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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 September 2011) . . Page.. 4100 ..

volunteer organisations exist at this point in time. I think there has been some confusion about what the current legislation requires of volunteer organisations. Whilst this may place some small additional responsibilities on volunteer organisations, we believe they can be managed. The government believes that all workers must be protected. That requires provisions which will ensure all workers play their part in ensuring safety at work and compliance with the bill.

In addition, I should say that the government stands ready to work with volunteer organisations in the next stage of this, once this bill passes, to ensure that we are providing appropriate education and assistance around the movement to the new regime.

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (5.02): The Greens will not be supporting Mrs Dunne’s proposed amendments. Volunteers have a duty to care for themselves and others when they are in a worker-like situation. Mrs Dunne’s changes would roll back the existing situation in the ACT where these organisations are subject to the duty. Volunteers are already protected as workers in the existing Work Safety Act provided that the volunteer is carrying out work in relation to a business or undertaking.

It is appropriate that our laws place reasonable obligations on associations to protect people who are effectively undertaking work in employment-type settings under a mutual arrangement. This bill does this, and it distinguishes between these kinds of volunteers and other more ad hoc volunteers, such as those who might volunteer for a Clean Up Australia Day. The former would engage the obligations while the latter would not. I think this is a sensible balance between work health safety protections and the freedom needed to encourage volunteers.

Again, I emphasise that the same rules already exist in the ACT which put volunteer organisations under the same obligations. I do not think Mrs Dunne could argue that the ACT volunteer has suffered because of them. I have met with the volunteer organisations about these provisions, as Mrs Dunne and the government have. A key point is that any organisation that has been acquitting its obligations for the past three years should also be doing the same under this legislation. While I am aware that some volunteer organisations have recently become more aware of their work health and safety obligations due to this bill, I am not aware of any volunteer organisations that have not already been acquitting their obligations under the existing law. This should not change.

I also note that, because this is a harmonised process, all states and territories will have this provision. As I understand it, when teachers, for example, are sent by their organisations to other states, whatever states the teachers travel to will be covered by this legislation, so I think that is a point to remember.

It is important to note that duty holders are subject to the reasonable, practical qualifier. Of course a volunteer body or any other duty holder cannot know about and eliminate every single risk. This bill takes account of that. The act does not make them responsible for everything, merely what they could have reasonably known about and reasonably addressed.

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