Push for industrial manslaughter laws in the NT as grieving families are being ‘left in the dark’
It’s been more than a year since the death of her husband in a workplace accident, but Terry Delaney says she’s still being left in the dark by authorities.
- Terry Delaney says she’s heard little from her husband’s employers since his passing
- Carl Delaney’s death has prompted renewed calls for industrial manslaughter laws
- NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles says the Government will consider its own legislation
Carl Delaney was working for a subcontractor on the INPEX Itchthys LNG Project when he was killed on the night of Wednesday, 29 November 2017.
His death led the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) to call upon the Northern Territory Government to “urgently” introduce industrial manslaughter laws, which the union said would improve worker safety by harshening penalties for employers who breach their safety obligations.
But Mrs Delaney said in the year since the incident, she’d barely been contacted by the companies involved and is now left in limbo, unaware if further compensation or legal avenues are available to her.
“It leaves us very frustrated in thinking that the day after his accident, everybody was jumping up and down and [saying] ‘Oh, if you need anything, we’ll keep you informed, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that — and then absolutely nothing,” Ms Delaney said.
“As far as the unions, NT WorkSafe, INPEX, it’s as if it never happened, from my perspective.
“In terms of compensation, everybody says money can’t bring them back.
“No, but the rest of our lives still have to be sorted out because the person that was there to provide that has now been taken away.”
NT Government to consider its own manslaughter laws
The ETU this morning renewed its calls for the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws in the territory.
Mrs Delaney also wants the laws introduced, and said she believed it would give companies an incentive to abide by work health and safety laws.
“Currently the workers have got no protection,” she said.
Ms Delaney hopes her husband’s death will see new manslaughter laws introduced (Supplied: Terry Delaney)
The legislation came into effect in Queensland in October last year, making it an offence for employers to negligently cause the deaths of their employees.
It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for individuals or $10 million for corporate offenders.
The ETU’s State Secretary in QLD and the NT told ABC Radio Darwin‘s Adam Steer that there’d been a reduction in deaths on Queensland worksites since the legislation commenced.
“Now whether that can be put down to the introduction of industrial manslaughter I can’t be certain, but it’s certainly had an impact we can see,” Peter Ong said.
Northern Territory Attorney-General Natasha Fyles last year said she would await the outcome of a national review of workplace health and safety laws before her government moved to introduce legislation.
That review, which is examining how workplace health and safety laws are operating in practice, is due to be finalised by the end of the year.
Today, she reiterated those calls, but said industrial manslaughter laws had garnered broad support in the Northern Territory.
“We would prefer to have synchronised national legislation so it’s the same in every jurisdiction, but if we don’t see the will to go their nationally, we’ll certainly do that as a territory,” she said.
“We’ve said we’ll await the findings of that senate inquiry and that review nationally… but around industrial manslaughter, we’ve seen… three jurisdictions now step out of national uniform legislation, and we’d be willing to consider that.”
Separately, a senate inquiry into the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths recommended introducing a nationally consistent industrial manslaughter offence, “using the Queensland laws as a starting” point, when it reported in October.
A third, government review of workplace health and safety in the Northern Territory, including the effectiveness of NT Worksafe, is due to be handed down in coming weeks and has these laws in its scope.
But Mr Ong couldn’t say precisely how the legislation would help families in situations such as Mrs Delaney’s.
“This is more about making sure that it’s just not money and people aren’t paying out money for the lives of the worker,” he said.
“This is about people being personally liable and facing jail terms if they’re overlooking safety and they kill a worker in that process.”
No inquest, but investigations continue
The Northern Territory Coroner determined not to hold an inquest into the death of Mr Delaney, and a spokesperson for the NT courts said the reasons for that determination had been provided to Mrs Delaney’s family.
In a statement, INPEX general manager external affairs and joint venture, Mr Bill Townsend, said that while formal investigations into the incident continued, lead contractor JKC and INPEX have “conducted thorough reviews of each work area, including re-verification of safety measures and procedures”.
“We have full confidence in the formal investigation processes, and over the past year we have been working, and continue to work and cooperate fully, with the regulatory and investigative teams,” the statement said.
Mr Delaney was a subcontractor on the INPEX Itchthys LNG Project when he was killed (Supplied)
“The investigation into the death of Mr Delaney is in the control of the Coroner, and so we now need to reserve further comment pending the Coroner’s formal inquiry and report.”
NT Worksafe said its investigation report and brief of evidence was handled up to its legal counsel in October, which is currently reviewing the brief to confirm if Work Health and Safety legislation was breached.
A spokesperson said NT Worksafe does not contact next of kin during investigations, unless the family were involved in the incident.
They also said a lump-sum payment was made to Mrs Delaney earlier this year under Section 62 of the Return to Work Act, which Mrs Delaney confirmed.
‘Our lives have been turned upside down’
Mrs Delaney’s case bears similarities to the fallout of another recent death in the Northern Territory.
Daniel Bradshaw with his partner Tanya Louth and two children. (Supplied: Maritime Union of Australia)
In August, his partner Tanya Louth told the ABC she was on the verge of bankruptcy and yet to be compensated for the death. She also said more support for grieving families was required.
Mrs Delaney said the difficulties she had encountered in the past year were more than just financial.
She said she’d spent most of that period moving from location to location because facing her return to Australia was difficult, and her and Mr Delaney had previously let their livelihoods be determined by Mr Delaney’s job.
“At the end of the day, our lives have been turned upside down,” she said.
“My eldest son is very frustrated because he needs somebody to blame. You know, somebody is responsible; somebody didn’t do the job properly.
“We’re put in a position where we can’t do anything. We can’t get any kind of justice for what’s happened to our partner.”