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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3959..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

I know Mr Stefaniak read some of this article from the Financial Review from last Friday, but it is important to remind people, as we close the debate, of the view of the ACT from around the country. The article is by Steven Scott and is headed "Safety reform agenda hits roadbump". Halfway through the article, it states:

Meanwhile, the ACT government this week introduced a new workplace safety bill that is significantly different from every other jurisdiction in the country.

So much for harmonisation. So much for meeting one of the fundamental requests from business groups everywhere that they operate in an environment that is consistent across the country. The article finishes with the following quote from Mr Barr:

Mr Barr said the bill reflected current work on OH&S harmonisation and should become "a legislative model all jurisdictions can work towards".

Well, COAG is working towards harmonisation and COAG does have a working group, but the working group is not promising what Mr Barr is promising. The article then refers to what a lawyer from Deacons has said. It reads:

But Deacons partner Michael Tooma said the ACT bill was "a significant regression from the harmonisation agenda".

I will repeat that: "a significant regression from the harmonisation agenda". Mr Tooma continues:

Every wave of legislative reform drives the jurisdictions further and further apart.

So this is the model of the Stanhope government: divisions yet again, moving out of the harmonisation model, working towards making the ACT an island that is out of touch with the rest of the country. That is why we ask the government to withdraw this bill. Until that is done, I say again that we will oppose this legislation.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.20), in reply: I thank members for their comments during the debate. I will address several of the issues that have been raised with the government during the extensive briefings that were offered on this legislation and during this debate today.

It is worth reiterating that, over the three years that the government has been developing the Work Safety Bill, this process has been lengthy and thorough. We have sought to engage with a range of stakeholders. It has been one of the most extensive consultation processes, with the extensive involvement of the Occupational Health and Safety Council. It is worth noting that, with respect to the members of the Occupational Health and Safety Council, who represent business groups and workers, all council members—with the exception of the MBA, who have indicated that they would prefer the government to wait for the completion of national harmonisation work—support the passage of this bill today. That includes the chamber of commerce, as well as a number of other business organisations.


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