House debates

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015; Second Reading

4:54 pm

Photo of Luke HartsuykerLuke Hartsuyker (Cowper, National Party, Assistant Minister for Employment) Share this | | Hansard source

As I was saying before the adjournment, before the Aucote decision the Seacare scheme was understood to apply to around 330 ships. Following the decision, the Seacare scheme could cover as many as 11,000 ships or perhaps more. Whereas the Commonwealth was responsible for regulating workers compensation and work health and safety for a small proportion of the maritime industry before the decision, it now has responsibility for the vast majority of the industry. This represents a massive cost shift from the states to the Commonwealth. The bill therefore seeks to restore the balance of Commonwealth and state coverage of workers compensation and work health and safety for seafarers that has existed since 1911. To effectively achieve this, the bill applies retrospectively to any injury, loss or damage suffered by any employee on or after the commencement of the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act in 1993. Past claims will not be disturbed.

This approach ensures that there is certainty as to what a seafarer's appropriate workers compensation rights are and have been. The bill does not seek to change what has been believed to be the workers compensation entitlements and work health and safety protections of seafarers. Let me make it clear: it is not about interfering with the ability of seafarers to make a workers compensation claim or to receive workers compensation entitlements. This bill is about providing certainty and ensuring seafarers have proper protections in the short term to deal with the Federal Court decision.

More broadly, governments over an extended period have not brought forward reform in this space. The government is giving urgent but careful consideration to the recommendations of the Stewart-Crompton review of the Seacare scheme, including those to clarify the coverage of the scheme or delink the scheme from the Navigation Act. The government will consult with all industry participants on the nature of the reforms ahead of the introduction of any legislation.

It is important that we have a strong and effective Seacare scheme and the government will seek to bring forward legislation later this year to achieve this aim. With the passage of this bill, seafarers will have the workers compensation rights and work health and safety protections that they were widely understood to have had prior to the handing down of the Federal Court's Aucote decision. It is imperative that certainty is restored to the maritime industry, a vital part of the Australian economy. I commend the bill to the House.

4:57 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

For the benefit of the House, the opposition remain opposed to this legislation. We want to see the legislation fixed and believe there are some opportunities to do that in the other place. Because of events that will occur in the other place very soon—that is, Senator Lundy's final speech—we will not be calling a division on the second reading, but we do want to indicate to the government we think the legislation is unsatisfactory at this stage and reaffirm that that is our position.

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that this bill be now read a second time.

Bill read a second time.