The Long and Winding Road to OHS Harmonisation
Labour History, No. 104 (May 2013): 171-190
17 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2013 Last revised: 25 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2013
Australia’s harmonised occupational health and safety (OHS) regulatory regime was scheduled to commence 1 January 2012. Presently, however, only seven (out of nine) jurisdictions have enacted harmonised laws, most with differences. That the harmonisation initiative has not (yet) delivered on its promise should not have come as a surprise to those familiar with the history of OHS harmonisation in Australia – a history punctuated by moments of great hope followed by disappointing progress. This article examines this history through the lens of Australian federalism. In doing so, it illustrates the organic growth in the Commonwealth’s sphere of responsibility as matters originally defined as social issues become redefined as economic issues in that they negatively impact on business interests. It also demonstrates the tensions that arise when these economic values come into conflict with the values underpinning Australian federalism and OHS regulation itself.
Keywords: Harmonisation, Federalism, History, Occupational health and safety, OHS, economic, social, values
JEL Classification: A13, H77, I18, J28, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation