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Monday, 5 March 1984
Page: 358

Senator REYNOLDS —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that the Queensland Government is apparently planning to disregard occupational safety priorities by its reduction of three-man crews on a number of the State's coal and freight trains as from today? Given the Federal Government's commitment to upgrade occupational health and safety by implementing a national strategy in close co-operation with all States and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, could the Minister suggest what steps the Federal Government could initiate to ensure that such issues are fully assessed to consider adequately the occupational safety implications of such a decision?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Reynolds gave me brief notification of the question and I have received some advice from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. First, let me say that I am not aware of what the Queensland Government is planning in this regard, although I understand there have been newspaper reports of it. The Federal Government is committed to upgrading the occupational health and safety arena-if I can put it in those terms-in this country. We instituted the National Consultative Committee on Occupational Health and Safety for that purpose. It was set up to examine problems of the kind which Senator Reynolds has raised. I make the point that it is considered that, as a body, it will exchange information and try to arrive at some uniform approach to these questions throughout Australia. It is certainly not appropriate to discuss this particular matter in the Senate today. We hope that the Committee will look at those problems in the course of time. Certainly, I do not want to get involved in a discussion about a purported action of the Queensland Government which may or may not be relevant to these procedures.