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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 May 1995) . . Page.. 542 ..


What does this Government do? Instead of sitting on its hands, like previous governments, we make decisions in the best interests of the community, and the best decision to make here is to get some expert advice to tell us whether we are doing the right thing. After all, the consultants, whoever they may be - if Mr Berry is right, there is a long line waiting to do this work - might tell us that we should stay with Comcare. I doubt whether they will, but they might well say that. If that is the case, why do we need a committee? I do not think at this time that we do need a committee, to be honest with you. If the matter needs to be referred to a committee, what about the Public Accounts Committee, which looks at the expenditure of the Government? Surely, $30m expenditure on Comcare would come under the auspices of the Public Accounts Committee. I know that this motion goes a little further than that, but we do have a committee that is quite adequate to do this. But we want to establish another committee. Is it because, one asks, Mr Berry wants to chair this new committee? We all know Mr Berry's public utterances about workers compensation. Every time anybody mentions workers compensation, Mr Berry comes up with the political line, “The Liberals are trying to ravage the workers and take away their benefits”. That is not true.

Mr Berry talked about an open and public process. I said to the public servants, “We want the unions with us on this one. We will establish a committee. We will ask the Trades and Labour Council to nominate their representative on this committee, which in turn will recommend who the consultant should be. The committee will deal only with Comcare and only with workers compensation coverage for the public sector”. I had a couple of meetings with the unions and then, suddenly, at the weekend we were hearing about leaked internal memorandums from the Industrial Relations Department to Mr Berry's office, and we were listening to Jeremy Pyner talking about hidden agendas, that the Government was going to take things away from workers. Not true; the committee will look at only - I stress this once again - workers compensation coverage for the ACT Government Service. It is nothing to do with the private sector.

Mr Berry well knows that in October last year this Assembly made some changes to the ACT workers compensation legislation that covers the private sector. In terms of that legislation, by the way, I believe that it goes further in protecting the worker than the ACT Government Service regulations do. That is why the Liberal Party is inclined to say that we should wait a little while before we go to the expense of setting up another select committee. We need a report from the expert consultants that tells the Government what they believe the Government ought to do. The Government would then be quite delighted to refer that report to a committee, if the Assembly sees fit to do that. Let us wait and see.

We know that Mr Berry has this great desire to be the chair of another committee, putting his ideological bent into the area of workers compensation. If you want to do that, that is fine. You and I have differences of opinion, and always will have, on workers compensation. What I have to make clear is that this Government is concerned that, for example, when we compare workers compensation coverage for Calvary Hospital private and workers compensation coverage for Calvary Hospital public - same doctors, same nurses, same risks - - -


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