Occupational health and safety laws won’t capture the imagination of voters in an agonisingly long lead-up to the NSW state poll in March (only 162 restless sleeps to go). But it’s another failure in that short-lived experiment in cooperative federalism, and another example of everything that’s wrong with this rotten state government.

As our friends at Smart Company report, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has welshed on a deal with the PM on reforms to OH&S laws. Every state agreed on harmonising regulations, after years of negotiations. Now Keneally wants out. Gillard, justifiably, is furious.

As the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s David Gregory snaps: “It is hard to think of a decision that demonstrates greater parochial short-term self-interest.”

It’s hard to think of a government, generally, as guilty of the same crime.

Much of the red tape strangling business in this country is mere duplication between states. Just ask a small business owner how many costly hours are spent complying with different regulatory frameworks in each and every state they operate in. It’s a drain on resources, and a dead weight on economic productivity. Harmonising OH&S laws was a relatively small but important piece of reform.

Not according to Keneally, who refuses to sign the deal in an effort to appease the union hacks keeping her in the job.

Is it any wonder business fled the so-called premier state as its economy stalled? Keneally seems determined to ward them off coming back.

Just 162 days — it can’t come soon enough.

Peter Fray

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