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OHS harmonisation is a major priority for Australian Industry

03 September, 2009

"The OHS harmonisation agenda is a key commitment of all Australian governments through COAG as well as a major priority for industry, and ACTU's action is trying to re-open settled arguments," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout has said.

"It is time to enact harmonised safety laws nationally. Companies want and need to concentrate on providing safe workplaces, rather than working out how to comply with up to nine different legal systems.

"The unions have already had their say and are being given ample opportunity to influence the shape of the proposed harmonised laws.

"The harmonisation proposals are proceeding after an exhaustive public consultation process and a review by an independent panel including a representative with a strong union background.

"That review rejected out of hand the arguments still being pressed by the unions. These include the ability of unions to launch prosecutions against employers – a role that properly lies with an independent prosecutor. Nevertheless, unions (and other persons) will have a formal right to press regulators to pursue a prosecution against an employer in accordance with the law.

"Union prosecutions only currently exist in NSW, and in no other state or territory. The review found no evidence they have led to better safety in NSW and their absence has not prevented other states having better safety records than NSW.

"OHS harmonisation is about safer workplaces, which employers take very seriously, and the requirement for employers to deal with rules rewritten in every state is a distraction from this aim and a compliance nightmare," Ridout said.

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