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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2861 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

spend on monitoring the Dangerous Goods Act. Out of that money, we got 34 prosecutions, which led to one case being successful and 23 cases being withdrawn. Of the remaining 10, WorkCover lost in all cases and was ordered to pay costs, costing the territory $100,000 in 12 months. Claims were over $200,000 last year and who knows what it will cost the territory this financial year.

I have raised a number of times serious concerns about this body. It appears that worker safety is not the highest priority for ACT WorkCover in this budget.

MS TUCKER (4.57): I will be brief in my comments. There does seem to have been some increase in budgeted employee expenses. It may reflect management of the collapse of HIH, the cost of the WorkCover at work program or simply increased capacity. I recall that last year when we were all talking about increasing workers compensation premiums all the union, insurance and legal representatives who spoke to us about the issue agreed that increased workplace monitoring and inspections was desirable.

I believe that the same thing was said by the various political and public service staff when we were negotiating the passage of the new workers compensation scheme around this time last year. Given the fact that the new workers compensation scheme has just come into force, that it has a quite different focus on rehabilitation and that the scheme will be sustainable only if this return to work focus really does bring down the cost of the lower level incidents, it seems fairly clear that some increased capacity would be of real benefit. I am concerned about whether WorkCover will be able to improve its performance in this area in the way that we have been promised.

I am also interested in whether the government has taken into account additional activity that could result from improved operation of the Dangerous Goods Act, particularly to do with fireworks and any changes that government could introduce as a result of the inquiry that looked into that issue. Generally, WorkCover has a very important function to perform in our society. It has been subjected to quite an amount of criticism over fireworks in particular. The government will have to make some policy decision about them, obviously, and the Assembly will be involved in that, I imagine. There may well be resource implications from that. I am interested in knowing whether that has been taken into account in this regard.

I repeat that I am concerned that we do not necessarily have enough understanding of the resource implications of getting the workers compensation scheme working in a way that will actually get people back to work. I am also concerned and will support the comments of Ms Dundas about the capacity of WorkCover to ensure that workplaces are safe. This issue has come up in this Assembly at one point or another every year since I have been here. I remember having this discussion when Tony De Domenico was here, so it has been going on for a few years. We are not seeing enough information being kept and we are not seeing confidence increasing in worker safety and the capacity of the regulator to ensure that workplaces are safe.

MR PRATT (4.59): Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to make some comments about workplace relations matters in respect of the budget.

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