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Work related fatalities

Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia) (9.37 am)—I move: That the Senate—

(a) recognises that there were more than 150 work-related fatalities in Australia in 2008-09, an increase of 14 per cent over the previous year;
(b)    acknowledges the right of all workers to a safe and healthy workplace;
(c)    notes that the Government is planning to harmonise occupational health and safety laws across the nation; and
(d)    calls on the Government to ensure that the harmonised occupational health and safety laws will not reduce standards of occupational health and safety in any workplaces or weaken the rights of employees and their representatives with respect to occupational health and safety regulation.

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania) (9.37 am)—I seek leave to make a short statement on behalf of the coalition.

The PRESIDENT—Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator ABETZ—The coalition supports the principle and thrust of the motion but, as is so often the case, with innocuous-sounding Green motions there is a sting in the tail. The tail here is the last words of the motion, which refer to the full maintenance of union powers on occupational health and safety. Those of us who have in recent times read the High Court case of Kirk, which deals with that situation in New South Wales, and those of us who have read the Federal Court decisions in relation to prosecutions undertaken by the Australian Building and Construction Commission know that those full powers are, from time to time, not used in the way that would be appropriate. In those circumstances the coalition will be opposing on the voices but are not seeking to divide.

Question agreed to.

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