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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3909 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

The Minister may only appoint as director a person with managerial, commercial or other qualifications or experience the Minister considers necessary to enable the authority to perform its functions.

The briefing I received from government officers confirmed that this legislation is more or less a lift from the New South Wales legislation. That might explain why it has such a business style about it. In so far as ministerial interference is concerned, the Bill relies on the Minister for the appointment of those directors. The potential for ministerial interference is confirmed in Part 4 - Management of the legislation by the provisions for the development of business plans. The Minister must approve all of the business plans which are made for the authority to operate under for the ensuing financial years. That identifies clearly that this piece of legislation is designed to entrench ministerial interference in the affairs of those who provide occupational health and safety services in the Territory.

I indicated a moment ago that this Bill was a lift from the New South Wales legislation. I also referred to the business model upon which it is based. It is inappropriate for such a model to be adopted for the ACT if you compare the size of the labour force in the ACT with the one in New South Wales. According to a most recent publication comparing the workers compensation arrangements in Australian jurisdictions, the labour force in New South Wales in June 1999 was 3.1 million people, whereas in the ACT it was 168,700 people. The Government is adopting a model which was intended for a work force of a much larger size and applying it to the Territory. It would be a most expensive model for the ACT. It is intended for a different sort of jurisdiction altogether than is the case in the ACT.

I should also point to some other features of the WorkCover Authority in New South Wales which may make this model applicable there but which certainly rule it out of being applicable here. At 30 June 1998, the WorkCover Authority in New South Wales presided over $5.68m worth of assets and $7.364m worth of debt; it was $2m in debt. It is no wonder that they need an organisation such as has been described in this Bill to manage their affairs as their operation is a business operation.

How can we confirm that? All we have to do is to refer to the Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998 and the Workers Compensation Act 1987 of New South Wales, which describe the very complex functions that this authority must deal with in New South Wales. In relation to workers compensation, I should say that it not only sets the premium in New South Wales but also manages several funds to ensure that the workers compensation provisions work in that jurisdiction. That model may well be appropriate in New South Wales, but it is not appropriate in this jurisdiction.

Mr Speaker, not only is it inappropriate, but also it does not meet the recommendations that the coroner made in the wake of the tragic circumstances at the old Royal Canberra Hospital. Mr Speaker, the coroner in his recommendation said:

WorkCover and DGU -

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