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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1692 ..

MR DE DOMENICO (continuing):

advising on the workers compensation situation contrasts with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989, where a statutory advisory body is established, namely, the Occupational Health and Safety Council, with tripartite representation, to advise the Minister on the range of occupational health and safety issues.

Members will appreciate that there is a close relationship between occupational health and safety on the one hand, which aims to prevent work-related accidents and illness to workers, and workers compensation and occupational rehabilitation on the other hand, which seeks to provide the means to return the injured worker to the workplace after an injury has occurred. Indeed, an examination of the membership of the Occupational Health and Safety Council and the Workers Compensation Monitoring Committee clearly shows that a number of employer and union organisations have representatives who are common to both advisory bodies. The nexus has also been recognised by this Government, which has a single administration, ACT WorkCover, to administer both Acts.

Mr Speaker, in 1994 the Industry Commission reported on workers compensation in Australia. The report criticised lack of uniformity between workers compensation and occupational rehabilitation rearrangements between States and Territories, and drew attention to cost shifting between State and Territory schemes and the Commonwealth. Following the report, the Commonwealth established a task force that sought to reduce cost shifting and achieve greater Australia-wide uniformity for national industries.

As a response to the report, and the Commonwealth activity, the heads of workers compensation authorities, with the support of Labour Ministers - this was at the time of the previous Government - initiated a national uniformity project that aimed at identifying best practice features for adoption by States and Territories with the objective of achieving uniformity. The progress achieved with this project to date has been significant and has led the Commonwealth to disband its task force. Indeed, I believe that there are now valid reasons to hope that Australia can, within the next few years, make real progress towards achieving the goal of having uniform workers compensation arrangements in place in all States and Territories.

Mr Speaker, it is likely that the national uniformity project will result in firm recommendations for reform of Australian workers compensation schemes in the very near future. Once this occurs the ACT Government will be under pressure to reform the ACT workers compensation scheme to achieve national consistency. To this end it is preferable that the Government have in place more substantive formal arrangements for conducting industry consultation on these issues. I have previously raised in this Assembly my concerns regarding differences between the ACT and New South Wales workers compensation schemes and the adverse effect this has on business. Apart from the national pressures for change in this area, there are good reasons for this Government to explore changes to the ACT scheme to achieve greater consistency with New South Wales. Such a process of change also argues the need for good tripartite consultative arrangements. The initial discussions with the Carr Labor Government in New South Wales have been very promising in this respect.

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