Department of Immigration and Citizenship Ordered to Pay Civil Penalty for Breaching Federal Work Health and Safety Laws(News4us.com) December 3, 2010
The Federal Court declared that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), breached the duties it owes to both employees and third parties under federal work health and safety laws.
DIAC was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $242,000.00. This was the maximum penalty that could have been imposed by the Court.
The proceedings were commenced by Comcare, the federal work health and safety regulator, in December 2009. They arise from an incident on 15 October 2005 in which the Malu Sara, a vessel used by DIAC in the Torres Strait, sank during a voyage between Badu and Saibai Islands. Two DIAC employees and three members of the public, including a five year old girl, died as a result of the incident.
The subsequent Comcare investigation found that there were comprehensive failures in DIAC’s systems for the procurement and contract management of the Malu Sara, and the subsequent use of the vessel. Many reasonably practicable steps were open to DIAC to prevent the tragedy, but these were not taken.
In response to the decision, Mr. Neil Quarmby, Work Health and Safety Group General Manager said: ”Employers need to have strong safety systems in place for the protection of their employees. I am pleased that there is a justice outcome in line with our investigation findings and that this matter is now finalised.”
Comcare acknowledges the full co-operation it has received from DIAC throughout the investigation and the subsequent Federal Court proceedings.
The separate, but related, proceedings against the boat manufacturer Subsee Explorer Pty Ltd for alleged breaches of the OHS Act continue.
“It has taken a long time for this matter to be resolved. We once again extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those who died,” Mr Quarmby said.
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