As you may be aware, the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 passed through the upper house of the Victorian Parliament last night. Unfortunately, it passed without any of our amendments included.
This Bill is the result of an election commitment made by Daniel Andrews in May 2018, after years of campaigning by Victoria’s union movement since they put it forward in 2002. We know this Government owes the union movement a lot and will do whatever it takes to help them.
The Andrews Labor Government has a majority in the lower house, holding 55 of the 88 seats. But it does not have a majority in the upper house, holding only 18 of the 21 votes required. For this Bill to become law, only three minor party members in the upper house needed to vote with the Andrews Labor Government to create a majority – and two members of the crossbench are former union members. The Government passed the Bill with the support of the Animal Justice Party, the Reason Party, the Greens and the Transport Matters Party.
The Opposition and other independents raised our amendments and specifically referred to the concerns of Master Builders Victoria and our members during the debate. For example:
Bev McArthur, Liberal member for Western Victoria:
Stuart McLean, Enviroline
“The process of achieving a safe workplace or safe work practices requires as a minimum, cooperation and the full intellectual commitment of all parties involved in the task” (page 45). “… if I lend you my car and you drive my car in an unsafe manner and kill someone, the law doesn’t make me responsible for the killing. You are responsible because you were the driver, even though you killed the person using my car” (page 46).
Joe Schiavello, Schiavello Group
“Health and safety at the workplace should be the responsibility of everyone, including employees…
To remove the responsibility of an individual worker and place it on to someone else is to remove their ability to carry out their duties in the safest possible manner” (page 45).
Michael Cooke, Humphries & Cooke
“Employees have got to be responsible…It will be too risky to run a building business if it gets legislated like this” (page 45).
Craig Jenkins, SJ Weir
“As a regional builder who has operated within the industry for over 100 years with an excellent safety track record, you start to wonder if the risk and reward will become too unbalanced for our industry to bear” (page 45).
Joe Dean of Dean builders
I believe many employers will consider downsizing or abandoning the industry. Some may feel that it’s becoming too dangerous to continue (page 45).
David Davis, Liberal Member for Southern Metropolitan and Leader of the Opposition:
We have listened very closely to the Master Builders Association of Victoria and Rebecca Casson in particular…. They have put forward very clearly that aspects of this bill will have the wrong impacts.
We acknowledge the Opposition and independent members for their support.
On your behalf, Master Builders Victoria has been very active on this issue. We pursued a strategic and methodical advocacy campaign to amend this legislation. We had dozens of meetings with the Government, Opposition and the crossbench. We mounted a media campaign which saw us featured on TV and in the print media to make our position clear:
Master Builders Victoria cannot support any law that does not have safety as its number one objective and be workable, proportionate, fair, support continuing collaboration on safety and avoid unintended outcomes.
During our campaign, we worked with other key industry bodies whose members would also be affected by this new legislation.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, our advocacy efforts did not culminate with the results which we had hoped for. However, this does not alter our position - just as the OHS Act has been changed now, it can be changed again. We will continue to fight for our members and do everything in our power to ensure that workplace safety is not sacrificed for the Government to appease the union movement.
We thank you for your support during this campaign. We specifically acknowledge those members who worked closely with us and provided real examples of how this law will impact their business. We will continue to use these examples as we demonstrate that this is not a fair law.
The Bill will now be presented to the Governor for Royal Assent and is expected to come into effect on a day to be proclaimed or, at the latest, 1 July 2020.
Given the potential impact of this legislation, we will meet with WorkSafe in the coming weeks to ensure we have the right information for our members. We will then organise a briefing session early in the New Year, exclusively for members. If you would like to attend, please register your interest HERE. If you have already registered, we will send you more details in due course.
If you would like further information, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
If you require OH&S assistance, please call (03) 9411 4521