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Education and Employment Legislation Committee



CHAIR: I welcome to the table Minister Cash and officers of Comcare. I welcome Ms Susan Weston, Chief Executive Officer. Ms Weston, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Ms Weston : No, thank you, Chair.

Senator SHELDON: I want to ask some questions particularly regarding John Holland, who, as you know, is a self-insured licensee. The background to the questions relates to the Royal Hobart Hospital. The Tasmanian government has revealed that the completion of the long awaited K-Block building at the hospital has been delayed indefinitely, according to the ABC, with concerns cited over water quality and noisy air conditioning. The site has been plagued with a series of health and safety issues, including asbestos and various incidents. How many incidents, notifiable or otherwise, were reported to Comcare from the Hobart Hospital redevelopment project relating to asbestos where either John Holland employees were affected or John Holland had control of the workplace as the PCBU?

Ms Weston : I will ask my colleague to answer.

Mr Napier : Can I clarify the question?

Senator SHELDON: Where there have been notifications reported to Comcare or otherwise regarding the Hobart Hospital redevelopment project, relating to asbestos, where either John Holland employees were affected or John Holland had control of the workplace?

Mr Napier : I don't have that detail at hand, I'm sorry.

Senator SHELDON: Are you able to obtain that detail?

Mr Napier : Certainly, yes.

Senator SHELDON: Can you give me an idea of how long that would take?

Mr Napier : By the end of the week.

Senator SHELDON: How many incidents, notifiable or otherwise, were reported to Comcare from the Hobart Hospital redevelopment project relating to lead in the drinking water, where either John Holland employees were affected or John Holland had control of the workplace?

Mr Napier : I don't have the detail of all the notifications. I would need to take that on notice.

Senator SHELDON: Would it take a similar time to get that information?

Mr Napier : A similar time, yes.

Senator SHELDON: How many incidents, notifiable or otherwise, were reported to Comcare from the Hobart Hospital redevelopment project relating to serious injuries requiring medical attention, where either a John Holland employee were injured or John Holland had control of the workplace?

Mr Napier : Again, I don't have that detail at hand. I will take that on notice. It will take a similar time.

Senator SHELDON: You can take these questions on notice, unless you have the information at hand. In relation to the asbestos, did a Comcare inspector attend to the site?

Mr Napier : In relation to the work we've done, we've undertaken more than 40 visits to that site, including many unannounced visits. I would need to confirm how many were in response to the asbestos notification you referred to.

Senator SHELDON: You're not aware that asbestos was an issue on the site?

Mr Napier : I'm aware that there were a number of asbestos notifications, as required under legislation, and there was an issue with asbestos, but I don't have the detail at hand. Again, I'm happy to look at the number of visits and the cause of those visits and get back to you by the end of the week.

Senator SHELDON: That would be very helpful. What I'm asking, though, is, did a Comcare inspector attend the site as a result of asbestos concerns?

Mr Napier : We did attend the site. I'd have to confirm whether we attended in relation to a specific issue that was raised with us. My recollection is that if we're talking about a notification of asbestos on the site, our inspectors did attend immediately thereafter.

Senator SHELDON: I appreciate that in the previous questions you're saying that to get those details you'd want to come back and you'd come back within a week. I accept you taking those on notice. What I was asking was something of a more general nature, rather than the specific number of instances. In the case of asbestos, are you aware that there was an occasion when a Comcare inspector had to attend the site regarding that matter?

Mr Napier : Yes.

Senator SHELDON: Are you aware of how long after the report of the incident regarding asbestos it was before the inspector attended?

Mr Napier : Not offhand. I don't have that detail with me.

Senator SHELDON: Would you be able to take on notice to get that detail for me as well?

Mr Napier : Certainly.

Senator SHELDON: Was an investigation performed into the asbestos matter?

Mr Napier : Yes, there was.

Senator SHELDON: Was any breach identified?

Mr Napier : Not from recollection, no.

Senator SHELDON: You would need to take that on notice?

Mr Napier : I would prefer to take that on notice to be precise.

Senator SHELDON: And was there any regulatory action taken as a result—could you take that on notice as well?

Mr Napier : Certainly.

Senator SHELDON: In relation to the lead in the drinking water, did a Comcare inspector attend the site?

Mr Napier : Yes. Comcare inspectors have attended the site.

Senator SHELDON: How long after the report of the incident was it before the inspector attended?

Mr Napier : I don't have that level of detail with me. Again, I'll take that on notice.

Senator SHELDON: Would that take a similar amount of time—within a week?

Mr Napier : Yes. We have records of all these visits. It would be quite simple to access that.

Senator SHELDON: Was an investigation performed?

Mr Napier : I don't have the detail at hand. There were inquiries made. Monitoring compliance activities is what they're probably described as, whereby we would establish whether there was an issue or breach of legislation by the PCBU, John Holland in this case.

Senator SHELDON: Was there any breach identified?

Mr Napier : Not that I can recall, but for precision I'd prefer to take that on notice.

Senator SHELDON: Was any regulatory action taken?

Mr Napier : Well, visits to the site and made inquiries, yes.

Senator SHELDON: Was there any regulatory action if there was a breach identified?

Mr Napier : If there was a breach identified, we would have taken regulatory action.

Senator SHELDON: Can you inform us what regulatory action was taken if it was discovered that there was a breach? Can you take that on notice as well?

Mr Napier : Certainly.

Senator SHELDON: In relation to the injuries requiring medical attention, did a Comcare inspector attend the site?

Mr Napier : I'd have to take that on notice.

Senator SHELDON: How long after the report of the incident was it before an inspector attended?

Mr Napier : Again, I'll take that on notice. It would be helpful if we could have some details as to which incident you're referring to.

Senator SHELDON: All incidents.

Mr Napier : Happy to do so.

Senator SHELDON: That includes the previous question. So it's all incidents involving those particular matters that I raised.

Mr Napier : Certainly.

Senator SHELDON: And the same list of questions, five, which I gave under each heading. I gather that those ones that I've just asked will take a week for you to answer on notice?

Mr Napier : You're getting quite granular in the requests now. We will endeavour to have it by the end of the week, but we may need longer to ascertain it.

Senator SHELDON: The question regarding an investigation, which you have taken on notice, I understand, regarding the medical attention—was an investigation performed?

Mr Napier : I'll take that on notice.

Senator SHELDON: Was any breach identified?

Mr Napier : I'll take that on notice.

Senator SHELDON: Was regulatory action taken?

Mr Napier : I'll take that on notice.

Ms Weston : If you have a list there, if they're all along that similar line, we're happy to take those. Obviously, if you have another question, we're happy to take that.

Senator SHELDON: That was the last question regarding this. I might leave it at that. In relation to all of the above, did Comcare as a safety regulator raise any of the above with Comcare as a regulator of self-insurance licensees?

Mr Napier : The issue of self-insurance licences is managed by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission. I think that question is best directed to them.

Senator O'NEILL: Can I go to the very important matter of mental health, which I know is being prosecuted in the room adjacent to us here, having spent so much time in the Community Affairs Committee. The issue of mental health and wellbeing and awareness about mental health and wellbeing has changed the way we talk about what we expect to happen in the world around us, and particularly the intersection now between mental health in the workplace and psychosocial health and wellbeing. I, like you, am aware of changing claims that are being made to all of the insurance companies and that the way in which they are responding is varied. Some are not responding, while others are trying to be innovative. But it's absolutely an issue of pressing policy and health concern. I refer particularly to the fifth annual national statement identifying the trend in psychosocial health and safety and bullying in Australian workplaces, which Safe Work Australia published last week. Are you aware of that?

Ms Weston : Yes. I'm aware of the document. I haven't read it in full yet.

Senator O'NEILL: One of the stats in there is that workers compensation claims for bullying, harassment and mental stress rose between 2016 and 2018. Can you confirm that that's the case and your interaction with bullying and harassment workers compensation claims at this point of time?

Ms Weston : In a general sense, claims for psychological injury have been decreasing over that period for our scheme. Remember that our scheme is just one—there are the state schemes as well. In the last year it's plateaued somewhat. I understand—I think this is correct—that the state schemes have actually started to increase where we have plateaued. The number one cause of psychological injuries in the Comcare scheme is bullying and harassment. There is a significant amount of work being done in various areas looking at mental health surrounding people in the workplace, including Productivity Commission and Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance in a number of areas. I think you're right: there is an increased awareness, but there are still issues, as the Mental Health Commission and others would say, around stigma attached that. That is an area where we need to do some work.

Senator O'NEILL: Some advocates for further advances to overcome stigma are talking about it being discrimination against people. That's at the heart of this, isn't it, the stigma: there's discrimination?

Ms Weston : There are people who would have more expertise than me on that.

Senator O'NEILL: With regard the claims to you, you said that they have declined or stabilised?

Ms Weston : In answers to questions on notice last time I think we gave some figures across the scheme, which indicated in the premium payers, which are the Commonwealth departments as opposed to self-insured licensees, those psychological injury claims were 572 in 2017-18 and 502 in 2018-19. They're in answers to questions on notice. Prior to that it was reasonably stable as well. In this next year it may be a slight uptick, but largely it's stable as opposed to increasing. What we are finding is that some of the other claim fields—injury and disease—are dropping. So from the premium-payers' point of view, the bucket of claims that we see has proportionally more mental health issues.

Senator O'NEILL: Okay. That is quite helpful. Could I now go to the gender mix in terms of the 572 and the 502 claims.

Ms Weston : I am certainly very willing to take that on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: If you could provide as much detail about exactly what the claim was so that I can figure out whether it was a harassment claim, a bullying claim or a sexual harassment claim.

Ms Weston : We will see what codes we've got in that area.

Senator O'NEILL: I don't know what structures you've got to—

Ms Weston : I think there are some categories, and I'll do what I can.

Senator O'NEILL: To give me a global picture of what's really happening there.

Ms Weston : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: In the fifth national statement, which we were discussing earlier, it noted that women were twice as likely to be affected by workplace stress, harassment and bullying as well as exposure to occupational violence when compared to men.

Ms Weston : I did read an article in The Sydney Morning Herald in the last few days exactly on that topic.

Senator O'NEILL: Do you agree that that is indicative of the profile that you're seeing?

Ms Weston : I need to check that profile and see what it says, but I'm certainly very willing to provide that to you.

Senator O'NEILL: I'm assuming the national statement is carefully considered and it is correct. If that's the case and there is a particular gender flavour of an unpleasant kind in these statistics, how will that shape your response to that reality?

Ms Weston : In the mental health sphere, we're doing some work. We have a number of pilots working at the moment in mental health—for instance, a new access pilot which is based on the Beyond Blue program, a low-intensive cognitive behaviour therapy, which we have piloted with a couple of agencies. We are now expanding to do a much bigger pilot in the public sector.

Senator O'NEILL: Did you get some results from the initial pilot?

Ms Weston : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: What was the efficacy?

Ms Weston : We found that 78 per cent of people were able to recover. I have a colleague who might be able to give you more precision in the words, but they recovered. That did better than the community trials and the UK trials as well. That gives people who are eligible six sessions of coaching to help them better manage some of the issues they may be facing in anxiety and depression. We also have in pilot an early intervention program that allows people to access psychology, physiotherapy and general practitioner services quickly, or, if they really need help, they ring up and a nurse triages them through. If they really need help they are put through to triple 0 or are given some self-help. That's in pilot at the moment as well. That covers mental health as well as some physical and other injury situations.

We've got a project within the University of South Australia which is looking at lead indicators. It's using the psychosocial tool to say, 'What are the things happening in a workplace now that might give you an indication that there's likely to be an injury later?' This is really important, obviously, because you're much better off in the prevention space than in the post-injury space. We have some research elements, too, looking at areas of mental health and we are working on some strategies there. We've been working with the Productivity Commission and had a discussion with them just in the last fortnight about the new access program and the nurse triaging program.

We have been looking at trying to streamline and improve our processes for the management, particularly, of PTSD claims that come into us in Comcare. We've been sharing information with our jurisdiction through a community of practice. For instance, we've had a session—it's really well received—on civility in the workplace and some on mental health. In another group we share contemporary research in mental health to help our jurisdiction understand what the latest research is saying about mental health. For instance, things like giving someone a date to return give them something to work towards. Sometimes that's a very good indicator of how they are able to recover. We're part of The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, which is also working to respond to the Productivity Commission and has its own $12 million program initiative that the government has funded to try to bring together a lot of information that's happening in the mental health space to make it a bit easier for people, businesses and groups like our public-sector groups to access information that's out there, because there's a lot of information.

Senator O'NEILL: Yes, there is, and how do you triage that and put it in a place where people can trust it without people calling it fake news or diminishing its value?

Ms Weston : And so the National Mental Health Commission has been given funding that the mentally healthy alliance is working with them on to do exactly that: try to get better collation of that information.

Senator O'NEILL: We have to hope that next year, if I ask you the same question, we actually can track a decline. I have some concerns because the 2018 Boland review made a number of recommendations relating to this particular issue, namely, that a new work health safety regulation requiring duty holders to identify and control psychological hazards at work—like you said, the prevention—including sexual harassment and that notification triggers in WHS laws must capture psychological hazards, including sexual harassment. To the best of my knowledge, these recommendations, which seem really commonsense and absolutely preventative, have not been implemented. Is that the case? If so, why?

Ms Weston : I did have the benefit of hearing the Safe Work Australia advice on that. There is still the duty towards psychological injury that persons conducting a business or undertakings have to comply with. There is a process being gone through with the Marie Boland review that the department and Safe Work Australia are working on in terms of regulation impact statement processes, and ministers are considering that.

Senator Cash: To confirm: Safe Work Australia is the more appropriate place for these questions to go to?

Senator O'NEILL: We have asked some of these questions.

Senator Cash: Sorry; I wasn't here.

Senator O'NEILL: I'm just following up because Safe Work said that we should ask Comcare about these things.

Senator Cash: Sorry about that. Thank you.

Mr Hehir : As Ms Weston said and as Safe Work Australia said, the recommendations have only recently been finalised in terms of the regulatory impact statements that are required, and those matters are being put before ministers, so we anticipate that minister will be looking at those shortly.

Senator O'NEILL: Are you taking any particular steps, other than the ones you've already outlined, to address the issues of psychological injury in the workplace?

Mr Napier : There have been a number of steps from the regulatory perspective. Comcare put a submission to the model laws review and identified the issue that you've flagged, which is that the prescriptive nature of the notification provisions in the legislation doesn't automatically encourage the reporting to the regulator as a notifiable incident for mental stress issues in workplaces. We were supportive of a broadening of the definition there that would allow and require of the employer—the person conducting the business or undertaking—a reporting mechanism through to the regulator. We also monitor reports and the like, and if there are issues raised in relation to psychological risks in workplaces then we can proactively take action in response to those, so there's an ongoing program of us doing that. We've identified a number of what we call regulatory priorities, which are multiyear purposes of work. One of those relates specifically to organisational change and the impact on mental health. Our colleagues here could talk about other activities that we have underway through WHS forums, mental health communities of practice and a range of other activities whereby we're seeking to raise awareness of the importance of managing mental health effectively in workplaces.

Senator O'NEILL: At least it's clearly on the agenda, but, as a former teacher, the gap between the program and the policy and what actually gets delivered can be the divide between one side of the world and the other. It can be an enormous gap between intent and practical—

Ms Weston : Hence why we are actually piloting some things: to show on the ground what works and what doesn't and doing evaluation of those so we have further propagation based on evidence that something works.

Senator O'NEILL: And it works in this context where it might not work in other contexts either.

Ms Weston : Everything needs to be evaluated in some way or other because of exactly what you say: some things will work and some things won't.

Senator O'NEILL: I think it is moving to the term 'evidence informed' rather than 'evidence based' because the context and the sociological realities matters matter as well. Given the extensive lists of things that you've just put on the record in terms of determined attitudinal shifts around not putting up with harassment, not putting up with sexual abuse and intimidation and not accepting sexual harassment in the workplace, does it concern you that today we received evidence on the record regarding Deputy Fair Work Commissioner Boyce, to quote from David Marin-Guzman from the Fin Review, who has a good summary:

A senior member of the Fair Work Commission displayed "scantily clad" anime-style figurines in his office but later removed them after complaints from staff members, a Senate committee has heard.

… a "large number" of painted characters in his chambers and some were partially clothed women.

Mr Boyce, a former barrister who used to work for the Australian Mines and Metals Association, also allegedly installed secret surveillance cameras in his office but was later required to remove them.

These are scantily clad figurines, multiple—certainly more than 10 and perhaps up to 20—displayed in the workplace of the deputy fair work commissioner. That is of great concern to me. It's just an inappropriate workplace. What is your view of that action—which is now a matter of public record—by that individual, and what will happen to the people in the workplace who've been to that kind of inappropriate workplace where women have been made to feel profoundly uncomfortable?

Ms Weston : Today's the first we've heard of that. Obviously section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act says that a person conducting a business or undertaking has a duty of care for the health and safety, both physical and psychological, of workers there in the workplace.

Senator O'NEILL: Are you saying that the described behaviour by Deputy Commissioner Boyce is in breach of that?

Ms Weston : I'm not saying that, but we are able of our own motion to lodge a WHS concern, which does enable our inspectorate to look into these matters and do an assessment and monitoring, which could involve talking to people or working out what's happened. I have to check jurisdiction here at some stage but only because there are some exemptions. But nonetheless that could be done as part of the WHS concern.

I would note too that we do take matters of this nature seriously. For instance, as Chair of the Heads of Workers' Compensation Authorities, I out of session arranged for briefing by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins on her report and the proposed recommendations from her National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment In Australian Workplaces. Last October I arranged for an out-of-session briefing for the Heads of Workers' Compensation Authorities, and I'm pretty sure all of them attended from their offices. We do take the matter seriously. So we are able, as I said, in matters where we have noticed something either through the media or through other things raised to us, to lodge these as WHS concerns.

Senator O'NEILL: Given that I have raised it here with you, supported by evidence that we've received today, will you take that action?

Ms Weston : Yes, I intend to.

Senator O'NEILL: Thank you. Senator Cash, as the former Minister for Women, I'm sure that you might have some words to say about the behaviour of Fair Work Commission Deputy President Boyce.

Senator Cash: I note that it has been reported online. I was not aware of the allegations before I came to estimates tonight. I would adopt the words of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was previously at this table, in that any conduct in the workplace that demeans or disrespects women is completely unacceptable. But I also note that Senator Payne has said that she will seek advice from the relevant minister—the Attorney-General.

CHAIR: We have a letter from the TWU to Uber that Senator Sheldon would like to table. I think we're okay with it being tabled.

Senator O'NEILL: Yes.

CHAIR: Consider it tabled. Sorry to interrupt you, Senator O'Neill.

Senator O'NEILL: That's alright. I've only got a couple of questions to follow up with. Would you be able to provide the committee with an update on your action not only because I'm keen to see when it happens but to actually follow up on the process? How did you describe that action, Ms Weston? What was the formal process that you would undertake?

Ms Weston : A WHS concern.

Senator O'NEILL: What's the time line around such matters? How does that operate? Talk me through the process.

Mr Napier : We will appoint an inspector, and we will make inquiries. Some of these matters are more complex than others, so it's difficult to give you a time line on that, but we will move hastily in relation to this matter.

Senator O'NEILL: Have you ever had to investigate the Fair Work Commission prior to this?

Ms Weston : I don't have that information.

Senator O'NEILL: Could you take that on notice.

Ms Weston : Yes.

Mr Napier : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: Are there any workplace commission or supervisory statutory authorities that you have had to investigate for this kind of a breach of WHS standards?

Ms Weston : Similarly, I don't have that information with me.

Senator O'NEILL: Would you mind taking take that on notice and providing any—

Ms Weston : I will.

Senator O'NEILL: Well, providing not only an indication if such things exist but the details of such matters. One of the things that happens in workplaces where people are sometimes subject to a cultural practice—it's not just an individual; it can be the culture of a particular workplace—is advocacy by somebody coming in to support a person in their workplace, which can make a very big difference, or even just observing behaviours that have become normalised in an aberrant workplace. It is very important. Do you agree that unions can play a very important role in assisting people with serious workplace issues that go to the psychosocial dimensions of workplaces?

Mr Napier : I think the answer is: yes, they can play an important role. We actively engage with the unions both nationally and through our regional work, and we would encourage any issues that are of a nature that unions might be aware of to be brought to our attention.

Senator O'NEILL: Specifically, with regard to codes of practice, we have a number. Do we actually have codes of practice to deal with all the psychosocial hazards, including sexual harassment?

Mr Napier : That's a question that will be challenging to answer. There are codes. There is a Safe Work Australia guidance that was released, I believe, in 2018. So there is a lot of material out there. Sorry, was the question, 'Are there codes?'

Senator O'NEILL: Yes—do we have codes of practice to deal with all of the psychosocial hazards, including sexual harassment in the workplace?

Mr Napier : I'd have to take that on notice. It might be a question that Safe Work Australia—

Senator O'NEILL: Could assist—

Mr Napier : could respond to as well.

Senator SHELDON: There's some correspondence which you should have. This is correspondence which, as I understand, was sent to Uber and senior management earlier this week, and it deals with some important questions in regard to coronavirus. I'll say it in the context of Uber because the correspondence is addressed to that business, but there's a wider issue about contract labour and what recommendations, what codes of practice, what guides Safe Work is giving to employers.

In this correspondence from the Transport Workers Union's national secretary, Michael Kaine, he's pointed out to Uber his concerns about preparing to confront the coronavirus pandemic—the possibility and the likelihood—and the growing concerns in the community. He said:

Uber's services bring its workforce into close proximity with the general public thereby leaving them more exposed to this virus than the broader Australian community.

…   …   …

Firstly since Uber provides no sick leave workers cannot take time off without forgoing wages. Workers should not have to choose between going to work and risking infecting others and not going to work and not getting paid.

Secondly, as you are aware, a large proportion of these workers are visa-dependent non-residents, making them ineligible for Medicare. As such many will face significant out-of-pocket medical expenses should they fall ill … It is simply unfathomable that any Australian worker should avoid medical attention if they fall ill.

…   …   …

Under these circumstances, I am therefore asking that Uber immediately launch—

I'm skipping a number of comments here, but I'm grabbing the important elements—

a plan to provide sick leave and comprehensive, no-gap health cover for every member of its workforce. By launching this medical guarantee both your workforce and the broader Australian community can have confidence you are making a contribution to preventing the spread of Coronovirus.

The letter makes some recommendations for Uber to consider. I understand that Uber has failed to respond to this correspondence or to take up the recommendations. I draw your attention to that. You may want to make some comments.

My specific point is this: a large proportion of the workforce is contractors who do not have access to workers' compensation if they were to fall ill. There is clear academic evidence that people in precarious work such as contractors and casual employees are normally at a higher risk of injury at work. When you have the situation of coronavirus, where they aren't being told of their rights or have the capacity to exercise their rights, because of financial pressures, it means that they're more vulnerable than most workers. When you add to that dilemma the fact that many of these workers—in food delivery in particular, but also in rideshare—are visa dependent and non-residents and they also don't have access to Medicare, then the likelihood of those people being in a position to make an informed decision is limited and the capacity to make an appropriate decision is more challenging because of the financial pressure.

We've seen in both China and the US—China, of course, with the circumstances of the last number of weeks—that the usage of food delivery services has substantially expanded. There are figures ranging from over a 20 per cent increase in food delivery services—in the US, there are double-digit figures being quoted regardless of the circumstances that the US is in at the moment in comparison to China. Is there any advice on the codes of practice for food delivery workers, and more generally for gig workers, on what their rights are, what the obligations of their employers are? Has there been any communication with, in particular, these high-risk or at-risk industries such as gig economy employees, in particular food delivery and rideshare services?

Ms Weston : Sorry, Senator; I think you're covering workplace health and safety there, and I'm not sure whether you're in the compensation space. Our jurisdiction in both of those is limited. It would be fair to say we probably don't cover that scenario.

Senator Cash: That's the advice I have as well, Senator Sheldon. Uber is not covered under Comcare's jurisdiction. State and territory regulators are responsible.

Senator SHELDON: In the case of self-insured transport operations and parcel delivery operations—where there are contractors engaged and where there is some requirement to give a safe place of work—has there been any recommendations or proposals on how the coronavirus should be dealt with? There are a number of companies that are self-insured transport companies; they have a series of contracting companies, whether they be single-owner drivers or whether they be fleet owners. Has there been any communication, because those workers, parcel delivery workers, will also be, in my considered opinion, one of those high-risk industries because of regular contact with clients in their homes.

Mr Napier : We've not undertaken giving information to those organisations. We have today, however, released information in relation to the coronavirus and duties from both the WHS and workers' compensation perspective as it relates to the jurisdiction which we regulate or insure.

Senator SHELDON: Can you just explain to me how the advice has been communicated and in what languages.

Ms Weston : Senator, our jurisdiction, as I mentioned, is limited. It's limited to people employed by the Commonwealth and Commonwealth authorities under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act and for licensed corporations, which are big companies. And so, in that respect, the people who are receiving this information, which is on social media, it's up on our website and it's in a letter, are in a position where they are able to access that information.

Senator SHELDON: Has there been a request to have the information be multilingual?

Ms Weston : The people in our—

Senator SHELDON: I'm talking about your self-insured companies. You're sending information to them about what they should do about coronavirus.

Ms Weston : These are very large companies that can access it in English. Our jurisdiction doesn't cover the small ones. It's—

Senator Cash: I think that was the point.

Senator SHELDON: No, in the—sorry.

Senator Cash: Senator, I know exactly where you're going. Are the questions more appropriate, Secretary, to go to Safe Work Australia? I know that Senator Payne did take some on notice for you previously, Senator Sheldon. This is just to ensure that your questions are directed to the right agency.

Senator SHELDON: They have taken some questions on notice, but there is a question about the self-insurers who have a responsibility regarding—there are some responsibilities even with the self-insurers, as I understand it. I'll stand corrected. I don't mind you telling me—

Senator Cash: No, so the big companies are within the remit of Comcare.

Senator SHELDON: Those big companies have single-owner drivers working for them, and moving on and off their worksites. They would have fleet owners working for them, moving on and off their worksites, so they could employ a combination of self-employed and contractors.

Senator Cash: Now I understand where you're going with this.

Ms Weston : So I think—

CHAIR: Would you like to take it on notice if you're unsure? I'm not trying to coach the witness or anything like that, Senator Sheldon. I just don't know if they—

Senator Cash: Senator Sheldon's question is a very fair line of questioning.

Senator SHELDON: I'm happy to put it on notice, but I'll just make some comments. As a union official in my previous life I saw the work that was carried out during SARS and I saw some of the efficiencies and deficiencies of that program being rolled out. One of the things that becomes very clear in this circumstance, because of the nature of the contact and, certainly, the anxiety amongst the community—understandably—that it's incredibly important that we use every avenue that we can to notify both large employers and people working on their worksites about the ways of containing the coronavirus. I've asked three agencies—I'm making this very important point—about how that contact and appropriate action have been developed amongst their workforce, and I've yet to find an efficient agency that has dealt with it in a very detailed way. I don't mind saying, Minister, that I've yet to be notified, through those agencies that coordinate with state bodies, that there has been appropriate action taken in notifying people who are particularly vulnerable about how they're best to deal with these situations. I'm raising this as a matter of deep concern, and I know there is a great deal of anxiety. I'm also very mindful that, in the circumstances of coronavirus becoming more prevalent in Australia—we hope that doesn't happen—people need to be well prepared. These are cases where the frontline people are the ones who will be feeding the ones who will be staying at home.

Senator Cash: I think the evidence given by Ms Weston was that Comcare have published guidance about how coronavirus should be managed by employers, so that guidance is there. Perhaps it could be tabled for the committee to ensure that it is reflected properly on the Hansard record. Your further questions were going to be taken on notice to clarify exactly what is occurring.

Senator SHELDON: And what are the next steps that are going to occur.

Ms Weston : I might also add that both Mr Napier and I have access to the Heads of Workers Compensation Authorities and heads of safe work authorities. That is another avenue to make sure that we discuss that there are people other than the ones in our jurisdiction who will need to be aware of the small, medium and culturally and linguistically diverse groups in their communication campaigns.

CHAIR: Look at the time, it is just past a quarter to—

Senator Cash: Can I just also confirm for the record that the Fair Work Ombudsman, Safe Work Australia and Comcare have all got information on their websites about coronavirus.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister, for that additional information. There being no further questions for Comcare, you are released. Thank you very much, Ms Weston and senior officers, for coming along. I'd like to thank Mr Moraitis and Mr Hehir for coming along today—especially you, Mr Hehir, for dealing with all the questions this morning. The elements from the Attorney-General's Department that deal with IR: consider yourselves also released. We'll now move onto the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Small and Family Business Division, in particular small business matters.