Government Workplace Health and Safety amendments are sleight-of-hand 

Chris Rodwell

CCIWA CEO

Government amendments offered on the Workplace Health and Safety Bill currently before Parliament fail to address its serious flaws, which would see small business owners, sole traders and farmers locked in prison for ten years for tragic accidents that were no fault of their own.

In short, it shuffles the most flawed parts of Bill back into the deck to re-appear elsewhere.

Hundreds of WA businesses have contacted the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA to express their alarm at the Bill, which would see hardworking business owners and farmers who have not been reckless and have not been irresponsible in their actions, facing a decade away from their families, locked in prison.

One workplace tragedy is one too many. It is unimaginable for impacted families. That’s why CCIWA has supported measures that have made workplaces progressively safer over the years, reducing the rate of serious workplace accidents by 62 per cent, to the point that WA is among the safest States in which to work.

The Government has taken Parliament through a complicated process in relation to the WHS Bill. Despite being omitted from consultation with the business community, forming no part of the Boland Review, and not being picked up in the National Model on which whole this reform is premised, the Government continues to pursue an approach to industrial manslaughter that is out of step with the rest of the nation.

Critically, this Bill applies a lower standard for prosecution, while keeping criminal-level penalties. Although it re-labels the Category 1 offence a crime, it does not apply a recognised criminal test. This was the conclusion of the report by the Standing Committee on Legislation, which included a member of the Government. The Government’s proposal now ignores their findings. Notably, the Government seeks to exempt its own Ministers from such exposure.

The Government also fails to acknowledge the need for DPP oversight of prosecution. WorkSafe should not be extended into the field of prosecuting serious criminal offences, which is properly in the role and expertise of the Department of Public Prosecutions.

WA’s small businesses, sole traders and farmers should not face being locked away from their families for ten years, when they have not been reckless or irresponsible in their actions.

WA industry believes in safer workplaces, not criminalising accidents.

CCIWA does not oppose applying criminal penalties for actual criminal negligence. This Bill includes 20 year penalties and multi-million dollar fines for reckless conduct towards safety, which we have not opposed. However the worst parts of this Bill apply a uniquely low standard for prosecution, out-of-step with the rest of the country and would place Western Australian businesses in a unique position of uncertainty.

The business community strongly urges the Parliament to oppose and wholly remove Section 30b in whatever guise, and not to be confounded by sleight of hand.

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