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 Hansard 31 May 2007

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Number of posts : 10
Registration date : 2007-06-04

PostSubject: Hansard 31 May 2007   Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:37 pm

Full Day Hansard Transcript (Legislative Assembly, 31 May 2007, Proof)

< H2>Proof

Extract from NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard and Papers Thursday, 31 May 2007 (Proof).


The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO: My question is addressed to the Minister for
Industrial Relations. Will the Minister inform the House about New
South Wales efforts to ensure that employers are clear about their
workplace safety responsibilities?

The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I thank the Hon. Amanda Fazio for her
question and acknowledge her ongoing interest in occupational health
and safety matters.

The Commonwealth Government's recent legislative changes to allow
national companies to bypass state workplace safety laws is a
concerning development.

New South Wales has made considerable efforts to resolve the
confusion created by the Commonwealth's unhelpful entry into this
important area of responsibility. I wrote to the previous Commonwealth
industrial relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, in December last year
pointing out that a safety gap was emerging created by holes in the
Commonwealth legislation. I have received no reply. I wrote to the
Minister's successor, Joe Hockey, in January this year and again in

New South Wales has outlined simple and commonsense workplace
scenarios that expose the inadequacy of the Commonwealth's new laws,
including situations where workers are not covered by any safety laws
at all. I have yet to receive a satisfactory reply that addresses the
practical problems now faced by employers and employees. Commonwealth
officials have been advising employers that, first, the Commonwealth
will not have exclusive jurisdiction over the entire site of a national
self-insurer; second, the Commonwealth has no power either to advise or
to enforce in respect of subcontractors and their employees on a site
controlled by a national self-insurer; third, subcontractors and their
employees remain covered by New South Wales law; and, fourth, in spite
of this, New South Wales WorkCover inspectors have no legal power to
enter a workplace controlled by a national self-insurer. That means
that a significant category of employees will not be covered by any
safety compliance laws given the Commonwealth's bloody-minded attitude
to this problem.

New South Wales of course rejects this advice and the approach
suggested. It would lock out state workplace safety inspectors or
require them to gain consent from the controller of the premises. This
clearly undermines the requirement of the Council of Australian
Governments that there be no reduction in safety standards in the
course of harmonisation. The impact of the Commonwealth's advice to
employers is to leave some New South Wales workers, particularly
subcontractors and their employees, unprotected by any workplace safety

The Commonwealth has so far ignored the problems. I have written
again to the Commonwealth Minister requesting that a meeting of the
Workplace Relations Ministers Council be held prior to the end of June.
It has been eight months since the council last met in September 2006,
and there are important workplace issues to be resolved—not the least
of which is the resolution of the Australian Safety and Compensation
Council that Ministers meet, consider and endorse its business plan for
the next financial year. The Commonwealth Minister was quoted in the
Australian Financial Review as saying that that is "unnecessary",
despite his own council asking Ministers to do so.

The Commonwealth Government consistently refuses to work with the
states, preferring an arrogant and bullying approach despite evidence
that this does not work. The Workplace Relations Ministers Council has
met on more than 70 occasions over the past century, as governments
dealt cooperatively with Australia's shared industrial relations
powers. The Howard Government, however, cancelled, rescheduled and
avoided meetings for a year and a half while it devised in secret its
failed WorkChoices laws—laws that are now accepted as being so bad that
the Commonwealth refuses even to speak their name. They are a bit like
the character out of the Harry Potter books. Now much modified,
WorkChoices remains unbalanced, unfair and unacceptable to the majority
of Australians. Yet Joe Hockey is pursuing the same blind, arrogant
approach to workplace safety, leading to more extremist laws that do
not work. I await the Commonwealth's reply to my request for genuine
dialogue on this very important issue.
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