Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4887 ..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
conversations with the MBA and I established that it is quite comfortable about this legislation. The list also includes: the National Electrical and Communications Association, the Pharmacy Guild, the Plastic and Chemicals Industry Association, the Printing Association of Australia, the Restaurant and Catering Association, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, the Corporate Directors Association of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and the National Farmers Federation.
That represents a large cross-section of interests and industries that sent a strong message to us that this is not the way to go. I suggest to members of this house that a more consultative, more inclusive and more community-based approach would have been better. It could have led, in a few years time, to a much more satisfactory industrial safety record than we currently have. The test of this legislation will be whether in two, three, or five years time things will be any better.
The test of any legislation in this place must be whether anything will be better as a result of the passage of that legislation. I get a little tired of being Cassandra in this place. However, on this occasion, I fear that nothing will be better. Nothing will change unless there is much more activity from those who are responsible for the occupational health and safety of people attending work. Nothing will change for the better until there is more community-based consultation and an all-embracing approach to occupational health and safety.
MS GALLAGHER (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (8.49), in reply: The ACT is poised tonight to become the first jurisdiction to legislate a specific crime of industrial manslaughter. This legislation will complement other occupational health and safety laws and initiatives which seek to protect the health and safety of all ACT workers. This government has taken the view that, if a worker dies at work and that death was the result of a reckless or negligent action of an employer, the offence should be treated as more than an occupational health and safety breach; it should be treated as a crime under the Crimes Act.
Australia has a terrible record when it comes to workplace deaths. Annual work-related deaths across the country exceed 2,500 per year, or approximately 50 deaths per week. The annual road toll in 2001 was 1,736. In the ACT we have had 20 work-related deaths reported since 1989, and so far in 2003 we have seen two people die at work locally. While the ACT record is better than most, this is largely due to the lack of heavy manufacturing and transport industries here rather than because we are doing anything better than anyone else.
It is important to recognise that this bill places no additional responsibility on an employer. It is currently against the law for an employer to kill an employee at work. The current responsibility for employers and employees under the OH&S Act remains in place. The general manslaughter offence in the Crimes Act applies to anyone who negligently or recklessly causes the death of another person. And if an employer negligently or recklessly causes the death of one of their workers they can already be charged. This bill does not extend the current manslaughter laws as they apply to an individual.