Brodie eventually did take her own life, leading to the prosecution of her employer – who was personally fined $30,000, together with a $220,000 fine for his company – and the three responsible employees, who received fines ranging from $10,000 to $45,000.
Brodie’s enduring legacy is Victoria’s anti-bullying legislation, known as Brodie’s Law – making bullying punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Lesson 6: Be confident and reasonable in performance management
Ai Group’s members are telling us that their managers are increasingly reluctant to manage performance issues for fear of being accused of bullying.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has clarified that in the context of performance management – as distinct from ‘bullying’ – management actions do not need to be perfect to be considered ‘reasonable’. Offer a clear performance improvement policy to give assurance to workers about the process that should be followed and to give managers the confidence to manage.
The FWC has also indicated what ‘unreasonable’ management action might look like. In one recent case subject to an anti-bullying order, the unreasonable actions included: issuing a warning to an employee without having raised the concerns with him and considering his response; publicly humiliating the worker in front of clients; sending him a text message late at night and requesting him to respond at a meeting the next morning; and then not attending that meeting.
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Written by: Andrew Spence http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/revamp-of-australia-s-last-undeveloped-port-reveal
Detailed plans to revamp Australia’s last major undeveloped port waterfront have been revealed.
The South Australian government has announced more than $280 million of new private developments to help transform the historic maritime precinct of Port Adelaide into a thriving residential, commercial and tourist hub.
Two Australian developers and a South Australian construction company have been selected as preferred proponents for the development of nearly 23 hectares of waterfront land across an the inner harbor.
The proposals include nearly 1300 homes across four precincts including:
- 760 homes at Dock 1 and Port Approach (South) in the east of the inner harbour, to be developed by Starfish Developments;
- 500 homes in the North West and Fletcher’s Slip precincts in the west and north of the inner harbour to be developed by Cedar Woods;
- South Australian construction firm York Civil, plans to refurbish the former Primary Industries and Resources SA building at Cruickshank’s Corner and relocate its national headquarters to this site in the Port. The first stage of the York Civil project is expected to start this year;
- A promenade around the inner harbour is proposed maintaining public access to the waterfront, and the old Marine and Harbors building is to be redeveloped into apartments and retail premises, as well as an observation deck and an outdoor cinema.
The residential developments are expected to support about 250 direct and indirect jobs a year during seven years of construction and will generate about $280 million in private investment.
Public discussions about the redevelopment of the Port Adelaide waterfront have been ongoing since the mid-1970s but have been stymied by community concerns about the environment, proximity to heavy industry, maintaining the port’s heritage and the lack of jobs growth in the area.
Renewal SA, the state government department responsible for selling off surplus public land, released an “Urban Renewal Prospectus” last year detailing plans of its biggest series of sell-offs since it was formed in 2012.
The prospectus included 40ha across six precincts in Port Adelaide – about 14km northwest of the Adelaide CBD – and was touted as “a waterfront precinct with unrivalled redevelopment potential … Australia’s last major undeveloped port waterfront”.
Similar projects in Fremantle, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart have previously played major roles in boosting local economies and injecting life back into rundown and outdated port precincts.
South Australian Housing and Urban Development Minister Stephen Mullighan said the redevelopment couldn’t come at a better time for Port Adelaide.
“We know that there are going to be thousands of workers coming to Techport and surrounding areas to build the $50 billion Future Submarines over the next 50 years, this is going to provide an opportunity for them to live in the local community,” he said.
“I’m confident that we have struck the right balance between getting more people to live in the Port but also ensuring we learn from previous projects and the community response to them.
“Port Adelaide is a unique development opportunity combining vast parcels of waterfront land with 180 years of distinctive maritime history and heritage buildings.
“Now through these redevelopments we can encourage more people to come to live in this unique waterfront district and further build the economic and social vibrancy of the Port.”
“Master Builders is forecasting another year of solid growth in the value of building work done in 2015/16, providing further impetus to the growth in the Australian economy,” Peter Jones, Chief Economist of Master Builders Australia said.
The latest construction activity data for the June quarter show that current the residential building upturn has further to run and that claims to the contrary are jumping the gun.
Much better than expected dwelling commencements of 211, 500 occurred in 2014/15 and Master Builders forecast another plus 200,000 starts in 2015/16.
ABS forward indicators and of housing finance and building approvals project a solid pipeline of work for residential builders over the next two years and and real growth of two and half per cent in residential construction in 2015/16 is expected.
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Apartment construction is the strongest area of building activity, with mining engineering contracting fast. (ABC News)
While recent building approval figures appear to show a peak in new home construction looming, the levelling off in building plans has not yet fed through to construction activity.
The Australian Industry Group and Housing Industry Association’s Performance of Construction Index (PCI) for September came in at 51.9 – slightly down on the previous month, but still above the key 50-point level that indicates expansion.
The fall from the previous month was entirely driven by a 9.3-point slump in engineering – a category dominated by resources projects – to 36.6, indicating a sharp contraction.
Commercial construction also fell 6.5 points last month and is now slightly in negative territory at 48.1.
In contrast, house building rose 2.4 points to 56.8, indicating a solid expansion in that sector.
Apartment construction was even stronger, with a 4.5-point increase to 63.2, highlighting a unit building boom that is so far offsetting the downturn from the mining bust.
“Residential construction activity remains the cornerstone of the broader construction industry and will retain this role into at least the first half of 2016,” observed HIA economist Diwa Hopkins.
She said the commercial construction sector is also showing positive signs.
“There are some tentative signs of improvement emerging from the commercial sub-sector of construction, but these are yet to be sustained – the August rise in the commercial construction activity sub-index took a tumble in September,” the economist added.
“Nevertheless, new orders for this segment of the market are rising which suggests a recovery may emerge in the new year.”
Builders are also starting to confront rising labour costs, while building material costs are rising even more strongly, probably reflecting increasing demand and the impact of a lower dollar on import prices.
Published at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-07/residential-boom-props-up-australian-construction-industry/6833010
A jump in detached housing has seen residential building approvals in Australia soaring to eleven year highs in the latest sign of increasing home building activity.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the overall number of dwelling units approved for construction throughout the country rose 6.8 percent in January to come in at 17,514 – the highest number on record since August 2002, according to ABS figures released on Tuesday.
Whilst detached housing led the way – soaring 8.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis to come in at four year highs of 9,642 (public and private) – approvals in the multi-residential segment also rose 4.6 percent to come in at 7,812.
Compared with the same period twelve months earlier, housing and apartment approvals are up 34.6 percent.
The data follows yesterday’s report from Housing Industry Association which showed that sales of new homes over the three months to January were 22 percent higher compared with the quarter ended January last year.
RBC Capital Markets senior economist Su-Ling Ong said the latest data provided further confirmation about an improving outlook for the sector.
“It was a pretty decent jump in approvals in the month of January” Ong is quoted as saying on Australian Associated Press.
“That underlying trend continues to strengthen and the composition was very good as well. It was driven by a rise in approvals for private sector houses.
“It’s very much consistent with this upswing in residential housing construction gaining a bit of momentum.”
Approvals were up in all major states, led by Tasmania (up 10.6 percent), South Australia (10.5 percent) and Victoria (10.3 percent), with more modest rises being observed in Western Australia (5.6 percent),New South Wales (5.4 percent) and Queensland (1.0 percent).
Outside of housing, the figures show also provide further evidence of an upturn of the pace at which new work is coming in in commercial building.
On a trend basis (stripping out both seasonal factors and large one-off movements), the value of approvals in non-residential building was up 1.7 percent.
Longer term, seasonally adjusted figures show the overall value of non-residential building approvals was up 5.2 percent in the six months to January compared with the previous six months.
– See more at: http://sourceable.net/housing-approvals-soar-11-year-highs/#sthash.jRAllT3e.dpuf
An SA Parliamentary committee found the tax exemption for apprentices previously delivered a $53 million benefit to business and restoring the tax break would help get apprentices and trainees into jobs.
Changes to Skills for All funding from 4/11/2013 mean students need to meet a narrower criteria to receive fully funded training in Certificate II level courses, commonly referred to as ‘Pre-Apprenticeship’ courses.