Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (30 June) . . Page.. 1889 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
I look forward to the support of other members for this worthwhile Bill. This legislation will cover over 2,000 workers in the cleaning industry and, if successful, will be warmly welcomed by a group of workers whose work and conditions of employment often go unnoticed. Mr Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce this Bill today.
Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned.
MR BERRY (9.41): I present the Occupational Health and Safety (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MR BERRY: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
Mr Speaker, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 was the first piece of legislation considered by this Assembly and, as the then Minister said, it is a subject to which our party is heavily committed. I should say at this time that I think that it is a measure of the interest that this Assembly then took in the conditions of workers that that piece of legislation took such priority. It is legislation that has as its primary aim the fulfilment of a worker's entitlement to return to his or her family after a day's work without an impairment due to illness or injury. Labor later strengthened this legislation in accordance with the continuing commitment which I mentioned earlier. This Bill, the Occupational Health and Safety (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1999, should be regarded as another move to strengthen the operation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It is the continuum of my commitment to ensure a safer workplace for workers in the Australian Capital Territory. It is the continuum of Labor's commitment in this regard.
This Bill sets out to strengthen the legislation by providing a statutory commissioner to ensure the necessary independence of those responsible for the implementation and application of the legislation in private and public workplaces throughout the Territory. Mr Speaker, that need was first highlighted in what I felt was an unfortunate incident when a political staffer from the office of the then Liberal Minister responsible for industrial relations was dispatched by the Minister and effectively intervened in investigations by WorkCover inspectors involved in an occupational health and safety matter at a Territory building site. I found that to be a disgusting piece of activity which, in fact, flew in the face of everything that the legislation was intended to achieve. It was not meant to be legislation which could be interfered with politically. For me, Mr Speaker, this unfortunate incident rang alarm bells and pointed to a need to take effective action to prevent these sorts of events interfering with the proper application of the legislation and the proper protection of workers in the workplace. It was not you, Mr Smyth. It was clear that it was the intention of the then Minister to interfere in the operation of WorkCover inspectors engaged in this extremely important investigation.