Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023


National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry Bill 2023, National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2023; Second Reading

5:54 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—


I am pleased to introduce the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry Bill 2023.

This Bill delivers on the recommendation of the National Dust Disease Taskforce to establish a National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry, in response to the increase in silicosis in stonemasons working on engineered stone benchtops.

Silicosis is an irreversible lung disease that can only be caused by workers' exposure to silica dust. Health screening conducted by some jurisdictions in recent years indicates that nearly one in four engineered stone workers who have been in the industry since before 2018 are suffering from silicosis or other silica dust related diseases. These are entirely preventable conditions.

This Bill establishes the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry to capture information on respiratory diseases believed to have been occupationally caused or exacerbated. The National Registry will also capture associated respiratory disease causing agents that led to the disease.

The National Registry will capture and share data, where appropriate, on:

        This information will aid in detecting new and emerging threats to workers' respiratory health, inform incidence trends, help inform actions to be taken to reduce further worker exposure, support research into occupational respiratory diseases, and assist in targeting and monitoring the effectiveness of interventions and prevention strategies.

        The Bill will require medical specialists in the fields of respiratory and sleep medicine and occupational and environmental medicine who diagnose certain occupational respiratory diseases to notify the diagnosis, patient, and exposure details, to the National Registry via an online portal.

        The Bill provides the Minister for Health with the power to make Rules prescribing which occupational respiratory diseases require notification. Consistent with the recommendations of the National Dust Disease Taskforce, initially only silicosis will be prescribed. However this power—which would require further consultation before it can be exercised—will ensure the National Registry can respond to a new threat to workers' respiratory health should they arise in the future.

        The Bill will also allow respiratory and occupational physicians to notify the National Registry of information about an individual who has been diagnosed with a non-prescribed occupational respiratory disease, where that individual provides consent.

        The Bill provides for two categories of information to be notified to the National Registry: the minimum notification information, and additional notification information. The minimum notification information is information that needs to be supplied to notify an occupational respiratory disease to the National Registry. This includes information identifying the individual with a diagnosed occupational respiratory disease, the respiratory disease, and details on the exposure including the last and main exposures.

        The additional notification information is information that can be supplied where the individual has provided consent. This may include relevant medical test results, demographic and lifestyle information such as their smoking history and employment status, and details of each job where the individual believes that they had an exposure to a respiratory disease-causing agent.

        The Bill will enable the disclosure of notifications about an individual made to the National Registry, including to:

              The disclosure to state and territory health agencies and work health and safety agencies will increase awareness of the prevalence of occupational respiratory diseases in the state or territory and will enable actions to be taken to reduce further worker exposure to those diseases.

              The Bill does not exclude or limit the operation of any state or territory laws requiring the reporting or disclosure of information concerning occupational respiratory diseases.

              As Queensland and New South Wales have existing registers that require the mandatory reporting of some occupational respiratory diseases by physicians, the Bill allows for states with such registers to provide in their state legislation that the notification of these diseases will occur through the National Registry so that there is no need for a physician in those states to notify twice: once nationally, and once again to a state register.

              The Bill complements other work underway by the government to address silicosis, including:

                          As announced by my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, all jurisdictions have agreed to further reforms of Australia's model work health and safety laws to ensure they protect Australian workers. This will include stronger regulation of high-risk crystalline silica processes as well as other changes to further educate and protect workers in workplaces where exposure to silica dusts and other agents that may cause respiratory disease may exist. Ministers have also tasked Safe Work Australia with developing further advice on a ban on the use of engineered stone products in Australia.

                          This Bill demonstrates the government's commitment to understanding and improving the occupational respiratory health of workers.


                          I am pleased to introduce the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2023.

                          This Bill deals with consequential matters arising from the enactment of the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry Bill 2023, known as the NORDR Bill.

                          The Bill will amend Schedule 3 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, known as the FOI Act. This amendment will add the offence of unauthorised disclosure of protected information contained in the NORDR Bill to the list of secrecy provisions recognised for the purposes of subsection 38(1) of the FOI Act.

                          Protected information for the purposes of the NORDR Bill includes personal information, workplace identifying information or information that is commercial in confidence in the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry, or derived from personal information in the National Registry.

                          The amendment to the FOI Act will ensure that information protected by the secrecy provision in section 23 of the NORDR Bill will be exempt from disclosure under section 38 of the FOI Act. This will protect against unnecessary intrusions on an individual's privacy or commercial interests by ensuring that protected information is unconditionally exempt from disclosure due to the operation of section 38 of the FOI Act, in response to an FOI request.

                          Debate adjourned.