Page 2537 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 6 August 2013

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I am sure that members of the Assembly would have been disappointed to see the recent reporting in the Canberra Times showing photos of a company engaging in unsafe scaffolding practices. The photos published were nothing short of frightening. This article, published on 17 July, also reported two additional work safety issues involving dangerous scaffolding practices, one which resulted in the loss of power to over 600 Canberra homes. Such blatant disregard for safety is simply unacceptable.

As I said when I tabled the government’s response, the construction sector must change. If this is an example of the ongoing attitude of some in the industry, then it is simply not good enough. Attitudes must change and everyone in the construction industry must put safety first. What is also important is the need to encourage and empower workers to stand up for their rights when it comes to safety. Workers need to speak up when they are confronted by what is clearly a significant safety risk.

As the Assembly would be aware, the government has accepted all of the 28 recommendations. The government has committed to lead by example, and in returning to the implementation of the recommendations, the government, I am pleased to report, is well advanced in the areas where we have direct responsibility.

As the Assembly knows, the Magistrates Court (Industrial Proceedings) Amendment Bill will shortly be presented to this place. I look forward to tri-partisan support for this bill as it is a key measure to strengthen the capacity of our courts to focus on industrial and workplace health and safety issues.

In the most recent budget the government allocated $5.7 million over four years to strengthen workplace safety in the territory through the engagement of an additional 12 WorkSafe ACT inspectors, including a dedicated legal capability. Subject to the passage of the Appropriation Bill in this session, which I am sure will be supported by the opposition, WorkSafe ACT will be able to recruit these new inspectors and legal staff. We expect that up to seven will be engaged from around September this year, with the remaining staff likely to be engaged from the beginning of March.

As of 1 July this year an additional 10 on-the-spot fines have been established and work is progressing on introducing more. Combined with the additional inspectors, this demonstrates the government’s commitment to improving safety outcomes in the construction sector. As members would be aware, improvements in safety will not only come from compliance. They will also come from engagement with and support to the industry. The government strongly believes that one of the best ways to improve workplace safety is through the active engagement of those who work in the construction sector—building workers.

The Office of Regulatory Services has recently revised and republished the ACT building and construction industry safety handbook with the assistance of a consultative group comprising key industry stakeholders. The completed web version went live on the WorkSafe ACT website in May this year. The government is also pressing ahead with its information and education campaigns. In April this year, WorkSafe ACT launched an ongoing campaign, “Speak up about safety”, encouraging workers and supervisors in ACT workplaces to actively engage in

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