The 2014 to 15 financial year has seen significant progress and consolidation of the direction set by the Director in the previous financial year. Agency resources continue to be directed towards identifying, investigating and pursuing in the courts, core business matters relating to coercion, unlawful industrial action, right of entry and freedom of association within the building and construction industry.
Compared to previous financial years, the total number of new investigations commenced in 2014 to 15 has reduced. This is reflective of 2014 to 15 being the first full financial year where FWBC has been primarily focused on the complex investigations of alleged breaches of core business matters.
The lack of geographical consistency in the number of investigations commencing across FWBC’s state and territory offices has led the agency to temporarily redeploy staff to ‘hotspots’ as required. Brisbane continues to experience a heightened level of activity, with localised ‘hotspots’ leading to a further increase in the number of new investigations commenced in Queensland.
Following the establishment of a new Building Code Group to provide executive-level support and guidance to operational teams, Building Code compliance activities are now fully integrated with operational activities. In late 2014 a voluntary advisory audit program was conducted to establish industry expectations of the enforcement of the Building Code.
Of particular significance to FWBC, legislation extending the sunset clause of the agency’s compliance powers was passed in May 2015, enabling FWBC to continue to conduct compulsory examinations. This extension of powers coincided with a large increase in the need for, and use of, such examinations powers. During 2014 to 15 FWBC’s compulsory examination powers were exercised on 14 occasions, compared to four in the previous financial year.
In 2014 to 15, FWBC also witnessed a significant increase in legal proceedings. This is reflective of the high number of investigations commenced in 2014 to 15 progressing to legal action in 2014 to 15. The amount of penalties awarded in FWBC initiated cases has again exceeded $1 million across the financial year.
The heightened legal activity within FWBC can also be partially attributed to a large increase in the number of submissions the agency made to the FWC on matters concerning right of entry permits.