15 June 2004

The OHS Act Review Project Team              email ohsactreview@dtf.vic.gov.au
Level 9, 1 Macarthur Street

Dear Sir

Maxwell Report: Update of Victoria’s health and safety legislation

The CICCC appreciates the visit by Mr Bob Stensholt MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Treasury and Finance, with Brad Crofts and Amanda Hooper of DTF, at its meeting on Thursday 10 June.

The Committee wishes to reinforce the concerns it outlined directly to Mr Stensholt, and to seek to ensure that the issues are addressed in the Government’s response on the Maxwell Report.

The Committee notes that the review addresses many occupational health and safety issues that affect facilities and workers at those facilities. However, the report largely ignores the rights and concerns of the community which surrounds these facilities. As a “workplace” may involve every dwelling in Victoria (through the provision of health and welfares services to segments of the community in their homes), it is essential that recognition be given to the wide ambit of the Act.

The Maxwell Report is scholarly and dense, comprising 415 pages and 1940 numbered clauses. It is not, however, at all “reader friendly”. While the intent is a review of health and safety provisions in Victoria, the report has a focus on the Health and Safety Act, and hardly mentions the other Acts and regulations that together provide the regulatory framework in Victoria. It is clear from some of the recommendations that their ambit covers the entire framework, but there is no introductory section that explains how elements such as the Dangerous Goods Act and the Major Hazard Facility Regulations must be considered together to gain an understanding of WorkCover’s responsibilities and the overall regulatory regime for health and safety.

The CICCC is well aware of the consultation provision in the Major Hazard Facility Regulations, where community needs are lightly touched upon. The Committee, however, considers even these provisions quite inadequate. They provide no guarantee of meaningful dialogue, no opportunity for formal submissions prior to the approval of a new proposal (for instance the introduction of butadiene storage at Coode Island, and its attendant health and safety implications for the wider community), and no appeal mechanism.

The Maxwell Report discusses Consultation, Participation and Representation (Chapters 20 to 23) without once mentioning the community. The considerations are confined to agencies, companies, workers and unions. Even a promising Chapter entitled “Stakeholder Engagement” fails to identify the wider community as key stakeholders.

The CICCC calls on Government to ensure that the review of Health and Safety legislation in Victoria includes:

  • acknowledgement of the wider community as a key stakeholder in health and safety issues;
  • enshrines the right of the community to meaningful consultation prior to the approval of new facilities, and redevelopment of existing facilities, and to ongoing consultation on the operation of existing facilities;
  • the communities’ “right to know”, with clear requirements for companies and regulators to be open with the community about the health and safety risks posed by facilities, and the transport of raw materials and products to and from the facilities.

Yours sincerely

Robin Saunders
Chair, CICCC