Richard Marles is a Federal Member of Australia’s Parliament and a former executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He has produced an opinion piece that is doing the rounds of the Victorian media and is headed “Nothing is more important than jobs“. The 80 jobs to be created in the Corio electoral are important but nowhere in the article does Marles talk about creating safe jobs. This is a weakness in his argument and reflects the subconsciousness, and short memory, of many Australian governments.
“Federal Labor has demonstrated time and again that we are the government that puts jobs creation front and centre of government policy. This was clearly shown during the global financial crisis when millions of dollars were invested in community and schools infrastructure. We knew that keeping people in jobs was the top priority”
The Australian Labor Party has indeed undertaken job creation schemes in the recent past and on a broad scale but several of those schemes, particularly concerning home insulation, have been so poorly thought through that they have resulted in fraudulent activities and, of more relevance to this blog, workplace fatalities.
The omission of just one mention of safety in the opinion piece illustrates that Members of Parliament, in general, need to be reminded regularly that workplace safety must be a consideration in any job creation and economic strategies.
It would have taken next to no effort to place the word “safe” before the word “jobs” anywhere in the article. This would have provided safety professionals and lobbyists a hook to begin the debate about not only providing jobs but safe jobs. Such an act may have generated some concerns by the extremist or vocal industry lobbyists but “safe jobs” is supposed to be one of the aims of the OHS law reform the Labor Government has been undertaking nationally for some years now.
One word, “safe”, mentioned every so often by government seeds its importance in the community’s mind and reinforces the value that society already holds as important. It’s omission, speaks just as loudly.