Industry wants NSW safety laws bypassed in national review

By: Troy Bilsborough


Industry groups have condemned New South Wales safety laws, calling for policy makers to instead use the Victorian and Western

Industry groups have condemned New South Wales safety laws, calling for policy makers to instead use the Victorian and Western Australian models to guide the proposed national harmonisation of safety laws.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) wants the review to adopt a "balanced and effective" approach, something Chief Executive Peter Anderson says will struggle to be achieved if New South Wales is used as a benchmark.

"Unreasonable and unbalanced laws, combined with a disproportionate emphasis on prosecution, have resulted in a system that is unfair and has not resulted in good OHS performance," says Anderson.

"Workplace safety in NSW continues to lag behind States such as Victoria that have adopted a more balanced approach to these matters - in this sense so-called ‘tougher’ laws have not resulted in safer workplaces."

ACCI supports the regulatory approach similar to those in Victoria and Western Australia, which Anderson says apply an "appropriate mix of compliance and education alongside reasonable duties and balanced legal obligations".

"[However] OHS laws, even when balanced, can impose significant regulatory burdens on businesses," says Anderson.

Master Builders Australia Acting Chief Executive Richard Calver takes a similar view, warning cutting and pasting the most popular state safety laws will not result in a "harmonised" national OHS system.

He says the biggest dangers in using the highest common denominator is an increase in red tape and safety loopholes if individual laws do not fit correctly into the system.

"New South Wales provides the perfect example of why a common denominator should not be used," says Calver.

"[The New South Wales system] sticks too high a focus on outcomes and makes people go into an adversarial mode.

"There’s no point in having bad state laws that are made bad national laws. That’s not the way to harmonise."

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