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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 25 August 2011) . . Page.. 3888 ..

months later. This Assembly is expected to debate this bill in the absence of the regulations. We understand that they will run to more than 600 pages, creating new and substantial but as yet unknown obligations on employers.

The scrutiny committee wrote 20 pages of commentary on the bill, calling on the government to respond to some 35 matters. Whilst we have seen and been briefed on a draft of the government’s response, only yesterday afternoon did the minister release it formally. In doing so, the minister agreed to table a supplementary explanatory statement. Yesterday we were given a marked up version of what was to be a revised explanatory statement, which only today will be tabled in its final form.

We have received two briefings on the bill and a third was offered on the government response and the revised explanatory statement. But, given the lateness of these documents, the opportunity has passed for that briefing.

Whilst we appreciate all those briefings, the volume of material in the government’s response, 25 pages, and the supplementary explanatory statement, now running to 133 pages, we believe it is proper for the scrutiny committee, too, to review those documents. It has not been able to do that in the short time available. Once again, we ask: why the urgency?

We know that the government wants to get this legislation through before the end of the year so that it can meet the COAG deadlines and get the benefit of the financial incentive that attaches to that deadline. I might mention that the government has been decidedly closed-mouthed on the quantum of that incentive.

We also know that the commonwealth is dealing with the federal bill almost as we speak. It is as yet unknown whether the bill will pass without amendment. And given the amendments made by the Greens in New South Wales to include the right of private prosecutions, as the Greens are proposing for the ACT, the future is less than certain for the commonwealth bill in its present form. Further, we know that some other states are making amendments to the model legislation. Perhaps ACT Labor is spooked by the possibility of amendments in the ACT, so want to push it through so as to limit that opportunity. We think that is a slight on our democratic processes, and we cannot agree to it. We will be proposing adjournment at the detail stage.

Let me turn to some of the critical elements of this bill. It proposes a right of entry by unions under an entry permit scheme to investigate reasonably suspected breaches. We do not support this proposal on a number of grounds. The bill proposes quite extensive powers for inspectors and the regulator, and these officials play an independent role. Unions do not. Indeed, for the same reason, we would not support a right of entry by employer groups. Any powers conferred on the unions could just as easily rest with the inspectors or regulator. An example is the power to discuss work health and safety matters with employees.

Further, the bill contemplates that the unions will have a right of entry to the workplace based on a reasonable suspicion of a contravention of the legislation. This is a very low level and highly subjective threshold. It should at least have to satisfy a threshold of reasonable belief.

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