Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 29, 2022


Industrial Relations

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (14:53): My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector. Will the minister update the council on the progress that has been made on the delivery of the government's election commitments in the industrial relations portfolio?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:54): I thank the honourable member for her question and for her lifelong interest in industrial relations both as a lawyer supporting workers and now in this chamber carrying on her lifelong work supporting workers in South Australia. I am most pleased to be able to answer the honourable member's question and inform the chamber about some of the significant progress that's been made on delivering election commitments in the area of industrial relations.

We have done a number of things. We have appointed former SafeWork Victoria director John Merritt to lead an independent review of SafeWork SA to ensure it's a best practice work health and safety regulator. I think, as I have previously informed this chamber, Mr Merritt's report will be handed down in the coming months, hopefully by the end of this year, and we expect it will be publicly released early in the new year in relation to reforms for SafeWork.

We have introduced legislation to make 15 days' paid family and domestic violence leave a minimum entitlement in the state industrial relations system because we recognise that we must do everything in our power to assist victims of domestic violence to escape these terrible circumstances. We have already this year made it an aggravated offence to assault a frontline retail worker. Often young workers at the very beginning of their working lives have sadly faced the brunt of public aggression, particularly during the pandemic. We have made it clear that violence and abuse towards these frontline retail workers is completely unacceptable.

We have restored funding to MATES in Construction, which was cut by the former Liberal government, committing $240,000 over four years to suicide prevention work in the construction industry. We have provided $400,000 over the next four years to the Asbestos Diseases Society and the Asbestos Victims Association—also cut by the former government—for their invaluable advocacy, education and support.

We have commenced a review of the practice and jurisdiction of the South Australian Employment Tribunal to ensure it is as effective and efficient as possible for all those who use it, a review being led from the front by those legal practitioners on both sides of the fence who are experts in our workers compensation and industrial relations system.

Just as recently as today, we have released draft legislation in relation to industrial manslaughter. Under these draft laws, people who, through reckless or gross negligence, breach a work health and safety duty and cause the death of an individual would face up to 20 years in prison and up to $15 million in fines for companies. These draft laws are the result of extensive consultation with both business organisations and trade unions to bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions and to make it very clear that every worker has a right to come home to their families and loved ones at the end of each day.

In drafting these laws, we recognise that the overwhelming majority of South Australian businesses take the health and safety of their workers very seriously. These laws are not designed to capture or punish those who do the right thing. They are designed to make it clear to dodgy operators who cut corners with health and safety that there will be significant potential penalties for gambling with workers' lives.

In just the seven months in which we have been in government so far, we have done more than the previous government was able to do in four years in making significant changes to our shop trading hours legislation. One can now shop, and has been able to do so for the last few weekends, from nine to five on a Sunday.