NT case highlights Comcare’s poor record on workplace safety

28th May 2015

Comcare’s bungled attempts at legal action over a fatal accident which occurred in the Northern Territory five years ago have further highlighted significant flaws in the agency’s ability to properly manage and respond to workplace deaths, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

The case relates to a death that occurred in the Northern Territory in 2011, when an Airservices Australia-operated aviation fire truck collided with a car, resulting in the deaths of three people. The case was investigated by the Coroner in 2013.

ALA National Director Rod Hodgson said that the recent case of a family in the Northern Territory bravely and publicly expressing its distress at Comcare’s handling of a fatal accident was concerning, and again highlighted significant issues in the agency’s ability to properly deal with safety and legal issues flowing from deaths at work.

“Sadly, it seems that this family has been through five years of torment that is being further prolonged by Comcare deciding only now to look at a possible prosecution – well after the time of the accident and clearly with a lack of consultation or regard for the families involved, who have now bravely spoken out,” Mr Hodgson said.

“This is not only insensitive for the family involved, but also further demonstrates that the agency is out of touch on managing issues everywhere, but particularly in more remote states such as the Northern Territory.”

“Even if it was reasonable to have waited until the Coroner’s investigations had been completed, the fact that it has now taken a further two years for Comcare to decide it will act is not only distressing for the family involved, it is also further evidence of Comcare’s inability to effectively monitor and police workplace health and safety at a national level,” Mr Hodgson said.

“As we have repeatedly highlighted, if Comcare is further expanded in line with the wishes of Senator Eric Abetz then this will not only place workers’ lives at risk, it will also be a further step backwards for workplace health and safety nationally. “

“It is this simple: if Comcare is expanded as Senator Abetz wishes, more people will die in workplace incidents,” Mr Hodgson said.

“Comcare is not up to the role of properly managing workplace health and safety or handling legal issues that flow from workplace accidents, including in this instance a prolonged handling that has led to further pain for families involved. Senator Abetz ought to be accountable for the appalling delay and insensitivity shown in this case.”

“The only purpose Senator Abetz’s changes to Comcare will serve is to make a poorly functioning scheme even worse, and he’s doing that to seek to give his mates at the top end of town a free ride,” Mr Hodgson said.

Tags: Compensation Northern Territory Comcare