Workplace Manslaughter Legislation – Ministerial Response

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Original adjournment matter from Juliana Addison MP to Parliament –

I direct my adjournment matter to the Attorney-General, and the action I seek is for her to provide me with a detailed update on the progress of the development of the workplace manslaughter legislation and the work of the implementation task force, as it is an issue that I care deeply about.

This is an issue of great significance to many members of my community following the workplace deaths of Charlie Howkins and Jack Brownlee in Delacombe on 21 March 2018 when they were crushed under tonnes of loose earth following a trench collapse.

I note that the first meeting of the workplace manslaughter implementation task force occurred on 28 March 2019, chaired by the member for Sydenham and including representatives from business, unions, industry and victims’ families.

I wish to recognise the contribution of and pay tribute to Dave and Janine Brownlee and Lana Cormie as victims’ families representatives on the implementation task force. To have Jack, a most precious son, and Charlie, a beloved husband and father, killed in such tragic circumstances and then do all that you can to prevent others from being killed at work is admirable-thank you.

The workplace manslaughter laws that we promised to introduce will help make sure that every Victorian makes it home to their loved ones. I look forward to being updated by the Attorney-General on this most important matter.


Response from the Hon Jill Hennessy MP, Attorney-General & Minister for Workplace Safety (10th September 2019) –

Up to 30 people are killed on the job in Victoria each year, and every death is one too many.

The Victorian Government committed to introducing a new criminal offence of workplace manslaughter to hold corporations and individual officers accountable where their negligence leads to the death of an employee or member of the public.

Under the proposed new laws, employers will face fines of up to around $16 million and individuals responsible for negligently causing death will be held to account and will face up to 20 years in jail.

At the outset, I can say that the workplace manslaughter legislation is on track to be introduced to Parliament by the end of this year.

To ensure we get these new laws right, we have consulted extensively with a range of interested stakeholders through various channels.

We established an Implementation Taskforce chaired by the Member for Sydenham, Natalie Hutchins, and consisting of members and representatives from employer groups, unions and victims’ families. The Taskforce has met four times and will continue to be consulted on the draft Bill. I would like to thank the members of the Taskforce for their contributions to the development of the new laws.

Supporting the Taskforce, a Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incidents Reference Group comprised of representatives from victims’ families was also established to ensure that families who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents can contribute to the reforms. This group has met three times and I would like to thank them for their invaluable contribution to the new laws, and echo Ms Addison’s recognition of the contribution that Dave and Janine Brownlee and Lana Cormie have made both as members of the reference group and taskforce.

The Reference Group has had an invaluable role in shaping reform and the Government is committed to ensuring that families’ perspectives and experiences continue to inform workplace safety policy and decision-making.

To ensure that these new laws will be implemented and enforced effectively, we have also been working closely with WorkSafe and have consulted with a Legal Advisory Group comprising representatives from a range of plaintiff and panel law firms and occupational health and safety experts, as well as justice sector agencies including courts, police and the office of public prosecutions.

These laws are the first step in addressing workplace deaths and we will continue work to improve prevention, response and the WorkCover scheme more broadly.

Everyone should come home from safe from work each day and this new law will send a strong message that putting people’s lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated.