Page 4108 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Health and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.32): The government will not be supporting this amendment and I have to say that this is a difficult position for the government to be in, as we were the originators of third party prosecutions in the Work Safety Act in 2008.

However, we have agitated very strongly through the Workplace Relations Ministers Council around this matter. We sought support from our colleagues—indeed, our Labor colleagues—around the country. Then, when there were changes of government, although I think there might have been one Liberal state government at the time the final decision was taken, we could not garner any support for third party prosecutions around the table where the harmonised laws were being discussed.

This is a difficult one for the government. It is tied to reward payments in the order of $3 million to $4 million from the seamless national economy standardisation process. These are the things governments have to consider. Are we prepared to not implement the harmonised laws and be at risk of losing those payments? We did take the decision around the table that harmonisation was the way to go.

I have to say that at the last Workplace Relations Ministers Council I attended about two months ago there were a number of discussions about how this was balancing the legislative frameworks that exist in all jurisdictions to try and come out with a harmonised model. Indeed, a number of ministers, including me, outlined that there were areas where we were accepting less than what we had now.

In many ways I think we have managed to hold on to what we have been able to through this process. That has been industrial manslaughter, for example, which is not welcomed around the country as additional legislation on top of this, and, indeed, our asbestos regulation framework and the laws we have surrounding asbestos. So we have negotiated where we can to try and protect some of those areas where we differ from the rest of the country but third party prosecutions were not part of that.

It is with some regret that I oppose this amendment that Ms Bresnan has brought here today. But I will also put on the record in speaking to this what the bill does provide for. The national review panel recommended, and workplace relations ministers agreed, that the power to initiate a statutory prosecution for a breach of the act should only be vested in an official acting in the course of their official duty and not in a third party such as a union official or an official of an employer organisation.

It is important to note, however, that the bill provides for the ability of any person to seek a review of a decision by the regulator not to prosecute a category 1 or category 2 offence, being the most serious, and that request for review must be considered by the DPP. If that request is made, the Director of Public Prosecutions must provide advice to the regulator on whether or not he or she believes that a prosecution should be brought.

In addition, the bill, as we have spoken about in this place, does not alter the right of any citizen to bring a common law prosecution should the person be able to gain standing before a court. This has been a longstanding tenet in the law. A citizen is

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