Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 556..
MR PRATT (continuing):
Minister, do you believe it is appropriate for schools and the education department to seek union approval when undertaking student placements with industry? Is this not simply archaic, unnecessary and an obstacle to the enhancement of the vocational education system?
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I am not aware as to whether or not that practice occurs, and I will certainly clarify that matter for Mr Pratt. But if it does occur-and Mr Pratt is suggesting that it is archaic to ensure that an employer pays award wages, abides by occupational health and safety requirements and undertakes a range of other requirements that protect the interests of the employee-then I am quite happy for unions to be involved in that process. That would be, I think, quite a legitimate exercise for unions representing the interests of young people engaged in the workplace.
I think unions play a relevant and important role in protecting young people's-and, indeed, any employee's-rights and entitlements, as well as issues around workplace safety, and it would seem to me to be an entirely reasonable suggestion. I cannot believe that Mr Pratt is suggesting that young people who are perhaps new to the workforce should not be allowed to be made aware of their rights and their responsibilities.
Mr Pratt: Unions should not be approving the role-
MR SPEAKER: Mr Pratt, you kicked up a fuss a moment ago when other people were interjecting. Perhaps it would be better to sit there and listen to the answer to the question.
MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, will you undertake to review this requirement, given that you have already announced reviews of almost every other aspect of your portfolio responsibilities? Can you check this one out about approval verses advice?
MR CORBELL: As I have indicated to Mr Pratt, I am not aware whether or not this practice actually takes place and I will seek clarification on that matter. However, if this practice does take place it would sound to me like an entirely sensible and reasonable one and I would see no reason to change it.
Public liability insurance
MS GALLAGHER: My question is to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer update the house on proposed meetings regarding the public liability insurance problem?
MR QUINLAN: Thank you, Ms Gallagher. I am grateful for the opportunity to inform the house of what is happening in regard to this quite serious problem. Some time ago several state and territory governments were calling for some concerted action, involving the Commonwealth and themselves, to have a look at this accelerating problem. On about 22 January, federal minister Joe Hockey announced that we ought to have a national scheme along the lines of the one conducted in New Zealand. A day or so later Senator Helen Coonan opposed Mr Hockey's idea, advising us that there was an unfunded liability of about $5 billion across the Tasman.