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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3429 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

consistent with every other jurisdiction in Australia. Therefore the amendment is not supported.

MR BERRY: I seek leave to speak again.

Leave granted.

MR BERRY: That was a most curious response. In fact the government said to the workers compensation committee that it can be argued under the act that they are covered, and what you have done is reverse the situation. I accept that labour hire companies, host employers, were not paying their premiums, but the government argued that they could have been covered. What the government has done here is to make it absolutely clear that labour hire organisations will be able to allow employers to avoid their responsibilities for premiums and workplace safety for workers from labour hire companies.

Look, I can give you an example of a young person who has taken a job, because they have to, as a result of all of the new employment arrangements with a labour hire company. They turn up and are told: "Righto, front up here. We've got a little job for you down at a warehouse." They go to the warehouse. The labour hire company is getting 27 bucks an hour for them; the worker is getting about $15 or less. People on the job are getting more than the labour hire worker. The worker gets injured on the job. He has to go home on workers compensation for a couple of days. He rings up to go back to work and the organisation where he has been doing the work says, "Sorry, we got a new one; ring up the labour hire company." He rings up the labour hire company and they say, "How are you going? Well, when you are better, give us a ring and we will see if we can find you a job." That is just extraordinary, and that is the sort of stuff that this government, and anybody else who supports this particular approach, is going to support well into the future.

Mr Smyth says that all the other jurisdictions support it. That does not make it right. What it does tell us though is that they are opposed to employers taking responsibility for their workers too, and that is a backward step. It might have been coincidental that up until recent times they were all Liberal administrations, or many of them were.

Mr Speaker, this is a question of employers taking proper responsibilities for their workers. I know that Liberal philosophy would have it that labour hire is a good idea because it weakens the worker and makes it difficult for them to organise and to get better wages and working conditions. That might be a nice thing for the Liberals to do, and they might think, in their scheme of things, that that is socially just; you know, "Make everybody responsible for everything that happens to them and we will give them as little as possible, and some of us will get rich and some of us will get poorer."

That philosophy is not sensible in the scheme of things. You should not let your ideological preferences interfere with your judgment when it comes to workplace safety. Workplace safety ought to be the responsibility of the host employer or the direct employer, and if there is a bad performance in the safety area and if there are increases in penalties the host employer, or the employer at first hand, ought to be taking responsibility. We are abrogating our responsibility on this if we ignore that obligation.

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