BUSINESSES Australia-wide should benefit from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s (AAT) creation of what is being called a ‘rocket docket’ to speed up commercial decision making.

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Sean Robertson, McCullough Robertson Lawyers.

 

AAT, the tribunal that reviews certain decisions made by Federal Government regulatory bodies, will use the rocket docket to accelerate decisions that have significant commercial ramifications and those relating to the accreditation, licensing or registration of individuals or companies.

McCullough Robertson Lawyers corporate advisory team partner, Sean Robertson said the new system was expected to “greatly expedite the hearing of those appeals” and businesses Australia-wide would benefit from the introduction of an expedited appeals process to overcome current delays of often a year or more.

“My clients often want to appeal regulatory decisions, but the time spent getting the decision to an AAT hearing generally makes an appeal pointless from a commercial perspective,” Mr Robertson said.

“We are hopeful that the introduction of the rocket docket will change that.”

Many of Mr Robertson’s clients are in the agribusiness sector, producing and distributing wine, olives, cotton, timber, poultry, cattle, almonds, flowers, sugar, water and grain. Delayed decisions can have dramatic impacts on these businesses.

Mr Robertson, a regular lecturer on compliance with the Corporations Act 2001 and financial services generally, has published many papers and articles and he also co-authored A Practical Guide to Managed Investments published by the Law Book Company, which is now in its third edition.  

The AAT is a quasi-judicial body responsible for reviewing certain administrative decisions of organs of the Federal Government, and arriving at what is often termed in judgements as the “correct and preferable” decision. 

The tribunal reviews a wide array of administrative decisions, including those by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The AAT’s Annual Report for 2012-2013 revealed that in that year, 60 percent of matters progressed to a hearing within 40 weeks of lodgement, and that the AAT generally aimed to finalise the majority of applications within 12 months of lodgement.

The AAT has sought public comment on the proposed docket. The draft can be found on the AAT’s website at http://www.aat.gov.au/.

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JANUARY 31 is the deadline for registering property interests on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) under the Federal Government’s transitional provisions.

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January 31 is the deadline for Personal Property Securities registrations - or you may go down the list of claimants.

 

While organisations can still register a transitional security interest (TSI) on the PPSR after January 31, 2014, registering until after that date will result in losing the benefit of the transitional provisions – which could mean losing your current payment priority after a default.

The ‘perfected’ status of the security interest will only begin from the time of registration on the PPSR, instead of the earlier date allowable under the transitional provisions of the Personal Property Securities Act 2009 (PPS Act) if registered before midnight of  January 31, 2014, Canberra time.

If a security interest loses its ‘perfected’ status its priority ranking will not be preserved. Another person or organisation with a security interest in the same collateral with a higher priority ranking (for example, a secured party who registered during the transitional period) will be paid out ahead of your organisation in the case of a default.

There is also the risk that if the grantor enters bankruptcy or insolvency, and a security interest has not been perfected at relevant times, the security holder will lose their security interest altogether.

From January 30 2012, the PPS Act established a new system for the creation, priority and enforcement of security interests in personal property, which it describes as all property other than land, fixtures and certain statutory interests.

The PPS Act generally applies to security interests in goods located in Australia, or to the grantor of the security interest being an Australian entity.

The centrepiece of the PPS Act is the national Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) on which security interests in personal property are registered.

A TSI is an interest in personal property that, in substance, secures payment or performance of an obligation which existed prior to January 30, 2012.

TSIs also include security interests that did not exist at January 30, 2012, but were created under a security agreement that existed prior to that date and continued to exist after that time.

An example of this could be goods supplied in 2013 under a retention of title (ROT) agreement that was created in 2011.

TSIs can include ‘PPS leases’, which are generally leases for a term of more than a year, or more than 90 days for certain serial numbered goods, such as a car.

Secured parties need to register their TSIs on the PPSR before midnight on January 31, 2014, Canberra time, to take advantage of ‘temporary perfection’ and preserve the priority status of that TSI. Temporary perfection for the TSI will not apply from February 1, 2014. Registration of a TSI is free.

Examples of commercial arrangements that may be TSIs not yet registered on the PPSR include leases/hiring agreements, retention of title supplies and commercial consignments.

If not registered, the ‘perfected’ status of a security interest will only begin from the time of registration on the PPSR, instead of the earlier date allowable under the transitional provisions.

http://www.ppsr.gov.au/

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TEYS Australia chief executive Brad Teys said he was "disappointed' over Friday’s (May 31) 24-hour strike by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) at the firm's Beenleigh, Queensland plant. He called on the union to negotiate rather than strike in the "middle of negotiations" for a new workplace agreement.

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Teys Australia CEO, Brad Teys. (Image: teysaust.com.au)

 

Mr Teys said today's union claims that workers are being offered less pay was a smokescreen, as nothing has been finalised.

“All of our staff are paid – and will continue to be paid – above award rates. What we can no longer sustain are outdated and unrealistic employment terms that make us uncompetitive,” Mr Teys said.

Mr Teys said these included 50 percent leave loading, penalty rates within ordinary hours, forced payment for idle time and increased workers compensation benefits above that prescribed by legislation.

Teys’ workers, he said, are even mandated an extra 'Butcher’s Picnic' public holiday which is never actually observed but requires penalty rates to be paid.

“The AMIEU seems determined to remain in the 70s, refusing to acknowledge the reality that unless things change there will be no jobs," Mr Teys said.

“Australians understand that the workplace model of decades ago, where unions told you what you could and couldn’t do, and what you would and wouldn’t pay, is gone.”

Mr Teys said he was baffled by the union’s claim that the plant’s profit over nine years of $38 million meant that the company could afford to bow to the union’s demands.

“This equals an average annual profit of $4.2 million on a $150 million asset base. That’s a 2.8 percent return, decreasing to a one per cent return over the past four years.”

He pointed out that a bank would have provided a four percent return with no risk - even at record low interest rates.

“Does the union want us to lose money?" he asked. "It’s weird logic. If we are not making a profit there will be no jobs and who wins then?”

Mr Teys said the forward view was one of drought, more hard times for producers and distorted markets.

“We must change the way we operate. We must reform or there will be no beef processing industry.

“We call on the union to stop the power games, put their members’ interests first and get back to the negotiating table.”

www.teysaust.com.au

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AUSTRALIAN law firms generally know they must rapidly adopt new technologies to keep up with an increasingly hi-tech, fast-paced, reduced fee operating environment - but most are struggling to master mobility and it's costing them.

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LexisNexis CEO TJ Viljoen.

 

Research by business and legal information provider LexisNexis in conjunction with the Lawtech Summit & Awards has found that mobile technologies are revolutionising the way law firms do business and most are not keeping up.

A dramatic impact on the Australian legal sector has come from so-called ‘cloud' services and the new capabilities to have certain types of administrative legal work completed internationally at lower cost to clients. It has also created new risks for the sector.

The Firm of the Future study of Australian legal CIOs, knowledge and information technology managers released last week by LexisNexis and Lawtech Summit & Awards revealed 67 percent of respondents rated ‘incorporating mobile devices enterprise-wide' as their biggest challenge, followed by ‘developing more efficient IT solutions for work management' (63 percent), the ‘willingness of the partners to invest in IT upgrades and developments' (57 percent) and the ‘growing use of collaboration tools' (56 percent). Most firms were able to nominate more than one challenge.

The study found key drivers for change were ‘new technologies' (92 percent), ‘increasing use of mobile technologies' (89 percent), a keen ‘focus on time savings' (81 percent) and ‘providing value for money' (70 percent).

"By 2023, legal operations will be technology driven," LexisNexis Pacific CEO TJ Viljoen said.

"Complex workflow, document production, knowledge management and practice management systems will do most of the work with legal staff only working on matters requiring specific technical legal knowledge. More structured tasks will be completed either by automated cloud-based systems or outsourced to low cost offshore providers."

Mr Viljoen said, in addition, a new generation of lawyers will be technology savvy, enabling them to work from home or in smaller non-CBD based offices. They would work more collaboratively with clients either at their offices, through video conferencing and cloud services, or indeed in the local café.

"The question I ask every day is ‘how I can help make my lawyers' job easier, more efficient and client centric?'" said Anthony Bleasdale, general manager for knowledge management at Maurice Blackburn.

"Invariably this comes back to mobility; unfettered access to information and searching capabilities irrespective of whether a lawyer is at home, in the office, with a client or in a coffee shop. The holy grail will be giving our people technologies and systems that they don't have to learn and don't have to be trained in."

According to Mr Viljoen, "There is a clear path in where CIOs are investing their budgets and resources over the next 10 years.

"The key priority is improving operational cost efficiency through improved monitoring and processes and developing better collaboration tools.

"Utilising the latest technological advancements and cloud computing practices will enable fast-moving firms to get a competitive advantage. Those that hesitate or want to maintain the status quo will not thrive in this increasingly fast, mobile, collaborative and competitive marketplace," Mr Viljoen said.

"The firm of the future will be a very different to the firms we are familiar with today. The changes will be unprecedented.

"Lawyers will be freed up from the more mundane tasks enabling to focus on providing technically outstanding, commercially oriented advice that will add real value to their clients' business," Mr Viljoen said.

A series of video interviews on the research appear on YouTube/LexisNexisAustralia.

 http://www.lexisnexis.com.au/

http://www.lawtechsummit.com.au/

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AUSTRALIA has officially welcomed a new United Nations (UN) report affirming that international law applies to states' use of cyberspace. The way international law is evolving to cope with the impact of the internet on markets is an issue of growing concern for business -- as well as new security challenges.

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How does law cope with the borderless internet?

 

In a report released last week, the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) - which considered developments in the field of information and telecommunications ‘in the context of international security' - affirmed that international law applied to states' use of information and communications technologies. In particular, the group found that the UN Charter covered cyberspace.

The UN group consisted of 15 experts nominated by the governments of Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It is the first time a UN group has come to such a conclusion.

The UN group was established by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 to study existing and potential threats in the sphere of information security and how nations could cooperate to overcome them.

The Australian Government last week congratulated the experts on their historic agreement and noted "this breakthrough was made under the leadership of an Australian chair, Deborah Stokes, who is now Australia's High Commissioner in Port Moresby".

The report also highlighted the important role of confidence building measures to promote trust between states and help reduce the risk of conflict in cyberspace.

"Australia now looks forward to working with international partners on how international law applies to states' use of cyberspace," a Federal Government spokesman said.

US State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said, "All UN member states share a common commitment to the pursuit of peace. We are all parties to the UN Charter, which seeks to prevent war of all kinds. We also subscribe to the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Armed Conflict, which are aimed at minimizing civilian suffering when armed conflict occurs.

"These norms are a cornerstone of international relations and are particularly important for cyberspace, where state-on-state activities are becoming more prevalent.

"The United States is pleased to join consensus to affirm the applicability of international law to cyberspace. With that clear affirmation, this consensus sends a strong signal: States must act in cyberspace under the established international rules and principles that have guided their actions for decades - in peacetime and during conflict."

How laws are applied to cyberspace is an issue increasingly facing business and the UN approach is a welcome pointer to future trade involving the internet.

http://www.dfat.gov.au/

http://www.state.gov/

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DURING the recent Fraud Awareness Week 2013 (November 3-9), organisers the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) highlighted steps businesses need to take to help avoid being the victims of fraud. Image

More than 900 organisations worldwide took part in International Fraud Awareness Week 2013 as official supporters to promote anti-fraud awareness and prevention.

During Fraud Week, the ACFE circulated these basic tips any organisation should be aware of to help prevent and detect fraud:

1. Be proactive. 

Establish and maintain internal controls specifically designed to prevent and detect fraud. Adopt a code of ethics for management and employees. Set a tone at the top that the company will not tolerate any unethical behaviour. 

2. Establish hiring procedures. 

Every company, regardless of size, can benefit from formal employment guidelines. When hiring staff, conduct thorough background investigations. Check educational, credit and employment history, as well as references. After hiring, incorporate evaluation of the employee's compliance with company ethics and anti-fraud programs into regular performance reviews. 

3. Train employees in fraud prevention. 

Once carefully-screened employees are on the job, they should be trained in fraud prevention. Are employees aware of procedures for reporting suspicious activity by customers or co-workers? Do workers know the warning signs of fraud? Ensure that staff know at least some basic fraud prevention techniques. 

4. Conduct regular audits. 

High risk areas, such as financial or inventory departments, are obvious targets for routine audits. Surprise audits of those and all parts of the business are crucial. A good starting point in identifying fraud risks and establishing a strategy to prevent such losses is ACFE's Fraud Prevention Check-up (PDF).

5. Call in an expert. 

For most firms, fraud examination is not a core business component. That's why, when fraud is suspected or discovered, it is imperative to enlist the anti-fraud expertise of a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). The CFE credential is recognized by businesses and governments worldwide as the standard for fraud prevention and detection.

Organisations lose an estimated 5 percent of their annual revenues to fraud, according to a report published last year by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

To help shine a spotlight on this global problem, more than 900 organizations worldwide participated in International Fraud Awareness Week, 3-9 November 2013, as official supporters to promote anti-fraud awareness and prevention.

Called 'Fraud Week' for short, the campaign encourages organisations of all sizes and industries to host fraud awareness training for employees, conduct employee surveys to assess levels of fraud preparedness within their organisation, post articles on company websites, newsletters and social media, and team with local news sources to highlight the problem of fraud.

For more information about increasing awareness and reducing the risk of fraud during International Fraud Awareness Week, visit FraudWeek.com.

The 2012 Report to the Nations is available for download online at the ACFE's website: ACFE.com/RTTN.  The Report is in PDF format.

www.fraudweek.com

www.acfe.com

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THE DISMISSAL of 15 employees by a Western Australian mining company, for engaging in the YouTube craze, the Harlem Shake, has far reaching consequences for workplaces in Australia, according to Ben Cooper an associate director specialising in industrial relations at Livingstones business advisers.

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15 WA miners were sacked after performing the Harlem Shake on YouTube - what are the broader consequences?

A total of 15 employees and contractors were dismissed for alleged 'safety breaches' after performing or watching the Harlem Shake at Agnew underground gold mine in Western Australia.

The video of the employees and contractors performing the internet craze was subsequently posted onto YouTube and went ‘viral’. That was when the company felt it had to take action, for workplace health and safety reasons.

“Whilst the dismissal of these 15 employees may seem unsympathetic it is important to note that mining companies must apply the health and safety policies consistently,” Mr Cooper said.

“A consequence of inconsistency could mean an unfavourable ruling by the Fair Work Commission.

“It is also important that all employees are highly aware of the policies, and consequences to safeguard their own health and safety in the workplace."

Mr Cooper said the dismissed Agnew mine employees advised the West Australian newspaper that those participating did not believe they had been involved in any serious safety breaches as they continued to wear helmets, lamps, and safety glasses.

However, Mr Cooper said, a number employees appear bare chested in the footage with some safety equipment removed.

“The Harlem Shake internet meme involves groups of people erratically dancing to the song, Harlem Shake, for approximately 30 seconds and posting the result to YouTube,” Mr Cooper said. “It has been estimated that since February 2, 2013, when the first Harlem Shake video was posted to YouTube, a further 40,000 videos have been posted and viewed 175 million times.

”This event, and the previous 'planking' meme, demonstrates the speed internet crazes can develop, spread and become viral," he said. There are workplace and brand consequences for companies and organisations.

"It also highlights the difficulty that employers have in predicting when and how these events might occur in the workplace," Mr Cooper said.

"To combat these safety issues occurring in your workplace we recommend employers have comprehensive workplace health and safety policies in place.

"These should cover a range of possible employee behaviours and consequences. It is also important to re-iterate health and safety policies regularly with employees so they are front of mind and curb any potential breaches before they begin."

Mr Cooper said many mine sites have 'safety moments' to discuss a potential safety breaches and how they were overcome, and this could be applied to other sectors.

"Situations like the Agnew Mine could be used as external examples on what not to do and the consequences for breaches," he said.

Livingstones, a member of the Queensland Leaders alumni, is an industrial relations, organisational development and human resources firm based in Brisbane. Mr Cooper said Livingstones has a team of 24 professional consultants, psychologists and advocates who provide specialist experience for client specific people solutions.

www.livingstones.com.au

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