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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1602 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

In other jurisdictions, including Victoria and Queensland, the debate about industrial manslaughter laws has led to a stand-off, an unfortunate stand-off, between unions and employer groups, with Labor traditionally supporting the unions and the Liberals traditionally supporting employer groups. This has stifled genuine debate about whether such legislation will have a beneficial outcome. I hope we do not travel down this path in the ACT.

We all believe that a death at work is a tragedy. We must all have this common ground from which to start this debate. Anthony Carrick was a young Victorian man who died on his first day of work when a concrete panel fell on him at a warehouse workplace. I do not think anyone here would allow a death like Anthony's to occur in the ACT, especially if we believe that we could do something to prevent it. I want to see honest appraisal of whether legislation that makes reckless or grossly negligent management a crime is likely to result in a lower number of workplace deaths.

It is for these reasons that I support this motion calling for the introduction of a bill on industrial manslaughter, and I look forward to a measured consideration of the arguments for and against the proposal, remembering always that people are the key. All people-workers, employers, employees and their representatives-are what we should be focusing on, not some petty divide such as unions versus employer groups or proletariat versus bourgeoisie. We should be focusing on people and how we as an Assembly can help and, if necessary, protect the workers of the ACT.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (10.58): Mr Speaker, I am very pleased that Ms Gallagher has moved this motion this morning. Death and injury in the workplace are of serious concern to this government. Ms Gallagher's motion reinforces this government's commitment to introduce legislation to provide for the charge of industrial manslaughter. Our intention is to do that later this year.

Ms Gallagher's motion outlines two important elements. The first relates to the rate of industrial deaths in the OECD and Australia's poor standing in that regard. The second deals with the specific issue of industrial manslaughter legislation.

On the issue of industrial deaths in the OECD, the International Labour Organisation, the ILO, calculates that worldwide there are 1.1 million workplace deaths per year. When you compare that with other leading causes of death worldwide, it is the number one killer. Workplace deaths exceed the average annual rate of deaths from road accidents (990,000), war (502,000), violence (563,000) and HIV/AIDS (312,000). It is probably exceeded only by deaths from significant diseases.

Approximately one quarter of the 1.1 million workplace deaths per year result from an exposure to hazardous substances, substances which cause disabling illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and renal and nervous system disorder and failure.

Deaths and injuries continue to take a particularly heavy toll on developing countries where large numbers of workers are concentrated in primary and extraction activities such as agriculture, logging, fishing and mining. These continue to be some of the world's most hazardous industries.

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