Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4852 ..
MR PRATT (continuing):
in it and that such legislation would be seriously detrimental to business and not advance workplace safety one millimetre. The government needs to take note of that.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Labor government is going to go against not only the will of Canberra business and many Canberra workers and, hopefully, the Assembly, but also its colleagues from Victoria and Queensland. Why is that? (Extension of time granted.) The Blair government decided that such legislation was unnecessary and divisive. They were concerned for the business climate. They also said that there would be no improvement in workplace safety.
Let's look at the comparative penalties. Last night in this place the government refused to support the raising of the Crimes Act penalty for manslaughter to 25 years, yet today they are laying down here a 25-year penalty target for business owners and managers. What about the small business owner who does not have the capacity and the skills to run OH&S entirely? There is no excuse for not running good OH&S legislation, but what about the small business owner? Look at the capacity.
Why have a penalty of 25 years for the business owner when we do not seem to find any support from the other side of the chamber for an increase in the penalty for manslaughter to 25 years, as proposed in this place last night? Isn't that somewhat out of balance? This is breathtaking and blatant discrimination: put up penalties for bosses but do not strengthen laws to hold anybody else in society accountable. Do not put in place mechanisms which would protect workers; just go for the throat.
There are strong arguments for strengthening the existing OH&S legislation to deal with possible reckless behaviour of CEOs and boards, business owners and their subordinate supervisors with respect to workplace safety, injury and death. We support that and we want to see it in place, but this is not the way to do it. We know that major business groups in the ACT support changes to the OH&S Act in regard to tougher penalties. We know that because we have been talking to them. This option should be explored before introducing completely new legislation that cannot be supported by major stakeholders in the ACT. We do believe in toughening up penalties for dealing with owners, managers and supervisors of rebellious and slack companies, as I was saying earlier.
The ACT government represents all people in the ACT and should consider all options and impacts that this legislation may have upon introduction. The government is not here to support the narrow sectional interests of individual lobby groups. It is obliged to support and represent the best interests of the ACT, but that is not what the government is doing with this legislation. The interests of the broader community and the voice and advice of business interests have been entirely ignored by this government. Canberra business opposes the industrial manslaughter legislation, small business opposes the industrial manslaughter legislation and many workers oppose the industrial manslaughter legislation. Canberran developers oppose it. The government is proactively driving business out of Canberra by introducing this amending bill. Canberra businesses will be negatively impacted upon by this legislation.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we completely oppose this legislation and find no reason why it should be supported by any member of the Assembly who has an interest in keeping the ACT economy as strong as it currently is and who would not wish to see legislation