What Do We Know About Industrial Manslaughter Law in Victoria? By Ian Wilson LL. B

     The Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and other Matters) Act 2019 (no. 50 of 2019) has come into effect, with some startling consequences, some would say, political intrigue. To get this right, let us set out the facts as stated by the leading article on this topic, by journalist Robert Gottliebsen, who has been covering things like this for over 50 years. He deserves a medal or three:
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/economics/victorian-cabinet-manslaughter-charges-three-steps-closer/news-story/36cd8c24762f3df6ed4eb223607744ff
“..., last week the state of Victoria took three significant and deliberate steps towards the prosecution of members of its cabinet for industrial manslaughter – a crime that carries a maximum penalty of $16.5m and/or 25 years in jail.  The industrial manslaughter Victorian legislation was designed by Premier Daniel Andrews and the current government with the aim of jailing and heavily fining the chairman, chief executive, chief financial officer and directors of any large corporation where there was a death on or associated with their workplace. It was vicious legislation casting a wide net but it did not pass the parliament until late November (2019-ed). Seven weeks later COVID-19 hit Victoria,
Not in their wildest dreams did the Victorian cabinet ever consider that their personal freedoms and finances might be the first to be put on the line as the new and powerful legislation was tested...

...Last week’s first step in moving towards industrial manslaughter charges was the dramatic announcement by the new WorkSafe chief executive Colin Radford that WorkSafe would be investigating the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions for possible breaches of workplace safety...
...Secondly while Radford and WorkSafe investigates, the public investigation is showing Victorians just how crazy the administration of the quarantine became. There is no suggestion that WorkSafe will be nobbled by the government in its investigations. But theoretically, if it were, then the public would be in a unique position to realise what had happened. The position of Radford and his board would be untenable....
Finally, Attorney-General Jill Hennessy confirmed that the ministers of the Crown are subject to penalties for breaches of workplace safety including charges of industrial manslaughter. Similar assurances were made in the parliament when the bill was being debated".

Read the entire article here:  https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/economics/victorian-cabinet-manslaughter-charges-three-steps-closer/news-story/36cd8c24762f3df6ed4eb223607744ff

    What can we infer from the facts as presented? Well, it is very unusual for legislation to be used immediately to bite those of the political class on the bum. It makes one think what is going on here, since it is usually only the small fish who fry. But, not so, history could be made on the ground today. Until we get more facts, all we can conclude is something general and quasi-philosophical, that sometimes legislation can have more bite than the legislators realise, and can become a Frankenstein’s monster. Thus, we will see where this all goes, and if the pollies move to frantically repeal the legislation, or if everyone ends up in gaol, with appropriate social distancing, of course.   

 

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Saturday, 13 August 2022