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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2823


Senator GILES —On behalf of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, I give notice that 15 sitting days after today I shall move that the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1991 No. 266 and made under the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991, and the Australian Meat and Live-stock Order No. L10/91, made under the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act 1977, be disallowed. Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement about the Committee's concerns with these instruments.

  Leave granted.


Senator GILES —I thank the Senate. I am giving notice at this time because such notice must be given within 15 sitting days. The Committee's concerns relate to a number of issues affecting personal rights and parliamentary proprieties. The first instrument provides for election and investigations for the purposes of the parent Act.

  The Committee has raised with the Minister the lack of procedures to inform persons of a right to request a secret ballot; defects in provisions relating to the conduct of elections, there being no clear indication whether ballot papers must be marked by numbers, ticks, crosses or other indications in order to effect a valid vote; discretions with returning officers with no apparent review of such decisions; defects in provisions for notifying unsuccessful candidates; forms which are legislative in nature but not subject to parliamentary reviews; and drafting defects.

  The second instrument imposes what may be unnecessarily additional costs on primary producers. Mr President, as usual, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a short statement of the concerns of the Committee.

  Leave granted.

  The statement read as follows

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

(COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT)

REGULATIONS

STATUTORY RULES 1991 NO.266

The parent Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 is intended to provide for the protection of the health and safety of Commonwealth employees at work. The Regulations provide for elections under the Act and for machinery matters relating to advice, investigations and inquiries. The Committee was concerned at the following matters:

(1)An eligible voter at an election for health and safety representatives may request a secret ballot. However, there is no provision for voters to be informed of this right, despite other detailed provisions for voters to be informed of other aspects of the election.

(2)A voter is required to indicate a preference by placing the number "1" in a box opposite the name of a Candidate. Thus, there appeared to be no option of placing a tick or a cross or any other indication of choice. However, another later regulation provided that a ballot paper is only informal if, among other things, the intention of the voter is not clear. Under this provision such intention could be made clear by using a tick or some other indication other than the number "1". Therefore, the two provisions may be contradictory.

(3)If a candidate requests a recount then the returning officer must conduct a recount. Therefore, the returning officer does not have a discretion to refuse a request for a recount. However, the returning officer does have discretions in the conduct of a recount, which include to admit or reject votes, to declare an election void where there are reasonable grounds to believe there has been an irregularity, or where it is "just" to declare the election void because of illegal practice. There was no indication on the face of the instrument whether these discretions were subject to review of their merits.

(4)The returning officer must notify the winner of the election. However, there is no requirement that unsuccessful candidates must be notified, not even a provision that the result should be publicly notified and displayed in the way that the holding of the election and the notification of the candidates are required.

(5)A certain type of notice issued by an investigator must only be in an approved form, not in a prescribed form. These notices cover serious matters such as taking possession of plant and issuing prohibition notices and improvement notices. These notices appear to be at least as important as search warrants and should therefore be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Less important notices are set out in full detail in the regulations themselves.

(6)There are various drafting errors in the regulations which, although not affecting validity, should be corrected.

AUSTRALIAN MEAT AND LIVE-STOCK

ORDER NO.L10/91

This instrument substitutes a new Form which gives information relating to the consignment of live-stock by ship or aircraft.

The instrument requires that the original of the Form must be "posted" to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation no later than the first working day after the departure overseas of a consignment of stock to which it refers. This would appear to be an appropriate provision, to which the Committee has no objection. However, the same clause then provides that if the number of stock in the consignment changes, or the destination of part or all of the consignment changes, the licensee must send an amended Form to the Corporation "by facsimile transmission", not later than the first working day after the consignment arrives at its final port of discharge.

The Committee asks why posting would not be sufficient in this case as well. The Explanatory Statement advises that the purpose of the Form is to provide the Corporation with statistical information which is used to analyse markets and to determine the levies payable by exporters. The Committee accepts that these are important matters, but is concerned that the instrument may force licensees to obtain a facsimile machine to send amendments of a form, the original of which may be sent by post. The Committee also accepts that there may be valid reasons for the apparent urgency with which amendments of the Form are needed, as compared to the original. Nevertheless, the Committee would like to be assured that people exporting live-stock are not having to incur additional expense which may be avoidable.

A number of other Commonwealth departments and agencies have been moving towards electronic transmission of information, with the relevant delegated legislation being amended accordingly. This is a development which should generally improve the administration of parent Acts and regulations and assist users who wish to avail themselves of these new procedures. However, in such cases the Committee is anxious to ensure that small businesses, or those which are not affected frequently by the new provisions, are not disadvantaged by them. The Committee in these cases usually tries to ensure that there is no obligation to use the new electronic methods, and that users if they wish may continue with the older, manual, paper entries.

The present concerns of the Committee relate to this general concern that smaller businesses should not suffer commercially through the introduction of a new system.