Page 1136 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 6 April 2016

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The fact that so few concerns are raised is excellent news. It suggests that contractors are in fact meeting their employment and safety obligations and the MOU should give those who do the right thing no cause to worry at all. It is worth noting, of course, that the list of tenderers has been published on the ACT government’s procurement website for years. The list has also been on the Tenders ACT site since electronic tendering commenced in July 2015.

I would like to touch on the rights-of-access concerns that featured in Mr Hanson’s motion and in his speech. The MOU makes it clear that nothing within it is contrary to the law. Leaving aside the work health and safety aspects, where WorkSafe ACT would be immediately involved if there was a cause to enter a site due to safety concerns, access to a work site is covered by the Fair Work Act, which is, as I am sure members are aware, an act of the commonwealth parliament.

Mr Hanson does not appear to understand this, but the Fair Work Act allows for entry to a workplace and for an inspection of employee records. That right is contained within commonwealth legislation, the Fair Work Act. It is a shame that the territory’s engaging with its stakeholders is the cause of so much concern, particularly when that engagement is designed to protect employees who are delivering valuable services and works to the territory.

It really speaks volumes about the value that the Canberra Liberals place on workplace rights that a document designed to protect and improve conditions is the source of the sort of outrage that we have seen from the Leader of the Opposition. At a time when the federal Liberal government is attacking the rights of Australians, whether it is through trying to strip penalty rates or reintroduce Work Choices style IR legislation, it is more important than ever for the ACT government to confirm and reaffirm our commitment to providing workers on ACT government projects with a safe environment.

The government is supportive of allowing reasonable consultation to ensure that workers’ rights are protected. The government should be dealing with responsible contractors. I would not want to be part of, let alone lead, a government that does not have this as a basic starting point. I do not want anyone to die building a school or a hospital in this city. I do not want anyone to be in a position where they are being ripped off in respect of their fair entitlements—wages, workers compensation, long service leave—by a company employed by the ACT government. Companies should not be competing by seeking to exploit their workers’ health and safety entitlements.

The background is worth reflecting on in the context of why this matters in this city. It goes to the Getting home safely report that resulted from the inquiry into compliance with work health and safety requirements in the ACT’s construction industry. It noted that prior to the reforms the government introduced, the ACT’s serious injury rate for the construction industry was 31 per cent higher than the national average and that the industry’s long-term injury performance was 50 per cent worse than most other jurisdictions and double the national average.

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