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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 March 2021) . . Page.. 706 ..

I have no confidence that the new federal minister will behave differently to her predecessor when it comes to protecting workers. She is part of a government that at every opportunity has attacked workers and their rights. They decimated workers’ protections, especially for vulnerable people in casual and insecure work. They refuse to discuss paid domestic violence leave, despite more than one member of their cabinet being on extended paid leave, following allegations of rape and the denial of rape retrospectively. They are not on the side of workers and they are not on the side of Canberrans.

MS ORR: Minister, what is the ACT government doing to keep Canberrans safe at work?

MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Ms Orr for the supplementary. I note that many Canberrans work in the federal parliament, not just as staffers but as cleaners, security guards, catering staff and providing parliamentary support. It is very disappointing to see the lack of action from the federal government or even the lack of acknowledgement of the important work that these Canberrans do, especially over the last couple of weeks.

Everyone has the right to return home safely from work every day, and we take this right very seriously in the ACT government. This is why we have the Secure Local Jobs Code and this is why we have portable long service leave. This is why we have a strong and independent regulator, because every Canberran has the right to be safe at work. This government will always stand up for the right to be safe at work and for entitlements that provide safety and security. We also work closely with industry and with employee representatives in work health and safety forums on the important issue of workplace safety.

DR PATERSON: Minister, can you please update the Assembly on the commitments made by this government to protect Canberra workers?

MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Dr Paterson for her interest in workplace safety across the ACT. The government has a strong record on protecting the rights of Canberra workers and, in the current Assembly, will continue to deliver on these commitments. Work is well underway on establishing industrial manslaughter as an offence in the Work Health and Safety Act in order to strengthen protections for workers and to increase penalties to include jail time for industrial manslaughter. We are working to expand the portable long service leave scheme to cover more workers in the ACT and ensure that they receive entitlements that recognise their long-time service in the workforce.

Protecting tradespeople from silica dust is another important commitment made by this government, and I have tasked the Work Health and Safety Council to find an appropriate training course for mandatory silica training, similar to what is already in place for asbestos awareness training. The government is also working towards introducing regulations under the Work Health and Safety Act to protect tradespeople from silica dust.

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