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This motion is also put forward against a background of emerging concern in the work force about what might happen to workers compensation in the public sector, knowing the facts of the matter. The legislation, when it was originally developed, may not have envisaged an ACT Government Service. It is an arrangement whereby, by exchange of letters, the Chief Minister and the relevant Commonwealth Minister - the Minister for Industrial Relations - enter into an agreement. This is scheduled in some way under the Commonwealth Act to make the Commonwealth Act apply in the ACT. That arrangement is open to change at fairly short notice, if the Government chose that course.
I think those 20,000 or so employees in the ACT Government Service deserve a very open and public inquiry into issues surrounding workers compensation. Those of us who have been associated with the union movement over the years well recognise the weight that is given to protection in the workplace, by way of either safety or rehabilitation, or compensation in the event that these matters do not see the best outcome for workers. There needs to be wide acceptance by the work force and the trade union movement that the process is an open and public one. I think the taxpayer out there, who may not be affected by the Act that covers Government Service workers, has a right to know that it is an open and public inquiry as well.
I have spoken briefly to Mr De Domenico on this issue. He argues that we should wait. He is in the process of engaging a consultant who will inquire into this matter and determine which path the Government should take. In the scheme of things, I think that is a matter for the inquiry to decide. It is a matter for the committee to decide whether there ought to be a consultant or not. A full and open process by way of the proposed committee should decide whether there ought to be a consultant or not. I do not think it is a fair and open process for the Government to appoint a consultant, which then reports to the Government and does not have the process available for public scrutiny all the way through. The committee process I have proposed would ensure that. I should also add that, as far as waiting is concerned, I think there is a sense of urgency out there. I saw a press release in a news report the other day that the trade union movement had expressed no confidence in Mr De Domenico - I do not know what their reasons were; that is a matter for them - and that they had walked away from a consultative process the Government had proposed. I do not know the reasons for that - that is between them and the Government - but I think we have a responsibility to the taxpayers of the ACT to look into an area that is of such significant expense.
I understand that around $30m worth of taxpayers' money goes into workers compensation, and I do not think that is the sort of inquiry that ought to be conducted behind closed doors. It seems to me that if you are going to have an inquiry into such an important matter you need to ensure that the whole process is out in the open.