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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 2196..


MRS CARNELL (continuing):

In fact, it was planned before this happened, but we were waiting on a particular person who has been doing similar reviews in New South Wales and Victoria and who was not available until January. So that will go ahead in January. We would be happy to work together to make sure that procedures are in place to limit the chances of this sort of thing happening again.

WorkCover Investigation

MR HIRD: I address a question to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Is the Minister aware of allegations by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of political interference in an investigation by ACT WorkCover? Can the Minister comment upon these allegations? Will the Minister release documents relating to the attendance of members of his personal staff during the course of an investigation?

MR DE DOMENICO: I thank Mr Hird for his question. Yes, I am aware of allegations made by the would-be Leader of the Opposition, Mr Berry. There was no personal interference, of course, with an ACT WorkCover investigation. There is no basis to the outrageous and specious allegations made by the would-be Leader of the Opposition, Mr Berry.

In July 1995, I am advised, ACT WorkCover was made aware of the presence of asbestos in non-occupied areas of the Canberra Rex Hotel. I am further advised that this information was made available by an employee of the Canberra Rex, a Mr Johnston. In response, the chief inspector of ACT WorkCover issued verbal instructions that no-one was to enter the plant rooms or riser shafts until an inspection had been made. Prior to this inspection, the employee of the Canberra Rex was dismissed by the Canberra Rex. The circumstances of the dismissal are in dispute and are the subject of unfair dismissal action currently before the Industrial Relations Court. I am advised that Mr Johnston requested an investigation into a possible breach of section 92 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989, which provides protection for employees being discriminated against for having an interest in an occupational health and safety matter.

On 19 July 1995 I received a number of complaints from a number of parties, including but not limited to the proprietor of the Canberra Rex, about the activities of ACT WorkCover officials. It was alleged that government officials were acting in an illegal manner, particularly that they were acting beyond their legal powers. I was informed that a meeting would be held that day where such practices could be observed. At that stage, I was not made aware of the subject matter of the meeting; nor was that my particular concern. My concerns were confined to the very serious allegations made against government officials.

A member of my personal staff did attend this meeting as an observer. During the course of the meeting he asked a number of questions merely to clarify for the record that the officials were acting pursuant to the powers vested in them. The answers to those questions established that the meeting was being conducted with complete propriety, and the member of my personal staff then observed the balance of the meeting. Upon his return to my office, I was informed that all the proprieties had been observed, that the


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