Victorian businesses would face additional costs of more than $3.4 billion over the next five years under the Commonwealth’s proposed national occupational health and safety laws.

Premier Ted Baillieu said the so-called reform would take Victoria backwards and impact severely on the productivity of the state’s small businesses.

“The proposed laws do not deliver on the intent of the COAG reform agreed to in 2008 which aimed to reduce the cost of regulation and enhance productivity and workforce mobility,” Mr Baillieu said.

“Victoria already has the safest system, the most effective system, the lowest rate of workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths of all states, and the lowest workers’ compensation premiums in the country.

“It is estimated that it will cost Victoria $812 million to transition to the new model and $587 million a year in the first five years in ongoing costs to businesses.

“Most of those costs will be borne by small enterprises which make up 90 per cent of Victorian businesses,” Mr Baillieu said.

The findings come from a report prepared for the Victorian Coalition Government by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the impact of the Gillard Government’s proposed laws.

Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips said any move to harmonise OH&S laws should decrease costs for business while still delivering a safe work environment.

“The PwC assessment shows only three of 20 proposed changes would have a positive impact on Victorian businesses,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

“Many small and medium-sized businesses do not have the ability to readily adapt to the changes that would be required under the proposed laws.

“Those businesses will incur costs as they try to understand their obligations under the new laws.

“Australia’s national occupational health and safety laws should deliver best practice and it is widely acknowledged that Victoria has the best workplace laws in the country,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.