Member of Lions Club – State Parliament
New laws passed by the State Government last week should be of concern to all rural families and are something I believe all farmers should be aware of.
They relate to workplace manslaughter and while I will say up front it is imperative for all to have a safe workplace provided for them, these new laws are simply unfair on those living on acreage.
Imagine this: your kids have invited their friends over and they're playing on the farm, maybe climbing trees or playing around trees - or one of a hundred other scenarios that children get up to.
Tragically, there is an accident. One of the kids is hit by a falling tree branch and passes away. This horrible scenario would be completely devastating to all involved and indeed the local community.
Under the new workplace manslaughter laws passed by Daniel Andrews this week, you now face up to 20 years in jail if it is “deemed that you could have foreseen that accident and you didn't do enough to prevent it”.
However, should the same awful accident occur while those kids were hit by a falling tree branch in a suburban backyard, there would be no prosecution.
That's because the Andrews Labor Government, despite the pleas from groups like the Victorian Farmers Federation, has refused to recognise that farms are not just workplaces, they are also homes.
It is again, like we have seen so many times before, a lack of understanding of country areas. The same goes if a farmer dies while using a tractor or riding a motorbike.
A grieving member of that person's family could now face criminal prosecution with a 20 year jail sentence.
I believe everyone is entitled to a safe workplace, but I cannot support laws which threaten to prosecute an already distraught family with a crime that is just short of murder for an accident around the house, especially when it does not apply to urban areas.
In response to requests that the government change its legislation to exclude family members from being prosecuted, the Attorney General has said she believes it is sufficient to leave the decision up to the courts. I simply don't agree. This is going into law.
While the new laws also apply to employers, employees are excluded. So for example, should someone come to work drug affected and cause a workplace accident, it is their employer who could face prosecution for allowing that person to work and failing to provide a safe workplace, rather than the drug affected employee.
It is also concerning that the government is leaving the prosecution of these matters to WorkSafe, rather than Victoria Police.
Again I stress, all employees deserve a safe workplace but the flaws in Labor's legislation need to be fixed, or they risk punishing already devastated families.
Farm children image courtesy of Visit Victoria Content Hub