Australia’s toughest mine safety laws have been passed in Queensland Parliament with executives facing up to 20 years’ jail if Queensland mine and quarry workers die because of their criminal negligence.
Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said establishing industrial manslaughter as an offence in mines and quarries sends the clear message to employers and senior officers that the safety and health of their workers is paramount.
“In the past two years we’ve had eight workers die, and a gas explosion in an underground coal mine has put five miners in hospital. It’s not acceptable.”
Dr Lynham said safety on a mine site is everybody’s responsibility, but a safety culture needs to be modelled right from the top and creating the offence of industrial manslaughter is to ensure senior company officers do all they can to create a safe mine site.
“These new sanctions bring the resources sector and its workers in line with every other workplace across the State — but with higher financial penalties.”
The new laws also require people in critical statutory safety roles in coal mines to be mine operator employees – not contract workers.
“This provides these critical officers with confidence that they can raise and report safety issues without fear of reprisal or impact on their employment,” Dr Lynham told Parliament.
The new laws complement a suite of sweeping mine safety and health reforms under the Queensland Government, the most substantial suite of reforms in 20 years. They include:
- increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court.
- statewide safety reset sessions for mine and quarry workers to refocus on health and safety
- better detection and prevention of black lung, and an improved safety net for affected workers.
- $2.2 million for a mobile screening service to support the early detection and prevention of mine dust lung diseases
- $35 million to deliver reforms to improve the safety and health of our mine workers
- a commitment to tighter controls on mine dust levels
- establishment of an independent resources health and safety authority from 1 July.
The legislation also reduces the financial risk to the taxpayer of rehabilitating abandoned mine sites and removes unfair fees for electricity users in south east Queensland.
The reforms provide for:
- Increased scrutiny of the financial capabilities of a resource authority holder when mines and other tenures change hands
- Increased government oversight of mines that enter into care and maintenance, in particular by requiring significant mines to have development plans
- Broaden the government’s powers to remediate abandoned mines; and
- Widen the grounds to disqualify applicants from having mining tenures.
- Banning electricity retailers charging standard contract customers for late payment, receiving a paper bill or making over-the-counter payments