Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has welcomed today’s announcement that the boat manufacturer of the Malu Sara will be fined the maximum penalty.
Subsee Explorer Pty Ltd has been fined the maximum amount under federal work health and safety laws of $242,000 for supplying an unseaworthy vessel which sank in the Torres Strait in October 2005 killing five people.
“I believe it is a step in the right direction towards closure for the victims’ families. While I welcome the fine I see this as another step towards closure for the families. It has taken over 5 years to get to this, which is a long time for the families to have to wait for justice to be served. This is only the beginning, we have a long way to go for these families to receive full closure,” said Warren Entsch.
Comcare CEO, Paul O’Connor agreed in his media statement today with Mr Entsch that the event was completely avoidable.
“Should the proper manufacturing have taken place, the proper maintenance of the vessel, and the appropriate responses at the time of the incident, we would still have those 5 people with us today and that’s a fact. People have to take responsibility for the role they have played here,” Mr Entsch said.
Proceedings were started by Comcare in December 2009 following the sinking of the Malu Sara on its journey between Badu and Saibai Islands in which two federal workers and three members of the public, including a 5 year old girl drowned.
The Federal Court has ruled that Subsee breached the statutory duty it owes as a manufacturer and supplier of plant. This is the second prosecution by Comcare arising out of the Malu Sara tragedy and the first time action has been taken against a manufacturer.
“It sends a strong message to manufacturers and suppliers of plant and equipment to Government Departments who don’t take safety seriously,” Mr Entsch said.
The court said that the Malu Sara tragedy fell into the worst case category and that the maximum fine was appropriate on this occasion.
The Comcare investigation found the vessel unseaworthy and not safe for its intended use and that while many reasonable and practicable steps were open to Subsee to ensure the Malu Sara was seaworthy, these were not taken.
Earlier proceedings against the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for breaches of federal work health and safety laws over this incident were finalised last December. The Federal Court imposed the maximum penalty of $242,000.
Mr Entsch said that this should not be the end of the prosecutions though.
“Following today’s announcement by Comcare it is also imperative that individuals who were identified in the Coroner’s report as being negligent in their respective roles, be bought before a court of law to be held accountable and judged by their peers.
Finally there needs to be a comprehensive assurance from Immigration and Police Departments that all actions have been taken to ensure that such a tragedy could not occur again in the future.”
Mr Entsch is currently working with some of the Malu Sara victims’ families to set up a trust to support those left behind by the tragedy. The establishment of the trust received bi?partisan support in the House of Representatives back in March 2011.
“I am currently working to establish an appropriate trust and identify trustees. This will provide me with an opportunity to seek Government support for an appropriation to be deposited into this trust.
“The trust will provide an opportunity for additional educational assistance to the children of the victims and to support appropriate commemorations on Badu, Iama and Thursday Islands. In the future ongoing appropriate commemoration arrangements will be made via the trust. I am presently seeking advice as to an appropriate monument for the three communities’ memorials,” he said.