Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 23 June 2011) . . Page.. 2342 ..
Scaffolding and Lifts Act and the Machinery Act as both will be redundant following the commencement of the new bill.
The bill includes transitioning aspects of the current territory regime to the new regime, including the Work Safety Council. Existing workplace arrangements including work safety representatives and work safety committees are transitioned to become health and safety representatives and health and safety committees when the new act commences. The bill also ensures that enforcement and compliance action such as prohibition notices issued before commencement will remain valid in the new regime.
I would like now to take the opportunity to outline the key changes for the territory. Firstly the bill will remove the concept of crown immunity from prosecution. This will mean that sanctions will apply to all ACT government agencies in respect of their duties at work, as applies to all other workers and organisations. The second key change is that the bringing of prosecutions under the Work Health and Safety Act will be limited to WorkSafe ACT.
Employer and employee organisations will no longer have the statutory right of prosecution, as they do now. Persons will, however, as has always been the case in the ACT, still retain the right to bring a common law prosecution if they are able to establish standing before a court. There will also be the ability for persons to seek a review of a decision by WorkSafe not to prosecute a serious offence. That review will be undertaken by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Another change to the territory is that the penalties available under the harmonised laws will be consistent across all jurisdictions. Under this bill, the maximum jail term will be five years, not seven years as is now the case. However, the financial penalties under this bill are significantly higher than what is now available in the territory, particularly where a duty holder has been reckless in not complying with their safety duties. Importantly, the industrial manslaughter provisions in the Crimes Act will remain unchanged. They are not affected by the introduction of this bill.
Lastly, the bill further clarifies the work safety duty of officers in both the public and private sectors. What this bill does is ensure that officers exercise due diligence as part of their company or organisation responsibilities, in turn ensuring the act is being complied with in their organisation.
As I have indicated, much of what is in this bill simply continues what the government introduced with the Work Safety Act. The concept that the central safety duty is owed to workers, as well as to other people at the workplace, remains. The importance of cooperation and consultation between employers and workers and the organisations representing them remain central to the bill. Protection of workers from discrimination or coercion if they raise work safety matters in a workplace remains. The notification requirement for serious incidents remains. The licensing of persons undertaking high-risk work remains.
The bill will make it simpler for businesses to ensure their workplace is safe while continuing to provide protection for their workers. The new, harmonised laws