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Monday, 24 June 2013
Page: 6802

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (12:10): It is a great honour to speak on this motion by the member for Moore, Dr Mal Washer. Let me begin by saying that he is truly a great Australian, a great doctor and a great benefit to this House. He always reminded me, in his bedside manner, of my old doctor in my youth, Dr Hicks—a great old doctor; they don't make them like that anymore!

Inherit in this motion is a care for healthcare workers and for them at work. I would certainly like to reiterate the wording of this motion and commend it. I think it is a particularly important issue. I have never worked in the healthcare sector, but from time to time I do go to the Lyell McEwin Hospital—where I was born—in the heart of my electorate and talk to workers and volunteers, doctors and nurses, cleaners of wards and the like, about their day-to-day work. I know they deal with a range of situations where, sadly, they might have to contemplate needle-stick injuries and the transmission of HIV, hepatitis and the like.

The workers at that hospital deserve to be safe. I am very pleased to see in this motion that the unions are included, Safe Work Australia is included and the relevant state and territory OH&S bodies are included, because it is only through detailed policies, which are observed and enforced at the workplace level, that these sorts of injuries are prevented. Believe it or not, when I was in the retail union, I saw quite a bit of evidence that would commend this motion. You would not think that retail workers would have to deal with needle-stick injuries, but in actual fact retail workers often have to deal with a variety of situations and incidences where biohazards are encountered. I often came across shop assistants who had been placed in the most extreme environments—having to clean up vomit or urine and faeces in a store. I remember one worker, a cleaner who worked at a large furniture shop in Adelaide. This furniture shop had a large room of balls, where children would play. Of course, occasionally, children being children, they would mess themselves, and he had to clean faeces off those balls, so it was a pretty unpleasant job. In a great trade union way, I got him a bit of an allowance for dealing with that! But it is not uncommon for retail workers to have to deal with that—and, unfortunately, it is not uncommon for them to have to deal with the results of violence, where knives have been used, blood has been left on the floor et cetera. I have had situations where shop assistants have had to clean up after suicide attempts. We had one department store in Adelaide where, very sadly, a female worker was murdered by her estranged partner, which was very distressing for the staff. And, unfortunately, because people do not anticipate that this would happen in shops—you think that shops and pubs and clubs would be relatively clean environments—there was often no biohazard material to clean this stuff up and people were just simply sent out with mops and buckets. Obviously, in the case of the department store, it was a little bit more serious and it was a crime scene, but there are situations where workers, in all fields, particularly those open to the public, have to deal with needle-stick injuries, have to deal with biohazards and have to deal with very serious situations.

The member for Moore, Dr Washer, has brought this, in his usual bipartisan, pragmatic and good sense style, to the parliament for our consideration. I think it is worthy of our bipartisan consideration and worthy of our bipartisan support. We will miss you, Mal, and your way of rising above the trivialities of this place and making sure we deal with the serious issues that workers not just in the healthcare sector but right across the board deal with every day. Thanks so much.