Occupational Health and Safety Legislation
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the Minister advise the House why he has failed to introduce his promised occupational health and safety legislation, which would have increased the duty of care for workers with regard to their own safety, and which he released as a draft bill in May this year? Is it because of pressure by New South Wales unions?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The honourable member has referred to the statutory review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, on which I have reported to the House on a number of occasions. That review is effectively now complete. As the honourable member indicated, a draft bill has been circulated and is subject to further comment and review. As late as last week I was with the hardworking member for Wollongong, the Hon. Noreen Hay—are members in the other place still referred to as "honourable"? Last week I was with Noreen Hay, who is an honourable lady, at a meeting of the Illawarra Chamber of Commerce.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: Only Ministers are referred to as "honourable", as I understand.
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I thank Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for his sensible interjection, which is unlike interjections from members of the Opposition. The honourable member for Wollongong and I had extensive consultations with Australian Business Limited and the Illawarra Chamber of Commerce about these matters. As the Hon. Rick Colless knows, a significant range of matters are under review. The essential effect of those changes is to re-energise the culture of WorkCover and New South Wales occupational health and safety, which has produced the most successful results in 18 years. We have the lowest fatality rates, the lowest incident rates and the lowest injury rates.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: Where's the legislation?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should not worry about that. We will talk about the legislation when it is time to talk about the legislation. The point I make is that the draft bill that is currently the subject of consultation not only deals with a range of complex matters; it is also about an overall change of culture in the WorkCover organisation, supported by both employees and employers. What I worry about—and this is of great concern to all Government members and I would think most members on the crossbenches—is that members of the Opposition are pandering to the lowest common denominator in this debate. They are not interested in capitalising on the fantastic occupational health and safety results in New South Wales—the best occupational health and safety results in 18 years. New South Wales has the best occupational health and safety framework in the Commonwealth and probably one of the best in the world.
Members opposite are not interested in that; they are interested in the cheapest common denominator. None of the business organisations and people I have spoken to supports the cheap populist view that a lowering of occupational health and safety standards should be an outcome of this review. That is what the clowns opposite want. They want more people to die on the job. Members opposite should learn some basic responsibility in these important debates. There is a serious argument to be had about the best possible occupational health and safety framework. The legislation will be in this Chamber and/or in the other place when we have finished consultations, when we have concluded the review, and when we have the best possible occupational health and safety framework.