THE families of Delacombe trench collapse victims Charlie Howkins and Jack Brownlee have called on politicians to pledge their support to a report which has recommended the introduction of national workplace manslaughter laws.
Lana Cormie, wife of Charlie Howkins and Dave and Janine Brownlee, the parents of Jack, who died in a workplace accident in March, travelled to Canberra for the handing down of a comprehensive 120-page `Education and Employment Reference Committee Report’ which was presented to the Senate this week.
The report’s 34 recommendations included one that asked for the introduction of national workplace manslaughter laws.
The Brownlee’s and Dr Cormie were among 18 families touched by work place tragedies that spoke with politicians from all parties about the importance of national laws.
Mr Brownlee said it was clear that there was a political movement for change.
“We don’t believe these laws should be about jailing,” he said.
“It’s about making work places safer and it gives accountability so that everyone does come home at the end of the day.
“We know this won’t bring our boys home, but we want to make sure that every other worker in Australia does.”
READ MORE:Families unite for Senate report
In preparing of the report, the committee spent six months speaking to families from all around Australia who had been affected by workplace tragedies.
Other recommendations included a stipulation that all industrial deaths be investigated as a potential crime scene.
Recommendation 13 said: “The committee recommends that Safe Work Australia work with Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to introduce a nationally consistent industrial manslaughter offence into the model Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws….and pursue adoption of this amendment in other jurisdictions through the formal harmonisation of WHS law process”.
Dr Cormie said politicians from all sides of government were asked to pledge their support to the recommendations, with both Labor and the Greens already backing the report.
“At this stage the Liberal Party are not in full agreeance with all the recommendations,” Dr Cormie said.
“They recognise that people shouldn’t be dying at work, but seem to be satisfied that there has been a reduction over the last 10 years.
“But there is a lot that are not included in those statistics, such as life-changing injuries, symptoms from working in unsafe conditions, suicides as a result of the work place.
“Every day that goes by and changes aren’t made, another person is put at risk, just yesterday another man was killed in a trench in Western Australia. It’s heartbreaking to see it happen when politicians could do something now.”
Politicians have three months to review the recommendations, but families hope to know whether they have been accepted before Christmas.
Mr Brownlee said another issue that itself needed investigation was that of compensation to families affected by workplace death.
But he said that should be kept separate as compensation would not be required if there were no deaths.
He said he saw workplace deaths as a “major election issue” and Victoria had the first chance to have its say in just over a month.
He added that if anything positive could come out of the death of a son, it was that it brought all the families together.
“It was good to meet with other affected families,” he said. “We’ve made a very good network and It’s only growing stronger.
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