Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4874 ..
MRS BURKE (continuing):
How will this legislation impact on morale in the work force? Are we not seeking to set worker against worker? Mr Clark went on to state that this proposed law "threatens"which I believe is the key word in this debate. We are approaching a serious and important topic in a really threatening way. Nobody wants deaths in the workplace. People fear jail but if they do the wrong thing perhaps they deserve to be jailed.
We should not presume that people are guilty until they are proven innocent. We should apply that rule not only to directors and to white-collar management of big corporations; we should apply it also to husbands and wives and to small business people. Let us not forget that it could even impact on volunteers running community organisations. They, too, would fear jail.
Ms Gallagher: As they should.
MRS BURKE: I acknowledge the minister's interjection. People who do the wrong thing need to be penalised. However, I believe to be inappropriate the severe way in which this legislation has been worded. This legislation has the potential of having a negative effect and impact on the construction industry and, therefore, on the local economy. It will impact on the smallest of companies and on the biggest.
A constituent of mine relayed to me one of many such examples-an accident at a work site. There were no deaths as a result of the accident but four people were injured. The firm that was doing the work, which was most diligent in its pursuit of safety culture on the job, employed two full-time and dedicated safety officers to ensure that staff and contractors complied with work safety best practice.
Notwithstanding that fact an accident occurred-an issue to which a government member or a crossbench member alluded earlier. It is a fact of life that accidents happen even though we do not want them to happen. Despite five engineers' reports, no agreement can be reached as to the cause of the accident. For many years to come there will be litigation pursuing various insurance companies.
It is tragic that we are going down a path that will result in the legal system-not the families, the people who are injured or those who have lost loved ones-benefiting from something from which it should not benefit. We are taking the wrong course of action. There are better ways of doing this.
Have we used the wrong bolts and steel in the design and construction of this legislation, or is it an act of God? Lawyers will probably spend in the region of half a million dollars attempting to work out this legislation. After spending that amount of money they might still find out that they do not have it right. Who is benefiting from this legislation? It is certainly not the victims, the victims' families or injured workers. These cases can go on for years.