Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (17 February) . . Page.. 184 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
It is the longer time which I wish to remain focused upon, because that is what is provided in the Occupational Health and Safety (Amendment) Bill which I have introduced this morning. It is a Bill about prescribing time limits in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 which avoid the possibility of the "catch-all" one-year expiry date prescribed in section 31 of the Magistrates Court Act, which I just referred to. In other words, the Bill will prescribe time limits of its own in relation to coronial inquiries to avoid the current circumstances, which were not anticipated when the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 was first drafted.
Mr Speaker, when I first learnt of this issue from the Canberra Times report I have referred to, I took immediate action, issuing instructions for the preparation of the Bill which I have tabled today. At this point, I must thank the staff of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for their skill, care and attention in relation to this important matter, which have enabled me to present this Bill at this the first opportunity in 1999. There is no apparent reason why the Government could not have acted similarly when the matter was first brought to the Attorney-General's attention. Mr Speaker, the relatively straightforward nature of the Bill is a further indictment of this Attorney-General's competence to deal with such matters and his particular lack of interest in dealing with this matter. But, as if to highlight the disarray - - -
Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It seems to me that, in discussing matters to do with the circumstances of earlier attempts to introduce such legislation, Mr Berry may be straying into areas of irrelevance. I would ask you to rule on that question.
MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Continue, please.
MR BERRY: But, as if to highlight the disarray of this Minister, yesterday, following his attempts to blame the Opposition for his own failings, the Government's legislative program was tabled, which contained a proposed amendment to the Magistrates Court Act to deal with this matter. This is a classic case of "catch-up politics", where the Minister, once caught out, has been forced to look as though he is doing something.
Mr Speaker, it appears from the Canberra Times report of 13 November 1998 that this matter was brought to the attention of the Attorney-General as early as April 1998, following which there was an exchange of letters between the Attorney-General and the Opposition Leader, together with correspondence from the Attorney-General to the Justice and Community Safety Committee, and then, most curiously, nothing. Copies of the correspondence were tabled yesterday, following a request from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Stanhope. It is abundantly clear from this correspondence that Labor was prepared to support the necessary legislative changes from the outset, and this Bill is a product of that commitment, absent any action from Minister Humphries on the matter.
Mr Speaker, Labor has always been committed to this course. If the course supported by Labor had been adopted, we would not have been in the situation that we are in now. Any reading of Mr Humphries' letter to Mr Stanhope makes it clear that Mr Humphries,