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News News ABCC's use of coercive powers up 175%: annual report

The ABCC substantially increased its use of its compulsory examination power in 2007-08, almost tripling the number of notices to attend and answer questions, its annual report reveals.  The organisation conducted 54 interviews following the issue of notices in 2007-08 – 46 in Victoria - up from 20 in 2006-07. 

Employees were most likely to receive the notices, accounting for 36 of the interviews conducted, but the number of managers required by ABCC investigators to attend an examination jumped from 1 in 2006-07 to 15 in 2007-08. 

Of the 105 mandatory interviews conducted since the BCII Act took effect in 2005, 20 resulted in legal action that has either finished or is currently before the courts, 35 in no further action, five in reports published under s67, and 45 in ongoing investigations.

Lloyd draws on Maxwell Smart to defend reliance on coercive powers

ABC Commissioner John Lloyd defends the increased use of the power in the report, saying it is used only as a last resort where a person has failed to voluntarily provide information. 

"The power has helped break the 'cone of silence' previously imposed by threats and intimidation," he says. 

The power could be subject to greater oversight in the future, with Murray Wilcox QC saying that "safeguards are of prime importance" if the power to require individuals to attend interviews and answer questions is to be retained in his discussion paper on the proposed specialist building and construction division of Fair Work Australia (see Related Article). 

Overall, the ABCC conducted 225 investigations into 812 alleged contraventions in 2007-08, up from 216 investigations into 312 alleged contraventions the previous year. 

A quarter of all potential breaches investigated by the ABCC involved possible unlawful industrial action, ahead of possible abuses of entry rights (19%), coercion (17%), and breaches of freedom of association provisions (14%). 

Unlawful industrial action, freedom of association and right of entry matters also made up the majority of the 35 penalty proceedings conducted by the ABCC legal group in 2007-08. 

The report also shows the ABCC underspent its $29 million plus budget by almost $5 million

Workplace Express, 15 January 2009 1:05pm


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