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OH&S harmonisation important, but requires scrutiny: Greens

The Australian Greens today outlined their in-principle support for national harmonisation of occupational health & safety (OH&S) laws, but warned the Government against sidestepping Parliament's role in any changes.

"Whilst the Greens support the principle of harmonisation of Australia's OH&S laws, we will be looking closely at the draft model laws expected to be released later today from the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council," said Australian Greens industrial relations spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert.

"We believe the desired outcome is not merely harmonised laws that state and federal governments are happy with, but harmonised laws that robustly protect the health and safety of workers."

"There must not be a reduction of occupational and health and safety standards as a result of harmonisation."

"The Government should expect intense scrutiny of any model OH&S laws despite the fact that they are agreed to by the Ministerial Council. The Greens will be working with stakeholders and subjecting that legislation to the appropriate level of scrutiny," said Senator Siewert.

"Intergovernmental agreements are an important process, but can never take away the role of our Federal Parliament in making laws.

"There is no question that this harmonisation process is important - it would be disappointing to see individual states or territories pull back from the process. Recent comments from WA industrial relations Minister Troy Buswell that he would be unlikely to join the national system are particularly worrying, as WA is one state which could benefit from improved OH&S laws."

"Let us not forget that the paramount reason for OH&S legislation is to protect the health and safety of persons undertaking or affected by work."

"Robust and effective occupational health and safety laws and practices are vital for the social and economic health of our workplaces and, more importantly, for Australians and their families," she concluded.

For more information or media enquiries please call Tim Norton on 0418 401 180

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