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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 February 2016) . . Page.. 405 ..

I am a little concerned that we are undertaking changes and putting extra burdens on employers on the basis of anecdotal evidence. A reasonable think about this would indicate that yes, if there was somebody who was a coordinator in the office to make sure that those coming back to work were looked after, that sounds logically like a good thing. But if we are actually going to change the law, if we are actually going to put penalties in place and if the case is good, I would have thought there might have been some more evidence to support the contention for the need. That said, I think it is a reasonable thing to do, and in that area we will be supporting the amendments.

The area that we have some concern with, though, is sections 191 and 192. These are about the powers of entry of inspectors. It was raised by the workplace commissioner that he thought he did not have the power under the existing act. The advice I have is that any reading of the act as it exists does provide for an unrestricted right for an inspector to enter a premises during work hours. One would think that if you are entering premises after hours when they are empty you would perhaps need a warrant or a court order of some sort. You are going to go into premises that would perhaps require the breaking of locks or the damage of property to gain entry.

In that regard, I think it is unfortunate that we are going to change the act when those present, when this was raised back in June 2015 at the ACT Work Safety Council, were told that the power did not exist. A number of them have come back to me and have now said that they believe the power did exist. Legislation was not presented at the time so it depends on who you talk to—the briefing officers said there was agreement at the meeting; the people I have spoken to said, “Well, yes, it was raised with us.” One employer group put in a submission; others did not. But there seems to be some contention as to what was put forward and the lack of consultation as a follow-up. Most were not aware that the bill was coming on until I told them that it was coming on and I sought their opinion. So I think we have a small problem there.

The other thing is the nature of the power of entry. In section 191(1) an inspector may at any time enter premises that are or that the inspector reasonably suspects are a workplace—at any time. This is a 24/7 power which I think is quite a huge power to issue for the sorts of things the government might be looking for. Currently under the work health and safety legislation there is a power to enter, and if a work site was operating and there was a suspicion that people were at risk, you might say that it is a justified power. But with a 24/7 power for inspectors to come perhaps to see paperwork in regard to a workers compensation matter, you have really got to question how far we are taking some of these powers. I have raised this issue with the minister.

There is also a question on section 192A(3) where it says:

An inspector who enters premises in accordance with this section is not authorised to remain on the premises if, at the request of the occupier of the premises or the employer who is on the premises, the inspector does not show the occupier or the employer the identity card issued to the inspector under section 189.

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