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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 31 July 2018) . . Page.. 2454 ..

the principal contractor will need to establish a health and safety committee and have members attend a relevant safety course. Health and safety committees contain both workers and management and allow workers’ reps and management to meet and work together to improve safety issues.

The bill also requires a principal contractor to consult with relevant unions while establishing work groups. Currently, under the harmonised work health and safety laws, this step is not required except upon request by employees. This change makes it mandatory. In this case, I think the change is beneficial and only strengthens work health and safety.

In my view, and in the view of the Greens, these are changes that are likely to improve the communications about safety at construction workplaces, improve the safety culture and, through that, contribute to overall health and improved safety outcomes. They set up fora through which the work health and safety issues can be discussed and resolved. They improve training on work health and safety, and they ensure workers and their representatives can have a strong voice when it comes to identifying health and safety issues and potential improvements.

As I mentioned, the MBA and the HIA have expressed their disagreements with these changes. I can see that, from one point of view, the changes seem like an administrative burden. Of course, that is part of what is happening. They may cost some money and they will take some time. But the issue here is that the health and safety of workers is very important.

The construction industry would appear to be an industry which could benefit from further initiatives in this area. There are hopefully longer term benefits as well, such as the lasting accumulated capacity that ACT health and safety representatives will receive via the training and experience they gain on ACT construction projects.

Lastly, I want to point out that the RMIT report on work health and safety culture in the ACT construction industry contains a lot of valuable research and a lot of other recommendations which are not addressed in this bill. I hope that the government will be able to use it as a useful source for ongoing initiatives to improve work health and safety in the ACT.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (5.23), in reply: I do not intend to respond to everything Mr Wall said, but I would like to respond to one question that he asked: what will happen when a Shorten Labor government is elected? What will happen, Mr Wall, is that the ABCC will be abolished and we will have a prime minister who believes in businesses and unions working collaboratively together. His legacy in the union movement is exactly that: working collaboratively with business to ensure that workers’ rights are protected and upheld. That is exactly the point of this bill. As Ms Cody has said, the aim of this bill is to facilitate collaboration on worker safety.

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