On Sunday 25 July 2010, during the first debate of Australia’s election campaign, Prime Minister Julia Gillard used OHS harmonisation as an example of an achievement that she has been able to introduce that has benefited the Australian people.
The process is in a public hiatus at the moment that began before the election was called. Much of the public discussion on harmonisation has concluded and now the stakeholders are developing drafts regulatiosn, codes and guidances behind the scenes in Canberra.
Prime Minister Gillard’s mention of OHS harmonisation should reassure that the government leaders have not forgotten that the process is occurring. However it is highly unlikely that this issue resonates with the general public but, on this issue, that was not the audience. Harmonisation was one of the few policy issues that is focussed on business concerns, business costs and has the wide support of the business community. It does not involve taxes. It does not (directly) involve industrial relations. It does not rely on unions for implementation.
The fact that harmonisation has been mentioned in an election campaign debate is reassuring but nothing more than that. It is an issue that could be used and that few would argue against because if one did, one would be arguing against the safety of people, at least in the understanding of the general public.
The mention is a footnote in the debate and is unlikely to get any mention in the press on Monday morning. Indeed it is unlikely to get another mention in the election campaign, but it was, and we need to be content with that small win.