NSW follows Victoria’s lead on construction industry safety code

Tower CraneIn 2012, the Victorian Government introduced a construction industry compliance code intended to control industrial relations in that industry sector.  Significantly, this Code included specific work health and safety (WHS) obligations. On 6 December 2012. the New South Wales Government, led by the Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell proposed a similar code with exactly the same WHS obligations.

In Premier O’Farrell’s media release, the Minister for Industrial Relations Mike Baird made no mention of the WHS obligations.  The statement focuses on containing wages, controlling potential cost blowouts on infrastructure projects and, without mention it by name, productivity.  Minister Baird missed a golden opportunity to argue both the economic and moral positions; an opportunity that was not missed by the Victorian Minister for Finance Robert Clark when he announced his State’s construction compliance code in July 2012. Continue reading “NSW follows Victoria’s lead on construction industry safety code”

New South Wales gets a win-win on OHS laws

The Australian Government must be either issuing a sigh of relief or clapping their hands together following the passing of the model OHS laws by the New South Wales (NSW) government last week.

NSW was a belligerent signatory to the agreement for nationally harmonised OHS laws but the laws passed with sufficient tweaking to make the laws compatible with the national model laws.  Several days later, on 30 May 2011, everyone is claiming a win.  Unions retain some authority to prosecute over OHS breaches, although only “for the third and least serious category of offence”, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon is reported as saying that the NSW upper house of Parliament has protected an important safeguard for workers.

On 27 May 2011 Lennon was bemoaning “that the Industrial Court has lost most of its occupational health and safety jurisdiction” and yet the Industrial Relations Commission will now retain an active OHS role even though it is dealing with lesser OHS offences, similar to the unions’ role above.

Overall the amendments in the NSW Parliament seem to be a face-saving exercise for the left-wing politicians and trade union movement.  They were provided with little wins but have given way on the major objections.  It is reasonable to describe this as a pragmatic solution given that the March 2011 NSW election effectively removed the union movement’s power base in that State. Continue reading “New South Wales gets a win-win on OHS laws”

New work health safety laws in NSW parliament

The New South Wales Government submitted its version of the Work Health and Safety Bill into parliament on 4 May 2011. Neither the Bill or speeches are yet available on-line [Update – see comments below] but NSW Greens MP, David Shoebridge, has provided some indication of what was presented.  Hopefully more information will be available tomorrow.

Shoebridge confirms what many expected

“The Work Health and Safety Bill and Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Bill will remove the capacity of unions to prosecute for breaches of Occupational Health and Safety laws….”

“These bills will also remove the jurisdiction of the Industrial Relations Court and abolish the reverse onus of proof…”

These changes are simply the political cost of the national harmonisation process.  Whether the removal of these powers will decrease workplace safety levels in NSW is highly debatable, as the lack of these in other State does not seem to have affected safety levels. Continue reading “New work health safety laws in NSW parliament”

Election excitement masks OHS confusion

The Liberal Party of New South Wales won last Saturday’s State election in a landslide.  The New South Wales employer associations are jubilant but the jubilation masks some confusion over OHS reforms.

The new NSW government is being urged to act promptly on OHS reform issues particularly by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and the NSW Business Council but the media statement of the AICD illustrates the confused understanding of the national OHS reforms. It says

“Reforms should include reducing the burden on business of excessive regulation, re-committing NSW to participate in the national reform of occupational health and safety laws and reducing the excessive liability burden imposed on company directors by state legislation.”

“The new government must move decisively in its first term to reduce unnecessary regulation and red tape, which is strangling business.”

It is acknowledged that the introduction of new OHS laws will substantially increase the need for paperwork in order to produce the evidence required to support compliance, due diligence and positive OHS duties on managers. It seems impossible to achieve OHS reforms with also accepting the increased documentation. Continue reading “Election excitement masks OHS confusion”

Business jumps the gun on OHS, unions hope for the best

As the Australian State of New South Wales approaches its March 2011 election day, the lobbying is becoming more fierce.  In fact,  conservation opposition leader, Barry O’Farrell will need to rein in some of his business colleagues if the lobbying becomes too fierce.

It is widely tipped that O’Farrell will win the election and people are already planning for his ascension.  If the business pressure becomes too overt, it may reduce the size of the landslide win that is being predicted.

For example, prior to the Council of Australian Governments meeting organised by the federal (Labor) government, the New South Wales Minerals Council provides an example of the issue they will be running on through to the election.  CEO Dr Nikki Williams has said in a media release this afternoon: Continue reading “Business jumps the gun on OHS, unions hope for the best”