Private sector involvement in national security management

Alena Titterton writes:

The ties between the business community and the Government in co-ordinating management of national security matters continue to strengthen with the sixth meeting of the Business-Government Advisory Group on National Security being held in Canberra today. This is the first BGAG meeting since the Federal Government’s National Security Statement was released.

The Prime Minister, when delivering the National Security Statement in Parliament on 4 December 2008 stated:

“I would like to emphasise two other assets, outside of government, which make an important contribution to our national security—they are business and the general community. In some areas, up to 90 per cent of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector. Our economy and our future as a trading nation depend on our ability to protect national assets such as our airports, ports, bridges, and water and power facilities from catastrophic failure. We will work with the private sector, and state and territory governments, to protect this infrastructure and the people visiting our national icons and monuments and other places where large numbers of people gather. The business community has a great deal of knowledge and expertise and plays a vital role in our combined efforts.”

The BGAG, which is chaired by the Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, was formed as a result of the business community’s desire to have a continued engagement with Government on national security issues expressed during the Business – Government Ministerial Forum on National Security held in June 2004. The BGAG provides an opportunity for business leaders to advise the Federal Government of national security issues and a forum for the Government to discuss with business new security regulatory initiatives and developments. Business representatives are drawn from companies which have responsibility for significant infrastructure assets in Australia.

Attendees at today’s meeting included business leaders from Qantas, Telstra, Westfield, Rio Tinto, Santos, Accor, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Business Council of Australia.

Government representatives included the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus and senior officials from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department.

It is unclear whether Duncan Lewis, Australia’s National Security Advisor was present at the BGAG meeting today.

Among the agenda items of today’s meeting were the following:

• noting the role of business in national security and resolving to continue the business-government partnership to strengthen Australia’s national security and ensure a safe and secure environment for the Australian community;
• noting the Government’s security reform agenda as set out in the National Security Statement and the commitment to a strong partnership between governments and business;
• receiving a briefing from Telstra on security threats emerging in the media and communications arena; and
• receiving an update on disaster risks and the role for business in disaster resilience strategies.

For more information, see the Communique here.

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Industries need further incentives to improve safety

Michael Tooma, Alena Titterton and Laura Maytom write:

On 12 March 2009, the Australian Safety and Compensation Council released the latest Compendium of Workers Compensation Statistics Report analysing accepted workers’ compensation claims, breaking down compensated work-related injury and disease amongst Australian employees between 2000-01 and 2006-07.

A complete update on the statistical results contained in the Report can be viewed here.

While many of the statistics show falling incidence rates, the rate of improvement is too slow to meet national targets. A picture is emerging, in both the release of the Report and the statistics reported in the most recent Comparative Performance Monitoring Report, 10th Edition that current OHS strategies are not achieving the targeted outcomes for improvements in OHS performance which have been set by the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012, which begs the question – is the existing regulatory regime working? Australia remains ranked as 6th for OHS performance behind Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Norway and Denmark.

The total cost of work-related injuries and illnesses has also increased by more than 20 billion dollars between 2000-01 and 2005-06. In a report entitled The Cost of Work-related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community 2005-06 released by the ASCC today, the total economic cost of work-related injuries and illnesses for the 2005-06 financial year is estimated to be 57.5 billion dollars, representing 5.9 per cent of GDP for that year. This is a dramatic increase from 2000-01, when the total economic cost of work related injuries and illnesses was 34 billion dollars representing only 5% of GDP. This is an unacceptable cost to the economy.

Increasing costs and decreasing rates of improvement demonstrate the need for additional mechanisms to be used in the approach to current regulatory efforts to improve safety performance. As the economic climate continues to dominate the focus of business operations, industry needs more effective incentives to encourage safety expenditure to ensure that the reduction of workplace injuries does not continue at such a slow pace or plateau in Australian workplaces. Governments in this economic climate should investigate the introduction of tax concessions for safety expenditure in Australian workplaces to drive further improvements in Australia’s safety performance.

Two weeks left to make a submission to the NSW chain of responsibility legislation review

Alena Titterton writes:

Along with the review of the activities of the National Transport Commission which we reported on 5 February, the New South Wales Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety has recently commenced an inquiry into Heavy Vehicle Safety.

According to the Staysafe Committee, this is an appropriate time to review the operation and effectiveness of the legislation and measures which have been progressively introduced in NSW since 2006 to address heavy vehicle fatigue and safety management in the NSW transport industry.

The StaySafe Committee has called for submissions to the inquiry into Heavy Vehicle Safety. Geoff Corrigan, the Chair of the Staysafe Committee stated:

“Heavy vehicle safety is a critical part of road safety management and an area the Committee takes very seriously…The Committee would appreciate a submission from every individual and organisation with an involvement or direct interest in this area of road and traffic safety”.

The Staysafe Committee’s Terms of Reference include inquiring and reporting on heavy vehicle safety, with particular reference to:

  • the adequacy of implementation of the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Long Distance Truck Driver Fatigue) Regulation 2005 and the Transport Industry – Mutual Responsibility for Road Safety (State) Award, particularly in relation to heavy vehicle driver fatigue management and safe driving plans;
  • the integration of NSW OHS and industrial relations legislation governing heavy vehicles to ensure consistency and conformity with that applying in other States, as part of the national reform agenda;
  • the adequacy of the Government’s provision of infrastructure to support the implementation of heavy vehicle driver fatigue management and safe driving plans in NSW; and
  • responses to heavy vehicle driver fatigue management and safe driving plans in other jurisdictions, further proposals and any other related matters.

Written submissions are due by 27 March 2009. Further evidence is expected to be called at public hearings which will commence in the second quarter of 2009.

For more information, see the Heavy Vehicle Inquiry terms of reference.