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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 September 2011) . . Page.. 4039 ..


Mrs Dunne: Knock me down with a feather.

MS GALLAGHER: Yes, I do not think that is going to shock you, but it does not shock me that you have brought your position forward.

As members would know, part 7 provides a right of entry by union officials that have a work health and safety entry permit. The right of union officials to enter a workplace to investigate safety breaches has been a longstanding part of the occupational health and safety legislation in Australia, and indeed internationally, for many years. Union officials play an important role in occupational health and safety, and, in my experience, far more often than not they play a very responsible role in their dealings with business owners in enforcing their occupational health and safety obligations.

The right of entry is tightly controlled. Before being able to gain entrance into a workplace a permit holder must firstly obtain a permit under the Fair Work Act and then apply to the Office of Regulatory Services for a permit issued under this act. It is not simply a matter of someone just rolling up and being given a permit. There is a process to follow and a determination to be made by the regulator.

Entry permit holders are required to undergo training so that they are aware of their obligations under the legislation. Entry permit holders are only able to enter a workplace without notice where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that there has been a contravention of the act or where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a contravention is occurring. If an entry permit holder wishes to consult with workers on occupational health and safety matters, they are required to give notice of their intention to enter the workplace at least 24 hours before they intend to do so.

Our current Work Safety Act provides the same level of access to union officials. I have not been advised of any complaints suggesting abuse of this role. While some may suggest that it is possible for some to abuse this position, I would say there are enough safeguards in place to prevent this from happening. If an entry permit holder contravenes any of the conditions of the entry permit or acts in an improper manner whilst exercising their right of entry, the regulator is able to revoke the permit.

I draw members’ attention to the very positive and proactive role that unions have played. If you just think of some events of last week in relation to asbestos and in relation to issues out at the Cotter Dam, unions are active in this space and they have a role to play. Yes, that role needs to be regulated, and that is what this legislation allows for.

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (12.19): The Greens will not be supporting Mrs Dunne’s proposed amendment, which would remove the right of permit holders to enter the workplace. Work health and safety permit holders are people who hold an office in or are employed by a union. The amendment proposed by Mrs Dunne effectively seeks to take away the rights of unions to enter workplaces to investigate breaches, to advise and consult workers and to hold discussions about work health and safety. The Greens are strong supporters of these rights. The Greens care about


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