Page 3674 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 November 2022

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MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (11.07): The Greens will be supporting the Workplace Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which amends various legislation to strengthen workplace health and safety laws. This is a commitment that has been articulated in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement for the Tenth Legislative Assembly, which reads:

Review and amend Work Health and Safety laws to keep Canberra workers safe on worksites.

This is a commitment that is central to the ACT Greens and the government.

Amendments in this bill to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 will implement, as Mr Cocks has already mentioned, a number of recommendations from the Boland review.

Out of the 34 Boland review recommendations, nine will be implemented through this amendment bill. They are associated with recommendations around providing greater clarity for duty holders about their work health and safety obligations; ensuring that workplace health and safety offences are effective in deterring non-compliance; ensuring that liability for penalty amounts under WHS laws cannot be insured against; and strengthening cross-border information sharing arrangements between regulators.

The bill also includes amendments to the proposed Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 which will implement two recommendations from the Boland review relating to statutory notices issued by a deregulator, evidence of operator training and instruction and amusement device logbooks, as well as clarification about compliance with national standards referenced through WHS laws.

In addition to implementing the Boland review’s important recommendations, the bill extends work health and safety incident notification laws to require employers to report to the regulator sexual assault incidents occurring at their workplaces. Currently, these workplace incidents would only be notified if there is a hospital admission or medical treatment provided. This should not be the case.

Workplace sexual assault and harassment have no place in our community or in our workplace. We can and must do better to act on this, in light of the Respect@Work national inquiry into sexual harassment report from 2020 and also the independent review into commonwealth parliamentary workplaces in 2021. All forms of workplace violence, including sexual assault, are absolutely unacceptable and have serious health and safety impacts for workplaces and workers. Employers play a key role in ensuring that workplaces are safe for all workers, which includes the elimination of risks and hazards that contribute to sexual assault.

This bill represents a significant increase in the visibility of the scourge of workplace sexual assault through applying the notifiable incidents requirements to this category. This type of incident has been under-reported and hence under-addressed for far too long. Through reporting to the regulator, emphasis will be placed on PCBUs to undertake appropriate and effective action.

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