Page 4101 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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Clauses 9 and 10 together give considerable power to the minister in apportioning the cost of administering the government’s scheme. This is to the extent where the minister can apportion liability, even before any actual cost of administering the workers compensation and safety legislation for the year has been incurred. It then also gives the minister power to revoke this. We asked in our briefing for an example of when this might occur. The example we received was a case whereby the insurers and self-insurers had been overcharged.

The point that needs to be made here is that we all agree that work safety in the ACT needs to be improved. Unfortunately, this bill raises more questions than answers and has economic implications that may not be beneficial to our local economy. The present practice of this government, and especially by this minister, is to treat businesses like a cash cow. Perhaps if the government would manage the public purse better it would be better positioned to finance vital services like more work safety inspectors without resorting to slugging businesses. We saw something similar with the government’s development tax through the lease variation charge to fund its urban improvement fund. This has stifled business activity and now the fund is financed through an appropriation.

The government should be paying for this service. In this context and in this economic environment it is a bit rich to be proposing a bill in the name of aligning with New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland when it will result in higher costs for local businesses. To date the government has not given any evidence that this initiative will work—namely, improving work safety. As one stakeholder commented, sometimes the default position is to go raise more money and do something, but we want to make sure that what we are doing thus far has been effective.

And here is a thought: if the minister is so committed to bringing the ACT into alignment with other jurisdictions, why not do the same with the first responder medical payment and pay, as is the case in Victoria and New South Wales? The truth is the minister is inconsistent and, one would say, even disingenuous. This bill is nothing more than this government’s ploy to slug business to pay for services that already high charges and taxes should cover. It is perhaps worth while to remind the Assembly that the IPA’s Business bearing the burden, published earlier this year, noted that the ACT, under this ACT Labor government, has Australia’s most onerous tax regime.

Madam Speaker, I do recall that the ACT once had a bigger work safety inspectorate. WorkSafe ACT and related organisations play a valuable role in providing information on workplace safety and enforcing work health and safety regulations. The policing aspect of administering safety legislation fulfils a requirement that provides benefit to workers, employers and the community.

In this respect the administration and regulation of work health and safety matters is a normal part of government administration. The cost of that administration should be met by the community in the same way as other elements of government administration. Ours is not an argument for more charges, but one that yet again highlights this government’s record of overspending and resulting inability to pay for core services.

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