Page 877 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005

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MR MULCAHY: I am confused, Mr Speaker. I have a supplementary question to the minister, who I think said she was opposed to the culture. My question is: are you considering any complementary legislation to further enhance the reforms that have been introduced consequent to the recommendations of the Cole royal commission?


Industrial manslaughter legislation

MR GENTLEMAN: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Minister, The federal government has this week reintroduced to federal parliament the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Amendment (Promoting Safer Workplaces) Bill. Is this bill designed to restrict the ACT’s leading industrial manslaughter laws from entire classes of employees, creating inconsistencies in the territory?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Gentleman for the question. As members would be aware, the commonwealth government yesterday reintroduced into the House of Representatives one of its many anti-worker bills that we will be seeing in the next couple of months, falsely titled “promoting safer workplaces”. This bill seeks to affect the ACT’s industrial manslaughter laws by excluding certain classes of employees in the territory from the operation of the law. This includes federal employees and people working for commonwealth-owned corporations.

The federal government knows, however, that commonwealth public servants—direct employees—are already outside the scope of the ACT’s industrial manslaughter laws. This bill seeks to remove a further class of worker from the operation of the law—those who happen to be employed by some of Australia’s largest corporations. The federal government has failed consistently to provide a compelling rationale for why this law is needed, as they have failed consistently to explain why our law is not needed, particularly when the operation of the law is having such a positive effect in promoting workplace safety and awareness about workplace safety.

The community across Australia has been shocked by recent cases of gross negligence and recklessness displayed by some employers that have led to the deaths of workers. Young, inexperienced workers have been killed by the actions of their employers, who have escaped justice. Corporations have been able to hide behind outdated provisions relating to their criminal liability, and to escape criminal sanctions. Our industrial manslaughter laws are currently the only laws with a capacity to respond to the challenges of the modern workplace. Mr Andrews has failed to explain why he thinks it is acceptable for a commonwealth-owned corporate entity—a large commercial business in every other sense—to escape responsibility for any action leading to the death of a worker caused by gross negligence or recklessness.

I had a look at Mr Andrews’s second reading speech yesterday. There are a couple of things I agree with, actually—for instance, where he says that workplace death is inconsistent with the overall objective of an occupational health and safety legislative framework. We would agree with that. Our OH&S framework is primarily about preventing injuries and accidents from happening. So we would say that death in a

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