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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 9556

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (16:20): I rise to speak on the Work Health and Safety Bill 2011 and the Work Health and Safety (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011. I thank senators for their contributions to the debate on this important legislation. Although the Work Health and Safety Bill currently before the parliament applies largely to Commonwealth public sector employment, it forms a crucial part of the Australian government's comĀ­mitment to nationally harmonised work health and safety laws. This bill compleĀ­ments legislation being enacted across the states and territories that will lead to enhanced work health and safety protections for Australian workers, as well as greater certainty for businesses.

The arguments in favour of the occupational health and safety harmonisation are outlined in the second reading speech to the bill, so I will not repeat them here, save to say that they are very compelling. However, it is important to put on the record that, since the bill was introduced into parliament by the government, harmonised occupational health and safety laws have been independently assessed as having the potential to deliver up to $2 billion per annum in productivity improvements. This is in addition to the national benefit of $250 million per annum reflecting reduced red tape for businesses overall and better work health and safety standards for workers. I would like to deal with Senator Edwards's claim that the regulatory impact statement was not available and highlight that it is, indeed, available, and the figures I mentioned relate to it.

This assessment and these measures affirm the Gillard government's strong commitment to occupational health and safety harmonisation with a major reform that will deliver tangible benefits to businesses and workers alike. It is this balance that is critical and most important to this government. Federal Labor is proud to be implementing and supporting these important laws which are strongly supported by industry and the community as well as the vast majority of state and territory governments. I commend the bills to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.