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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 9435


Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (13:22): I rise to speak in the debate on the Work Health and Safety Bill 2011. Five workers die aboard an unseaworthy vessel in the Torres Strait. Six motorcycles used for work are found to be unroadworthy in the Northern Territory. Camp food containing peanuts is fed to a camp attendee with a severe peanut allergy in Victoria. Two members of the public die on a rail access road and bridge in South Australia. The thing that each of these situations has in common: they are all part of the Commonwealth's health and safety jurisdiction—the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia Post, the Department of Defence and the Australian Rail Track Corporation, respectively.

It is far too easy to cast the Commonwealth health and safety jurisdiction as one populated by Canberra public servants working at their desks day in, day out. But the truth of the matter is that there are a diverse range of jobs undertaken by Commonwealth public servants and in the Commonwealth's health and safety jurisdiction. The Commonwealth jurisdiction is unusual. It is not geographic. Commonwealth public servants perform important work all across Australia. They perform their work, in many cases, side by side with people covered by state and territory health and safety laws. The way that Australia's health and safety laws operate now makes things confusing for workers and for businesses. What laws apply when? Who is covered? Who is owed an obligation?

The Gillard government is moving towards a harmonised system of health and safety legislation and regulation to remove the duplication and confusion that exist when there are 10 separate pieces of health and safety legislation. (Quorum formed) I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.