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Monday, 8 May, 2017 - 10:00
Industry news

Again this year, the Chair of the Finance, Risk, Audit and Compliance Committee of the Board of the Safety Institute of Australia, Nathan Winter has dug into the Portfolio Budget Statements for each of the safety related Federal Government Departments, to provide some insight into the Federal Budget from a safety perspective not covered by the main stream media.

From these Portfolio Budget Statements we can see;

  • The Safe Work Australia “Total Resourcing Budget” for FY18 is essentially the same and headcount remains unchanged at 101.
  • Comcare, the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, and the Seafarers Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority have budgeted for an increased average staffing level of 12 people up to 652 for FY18, which is the same average staffing level they were targeting for FY17. There is a small increase of $15m (1%) in the “Total net resourcing” available to Comcare in FY18.
  • The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency “Total Resourcing” Budget for FY18 is down $0.5m (6.1%) following a 6.3% increase in FY17 with the same average staffing level of 12 people.
  • The National Off-Shore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) Revenue from Government is down $3.7m (8.4%) following a 7.4% decrease last year, but with an increase of 11 staff to 115.
  • The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) “Total funds from Government” are budgeted to increase $5m (2.6%) in FY18 with total net resourcing essentially the same as FY17, but averaging staffing numbers are budgeted to jump by 38 people to 418.
  • The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) “Total funds from Government” are budgeted to increase by $1m with total net resourcing budgeted to increase by $4.6m (1.9%) in FY18. Average staffing numbers are also budgeted to increase by 40 people to 805.
  • The Australian Transport Safety Bureau's (ATSB) “Total Resourcing” Budget for FY18 is down $12.8m (29.4%) back in line with historical funding levels (prior to the search for MH370). With an increase of average staffing levels of 2 people to 107 budgeted for FY18.

Given the continuing rhetoric about a tough economic environment in the context of a substantial deficit, it’s good to see that these safety related federal government departments haven’t had their budgets slashed in an attempt to return Australia to a surplus more quickly.

Similar to last year the one disappointing aspect of this year’s Federal Budget from the Safety Institute perspective is the further reduction in total resourcing for the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) of $11m (18.7%) this follows an 8.1% reduction last year and a headcount reduction of 13 people to 184. Given the continuing issues of quality with VET WHS qualifications, this is one Authority that would benefit from more funding, not less, given the relationship between ASQA’s  work and the “Health and safety capabilities” action Area of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.

The bank levy, which will cut into the bank’s profits (if they don’t just pass the costs on to their customers) appears unlikely to have a large impact on health and safety industry, with the financial and insurance services industry (which “Banking” comes under) having a lower incidence of serious claims than any other industry1.

The concept of requiring the deferral of a proportion of senior banking executives 'at risk' remuneration for at least four years to focus decision-making on long-term outcomes, may be beneficial for improving safety performance.

Focussing only on short-term outcomes can lead to not investing in safety initiatives that often take a longer period of time to change an organisation’s culture and deliver a return in contrast to the one year period that an executive’s ‘at risk’ remuneration is often based on. Extending such a concept to all organisations, would have an even greater positive impact on safety, because all other industries have higher incidence of serious claims than the banking sector.

It will be interesting to see whether some of the $300 million allocated for the National Partnership on Regulatory Reform will be available to Western Australia and Victoria if they choose to harmonise their Workplace Health and Safety Legislation with the national model Act and Regulations, even though they didn’t adopt them in time to take advantage of the original financial incentives that were available to them for doing so.

Kind Regards

Patrick Murphy & Nathan Winter
Chairman                Deputy Chair
Safety Institute of Australia