Politicians are exploiting proposed OHS laws for their own benefit

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South Australia’s Industrial Relations Minister, Rob Lucas, stated in the Adelaide Advertiser on 3 October 2011 that

“The Liberal Party has always supported strong work safety laws which protect workers at work sites.”

This may be the case within the limitations of that sentence but the conservative political parties have not always been supportive of the basis for safety management, the creation of evidence through authoritative research.  According to a 2003 submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions

“After the election of the Liberal/National Coalition in 1996, the Federal Government decided that:

  • the NOHSC budget must be cut by $5.9 million each year;
  • a further 5% cut was imposed across the board; and
  • redundancies had to be covered from within the NOHSC budget.

This represented a cut of $6.6 million (35-40%) to the NOHSC annual budget……

The April 1996 NOHSC decision on allocation of its $14 million budget cut OHS research and information, and education and training. National standards work was also decreased. These areas are central to a national approach to OHS.” [emphasis added]

Around the time of these severe budget cuts Australia had begun moving to a system of national uniformity in OHS.  The impact of this political decision hamstrung the research efforts of NOHSC just as the uniformity momentum was increasing.  As the National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation has written

“A notable development in standard setting in Australia during the 1990s was the movement towards national uniformity in standards in regulations and codes of practice. The process was overseen by the former NOHSC, which in 1991 established a tripartite National Uniformity Taskforce, which identified several key first order priorities for achieving national uniformity: plant, certification of users and operators of industrial equipment; workplace hazardous substances; occupational noise; manual handling; major hazardous facilities; and storage and handling of dangerous goods.

NOHSC developed standards in the first six of these areas, and the jurisdictions were well on the way towards adopting these standards by the end of 1996, although it should be noted that jurisdictions were quite inconsistent in their adoption, particular in choosing whether to implement the standards in regulations or codes of practice, in their drafting styles and, in some cases, the substance of provisions. The national uniformity process was not complete when the Howard government came to power in 1996, and that government first significantly down-sized and then abolished NOHSC, with the result that the move towards national uniformity slowed dramatically after mid-1996.”

Rob Lucas seems to ignore the history of his own party’s decision. Continue reading “Politicians are exploiting proposed OHS laws for their own benefit”

OHS objectors get support from South Australia parliamentarian

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The last seven days has seen many of the conservative speakers express concerns or objections to the Australian government’s close-to-completed process for harmonising workplace safety laws.  Although one may not agree with the objections, in most cases there is some ideological sense.  On 15 September 2011, South Australia’s shadow Minister for Industrial Relations (IR), Rob Lucas, launched a broadside attack on the OHS laws but with dubious claims.

Lucas’ media release states that

“There is growing opposition to Labor’s proposed bill from industry and business organisations such as Business SA, Master Builders Association, Housing Industry Association, Motor Trade Association, Self Insurers of SA and the Australian Hotels Association.

“The Liberal Opposition believes this bill is a massive full frontal assault on subcontractors and small business in SA which will lead to significant increases in house prices,” Shadow Industrial Relations Minister Rob Lucas said.

“For example, the HIA have estimated the new laws will increase costs by $12,000 for a single story construction and approximately $20,000 for a double story construction.”

The $A20,000 claim has been used by the HIA in the past in South Australia .  A former (Labor) IR minister, Paul Caica, was confronted by the claim in 2008.  The costs seemed to concern the provision of scaffolding on domestic construction sites for work above two metres but no clarification was made publicly.

In May 2011, SafetyAtWorkBlog investigated the $A20,000 claim.  The claim  was quoted at the time by Rob Lucas in a media statement.  The blog article in May said:

“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.” Continue reading “OHS objectors get support from South Australia parliamentarian”