Labour: Workplace laws must include all farmers

  • 20/08/2015
animal cow farm

By Peter Wilson

Opposition MPs are criticising the way most farmers have been let off the hook in the Government's new workplace health and safety laws.

Parliament on Wednesday began a marathon committee stage debate on the Bill and it's due to resume today.

The Health and Safety Reform Bill is the biggest shake-up in workplace safety laws in 20 years, and it's been plagued with problems.

The Government changed the Bill after introducing it following complaints from businesses and farmers that they were being saddled with unnecessary costs and legal requirements.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse on Wednesday released a proposed schedule of industries defined as high-risk, which have to meet more stringent requirements and have elected safety representatives on site.

Sheep, dairy and beef farming aren't on the schedule while "other livestock farming" is.

Labour leader Andrew Little says that's wrong.

"The farming constituency is killing itself at a greater rate than just about any other occupation in the country," he told reporters.

"They've excluded a large chunk of the farming sector... we have to have a law that means they change the way they do things."

Opposition MPs will fight the Bill to the last clause but the Government has secured a majority that will ensure it passes.

Mr Woodhouse has struck a deal with Peter Dunne, agreeing to changes the United Future leader wanted in exchange for a guarantee that he'll back the Bill and vote against opposition amendments.

Labour MPs who spoke in the debate on Wednesday night focused on the high-risk definition.

Mr Woodhouse said three-quarters of the entire workforce is covered by the industries he's defining at high-risk.

Labour's Phil Twyford says that excludes 25 percent, or 300,000, who won't have the right to elect their own workplace safety representatives.