The health & safety law was pushed through parliament last week in all its glory as we found out worm farming and lavender farming were categorised as high risk.
Karl du Fresne analyses the ineptitude from not only the minister but also the opposition, media and the unions.
You could understand why unions felt betrayed by the government’s back-pedalling, but that was a wild overstatement.
Certainly the bill was weakened, especially when you consider that 97 per cent of workplaces employ fewer than 20 people. But the majority of those workplaces are not high-risk, so the outcry was a bit theatrical. So was the carefully orchestrated presence at Parliament of widows and families bereaved by workplace accidents.
It was only to be expected that the unions would extract maximum leverage from the situation. After all, they don’t get many opportunities these days to put runs on the board. But there were moments when I felt those widows and families were too blatantly being used in pursuit of a political agenda.
As Workplace Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse pointed out, larger workplaces – which, although relatively few in number, employ 75 per cent of the labour force – will still be subject to the requirement to have elected health and safety representatives. And all the other provisions of the legislation will still apply to smaller workplaces, so they’re not “off the hook”, in the minister’s words.