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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 5 August 2021) . . Page.. 2361 ..

This legislation has been a long time coming. In 2018 a Senate inquiry heard from the families of those killed at work. The inquiry made several recommendations based on the heart-rending testimony of these families, including the introduction of an industrial manslaughter offence under the federal model workplace safety laws.

In 2019, Marie Boland recommended that this offence be included in the work health and safety framework, in her review of the model laws. Despite this, there has been a clear unwillingness by successive federal Liberal governments to take action on the matter. A majority of states and territories have now established their own legislation, and I am very proud that today the ACT will be joining them.

The ACT government is committed to reducing the human cost of poor work safety. This is why we have been implementing a range of initiatives designed to make work in the ACT safer and more secure. The bill before us today is one important component of those initiatives.

We have also introduced a labour hire licensing scheme to verify that labour hire employers understand and comply with their workplace obligations and, in doing so, improve safety standards for some of our most vulnerable workers.

We have made changes to the way the ACT government procures contracts for labour, by introducing a certificate scheme that requires tenderers and contractors to demonstrate that they understand and will comply with their work safety obligations.

We have invested in additional work safety inspectorate staff, systems and infrastructure to ensure that WorkSafe is properly resourced and fully focused on assisting industry to improve safety standards.

We have legislated changes to the work health and safety council to improve tripartite consultation on work safety matters and to monitor and make more informed recommendations about how to work to improve work safety.

The parliamentary and governing agreement for this Legislative Assembly outlines other work safety initiatives that we will be pursuing in this term of government. These include legislating to reduce the risk of silicosis caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica and making other legislative changes to ensure that the ACT’s work safety laws are contemporary and respond to changing workplaces and work hazards.

I expect that these changes will particularly focus on making sure that our work safety laws have a strong focus on preventing risks and on psychosocial health and safety. This is our commitment to working people in the territory.

Everyone has a right to be safe at work. This government will always, at every opportunity, protect this right. The Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill is responsive to this commitment. It will establish an industrial manslaughter offence under our work health and safety laws.

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