Dump Truck on Haul Road
Dump Truck on Haul Road

Push for law to jail bosses over worker deaths

MORE than three quarters of Queenslanders support tougher industrial manslaughter laws to allow for mining bosses to be prosecuted after a spate of workplace fatalities.

An exclusive The Courier-Mail/YouGov poll has revealed 76 per cent of Queenslanders are in favour of extending the laws to the sector, with only 11 per cent against them and 13 per cent unsure.

It comes amid mounting pressure on the State Government to roll out the new criminal offence in the wake of six deaths at mines and quarries in the past year.

The Palaszczuk Government introduced industrial manslaughter in 2017, which includes fines of up to $10 million for businesses and up to 20 years' jail for individuals, however excluded the mining sector after significant backlash.

In addition to the six deaths in the past year, there was one death in 2017, one in 2016 and three in 2015.

The poll of 1000 Queenslanders showed the law was not just a priority for the regions, with 76 per cent of people surveyed in Brisbane backing it.

It also revealed 74 per cent of people in the south-east - excluding Brisbane - backed the legislation, with 77 per cent of people across the rest of Queensland supporting it.

Across the state, 44 per cent of those surveyed were "strongly" in support of it and 32 per cent were "somewhat" in favour.

Just 4 per cent of people were strongly against it.

 

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham with QRC chief Ian Macfarlane and AWU organiser Mark Raguse. Picture: AAP Image/Steve Pohlner
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham with QRC chief Ian Macfarlane and AWU organiser Mark Raguse. Picture: AAP Image/Steve Pohlner

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has lobbied for the laws to better protect miners, with the Queensland Resources Council having said it would need to see the benefits of the crackdown before offering support.

The Government is "actively" considering introducing the law, while QRC chief Ian Macfarlane told The Courier-Mail discussions between industry and the Government indicated a deal could be reached.

He said while there was still uncertainty about whether the crackdown would boost safety, there had not been a lot of opposition from mining companies.

"The companies are being pragmatic," he said.

"Discussions to date indicate that we'll be able to reach an agreement with government, everyone is approaching in good faith."

However, Mr Macfarlane conceded he was not sure whether the laws would deter people from applying for executive mining positions.

There have been six mining-related deaths in the past year.
There have been six mining-related deaths in the past year.

Shine Lawyers special counsel Craig Oliver, who has acted for dozens of mining clients, told The Courier-Mail the laws should be introduced.

"As we've seen with six deaths in 12 months, mines and quarries are among the most dangerous workplaces in the state," he said.

"It therefore stands to reason that the resource sector should be included within Queensland's strengthened industrial manslaughter laws.

"Too often we see injured miners or relatives of deceased miners come to us due to incidents where commercial interests have been prioritised over safety.

"Locally we hear a lot of talk about the mining culture and, if it is to change, senior management must be at risk of prosecution where its failings result in death or serious injury.

"The deterrent must apply to the resource sector."



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