|Issue No. 251
|11 February 2005
Economics: Super Seduction
Interview: Bono and Me
Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Technology: From Widgets to Digits
Education: Dumb and Dumber
Health: No Place for the Young
History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
Review: Dare to Win
Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
The Locker Room
Morals Beat Hasty Retreat
Uncounted Cost Of Asbestos
Voting Farce Expands
I Beg To Differ
Stalking Horses in Safety Stampede
That's the view of CFMEU Mining division secretary, Tony Maher, after reading documentation forwarded by Xstrata and Centennial Coal, in a bid to dodge criminal sanctions over the deaths of five Hunter Valley workers.
Xstrata and Centennial have announced constitutional challenges to convictions, brought down by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, over the five deaths.
"It's all about generating heat and smoke so Howard will step in and introduce watered-down national health and safety laws," Maher said.
"I think it's a stalking horse. There is no doubt major global companies are unhappy about effective health and safety laws and there is even less doubt that they have the ear of the Howard Government."
When the Gretley convictions were announced, last August, they made history as the first recorded against mine operators after more than 3000 industry deaths.
Workers Online understand the two coal companies will challenge the convictions on three key grounds - strict liability, IRC jurisdiction, and the lack of an appeal mechanism.
Legal observers say success would eliminate criminal liability for employers, causing death through negligence, not just in NSW but in other state jurisdictions.
Maher has challenged coal company bosses to front up to workers and explain why they should continue to work without legal protection.
The Miners Union is flagging industrial action if the coal companies continue their campaigns against OH&S laws.
Meanwhile, academics and lawyers are warning success for Xstrata and Centennial would undermine a range of laws, from speeding to food standards and the environment.
At the centre of their challenge is "guilty mind" or intent.
Sydney University Professor, Ron McCallum, says a range of contemporary legislation, beyond theft and assault, uses the same principle.
"We use regulations for other matters such as enviornmental protection and food safety," McCallum told WorkplaceInfo, this week.
"If someone is caught with more than a certain amount of marijuana they are deemed a trafficker, whether that was their intention or not.
"Similarly, if you drive over the speed limit there are no excuses, your speed is a fact in itself.
"In environmental protection, you can't say you didn't intend to drop the chemical in the river, if you did it you are guilty."
McCallum was more sympathetic towards the argument over the right to appeal criminal convictions entered by the IRC.
The NSW Government is seeking to be joined to the case.
The IRC is due to sentence employers over their roles in the Gretley and Awaba deaths, next month.
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