Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 5 August 2021) . . Page.. 2355 ..
It is pleasing to note that stakeholders have been listed in the explanatory statement of this bill, something I recommended to the Assembly on 20 April this year when I spoke during debate on the Courts and Other Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2021.
The Canberra Liberals will support this bill, and I strongly urge the government to ensure that the changes operate as intended, without having a disproportionate effect of Canberra’s small employers.
MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (10.59): Everyone deserves to come home safely from work and no-one deserves to pay with their life for the negligence, mistake or oversight of their workplace. That is why creating an industrial manslaughter offence is so important. This will prevent future accidents, injuries and deaths. This bill will save lives by holding people to account.
In 2018, Safe Work Australia received an independent export report from Marie Boland on work health and safety regulation in Australia. The report recognised that workplace injuries and deaths ruin lives and shatter families. But we in this place and those who work in dangerous industries like construction and transport do not need a report to tell us what we already know. All too often, workers, subcontractors, work site visitors and bystanders are injured in workplace accidents and, tragically, this can and does result in their deaths. Sadly, our current legislation does not allow the conduct of everyone, including corporations and senior officers, to be considered in the event of a worker’s death. It does not hold employers accountable for injuries and deaths to people who are not direct employees.
The 2018 report to Safe Work Australia called for an industrial manslaughter offence to be added to the national template law; however, frustratingly, the federal government has not been keen on this recommendation. But just because the federal government refuses to do the right thing does not mean the ACT cannot do the right thing. The ACT, as well as a few other jurisdictions, are determined to do the right thing. That is why we will create the offence of industrial manslaughter.
This bill is a demonstration of this government’s commitment to promoting safe and ethical work practices. The ACT government continually expressed support for an industrial manslaughter offence that has wider application than the current ACT Crimes Act has. This will accommodate complex, modern work arrangements and provide a more effective deterrent to poor work safety standards that endanger lives.
We know that in workplaces today the use of subcontractors and other similar work arrangements are unfortunately becoming more and more common. This legislation will hold all parties accountable for the safety and practices on their worksites, and not just the safety of their direct employees.
The Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill before us today is reflective of and responsive to the ACT government’s longstanding policy position and will expand the circumstances where industrial manslaughter charges may be laid. This feature of the bill is particularly important when considered in light of the national Safe Work Australia data about work related fatalities.