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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 1106 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Substantial fines exist already for infringements of occupational health and safety regulations, on the one hand. As insurance becomes fine-tuned, there are also rewards of diminished premiums to employers with minimal claims history, on the other.

On-the-spot fines simply provide a middle ground for enforcement, a perverse incentive for WorkCover to get out in the workplaces to keep an eye on OH&S, and another level of information on workplace culture and safety.

I have paid some regard also to the amendments which Mr Berry is proposing to make to his bill. I note that public sector employers will also be held accountable for poor OH&S practices, in this case through reporting to the Legislative Assembly, so building in some pressure on government to address the issue.

I listened to Mr Smyth's argument. As I understand it, the question of discretion which he has put as a major obstacle, in his view, is not a problem at all. There is a similar situation in the Environment Protection Act and the Motor Traffic Act. As I understand it, Mr Berry's legislation is based on this model. So it appears that Mr Smyth's concerns are unfounded.

It was argued that the current statutory limitation of 12 months is going to be reduced to 60 days. I understand that that is dealt with through an amendment of Mr Berry's.

MR BERRY (9.52), in reply: As is usual, the government has come up with a whole lot of rhetoric and so-called reasons why this legislation will not work, but they have not come up with amendments to make it work, which suggests to me from the start that it will work.

In 1995 it was recommended by the Productivity Commission that the government introduce a system of on-the-spot fines. We are now in the year 2001 and there are no on-the-spot fines in the ACT. All we have had from this government, which I think was a stop-gap measure to use an excuse to head off this particular bill, is another review of the occupational health and safety legislation, which I understand there are many difficulties with. I think it was more by design to head this legislation off rather than to achieve on-the-spot fines as were recommended by the Productivity Commission in 1995. It was not until 1998 that the minister, as he says, bothered even to ask any questions about it. If this Assembly does nothing, you can bet that nothing will happen before the next election, and for some time after it there will be no on-the-spot fines in workplaces to prevent industrial accidents and to prevent workers compensation premiums from going up.

I have a range of amendments which I will refer to later. They cover all of the issues which Mr Smyth has referred to. I need to deal with them in the in-principle debate for a couple of reasons. Firstly, what Mr Smyth said in relation to the workability of this legislation is quite untrue. If you look at New South Wales, you will discover that similar flexibility is required of occupational health and safety officers when they come to making decisions in relation to breaches.

Let me try to draw an example to your attention. Under section 15 of the New South Wales Occupational Health and Safety Act penalties apply in relation to on-the-spot fines. This is set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Penalty Notices Regulation

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