Australian Lawyers Alliance claims disappointing (Media release)
01 July 2015
The Australian Lawyers Alliance's latest criticism of Comcare's work health and safety regulation is disappointing and incorrect.
The ALA has attacked Comcare's regulation of immigration detention facilities after Comcare released documents under Freedom of Information about incident referrals from the then Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).
Comcare Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Taylor said it was wrong to suggest that Comcare had been ineffective in its regulatory oversight.
"I am appalled that the ALA has taken this information and deliberately used it in this way," Ms Taylor said.
"The material released under FoI clearly shows that Comcare and DIBP have met their responsibilities.
"In all of the incidents that were notifiable under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act), we took action where we considered it had to be taken. Comcare has appropriately discharged its regulatory functions and considered the employer is meeting its obligations under the Act.
"It is irresponsible to completely disregard the evidence that's been presented through the FOI release and, in my view, twist it to suit a particular agenda."
Comcare assessed all of the 449 incidents DIBP referred in 2013-14, finding 98 were notifiable under the WHS Act. More than 20 per cent of these notifications warranted on- site inspections.
Comcare inspectors also visited regional processing centres on Manus, Nauru and Christmas Islands on multiple occasions in 2014 and will conduct further inspections later this year.
Inspections of DIBP workplaces have not found any breaches of the WHS Act. Comcare has made a number of recommendations to DIBP to improve their work health and safety practices and the Department has acted on these.
The Act is clear about the types of incidents that are notifiable – deaths, serious injury or illness, and dangerous incidents that are further defined in the legislation. Some incidents of self-harm, for example, may not satisfy the definition of a notifiable incident under the Act.
"Comcare will, of course, continue to monitor and respond to any further notifications – as we do in every workplace where we have jurisdiction" Ms Taylor said.
"Our approach to WHS regulation focuses on prevention – encouraging compliance through assistance and education, balanced with proactive and reactive inspections and audits.
"This also has to be balanced with appropriate enforcement and we will always take action against employers and workers who don't get the work health and safety message."
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