Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 29 October 2013) . . Page.. 3889 ..
It is worth making the observation too that, when it comes to the application of penalties, the government has recently reformed the law to provide for on-the-spot fines, so that work safety inspectors have greater capacity to issue on-the-spot fines up to the tune of $3,000 or $4,000 for simple work safety breaches that would otherwise have required a full prosecution for any penalty to be applied. These on-the-spot fines are already making a difference in workplaces across the ACT. The extra inspectors that the government has engaged now have the capacity to issue these fines to send a timely and direct monetary penalty to those employers who fail in their work safety obligations.
The government is also, more broadly, clearly focused on the issue of consistency in sentencing. In the most recent budget the government made allocation of $2.2 million over four years for the establishment of an ACT sentencing database. This new system will allow the courts and practitioners to better inform sentencing decisions to improve consistency. ACT courts already have access to the New South Wales system, and I am looking forward to launching the ACT sentencing database later this year. This database will also assist the new industrial court.
The children’s court model has been adopted by the government as an appropriate model for the new industrial court. It has the advantage of requiring the chief magistrate, in consultation with other magistrates, to declare a specific magistrate to be the industrial court magistrate for a term of not longer than four years. A four-year term of office will allow the magistrate sufficient time to build up familiarity with the complexities of this area of the law and improve consistency in decision making and the application of penalties.
As is the case with the children’s court, the chief magistrate will continue to be responsible for allocating and ensuring the orderly and prompt discharge of the business of the new court. The industrial magistrate will be responsible for dealing with all matters allocated by the chief magistrate for hearing before the new court. The new court will be able to refer civil matters to the Supreme Court where the parties jointly apply to have a matter removed to that court, where one party applies to have a matter removed and the court considers it appropriate to do so, or the court can do so on its own initiative.
The jurisdiction of the industrial court will include most proceedings under legislation falling within my portfolio as Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations. The Holidays Act, the Standard Time and Summer Time Act and the two long service leave acts have been removed from the jurisdiction of the new court to allow it to focus its attention solely on criminal work safety and civil compensation matters and to assist in the development of its specialisation.
The industrial jurisdiction of the new court will be exactly the same as the current industrial workload of the Magistrates Court. There will not be extra work for this court. The existing work will simply be differently organised. The criminal jurisdiction of the court will also remain the same as it is now in the Magistrates Court, with serious criminal matters such as industrial murder or manslaughter remaining in the Supreme Court, as it has sole jurisdiction to hear criminal matters involving harm to a person where the maximum penalty is greater than 10 years imprisonment.