Business groups have different stances on harmonisation issues

The politics of the Australian print media may be illustrated by an article in The Australian Financial Review (AFR) (only available through subscription or hard copy) on 27 July 2011 that, essential contrasts yesterday’s article in The Australian.

Today’s AFR article places the Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) in contrast to the ACCI and the NSW Minerals Council over the implementation timetable on OHS harmonisation.  Mark Goodsell of AiGroup said in the AFR that all parties have been able to voice their concerns throughout this three year review process:

“So we would be very disappointed if there was a fracturing of commitment to harmonisation or if the timetable was pushed out.”

The objection to an extension of time places AiGroup in opposition to the WA Government’s Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien.

Scott Thompson of BCA says that an effective national OHS system needs consistent involvement by each government.

The ACCI is sending out confusing messages.  Most legal observers of the harmonisation process have acknowledged that the real-world implementation of many of the laws will require several years of legal debate, often, in the Courts.  But Carolyn David of ACCI is reported as saying:

“ACCI is concerned that the political timeframe has constrained the process, resulting in a consolidation rather than in a considered, practical set of regulations that could have been tested for workability in the wide range of workplaces.”

There was little evidence of this concern in its submission on the new OHS laws in November 2009.  In its submission in 2010, it concluded that:

“ACCI is pleased to provide the preceding feedback on the Exposure Draft of the Model OHS Act as part of Safe Work Australia’s public comment process. Our comment is based on extensive consultation with a substantial proportion of Australia’s employers and is designed to ensure that the model Act is fair, balanced, clear, reasonable, user-friendly, practical, uniform, and consistently and fairly enforced in each jurisdiction. The quality of the model legislation as well as the consistency of its enforcement will ultimately determine the success of this important reform. We encourage Safe Work Australia to carefully consider each of ACCI’s proposals and to adopt changes that will help ensure that effective, high quality, uniform OHS legislation will be in place across Australia by the end of 2011.”

No concerns about timetables then but perhaps the objections were expressed in another forum.  SafetyAtWorkBlog pointed out in November 2009:

“ACCI has a seat at the Safe Work Australia Council discussion table through its representative Annette [sic] Bellamy.” [link added]

Bellamy continues to hold that position.

If, as Minter Ellision’s Samantha Betzien says in the AFR article,

“….the major difference for businesses in the new rules would be the positive obligation on them to ensure they addressed safety concerns, which would “involve more than just ticking boxes””,

objections to the harmonisation process reflect poorly on the OHS understanding and commitment of those objecting.

Kevin Jones

Categories business, consultation, executives, government, law, lawyers, OHS, politics, safety, UncategorizedTags , , ,

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