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Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
Treaties tabled on 12 March and 14 May 2013
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Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
McKenzie, Sen Bridget
Thorp, Sen Lin
Singh, Sen Lisa
Fawcett, Sen David
Prentice, Jane, MP
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Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
(Joint-Monday, 17 June 2013)
- Senator LUDLAM
Content WindowJoint Standing Committee on Treaties - 17/06/2013 - Treaties tabled on 12 March and 14 May 2013
DUGGAN, Mr Brian, Manager, Workplace Relations and Legal Affairs, National Farmers Federation
LINNEGAR, Mr Matt, Chief Executive Officer, National Farmers Federation
CHAIR: I welcome witnesses from the National Farmers Federation. Thank you for attending. This is the spiel: we would prefer it if you told us the truth and if you do not you can get into trouble. We can probably leave it at that.
Senator McKENZIE: That is the plain language statement.
CHAIR: There is one question that I just want to start with up front. You are providing us evidence today on the ILO convention concerning labour inspection in agriculture. There might also be questions in relation to the ILO convention on the minimum age for admission to employment. Are you all right in answering questions in relation to that?
Mr Linnegar : Yes.
Mr Duggan : Yes.
CHAIR: Okay. Good. That being the case I might hand it over to either one of you two to kick it off.
Mr Linnegar : Thank you. While not quite as exciting as the issue of nuclear non-proliferation we hope that you will be able to stay with us on this issue today. Thank you for the time. Normally when we attend the committee hearings we try and keep our opening statements short. I hope that you will allow me a little bit of leeway today to give a little bit more explanation on our position on this issue. Our discussions on this have only been very recent. The National Farmers Federation thanks the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties for the opportunity to inform the committee's work in relation to the proposed ratification of the convention concerning labour inspection in agriculture of 1969. In the broader sense, the Australian agricultural industry encompasses a number of sectors from raw materials used in food, farming and fishing sectors, right through to processing and ultimately exports and domestic sales. The food and beverage industry makes important contribution to the Australian economy. In 2011-12 farm and fisheries production and processing accounted for approximately four per cent of GDP and 11.5 per cent of the total value of merchandise trade exports. The total value of Australian farm and fisheries food production was $42.6 billion in that year, with food and beverage processing valued at $91.2 billion and export, both across production and processing, valued at $30.5 billion.
A key reason for the formation for the NFF was to represent the agricultural supply chain in relation to workplace relations in international trade issues. The NFF's approach to the negotiation of free trade agreements and the trans-Pacific partnership has been one of liberalisation of agricultural trade around the world. The NFF is a member of the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council and has made a detailed submission to the Fair Work Act review panel conducted by eminent Australians. We continue to work with Safe Work Australia in relation to the harmonisation of work, health and safety legislation across Australia. We acknowledge that Australia has been a founding and active member of the ILO over the years since its foundation in 1919. The ILO has developed a comprehensive framework for minimum labour standards.
We understand that in April 2011, the Workplace Relations Ministers' Council agreed to consider the convention as part of four priority conventions to be considered over the 2011-12 biennium, with the proposed convention to remain the only governance convention that Australia has not ratified. The government maintains, as we understand, that there will be no change to the domestic legislative system due to it being non-executing within Australia and will establish a leadership position in relation to minimum standards on the international stage. The primary purpose of the convention, as we understand, is to establish and maintain a system of labour inspection in agriculture to enforce effectively the relevant provisions relating to the workers' conditions and other matters relating hereto. The NFF questions these claims and we ask, 'Where is the urgency of the need to move on this?' Where is the evidence of that need in terms of the Australian situation? We ask the question about the rigour or process behind this particular decision.
The ratification of this convention would, in our view, diminish confidence in the Australian agricultural business. It would potentially institutionalise ad hoc regulatory intervention and perhaps add weight to the view that Australia may be a harder place to do business.
What we want to focus on is making farming and our agricultural industries more competitive, rather than adding to a regulatory burden on farm business. We want to focus on things like, as we mentioned before, pushing for the completion of free trade agreements at one end which comprise about 20 per cent of Australia's agricultural export trade through the free trade agreements. The convention as we understand has only been ratified by 52 out of 185 ILO members. In terms of major trading partners or major trade competitors very few have ratified this convention themselves. We view this convention as institutionalising what we see as a less flexible system in place in Australia at the moment, which in our view requires some fine tuning. Our current laws do not adequately allow for flexibility and hence we urge change in that area.
The government to this point has not addressed farm businesses' grievances in relation to these laws. Farm employers were disappointed that the government had not moved to adopt what we thought were modest recommendations from last year's independent review of the Fair Work Act. The wage differentials exemplified by the annual wage review performed by the Fair Work Commission and the safety net provisions more generally within the Fair Work Act place Australian farmers at a competitive disadvantage in relation to major trading nations and our competitors.
The NFF election platform currently calls upon all sides of politics to address issues that will make the biggest difference to farm employers, and that includes reducing red tape, cutting regulation at every level of government and finalising free trade agreements. We do need to be very careful that as we understand there is not bipartisan support at this point and there is no evidence of ongoing problems in the Australian context. We view this convention potentially as a solution in search of a problem and, as we have seen clearly, the difficulties that the federal government has faced in attempting to harmonise work health and safety systems across Australia are an example of how difficult it would be to report back to the ILO even if we did intend to go down that path. In some senses it may be comparing apples and oranges, because we do not have the harmonisation nationally. The respective positions of both Western Australia and Victoria in relation to workplace relations and work health and safety demonstrate how difficult ratification of the convention may be even if we did want to move down the path.
I guess the other thing is that it is not a flippant point for me to come to the committee and say there is also a real prospect of unintended interpretations if we were to sign up, because only in the last 10 or 15 years we as a country have had to defend ourselves in the ILO against unintended interpretations of other conventions such as the forced labour convention when, as a result of the privatisation of prisons, we found ourselves in a position where, completely to the surprise of the national government and the state governments in this country, the ILO was ruling that work by prisoners in prison laundries in a privatised prison was forced labour and in contravention of the terms of the forced labour convention. So this is not what was intended, but it had an unintended consequence. The other point I would make is that there are a number of nations around the world who have ratified or will seek to ratify these conventions knowing that they are not in compliance currently but they hope to get there in the future.
Going back to Australia, we believe this convention will have the effect of laws being very hard to unwind in the future. It could further undermine confidence in the sector—business confidence. What farmers require is recognition from lawmakers, of course, of our differences from other employers within Australia and internationally. The farming community is particularly concerned about the ratification of this convention, and consequently we respectfully request that the committee recommend against ratification. If indeed the Australian government proceeds to ratify this convention contrary to the views of the Australian farming community, the NFF requests that the technical issues raised in this submission be further discussed with partners and relevant state and territory governments to ensure that law and practice will be and can remain in full compliance with the convention. Thank you.
CHAIR: Thanks, Matt. So those comments are made in relation to the Convention concerning Labour Inspection in Agriculture?
Mr Linnegar : Yes.
CHAIR: In relation to the minimum age, do you have a view on that?
Mr Linnegar : I will just pass to my colleague Mr Duggan. As I understand, we became aware of it very recently.
Mr Linnegar : I am not aware of—
CHAI R: I do not mean to put you on the spot. If you do not have it here, that is fine.
Mr Linnegar : Not at all. Brian?
Mr Duggan : Yes, I am aware of the comments by ACCI and Mr Peter Anderson that it was a square peg for a round hole with the differences in the legislation across jurisdictions. The current debate—the Gonski debate—reinforces that our educational institutions and our educational approach would be problematic to report back to the ILO, and likewise it flows across similarly to the agricultural inspection convention. So there are the same concerns. The legislative framework does not easily map across for reporting.
CHAIR: Okay, thanks.
Senator THORP: My understanding, going back to the first convention we were discussing, is that law and practice in Australia across jurisdictions—Commonwealth, states and territories—are actually consistent with the convention as it exists and that all of the jurisdictions, perhaps with the exception of Queensland, have raised no objections or are supportive of it. That does not seem to sit with what you were saying earlier about how difficult this would be to implement if there is no inconsistency between existing practice and the convention as suggested.
Mr Linnegar : The consistency issue, as I understand, is in relation to the laws in each state around work health and safety, which are not harmonised currently. The difficulty, we understand, would be in reporting back to the ILO, if we were to sign up, based on what you would be comparing it against. If you do not have harmonised laws, state by state, we understand that presents a difficulty; that was the point we were raising there. I am not aware of the states' response to this but, as I understand it, there would be some difficulties presented.
Senator THORP: Your concern is about the difficulty of reporting and implementation, but it does not surprise you that most of the states and other jurisdictions actually have current law practice that it fits?
Mr Linnegar : It does not surprise me that we are at or beyond, perhaps, where the international convention seeks to go; not at all. I guess the difficulties are, even though we are perhaps beyond where they are at, are they easily reported, or does that leave room for misinterpretation, I guess, is the point that we raised.
Senator THORP: But they have concerns that perhaps you could have assuaged at some stage.
Mr Linnegar : Perhaps, indeed.
Senator THORP: You made reference earlier to the fact that so many other countries, whether they be signatories or not, do not live up to the standards in wage and occupational health and safety and other issues that Australians in general and Australian farmers expect. What is your comment on the suggestion that, by Australia signing up to the ILO, it would provide an example, if you like, or an incentive, to other countries in our region to get on board and perhaps help Australian farmers?
Mr Linnegar : I will pass to my colleague in a moment, but what I would say to that upfront is that we, as a country, need to get the balance right between providing leadership and of what being a signatory to the ILO may mean domestically. Particularly when it comes to regulatory regime or regulatory burden, if you like, we have got to get that balance right. As we understand it currently, we believe that whilst there is merit in what you are saying in terms of providing that leadership, does it outweigh the domestic concerns. We are saying at the moment, on our understanding, no.
Mr Duggan : The proposition I would propose there, Senator, is one of solidarity. If we were to ratify this convention Australia could be in the leadership position. Let me just put another proposition to you. There has been a recent report release by Safe Work Australia entitled 'Work-related injuries and fatalities on Australian farms'. On page 7 of that report it identifies that between 1 July 2003 and 30 June 2011, 356 farm workers were killed. Twenty-seven of those were in relation to quad bikes. NFF is actively working with Minister Shorten and Safe Work Australia to address that issue. I would refer the chair and the committee to article 18.1 which reads:
Labour inspectors in agriculture shall be empowered to take steps with a view to remedying defects observed in plant, …
The proposition I would put to you is that we have not got a way forward, a road map, to address on farm deaths in relation to quad bikes. We would like to address it but this convention could potentially place an inspector at odds with the industry and government.
Senator SINGH: I am trying to understand why you do not support this convention. I think that you would think that safeguarding the rights of workers in the agricultural industry would be a good thing, I would think that the example you just raised in relation to deaths relating to quad bikes and fixing that problem through Safe Work Australia would be a good thing. This convention is about international labour standards to safeguard the rights of workers in the agricultural industry, so I am trying to understand why you do not support this convention. You talked about how it would diminish confidence in the agricultural business, and I am trying to understand how that would happen as well. I have listened to what you have said so far but it is really unclear to me why you would not support this convention.
Mr Linnegar : Thank you for the question. What we are saying is that the arrangements are already in place domestically. Is signing on to the ILO going to improve what is happening now and take us beyond what is happening now, and is that reason enough to sign this convention? We are saying that there are already measures in place. What we are working through now—and Brian gave the example of working with the minister and Safe Work Australia on this issue—in terms of improving that situation, are workers conditions and safety on farm and for employers. Those things are already in place here. We are most likely beyond where the ILO is going to go. On the other side of the coin, signing on to this agreement in terms of the inspection regime which currently holds that if there is an issue observed on a complaints basis then that inspection regime is there, what has been proposed is that to be compliant with this regime you would have an ad hoc but ongoing and constant inspection regime. We would want to understand, going back to business confidence, what the additional costs of that would be and whether that would improve the situation beyond where we are now. We are not convinced about that and that is why we think, on balance, we opposed on that basis.
Mr Duggan : Currently, the Fair Work Ombudsman has approximately 300 inspectorates that act on complaints, or members which are state farming organisations and commodity groups that regularly represent farmers in those disputes. Our experience with dealing with the Fair Work Ombudsman is that there is a lot of misinterpretation and misunderstanding around the farming awards, basically because practice custom is different from the other modern awards. We have piece rates, we have 152 averaging hours, we have different customs and practices which you have to have an in-depth understanding of. The inspectorate that we have at the moment does not have an in-depth understanding of farming practices, and that is why we have an informal relationship with the Fair Work Ombudsman so we continue to work through these problems.
Senator SINGH: So your main concern is with the inspectorate role in regard to this convention. Is that correct?
Mr Linne gar : Yes, and whether that adds compliance burden in either time or cost. We also are concerned with what that does for our sector in relation to our international competitors in terms of that footing.
Senator SINGH: But at the same time, do you think that the current domestic arrangements are going well?
Mr Linnegar : What we said was that they are not harmonised, which brings its issues of reporting back to the ILO. But, under the current domestic arrangements, are we aspiring to be where the ILO is or are we at and beyond where that is at? I think it is the latter.
Senator SINGH: So if we are at and beyond, then what is the problem? Australia is a member of the United Nations and, therefore, we participate in these multilateral organisations such as the ILO, and we are signed on to this convention. If the NFF are saying that the current domestic standards are at or beyond what this convention is putting in place then I cannot see what the problem is. Raising the issue of harmonisation, there are two states, Victoria and Western Australia, that already have workplace health and safety laws so, in the event of them not being harmonised to the national workplace safety laws, they still have workplace safety laws in their jurisdiction. So I am not quite sure about that issue but, that aside, I am just not clear where the concern is, if you are comfortable with the current domestic arrangements in Australia, comparing that to this convention—other than the issue of the added burden of another layer of inspectorate, which I think could be worked out through various arrangements, and that plays out with the way the inspectorate role is carried out through ratifying this convention.
Mr Linnegar : And we would have to be sure that that was the case if we were to change our position. It is a little bit of chicken and egg, isn't it? What is the problem with signing on, as you put it? I guess the other way of looking at it is to say, 'If we are at and beyond then what is the value proposition, in the national interest, for signing on?' We are saying, from our sector's point of view, 'If we are signing on, if we are already at and beyond, and it adds another regulatory layer and burden, then it is not worth it in our view.'
Senator SINGH: Do you think we have an obligation, though, to be a good regional citizen in the Asia-Pacific—to ensure that, by signing on to this convention, we send a good message to our Pacific neighbours, giving them an incentive to sign on and have such kinds of standards as well? Is it that this is a little bit beyond just Australia and that we are a part, again, of a multilateral organisation and trying to set a good example? Do you see that there is some level of responsibility that we should play in that regard?
Mr Linnegar : I do, but I guess there are many ways of demonstrating that. One way would be to sign on to this, but there are other ways, such as—as I am sure we are doing now—through on-ground programs of assistance and education, et cetera, through those nations, to improve conditions in those countries. So there are many ways of demonstrating it. We are just saying: 'Are there strings or potential strings attached to this? Is it worth doing?'
Senator FAWCETT: We may well have covered this already, but in South Australia some of the concerns that have been raised about the current regimes, around agricultural practice, come from the dairy industry. The concerns are about short shifts split over the day. Have you had concerns from specific parts of the industry about our current regimes and how an increased perception of obligation to an international body may actually compound current problems, in terms of meeting what are long-held and practical work practices for both employer and employee?
Mr Linnegar : We have. I might pass to my colleague to answer that one.
Mr Duggan : There have been two principal concerns that have come back on the workings of the individual flexibility arrangements. The first is about how the industry employs people and the non-monetary benefits that could be incorporated into IFAs to allow on-farm flexibility. The second issue is the recent institutionalisation of the modern award objectives in relation to penalty rates and minimum engagements. One strong bit of feedback we have had from our dairy constituencies is on the three-hour minimum engagement that was never there before the modern award objectives—before the modern award was handed down in the pastoral industry. So those concerns are real. We see that the current regime needs amending to allow for that flexibility in those two specific areas. If the government were to progress this convention to true ratification, that may make it more difficult. As the committee is aware, the retail sector has some concerns about inflexibility as well. So, yes, we are aware of those concerns and would be in a position to address them, but this convention may make it more difficult.
Senator FAWCETT: Another part of the convention talks of appropriately qualified people having powers of access to inspect. There is a lot of concern in the rural sector at home as to how that kind of concept has been applied in the natural resource management area. In some regions of South Australia, the NRM board people around dams and on-farm water are called the local Nazis because, while they are appropriately qualified in terms of an academic qualification, they have no understanding of the practicality of how farms actually work and literally have access with more powers than the police in some cases, and they impose requirements on landholders. Has there been concern expressed about the wording of the convention and what that may mean in practice for people who are trying to run a business?
Mr Linnegar : I am not aware that has been linked to this issue among our membership. It is certainly an issue in itself that has been raised in the past, more generally, be it NRM or other bodies.
Mr Duggan : Senator, before you came into the room I did refer to Article 13(1) which specifically allows labour inspectors to remedy defects as they see fit, which would be problematic. As I said in answer to a previous question we are working with the Fair Work Ombudsman to get the understanding of custom and practice and farm activities so that if we were looking at the rural plant code of practice there is an active discussion at the moment to move that from a code of practice down to a guidance material because of the lack of understanding that was in the draft code of practice.
Senator FAWCETT: Do you have an understanding of what the application of this convention would be to, for example, the children of a farmer—the adult children or the seventeen year old children—who are working on the family property? Where does this reach in terms of a direct owner family unit as opposed to a salaried employee?
Mr Duggan : The problem with the current regime of work health and safety for the person controlling the business unit obligations is that it goes across the whole enterprise. It extends to visitors. It extends to subcontractors. That is the reason I pointed out the serious nature of the fatalities in the industry. We believe the best way to address that is working with industry and regulators to get best on-ground practice. When you impose a convention on top of that you have an extra layer of review, which we think is inappropriate, because we are not at a situation where all the parties have agreed to the way forward to address these issues, whether it is in workplace relations or whether it is in work health and safety.
Sen ator McKENZIE: Mr Linnegar, who are our significant international trading partners? You made a brief reference to them in your opening statement.
Mr Linnegar : Both trading partners and competitors, I guess.
Senator McKENZIE: Correct.
Mr Linnegar : As I understand we have countries like some of the South American nations and New Zealand, who obviously are trading in the same markets that we are, many times. I think the US, for example, is not signed up to the convention either. The UK as I understand it is not signed up. So there are both partners and competitors. We understand that a large swathe of them are not signatories to this convention.
Senator McKENZIE: I did ask a similar question of the department, as they were justifying all the people that had signed. Canada, New Zealand and Italy had not signed. Could you comment on the effect that may have in international negotiations or free trade agreements et cetera. Do things like international labour laws come up as a matter of course through free trade agreements?
Mr Linnegar : Not necessarily as a matter of course but I think that what we are saying is, particularly if we are competing with a lot of those countries into third markets, then we have our radar up and our eye on anything that is occurring domestically that has the potential to lower our competitiveness against those other nations in competing with them in those markets. We already know—and I am sure you would have seen it before—that labour costs in New Zealand, for example, are now well below costs here. So there is a competitive edge for New Zealand over Australia in things like dairy and meat exports. So, yes, we are focused on any of those areas that may add to the compliance or regulatory burden here that puts up at a disadvantage. In the scheme of things it may be minor, but all those small things add up in our view.
Senator McKENZIE: Senator Fawcett mentioned the impact on family owned farms—and I note that we will be applying for exemptions, and one of those will be for family enterprises. But I was wondering about the status of the children of sharefarmers. Do you have any advice to give in regard to the convention's impact?
Mr Duggan : That is not an issue that has specifically come back to us in relation to this, but the NFF is working with UNIDROIT to draft a sharefarming contract guide. The concerns there are that it is back to the control chain and ultimately it is a non-fault jurisdiction; where accidents occur, it will pass down through the chain of command.
Senator McKENZIE: I might just run you through some of the department's comments from our last hearing, and I would appreciate your comments. In answering one of Dr Stone's questions around the type of exemptions that would be sought under convention 138, they made a justification around 'we have a very similar cultural background to the UK'. Do we have similar farming practices to the UK?
Mr Linnegar : While there are some similarities to the UK, in many ways it is quite different. In terms of modernisation of equipment and technology and what have you, it would be a similar level. But in terms of other factors, including the type and scale of production, there are many differences as well. So it would not be right to say that we look exactly alike.
Se nator McKENZIE: In answer to one of Senator Fawcett's questions—that we do not sign what is going to be the downside—the response was that we would be criticised through the International Labour Conference. With your experience in terms of, as you said, the NFF operating at that international field, how significant is the impact on international negotiations of being criticised through the International Labour Conference?
Mr Linnegar : Of international trade negotiations?
Senator McKENZIE: Yes, specifically for agriculture.
Mr Linnegar : Again, it is only in my experience but I would not have thought that it would be a critical issue as to whether you progressed those trade negotiations or not.
Senator McKENZIE: In terms of harmonisation, I note in evidence previously given that certain aspects have been harmonised, if you like. But Victoria has not given a formal position on where it stands on the convention, and Queensland has actually objected. I am sure Mrs Prentice will take that up with you. The basis for us not signing this is that we focus on education; we are assuming that all our young people are in education, not out working. Signing this, as I understand it, will completely turn that on its head. The evidence we received was in 2009. We now have national partnership agreements around educational matters but, as I understand it, the evidence we gave was that there is no such national partnership or national arrangements around occupational health and safety or other work practices. The evidence the department gave was that there is a strong occupational health and safety framework in place across Australia. I am just wondering whether that goes towards that harmonisation issue you were talking about earlier.
Mr Duggan : Is that in relation to 138?
Senator McKENZIE: Yes.
Mr Duggan : The ACCI evidence was that it is a square peg for a round hole, that the regulatory differences between the states impede reporting back significantly to the ILO. That is the proposition that we put which makes this inappropriate for ratification now.
Senator McKENZIE: One of the obligations is that the inspectors are empowered to enter workplaces for inspection and carry out examinations or inquiries. Do you have any issues around the safety of said inspectors entering environments that they are potentially not au fait with, as anyone's farm could be? Or do we have existing practice in place that would ensure those inspectors' safety?
Mr Duggan : I do understand that this certain FWO inspectorate are familiar with sectors. They are assigned to various sectors and they try to work with those representative bodies. We do have concerns that one sector of farming, such as dairy, is totally different from broadacre. Just because an inspector has experience on a broadacre farm does not mean that they are aware of animal husbandry, infection practices and such like. That is a concern, but we would be willing and we are willing to impart that knowledge to the inspectorate, and we hope that over time that would occur. It is a new system, and our proposition is: why rush this? It has been on since 1969.
Senator McKENZIE: Forty three years.
Mr Duggan : There is no need in the last two weeks of parliament to expedite this process. These concerns can easily be worked through and addressed.
Senator McKENZIE: There has been consultation with Commonwealth, state and territory agencies, and it is found there will be no costs associated for those bodies, yet you claim that costs will be impacting agricultural businesses. Have you been in any consultation with the government or the department around the potential impact of the cost of signing this? Have you done any modelling?
Mr Duggan : There is no estimate but from experience. For anybody who has a Fair Work Ombudsmen complaint it is resource intensive to compile that information, address those concerns, inform the inspectorate and go back and forth with correspondence. Likewise, when you have a work health and safety incident, there is the paperwork trail, risk assessment, and review process. If this convention were to be implemented it is not inconceivable that such costs associated with a 12-monthly reporting regime would be an impost on business.
Senator McKENZIE: There are different rules in 138 around hazardous and non-hazardous work. Has the NFF been consulted on a definition of hazardous work within the Australia farming context?
Mr Duggan : No, we have not.
Senator McKENZIE: Do you have a definition? Is there an agreed definition of what hazardous work is?
Mr Duggan : We continue to work through the various guidance material that Safe Work put out, but they have not specifically defined hazardous work on sites. One of the issues of concern to us at the moment is the issue of fatigue. Because farms are particularly busy at planting and harvest time, that is a concern of ours. It is not a definitive definition at the moment, just like hazardous material is not.
Mrs PRENTICE: Previously we had evidence that you considered milking a cow as hazardous?
Mr Duggan : In the report I referred to, this work related injuries report, it showed that between 2003 and 2011 there were 18 hit or bitten instances, killed workers. There were 11 falls from horses and there was nine shootings related to vermin. So there is a wide range of difficulties working on farms.
Mrs PRENTICE: It is the nature of working on a farm or property is it not? I am sure there have been just as many accidents from people doing recreational horse riding.
Senator McKENZIE: So there is not definition of hazardous work?
Mr Duggan : No.
Mrs PRENTICE: Under the fact that Queensland says it objects and will not sign, are you saying Australia can still proceed?
Mr Duggan : The question I would put to you is: what state or territory would say they are not compliant with the Fair Work Act regime and the Work Health and Safety regime?
They would just be saying, 'We are not following the laws of the land'.
Mrs PRENTICE: But surely our laws of the land do not encompass the ILO—what you have got in front of us. Do they?
CHAIR: Could you ask your question again?
Mrs PRENTIC E: You ask us to ratify something which includes children under 18 working on properties in hazardous activities and I am fairly confident that the current Queensland laws and the laws of most states are not as rigorous as what we have been asked to sign up to on an international basis.
CHAIR: There has been an answer from the department which I can repeat to you. This is really about asking you questions at the moment. Do you have a view on that?
Mr Duggan : I would just reaffirm, it is the state differential that is the problem. We are signing up to a convention to report on the national happenings in two distinct areas. We do not have a national system and, as in our original submission, it would be comparing apples and oranges. It would be presenting an untrue picture at any particular time to the international stage which is not in the national interest. Additionally it could reflect poorly on Australia's international standing if that report was not true and fair.
Senator McKENZIE: Just so we can be clear, is that position for both convention 138 and 129?
Mr Duggan : Yes.
Mrs PRENTICE: Which countries do we currently have FTAs with who have ratified this? Can you take it on notice?
CHAIR: We can get that from the department. That is a fact so you do not need to. We can get that information.
Mr Duggan : We are negotiating with Korea and Japan and they have not signed this.
CHAIR: I am really conscious of time. If there are no more questions, I thank you both for presenting today and we very much appreciate the evidence you have given us.