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Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2148

Senator CROWLEY(3.15) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the papers.

The challenge of getting through documents in a short time faces us once again, particularly in relation to this very comprehensive report of the Interim National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. If this is the report of the Interim Commission one wonders perhaps what the full commission's report will be like. The report took on, and I think addressed very well, the challenge of its initial brief or terms of reference. The report contains many recommendations- some 81 in number. I shall draw attention to the significant ones. I believe the Interim Commission has taken a very significant first step in addressing the problems of occupational health and safety in our society. It is not a matter that is novel but it is a matter that is still not part of large public debate or information. I am very pleased that this Government is once again putting on record its view in relation to these matters and, in fact, taking a stand, firstly, by establishing the Interim Commission and, secondly, considering its report. I look forward to hearing the Government's definitive response to it.

Probably the most significant recommendation that emerges from the Interim Commission's report-I might say that I have not had time to dwell on the way in which it went about seeking the information and the consultation from which it drew its final conclusions-is the recommendation that there should be established by statute a national occupational health and safety commission and that it should be named the national occupational health and safety commission. I am afraid that the letters lack a little when one shortens them. I believe the second most significant recommendation is that this commission should be the umbrella organisation to encompass a national occupational health and safety office as its operational arm and a national institute of occupational health and safety as its technical and scientific arm.

The third recommendation stressed that the national commission should be tripartite-that is, it should be made up of government, employee and employer representation-and that it should have representations from the Federal departments of Employment and Industrial Relations and Health and from all the State and Territory health ministries. Further, it has been recommended that it should be supported by an infrastructure of standing committees, industry committees and working parties, all of which should adopt at every level the basically tripartite committee constitution and from that, both as a model and in practice, broaden the participation and understanding of matters of occupational health and safety at all levels in our community. Finally, there is a recommendation that one Minister should be responsible for all the occupational health and safety matters at the Federal level. It is the decision of the Interim Commission that this Minister should be the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.

The significance of the sub-groups of those recommendations needs further deliberation and thought. We cannot be expected to understand the full ramifications of those matters first up. I am interested in looking at the overall view as well as at the establishment of a national institute of occupational health and safety. The challenge to it would be to establish standards and to measure and provide the technical expertise to do the basic research. It would be charged with making that information accessible and readily available to people in the community. I note with great delight that the Interim Commission says specifically that that means such publications need not only to be scientifically accurate but also to be able to be understood. That means there would be simplicity in the way in which they were presented and, as the report specifically mentioned, they would be published in as many languages as are necessary for those people who seek the information contained therein.

There is also special concern expressed by the Interim Commission that those people in the community who are not necessarily blue collar workers or employees in the ordinary understanding of people earning a wage or salary should also have access to the information, the support, the aims and objectives of such a National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. Women, migrants, the handicapped, volunteer workers and other members of the community are particularly mentioned. I think this is very encouraging. It is certainly in line with one of the submissions that I put to the Interim Commission, because I feel it is very important that matters of occupational health and safety address the relationship between health and work for all people in our community, not only those who are in the paid work force. I commend the Interim Commission, in particular, the Chairman, Dr Richie Gunn, for a very thorough and fascinating document that I will delight in dwelling on further. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.