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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4395

Senator FISHER (4:56 PM) —I present the report of the Environment, Communications and the Arts References Committee on Australia Post’s treatment of injured and ill workers, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator FISHER —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I chaired the latter part of this inquiry, which was driven in large part by senators Dana Wortley and Steve Fielding, and for that they deserve acknowledgment. Essentially, it arose out of the allegations by a number of workers at Australia Post about the manner in which Australia Post was allegedly treating workers when they got sick or became injured at work. I pay tribute to the quite significant numbers of workers who gave evidence to the committee, some in confidence, some in writing only, some by physical testimony. Not only did it take personal and emotional commitment and conviction from those workers but it essentially put their integrity at stake in many cases and took quite some personal courage.

Likewise, Australia Post, who would hardly have welcomed an inquiry of this nature, as far as the committee is concerned approached the inquiry in a constructive way. They were accepting of the fact of the inquiry. During the process of the inquiry—near the end of it, in fact—Australia Post and the union arrived at a new memorandum of understanding in respect of the use of facility nominated doctors, as Australia Post calls them, which was at the heart of the issues in dispute. They came up with a memorandum of understanding that put some boundaries and bases of understanding around the uses of facility nominated doctors for Australia Post workers. If that were all that came out of this inquiry, it alone is progress and therefore good.

However, we hope there will be more. The committee report makes a number of recommendations about systems and processes that Australia Post might consider implementing at the workplace to further define the use of facility nominated doctors and to further put some boundaries around the processes and systems that might be used in respect of facility nominated doctors. A more pertinent recommendation is that Australia Post consider ceasing using facility nominated doctors for workers compensation purposes.

That said, beyond the recommendations made about Australia Post considering mechanisms to increase worker buy-into and commitment to processes leading to their recovery from injury and rehabilitation at work, I speak on behalf of all committee members in saying that the committee hopes that the report is received with the constructive spirit which is intended and that the report contributes to continuing to improve workplace relations at Australia Post. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.