Management and Governance of Occupational Health and Safety in Five Countries: NOHSAC Technical Report 8
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- The Commonwealth of Australia is considered to be the world’s smallest
continent, but is the sixth largest country. It is a constitutional monarchy with a
parliamentary system of government consisting of six states, two major mainland
territories and other minor territories. The total area is 7,686,850 sq km, of which
7,617,930 sq km are land. About 6.2% of the total land area is classified as arable.
- The current population estimate is 20.7 million. The annual growth rate is 0.85%, with
12.14 births/1,000 population. Australia has maintained an active immigration programme to
boost population growth.
- Australia has a prosperous developed economy. GDP is $NZ921.5 billion. GDP per capita
The GDP growth rate is 2.7%. The inflation rate in 2006 was 2.7%. Public
debt is 16.1% of GDP.
- The labour force is 10.8 million, the employment rate is 65.0%, the unemployment rate
is 4.6% and the economic inactivity rate is not calculated.
- It appears that not only are Australians living longer, but they also enjoy better
health. Based on the latest Australian mortality rates, a boy born in 2004 was expected to
live to 78.1 years, on average, while a girl would be expected to live to 83.0 years, on
average. However, a boy and girl aged 15 in 2004 would be expected to live to ages 78.7
and 83.5 years, respectively. Life expectancy is not uniform across populations within
Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a much lower life expectancy
than the general Australian population. Indigenous Australians born in the period
1996–2001 are expected to live nearly 20 years less than the rest of the population.
- A national health survey in 2004/05 found that 7% of working-age people had received a
work-related injury in the previous four weeks. 11% of persons of all ages reported a
long-term condition that resulted from injury, and 25% of these were musculoskeletal.
- Fatal injuries are most commonly caused by suicide, transport accidents, falls,
accidental poisoning, suffocation, drowning and assault. Prior to 1991, the leading injury
cause of death was motor vehicle accidents, but after 1991, the death rate from motor
vehicle accidents became lower than the death rate from intentional self-harm (suicide).
- The Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) has statutory powers to declare
national standards and codes of practice. The ASCC is a tripartite body, with members
currently representing federal, state and territory governments, the Australian Chamber of
Commerce and Industry, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. ASCC standards and
codes need to be adopted by state and territory governments before they have any legal
- OSH and workers’ compensation in Australia is state-based, and all OSH
regulations and legislation are the responsibility of state and territory OSH authorities.
All national standards and codes of practice produced by the ASCC are guidance and
advisory documents only. While the ASCC is not itself a regulatory authority, it was
clearly created to influence policy development and policy harmonisation between the
states and territories. The ASCC does not make or enforce laws. The 2005/06 budget for the
ASCC is approximately $NZ20.9 million.
- Comcare is a Commonwealth statutory authority established under the Safety,
Rehabilitation and Compensation (SRC) Act 1988 and covered by the Commonwealth Authorities
and Companies Act 1997. It aims to reduce the human and financial costs of workplace
disease and injuries in the jurisdiction. Comcare administers the Commonwealth’s
workers’ compensation scheme under the SRC Act and also administers the Occupational
Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991.
- Australia is a federation with six states and two internal territories, and a federal
government. The legislative powers of the federal Parliament are set out in the
Commonwealth Constitution. The Commonwealth Constitution does not give the Commonwealth a
general power to legislate for OSH, hence there are ten OSH statutes (six state Acts, two
territory Acts, a Commonwealth Act covering Commonwealth employees and a Commonwealth Act
covering the maritime industry). There are also specialist OSH statutes covering the
mining industry in some states.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics is Australia’s official statistical agency.
- The primary agency for health information in Australia is the Australian Institute of
Health and Welfare (AIHW). The AIHW is an Australian government statutory authority
accountable to Parliament. It operates under the provisions of the Australian Institute of
Health and Welfare Act 1987. The various state authorities, such as workers’
compensation organisations, also collect statistics, and some of these are published.
- Due to the federal nature of Australia, there is no single national research
institution that tackles the whole field of OSH.
- Workers’ compensation in Australia is a compulsory, employer-financed,
“no-fault” occupational disabilities programme for work-related disease and
injury. When an accident does occur, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure
the injured worker receives all necessary medical and rehabilitation care and does not
suffer loss of income. This is achieved through a workers’ compensation claim to the
appropriate authority in the state (or, if a federal worker, to the federal system).
Workers’ compensation is regulated by state legislation. There is no uniformity of
benefits between states, so the precise extent of workers’ compensation insurance
cover varies from state to state.
- The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations is responsible for the office of
the ASCC. The ASCC provides policy advice on OHS and workers’ compensation matters.
It develops national OHS standards and codes of practice, and undertakes research and
analysis of national workers’ compensation data. The national strategy published by
the ASCC aims at enhancing harmonisation between the state systems across a range of
factors that include data collection and standards and codes.
- Both the ASCC and Comcare undertake public and stakeholder consultation
- The ASCC has specified ambitious national targets of producing a sustained reduction
in work-related fatalities of 10% by June 2007 and at least 20% by 2012, and also to
reduce workplace injuries by 20% by June 2007 and by at least 40% by 2012.
- The ASCC has identified indicators of success, but has yet to specify methods for
evaluating and measuring progress toward goals.
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