Australia

Dreamworld tragedy sparks industrial manslaughter laws

Scene of Dreamworld crash in October 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Dreamworld tragedy led to an investigation into workplace safety

Australian authorities are set to bring in new industrial manslaughter laws following the fatal Dreamworld disaster last year.

Four people died after the water ride they were on suffered a malfunction.

The Gold Coast accident triggered a review into Queensland's workplace safety standards.

The state government is now pushing for an industrial manslaughter offence, which would hold corporations as liable as individuals for negligent deaths.

Companies would face penalties of up to $A10m ($7.9m; £6.15m), while individuals found guilty could face 20 years behind bars.

Queensland's industrial relations minister introduced the new law into parliament for debate on Tuesday.

"Companies won't be able to hide behind elaborate corporate structures to evade their responsibilities," Grace Grace said.

"We promised to get industrial manslaughter on the books in Queensland, and to send out a strong message that if you cost someone their life, you will pay.

"While the affected families will never get their loved ones back, they can take heart that individuals or companies responsible will be held to account under our laws."

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption (L-R) Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozbeh Araghi and Cindy Low were killed in the Dreamworld accident in October 2016

Two men and two women were killed in October 2016 when their raft on the Thunder River Rapids flipped over, trapping them in the conveyor belt mechanism.

First of its kind

The establishment of the new criminal offence was also prompted by the workplace deaths of two labourers at Eagle Farm racecourse in Brisbane in October last year. They were crushed by a falling concrete slab.

In that case, criminal offences were laid against the builder in charge of the site, but the state's unions also called for legal reform to pursue corporations for liability.

The Queensland Council of Unions said the industrial manslaughter offence would deter companies from cutting corners when it came to safety.

"We have long called for tougher offences to make sure that dodgy bosses and their companies don't just get a slap on the wrist if their negligent actions have led to a workplace fatality," said General Secretary Ros McLennan.

The laws will be the first instance of an industrial manslaughter offence in an Australian state. Only the Australian Capital Territory at the moment has similar such laws.

A Public Safety Ombudsman office will also be established, while safety and training standards will also be tightened across the amusement park industry as per the review's recommendations.

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