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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5843

Senator ABETZ (9:30 PM) —I indicate that the opposition opposes clause 38(2) and also clause 42(2) as on sheet 5611, in the following terms. They canvass the same matters:

(7)    Clause 38, page 28 (lines 21 to 29), subclause (2), TO BE OPPOSED.

(8)    Clause 42, page 31 (lines 15 to 29), subclause (2), TO BE OPPOSED.

Clause 38(1) of the legislation says:

At a meeting, a question is decided by a two-thirds majority of the votes of the voting members present and voting.

In relation to this legislation we think it is important that there be a general consensus in relation to matters, and therefore a matter being decided by a two-thirds majority seems to have some merit. But the legislation then goes on to say:

(2)   However, if the question relates to the model OHS legislation or model OHS codes of practice, the question is decided by—

the two-thirds majority that I referred to before, and—

(b)   a majority of the votes of all of the voting members who represent the Commonwealth, States and Territories.

I am assuming in my numerical calculation that the chair is in fact deemed not to be a representative of the Commonwealth and I think that would be right. In those circumstances, you would have nine votes representing the Commonwealth, states and territories—that being six for the states, two for the territories and one for the Commonwealth—and a majority of that number would of course be five out of the nine. Therefore, in the event that you had six out of the nine voting against a proposal, you could in fact have six members out of the total 14 able to defeat a matter. We believe that that will potentially give too much power to those state Labor bureaucracies that have been part and parcel of the problem, for the past decade or so, of getting good OH&S legislation in this country.

Moving briefly to clause 42 of the legislation, that deals with decisions without meetings, and a similar structure is suggested. The opposition’s view is that the provision ‘a majority of the votes of all the voting members who represent the Commonwealth, states and territories’ should not be given that benefit. We are therefore of the view that clause 42(2) should be opposed. The questions are that the various clauses stand as printed, so we are recommending to the chamber that the two clauses that I have outlined, clause 38(2) and clause 42(2), be opposed.