More than 5,000 workers rallied outside Victoria’s Parliament today to call on State coalition and independent MPs to pass the Bracks Labor Government’s industrial manslaughter legislation.
The large crowd of mainly construction and manufacturing workers was hushed during a minute’s silence as 12 white crosses were placed on the steps of Parliament in memory of the dozen workers killed on the job in Victoria so far this year.
Jan Carrick – who’s 18-year-old son Anthony was killed on his first day at work at Drybulk Pty Ltd in inner Melbourne in 1998 – told the crowd that the legislation was needed to stop companies like Drybulk from killing people and getting away with it.
Drybulk’s liquidation means the company and its principals have not had to pay $50,000 in safety fines and $20,000 in criminal compensation awarded by state courts.
The Victorian legislation would criminalise gross negligence causing death or serious injury in the workplace, with fines of up to $5 million for corporations and prison terms of up to five years for individuals guilty of the worst kinds of industrial manslaughter.
“When it’s manslaughter, it’s manslaughter, whether it’s on the roads, whether it’s in private, or whether it’s in workplaces,” Victorian WorkSafe Minister Bob Cameron told the rally.
State Attorney-General Rob Hulls dismissed as “nonsense arguments” claims by employer groups that the legislation was unnecessary because the average annual number of people being killed at work had decreased.
“We’ve got to stop this carnage. If road deaths decrease you don’t ease up on road safety. I say to the Liberal Party: if you oppose this legislation then you’re sending a message to Victoria that you’re soft on crime in the workplace,” Mr Hulls told the crowd.
Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Leigh Hubbard said the legislation, although not yet passed by Parliament, had already had a beneficial effect: “We know of examples of companies that have already smartened up their health and safety practices in response to this legislation.”