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Tuesday, 30 April 1957

Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -

1.   Did the Labour Advisory Committee established by his department find that much of the lost time caused by industrial accidents was avoidable?

2.   Has he stated that, on a conservative estimate, four to five times more time was lost to industry as a result of industrial accidents than, by disputes leading to stoppages of work, and that if as much time was devoted to preventing, accidents as in the discussion of industrial disputes, there probably would be a lot less industrial accidents and fewer disputes as well?

3.   If so, has the Government any plan designed, to reduce the number of industrial accidents and the consequent loss of labour power, and when, will the details be made known?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   The Ministry of Labour Advisory Council which I established does hold the view that much of the lost time caused by industrial accidents is avoidable.

2.   Yes.

3.   In answers to earlier questions in relation to industrial safety asked in this House upon notice, I have described in some detail the considerable efforts which are already being made in this country to reduce industrial accidents, and the interest of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, and the activities of my own department in this field. Though still greater efforts are needed, this is not a field in which the Government can plunge ahead with its own plans and hope for the best. The Commonwealth's role is constitutionally limited. Its function is to give leadership and to stimulate. Maximum results will only be achieved if there is active co-operation among the many interests concerned in industrial safety activities. With the backing of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, my own department has been most active in its collaboration with State agencies and voluntary bodies in preparing the groundwork which would make possible a widespread national campaign to reduce industrial accidents. As has been indicated, some agencies are much better equipped to promote an industrial safety drive than others. There is, moreover, a regrettable lack of really reliable information on industrial accidents and much effort, involving Commonwealth and State Statisticians, workers' compensation authorities, State Labour Departments and my own department, is being devoted to remedying this position. The delay in launching a national safety campaign is not for lack of a plan. It would defeat our purpose if one were launched and failed for lack of appropriate preparation. Valuable preparatory work is currently proceeding on a broad front - in individual undertakings, in the trade unions, in professional bodies, and in the various Commonwealth and State departments concerned.

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