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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (16 February) . . Page.. 127 ..


Occupational Health and Safety Legislation

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Attorney-General. On 11 February 1999, in reference to Labor's proposal to amend occupational health and safety legislation to extend the statute of limitation period until 12 months after the report of an inquiry, inquest or royal commission, ABC radio reported the Attorney as saying the ALP had not responded to his request for comments on a possible amendment. The Attorney said on the radio:

... they -

meaning the ALP -

wouldn't indicate their view on the subject and as a result it - the current limitation - did expire ...

I ask what the Attorney has to say about my letter to him of 31 May last year on this very subject, in which I wrote:

... I would support the proposed amendment.

Given that my letter was written six weeks before the limitation period expired, why did the Attorney not act immediately to bring amending legislation to the Assembly?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I am glad Mr Stanhope has asked that question. I am very happy to indicate why I have said what I have said. If I might explain the background to this matter, as members are aware, the coroner wrote to me last year, pointing out that there was a 12-month expiry period on the bringing of prosecutions for relatively minor offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act which would apply to any matters that might arise out of the inquest into the Royal Canberra Hospital implosion and, in addition, that I should address my mind to that particular question. The Government was aware of the fact - indeed, this was implied by the coroner - that the duration of the inquest would go beyond the end of that limitation period.

I addressed the issues raised by the coroner. It appeared to me that it was appropriate to extend legislation so as to provide that a prosecution should be launchable at some point after a coroner has brought down a finding - that is, within six or 12 months after a coroner has brought down a finding it should be possible to launch a prosecution rather than 12 months after a particular act that might have given rise to a coronial inquiry. That is a very sound principle. Indeed, as members will see in the program to be tabled later this afternoon by the Chief Minister, the Government supports that proposal and intends to act on it.

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