Page 3897 - Week 10 - Thursday, 28 August 2008

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this Assembly. It arises from the 2005 review of the existing OH&S act by the Occupational Health and Safety Council. That review recommended the development of new legislation. Since that review there has been a lot of work going on at a national level with an aim to harmonise OH&S in all states and territories. I appreciate these divergent goals—a national approach which may take some time—and the need to update the ACT’s existing scheme.

I appreciate that the ACT government put out an exposure draft of this bill in June and that most of the parties to the development of this bill are keen to see it proceed. And that includes the chamber of commerce and the business council in addition to UnionsACT and the CFMEU, among others. I am aware that the MBA would rather see this bill delayed until the national harmonisation project had caught up. I am happy to accept some guidance from the vast majority of the stakeholders represented in the Occupational Health and Safety Council. I recognise there is urgency in this project.

As an MLA, however, I cannot support the passage of legislation when the Assembly has not had sufficient time to scrutinise it. I do recognise that the government released an exposure draft and responded to some of the subsequent stakeholder and community concerns. I note also that the exposure draft itself, while obviously available on the legislation register, was not circulated to members as a courtesy.

I think that what we see here is a government that is committed to working with its partners on the OH&S council and more widely through the community on this issue but which does not believe the Assembly has anything concrete or important to add. This is disappointing. In my mind, the Greens in this place have always contributed positively and thoughtfully on workplace legislation, be it OH&S, dangerous substances or workers compensation, and it seems that the project has been running for long enough that it ought to have been possible to get the time frame better organised.

Even introducing this legislation in the first sitting week in August would have made a difference to us and presumably to others in this place. I have no doubt that were this not a majority government it would have ensured that the bill was available to us sooner. I am not suggesting there is anything particularly malicious going on here; I am just pointing out the consequence of priorities and circumstances.

My staff advised me that we have not had time in this instance to give the bill as close a look as we would like. A briefing on Monday in a busy sitting week for debate on Thursday just has not given us that scope. Whatever the position of the most obvious stakeholders, I have to put on the record that I cannot confirm my support for the bill in detail. So I think I need to limit my comments to some general points.

I am pleased this legislation so widely expands the safety duties and thus the protection of workers, contractors, designers and business people. I would especially like to affirm the Greens’ support for the principle articulated in this bill that safety duties apply to everyone where they have control over risk, inasmuch as they have control.

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