Fair Work Bill moves Forward with Fairness

The Federal Government introduced in Parliament legislation to implement its election commitments made in Forward with Fairness. The Fair Work Bill 2008 was an entirely new Bill and, at 575 pages, it is substantially shorter than the current Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth). The Bill was published with an extensive explanatory memorandum and the Government has already issued fact sheets on a number of key areas.  

In particular, the Bill introduces a new safety net, comprised of the National Employment Standards (NES) and modern awards; sets out a new system of good faith bargaining for collective agreements in which Fair Work Australia will have a pivotal and potentially more interventionist role; brings back unfair dismissal protection for most employees (and limits, but does not entirely remove the operational requirements exclusion for redundancy), and maintains many of the existing rules in the areas of industrial action, freedom of association and right of entry – with subtle, but significant additional powers to unions.  

Illegal downloading

Landmark Federal Court legal action by movie producers against Australia’s third-largest internet service provider, iiNET, has highlighted the problems of unlawful downloads and unauthorised file-sharing.  

RMIT University general counsel John Lambrick says unlawful file-sharing raises complex issues for rights holders, lawyers and regulators.  

“The Rudd Government is considering a three strikes and you’re out’ policy against internet users who download unlawfully,” Mr Lambrick said. “But market research has found 63% of young Australians feel there’s no point paying for music that’s otherwise freely available so there’s a strong need for education to change these attitudes and promote the protection of copyright. “ The government may also oblige internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor people’s use and filter infringing content but this would fail to recognise the technical and legal issues involved. “While filtering technology does exist for particular types of content, it’s not technically possible for ISPs to reliably detect and block unauthorised file-sharing so any such legislation would be futile.  

“Additionally, the ‘safe harbour’ provisions of the Copyright Act,which limit the liability of ISPs for unauthorised file-sharing by their account holders, offer no incentive for ISPs to help resolve the problem by other means.“ The only workable solution currently available is for the Government to help develop a cooperative agreement between ISPs and rights holders, similar to what has happened in the UK and France. This may well be the ultimate objective of the plaintiffs in the iiNet litigation. “Telling illegal downloaders ‘three strikes and you’re out’ may sound good, but such a plan can only succeed if there is cooperation between rights holders and ISPs and the appropriate legal architecture to ensure integrity and fairness.”  

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