Page 878 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005

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workplace, particularly negligent or reckless death in a workplace, is inconsistent with overall OH&S strategies. Mr Andrews goes on to say that the bill will remove the uncertainty that is facing commonwealth employers and employees. He says “uncertainty”. I cannot see that there is any uncertainty. If you recklessly or negligently kill someone in your workplace, then it is pretty certain that you should be charged for it.

Mr Seselja: Is there no criminal law? Does the criminal law not apply?

MS GALLAGHER: There is absolutely no uncertainty at all around industrial manslaughter law. Things could never be more certain as to what your responsibilities are. This is an unwelcome interference in the ACT Legislative Assembly. As the Chief Minister has said, it is interference in a democratically elected parliament which has faced two elections with industrial manslaughter. We went to the 2001 election with it as a promise; we delivered on that promise; we went back in 2004, having delivered on that promise, and look what happened: the Canberra community endorsed what this government had done in its first term.

Now we see someone from outside the ACT—someone who does not live here, with a view different from that of the ACT Assembly—seeking to impose that view on us and create two levels of workplace safety in the ACT. It is an absolute disgrace by Minister Andrews. He has not explained himself. He still has not actually said why he thinks that an employer or corporation who recklessly or negligently causes the death of a worker should not face the full sanctions of the criminal law like every other single individual does.

MR GENTLEMAN: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, could you please outline for the benefit of members some of the ways in which the ACT’s industrial manslaughter laws have improved workplace safety?

MS GALLAGHER: I have to say that, having now been involved in the whole debate around industrial manslaughter for a couple of years and having worked as a union organiser before that, I have never seen so much interest in occupational health and safety as we have seen in the past 18 months. At every business lunch and every industry meeting I go to I look at the businesses requesting information from WorkCover, asking for WorkCover to come out and have a look at how they are operating their businesses.

Never before have we seen so much discussion and so much proactive action in the workplace from employers who want to make sure they are doing the right thing—and there are a number of employers who did not know of their obligations under OH&S who are now fully aware of their obligations. It has never been taken more seriously than it is now. That is for the benefit of everybody in the ACT, not just employees who have an extra layer of protection added for their families in the unfortunate case of an accident or workplace fatality; it is for employers as well. It is good for employers to have in place strategies to deal with occupational health and safety in their workplaces. This is what we are starting to see. There has never been more interest in occupational health and safety. In that alone, the industrial manslaughter laws have already been a success.

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