Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (18:05): I would like to speak in favour of this motion for a short and sharp inquiry into a very specific part of this omnibus bill, being the extension of presumptive rights to mechanics and those that work in workshops. I do not think any of us oppose the notion of workers having presumptive rights. We want to protect all workers, and to a large extent this bill goes to so many of those protections and expanding those protections, as we have heard this evening. I would like to just take this quick opportunity to thank all of those people who have worked to protect us for so long.
But the path to the presumptive legislation that we have now was a really long and arduous one. It took decades of firefighters fighting for this, collecting the evidence and presenting to numerous parliaments around not only this country but internationally. Firefighters watched their colleagues die of brain cancer, they watched their colleagues die of other forms of cancer and they kept trying to fight for presumptive rights. They were knocked back, knocked back and knocked back, and finally the evidence was enough and they were able to prove that without doubt they deserved presumptive rights for a range of cancers. This was a really difficult, difficult campaign, but the science won and the evidence won, and now we have presumptive rights legislation.
I think it is reasonable to consider this quite sudden move to extend the firefighters presumptive rights to mechanics and workshop personnel. We are not asking for anything long, but we are asking for a short inquiry, as Dr Ratnam says, to look at the impact that this may have on the existing presumptive rights. Because I know: I look around this chamber—many of us spent many hours, days, in this chamber debating presumptive rights and the right for firefighters to have them because the evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that they deserved it. Right now I have not seen any evidence, but that is not to say that we cannot offer a scheme for other workers that do come across the same carcinogenic chemicals that our firefighters do. But I want to see an inquiry to ensure that this does not impact on the existing scheme and to ensure that this is the most appropriate mechanism to protect those other workers who put themselves at risk and who do come into contact with asbestos and with other dangerous chemicals.
I think this is a very reasonable thing to do in this case. Considering how long it took us to get presumptive rights for firefighters, I do not think another few weeks to consider the impact of this bill on those existing rights is unreasonable, and I would urge people to support this motion.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Workplace Safety Legislation and Other Matters Amendment Bill 2021 | Amendment by Dr Ratnam 8/3/22