Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – March 2020
COVID-19: Australian courts and legal bodies updates
With COVID-19 spreading across Australia, courts in the country are announcing their respective plans of action across all states and territories. Here are the latest updates.
- High Court to cease sittings until June
- Federal Court of Australia: Public facing counters are closed and face-to-face services suspended as of 24 March
- Family Court of Australia: Mediations will continue electronically via video or telephone
- Federal Circuit Court: Only urgent matters will be addressed in person pursuant to face-to-face protocols
- Fair Work Commission: Applications in hard copy will no longer be accepted
$130 Billion Jobkeeper Payment to keep Australians in job
The Morrison Government will provide a historic wage subsidy to around 6 million workers who will receive a flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight through their employer, before tax. The $130 billion JobKeeper payment will help keep Australians in jobs as we tackle the significant economic impact from the coronavirus.
The payment will be open to eligible businesses that receive a significant financial hit caused by the coronavirus.
The payment will provide the equivalent of around 70 per cent of the national median wage. For workers in the accommodation, hospitality and retail sectors it will equate to a full median replacement wage.
The payment will ensure eligible employers and employees stay connected while some businesses move into hibernation. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the JobKeeper payment would bring the Government’s total economic support for the economy to $320 billion or 16.4 per cent of GDP. Read More
Family property disputes to be fast-tracked through the courts
Former couples fighting acrimonious family law battles will be able to fast-track disputes over property worth less than $500,000. The initiative is particularly aimed at women who have been subjected to family violence, and who are most at risk of losing their share of property in a separation or divorce.
The pilot program will be run in the Federal Circuit Court, which hears family law disputes, in Melbourne, Parramatta, Adelaide and Brisbane. Read More
Government to pay $212.5m to victims of toxic chemicals used in firefighting foam.
Three communities will receive $212.5 million from the Morrison Government in a landmark settlement over the use of toxic firefighting foam. Residents in three Australian communities who had their groundwater contaminated by toxic firefighting foam will receive hundreds of millions of dollars after winning a class action against the Australian Government.
The Department of Defence will pay $212.5 million to the communities of Williamtown in NSW, Oakey in Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory. The landmark settlement comes after thousands of properties became contaminated by per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the area, which is used in firefighting foams at Australian defence bases. Read More
Human rights sanctions under microscope
Federal politicians have been urged to introduce a regime that would ban human rights abusers from entering or investing in Australia and freeze their assets.
A parliamentary committee has heard evidence about whether Australia should enshrine a so-called Magnitsky Act. The laws are named after lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail after accusing Russian officials of tax fraud.
The legislation would allow the government to name people linked to breaches of international law or corruption, and see them banned from travelling to or investing in Australia. Read More
New workplace manslaughter laws a timely reminder to reassess OH&S risks
The recent release of the Dreamworld coronial inquest findings is an important reminder to businesses about their duty of care to protect the health and safety of their employees, and the public, when undertaking business activities, writes Alastair Phillips.
The “systematic failure to ensure the safety of patrons and staff” which contributed to the death of four people on the Thunder River Rapids Ride in 2016 demonstrates the severe consequences that can occur when organisations lose sight of the safety of their employees and their customers.
For Victorian businesses, the introduction of the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Industrial Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 (Vic) that comes into force on 1 July 2020 will increase the severity of punishment for failing to ensure workplace safety and mitigate risks. Read More