Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 28 August 2008) . . Page.. 3898 ..
This bill also includes timely modernisation about understanding of employment, moving the whole framework out of the mid-20th century approach of a structured workplace consisting simply of employer organisations and their employees. Furthermore, the well-articulated requirements for consultation with workplaces either through the establishment of relevant groups or more generally with small employers are a really important provision. This has been a concern for employers for some time, particularly given the inflexibility of the previous scheme, and the very good trade-off here that with that flexibility comes a requirement to consult with all workplaces.
I also note that health and safety representatives of unions and, indeed, employer groups still have a right of entry into workplaces and I am aware there is some disquiet amongst some employers. All the evidence I am aware of to date is that these provisions are not creating intimidation or difficulties in the workplace. They are, rather, having a limited positive effect in raising the standards of health and safety in the workplace. I appreciate that some employer groups would rather there were no rights of entry to workplaces on OH&S issues but that their fallback position of a matching right of access to union and employee group health and safety reps has resulted, I believe, in a balanced approach that allows for all stakeholders to exercise their interests in maintaining health and safety in the workplace.
I note also that the bill introduced a right of private prosecution to these bodies and I have some concerns with that approach in principle. I am somewhat reassured that the DPP will retain some overarching responsibility in such cases, with the capacity to take up the prosecution or to terminate it as the DPP considers appropriate. I understand also that the cost burden of any private prosecution will be carried by that prosecutor, be it union or employer.
It is also worth noting the advice we received in a briefing that the number of private prosecutions pursued by the union movement in New South Wales in the many years that power has been available to it has been minimal. And the power really has not been used irresponsibly. Of course the threat to prosecute was not raised in that context and I am aware of some concerns regarding that. So I would like to flag that we need to keep an eye on how these provisions come out in the wash.
On the issue of authorised health and safety inspectors, I would like to finally add that I am pleased to see the lift in training requirement. I would also like to commend the various groups and bodies who worked collaboratively over time on this legislation. I regret that I am unable to support it but flag the Greens will maintain our interests in the area and look forward to seeing how it evolves and how this new ACT scheme contributes to the national harmonisation project over the next few years.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (12.00): For Dr Foskey’s edification, I point out that Mr Seselja is part of a pairing arrangement until noon. At any rate, I have carriage of the bill.
The opposition feels that debate on this bill should be adjourned and brought back to the Assembly in February or March next year. It is an important piece of legislation. Over the last two or three weeks, we have had a number of pieces of important