TOUGH new industrial manslaughter laws triggered by the deaths of four people at Dreamworld and two workers at Eagle Farm racecourse last year have passed state parliament.
The new laws, passing 43 votes to 39 in parliament today, carry 20-year jail terms and $10 million fines. The LNP and One Nation refused to support the legislation.
The laws come just a week and a half before the Gold Coast mark’s the first anniversary of the Dreamworld tragedy in which four people were killed when the Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned.
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Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the new laws would leave negligent employers culpable in workplace deaths with nowhere to hide.
“Negligent employers culpable in workplace fatalities in Queensland will face severe penalties for the new offence of industrial manslaughter,” she said.
“Individuals guilty of industrial manslaughter will face 20 years imprisonment, with corporate offenders liable for fines of up to $10 million.
“These penalties send out a strong message to all employers that negligence causing death won’t be tolerated under any circumstances.
“Because of increasingly elaborate corporate structures, up until now, it’s been difficult to prosecute some employers for manslaughter.
“But these new laws will hold all employers – regardless of their size or structure – accountable for negligence contributing to a worker’s death.
“Last year’s tragic workplace deaths at Eagle Farm and Dreamworld, which cost six people their lives, brought home the need for these tough new laws.
“The legislation passed today is all about ensuring all Queensland workers can return home safely to their loved ones after a day’s work.”
Ms Grace said the creation of the new offence of industrial manslaughter was one of 58 recommendations contained in Tim Lyons’s Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
“The LNP stands condemned for voting against these laws, and in doing so, failing to put the safety of Queensland workers first,” she said.
“Saving lives in the workplace should be beyond politics but sadly the LNP put its own interest above those of Queensland workers.”
Michael Garrels, who lost his 20-year son Jason to a preventable workplace accident in Clermont in 2012 said it was great to see the government implement such a crucial preventative measure.
“It’s great to see the government implementing a crucial preventative measure like this to protect Queenslanders in the workplace,” he said.
“I believe these laws will definitely save lives and that if they’d been in place at the time they would have made a difference in my son Jason’s case.
“The only people with anything to be afraid of are those that are doing the wrong thing.
“Of the 40 affected families who have been actively involved in the committee, not one of them thinks the creation of this new offence is a bad idea.”
CFMEU Divisional Branch Secretary Michael Ravbar said the new laws were a “huge win” for Queensland workers and everyone who has campaigned to achieve industrial manslaughter legislation for the last 20 years.
“These laws will ensure that employers, who kill or badly injure workers because of their negligence, will finally be held criminally responsible for their actions,” Mr Ravbar said.
“The fact that the LNP and One Nation did not support the vote proves just how cold hearted and out of touch they are.
“Rather than making employers accountable for their actions by implementing strong laws and tough penalties the LNP and their biggest supporters One Nation continue to oppose them in order to further line the pockets of their big business mates.
“The CFMEU condemns the LNP and One Nation for their cold-hearted betrayal of Queensland workers and the community.
“With a state election not too far away, the LNP and One Nation will surely pay the price at the polls for once again putting workers, families and the community last.”
Queensland now has the strongest workplace health and safety laws in Australia.