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Again, I go back to the issue of a consultant. I do not think it is appropriate in these circumstances, given the agitation that has occurred about workers compensation, that the Government ought to be appointing one. I think it is a matter for a public inquiry to decide whether or not there ought to be a consultant. I know there would be a line of people out there hungry for the work. I suspect that it would cost many thousands of dollars to engage a consultant and put them to work in relation to this issue. Again, that is a matter for a full and open process. It is for a committee to decide, and, if the Government wants to make a contribution to the committee process, then it ought to.
I am not in the business of directing the Government not to appoint consultants to carry out particular tasks, but it would seem to me to be a waste of money for the Government to do that if the committee was moving down the path of looking at all of the issues. I think the Assembly Secretariat has proved by its performance in the past that it is capable of providing the appropriate backup to the committee process which would ensure that we end up with a full and open process and that all the issues are canvassed before we make a report.
I will leave it there, Mr Speaker. I urge members to support this motion. At the risk of repeating myself, it seeks to put in place a full and open process which ACT taxpayers would demand in relation to the expenditure of a significant amount of taxpayers’ funds - $30m. The work force would also demand full and open access to the process. It is the sort of workplace condition that is close to their hearts because it is the security of the worker out there that is guarded by this sort of legislation. I do not think it would be appropriate for the process to be entirely a government-union one. It deserves a more open process than that. I think the taxpayer is entitled to see the ins and outs of what is a highly technical area of legislation. It not only goes to compensation as a result of injuries or illnesses that have been sustained during the course of one’s duties but also goes to the issue of rehabilitation and safety. Those are all issues of significance for the community.
MR DE DOMENICO (Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Industrial Relations) (12.21): Mr Speaker, the first thing I need to say is that it is a pity that we have seen the motion only this morning. I, for one, would have liked a lot more time to sit down and consider the motion. Unfortunately, I have not been given that opportunity. However, that being said, there are a few things Mr Berry said that need to be commented upon. Mr Berry throughout his contribution talked about the process being open and public, and I agree with him entirely. The process should be open and public. When you consider what the Government is proposing to do, it can be seen to be quite open and public.
Let us get the facts on the table. It is a fact that two years ago the then Labor Government paid $20m a year to the Commonwealth through Comcare for coverage of ACT public servants for workers compensation. Two years down the track, for about the same number of public servants and exactly the same coverage - there is no proposal to change the coverage - the bill is now $30m. Mr Berry is right when he says that both Mr Moore and I have been agitating about Comcare for over two years now. The then Labor Government, as usual, did nothing about it during four years in government, except willy-nilly to accept the bill that came in once a year from Comcare. We sent them a cheque. Comcare were delighted, quite obviously.