The South Australian Government has confirmed to SafetyAtWorkBlog that the Work Health and Safety Bill introduced into Parliament on 7 April 2011 has been withdrawn less than one month later.
South Australian politics has been in turmoil since the resignation of the Industrial Relations Minister, Bernie Finnigan, on 22 April 2011. Finnigan presented the WHS Bill to Parliament and had the running of the Bill. The IR portfolio, including this Bill, was given to Patrick Conlon and Conlon decided to withdraw the legislation.
A spokesperson for Minister Conlon has advised SafetyAtWorkBlog the Bill was withdrawn for procedural reasons. Finnigan was in the Upper House and Conlon is in the lower. For Conlon to take carriage of the Bill, it needs to be introduced into the Lower House and that is likely to be within weeks.
Conlon has also decided to take advantage of the situation by allowing South Australians to make representations on any concerns they may have with the legislation.
This delay makes it more difficult for South Australia to meet the deadline for the legislation at the end of 2011 but it also takes a little of the gloss from being the first State to support the national OHS harmonisation process by introducing its own legislation.
Earlier this week it was reported that the Housing industry Association (HIA) has
“…estimated the impact of the [WHS] bill and associated regulations will lead to a $15,000 increase in the cost of a single storey trussed roof dwelling and $22,000 for a two storey dwelling.”
The statement, seemingly based on the text of a media statement from Opposition IR Minister Rob Lucas (see below), appears to be unnecessarily alarmist by implying these costs will be passed on to the consumer.
The source of the quote above is an article in The Border Watch (2 May 2011) newspaper and the cost issue is supported by several residential builders. One of the builders says that
““We know how to build a house – this bill is being rushed too much and they need to slow down and think about it..”
The picture in the article also shows that at least one builder knows how to allow for workers to be impaled on exposed reinforcement rods as many of the rods pictured are uncapped.
The Housing Industry Association may need to ask its members whether house buyers would be willing to purchase a property on which a worker fell to their death or spilt blood on their slab after an amputation.
The Opposition (Conservative) IR Minister Rob Lucas is helping stir the pot on this legislation with his media statement of 25 April 2011 that was mirrored in the newspaper article. He freely refers to the advice he is receiving from “industry groups” and you can guarantee that it will be those groups who are the first to make representations to Minister Conlon. Conservative parliamentarians almost always conveniently forget that the instigator of the OHS harmonisation process was the former conservative Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard.
On looking for the evidence on the potential business costs, an HIA spokesperson has advised SafetyAtWorkBlog that no figures were provided by the HIA to the minister for this media statement. The spokesperson said that the cost figures may have been extracted from earlier submissions to government. The most recent HIA information relating to WHS legislation is its submission to Safe Work Australia*. There is no mention of any estimates of the magnitude to those quoted by the Minister in that submission.
If Shadow IR Minister Lucas is quoting from old cost estimates that do not relate to the current Work Health and Safety Bill submitted to the South Australian Parliament and now withdrawn, he needs to be held to account by South Australian citizens and, particularly, by prospective homeowners.
*Page 3 of the HIA submission does mention “substantial costs to the homeowners” in its ludicrous example of changing a lightbulb. Page 3 also includes the following statement:
“…the cost of imposing a requirement to provide physical fall protections on all types of height risks will substantially increase the cost of housing. As an example, the housing industry advised that the cost of providing full perimeter scaffold on a single storey home would exceed $6000 per house and could be up to $12000 in some states.”
South Australia is not mentioned specifically, rarely is “full perimeter scaffold” used on a domestic building site and no reference is provided in the submission to support the cost estimates. SafetyAtWorkBlog is awaiting clarification from HIA on the cost estimates quoted by the Minister.