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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3915 ..

MS TUCKER (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 coroner did recommend, though, that all relevant stakeholders should constitute its board, again accountable to the Assembly. Whilst the Minister has the discretion to appoint anyone with any qualifications and he or she must consider recommendations from the OH&S Council and the Insurers Advisory Committee, the only qualifications that are clearly defined in this clause of the Bill are qualifications pertaining to the managerial or commercial skills of potential directors. That means, in theory, that all the members of the authority, excluding the general manager, could come solely from the business sector and have no experience of or insights into occupational health and safety issues or employer-employee concerns.

When that is put with the presence of the business plan and the unclear business of the ability to collect moneys, it really is quite worrying. It is skewed to business and ignores the other relevant stakeholders, reflecting the strong business focus that permeates this Bill, and does raise questions for the Assembly. In contrast, the existing OH&S Council membership as defined in the OH&S Act 1989 has broad stakeholder representation. It comprises four members appointed by the Minister after consultation with such persons or bodies as the Minister considers represent the interests of employees and four other members appointed by the Minister.

Under the council's membership as defined in the Act it is clear that employers and employees - two of the key stakeholder groups in OH&S - are well represented, with the Minister's discretion to appoint an additional four members allowing him to include members with commercial experience. I understand that the Government is considering appointing members of the authority from outside the ACT. Maybe the Minister could confirm that for us as well. If it is true, not only would the Government's authority have a business focus but also its interstate members would not have local knowledge about the ACT regulatory environment.

I have other concerns about the authority that the Government is creating. Whilst I realise that the coroner recommended that we look to other jurisdictions for our model for an independent WorkCover authority, the model that the Government has delivered seems like overkill. We have plenty of examples in the ACT of statutory positions which work at arms length from the Government, which are headed by single commissioners and which are very effective, accountable and transparent in their regulatory responsibilities. The two who come to mind immediately are the Discrimination Commissioner and the Commissioner for the Environment. The Government's proposed authority seems to be big, unwieldy, expensive and not necessarily accountable. It is also not clear how it sits with the OH&S Council.

Because of the concerns about the Government's proposal, I will be supporting Mr Berry's Occupational Health and Safety (Amendment) Bill (No. 2). Mr Berry's model proposes the creation of a single commissioner to head the new WorkCover authority, accountable to the Legislative Assembly. The duties of the commissioner are

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