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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5841

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Human Services) (9:21 PM) —What I have done in respect of the first Greens amendment, the area dealing more broadly with the strategic and operational plans, is outline the government’s position. As a way forward, if there were particular issues that you wanted to take up I have given you an opportunity to draw questions out of that. I have dealt with all of the issues that you have raised. I do not want to take up the time of the chamber by reiterating them in full again.

The main points we make are that if you want model laws, model outcomes and codes of practice that deal with and prevent work related injuries and tragedies, such as death, then this legislation does provide the facility for that outcome to be attained. Even if you want moieties—I think that is the word—to be removed from New South Wales, this is the vehicle to get rid of legislation that could be described as outdated and out of kilter with modern OH&S thinking, not only in that clause but in others that might exist or subsist. If you want to achieve an outcome you have legislation before you. For some reason, the historic nature of this sometimes gets lost in people arguing around some of the detail. An outcome was reached with the IGA. There are always going to be arguments, such as: we could have got a better deal, the states could have got a better deal, the particular interests of a territory may not have been adequately dealt with. The fact is to move to an outcome we got the signatures on a document which provides us with the best opportunity to achieve that outcome, the model OH&S laws.

An important function of Safe Work Australia will be the development of those model OH&S legislation codes of practice for approval. There is little prospect of model legislation being adopted by the states and territories without their agreement, without a framework, without the IGA and without our ability to get them around the table and move the debate forward. The WRMC has an important role to play. To be effective, it needs to be given explicit powers to approve or reject the plan, for the arguments that I put forward earlier—that is, that it provides the greatest flexibility and will ensure that the IGA and Safe Work Australia will develop a strategic plan that will meet the WRMC’s approval. Otherwise, it would have to rely on its informal authority to achieve that. In most cases, I suspect the practical reality of the circumstances will be that those types of discussions will ensure the strategic plan becomes a living document that really reflects the strategic nature that Safe Work Australia wants to achieve—that is, model OH&S laws, codes of practice and the like. But I cannot foresee every circumstance, and this clause is designed to ensure that there is that flexibility—no more than that.

I ask again in respect of these matters that the chamber agree that the bill does stand as is. It is, in fact, reverse logic. The question before us is that the relevant clauses stand as printed. We ask you to reject the other position and accept the position that the government is putting forward. The best way forward is, having reached agreement with the state and territories, to achieve an outcome in a relatively short time.