The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (16:51): On behalf of the Liberal Party, I move:
That the codes of practice under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, made on 20 December 2012 and laid on the table of this council on 19 February 2013, viz Construction Work Code of Practice, Preventing Falls in Housing Construction Code of Practice, and Safe Design of Structures Code of Practice, be disallowed.
My colleague the member for Davenport has carriage of this issue within the Liberal Party and the party has agreed to the proposed action outlined in the motion. As members would be aware, during the detailed debate of the work health and safety legislation, one of the key aspects was concerns being raised by many stakeholders, industry groups and members of parliament about the proposed codes of practice.
I think the minister finally conceded that there were up to 40 of these codes and, as the stakeholders indicated, they accounted for some hundreds of pages of requirements on industry. The government’s preferred position was that all of these codes of practice could just be imposed on industry as long as the minister and his advisers agreed. That was seen to be a deeply flawed position and this parliament in its good sense required that the parliament have some say or some opportunity that if the minister decided to impose unreasonable requirements upon industry and stakeholders in South Australia and, if the parliament felt strongly about that, then the parliament could (as it does with regulations) disallow the codes of practice. There are also other amendments which are related to some codes of practice going to the Small Business Commissioner as well.
Therefore, this is the end result of that very wise decision taken by the parliament in relation to the codes of practice because now that industry has seen some of these codes, they believe that some clear commitments that were given to industry in relation to these negotiations and some clear commitments that were given to members of parliament in relation to these negotiations see the minister and the government trying to sneak through the back door significant changes to what had been promised and committed. So, for those reasons, we are seeking to have these particular codes of practice disallowed.
If the parliament disallows them, the wish of this parliament would be that the minister then engages (and SafeWork SA engages) in sensible negotiation with industry groups that are impacted by this particular code (or codes) and hopefully makes appropriate amendments to the codes, and they can then be reintroduced. Of course, if that does not happen, then the parliament still has the capacity to disallow those codes on a subsequent occasion as well. The Housing Industry Association on the 19 February this year wrote to the member for Davenport and indicated they had pointed out to the government the severe impact which these three codes, in particular, would have on housing affordability and the viability to the residential housing industry in the state.
Since that date, which was 19 February 2013, they have not received a positive response from the government and accordingly they drew these matters to the attention of the member for Davenport and indicated they would also raise the issues with other members of parliament as well. I propose to place on the record the detail provided to the member for Davenport in a memo written by the Housing Industry Association on 19 March 2013 as to their concerns about these particular codes:
Fall from Heights Codes. Regulation 291 talks about high risk work and speaks of the requirements when a worker is engaged in high risk work. One of the categories that falls under regulation 291 is work above two metres. That immediately triggers the requirements of the regulation which are to prepare a SafeWork Method Statement. SafeWork SA has conceded that this requirement should go to three metres. HIA agrees with this. The difficulty is that this still leaves intact and unaltered the requirements of the Fall from Heights Code which in many places refers to requirements where the work is above two metres. Attached is a summary of the sections in the Fall from Heights Codes which references the two metres requirements which in turn will mean full scaffolding for single storey residential work and full edge protection for residential single storey work.
I note I do not intend to read all of those particular references to the codes in the provisions, but they are available. I think members have got them. They further state:
SafeWork SA is maintaining that the agreement to insert three metres does not apply to the Fall from Heights Code. In effect, this means that the concession would be meaningless as it would only require us not to do a SafeWork Method Statement until we reach three metres, but leave all of the other obligations intact.
I note that is directly contrary to the understanding of stakeholders and to some members of parliament—
The Hon. A. Bressington: And the minister.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —of the commitment that the minister at the time, on behalf of the government, gave in relation to this issue. As I have always said, I never trust this government, I certainly never trust the individual ministers and I think this is just proof positive of why you cannot trust this government, you cannot trust ministers and former ministers, like the Hon. Mr Wortley, in relation to commitments that they gave on this issue.
The Hon. A. Bressington: On the radio, publicly.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Well, it is not just on the radio and publicly but in this house, more importantly, in relation to these issues. That is why these codes must be disallowed. The second one is the design code and I quote from the HIA memorandum:
This Code creates difficulties for residential construction when read with regulation 294 and 295. The requirement is that the designer will have to state in the design how the premises will be constructed so as to eliminate health and safety risks and give to the person who commissioned the design (the owner in many cases) a written report that specifies the hazards relating to the design of the structure so that this person is aware of the risks in construction, maintenance and demolition. While this is entirely appropriate for high rise construction, it is by far ‘over-kill’ where the person commissioning the project is a ‘mum and dad’, the structure is single storey and the vast majority of construction projects are of an exact similar nature. The process is likely to add $2,000 plus to the cost of the home. Previously to the National Code, South Australia had agreed to exempt Class 1 and Class 10 buildings from design obligations. This exemption does not appear in the National Code.
Clearly, the HIA’s argument is that not only does it not appear in the National Code but it does not appear in the code that we are being asked to approve here in South Australia as well. Then, finally, the construction code and I quote from the HIA memo:
No other State has adopted this Code as it is entirely inappropriate for residential construction. Some of the issues about the Code are that it assumes a large construction site with a static workforce. It does not deal with a situation where there are multiple PCBUs on site, but where there is one controlling Construction Manager.
The issues are-:
·That the language is very legalistic and not suited for individual trades;
·The definition of when a construction project ends is not clear;
·Minor work is not defined but is referenced;
·The Code requires significant amenities to be on site e.g. hot and cold water washing facilities, more than one toilet, toilets with air locks, dining room facilities. All of which are OK for commercial sites but inappropriate for housing sites;
·It requires a register of persons onto site each day, display of evacuation procedures, emergency lighting and directional signs, exit routes to be identified. Again all relevant to a commercial site but not a residential site;
·There is a requirement for a WHS Management Plan but with no templates included;
·Refers to workplace induction for individual sites, tool box talks and risk assessment processes. All inappropriate for residential construction;
·Has extensive revisions for consultation of workers and requirements for informing workers of the Construction Safety Plan.
The language is designed for a large construction site where there is a Safety Management Team on site at all times with the knowledge and training of safety management rather than for ordinary tradespeople and there are no practical examples for residential construction of how to comply with the obligations.
That is the end of the memo. There is a very long attachment to it and I am not going to read that onto the public record. Again, members of the government and I am sure Independent and minor party members have been provided with that, and if they have not, they can get a copy of those attachments from the HIA.
The point that is being made is that what might be required and sensible for a large commercial construction site makes little sense, in many cases—not in all, but in many cases—in relation to an individual residential site in the suburbs of Adelaide. Some of the big builders in South Australia have template building projects in terms of their processes and projects in up to 300 or 400 sites across metropolitan Adelaide.
Clearly, there is not on all occasions an overall construction manager on site at all times on those sites. On a particular occasion, a plumber might be coming in the next day or two to do his or her job, and then the day after the carpenter might be coming in. Each of the individual trades, the brickies and others, will probably be there at varying stages, but you do not have a permanent on-site construction manager managing the whole project on each one of those individual 400 residential building sites throughout metropolitan Adelaide at any one time.
What the HIA have argued all along in relation to this is that there needs to be sensible consideration of the differences in terms of the construction industry. With large-scale commercial building projects—the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site, the Adelaide Oval site—clearly there are much more onerous, rigorous work health and safety requirements in relation to the practices on those sites. On individual residential building sites, clearly you still need to look after the work health and safety requirements, but they are different work health and safety requirements on those individual suburban worksites for residential construction.
They are the issues that the HIA have raised; they say they have run into a brick wall with SafeWork SA—it is like speaking to a brick wall. You put the issues to SafeWork SA, and, I think as a number of members in this chamber know from various parliamentary inquiries in which we have been engaged, that is not surprising. As members of parliament, we run into a brick wall with SafeWork SA on many occasions in terms of trying to get simple answers to simple questions. So you can imagine what it would be like if you are an individual builder trying to get some common sense in relation to the implementation of some of these requirements.
For those reasons, on behalf of the Liberal Party, I urge members to give this motion appropriate consideration and hopefully to support it.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. Carmel Zollo.