On May 13 2019 the Australian media published articles based on research (released after embargo) conducted by the RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice and about victims of crime which those advocating for Industrial Manslaughter laws should seriously consider.
The Age newspaper reports
“Victims of crime felt let down by the system when offenders pleaded guilty to a less serious charge and did not proceed to trial ‘‘ because they wanted the opportunity to tell their story’’ , …..”
“One victim interviewed during the research said they felt left out of discussions with the OPP when charges in their case were downgraded from murder to manslaughter for a plea of guilt …”
Occupational health and safety (OHS) seems a little ahead of the game here as relatives of deceased workers have been integrated into OHS consultation in both Queensland and Victoria. Relatives had a very strong voice through the Senate Inquiry into Industrial Deaths. Victim Impact Statements have been possible in the Courts for many years but Industrial Manslaughter laws add an additional depth to the participation of victims of industrial crime, and an additional risk of false promises.
In June 2018, Rick Sarre, now the Dean of Law at the University of South Australia’s School of Law, wrote an article in The Conversation titled
“Why industrial manslaughter laws are unlikely to save lives in the workplace“. On the eve of the #safetyscape conference and an upcoming conference on enforcement in which presentations on Industrial Manslaughter laws will feature, SafetyAtWorkBlog asked the very busy Professor for an update on some of the themes and thoughts in his article. Below are his responses.
Shortly after a SafetyAtWorkBlog article on occupational health and safety in the Australian federal election campaign, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) release media statements. It is a coincidence but one I should have anticipated as yesterday was International Workers’ Memorial Day.
The Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O’Connor, and Shadow Assistance Minister, Lisa Chesters, said that Australia’s work health and safety laws:
“are no longer harmonised or adequate,…..
This is the closest we will get to an admission that the harmonisation of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws in Australia has been a failure. Both the ALP and the Liberal/National coalition have responsibility for this failure. the harmonisation process was announced by the Liberal’s John Howard, but the Labor Party had the running of the process for most of its length. Many States introduced the laws but both political parties in Victoria have refused to participate, based on flawed economic assessments. The continued disinterest from Victoria’s Labor Party in harmonisation remains puzzling.
Some trade union and occupational health and safety (OHS) newsletters are stating that the New South Wales Labor Party has pledged to introduce Industrial Manslaughter laws should it win this weekend’s State Election. Looking at the actual pledges shows the commitment may not be as solid as some expect and others hope.
The NSWLabor website related to workplace safety matters seems to make no commitment for the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws, only to discuss laws and penalties in comparison to the penalty for manslaughter under other laws:
One of the hottest occupational health and safety (OHS) issues at the moment is Industrial Manslaughter but this is just one aspect of the enforcement of OHS and prosecution for breaches. In June 2019 a two-day conference on OHS/WHS Prosecution and Enforcement is being held in Melbourne, Australia with a list of respected speakers who are prominent in Australian labour law circles.
The conference is more expensive than some other OHS conferences but the list of speakers is impressive and the theme could not be more topical. (A brochure is available for download) Until March 15 2019, Criterion Conferences is applying an Early Bird discount of $500 for each delegate. SafetyAtWorkBlog has negotiated a further discount applicable to Subscribers only.