Page 4103 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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need for improvements in the construction sector. As the Greens have discussed before, most recently on Tuesday during the MPI, we think there are further steps we can take in the ACT to help address bullying and harassment in ACT workplaces. I believe that providing a sustainable funding base, as proposed in this bill, will at least contribute to improved outcomes in this area, something that I believe all members want to see.

The government has responded positively to work health and safety issues in recent years, and the Greens have been very supportive of these moves. We supported the new work health and safety regime, introduced in 2011. It is widely agreed—and the ACT’s Work Safety Commissioner will attest to this—that the new regime is an improvement and is helping create better work health and safety outcomes in the territory.

Last year also saw the getting home safely inquiry and report, which we have all supported in this chamber, which made a cogent case for significant and urgent improvements across the ACT in the work health and safety realm, particularly of course in the building and construction sector. There have been various changes already.

I am sure we have all seen the increased activity and presence of Mark McCabe as the territory’s Work Safety Commissioner. An obvious example is the large injection into WorkSafe of almost $6 million during the last budget. WorkSafe will have 12 new inspectors and new vehicles, something the Greens have supported, including through the last election and the parliamentary agreement. The arrangement established in this bill will help provide a sustainable funding base for the ongoing work health and safety work of Mr McCabe and his WorkSafe team.

I also agree with the government’s plan to phase in the levy. The government has made the details of this phase-in plan available via a guidance note on WorkSafe’s website. The amount of money collected under the new levy will be subject to a cap so that workers compensation premium rates will not increase by more than 0.015 percentage points each year.

Over the first five years, the government will not collect the full cost from insurers to cover compensation claims by workers whose employer did not have a valid policy of insurance—that is, the default insurance fund. The reduction amount is calculated by an independent actuary. This transition period should mean a smooth introduction of the levy. The capped levy will begin from 30 June next year, which gives sufficient time for insurers and employers to prepare for the changes.

I note also that there has been consultation on this bill. I am advised that the government has spoken in detail to ACT insurers about the proposed scheme. In fact officers in the government have quarterly meetings with insurers. They had input into the detail of the bill, and some changes have been picked up. For example, the legislation apportions the insurer contribution based on gross written premium market share, as opposed to other apportionment options such as total wages market share. I understand this was a request of the insurers, as was the mechanism that sees the annual insurer contribution established at the beginning of a year, which gives insurers certainty about their contribution amount at the time industry rates are set.

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