Page 3886 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 29 October 2013
But laws can only do so much and there are times when workplace accidents occur or workplace injuries occur. Then the laws provide for penalties for the breaches of law where that is found. Where accidents occur, laws need to respond with appropriate fines and penalties. In my time in this place I have met more people than I would have liked who have suffered from a workplace accident or injury. Of course, in the worst examples, I have met people where loved ones have lost their lives at work.
Over the years we have had strong representations, particularly from the union movement, around ensuring that the court can specialise in areas of industrial matters, particularly around workplace safety. They have lobbied for this change, and in the lead-up to the last election, the government committed to the establishment of a new industrial court with an industrial court magistrate. This did respond also to a recommendation from the Getting home safely report, which was commissioned by Minister Simon Corbell after a high number of serious safety incidents and tragic deaths in the ACT construction industry.
This was a recommendation of that report. Today with the passage of this bill, with the unanimous support of the Assembly, we will have an industrial court established. I would like to commend the work that the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations did on this bill. But, more broadly, I commend him for the work that he has led in responding to the Getting home safely report. Whilst it all seems fairly straightforward, these matters around how to move forward and reform laws in this area do require careful consultation with employee and employer organisations.
In large part, considering the fraught nature of some of these discussions, I think they have proceeded relatively smoothly with the support of both industry and the employee representative organisations or the unions. So I would like to congratulate Mr Corbell on that and, indeed, the industry groups and the unions for the work that they have done to ensure that, whilst we have laws to protect people at work, where there are matters that need to proceed to court, we will now have a specialised industrial court with a specialised industrial magistrate to hear those matters and to provide expert views on them.
I also thank all the stakeholders that have been involved in the development of this bill for their support, including the Law Society and the Bar Association. Whilst I understand they do hold some reservations about the capacity of the court to manage workloads, they have worked with us in the development of this legislation. I look forward to seeing how the industrial court operates. I look forward to hearing feedback from stakeholders about its success.
I finish off by saying that we would prefer that the industrial court did not have to deal with any matters at all, if we were able to protect people at work under the various occupational health and safety and workers compensation legislation. All the best, and congratulations to everyone who was worked hard on the development of the bill. I look forward to seeing it in operation.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations and Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development) (10.26), in reply: I thank members for