None . . Page.. 972 ..
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION (AMENDMENT) BILL 1995
MR BERRY (10.41): Mr Speaker, I present the Workers’ Compensation (Amendment) Bill 1995 and the explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MR BERRY: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
This Bill forms part of a thrust, if you like, to ensure that the consideration of issues related to workers compensation is well and truly a matter which is out in the open. Members will recall that a select committee has been agreed to by this Assembly to look at the operation of workers compensation in relation to public sector workers in the Australian Capital Territory. That committee will ensure that all issues associated with public sector workers compensation will be considered in an Assembly committee forum and will involve significant public consideration of the issues as well as a report to this Assembly about how workers compensation might be looked after in the future.
This Bill is about workers compensation in the private sector. It creates a Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Rehabilitation Council in the Australian Capital Territory. That is something that I think is important, given some of the questions which have arisen in the community about the Government's stand on workers compensation. There is, I believe, general unrest about the ideological position of the Government in relation to workers’ wages and conditions, particularly on the issue of the protection which is provided by workers compensation - protection which has been fought for, for years and years, and which is valued by workers in the workplace.
The Bill which I have presented today sets out the composition, structure and role of the council. The council is to be a tripartite body appointed by the Minister after consultation with employers and employees. The Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Rehabilitation Council will work in the same way as the Occupational Health and Safety Council. It will provide the Executive with expert advice on workers compensation, occupational and rehabilitation issues. The current Act does not contain that sort of provision. The council will inquire into and report to the Minister on matters which the Minister refers to it. It will also advise the Minister on the operation of the Workers’ Compensation Act and its regulations; the approval of protocols or amendments to protocols; and, more importantly, the provision of education and training in relation to workers compensation or occupational rehabilitation, and the promotion of occupational rehabilitation.
Of course, with Labor's commitment to accountability, the council will be required to provide an annual report to the Minister for tabling in the Assembly. Of the 11 members of the council, four members will represent the interests of employers. They will be appointed by the Minister after consultation with employer groups. Four will represent the interests of employees. They will be appointed by the Minister after consultation with employee groups. There will be three other members appointed at the discretion of the Minister. Members will be appointed as part-time members for a period of three years.