Upper House pass McGowan Government industrial manslaughter laws after tragic death of Jonnie Hartshorn

The West Australian,
Hundreds of people rallied outside State Parliament to demand the passing of stalled industrial manslaughter legislation in the wake of the Curtin University workplace tragedy.
Hundreds of people rallied outside State Parliament to demand the passing of stalled industrial manslaughter legislation in the wake of the Curtin University workplace tragedy. Credit: Ian Munro

Tradies are one step closer to better protections at work after WA’s Upper House tonight finally passed stalled industrial manslaughter laws.

The news comes the day after unions rallied outside Parliament House demanding “justice for Jonnie” — the 23-year-old apprentice who tragically fell to his death when a glass roof collapsed at a Curtin University construction site last week.

The Safety Levy Bill, which has stalled in the Upper House thanks to debate over its controversial two-tier industrial manslaughter provisions, is now one step closer to becoming law. It will return to the Legislative Assembly alongside the Work Health and Safety Bill in November to be finalised.

If passed, the proposed laws could lead to employers being jailed for up to 20 years for an employee’s death on site.

The first tier in the Bill targets employers who engage in conduct they know might result in a death.

The second tier proposed to also penalise employers who neglect the safety of their employees, even if they could not have foreseen their actions would cause death.

The Liberals opposed the second tier provision, which the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA warned would “criminalise accidents”.

However, Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said earlier this week that the new legislation

“simply increases the penalty, it does not change the circumstances in which charges can be brought”.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan tonight congratulated her fellow Upper House MPs for finally progressing the laws.

“Congratulations to all involved in passing the new Work Health and Safety legislation,” she wrote on twitter.

“Been a privilege to assist Bill Johnston and his team steering the Bill through the Legislative Council.

“A special tribute to the Families Left Behind, who have turned their pain of loss into a powerful, passionate advocacy for a stronger work health and safety system,” she tweeted.

Family and friends of Jonnie Hartshorn.
Family and friends of Jonnie Hartshorn. Credit: Ian Munro

The laws will not be enacted retrospectively and come too late to be enforced over the tragic death of Mr Hartshorn.

Mr Hartshorn’s family yesterday descended on Parliament House with rallying union workers to demand justice for the 23-year-old who died after falling 20m when a glass roof collapsed at a Curtin University construction site last week.

“We want justice for Jonnie, justice for the other families,” Kristy Cook, Mr Hartshorn’s aunt, said.

“He loved his job and he shouldn’t have had to die for it. We shouldn’t be here.”