Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3908 ..




Debate resumed from 16 November 1999, on motion by Mr Smyth:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with the Occupational Health and Safety (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1999? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 7 they may also address their remarks to private members business order of the day No. 15.

MR BERRY (8.21): Mr Speaker, what I am going to set out to do, first of all, is to demonstrate the frailties of the Government's approach in relation to this matter. I will then demonstrate the inappropriate nature of the Government's legislation, the WorkCover Authority Bill. Throughout the speech members will come to the conclusion, I am sure, that there needs to be a reinforcement of the independence of those people who have to deal with occupational health and safety in the ACT. Mr Speaker, in the course of the debate, I will deal briefly with the history of the development of these pieces of legislation as I see it - the Government's Bill and the Bill that I introduced on 30 June - and I will foreshadow some amendments in relation to my Bill which accommodate more contemporaneous matters.

The Government's Bill was born out of the coroner's report on the inquiry into the death of Katie Bender. Members will recall that evidence was laid before the coroner in relation to potential interference with inspectors from WorkCover in the performance of their duties at the hospital site. The coroner was unkind to the Government, pointing to many failures, and recommended, amongst other things, that there be changes to WorkCover. I will come back to that a little later. The Bill I have introduced was born out of interference in the practical operations of WorkCover at a job site in the ACT. The interference was directed from a Minister's office in that a political staffer was despatched to and actively participated in an investigation which was being conducted by WorkCover inspectors, impeding their progress in relation to that matter.

I turn to the Government's Bill. Mr Speaker, when this Bill was introduced the steam was still coming off it and it has all the hallmarks of a rush job. The coroner reported on 4 November and this Bill was introduced by the Government on the 16th. Nothing demonstrates better how hasty the preparation of this Bill has been than the fact that the drafter's notes were still on the initial copies introduced into this place. The WorkCover Authority Bill locks ministerial interference into the affairs of the occupational health and safety authorities in the Australian Capital Territory. Why is that so, you might ask? It relies on an authority consisting of seven members, all appointed by the Minister, and is a business model. That is confirmed in the appointments clause - clause10 -which states:

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .