Last week the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, spoke at the ACTU Congress for 2009. Industrial relations was clearly the principal agenda issue but Gillard did mention OHS. The relevant OHS text of her speech is below.
For those wishing more information about her rowdy reception, coverage is available at several Australian news sites.
The OHS content got no mention in any of the mainstream press and some of the political websites also ignored it.
Prior to the Deputy PM’s speech, the congress held a minute’s silence for all those who lost their lives through traumatic injuries at work. The Deputy PM was presented with a petition (details to come).
During the silence, two relatives of young construction workers in Queensland who had died, were on stage. On screen a role call of the dead scrolled slowly as a backdrop.
Occupational Health and Safety
Friends, as representatives of working Australians you know that nothing is more important to them than safety at work.
Recently State Ministers for occupational health and safety and I reached a vital reform milestone: agreement for the creation of a uniform national occupational health and safety regime.
This is a massive advance for workplace safety. As you will recall, the first, but ultimately unsuccessful steps towards a uniform occupational health and safety regime were taken by the Hawke Government in 1984. 25 years is too long to wait for better laws to cut preventable workplace deaths and accidents. But we are now primed to achieve a great outcome for Australian workers and businesses alike.
Under current occupational health and safety laws, only four jurisdictions allow workers to stop unsafe work – Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT. This represents approximately 14.5% of Australian workers. The new occupational health and safety laws will extend this right to all Australian workers.
For too long employers have thought that they could cut costs by cutting corners on health and safety. Under these new laws every employer will understand that cutting corners comes at a huge price.
The penalties under the new occupational health and safety laws will far exceed existing penalties in today’s legislation in Australia. Currently, the highest maximum fine for a corporation is $1.65 million. In some jurisdictions the maximum is significantly less. Under the new laws, the maximum will be increased to $3 million, almost double the largest penalty in the country today.
Through the tripartite body, Safe Work Australia, you will be partners in developing the model laws for this new national system.