Individuals in Queensland can now be found guilty of industrial manslaughter after the government’s controversial bill passed 43 votes to 39 this week. The charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, while corporate offenders face a fine of up to $10 million.
However the new laws won’t apply to everyone, after a mining sector revolt caused the government to drop its plans to include the resources sector. The Queensland Resources Council accused the government of trying to push through legislation at the “eleventh hour” without scrutiny or consultation, and threatened to campaign against the Palaszczuk government at the looming state election.
There were fears from the resource sector that the new laws would actually reduce safety in the mining industry. In a statement, the QRC said tougher penalties would ruin the resource sector’s strong culture of safety, where information is freely shared between companies in real-time.
“The QRC fears these amendments will reduce health and safety outcomes by targeting individuals rather than organisational error, and create a finger-pointing culture that ends the sharing of safety information from any incident, for fear of prosecution.”
Despite the mining sector exemption, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace told Parliament the new offence sent a clear message to corporations that negligence was not acceptable.
“We owe it to the victims of these tragedies, and their loved ones, to ensure Queensland has strong industrial manslaughter laws to protect people on the job, backed by strong penalties for employers proven to be negligent. It’s simply not good enough that a company and its senior officers can negligently cause the death of a worker and evade justice due to the veil of corporate anonymity.”
“If you are doing the right thing you have nothing to fear from this legislation.”
The new offence was one of 58 recommendations handed down by the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. A copy of the full review can be found here: Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.