The politics of safety

Bill Shorten third from the right at the 2012 Safe Work Australia awards in Parliament House Canberra

There is little doubt that Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, believes that occupational health and safety (OHS) is important. His interest was on show, perhaps most significantly, during his time as a union leader at the Beaconsfield mine disaster but he has spoken at various OHS awards, the opening of the National Workers Memorial, local memorials, and was a participant in the Maxwell Review of Victoria’s OHS review in 2006.

OHS has not appeared yet in the current Federal Election campaign. It rarely does. But there is an opportunity to argue that the Australian Labor Party (ALP), of which Shorten is the leader, will not only create more jobs for Australian but that they will be safe jobs. To an OHS professional, it seems to be a simple position, a position that is extremely difficult to argue against. However, the politics of safety in Australia cannot be separated from the role and activities of the trade union movement. Yet, OHS is not just a union challenge, it is relevant to all workers and their families, but only the trade unions seem to have an OHS voice. Letting this situation continue is not sustainable.

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The dicks are swinging over OHS

A couple more election campaign publications and statements have appeared in relation to occupational health and safety (OHS), one by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and another in response to some advertising by the Construction Forestry Mining Maritime and Energy Union (CFMEU) released by the Master Builders Australia (MBA).

Institute of Public Affairs

There is nothing in the IPA report “20 policies to fix Australia” that directly relates to OHS, but there is a continuance of the desire for less “red tape”, a desire that has often mentioned OHS regulations and licencing as examples. The IPA says:

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Workplace sexual harassment inquiry releases more submissions

The National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces has released another block of public submissions. many of them involve examples of horrible harassment and psychological harm, but several offer research, suggestions for improvement and, a little bit of, prevention.

Those making the recently released submissions seem to be realising that the inquiry’s terms of reference focuses on Australian workplaces.

Non-disclosure agreements and communication barriers

One submission is from Professor Judith Bessant, AM, of RMIT University (Submission 188) in which she addresses the application of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). NDAs have been in the press lately as some of those who experienced sexual harassment were unable to make submissions to this Inquiry without contravening the NDA they had with their employer. Professor Bessant asserts that

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Paspaley clarifies statement on the payment of fines

Free Access

In this morning’s SafetyAtWorkBlog article, a quote from Janice Murray was included and which originated from an ACTU video dated 25 February 2019. Murray said this of the fine imposed on Paspaley:

“We sat through a very strong legal team. I understand that this is something that they can get covered through insurance. The fine through WorkSafe was minimal for us – a $60,000 fine – and that too was covered by insurance.”

Paspaley has provided SafetyAtWorkBlog with this clarification:

“Paspaley does not propose to engage in further correspondence about this matter which concluded in October 2015 and which has, not infrequently, been the subject of misinformation.

Suffice to say that the fine in question was paid directly by Paspaley and was not covered by insurance.”

Kevin Jones

Responses to the Boland Report into Australia’s Work Health and Safety Laws

The mainstream Australian media has almost entirely ignored the release of Marie Boland’s Final Report of the independent Review of Australia’s Work Health and Safety laws. but some of the usual players in the workplace relations sector have responded. Below is a longer responsive from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) but first some simpler responses.

The trade union movement has almost entirely focused on the Industrial Manslaughter recommendations in the Boland Report. As well as a couple of media statements, the Australian Council of Trade Unions released a video on February 25 2019 with Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien accompanied by the parents of two deceased workers. The first to speak were Tony and Robyn Hampton whose son, Jarrod, died while working for Paspaley Pearls. The second couple were Janice and Mark Murray whose son, Luke, died when parts of a crane that was being unpacked fell on him.

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