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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 9570

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (17:40): by leave—I move:

(1)   Clause 155, page 111 (line 28), omit “sections 172 and”, substitute “section”.

(2)   Clause 155, page 112 (lines 8 and 9), omit subclause (7).

(3)   Clause 171, page 123 (line 26), omit “sections 172 and”, substitute “section”.

(5)   Clause 173, page 124 (line 21), omit paragraph (1)(c).

(6)   Clause 173, page 124 (lines 26 and 27), omit “, unless he or she was first given the warning in subsection (1)(c)”.

It is quite clear in this legislation that a prosecution under the occupational health and safety laws are criminal matters. Under normal criminal law, everyone has the right to silence and protection from self-incrimination—that is, you cannot be forced to say something to an investigator, let us say the police in normal life, unless the investigator first obtains a court order. This protection is a right we all have and is essential to community confidence in our criminal justice system and in the rule of law. It stops abuse of power. Protection against self-incrimination is currently available under the occupational health and safety laws, or was in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. These model laws take away that right of silence and protection from self-incrimina¬≠tion. This will apply not only to employers but to all managers and workers in workplaces. It will give powers to occupational health and safety inspectors which are not in fact available to the police. I would be interested in the public policy arguments as to why a breach of an occupational health and safety law might be of greater moment than, let us say, a murder in which the murderer is given the right to silence but that right is not given under this bill.