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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3323 ..

MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts and Cultural Events, Minister for Building Quality Improvement, Minister for Business and Regulatory Services and Minister for Seniors and Veterans) (10.03): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am pleased to present the Courts (Fair Work and Work Safety) Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 to the Assembly. The ACT government is committed to supporting workers in the ACT, especially vulnerable workers. Minister Stephen-Smith recently launched a new young workers advice service, funded by the ACT government. That service, which is provided by UnionsACT, will provide young workers with information about their workplace rights. As a government we have also worked hard to ensure that we have a strong and effective work safety regulator.

This bill continues those achievements. It delivers legislation that will make our courts more accessible for people seeking to enforce their rights to wages and entitlements. And it will build on the experiences of recent work safety prosecutions to make a stronger framework for holding corporations criminally responsible when they break the law. Our workers deserve to be treated fairly, and to be safe at work, and this government will keep working to ensure that our courts and justice system are there to support them.

Firstly, I will outline the measures in this bill that support workers to enforce their right to fair wages and conditions. These amendments support our Magistrates Court to develop expertise, and provide a foundation for quick and efficient resolution of fair work claims.

The Fair Work Act 2009 is federal legislation that governs workplace relations in Australia. The act provides a safety net of minimum entitlements for employees, enables flexible working arrangements and prevents discrimination against employees.

This bill contains amendments to existing territory courts legislation to improve the accessibility of the Magistrates Court for Canberrans seeking to uphold their rights and resolve their workplace disputes in a way that is easy, quick and inexpensive. This is expressly supported by the insertion of an objects provision within the bill to ensure that the court's fair work jurisdiction is exercised in such a way as to achieve the timely, cost-effective and informal resolution of fair work claims.

One way in which this bill supports the resolution of fair work claims is by ensuring that the Industrial Court, which sits in the ACT Magistrates Court, has jurisdiction to hear fair work matters. The Industrial Court is a specialised court which allows for the development of expertise in industrial and work health and safety matters.

The amendments to the prescribed jurisdiction of the Industrial Court will ensure that fair work matters are heard in the most appropriate forum within the court. This will facilitate the further development of expertise by the Industrial Court Magistrate, promote consistency in approach and outcomes for parties, and enable fair work matters to be dealt with alongside other industrial and work-related litigation.

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