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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4871 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

I want to thank members for their contribution to this debate. I especially want to thank all of those people who are out there worrying about workplace safety and looking forward to a major change and a major development which will ensure that workers come home safe.

MRS CROSS (6.16): This industrial manslaughter bill has caused a great deal of anxiety in the business community in Canberra. The name of the bill was, I am sure, chosen to create a stir and frighten employers. I am sure that this name is a deliberate move to use a big-stick approach to the issue of workplace deaths. It is, however, better than using workplace killings, as I gather the British are using. Workplace deaths are just not acceptable, and we do need to minimise the number. No-one wants to see accidents that cause harm at any time, let alone in the workplace.

On the other hand, accidents do happen-sometimes even when all the correct procedures are followed. In these situations it would be very unfair to persecute or prosecute anyone. Stuff-ups do happen sometimes. Choosing the name industrial manslaughter as the big stick is fine as long as the effect is that employers and employees take note and work very hard to prevent deaths through the proper application of occupational health and safety procedures and basic common sense.

Mr Deputy Speaker, choosing a name to frighten employers with a big stick is just plain confrontational and not conducive to a good workplace environment. All that happens in that case is that the old divide of "them and us"is re-established and people are not encouraged to work together; rather, we get back to the days of mistrust, making do with fewer employees or even closing businesses. Then no-one wins, Mr Deputy Speaker. The employers lose their businesses, and the employees are out of work.

There is a need to make sure that deaths that result from recklessness or negligence as described in the bill are indeed punished. There has been a gap in the Crimes Act with respect to corporations, and it is important that this gap is closed. This bill does close the gap, but in doing so has caused a great deal of disquiet in the business community.

It may perhaps have been better for the government to do as the Canadians have done and simply amend the Crimes Act to include corporations. This method could well have lowered the anxiety level for many and yet achieve the main aim of closing that corporations gap. I think that probably there are elements in the government and the union movement that would not have been happy with an amendment as they are keen to wave the big stick and keen to get the message across loudly.

However, last week I organised a round-table meeting with key stakeholders from the business community in Canberra and the minister responsible for industrial relations, Katy Gallagher. As most of Canberra would know by now, I come from a business background, and I understand the concerns of business. The result of this meeting was the agreement by the minister to delay the implementation of the law by three months to enable an effective education program to be carried out. In fact, I will be encouraging business leaders to be involved in the process of developing the education package with WorkCover.

A second round-table meeting I organised earlier this week resulted in a further concession from the government. The business leaders who attended this week were

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