As politicians clamber over each other to offer support
for an independent inquiry into the Beaconsfield Mine disaster, one
Tasmanian father is watching on in despair. Guy Hudson, who lost his 16
year-old son Matthew in an
industrial accident nearly two years ago, is far from happy with the
way the situation has panned out since the Coronial Inquiry into his
son’s death.

An independent inquiry is “the best way to find the truth”, he says,
but the legislation in place to hold individuals to account “is lacking so what
you can do with the findings is limited”. An inquiry should be “totally removed from Government,
because at Beaconsfield, like all workplaces, you have one arm of the
Government, Workplace Standards Authority, saying that the workplace was safe
and then the Coroner’s Office has to investigate the same workplace when it
turns out it wasn’t”.

Mr Hudson, who lives fifteen minutes away from the Beaconsfield Mine, says Tasmania has
no legislation directly covering industrial manslaughter caused by
employer
negligence. The ACT, by contrast has covering legislation and NSW
passed the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Amendment Workplace
Deaths) last
year.

The issue was a
political hot potato during the last Tasmanian election with Premier
Paul
Lennon refusing to commit to the draft recommendations of the Law
Reform
Institute, a legal think tank jointly funded by the Government and the
University of Tasmania, which called for industrial manslaughter laws
to be introduced.

Matthew Hudson was killed when the forklift he was
operating rolled over. He wasn’t licensed and had only been working on the site
for three weeks. The company was fined $25,000 for failing to supply a safe
work environment and the Hudsons now
plan to appeal the decision.

‘’The only difference between Matthew’s death and Larry
Knight’s is the media”, Hudson said. ‘’Now I hear that there will be an
extraordinary workers’
compensation payment awarded to the Knight family from the Government.”
The irony here is that “Todd and Brant wouldn’t be able
to take the mine to court because they aren’t 30% impaired, how stupid
is that?” (Under the Workers’ Rehabilitation and Compensation Act
(Tas), an employee has had to suffer an impairment of greater than 30%
in order to be able to initiate a common law action against the
employer.)

Bill Shorten from the AWU declined to outline the union’s position on industrial manslaughter
laws when questioned yesterday. “I am happy to answer that question at a later stage, at
this stage we are not going to politicise it.”

Peter Fray

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