Page 2109 - Week 07 - Thursday, 29 June 2023

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Work Health and Safety Amendment Bill 2022

Debate resumed from 20 October 2022, on motion by Mr Barr:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (11.23): The opposition will be supporting this bill. It will amend the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to clarify that the work undertaken by members of this place and the work undertaken by any people to support a member is covered by the act.

We are all very familiar with the circumstances that led us here, those being the actions of WorkSafe ACT in issuing the prohibition notice in relation to last year’s estimates hearing, which was unprecedented. The Select Committee on Privileges, which was established to inquire into whether there had been a breach of privilege in relation to the actions of the WHS Commissioner and any other persons, found that the first WorkSafe ACT prohibition notice improperly interfered with the free exercise of the Assembly and its committees.

It is a very serious matter, obviously, but I note that the report goes on to say in its findings that the phone call and the email from the minister’s office, for advice, was open to the perception of intentionally influencing those actions. While no breach of privilege was found in relation to the actions of the minister, the committee recommended that all ministers take care in their interactions with independent regulators so that they are not open to the perception of improperly influencing or directing a particular investigation or regulatory action.

In addition, the committee recommended that ministers ensure that they and their officers keep appropriate records, and that all ministers should take care to provide accurate information to the media and to the public. Indeed, it was a pretty extraordinary series of events, with pretty extraordinary recommendations and evidence provided to that committee. A committee having to instruct ministers to take care in their interactions with independent regulators and having to remind ministers and their officers to keep appropriate records is somewhat disappointing. Canberrans should be, rightly, concerned about that.

As the Chief Minister said, quite rightly, every Canberran has a right to be safe at work and to return home safely from work every day. We agree with that, and we support any ambiguity being removed from the act to protect the safety of workers. We, the Canberra Liberals, remain very committed to protecting the important work that the Assembly does and believe that the privileges, immunities and powers of the Assembly and its committees must be protected. We do not believe that the two are mutually exclusive. In this regard, we acknowledge the amendments that Madam Speaker has circulated. I can signal that the Canberra Liberals will be supporting those amendments.

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) (11.26): I rise to speak in support of the Work Health and Safety

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