Sunday, September 03, 2023

Negligent or reckless federal public servants face 25 years’ jail under industrial manslaughter laws


Negligent federal public servants found responsible for the death of a worker could be imprisoned for up to 25 years and commonwealth departments fined up to $18m under federal plans to criminalise industrial manslaughter.

Under changes in the Closing Loopholes bill to be tabled in ­federal parliament on Monday, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke will make industrial manslaughter a crime under the commonwealth’s work health and safety laws.

While most states have legislated industrial manslaughter, the federal government will act on the 2018 Boland review and introduce a new offence that would apply where the gross negligence or recklessness of a duty holder leads to a workplace death.

Under the proposed changes, to operate from July next year, ­individuals will face a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment if convicted of industrial manslaughter, and body corporates face fines of up to $18m.

Monetary penalties for the Category 1 offence, which applies when a work health and safety duty is recklessly or criminally negligently breached, will be increased from $3m to $15m for body corporates.

The imprisonment penalty will be increased from five years to 15 years, while fines for other ­offences in the Work Health and Safety Act will be increased.

Mr Burke said it was imperative that fines acted as a deterrent, ensuring employers and businesses were aware of their responsibilities “to do everything in their power to keep workers safe”.

He said criminalising industrial manslaughter would make workplaces safer.

“Every worker should be able to go to work knowing they’ll come home safely,” he said. “But so far this year, 91 workers have been fatally injured in the workplace. That’s 91 too many. People go to work to give themselves a life. That work should never take away a life.”

Eric Windholz, senior lecturer at Monash University’s faculty of law, said “there are scenarios where you could find individuals being prosecuted”.

“The fact that they are talking about imprisonment means that the legislation will have the scope to apply to an individual whose individual acts are considered to be so grossly negligent to warrant criminal punishment,” Dr Windholz said.

“Clearly, they’re contemplating a possibility of individuals being imprisoned. That’s a possibility that a senior officer of a government department, and maybe not such a senior officer if it’s gross negligence by someone at the coalface, could find themselves potentially in that position.

“The more the commonwealth and government per se gets involved in service delivery, the more chances there are.”

University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart said the federal health and safety act also applied to some private sector businesses.

“I really do think this is (the federal government saying) ‘we can’t really be expecting the states to be moving on the Boland recommendations and introducing industrial manslaughter if we then say well we as an employer are not going to be subject to those same rules and those same sanctions’,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it’s a question of consistency.”

Meanwhile, the dispute between Chevron and unions is heading to mediation before the Fair Work Commission, opening the prospect of a settlement before industrial action next week.

Chevron applied for mediation after union members at the company’s Gorgon and Wheatstone downstream gas processing facilities in Western Australia rejected an enterprise agreement not endorsed by union negotiators.

Protected action ranging from work bans to stoppages of work has been endorsed by members and is due to start next Thursday.


The fundamental factor driving Australia’s housing crisis in not an inability to build homes. Rather, it is that Australia runs one of the world’s largest immigration programs, thereby ensuring that housing demand outpaces supply

When I first studied high school economics in 1994, we learned about “supply and demand”. You know, basic economics.

When you read the media and the commentary surrounding the Australian housing market, you would think there’s only a supply side. The demand side rarely gets a mention.

This narrative ignores the fact that last decade – over the 2010s – Australia experienced the largest dwelling construction boom in history. As a nation, we built more homes than ever, as illustrated below:

Indeed, the OECD’s Affordable Housing Database shows that Australia has built significantly more dwellings per capita than most other OECD countries:

Australia ranked fourth in the OECD for housing construction in 2020.

Australia’s dwelling construction rate was also unchanged from 2011, according to the OECD.

Australia also has one of the highest shares of construction workers in the OECD:

Australia is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis. Rents have soared. Increasing numbers of people are living in group housing. More Australians are being driven into homelessness. There’s a lot of panic around.

In response, national cabinet has committed to building 1.2 million new homes over five years, starting July 1, 2024.

Federal, state and territory governments won’t build these 1.2 million homes. Their plan is to relax planning and zoning rules to allow higher density in the hope that private developers build them.

It is telling that the Albanese Government’s own contribution to the supply target through the Housing Australia Future Fund, assuming it ever passes the Senate, will be just 30,000 homes. That is just 2.5 per cent of the total target: similar to recent construction levels of public housing by state and territory governments:

The national cabinet’s 1.2 million housing target is destined to fail for multiple reasons.

First, it is not in developers’ interest to flood the market with supply because that reduces their profits. Private developers have an incentive to drip feed supply to keep prices high.

Second, national cabinet’s plan is to build 240,000 homes a year, or 660 homes a day. However, Australia has only ever built more than 220,000 homes in a year once in 2017 when it built 223,000.

Australia’s 40-year average home construction rate is only 160,000 – i.e. 80,000 less than national cabinet’s target.

How will Australia build more homes than we ever have before in an environment of widespread builder collapses, shortages in materials and labour, and higher interest rates?

Third, what about the corresponding infrastructure to accommodate these new homes and population? Most roads, schools and hospitals in our major capital cities are already at capacity.

Finally, even if we could magically build these 1.2 million homes, they are likely to be low quality.

The previous decade’s construction boom was associated with widespread defects including cracks, water leaks and balcony problems (e.g. the Opal and Mascot Towers in Sydney).

Building so many apartments as quickly as planned by national cabinet will inevitably compromise on quality leading to the same types of structural issues we witnessed last decade.

The solution to Australia’s housing shortage rests on the demand

The fundamental factor driving Australia’s housing crisis in not an inability to build homes. Rather, it is that Australia runs one of the world’s largest immigration programs, thereby ensuring that housing demand outpaces supply.

In the 20 years to 2002, Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) averaged 96,000 people a year and population growth averaged 216,000 people a year.

In the 20 years to 2022, Australia’s NOM averaged 190,000 and population growth averaged 328,000 people a year. This period included the negative NOM experienced over the pandemic:

Australia’s population has grown by 7.4 million people (39 per cent) this century, representing the nation’s largest population increase on record.

This strong population growth, combined with falling investment, has driven the shortage of public housing to its current dire levels:

Between 1955 and 1993, Australia built approximately one public home for every 12 to 30 new Australians.

Over the following decades, the ratio of public housing to new Australians fell to a low of one home every 168 new Australians in 2022.

The housing situation will only worsen from here.

The 2023 federal budget projected that Australia’s population would swell by 2.18 million people (equivalent to the population of Perth) over the five years to 2026-27, driven by 1.5 million net overseas migrant arrivals (equivalent to the population of Adelaide).

Last week’s Intergenerational Report (IGR) projected that Australia’s population will swell to 40.5 million by 2062-63, driven by long-term NOM of 235,000 per year.

This means Australia will grow by 14.2 million residents over the next 40 years, which is equivalent to adding a combined Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide to Australia’s current population of 26.3 million.

How will Australia’s housing supply ever keep pace with demand when the population is projected to grow by 355,000 people a year on average for 40 consecutive years?

Australia has not built enough homes over the past 20 years. Although the rate of dwelling construction surged last decade, this construction boom was insufficient to keep pace with the massive increase in immigration-driven population growth from the mid-2000s:

What makes anybody believe that we will achieve better outcomes over the next 40 years?

Moreover, do Australians want to live in high-rise apartments? Because that will become the norm with a population of 40.5 million, and a Sydney and Melbourne of nine million people each.

The same criticisms can be made about Australia’s infrastructure, which has become increasingly crush-loaded by the 7.4 million population increase this century.

How will Australia catch up on its accumulated shortfall of roads, public transport, hospitals and schools, let alone provide enough infrastructure for another 14.2 million people? It is an impossible task.

It’s the immigration …

Australia’s housing shortage is a direct result of nearly 20 years of excessive immigration, which is projected by the IGR to continue for at least another 40 years.

If the Albanese Government genuinely wanted to end the nation’s housing shortage, it would run an immigration program that was substantially lower than the overall expansion in the housing stock, not the other way around.

It is time to stop scapegoating a ‘lack of supply’ and start acknowledging the immigration elephant behind Australia’s housing shortage.


Tyre Extinguishers target Toorak SUVs as part of environmental protest

An extremist environmental group has targeted one of Australia’s wealthiest suburbs, with SUV owners waking to find their tyres slashed and their cars undriveable.

Residents of Toorak in Melbourne woke on Friday to find the vandalised cars and an explanation note left on their windscreens detailing why SUVs are toxic to the environment.

The environmental group, Tyre Extinguishers, left those affected with a note alerting them: “Your gas guzzler kills.”

“We have deflated one or more of your tires,” the note reads.

“You’ll be angry, but don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s your car. “We did this because driving around urban areas in your massive vehicle has huge consequences for others.

“SUVs and 4x4s are a disaster for our climate. SUVs are the second-largest cause of the global rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade – more than the entire aviation industry.

“Even if you don’t care about the impacts on people far away from you, perhaps think about the impacts around your neighbourhood. SUVs cause far more air pollution than smaller cars.

“While the impacts on you so far have probably been minimal, every day millions of people are directly affected. Emergency action is needed to reduce emissions immediately.”

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said there had been several reports made following the group’s antics. “At least 10 four-wheel drive and sports utility vehicles in the vicinity of Tintern Ave were tampered with,” she said.

“Notes were also left on the vehicles describing the environmental impact of these types of vehicles. “The investigation is ongoing.”

Tintern Avenue was once home to Dame Nellie Melba, and Toorak is home to more members of The Australian’s Richest 250 list than anywhere else in the country.

Anyone who witnessed anything or with CCTV or other footage is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

The group is well known in the UK and the US, yet it’s understood this is the first time the group have targeted Melbourne.

It lists instructions on its website about the best way to deflate an SUV tyre.


A pushback against the war on the West

Amongst the post-modern rot that infests most of our universities’ humanities faculties stands one small institution that proudly focuses on the origins and brilliance of our Western Civilisation. This institution is growing (officially opening new buildings last week), has heavy-weight support, and is getting outstanding student feedback. Could it serve as the beacon for others to follow, and in doing so, be an important pushback against the intellectual war on the West?

My hope is that the answer is yes. Such a pushback is desperately needed in Australia, particularly in academia, which I will explain.

But first, let me tell you about the institution in question: Campion College. Located near Paramatta in western Sydney, Campion established itself as Australia’s first liberal arts college in 2006 and today has graduated hundreds of students. It dedicates itself to immersing students in the great books and figures that underpin our modern culture, in the correct belief that such immersion is important for individual development, and vital for the continuation of a society that is amongst the most wealthy, tolerant, and free of any society in all of human history.

Students in their three-year degree follow a linear progression starting first in the ancient world, then the medieval, and finally the modern world in third year. Philosophy, history, literature, and theology are interwoven into a coherent picture of the West’s development and the greatest thinkers who influenced it.

Sound radical? Of course not, but unfortunately such an approach is radical in today’s higher education landscape. Much of what is taught in humanities faculties either ignores the development of Western ideas and societies or is markedly hostile to them. It is particularly anti-Christian, which is intricately tied to Western development.

It is difficult to get a complete read on this, but consider the Institute for Public Affairs’ analysis of university history courses. It examined the 791 subjects offered across 35 Australian universities in 2022 and determined that history ‘is no longer about a study of the past, as it has been replaced by post-modern theory…[where] traditional explanations of cause and effects are discarded as everything is reduced to a study of (purported) power relations.’

It found that more history subjects taught about race, than democracy. More taught about ‘identity’ than enlightenment. A full 255 of the 791 subjects were expressly focused on identity politics. That is class, race, or gender.

I am not aware of analyses of other disciplines in the humanities faculties, but I would be surprised if there were not similar findings.

Moreover, except for the three universities that accepted the funding offered by the Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation, almost none has a dedicated program, like Campion’s, which is an integrated course of study to instil in the student the sweep of ideas that have led to where Australia is today.

The same trend has occurred in school curriculum. When, as Education Minister, I first examined the new draft national curriculum in 2021, I was astounded that there was almost nothing positive said about modern Australia and almost nothing negative about ancient Australia before Europeans arrived.

The forgetting (or loathing) of our history is undoubtedly already having an impact on the confidence that people have in our society today and in the future.

Already a third of 18 to 29-year-old Australians believe that there are preferable alternatives to democracy, according to the Lowy Institute Poll.

If our schools and universities are not teaching the origins and demonstrable benefits of our modern Western society (or are being explicitly hostile to it), then where will we be in 20 years when another generation has been ‘educated’ in these institutions? Will young people defend our democracy as previous generations did? Will we remain as tolerant, cohesive, or wealthy if we are always assessed on our race, gender, or sexuality, and not the content of our character?

Scottish historian Niall Ferguson believes that the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in Western countries is not radical Islam, or a potential clash with a rising China, but the eating of our society from within.

We have to push back and this must involve getting our education institutions back to teaching at least a neutral view of our history, if not an overtly positive one, given the opportunities a person lucky enough to be Australian has been blessed with.

This can be done in schools through government decisions, as I was attempting to do with the national curriculum. In universities, it requires institutional leadership.

Campion College shows that it can be done. Its building opening last week was attended by former Prime Ministers, sitting MPs, religious leaders, and senior business people. They were present to support the small college, but mainly to support a bigger principle.

As former deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, said in officially opening the buildings: ‘We are in a civilisation moment.’

Campion College is doing its bit to keep us on the right side of this moment. I hope others follow.




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