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New NSW Government to support model OHS laws

April 5th, 2011
OHS harmonisation is back on track in NSW following the loss of Kristina Keneally’s labor party to Premier-Elect Barry O’Farrell’s liberal party at the NSW state elections last weekend. 

As the Premier of NSW for the next four years, O’Farrell has said that one of his priorities is to support the adoption of the Model Work Health and Safety laws.

“If elected we will immediately sign up to the harmonisation of occupational health and safety,” said O’Farrell last month.

A spokesperson for O’Farrell has already indicated that he will be seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard to discuss the overturning of the former state labor government’s opposition to OHS harmonisation.

Stephen Cartwright, CEO of the NSW Business Chamber, said Kristina Keneally’s decision to pull out of the national harmonisation of OHS represented the worst in government decision making.

“It was a decision rightly attacked by Prime Minister Gillard and we support NSW signing up to this national process.”

Workplace safety should be above politics, according to Cartwright, who said both the Prime Minister and Premier O’Farrell are “showing the way forward”.

However, Unions NSW did not welcome the new Premier’s position on harmonisation.

“By entirely adopting the national harmonised OHS model New South Wales working people will lose key safety provisions, ones that they have enjoyed for years,” said Mark Lennon, secretary of Unions NSW.

Under the nationally harmonised OHS laws, he said employees in NSW would lose important rights, including the right to be represented by a union during prosecutions and the reverse onus of proof, in which it is the responsibility of an employer to prove it did everything correctly to create a safe working environment in the event of a workplace accident.