Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 9 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2682..
Creating an industrial court to focus solely on industrial matters will fully expand the court's expertise and centralise that expertise in a single jurisdiction. Having the statutory and common law worker's compensation litigation as part of the same jurisdiction as the mechanism to manage disputes, penalties and fines will promote greater consistency in decision making and the application of penalties by the court.
This will generate greater confidence in the industrial legal process across industry. The establishment of an industrial court is the centrepiece of a number of significant initiatives this government is undertaking to improve the safety of workers in the ACT. As the Assembly is aware, the government has accepted all the recommendations contained in the Getting home safely report, and work has commenced on the implementation of these.
The report recommended the appointment of an industrial magistrate and commented on the need for courts to apply appropriate penalties, particularly as work health and safety legislation is harmonised across Australia. The harmonised laws have introduced significantly higher penalties for offences which allow a company to be fined up to $3 million for a serious safety breach and a negligent company director to be fined up to $600,000 or be sent to jail for up to five years.
As the report points out and as the government accepts, it is now incumbent on courts to have a consistent approach in dealing with breaches of the work health and safety laws. It is incumbent on courts to consider the likely deterrent effect of the fine or penalty imposed. The appointment of an industrial court magistrate will help to achieve this goal.
Let me turn to the issue of the constitution of the court. The Magistrates Court Act 1930 will be amended to establish a new industrial court. The Magistrates Court will be known as the industrial court when it is constituted by the industrial court magistrate exercising the jurisdiction. The government has adopted the Children's Court model as an appropriate model for a new industrial court.
The Children's Court model has the advantage of requiring a specific appointment of a magistrate to be the industrial court magistrate. The Chief Magistrate will declare a magistrate to be this magistrate, and that magistrate will be responsible for dealing with all matters allocated by the Chief Magistrate for hearings before the industrial court.
The Magistrates Court will also be known as the industrial court when it is constituted by a magistrate assigned by the Chief Magistrate to act as the industrial court magistrate if there is no industrial court magistrate or the industrial magistrate is absent from duty or is unable to exercise the legislative functions.
There is also provision for the assignment of another magistrate in circumstances where the magistrate begins to deal with a matter and before the matter is decided dies or becomes incapacitated, resigns or is otherwise unable to deal with the matter. There is also a provision for a part-heard matter to be finally decided by the magistrate who initially dealt with the matter in circumstances where the magistrate ceases to be the industrial court magistrate or hold an assignment.