The Hon. Rob Lucas MLC

The Hon

Rob Lucas MLC



Work Health and Safety Bill

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (16:39): At the outset, can I say on behalf of Liberal members in this chamber that I am sure all members in this chamber and all in the community are committed to worker safety. No member of parliament wants to see a family devastated in the way many families have been devastated over the years due to either death or serious injury. The differences lay in what is the best way of achieving appropriate occupational health and safety or work health and safety legislation.

I say at the outset that we reject completely those who seek to appropriate the moral high ground to themselves as being the custodians and the only people interested in worker safety in South Australia. They know who they are, and we reject completely that notion that in some way, because members adopt a different approach in terms of occupational health and safety, they are lesser beings, uninterested in worker safety.

On behalf of members, I thank Richard Dennis as parliamentary counsel. He has been mentioned by the Hon. John Darley. He has spent countless hours patiently working with us and I know all other members and obviously the government in the first instance.

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: He's been here longer than you, he tells me.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: He doesn't have as many grey hairs as I do, so he obviously does not worry as much. He has been patient and meticulous and has fairly worked through all the competing views. One can only imagine the challenges of drafting amendments for someone like the Hon. Russell Wortley and the Hon. Tammy Franks, and on the other hand drafting amendments for myself and the Hon. John Darley. It is a challenge and he certainly met that challenge all the way through.

This has been particularly challenging for him because on this occasion, unlike many others, he has through the various industry associations, received high-powered legal advice right through to the levels of Dick Whitington QC and various other prominent legal identities, putting their views, some which coincided and some which did not on occasions with parliamentary counsel's interpretation of the impact of various amendments.

Nevertheless, with good humour and with considerable capacity he has worked his way through that process, and everyone who worked with him, given that we came from every direction around the compass, were satisfied that he fairly reflected the views in the amendments we were seeking to move. There are many others to thank, but I will not take the time of the council this afternoon. I want to summarise our position in relation to this bill.

We reject completely the self-serving summary the Hon. Tammy Franks just gave on a number of issues in relation to matters that were raised over the last two or three days. We see this bill as a bad bill, even with the amendments, and as a full frontal assault on the subcontracting industry in South Australia. The Hon. Ann Bressington already highlighted evidence from within her extended family of the early impacts in Queensland, and we believe we will see the same impacts over the coming years (it will not happen straight away) as a result of court decisions here in South Australia.

As I indicated in the second reading, there were varying estimates about the impact on costs of housing in particular and on jobs in the community. At one end you had the consultants employed by the industry associations, who I repeat have also been employed by the government on a number of their own projects and who estimated significant increases in costs. On the other hand, we had the minister, who said there would be no increase in costs at all or insignificant increase in costs in relation to housing.

As I said in the second reading, my estimation of this is that there will be a significant increase in costs. It will certainly not be insignificant in relation to what the minister has claimed, but it will probably be, as they always are, somewhere in between what the minister said, which was nothing or insignificant, and the level estimated by the consultants employed by the industry. When one looks the codes of practice, the regulations and the legislation, there is no doubt there will be cost impacts.

These are issues this house has to address as well. Worker safety is important, but jobs in South Australia will be important and the costs for first home owners will also be important as more and more young South Australian families struggle to purchase their first home. It is too easily dismissed by the government and its cheer-chasing supporters to forget the challenges confronted by struggling South Australian families as they seek to purchase their first home. There is no doubt we will also see a significant increase in union power in South Australia. That will be welcomed by the government; it is certainly not something the opposition would welcome.

There will also be a very significant impact on small businesses in South Australia. We saw again a further example of that yesterday where the previous special position of small businesses in South Australia in relation to training costs for health and safety representatives has been ripped away by the government and their supporters in this bill. Contrary to what the minister said last night that no-one had ever protested about this, as I highlighted earlier today, the MBA indicated that that particular statement was not true, that the MBA had opposed these particular changes in relation to the costs of training for small businesses in South Australia.

It is easy to dismiss, as the Hon. Tammy Franks has sought to do today, the genuine concerns of people in relation to what they hear from SafeWork SA in relation to the issue of mums and dads becoming PCBUs, as the minister has conceded in this chamber, under the legislation and the requirements that they will have in terms of ordinary functions such as employing a nanny. Let me say to the Hon. Tammy Franks, long before she experienced the joys of employing a nanny to have assistance in raising a family, my wife and I had been through that experience and road and, perhaps unlike the Hon. Tammy Franks, we did not go down the agency path that the Hon. Tammy Franks outlined.

There would be many South Australian families who would have adopted the alternative approach to the one that the Hon. Tammy Franks has outlined she had adopted in relation to the use of an agency for these issues. In many cases they are arrangements entered into with families or they are arrangements entered into through word of mouth through the recommendation of friends and acquaintances of people who have successfully conducted the enterprise or business of being a nanny or a babysitter for children. I reject completely the Hon. Tammy Franks's suggestions in relation to that.

This issue was raised by Marie Boland on FIVEaa, not an issue first raised by the Liberal Party. It was raised when the minister and that officer were answering questions on talkback on FIVEaa. Just because people on talkback raise issues, we certainly do not accept the view of the Hon. Tammy Franks that this is an example of the polemic nature of the debate because someone genuinely raises an issue with the minister and with the SafeWork SA officer and that in some way that is inappropriate or outrageous or a beat-up. These are the genuine concerns of real people out there in the community and I advise the Hon. Tammy Franks on occasions to listen to some of them.

As I said, we reject completely the self-serving contribution of the Hon. Tammy Franks in relation to that particular issue. Similarly we reject completely the inferences she gave in relation to the issue of people who work from home and the Telstra case. Some of the quotes that she attributed to me were quotes that I took from prominent national legal firms Freehills, Allens Arthur Robinson and a number of other prominent national occupational health and safety consultants. Some of the quotes she attributed to me were me quoting from the advice that people more expert in the legislation let me assure you than I am, or indeed in my humble opinion the Hon. Tammy Franks is, in relation to these particular issues.

These are the people who will be arguing the cases, who are already arguing the cases in the Eastern States, in relation to these issues, and they are the ones who are advising people in relation to employers that if you do have someone working from home, you will have to ensure that you have an occupational health and safety audit either conducted by a consultant or conducted by a employee of your company or you have the employee who is working from home in relation to a checklist of occupational health and safety issues.

There are new elements in this, which will be, as we have discussed before and I will not repeat now, the persons conducting a business or undertaking (the PCBUs as they are). As we have said over the past two days, the full implications of the legislation will not become apparent for a number of years. It will be five and 10 years down the track as courts, tribunals and other judicial bodies make judgements in relation to appeals and decisions that will ultimately determine the full implications of the legislation before us today.

It will be in that period of time when we will be able to look back and make a judgement about who was right in relation to this particular legislation, those who raised the concerns or those who sought to reject those concerns as scaremongering by people unconcerned about the safety of workers in South Australia. With that, the Liberal Party's position is that this, even with the amendments, remains a bad bill and we will be opposing it at the third reading.

The council divided on the third reading:

AYES (9)

Darley, J.A.
Finnigan, B.V.
Franks, T.A.

Gago, G.E.
Hunter, I.K.
Kandelaars, G.A.

Maher, K.J.
Parnell, M.
Wortley, R.P. (teller)

NOES (8)

Brokenshire, R.L.
Dawkins, J.S.L.
Hood, D.G.E.

Lensink, J.M.A.
Lucas, R.I. (teller)
Ridgway, D.W.

Stephens, T.J.
Wade, S.G.


Vincent, K.L.
Lee, J.S.

Zollo, C.
Bressington, A.

Majority of 1 for the ayes.

Third reading thus passed.

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