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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 3 Hansard (29 March) . . Page.. 796..


MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.52), in reply: Mr Speaker, Joel Exner did not have to die. It has been some four months since I have spoken on this motion so I assume that those members of the opposition have forgotten about Joel and his family because, as Mr Mulcahy so eloquently put it, he cringes every time he hears these isolated cases being wheeled out. So does Mrs Dunne we hear today-a party cringe perhaps.

Mr Mulcahy claims he is not unsympathetic and that "one workplace death is too many". But in neglecting his responsibility to young workers in the ACT, as he does by opposing this motion, he is indeed unsympathetic-and, worse, insensitive-to the feelings many families of construction industry workers have in the ACT. It is those families who have to live with the consequences of workplace injury-and they will not forget; nor will Joel Exner's family. They will live with the fact that on this 16-year-old's third day at work Joel fell 15 metres to his death.

Joel Exner did not have to die. His family should never have had to deal with the loss of a son and a brother. Joel's story should be unique. Such tragedies should not be a shared experience. I would like for Mr Mulcahy to be correct in his assertion that Joel's was an isolated case. But, like Mrs Exner, Dean McGoldrick's family have had to suffer the greatest loss-the loss of a child.

Dean McGoldrick was killed on 1 February 2000, when he fell from the top of a 12-metre-high building at a building site in George Street in Sydney. Dean was on his 11th day of work as an apprentice roofer and he was 17 at the time of his death. His employer, Advanced Roofing, was fined. It was fined $2,000 less than would be a construction worker who took unlawful industrial action under the federal government's Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act-$20,000 for a life.

Dean's mother gave evidence at the Cole royal commission about how her son had not received any training before starting with Advanced Roofing. He was not supplied with a safety harness. On his 11th day at work he was working on a roof without protection. Commissioner Cole gave a commitment to Mrs McGoldrick that he would-and I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald-do what he could to improve the industry.

There is no amount of words or compensation that will take away the pain and suffering of the families who have lost a loved one due to a workplace injury. What is needed is action. These people need to know that their suffering has meant that someone else will not have to go through it. Commissioner Cole gave a commitment. He spoke about improving the safety of workers in the building and construction industries.

By contrast, the federal government, after the death of Dean McGoldrick, saw to renege on Commissioner Cole's commitment by introducing the then Building and Construction Industry Improvement Bill. And, contrary to Mrs Dunne's comments earlier on, instead of assisting young workers the federal government legislated against their interests. Their act places the onus of proof on workers in the event of a suspected risk to safety; fines workers exorbitant amounts of money for participating in industrial actions; allows for the imprisonment of workers for up to six months for refusing to answer the questions of the building police; and restricts the internationally recognised right of workers to collectively bargain across a work site.


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