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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 3790..


MR BERRY (continuing):

Now we get to the noisy Minister for Industrial Relations. He revealed, on workers compensation, that it was his agenda to break down conditions of workers in this Territory. What are these proposals based on?

Mr De Domenico: You are being mendacious.

MR BERRY: You can withdraw that now and save me the trouble of raising a point of order. It is not allowed. Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Mr De Domenico accused me of being mendacious. That has already been ruled on in this Assembly. I think he should withdraw.

MR SPEAKER: That has been ruled on; that is true.

Mr De Domenico: I withdraw "mendacious".

MR BERRY: Thank you. Mr Speaker, these proposals were based on anecdotal evidence. In questioning in the Estimates Committee, we discovered that the data collection system - which would help him identify what and where the costs in workers compensation were and also whether these costs are rising, falling or static - just does not work. He did not know. It was anecdotal evidence. Here is a Minister who is prepared to make judgments on wages and working conditions on anecdotal evidence, on ideology. That is what he is going to make the decision on - anti-worker ideology.

Mr Speaker, this Minister made it clear that he wanted to switch the costs of workers compensation away from the people responsible - that is, the employers - and back to the ordinary taxpayers, preferably through the health and social security systems. That is what this Minister was on about. Mr Speaker, the committee, on questioning the Minister about his use of a solvent to clean graffiti - he laughed at this, by the way - found that the Minister took virtually no precautions and had no idea of the training required to use this substance. In fact, he admitted that he did not know what the product was. Mr Speaker, I was provided with a safety data sheet in respect of this particular chemical. I will just give you one example. It says, "Keep your arms covered, because it will hurt your skin. Wash thoroughly. If you get it in your eyes you have to rinse them for 15 minutes". I think that suggests that the product is dangerous. Mr Speaker, this is the Minister who is responsible for occupational health and safety making these sorts of claims about dangerous products and creating poor examples for the community. The Minister responsible for occupational health and safety in the Territory has been seen to set a poor example.

During the course of the committee's inquiry, it was my duty to ask a range of questions. On many occasions, there was a tardy response to those questions, particularly the ones that were likely to be embarrassing. Let me give you an example. Mr Speaker, we asked some questions about the chief executive of the ACT administration and his sweet taste, if you like, for exotic motor cars. It was in relation to whether or not the Government had changed its policy on Australian purchased vehicles. They claimed that they had not and that they relied upon some public service regulations which allowed a different sort of vehicle from the normal vehicle if it was approved by the public service commissioner.


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