Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1630 ..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
WorkCover has provided us with a thorough and helpful document on how we can improve the safety practices and contract management with school cleaners. The department is taking its advice seriously and has already acted to improve the compliance. It is very important not to cause unnecessary alarm in school communities.
WorkCover traditionally does not publicise its reports. That, from my discussions with WorkCover, has been because evidence has shown that compliance can be progressed with employers a lot easier and be a lot more beneficial to consumers or employees if WorkCover works cooperatively with the body or organisation on which it has done the report.
However, in this case, as Ms Dundas said, there is interest in the WorkCover report and the government will be tabling the report, in line with Ms Dundas' motion, by the end of the sitting tomorrow. As I said, it is not common practice for the commissioner to make her reports on workplaces public, but I understand the interest in this one and we are happy to make the report available. I am also happy to table the advice provided to me by the commissioner. If members would like a more detailed briefing, I would be happy to provide for that as well.
MR STEFANIAK (12.16): The opposition also will be supporting Ms Dundas' motion. Obviously, the manner in which cleaning services have been provided in schools for a number of years is an important issue. I think it is timely that we have this audit report for study so that we can see what needs to be done.
The opposition is quite happy to support this motion. We will wait to see what comes out of it. We would not want to see people overreacting, but it is very important that the report on the audit be tabled. I am glad that the minister is going to do that. It is probable that a more satisfactory situation will come out of this procedure. As Ms Dundas rightly says, it is about a terribly important issue and is very much a health issue as well.
MS TUCKER (12.17): I support the comments made by all the speakers. Recently, the Health Committee completed a report on the health of school-age children in the ACT. The committee found that the use chemicals in the school environment is relevant to the question of the health of school-age children. It is also, obviously, an OH&S issue. In that report, the committee said:
Toxins in the environment can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, eye, nose and throat irritation, inability to concentrate and irritations, in the longer term they have been linked to cancer, anaemia, birth and reproductive problems and liver and kidney disease.
Evidence also suggested that air quality and other environmental factors can have an impact on the health and behaviour of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The National Occupation Health and Safety Strategy 2002-2012 signed by Simon Corbell MLA, the then Minister for Industrial Relations, sets a national priority for action as the prevention of occupational disease more effectively. It