Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on the International Day of Mourning

Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on the International Day of Mourning, on 25 May 2023:


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:54): The Greens support the International Day of Mourning motion moved by the Minister for Work Health and Safety, and recognise the significant grief caused to family members and workers when someone dies in a workplace. As we have heard, the International Day of Mourning plays an important role in commemorating workers who have died in workplace incidents or as a result of workplace illnesses, as well as those who have been disabled, injured or made unwell as a result of their work. On 28 April every year, colleagues, friends, family and comrades come together to commemorate their loved ones' lives and share their memories. But we also use this day to reflect on how we can work together across the political divide to prevent these incidents from ever happening in the first place and pledge our solidarity to the collective action of unions and workers to continue the struggle for safe workplaces.

We should never accept that anyone in our community might go to work and not return home or might suffer a long-term illness causing death as a result of their work. But, sadly, too many existing workers in New South Wales are not afforded that dignity. I acknowledge that the past couple of years with the pandemic was a particularly difficult time in terms of work health and safety. The inequity of worker safety was laid bare. While so many of us, including members in this place, were able to safely work from home, many—nurses, paramedics, doctors, teachers, delivery drivers, aged-care workers, hospitality staff and those working in temporary and gig‑related economies—faced significant risks and challenges in their workplaces during that time. Many international students and those on temporary visas had little or no choice but to rely on getting money in unsafe or insecure work. The impacts on them and their families and, in some cases, the tragic consequences of that work, are significant.

It is also important to recognise the failures of governments, particularly in recent times, to provide adequate support and oversight of work health and safety. I acknowledge the fact that I feel a sense of optimism and hope, as I am sure many in the Injured Workers Support Network do—whom the Minister and I met with on a number of occasions—as well as those workers and union members who come together at the memorial that Unions NSW holds every year on or around 28 April to commemorate those who have lost their lives. I acknowledge the fact that there is a sense of optimism that the new Minister will take these issues very seriously. For the past 12 years under the former Liberal‑Nationals Government, putting the interests of workers over the interests of big developers, big construction industries and big corporations and their profits has sadly never been a priority.

I believe that this Minister and this new Minns Labor Government will do exactly that. New South Wales can start the process by legislating to ensure that industrial manslaughter is an offence. I am proud to say that The Greens have been trying to do that through private members' bills for more than two decades. Members may recall Michael Organ, who was for a brief time The Greens member for Cunningham in Federal Parliament. I acknowledge the fact that, when my partner worked as a staffer for him, he drafted The Greens' first private members' bill to try to recognise industrial manslaughter in legislation. I acknowledge the grief and loss that families feel. We all have a responsibility to make sure that everybody is able to return safely home from work.

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