Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4384..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
The Crimes (Industrial Manslaughter) Bill does not establish vicarious liability for senior officers. Senior officers would only be held responsible for the death of a worker where their reckless or negligent conduct causes the death of a worker. I would be surprised if there was anyone in our community who would not wish to see persons who hold responsibility for ensuring the safety of workplaces prosecuted if it could be proved that they were directly negligent or reckless, with the result that a worker was killed.
The bill being introduced today is part of a broad occupational health and safety compliance and enforcement strategy. Through ACT WorkCover, the government is promoting and improving health and safety in the territory's workplaces. ACT WorkCover is tasked with providing information and advice to support employers and persons in control of workplaces in understanding their duties and meeting their responsibilities.
Promoting compliance through education and information is a major focus for the government, and rightly so. But this must be appropriately balanced with a strong commitment to the enforcement of occupational health and safety laws. Effective enforcement requires significant deterrents and the capacity to properly prosecute where employers do not do the right thing.
It is the government's view that no enforcement strategy will be credible without substantial penalties to act as deterrents. The penalties proposed in the bill are high, but not unreasonable for these very serious criminal offences. The maximum penalty will be 25 years imprisonment or a fine of $250,000 for an individual. For corporations, the maximum fine will be $1.25 million. Courts will also be able to order corporate offenders to take specified actions, such as publicising the offence and any penalties imposed in the media, notifying shareholders, and carrying out projects for the public benefit-similar to community service for individuals.
Mr Speaker, the territory needs a modern and effective system of occupational health and safety regulation. The legislation we are introducing today is an important part of a general program of regulatory reform that this government is committed to pursuing. To this end, I have asked the Chief Minister's Department and the Occupational Health and Safety Council to review the structure and scope of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the compliance model established under that legislation.
That will include a review of existing penalties under that act, including penalties where employer conduct causes non-fatal injuries to workers. These penalties will be reviewed to ensure consistency and appropriateness in light of the new industrial manslaughter penalties. These reviews will build on the measures established in the industrial manslaughter bill.
The government recognises that there will be a divergence of views in the community about the bill and that it is important for members and the community to have an opportunity to contribute their views about the legislation. For this reason, I will shortly be asking for the Assembly's agreement to the referral of this bill to the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs for inquiry, with a view to providing the Assembly with a report by the beginning of April 2003.
Mr Speaker, I commend the bill to the Assembly.