Page 4096 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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whole new category of offenders, that being individuals who run businesses, and there has been no justification why there has been a departure from the normal practice of providing a penalty against a corporation being five times the rate. As you go through the legislation, you will find in other places that corporations are penalised at five times the rate of individuals. But here they are not, and these are things that we in the Canberra Liberals do not agree with and will not support.

We believe that there is a longstanding practice that goes back at least to 1996 of having penalty units, and that is understood and well understood in the ACT. We do not believe that there should be a departure from penalty units and we do not believe there should be a departure from the principles that underline those penalty units. I therefore commend to you these three amendments, 2, 3 and 4, which amend clauses 32, 33 and 34, to put some order back into the statute book and the way that we deal with penalties in the ACT.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Health and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.45): The government will not be supporting these amendments. As Mrs Dunne has pointed out, the work we are trying to do here—and indeed it is being done by governments around the country—is to harmonise our occupational health and safety laws. Principally behind that—and this has been supported by both Liberal and Labor governments around the country—is the acknowledgement that there can be improvements to workers’ safety and improvements for business in understanding the regulatory regime within which they operate if there is a standardised approach across the country.

Indeed, there are parts of this bill which require us to move away from either specific legislation that we have in place or indeed ways in which we outline the penalties and the penalties that are attached to particular offences, but I think if you spend the time to read the regulatory impact statement, which has been released, you can see the significant savings and potential improvements to workers’ safety that will come from simply harmonising this area of regulation.

Mrs Dunne’s amendments before us would not only halve the maximum penalty which may apply to a body corporate in each of these clauses but would also reduce the penalty for other businesses to the same penalty set out for a worker who commits an offence. This is work that has been consulted on and developed in consultation with unions, industry and government. It has been a very thorough process. Agreement has not always been reached on every aspect, but issues such as these have been thoroughly agitated and I think we do at some point have to accept the advice of experts in this field. The national review panel recommended, and workplace relations ministers agreed, that there should be a range of options available when a person is found to be in breach of their safety duty.

It is important to consider the regime in its entirety. There is provision for a range of different sentencing options, from imprisonment to fines, to adverse publicity orders, to orders for restoration, to work, health and safety undertakings for lesser offences. The review considered all of the penalty regimes across Australia in occupational health and safety and decided on the model that is in this bill. The increases in penalties will reinforce the deterrent effect of the bill and, importantly, will allow the

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