Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 | Second Reading

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (16:45:13): I am extremely proud to rise today to speak on the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019. Before I begin I would like to thank the Attorney-General, her office and her staff and of course the trade union movement for their leadership and advocacy. Today I have just heard so many stories from this side of the house—from my colleagues—and it has just been so touching to hear some of the firsthand experiences and stories that my colleagues have shared today. We are here today to make sure that workplace manslaughter becomes an offence in this state. This bill goes right to the heart of what it means to be a Labor government. That is why at the last election we made it very clear to our community that if elected again, we would enshrine workplace manslaughter as an offence in law. It was an election commitment and it was affirmed by Victorians nearly a year ago. Today that is exactly what are doing, because no one deserves to die at work. This bill sends a very clear message to employers that putting people’s lives at risk in their workplace will not be tolerated. We have already heard that 20 people have lost their lives this year. At the moment the penalties are just not adequate. We have said enough is enough, and we will make sure that there are significant penalties—fines of up to $16.5 million and jail time of up to 20 years. That sends a very clear message to employers that they have to look after their workers. It is non-negotiable, and we cannot gamble or take shortcuts when it comes to people’s lives. My electorate is a very working-class area, and I am extremely proud of that, as a daughter of factory workers. It is also an aspirational area where we are always looking for a better tomorrow. Almost half of my constituents are labourers, tradies, machine operators or drivers. This means that my constituents are within the top three industries where workplace fatalities occur in this country. So this bill and this law will directly make an impact on my community. I just wanted to share one story from one of my constituents, who I know very well and who is in the construction industry. Her whole family is in the construction industry. She was telling me a story about how just last year a cable on a crane snapped and more than a tonne of concrete fell onto a worker on a construction site. The concrete quickly set, and in horrific circumstances this person was buried alive. Another man was pulled from a pit covered in concrete and suffered critical injuries. These sorts of stories are the reason why our government is acting to ensure that this bill is law. I have also heard stories of employers simply sending a wreath to the families of those who have been killed on a worksite and the workers on site being the ones who pass around a hat and collect donations to go towards the family. This is what is happening on work sites. And then the work continues the next day as if nothing has happened. These are true stories of what is happening on these worksites. Just think about what those workers are going through, what their families are going through and what their friends are going through when these sorts of incidents happen—incidents that can be avoided. These sorts of workplaces need to face significant penalties, as I have said. Of course there is no dollar amount or jail term that would be enough for families who are impacted by the death of a loved one; partners that will never go home to their families and parents that will never go home to their children. On this note, my deepest condolences go to the families and friends who have lost their loved ones to such a tragic workplace incident. To conclude, because I do want to make sure that all of my colleagues get to have an input into this bill, I would like to thank the minister and all of my colleagues who have contributed to this bill. It takes the Andrews Labor government—and only a Labor government—to make sure that we put the safety of the people of Victoria first. I commend this bill to the house.