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Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2023

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Thursday, 19 October 2023

Tags: Workers Rights, WorkSafe, Legislation

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Speaker, I will be as quick as I can at five to one in the morning.

Ms Ogilvie - I will take it on board.

Mr BAYLEY - I heard the member for Bass and I concur, indeed, with those comments around workplace health and safety. We will be supporting this bill, the Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2023. I indicate that the Greens will also support the amendments being brought forward by the member for Bass, Ms O'Byrne. The Greens, in some of those instances around the country, in other states that she referred to, where these initiatives have been progressed, were supportive and participated in the progress of that. In some instances, certainly championed them as well, so we will be supporting those amendments.

This is the first piece of legislation that I have the pleasure of contributing to as the Greens' workplace safety and consumer protections spokesperson. I thank the minister's office and departmental staff for the briefing on this bill as well as providing some details on the status of the Boland Review. I understand that this bill implements nine outstanding recommendations for the review, 28 have already been implemented, four are intended not to be implemented, and several more are in the process of being progressed via consultation on a 2023 amendment to the model laws.

As far as I can determine, this is the first bill that has been introduced to implement recommendations from the Boland Review - correct me if I am wrong, minister -

Ms Ogilvie - I think that is correct. I am the new minister though.

Mr BAYLEY - and follows from replacement regulations that were introduced last year which, amongst other things, made it mandatory for workplaces to manage psychological health and prevent psychological hazards. This is a very welcome change.

I will take a moment to digress from the substance of this bill in particular, it is important to reflect on the fact that this workplace is covered by the Work Health and Safety Act regulations. The introduction of psychological health obligations in 2022 is very timely, given this was the same year the independent review into parliamentary practices and procedures to support workplace culture was handed down.

As a new member, it was a challenging and confronting read. It is clear that for many, this has not been a workplace conducive to psychological wellbeing, or free from psychological hazards. We have had some discussions about that tonight. I appreciate that there are recommendations from this review that are being progressed, however I note all four of the most recent workplace culture oversight committee updates, not a single recommendation has been implemented, and the vast majority of recommendations, including ones that are overdue, have no status update or time line.

The work health and safety regulations 2022 came into effect on 22 December 2022. This workplace has had this obligation to manage psychological health and prevent psychological hazards for over eight months. I am not a lawyer or a workplace health and safety practitioner, but from reading the Bolt report and the lack of progress on recommendations, it seems to me that this workplace is unlikely to be currently adequately meeting this obligation.

I will quote a few lines for the foreword of the report. I quote:

Key words used repetitively to describe the workplace in both the Survey and throughout the submissions were 'toxic' and 'unsafe'.

The 'enablers' of poor workplace practices are driven by self-entitlement, power imbalances, preservation of status, inconsistencies in the existence and application of workplace policies. Practices and procedures, workplace silos and lack of accountability. Poor understanding of relevant contemporary laws and obligations also enable a prevalence of outdated unlawful, disrespectful and inappropriate attitudes and behaviours.

Evidence suggests MPS has a legacy of complacency, unchecked behaviours, archaic traditions and the absence of a transparent, contemporary, and responsive Human Resources Unit. [OK]

In the absence of substantive progress on recommendations, it has to be assumed that this culture and these behaviours still occur. Unfortunately, we are left to make assumptions because, despite the recommendation for biannual personal surveys, there has been no follow-up survey. If the recommendations had been followed, we would currently have had: •

an audit of instruments of appointment, employment conditions, recruitment processes and pay structures; •

a centralised and independent human resources unit, accessible to all Ministerial and Parliamentary Services personnel; •

a complaints and reporting framework; •

a code of conduct; •

a diversity and inclusion strategy; •

a family-friendly workforce strategy; •

a performance management framework; and •

a consumption of alcohol policy.

According to the latest update, these have not occurred. For all, bar two, of the recommendations: status - blank; next steps - blank; expected completion - blank.

I will read from clause 55D [OK]of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2022:

(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must implement control measures -

(a) to eliminate psychosocial risks so far as is reasonably practicable; and

(b) if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate psychosocial risks, to minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. [ok]

We are in the position, where, we know significant psychological risks exist. We know that are substantial barriers to reporting and getting adequate resolution. Yet after 12 months, we do not even have a complaints and reporting framework. How can this be? Moreover, how can this parliament pass these requirements when we are showcasing such poor compliance with them ourselves? The question I put to the minister is: do you think the parliament is in adequate compliance with regulation 55D of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2022?

On the motions from the member for Bass, as I said, the Greens are very supportive. Nationwide, we have been supportive of the industrial manslaughter provisions and believe that employers should be held accountable for deaths at work when appropriate. Industrial manslaughter is a crime and our laws here in Tasmania should reflect this.