Categories: Hot Off The Press
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Published on: February 18, 2012

I would very much like to take a newspaper, walk through the doors of Parliament House and slap the thing over a select few craniums – more than a few actually!

Seriously, when it comes to Occupational Health and Safety, not much has changed in the 7 years since VOID came to be. We had such high hopes. People were saying the right things and all the buzz words were being cleverly utilised to pacify the grief. The truth is that we still have the big end of town dictating to legislators. Money still has the loudest voice of all.

Harmonisation seemed like such a promising step in the right direction but once again we have the tail wagging the dog. After the peak housing industry group (HIA) commissioned business consultants Hudson Howell to look at the added costs associated with the new safety laws, the wheels fell off. The noise started. The report itself is safely under wraps, hidden from scrutiny.

They said up to 12,500 South Australian will lose their jobs with up to 2500 in the crucial home-building sector alone. Then of course there was the suggestion that the domestic housing industry is already operating with high regard to safety. The photograph I have included here outlines what can be fairly easily seen on a building site right here in SA. It doesn’t appear to look too safe to me. Those boards are very high from the ground (about 8 metres). Gosh, is it really that big a mystery why we need laws strengthened and lineated across this country?

Frankly, this harmonisation safety bill has become tedious – the focus on safety is non-existent anyway.

It’s actually almost laughable! The Liberal Party appears to have a sudden concern for the welfare of Australian business and industry and this dreamed up figure of job losses. The same Liberal Party that has sat corpse-like on its hands watching this never ending stem of job loss from Australian primary producers and manufacturing industry around the country in the name of globalisation? Global Treaties that have signed away tens of thousands of Australian jobs over a handful of years? Isn’t that a little hypocritical even for the Libs?

The argument on the ambiguous nature of who is responsible for worker safety in this Bill is just as laughable. It may be a legal argument that has to be had. So what? They have these legal arguments on a daily basis. In my son’s death they delayed for 5 years with a legal argument that was had 16 years earlier. It’s not that big a mystery really, not when you’ve experienced a death in the workplace. It’s bloody heart breaking to learn just how many people actually turn a blind eye to an unsafe act that can go on for years before it claims a life. Safety should encompass each and every person involved. Quit passing the buck. It’s time.

What about volunteers? Should being a volunteer automatically excuse one of responsibilities with regard to the safety of others? God, I do hope not. There should be no excuses for anyone turning a blind eye or being carelessly ignorant to either their own safety or those working around them. Daunting as that may seem, I believe we do an injustice to human intelligence to say it’s not possible for volunteer organisations to be responsible in OHS. All the bureaucratic gobbledegook aside, workplace safety isn’t really that complicated if one cares about others a little beyond a dollar. It’s only when we compromise on that argument that this becomes an issue.

As for the fear of Unions taking over the workplaces? Guffaw! Thinking back to the Desalination Plant and the outwardly obvious risks and dangers that were being reported there long before Brett Fritsch was killed – how many shut downs were there? Zilch. How many shut downs are there interstate where there has been Union right of entry for years?

The simple fact is this. Our Governments are NOT going to resource our regulator anywhere near enough to increase the inspectorate. My bet would be that the Liberal Party would likely reduce spending here if it comes to power so what then?

On the bright side, at least the rose coloured glasses covering these tired old eyes are off. All the sympathetic and concerned dialogue that came from the mouths of those who now argue against OHS laws to further their political agenda? As mothers, fathers, widows, children, brothers, sisters, friends and mates who know the real price of complacent safety in the workplace, we know only too well how actions are so much more meaningful than spoken words.

Nothing has changed.

1 Comment
  1. Karen Hudson says:

    Your youTube clip on Facebook says it all Andrea! “VERY LITTLE” has changed at all since 1920… thats over 90 years that Government have had to implement changes.
    Sadly I see very little changing in the next 90 either.
    Even the ammendments to Industrial Laws here in Tasmania were not allowed to be used in Matty’s case, for some reason even Lawyers turn a blind eye to them.
    It’s so easy to see the necessary changes needed to keep our workers safe Andrea, really its not an earth moving requirement to change industrial laws and occupational health and safety.

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