Page 3884 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 29 October 2013
WorkSafe ACT and the construction services branch are looking at inspection and investigation activities that will run through to December this year with a plan on implementing joint delegations in 2014. The Commerce and Works Directorate has implemented its active certification model, which applies to select ACT government construction programs with project values at or exceeding $250,000 where pre-qualified contractors are engaged. The industry information session to introduce the model was attended by over 100 participants.
This government is committed to working with industry, unions, employers and employees to do everything possible to ensure that every worker returns home safely. I would like to take this opportunity to call on industry and employee organisations to take the lead and work with the support of government to ensure that the raft of reforms set out in the inquiry’s report are implemented. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (10.17): I rise to speak in support of this amendment but before I do I wish to acknowledge the representatives from the ACT union movement who are here in the gallery today and acknowledge the hard work that they and their members have put into seeing this amendment become a reality.
We have seen good reforms pass through this Assembly over the past 12 months that will significantly improve the safety of workers in our city. Investing in more inspectors and giving them increased powers to issue on-the-spot fines for work safety breaches, as well as new provisions to help prevent phoenixing, sends a strong message to our community that this government will not allow people to put profits before safety.
The industrial magistrates court is a significant reform to our work safety regime here in Canberra. As Minister Corbell said when he tabled the exposure draft to this amendment:
Creating a separate industrial court will foster great experience and specialisation of workplace health and safety laws by the courts. And the allocation of specific magistrates to the new industrial court will further increase specialist expertise in work health and safety matters.
This might sound like a modest reform but there is clear evidence that suggests that when workplace health and safety cases are held before non-specialist courts the decisions, penalties and convictions recorded do not match with the experiences of other jurisdictions. Indeed, Madam Speaker, as the Getting home safely report stated on page 67:
When cases do come to court, unlike many other jurisdictions, where an Industrial Court with experience and knowledge of work health and safety and the likely impact of sentences hears matters, in the ACT such matters are considered by the Magistrates Court.
An examination of outcomes reveals that ACT courts tend to impose significantly lower penalties than those applied in other jurisdictions. It is relatively rare in the ACT to see penalties higher than the low tens of thousands of dollars if a fine or even