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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3108

Workplace Safety

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (14:31): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Will the minister update the House on Australia's workplace safety record? What is the government doing to improve this record and what obstacles has it faced?

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:32): I would like to thank the member for McEwen for his question. He knows 55½ thousand of his electors will get an increase in superannuation courtesy of this government.

I am asked about workplace safety. It is an important issue. We have just released a report which shows in the most recent data available that in 2009-10 216 Australians went to work and did not come home that night. It also reveals that the cost of workplace injury is something like $60 billion. That does not even begin to measure the human cost.

It also reports to us that there are certain industries in which there is a higher fatality rate than others. One of them, of course, is agriculture. Over 310 people died on Australia's farms in the years 2009-10. Of course the farm is the family home but it is also a workplace. Construction is another very dangerous industry, with 281 deaths over the seven years up to 2009.

If you look at the numbers between 2004 and 2010 in transport, 567 people have died in the transport industry on Australia's roads and Australia's rail lines. The vast bulk of fatalities in the transport industry are related to heavy vehicle truck incidents. This is a tragedy. It has been recently reported that 246,000 work hard in our trucking industry, yet there are 25 deaths per 100,000. That is 10 times the casualty rate of Australian industry as a whole. Last year, 250 people died in relation to heavy vehicle and truck incidents at a cost of $2.7 billion. In fact, 1,000 people, member for Tangney, if you care, were seriously injured. That is why the government is moving on with Safe Rates legislation, because we intend to do our bit to make roads safer.

I noticed earlier the member for Gippsland said that safety is a complex matter and there is more than one factor. I agree. But where I do not agree with what the opposition has been saying, in their cynical opposition to this legislation, is I do not accept the proposition that remuneration is not a factor in a complex issue. In 1979 it was established that the method of payment had a big impact.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: I am asked for evidence. The National Transport Commission report of 2008 said there was a link between payment rates and methods for owner-drivers and employees, that these methods create an incentive to drive unsafely and that this results in safety outcomes on roads. This government will not stand idly by and watch Australians be killed on our roads merely because of a lack of resolve. That is why the Safe Rates legislation is fine law. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Herbert will remove himself. I asked him to remain silent for the rest of question time, which is difficult for him. He has not. He will remove himself for one hour under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

The member for Herbert then left the chamber