Industrial manslaughter will become an offence attracting lengthy jail time and significant fines in Queensland after legislation passed State Parliament.
The Labor government’s bill, sparked by last year’s Dreamworld and Eagle Farm tragedies, passed 43 votes to 39 on Thursday but with amendments blocking efforts to extend the reforms to the resources sector.
Under the laws, the maximum penalty for industrial manslaughter will be 20 years imprisonment for an individual, with a maximum fine of $10 million for a corporate offender.
The measures were prompted by the deaths of four people on Dreamworld’s Thunder Rapids Ride last October, which came three weeks after two workers who were crushed at a building site at Eagle Farm racecourse.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the laws reflected community expectations around how work-related fatalities should be treated.
“The creation of a new offence of industrial manslaughter will bring about an important cultural shift,” she told Parliament on Thursday.
“There’s never been one successful manslaughter claim against an employer in the history.
“There are three cases pending at the moment and not one case has been under the criminal code and what we’re doing is ensuring that that changes along societal expectations.”
Ms Grace insisted the measures did not place new duties on businesses, but rather reinforced current safety obligations.
“If you are doing the right thing you have nothing to fear from this legislation or these new offences,” she said.
Last year in Queensland 40 workplace fatalities were notified to authorities.
The government was forced to scrap plans to extend the measures to the mining sector after the Queensland Resources Council threatened to campaign against it at the next state election.
The Liberal National Party opposition voted against the bill, with opposition industrial relations spokesman Jarrod Bleijie arguing the laws were the government’s “union payback”.
“The only reason we have to debate and rush these laws through the Parliament is because of the imminent election and to make sure that the unions have their boxes ticked on their industrial relations legislation going through,” he told Parliament on Thursday.
But the Queensland Council of Unions said the laws would be a deterrent to make sure companies didn’t cut corners and put profits ahead of their workers.
“There’s nothing more important than workers coming home safe after a day’s work,” QCU general secretary Ros McLennan said.
This article was published last 12 October 2017 on Brisbane Times (brisbanetimes.com.au).