Page 2924 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009

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It is essential that safety regulators are able to communicate protected information which may assist in the protection of workers and the public from risks to their safety. The proposed amendments ensure that work safety regulators will not be hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape and impractical restrictions which do not meaningfully protect rights to privacy but do hinder the ability to protect work and public safety. The provisions in the bill are modelled on the secrecy provisions in the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2008 and have been carefully framed to provide safeguards against the inappropriate use of protected information. If a person misuses protected information they may face a hefty fine, imprisonment or both.

On 5 June 2009 I released the exposure draft of the Work Safety Regulation 2009 for six weeks of public consultation. The regulation will commence with the act and provides additional detail on specific work safety issues, such as workplace arrangements, amenities, licensing high risk work and manual tasks at work. During the development of the regulation it became apparent that two offences, given their gravity, should be in the act. These offences are obstructing a work safety representative and inappropriately providing access to personal health information. The bill proposed to insert these offences into the act. The bill will also allow the regulations underpinning the act to carry up to a maximum of 30 penalty units. This will bring the regime into line with the Dangerous Substances Act 2004, which also deals with serious safety issues.

Since September 2005, the ACT Occupational Health and Safety Council has contributed significantly to the content of this act—reflecting the input of business, unions and the public more broadly. I would like to thank all the council members, past and present, for their contribution to the development of this new work safety legislation.

The work safety regime provides important and comprehensive protection for workers in the territory. The regime balances the interests of workers and business by providing a measured, future-focused approach to work safety. The Work Safety Act 2008 is highly consistent with the directions of the nationally harmonised OHS laws and places the territory in a good position to achieve harmonised laws with minimal change to our existing framework.

The future transition to nationally harmonised OHS will be simpler in the ACT than in any other jurisdiction. And at this point, Mr Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of Liesl Centenera and Robert Gotts from the Office of Industrial Relations in being able to transition this through the OH&S Council, and of course through my office. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Dunne) adjourned to the next sitting.

Education, Training and Youth Affairs—Standing Committee


Debate resumed from 2 April 2009, on motion by Mr Barr:

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