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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2023 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 June 2023) . . Page.. 1991 ..

Wednesday, 28 June 2023

MR ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Parton) (10.00): Members:

Dhawura nguna, dhawura Ngunnawal.

Yanggu ngalawiri dhunimanyin Ngunnawalwari dhawurawari.

Nginggada Dindi wanggiralidjinyin.

The words I have just spoken are in the language of the traditional custodians and translate to:

This is Ngunnawal country.

Today we are all meeting on Ngunnawal country.

We always pay respect to Elders, female and male, and Ngunnawal country.

Members, I ask you to stand in silence and pray or reflect on our responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Work health and safety—silica dust

Ministerial statement

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Manager of Government Business, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10.02): In response to the Standing Committee on Economy and Gender and Economic Equality’s report 7, following its inquiry into the annual and financial reports of 2021-22, I would like to provide an update to members on the silica dust reforms implemented in the territory.

The government has a long history of protecting workers’ rights in the ACT. Workers’ right to safe workplaces that contribute to wellbeing and their right to return safely to friends and families at the end of the working day is very important. We are proud of this history.

The silica dust reforms that this government has introduced over the last 12 months are wide-reaching and show how seriously the government is taking this issue. Workers’ rights must be upheld and employers must fulfil their obligations to prevent the serious disease of silicosis. Silicosis is a serious, debilitating and preventable occupational disease caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica, commonly referred to as silica dust. We are all familiar by now with the fact that engineered stone contains crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also found in other widely used materials such as concrete, bricks, tiles and mortar. Activities including cutting, grinding, sanding and drilling these materials release silica dust into the air.

Strengthening work health and safety laws to specifically address silica dust exposure to protect workers is not only a local priority but also a national priority. Increasingly, we are seeing calls for governments to strengthen work health and safety laws to deal with the risks of silica dust exposure, because it is no longer acceptable to maintain the status quo.

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