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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 319..


MR QUINLAN: Certainly, we have waivers in place because of the bushfires, but the bushfires happened on 18 January and those figures relate to December. Let me take a look at the situation because, as I have said a couple of time while on my feet in this place, I do not have all the numbers in my head. I will just make sure of the explanation and whether it is likely to be a continuing phenomenon or a recurrent phenomenon or is not likely to occur again.

Volunteers-workers compensation

MR STEFANIAK: My question is to our new Minister for Industrial Relations, Ms Gallagher. Minister, the Workers Compensation Act does not define people carrying out voluntary unpaid work in the public interest-that is, volunteers for charitable organisations-as workers. That is important because it effectively exempts charitable organisations from paying workers compensation premiums for volunteers doing work for them.

However, I understand that WorkCover has ruled that volunteers who receive payment for expenses are workers regardless of the act and therefore organisations must obtain workers compensation cover for them. I am advised that that ruling is inconsistent with section 19 of the act and is also inconsistent with the Tax Office's rulings on the status of volunteers as employees, even if they get paid for expenses.

Minister, why has WorkCover made this ruling, why is WorkCover adding a serious impost to those charitable organisations that have volunteers and what steps will you take to rectify the situation?

MS GALLAGHER: I would prefer to take this quite complex question on notice and get back to you as soon as I can.

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question and the minister may wish to take this on notice or otherwise. WorkCover is an operational statutory authority charged with implementing policy, not creating it. Why is it in this case creating policy by defining volunteers who receive payment for expenses as workers?

MS GALLAGHER: I will take that question on notice.

Bushfires

MS TUCKER: My question is to Mr Stanhope. Chief Minister, you said that you wanted the inquiries into the recent bushfires to look not only at the detail but also at the broader considerations of threat and fire risk. A recent study from the Worldwide Fund for Nature and leading meteorologists has found a clear relationship between greenhouse, increased drought and increased fire risk. You have announced several studies, including spatial plan work, the non-urban study and the McLeod study. I would like to know from you today whether you will ensure that greenhouse and fire are included in the investigation so that they can feed into future planning of the bush capital?


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