The ACT Government, statedly on reliance of the recommendations in a Government enquiry into work health and safety has tabled an exposure draft for an Industrial Court. The Industrial Court creates a single judicial repository for civil and criminal matters relating to industrial and workplace safety.
The Court will have jurisdiction for:
Industrial and work safety matters;
Personal injury matters; and
Breaches of ACT industrial legislation including the Long Service Leave Act.
The purpose of the Court is purportedly to build an expertise in dealing with industrial safety matters however as pointed out by the ACT Law Society (Giri Sivaraman of Maurice Blackburn is a member of the ACT Law Society Employment Law Subcommittee) the proposal doesn't add further resources but instead designates a Magistrate to specialise in that area. Clearly any proposal to improve work safety in the Territory is important. However, it should be combined with additional resources.
It is also unclear as to how one Magistrate would then deal with all workers' compensation matters particularly when the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court is only up to $250,000.
There is also the issue of how a work safety matter would be heard by the same Magistrate that would hear a claim for compensation arising out of the alleged breach of work safety.
Submissions have been made to the ACT Government and now we wait for the final version of their new Bill.