National safety model on the agenda

Workplace Relations Ministers will meet in Sydney today to discuss a draft model for an OH&S Act that will harmonise Australia's health and safety laws.

Workplace Relations Ministers from around the country will meet in Sydney today to discuss the approval of a draft model for an OH&S Act that will harmonise Australia’s differing health and safety systems.

Developed by the Safe Work Australia Council, the draft model is for a single OH&S Act that will cover all areas of Australia, as opposed the 10 differing regimes that are currently in place across the country.

Today’s meeting is to determine whether the bill is ready to be presented for public comment.

While the draft model has the support of the Australian Industry Group (AI Group), the Business Council of Australia, and the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), AI Group New South Wales director Mark Goodsell warns that no one group supports it entirely in its current form.

“The draft model act that is being released is not an act that is entirely supported by any one party,” he told MINING DAILY.

“I don’t think any party, union, employer or government will put their hand up and say that they are totally happy with this.”

According to Goodsell, regardless of the bill’s current form, what is important is the essential idea that Australia needs a uniform set of safety laws.

“Everyone supports harmonised legislation,” he said.

“The sense is that safety is important enough that we should have one set of laws that apply nationally.

“We all agree on that, where we disagree is on how to achieve it.”

Business Council of Australia chief executive Katie Lahey has warned that if the act is not ultimately implemented then State Governments will not have done their jobs.

“The States cannot credibly claim to be open for business and maintain different systems for something as fundamental as the safety of Australian workers,” she said.

“If our governments fail to harmonise our jumble of workplace safety laws then as far as business is concerned COAG’s (Council of Australian Governments) seamless economy agenda will also be considered a failure.”

Goodsell said that if the draft model of the bill is approved at today’s meeting and it is released for public comment, the next step will be to have a final draft law by the end of this year, with an implementation date of 1 January, 2012.

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