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