Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4873 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
The responsibility of the chamber also includes helping members to understand the legislation, to educate the business community with facts, not emotive, grandstanding statements that are obviously designed, as I have said, to achieve maximum panic. Their job, I would have assumed, is to help the members and not to drum up hysteria.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the main message that the peak bodies needed to get across to their members was that this bill is adding to the criminal area the ability to prosecute corporations with manslaughter. Individuals can already be prosecuted with manslaughter if they are found to be reckless or negligent and therefore cause the death of a worker because we have the Crimes Act, which we have had since 1900.
The government is also at fault here, Mr Deputy Speaker, with a lack of an effective education program to date. I am sure that they are now aware of that and are aiming to rectify that. It is good to have delayed implementation to enable this process to be undertaken over the next few months, and I hope it is done fully and effectively.
The feelings of doom need to be dealt with. I am now prepared to support the bill, Mr Deputy Speaker, as the government has agreed to amendments that address the main issues of business leaders who have approached me directly. The delay of the start of the industrial manslaughter bill in order to carry out an intensive education program for employers means we will be able to lower the angst level.
The clause that highlights the responsibilities of workers as well as employers is put in balance by the second amendment so that all people in a workplace situation are aware of their responsibilities to maintain a safe environment and prevent any workplace deaths. I should stress at this point, Mr Deputy Speaker, that both the Master Builders Association of the ACT and the Housing Industry Association of the ACT indicated to me directly on a number of occasions, including today, that they support this bill with the two amendments that the government agreed to following our round-table meetings. I thank the Assembly for their attention.
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to 8.00 pm.
MRS BURKE (8.00): Quite rightly, major employer groups, employers, individuals and other states and territories have come out strongly against industrial manslaughter legislation. This legislation does nothing more than heap yet another unnecessary layer of legislation into our statute books. All those who have refused to go down this path have recognised that there is enough protection under existing legislation for serious workplace injuries, including death in the workplace.
Those against going down such a path realise that there are far more sensible and less adversarial approaches. I know that the New South Wales Labor Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, is looking at a less divisive and more sensible approach to an extremely important matter. He stated publicly that he would be seeking to strengthen the Occupational Health and Safety Act to allow for tougher penalties, such as jail sentences, to be imposed for breaches that result in death.
He obviously does not see the need for industrial manslaughter legislation. This legislation could seek to punish those who are trying to help the system. Let me explain. Mr Robert Clark MP, the Victorian shadow minister for WorkCover, quite rightly asked:
Who will work as an occupational health and safety manager if managers risk being gaoled, or being bankrupted by legal fees, despite doing all they can to ensure a safe workplace?