Page 262 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (5.10): Mr Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in this place to support the bill but, as you are aware, we will not be supporting the amendment. I am always pleased to support any attempt by this government to protect the interests of working families and good employers.

This bill is not only about protecting workers and their families; it is about protecting good employers; it is about ensuring that competition between employers is not at the expense of worker safety. I make it clear that I do not support the amendment moved by Mr Mulcahy. He irresponsibly seeks to remove any rights of union involvement with certificates of currency. Perhaps there are reasons for Mr Mulcahy’s irresponsible position, and I will outline only a few as I understand we have a time limit.

There are a couple of things I found very interesting in Mr Mulcahy’s grumble this morning, the first being his inability to use the term “duty of care”. Clearly, common law is lost on the opposition but, to be fair, it appears endemic in the Liberal Party. The second point of interest is Mr Mulcahy’s waffling on about shared responsibility in the workplace. It always seems to me that Mr Mulcahy’s definitions actually mean less responsibility by employers. But I forget Mr Mulcahy’s past, that his exposure to the workplace has been to represent employers.

I thought I would help Mr Mulcahy. I have talked to employers and employees at the workplace about conditions and responsibility. What has shared responsibility meant for some workers? I have spoken to some hundreds of workers, and they have a different definition from Mr Mulcahy.

Let me tell you about Mark Blundell. Mark was a local employee of CC Wholesale, and a loyal employee. One winter’s morning, stepping back from the truck he was loading, Mark slipped on an icy step and fell backwards onto an empty pallet. The step was unsafe. The pallet should not have been there. Mark sustained soft tissue damage as a result. He was put on a return-to-work arrangement of two days on light duties a week for about two months. Rocco, his employer, asked Mark to return to full-time duties early. Mark quite rightly chose to take his doctor’s advice on how best to recover from his accident and refused to return to work early.

His doctor ordered a further six weeks of light duties. Rocco, like all responsible employers, thinks that he should share the burden and promptly tells Mark there is no longer a position for him at CC Wholesale, that he is redundant. To Mark’s surprise, two things happen. First of all Rocco, in his infinite wisdom, forgets to lodge his insurance forms in a timely fashion, causing poor Mark and his family great financial hardship. And Mark discovers that his redundant position has now been filled by Rocco’s HR consultant.

We know the Liberals’ position on compensation and workplace safety. Let us remember their Youth 500 scheme and DiscSpeed printing technologies, which was a recipient under the Carnell government’s business incentives scheme. It was convicted of safety breaches both before and after receiving the grant and received some more government handouts under the Liberals’ Youth 500 scheme.

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