Page 2013 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 15 May 2013

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I would like to acknowledge the constructive role that the Master Builders Association played during the workplace safety inquiry, and I hope they hold true to their commitment to continue to work with the government and the unions to ensure there are no more avoidable accidents or deaths on construction sites.

The toll on families who lose loved ones to a workplace injury or death is too big to measure. Many workers who die or are seriously injured at work have families and, indeed, many of these workers are the major breadwinner for those families. Whilst workers compensation helps to alleviate the pressure of the accident, it can never replace the presence of a loved one or the income they have provided.

Talking to the Canberra Times at the opening of the workers memorial, Fiona Vickery, the wife of Wayne Vickery, a worker who died on a construction site in west Macgregor in 2011, spoke about how her family remembers him. She said:

He was six foot four and 99 kilos and he was a golfer and into the football and into the gym … We've got pictures of him up all around the home. His hat and his sunnies and all sorts of stuff around the place. He'll never really be forgotten.

He was a mate, a friend. He looked after everybody.

Now, it is okay for people over there to be talking about unions being bullies, but they are the only ones that represent and will stick up for workers who are being treated badly on their worksites, have their safety compromised or maybe even their lives. I think that is shameful.

Madam Speaker, I commend Mr Gentleman for bringing this motion to the Assembly. I look forward to the full implementation of the review’s recommendations.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (12.05): I thank Mr Gentleman for bringing this motion to the Assembly today and the other speakers who have contributed to the debate this morning. As previous speakers have said, the government will be supporting the amendments moved by Mr Rattenbury.

I acknowledge the very sad background to this discussion and the fact that families of construction workers, in particular, whose deaths prompted the Getting home safely report are still grieving today. It is out of respect for these victims and the determination to improve safety standards that the government responded with a comprehensive and transparent process to improve safety and oversight in the sector. This work was led by Mr Corbell.

Over many years the labour movement has led an important cultural change in Australia around workplace safety and has built consensus around some basic principles—that employers have a duty of care towards their employees, that workplace safety representatives and trade unions are forces for safer work places, and that employees who suffer workplace injuries should be supported and rehabilitated to get back to work. Over time the culture has shifted from one where workers accept danger money in return for occupational risks to the far more rational and humane position—that all employees have a right to a safe working environment.

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