Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 3492 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
have been a balanced reporting. I can only assume that it was laziness on the part of the reporter. There was either an editorial thumbprint all over it or it was a gross misunderstanding and then being victim of the spin which has been put on it by the opposition and by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I find this sort of reporting appalling, when we are talking about legislation which is supposed to be about protecting the lives of workers. We are not talking about injury; we are not talking about missing pay packets; we are talking about people's lives.
Mr Speaker, the report says the bill has three main purposes, and the chairman indicated it establishes a new offence of industrial manslaughter. It certainly does-a second crime of manslaughter. What is the problem with that? I don't see the chairman in his dissenting report giving us a reason why that shouldn't be the case. If a person is driving a motorcar and kills somebody, you get charged with about six or seven offences. I don't see a problem at all with having a couple when we are talking about the loss of a person's life in the workplace.
Mr Speaker, it also seeks to clarify and define the range of employment relationships. This is about the chain of responsibility, Mr Speaker. This is to stop only one person being charged when negligence has been proven-the foreman in the example that Mr Stefaniak quoted. It actually talks about contracted labour, agents. It actually clarifies once and for all that, when somebody has a responsibility for someone else's safety, the responsibility is sheeted home to them no matter where they are in the chain.
The corporate culture in the boardroom of people like Woollies and companies of that size- I don't wish to single them out, only to say that that's a good example of a certain size; Grace Bros is another one-can be equally as responsible for the death of a transport driver delivering fresh food to their supermarkets as the transport driver's company foreman or owner under the contract that they have with another transport company and so on up the chain.
This legislation actually holds those people responsible as well as the immediate foreman. And that's one of the significant parts of the legislation. It provides for substantial penalties for the offences. They are good penalties, and I'll come to the most important one of those in a moment.
But it adds another two issues. It allows, in fact, Mr Speaker, for non-natural persons to be held accountable for the death of someone at the workplace. It allows a corporation to be held responsible. At the moment it is really difficult to put Woolworths in a cell. You need a really big cell. What this legislation does is put a fine of up to $1.25 million and other penalties as the court sees fit if the court so desires, up to a total of $5 million. That is a big enough penalty to make even the boards of these large corporations sit up and take notice.
For honest people and people who are diligent in their OH&S practices, there is not a problem. For road companies who really don't care less about what the cost is, to achieve their profit margin, that sort of penalty can send them out of business. As far as I am concerned, Mr Speaker, good riddance to them; they shouldn't be in business in the first place.