Recently I have been critical of political speeches concerning occupational health and safety (OHS) for being bland, safe, unadventurous and lacking vision. Recently a reader sent me these words:
“In recent years occupational health and safety has become the forgotten element of national workplace relations policy. It’s now time to focus on its importance – to protect lives and livelihoods and to ensure the future strength of Australia’s workers compensation schemes. There’s too much in the balance to let the system decline in effectiveness and increase in cost. Lives are at stake.
So is our economic strength, because occupational health and safety reform is also an important micro-economic reform. The right policies will reduce cost pressures on employers, self-insurers and taxpayers alike and increase profitability, wages and productivity. The best approach is through national cooperation.
By working together, the Commonwealth and the States and Territories can get injuries down, costs down and safety up.”
That extract could easily have been spoken by a political leader in the current election campaign. These words could readily be supported by the major Australian political parties as they address both the pain of workplace death and the economic impacts and opportunities of OHS. Australians have seen next to no discussion of workplace health and safety in this campaign, but OHS occasionally gets discussed in politics.
The extract above is from Julia Gillard’s speech to the national conference of the Australian Council of Trade Unions almost exactly fifteen years ago on May 22, 2008.