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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2860..


MR QUINLAN (continuing):

Members will be pleased to know that I do not intend to speak on every line item. I certainly hope that we will not grind on into the night with the same speech. I think we have heard in this place, without much original material, the same speech about 10 or 11 times now. I will be here, but I just make a plea to the opposition not to be turgid and to put a little originality, a little humour, a little wit or something else into speeches, instead of the appalling repetition and schoolyard chant that we have had so far. Really, there has been no criticism so far.

Amendment agreed to.

Proposed expenditure, as amended, agreed to.

Proposed expenditure-part 5-ACT WorkCover, $4,695,000 (net cost of outputs), totalling $4,695,000.

MS DUNDAS (4.53): ACT WorkCover was well looked after in this year's budget. That would not come as a surprise to many. The ALP allegedly has been the champion of the worker and workers rights. Certainly, the links between the union movement and the Labor Party have been longstanding.

One of my concerns with ACT WorkCover is the amount being spent on fighting legal battles, a great expense to the ACT taxpayer, because there appear to be certain gaps in the system when it comes to worker safety. I was shocked to hear ACT WorkCover report during estimates that three people had died due to workplace injuries as no deaths were recorded the year before. My first concern, obviously, was with the increase in the number of deaths from zero to three. But what dismayed me further was that the chief of ACT WorkCover admitted that there may have been other workplace deaths that had gone unreported and she would not know about them.

The death of a pizza delivery driver came to the attention of ACT WorkCover only as a result of the family of the driver contacting them. It is alarming that we do not even know when and how people are dying due to workplace injuries. That is right, ACT WorkCover, a $6 million body, has no way of knowing how many people die through workplace injuries.

The second point of dismay came in estimates when I asked the minister how many breaches of workplace safety laws were detected through workplace inspections and learned that the total number of breaches was not recorded. He could only report on the number of breaches resulting in a formal notice of improvement. I got the impression that for every formal notice of improvement, there could be tens or even hundreds of workplace breaches not actually recorded, not acted on and not showing up in any figures. Without good information on the number and nature of safety breaches in particular workplaces or particular industries, how can WorkCover or the executive make sound decisions about which areas require more attention or even new approaches?

When I looked at the penalty regime, I found that last year only one fine, of $1,000, was imposed. ACT WorkCover acknowledges that they rarely issue formal notices of improvement, but cannot actually show us how many breaches there have been. Only one fine was issued in the last 12 months and the data collection of industrial deaths is little more than family reporting. Compare this with what we get for the $400,000 we


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