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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 5 August 2021) . . Page.. 2356 ..

The most recent Safe Work Australia annual report on work-related traumatic injury fatalities shows a significant number of bystanders were killed because of work activities—for example, being hit by moving objects from worksites. The data also shows that some of the bystanders killed by the action of a business or undertaking were vulnerable people, including children. The existing offence of industrial manslaughter within the Crimes Act may not be applicable in those circumstances, because, put simply, it is limited to conduct by an employer that causes the death of their employee. Placing the offence within the Work Health and Safety Act allows it to be applied to the death of any person to whom the offending person or business owed a duty of care, such as a bystander or subcontractor.

This is what our community expects of a Labor government. They expect that all workers on a site not just those who are directly employed will be protected by our legislation. They expect justice to be served when dodgy bosses cut corners and cost their workers their lives. This change is in keeping with the expectations of the ACT community and will better empower the safety regulator to use the offence as a deterrent to all forms of poor safety practice. I am proud to speak in support of this bill, which will better protect our workers and our community from workplace injuries and deaths.


MADAM SPEAKER: I recognise in the gallery a number of union reps who support workers, particularly in relation to this bill.

Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2021

MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (11.03): I speak today in support of the Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill, which will introduce an offence of industrial manslaughter in the ACT’s Work Health and Safety Act. Other speakers have today emphasised the importance of holding companies responsible for negligent or reckless acts that cause a person’s death. This is the strong expectation of the Canberra community, and the bill is responsive to those expectations.

On reviewing the draft legislation, two key questions came to my mind. First was its application to the gig economy. This part of the economy is rapidly expanding and drawing in more and more vulnerable workers employed in precarious situations and with accompanying increased workplace health and safety risks. It gives me comfort that, where our PCBU has a duty of care under this act, it will apply. There still remain regulatory challenges in ensuring the gig economy is a safe and sustainable one, but this piece of legislation contributes towards achieving this goal.

The second consideration was whether this legislation would apply to psychosocial hazards. Workplace bullying and harassment has no place in the modern workplace, but unfortunately it happens and in rare but disturbing cases can become so severe so as to devastate lives and cause some to commit suicide. I, like many in community, expect employers to provide a safe and inclusive workplace. Where they have failed in a demonstrated duty of care, they should be accountable under law for that failing.

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