Labor and the union movement have launched a campaign urging the Turnbull government to release a secret report into the death of an 18-year-old man on a Toowoomba Work for the Dole site, as the anniversary of the teenager's death approaches.
Labor's shadow employment services minister Ed Husic has written to employment minister Michaelia Cash calling for the internal review completed by the government late last year into Josh Park-Fing's death to be released publicly.
Park-Fing died from critical head injuries sustained when he fell from a flatbed trailer being towed by a tractor in April 2016. It’s suspected the tractor slipped a gear and jolted, causing the teen to fall.
At the time he was completing a Work for the Dole program at the Toowoomba Showgrounds arranged by employment contractor NEATO.
BuzzFeed News understands the internal review details Park-Fing's cause of death, the workplace health and safety breaches found on the NEATO work site, and what steps the government has taken to improve safety conditions on Work for the Dole sites.
Husic suspects the government is covering up the report because it fears sharing some of the blame for the accident.
“Given we had a tragic fatality on a Work for the Dole site almost a year ago, it's high time the government demonstrated what they have done to improve workplace safety in the program," Husic told BuzzFeed News. "It’s not good enough to hide behind excuses."
One Work for the Dole participant on the site where Park-Fing died told the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union (AUWU) that when he expressed concern about driving a tractor, he was told by his supervisor that he would face a penalty if he did not do the work.
Husic has accused the government of putting young people at risk by failing to meet minimum workplace safety standards.
An Ernst & Young audit commissioned by the government found 36% of Work for the Dole sites didn't meet the average safety standards in the first half of 2016.
According to data from the AUWU, injuries on Work for the Dole sites have increased fivefold under the Coalition’s ‘jobactive’ system.
In 2015/16 there were 500 injuries among the 106,000 participants in the Work for the Dole programs, including the death of Park-Fing.
In 2014/15 there were 92 injuries, with 54,000 participants.
The AUWU wants Work for the Dole shut down, and has launched a Justice For Josh campaign demanding the report be released.
Husic fears withholding the internal report on the teenager's death sets a dangerous precedent for covering up future Work for the Dole injuries.
Earlier this week BuzzFeed News revealed the Department of Employment had rejected a Freedom of Information request for details about the risk assessment report conducted on the Toowoomba worksite, as it contained information that could “harm” NEATO.
A spokesperson for employment minister Michaelia Cash told BuzzFeed News that Workplace Health and Safety Queensland was still investigating the incident and hadn’t finalised its report or recommendations.
“It would be inappropriate for the department to release the report, or put matters on the public record, before Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has completed its investigation,” the spokesperson said.
Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.
Contact Alice Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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