Thursday, 23 June 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Department of Justice and Community Safety workplace safety


Department of Justice and Community Safety workplace safety

Mr RICH-PHILLIPS (South Eastern Metropolitan) (12:09): My question is to the Minister for Workplace Safety. Yesterday the minister informed the house:

… I am pretty proud of my very longstanding record of standing up for workers’ safety …

The rate of workplace incidents in the minister’s own department, the department of justice, has more than doubled over the last five years from 20 per 100 staff to 54 per 100 staff. What action has the minister taken within her own department to address that trend?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:09): I thank Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips for his question. It is an important question because the health and safety of Victorian workers in the public sector is a very important issue which I am fully focused on. There is a program of work. I regularly meet with the secretary and agency heads regarding health and safety matters within their own areas to make sure that there is a focus on prevention and also a focus on ensuring that the skills are in place within departments to deal with psychological risk. You would be aware that the government is in the process of developing psychological regulations that will give employers across both the private and the public sector much stronger guidance about how to prevent mental injury from occurring.

Mr Rich-Phillips, I am mindful of the significant amount of work that our frontline public sector workforce have been engaged in as part of the pandemic response, and the nature of some of the work within the justice department is particularly challenging, including in the corrections space, including in emergency services and police. They are issues that I know both I, as workplace safety minister, and the relevant portfolio ministers are very focused on. We have asked a lot of our public sector frontline workforce over the last couple of years, and it is important that we have strategies in place, as an employer of best practice, around ensuring that their health and safety is front and centre, that there is a focus on prevention and that where workers are subject to an injury we have a very strong program of return to work for them to return safely to meaningful employment.

Mr RICH-PHILLIPS (South Eastern Metropolitan) (12:12): I thank the minister for her answer. Minister, the incident rates in your department have doubled in five years. Yes, it is a difficult environment with the justice workforce, but what responsibility do you take as a portfolio minister for the poor performance, deteriorating performance, in your own department? What interventions have you made?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:12): I think, Mr Rich-Phillips, my substantive answer went directly to that point, and that is that there is a program of work which involves consultation with not only agency heads and department heads but also representatives of those workforces to make sure that we are working closely with the workforces as well as the senior executives of the department and the particular portfolios within the department—a program of work to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. It is work that is ongoing. It is important work, and it is a focus for me as workplace safety minister.