Page 219 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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that I am yet to receive one complaint about right of entry into workplaces. The system seems to be working well. Unions have a genuine interest in workplace safety. They have a genuine interest in ensuring that their workers are protected by workers compensation insurance. It is only right that this bill allows unions the scrutiny to ensure that their members or employees in the workplace are covered by workers compensation insurance. This is simply what that part of the bill is about and we will not be supporting any amendment to it.

The bill also provides ACT courts and the chief executive with discretion to make publicity orders against employers who have been found guilty of an offence under the act. It is intended that the discretion only be exercised where there have been serious and persistent breaches of the act. Publicity orders can be an effective deterrent against breaching the requirements of the act. Whilst such publications may impact on the privacy of individual employers, it involves information which has been tested in the public domain and is already publicly available. Similar discretionary publicity orders are currently available under the OH&S Act and the Dangerous Substances Act for offences against those acts.

The current structure of the system for workers compensation benefit is designed to encourage return to work. One mechanism which assists to achieve this is the reduction of the amount of benefits a worker receives from 100 per cent to 65 per cent of his or her pre-injury earnings after 26 weeks of absence from work. Under the current act, where a worker returns to work even for a single day, this can restart the 26-week period for full reimbursement of their pre-injury earnings. This is not the intention of the act and it leaves the system open to abuse. The bill will clarify that all absences from this same injury count towards a single 26-week period, after which the reduced benefits will be paid.

The bill also repeals the current framework for dealing with infringement notices under the act. This will be replaced by a schedule created under the Magistrates Court Act so that it will be part of a single consistent regime for infringement notices issued under ACT legislation. The bill also contains other minor amendments to provide consistency throughout the act. The bill will further enhance the workers compensation framework in the ACT.

I would like to thank members and their staff for attending the government briefings held since the introduction of the bill. I thank Dr Foskey for her comments. Also, I thank Mr Mulcahy for his comments. Mr Mulcahy’s views on workers compensation as a whole were a bit like a leadership speech. While what he said did not really relate specifically to the bill that we are discussing today, we can see where workers compensation would go if Mr Mulcahy were ever Chief Minister in this territory, and I hope that workers pay particular interest to the comments he made today. I also thank the Office of Industrial Relations and the staff in my office for their work on this bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

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