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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 277

(Question No. 1412)


Senator Lees asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 30 May 1994:

  (1) Is the Minister aware of an inter-office memorandum dated 28 March 1994 from Philip Bert of Australian Hearing Services (AHS) which suggests that Worksafe and various state governments are responsible for national campaigns regarding the issue of noise injury and hearing loss prevention in `industrial situations' and that AHS is responsible for national campaigns in the area of recreational noise.

  (2) Does the Minister agree with this division of responsibility.

  (3) How can this division of responsibilities be reconciled with AHS's statutory obligations in the area of noise prevention.

  (4) Has AHS been conducting any campaigns and/or education programs in the area of noise prevention in the workplace; if so: (a) what is the nature of the programs; (b) what is the allocation within the AHS budget to carry out such programs; (c) are any of these programs specifically targeted at small business; and (d) if none of these programs are targeted at small business, why not.

  (5) Has AHS been carrying out any research into noise-induced hearing; if so: (a) what has been the allocation within the AHS budget to carry out such research; (b) does that research cover workplace noise; (c) if the research carried out covers workplace noise, what is the nature of the research; (d) what policy or policies does AHS follow in relation to this research; and (e) is the AHS research program linked with its own prevention/education programs or those of other organisations.

  (6) Does Worksafe have any allocation within its budget to carry out noise injury prevention campaigns and/or education programs in the workplace; if so, what is that allocation and what is the nature of the programs.

  (7) Can the Minister categorically state which organisation is responsible for the conduct of noise injury and hearing loss prevention campaigns and/or education programs in industrial situations and/or workplaces.

  (8) Does the Federal Government play any role in co-ordinating the activities of the federal and state departments and organisations involved in preventing noise induced hearing loss in the workplace; if not, why not.


Senator Robert Ray —The Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) No.

  (2) In view of my answer to (1), I am unable to comment on the content of the document referred to.

  Occupational health and safety is the legislative responsibility of the State and Territory Governments, except for Commonwealth government employees, where the responsibility belongs to Comcare Australia. This division of responsibility covers legislation and normally prevention campaigns and/or education programs for noise-induced hearing loss in workplaces.

  The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, also known as Worksafe Australia, provides a forum by which representatives of the Federal and State/Territory governments, employers and employee representatives may consult and participate in the development of policies and strategies relating to occupational health and safety matters. This includes the issue of noise induced hearing loss in workplaces.

  Worksafe Australia works closely with a range of specialist and technical agencies, including AHS. Recent discussions between senior Worksafe and AHS officials have explored ways to enhance public noise prevention programs, ensure complementarity and avoid potential duplication.

  (3) In view of my answer to (1), I am unable to comment. The statutory responsibilities of AHS are a matter for the Minister for Human Services and Health.

  (4) See (3).

  (5) See (3).

  (6) Worksafe Australia did not have a specific allocation within its 1993/94 budget to carry out noise injury prevention campaigns and/or education programs in the workplace.

  Part of Worksafe's budget did cover the salary for an officer to provide scientific input to the development of the National Standard for Occupational Noise and the National Code of Practice for Noise Management and Protection of Hearing at Work.

  This officer has also been involved in assisting to develop the program for and presenting papers at a national series of seminars on Noise Management in the Workplace, which are run in collaboration by Worksafe Australia and AHS.

  This work will continue into 1994/95 but no specific allocation to carry out this work has been made in the 1994/95 budget.

  (7) No. See (2).

  (8) Yes. See (2).