Page 2887 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005
good faith with a range of community and business groups as well as the crossbench in the Assembly when the bills were passed last year.
The ACT Greens were pleased to support this overall legislative approach when it was introduced. Between them, the Dangerous Substances Act and the amended Occupational Health and Safety Act established a safety duty for businesses, employers and managers in how they treat their work force and how they handle their workplaces. It was a fairly profound change in approach which to an extent reversed the onus of proof and now requires those people responsible to be able to demonstrate that, on the balance of probabilities, they take due precautions when it comes to dangerous substances, and that they have in place an appropriate occupational health and safety regime.
Last year’s dangerous substances bill marked the introduction of this wide-ranging regime. It made other significant changes in regard to control and management of a range of substances and of oversight in compliance measures. Members might recall there was some pressure on the Assembly to pass the legislation fairly promptly at the time, as incorporated in the regulations to the act was a new retail fireworks regime. Members would also recall that retail fireworks had been contentious in Canberra over the past few years, with their use across extended periods of time in mid-2003 and their seemingly uncontrolled availability leading to a growing clamour for them to be banned.
The new retail fireworks regime embedded in the regulations to the Dangerous Substances Act was this government’s final attempt to arrive at a more acceptable form of availability. The time frame leading up to the June long weekend last year was tight. The OH&S bill later in that year was particularly contentious because it gave union occupational health and safety representatives the right of entry to workplaces, something that, following a strenuous public relations campaign conducted by Canberra’s business organisations, was felt by many small businesses across the territory to be quite threatening.
The ACT Greens, through the office of MLA Kerrie Tucker, were intimately involved in the final stage of the development of both those bills, in fairly positive collaboration with the government and at various times with the others on the crossbench, and in supporting them through the Assembly. One of the concessions the government was not unhappy to make at the time was to build in an independent review of the Dangerous Substances Act with a particular focus on the social and environmental impact of retail fireworks in the ACT and elsewhere.
Similarly, given the hostility and distress that had built up over the union right of entry provisions, there did not appear to be a great problem in putting an independent review of the revised OH&S Act in place and in ensuring that in conducting this review specific attention would be given to the impact of these contentious provisions. Those agreements were reached in that debate without, it would seem, any strong resistance or argument by government.
If this bill is passed, the government remains committed only to a combined review of the operations of this scheme, with no specific focus on the most contentious matters and no guarantee of independence. My personal view on the new fireworks regime is that it is a decided improvement of the previous systems and, if the government took legal