NSW versus national OHS — stoush continues


NSW versus national OHS — stoush continues

Keneally ‘a puppet of unions’ on OHS say Libs, business; Unions urge Keneally to ‘hold ground’ on OHS.


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Keneally ‘a puppet of unions’ on OHS say Libs, business; Unions urge Keneally to ‘hold ground’ on OHS.
Keneally ‘a puppet of unions’ on OHS say Libs, business
NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell has accused Premier Kristina Keneally of being ‘reckless, untrustworthy and a puppet of the unions’ over her backflip on a national harmonised OHS system.
And a major NSW business organisation says Prime Minister Julia Gillard is acting in a principled way on the issue but the Premier is playing politics.
‘The Prime Minister is putting the nation first, the Premier is putting the unions first,’ said NSW Business Chamber CEO Stephen Cartwright.
Keneally has said she will withdraw from the national OHS agreement she signed unless the Federal Government allows New South Wales to have laws that permit union prosecutions, and a reverse onus of proof for employers.
Gillard has threatened to withhold $144 million in incentive payments unless Keneally sticks to the deal.
O’Farrell said Keneally’s decision to welch on a deal with the Federal Government was simply to do the bidding of the union bosses.
‘[It] is proof she’s reckless, untrustworthy and a puppet of the union movement,’ he said.
Can’t be trusted
‘If Kristina Keneally is prepared to break a promise to the Prime Minister, how can be she trusted not to break her promises to the people of NSW?’
‘It’s unbelievable that in pandering to NSW union bosses ahead of next year’s election, Kristina Keneally is prepared to sacrifice $150 million which could have been invested to improve the State's hospitals, schools or transport,’ he said.
‘In breaking her promise to the Prime Minister and other State Premiers, Kristina Keneally has chosen to back the unions over commonsense. Keneally is nothing more than a puppet of the union bosses.’
Worse outcomes
Cartwright said the Prime Minister is right to expose the NSW Government’s poor record in presiding over a system that produces worse OH&S outcomes than other Australian states.
‘NSW has some of the highest fines and high prosecution rates of employers, yet safety outcomes are below the rest of Australia’, he said.
‘The “guilty until proven innocent” system doesn’t work. Other states have shown that the best safety outcomes occur when government and business act as partners in reducing accidents and injuries rather than acting as adversaries.’
‘Australia should be thankful it does not have a Prime Minister whose strings are pulled by the union movement. Regrettably in NSW, the strings of influence are crippling government decision making.’
Political survival
‘There is no doubt these national reforms are needed and Kristina Keneally’s action are solely motivated by political survival,’ he said.
‘The proposed national workplace safety laws were developed in consultation with all State and Federal governments; they are supported by the ALP Premiers of Queensland and Victoria, and were endorsed by NSW — until last week.’
‘Despite the Federal Government and the Federal Opposition supporting uniform national workplace safety laws, Keneally is willing to leave NSW taxpayers $150 million short in order to please her union bosses.’
O’Farrell said that in government, the NSW Liberals and Nationals would support the harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws.
The only government that has refused to support harmonised OHS laws is the Liberal Government of Western Australia.
Greens back Keneally
And, the Greens are backing Keneally and the unions.
‘The Greens support the move to uniform national laws for workplace safety, but this should not come at the expense of existing protections’, said Greens MP Adam Bandt.
‘The right to prosecute and the requirement for employers to show they have fulfilled their “duty of care” are important aspects of the OHS regime that has been hard won by workers in NSW.’
Unions urge Keneally to ‘hold ground’ on OHS
Meanwhile, Unions NSW has urged Premier Kristina Keneally to ‘hold her ground’ on OHS, saying that the test of Labor leaders is how they act to look after the rights of working people.
Keneally is attempting to withdraw from the national harmonised OHS laws unless New South Wales is allowed to retain union prosecutions and the reverse onus of proof for employers.
However Prime Minister Gillard has threatened New South Wales with a loss of $144 million in incentive payments unless Keneally honours the deal she has already signed.
Union advocacy
In her statement announcing that New South Wales wanted to renege on the agreement, Keneally specifically thanked Unions NSW and its secretary Mark Lennon for their advocacy on the matter. Now Lennon is offering political support to Keneally.
In a statement, Lennon said the people of New South Wales should not be forced to give up key safety protections that have served them well in the past.
He said the Federal Government is ‘urging’ the NSW Government to give up key workplace safety provisions to comply with a national harmonisation of OHS laws, but Keneally is ‘right to hold her ground’.
Attempt to back out
In fact the Federal Government is not urging the NSW Government to give up the OHS provisions, Keneally has already agreed to do so in writing, but is now attempting to back out on the deal.
‘The test of any Labor leader, state or federal, is how they act to look after the rights of working people,’ Lennon said.
‘The two OHS provisions being debated at the moment have been vital in protecting the rights of NSW workers in the past.’
Prosecutions ‘effective’
‘Union prosecutions are extremely rare, but they can be very effective. Following union court action the big banks in NSW were forced to invest $100 million in improving safety standards. The result is a fall in armed robberies from 102 in 2002 to just four this year.’
‘In the case of bank safety, WorkCover didn’t act it was a up to a third party — unions — to take up the cause. As a result, real lives have been changed,’ Mr Lennon said.
‘The people of this state are entitled to hang on to their standards in OHS — they shouldn’t be dragged down to a common denominator.’
‘There is real room for compromise here and I am optimistic that a solution can be found.’
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