The meeting was held in Melbourne to discuss workplace health and safety issues with Workplace Relations minister Bill Shorten MP, representatives from Safe Work Australia and; the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations. Also included were a diverse group of representatives from various not-for-profit organisations.
An important revelation from the meeting is the plan to establish a group to oversee measures to cut red tape of working with volunteers. The plan is to have a group comprised of representatives from the not-for-profit sector, Volunteering Australia, Safe Work Australia, legal experts and various other industry representatives.
To add to these outcomes, the table of representatives discussed and agreed on various matters pertaining to volunteers, such as;
- Safety is of equal importance for volunteers as any other individual since everyone has a right to return home safe.
- A volunteer’s duty has gone relatively unchanged when comparing it to what it was prior to the OHS Harmonisation laws.
- The penalties that would be used for extreme actions are based on already established state laws that existed prior to harmonisation.
- Ongoing efforts to provide increased clarity of the harmonised law’s limited practical consequences for grassroots volunteers are most welcome.
Shorten stated that the Government encourages people to volunteer and support each other’s community. He alleges that the Government will provide “even more clear information and guidance to volunteers who play such an important role in [everyone’s] communities”
Amidst controversy the Upper-House has decided to block the implementation of the OHS Harmonisation laws.
It was the desire of the Government to have the proposed laws passed this week so that they could take effect from January 1,2012.However, the chamber voted thinly by 11 -10 votes to postpone any further discussion of the bill until February, 2012.Opposition spokesperson, Rob Lucas stated that the Liberals attempted to garner support from minor parties and independents in order to defer the debate.
The Bill was introduced in April and it’s goal was to harmonise state and federal worker safety laws.
The Housing Industry Association has expressed concerns that the laws would cost an additional $20,000, while other groups have supported the laws citing that it would give unions more power over health and safety issues.Industrial Relations Minister, Russell Wortley has rejected the concerns of the HIA, and said that the Opposition’s move was disgraceful.
Thus far, WA and Victoria governments have pledged their goals of delaying the legislation by up to 12 months in their respective states.
Lucas has stated that NSW has already amended the model OHS Harmonisation Bill while WA has implied that they will soon do the same. Lucas also believes the Victorian government will follow suit.
Businesses will be able to postpone implanting new occupational health and safety regulations, if the changes they have to make require a long period of time. The extension will grant businesses 12 months until they have to implement.
Federal Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans will declare publicly that Safe Work Australia has arrangements to assist businesses in the transition into the new system on January 1. Evans said the extension would be granted to businesses that have to fulfil the model regulations which subsequently would require the completion of several duties
Western Australia and Victoria are the only two states that haven’t yet signed off on the new OHS regulations which ultimately means they are at danger of not receiving several millions of dollars in Federal payments.
The federal government have promised up to 450 million dollars in rewards to all states that agreed to the OHS laws and meet requirements on time.