Cath Bowtell jumps to federal politics

The current Executive Director of WorkSafe, Cath Bowtell, has confirmed that she will contest a seat in the Australian Parliament, according to The Age and AAP reports on 6 July 2010.

As previously stated, this move sets some challenges for WorkSafe Victoria.  The Acting Executive Director following John Merritt’s departure, Stan Krpan, put in his notice shortly after Bowtell’s appointment was announce several months ago.  It was rumoured that one of the labour law firms would snatch him up and although Steve Bell is establishing his own identity at Freehills, the firm lost a major brand advantage when Barry Sherriff left for Norton Rose.

There is no doubt that Bowtell fits the Labor Party needs of the Melbourne electorate but her departure must unsettle WorkSafe.  It now needs to go through the recruitment process again just as the federal government’s OHS harmonisation program is hitting its second phase.  WorkSafe’s HR people must be tossing up whether to choice another candidate with a strong social conscience but, barely hidden political ambitions, or to look again for an appointment from its own ranks.

Perhaps it needs to look to the small and sometimes dubious pool of Australian safety professionals.  The profession itself is traditionally conservative but at least they may be ready to serve the principles of safety instead of self interest.

Perhaps, WorkSafe should look overseas.  John Lacey, former President of UK’s Institute of Occupational Health & Safety, has been a regular visitor to Victoria for over a decade and maybe he could be induced to relocate, even for a 5 year contract.  It would be tempting to look for candidates from outside the political circuits in Australia.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories executives, government, OHS, politics, safety, Uncategorized, WorkSafeTags , , , ,

4 thoughts on “Cath Bowtell jumps to federal politics”

  1. Hi Kevin.
    Fantastic article. In my opion Worksafe victoria recruit the wrong canditates to not only the senior positions but Inspectotrate position . They favor canditates with genreal management background as opposed to OHS . As a health and safety representaive I now have to seek assistance from the ministers office due to incorrect decisions made by worksafe and the inspectors. My experince and that of other HSRs is that Worksafe is mor keen on of disempowering workers and their representaives rather than ensuring our health and safety. This is because they donot have people in the senior postions who have the leadership skills to provide the direction and drive that is required for OHS safety . Rather favoring to appoint canadiates to mange change within the organisation.

  2. You will be aware of the new UK Coalition Governments proposals to review H&S Regulation with a particular emphasis on the advice being given by so called safety \’consultants\’.

    The situation you describe in Oz is seen (at least by the new government) to be the same in the UK in regard to some elements of \’dubious\’ within the ranks.

    You may have seen this article already but it gives a summary of Lord Young\’s speech at IOSH 10 where he is calling on IOSH to lobby for accreditation of safety practitioners to be put into law rather than just the code of conduct that IOSH has in place now. He is slightly confused (he is an Old Tory) but you can see his intent.

  3. \”small and sometimes dubious\”………..Intriguing comment Kevin.

    Can you elaborate?

    I note your suggestion for appointing from the UK.

    Are the Aussies not yet sick of all these Poms coming over to take on senior roles in Vic…..?

    1. \”small\”? I think the number of Australian safety professionals is small but over a decade ago in a safety publication the then Safety Institute President estimated well over 10,000 people in Australia calling themselves OHS professionals. I questioned the estimate at the time and was criticised.

      \”dubious\”? I am not sure that the safety profession in Australia would stand up to be a true profession if detailed analysis was applied. I also know that many safety professionals are technically well-qualified but provide advice that is contrary to business imperatives. It might be the \”right\” advice but if there is little chance of it being implemented, is it really useful.

      Also there are a lot of sales people who would consider themselves safety advisers, even safety professionals, but what they really are is a subject matter expert on safety footwear or lanyards or bullying controls or policy development.

      The challenge is to reduce the \”dubious\” without becoming \”elitist\”. Government is not interested in the differentiation and no safety association has the resources to meet the challenge.

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