Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 6 Hansard (22 June) . . Page.. 2390..
MR PRATT (continuing):
we have penalties that can be applied to an individual or to a corporation, but we do not seem to have anything in between.
I ask the minister to pick up the challenge here: what do you do about the very small business, the microbusiness run by mum and dad? Under this legislation, a business of two, three, four or five people, a microbusiness, is going to wear the same penalties as a corporation. Under maximum penalties, that could be the case. Why would you not consider a third category in the scale of penalties for microbusinesses, to take care of family-owned businesses with a very small number of company members.
The Liberal opposition will not be supporting the Occupational Health and Safety Bill in any way. We did toy with the idea and I said to your staff some time ago that we might consider supporting this bill because there were some good provisions in it. I believe there are some good provisions in the bill, because we agree in principle that OH&S does need to be upgraded: $28,000 as a maximum fine is ludicrous. Workers should be protected and rogue employers should be penalised where the penalties fit, so we were looking forward to supporting the government, not necessarily on the basis of what it has in the bill now, but because the bill goes some way towards upgrading the provisions in the OH&S Act.
However, because the government has determined that it is going to use this vehicle to put in this union right of entry rubbish, we are not going to support a scintilla of this bill. We would rather go back and encourage the government to bring forward other provisions separately under another bill-the good provisions that were drafted in this bill. We will not have a bar of this bill. We will not support union right of entry to the workplace. We would prefer to see the government put its energies into doing something about increasing ACT WorkCover's capability to carry out inspections, to broaden the capability of ACT WorkCover so that it can undertake inspections in the workplace and more preventative and educational activities with business, so that we can prevent safety breaches occurring.
However we will be responsible representatives of the Canberra community and if we fail to defeat the government's bill we will have to consider amendments as a fallback. We will do that if we have to, but in the first instance we will reject this bill and we will see where we go from there.
When this government says that it is business-friendly and that it is creating an atmosphere in which business can thrive, it is whistling Dixie. It does not give a toss about business in the ACT. It does not give a toss about seeing business opportunities grow in the ACT. It is frightening business, and if its representatives had been at that forum last Thursday to see what the Canberra Business Council was saying about this proposed legislation, they would have turned green. The opposition will not be supporting this bill.
MR STEFANIAK (10.13): Mr Deputy Speaker, I was in this place when we had our first occupational health and safety issue. In fact, I think I chaired the select committee in relation to that. That was about introducing an occupational health and safety act and having workplace units. There was a big debate then about how big those units should be: should they be units of 20 employees or units of 10? The majority report of my committee said it should be 20. That is just small fry compared with where we are now.