Page 3883 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 29 October 2013

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MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (10.12): I would like to speak in support of this bill today. The creation of the new industrial court in the territory is a great achievement for every worker and employer in the ACT. Leading up to the last election, the Labor government committed to the creation of the new industrial court with an industrial magistrate in the wake of a number of tragic deaths in the ACT construction industry and a high number of other serious safety incidents. The call for an industrial court also came from a recommendation in the Getting home safely report.

The new court is an important initiative for ACT workers and will give well-deserved attention to the issue of worker safety, which is a priority for this Labor government. The passage of this legislation will create the new industrial court which is the centrepiece of a number of other important initiatives this government is undertaking to improve the safety of all ACT workers, particularly those people working on high risk ACT building and construction sites. The government has accepted all of the twenty-eight recommendations from the Getting home safely report. Work to implement the recommendations is well advanced in areas where the government has direct control.

I would like to spend a little time today talking about the progress made so far by the government with the implementation of these recommendations designed to strengthen work safety arrangements in the territory. In the recent ACT budget the government allocated $5.7 million over four years to strengthen workplace safety by employing 12 new WorkSafe inspectors, including dedicated legal staff. WorkSafe ACT is in the process of engaging up to seven new inspectors, with the remaining inspectors likely to be engaged from 1 March next year.

As of 1 July this year, an additional 10 on-the-spot fines for various work safety offences have been introduced and work is progressing on introducing more. The Office of Regulatory Services 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 considering its information campaigns with a view to continuing those campaigns. In April this year WorkSafe ACT launched an ongoing campaign titled “Speak up about safety”. It relates to safety in the workplace. The Work Safety Commissioner has been busy putting in place a rolling seminar program that focuses on key safety issues and key employer responsibilities under the new work health and safety laws. The commissioner ran a three-day seminar on safety in the construction industry in early June, which was attended by representatives from all over Australia. It had as its keynote speaker Baroness Rita Donaghy, who authored a similar report to Getting home safely, a report titled One death is too many in the UK.

Both WorkSafe ACT and the construction services branch of the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate continue to work together on providing education and advice to the construction industry. They recently held a joint seminar on the supervision of apprentices on construction sites, and more sessions are planned.

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