On 28 September 2011, the Victorian Minister for WorkCover (also the Assistant Treasurer) Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips, called for a 12 month delay to the implementation date. In the statement, the Minister confirmed that Victoria would not be in a position to proceed (with harmonisation) until a Victorian-specific RIS had been undertaken and evaluated. Work on a supplementary independent RIS, expected to take several months, began in September, but at this stage there is no further news on its progress. The Minister confirmed however, the government's commitment to "the principle of OHS harmonisation."
The day before the April 2012 COAG meeting, Victoria's Premier, Ted Baillieu, released a media release announcing that the harmonised Work Health Safety legislation 'would take Victorian business backwards and impact severely on the productivity of the State's small businesses,' according to the regulation impact statement report the government commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to write.
According to the report, the harmonised laws would place a cost burden to business of $3.44 billion with 78% of transition costs and 74% of ongoing costs hitting small business. 'The proposed laws do not deliver on the intent of the COAG reform agreed to in 2008, which aimed to reduce the cost of regulation and enhance productivity and workforce mobility,' he is reported to have said. In the joint media release, Victoria's Deputy Treasurer and Minister for WorkCover, Gordon Rich-Phillips, said: 'It's certainly a very big impact on Victorian business and one we regard as unacceptable.' He added 'Victoria has the best record on workplace safety across the states....We just don't see a reason to impose a $3.5 billion red tape burden on business when we're already performing very strongly on workplace safety.' Federal Shadow Workplace Relations Minister Eric Abetz, also issued a media release, echoing his state Liberal colleagues. The report was compiled without input from Victoria's unions or workers.
Sources: Premier Baillieu and Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips Media Release [pdf] Summary Report of Supplementary Impact Assessment [pdf]
So, at least for the moment, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004), the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2007) and the various Compliance Codes remain in force, and things will proceed as they have in the past for workers and reps under the Victorian system. In 2013, WorkSafe has turned its attention to developing the 'missing' Compliance Codes, as well as initiating a review of the OHS Regulations.
WorkSafe Victoria is maintaining its involvement in the harmonisation process, as are Victorian unions and employer organisations, to ensure that the interests of Victorian workers are represented at the national level. This work includes development of further codes of practice, guidance material and a range of Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) 'regulators in harmony' projects.
NOTE: Federal government departments and certain national companies are covered by the Comcare legislation even though they are physically in Victoria.
Also, Victorian HSRs whose employer has dealings with employers/companies covered by Comcare, or who work in or at workplaces covered by Comcare, may need extra information.
More information on Comcare and the Model regulatory package is on this site, including a summary of the Act. If reps have any concerns or queries, they should contact their union.
Last amended November 2014