Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4889 ..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
The bill has been subject to public hearings and submissions to the committee. I and officers from the Chief Minister's Department and my own office have met with representatives of business and workers throughout the year to promote understanding of the bill. Unfortunately, there is still a good deal of misinformation being promulgated by some parts of the business community.
In order to ensure that employers fully understand the new legislation and their occupational health and safety responsibilities more generally, I am introducing an amendment to delay its commencement for three months, to 1 March 2004. The government will undertake an education campaign for all ACT workplaces about the new laws before commencement takes effect.
I have earlier referred to concerns in the business community that a worker whose criminally reckless or negligent conduct causes the death of another person will be subject to a lesser offence than that applying to senior officers. To make absolutely clear this is not the case, I am also proposing to amend section 49D of the bill to insert an explanatory note that the general offence of manslaughter in section 15 of the Crimes Act applies to everyone including workers.
In summing up, Mr Speaker, I would like to take a moment to look at the human side of this. I would also like to acknowledge the presence in the chamber of Ms Sue Exner-I think Ashley and Brendan have gone home, but they were here earlier today-the mother of the young man who died on his third day of work six weeks ago. We have with us today a family and some of the friends of a young Australian who went to work one day and never came home. He never came home to his family. It was his third day at work, on top of a roof; no safety equipment; no OH&S training; just straight onto a roof, put there by a cherrypicker; and left to work it out for himself. He paid the ultimate price, Mr Speaker; he paid with his life.
His family and friends' pain will live on, and it will always be there. As a parent, I can only imagine the pain his family and loved ones are going through. I had the privilege of meeting Sue Exner yesterday, a woman who lost a son six weeks ago, and yet who is brave enough to turn up here today and speak with me about why it is so important to pass these laws.
Her question to me was simple. Why would anyone oppose these laws? Why wouldn't you support laws that protect working people? My answer to her was just as simple. The opponents of this law have a harder job than mine. They have to prove why, in a situation where a worker dies at work and it can be attributed to an employer or any employing body, this act should not be treated as a crime; why in every other situation manslaughter can be used but not in workplaces? It is you over there that have some convincing to do. Mr Pratt, I challenge you: go and speak with Joel's family; you tell them why his death should not be treated with the seriousness it deserves from the Liberal Party; you go and tell them and you convince them.
When you are convincing them, you convince Robyn McGoldrick whose son, Dean, died, aged 17, four years ago. A paltry $20,000 fine was awarded for his death, and four years after that his family find out that the employer has paid $1,800. So you go and convince his family that the law is adequate. I believe your job is harder than mine, and you have to win that one.