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OHS harmonisation is a major priority for Australian Industry

15 September, 2009

“The proposed harmonised national OHS laws are based on a successful model that has delivered demonstrably safer workplaces and which will raise safety standards across Australia,” Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout has said.

“The proposed national OHS framework, which is being opposed by the ACTU, is based on a model which arose from an exhaustive review process which unions had every right to participate in.

“The proposed new system has the support of the Federal and State Governments through the COAG process and support from state safety regulators.

“It is also based on legal principles that come from the states with the best safety records in Australia. Safety performance in those states suggest that the model laws could deliver a 25 per cent better safety outcome across the country than the system the ACTU is clinging to.

“The ACTU is supportive of expanding elements of the NSW OHS system to all other states. This would entrench union privileges, which have not delivered the best safety outcomes.

“The ACTU is seeking, for example, the right for unions to prosecute employers for criminal offences which carry up to a five year jail term and/or a $3 million fine. That is the job of an independent body, not a trade union, and is inconsistent with the centuries old practice of independent prosecutors in the legal system.

"The ACTU also wants reverse onus of proof with employers treated as guilty until proven innocent. This again is inconsistent with the general principles at the heart of the criminal law.

“The OHS harmonisation proposals agreed by COAG would finally deliver one system of safety law for Australia based on the highest standards internationally.

“Ai Group urges governments not to weaken their resolve and to press forward with a system that is based on an objective analysis of what is required to deliver good safety – and that is the model which has already been agreed by COAG.

“Employers want the safest workplaces but don’t want nine different approaches spread between the states and territories,” Ridout said.

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