Corporate manslaughter bill for NSW

News

Corporate manslaughter bill for NSW

Apart from facing lengthy jail terms and hefty penalties for workplace deaths, NSW company directors could have to come face to face with the families of people killed on the job, if new bills being introduced by NSW Democrat leader Arthur Chesterfield-Evans get up.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

 

Apart from facing lengthy jail terms and hefty penalties for workplace deaths, NSW company directors could have to come face to face with the families of people killed on the job, if new bills being introduced by NSW Democrat leader Arthur Chesterfield-Evans get up.

Chesterfield-Evans, an Upper House member in the NSW Parliament, told WorkplaceInfo today that while his 'restorative justice' bill, whereby executives would face victims' families, was still only in the early planning stages, he had already given notice of his intention to introduce a corporate manslaughter bill.

He plans penalties along the lines of the recently-failed Victorian bill (see 146/2002) - five years jail and $180,000 fines for company directors for gross negligence leading to death, and $5 million penalties for corporations.

Chesterfield-Evans said it had 'always struck me' when he worked in occupational medicine that 'the bosses didn't really understand at any level the immense damage done' through workplace accidents.

He said too often accidents which caused a total disability were reduced to lost time injury definitions - 'so a cut finger and a total disability are treated the same'. Similarly, such incidents were dealt with by a risk management approach, and he said directors should be made to answer if they had taken a calculated risk with workers' lives.

'It's all very clinical. There's no human face in any of this - in a sense, it's [deemed] almost too trivial [for attention by top management].'

Chesterfield-Evans said he felt the only way to really bring home responsibility for serious workplace injuries and deaths was to have 'a few in the dock' to make other directors think and thus ultimately change corporate culture.

Another bill he is in the very early stages of working on deals with 'restorative justice', whereby directors would have to apologise and explain after a serious workplace accident to the victim's immediate family, through some sort of mediation session.

'In terms of impacting on bosses, I think this would do more than all the fines,' he said.

Chesterfield-Evans is unsure of the timing of the introduction of the industrial manslaughter bill, and says he will continue consultations with the Government, as well as talk to the union movement and employers.

The Government's response

While NSW unions were earlier this year calling for the introduction of such laws, the Bill looks unlikely to get up, with a spokesperson for IR Minister John Della Bosca telling WorkplaceInfo the Government felt there was no need for extra laws.

He said the University of Sydney's Dean of Law, Professor Ron McCallum, had said in a 1997 review that the crime of manslaughter already existed in NSW for workplace deaths. The spokesperson also said NSW already had the highest penalties of any state for OHS breaches, more inspectors than the other states and launched as many prosecutions each year 'as the rest of Australia combined'.

At a state-wide safety summit in Bathurst in July, the Government also committed to establishing a workplace fatalities unit within WorkCover, to work with the police and coronial authorities on whether charges should be large in relation to accidents.

The spokesperson said the Government was working with the union movement on that, and wanted to see how it went first, although he said the Government was always open to consideration of cross-bencher proposals.

In other IR news...

Federal IR bills defeated

Bills designed to outlaw pattern bargaining and require secret ballots before industrial action can proceed were defeated in the Senate on 25 September.

The ALP and the Australian Democrats used their numbers to throw out the proposed legislation. It was the third time the Senate has rejected similar bills.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is preparing its Campaign 2003 in which a number of enterprise (pattern) agreements will expire at the same time. This campaign will now proceed.

Under current legislation (which will continue to apply), a union member can apply to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in advance of a vote and a secret ballot could be ordered.

 

Post details