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INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ MEMORIAL DAY

April 29, 2019

Thank you very much. It’s a great honour to be here today on behalf of Federal Labor to firstly extend our condolences. But before I do that, may I just acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past and present.
 
I also acknowledge the parliamentary colleague that are here, the Attorney General of Victoria, Jill Hennessey, Secretary of Trades Hall Council, Luke Hilakari. The many, many delegates that are here from unions. The health and safety reps who do a wonderful job, often in workplaces where they are under pressure not to raise health and safety issues, but they do it anyway. That’s the army in workplaces that seek to prevent injury and death and do so sometimes in a situation where there are indeed some adverse consequences for their employment.
 
David and Janine, parents of a young man tragically killed are two parents among too many parents who have seen tragic losses across this country as a result of unsafe workplaces.
 
Whatever arguments there can be in the public realm about industrial relations, I can’t see why there is any argument about making sure that all workplaces in this country are safe for workers to come to and to go home safe.
 
And yet there is still so much to be done to regulate the laws to make sure that the greatest priority for employers and indeed for workplaces, is ensuring that people are not injured or not killed at work. And yet we have so much, as I say, to do.
 
Jill Hennessey just spoke about the commitment by the Andrews’ Government  to legislate this year to bring in workplace manslaughter laws. That follows on from the decision by the Queensland Government, who enacted such laws and indeed many years ago the ACT Government enacted such reform.
 
But frankly, until we have national laws, uniform national laws applying to all workplaces in all industries, our job is not done.
 
Today really is to firstly extend condolences as I said from the outset. To family, to friends, to loved ones, to work colleagues but most importantly to remember those that have died needlessly at work and to say today that we will make sure we do everything that is humanly possible to prevent such tragic losses in the future.
 
That is why, if elected, a Shorten Labor Government has committed to leading the charge to ensure that we have harmonised workplace manslaughter laws across all jurisdictions. That is critical to prevent such tragedies occurring.
 
We also need to ensure that we have more dedicated resources to prevent injury and to prevent death.
 
We need to have workplaces that have a culture where it is expected that workers will raise concerns about health and safety matters.
 
We need to have workplaces that do not cower workers into being concerned about raising health and safety matters.
 
So it’s just not about the laws, it’s about attitude, it’s about the attitudes and priorities of employers to encourage people to bring forward to them, concerns and risks at work because that is not happening in many workplaces. That is one of the main reasons I would contend that we’ve seen such tragic losses.
 
I just want to finish on this - today of course is an important day of commemoration that we hold every year. Let us hope in future years on this important day there are fewer tragedies that we need to commemorate. Our aim has to be that there are no deaths, that there are no needless deaths that occur in workplaces. That is the goal that we need to aspire to but to do that we need to work together.
 
We need to have governments that understand the need to regulate workplaces. We need governments to understand there needs to be adequate penalties for misconduct and improper conduct by employers. Until those laws are in place, I’m afraid to say, not enough will be done.
 
Finally, on behalf of Bill Shorten, can I just extend again the condolences to the families, to the loved ones, to the friends and to the former work colleagues. Thank you very much.

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