Thursday, 27 February 2020
Industrial Manslaughter Laws
On behalf of Senator O'Neill I move:
That the Senate—
(a) recognises that:
(i) since the publication of the Education and Employment References Committee report, They never came home–the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia (the report), tabled on 17 October 2018, 183 workers have lost their lives in the workplace,
(ii) 2019 featured a nearly 10% increase in the number of Australians fatally injured while working compared with 2018, and
(iii) as of 13 February, 21 Australian workers have died on the job this year,
(b) congratulates the Victorian, ACT, Queensland and Northern Territory Governments for passing comprehensive industrial manslaughter laws; and
(c) calls on the Federal Government to:
(i) act on the recommendations of the report, and
(ii) implement a federal industrial manslaughter regime.
Everyone who goes to work should return home safely to their family each and every day. Both the 2018 Senate inquiry and the 2018 review into model workplace health and safety laws emphasised the need for improvements to and greater consistency in the application of enforcement and prosecution of the model work health and safety laws. The government remains open to the proposal of a nationally consistent industrial manslaughter offence, but we are first committed to understanding why there appear to be so few prosecutions for workplace deaths under the current general criminal laws, workplace health and safety laws and existing industrial manslaughter laws. As such, we wrote to state and territory ministers and are working with them to better understand the impediments to prosecutions and will meet to discuss potential changes in this area in the first half of this year.
It has long been Greens policy to have federal laws on industrial manslaughter and to have them in the Crimes Act so that employers can be held accountable for the tragic loss of hundreds of lives on worksites around Australia. The current patchwork, really, of state and territory laws does not protect workers. I sat on this inquiry, and we heard devastating stories. In many cases the inquest takes so long that the statute of limitations expires, so no-one is held accountable. The system is definitely failing. Funding and resources also must be directed towards work health and safety regulators, who can ensure compliance and allow for more effective preventive measures to be put in place, because our aim should be zero work-related deaths.
Question agreed to.