I am also pleased to make a contribution to debate on the Labour and Industry
(Repeal) Bill 2008. This bill actually gives effect to an election commitment by
this government to reduce the regulatory burden, by reviewing legislation and
repealing any act or regulation that is assessed as being redundant. As part of
this commitment, in 2007 the government asked the Victorian Competition and
Efficiency Commission to review the Labour and Industry Act, known as the LI
The VCEC found that the act was in effect redundant on two
grounds — firstly, it sought to regulate matters that were already regulated in
other Victorian and commonwealth acts and regulations; secondly, no enforcement
mechanisms were contained in the act.
The VCEC also concluded that if the Labour and Industry Act
were to be enforced, such enforcement would impose a regulatory burden on
In respect of its final report of June 2007 the VCEC conducted
a thorough and extensive review. It took into account the views of employee
organisations and industry and employer associations, as well as the relevant
The Labour and Industry Act 1958 was Victoria’s primary source
of workplace regulation when it was first enacted. Among other things, it played
an important role in regulating the working conditions, wages and occupational
health and safety of our workplaces. However, over time it has been
significantly amended, and many of its original functions have now been replaced
by other legislative tools.
The original act contained 207 sections when it was passed in
1958, of which 35 or approximately 17 per cent remain. The purpose of the review
was to determine whether repealing the act would place an undue burden on any
sections of the community or prevent the achievement of the Victorian
government’s policy objectives.
Although reviews such as this might seem quite straightforward,
the amount of work is substantial, because it is necessary to ensure there will
be no unintended consequences as a result of legislation being repealed. In this
case the commission undertook a comprehensive exercise. As I said, it took
submissions from industry participants, it looked at previous inquiries and
reports and at government responses to those inquiries and reports, it
researched relevant journals and academic resources, searched legislation and of
course searched Hansard as well.
I found it quite interesting that the genesis of the current
act of 1958 can be found in the Factories and Shops Act 1885. That was enacted
following a royal commission on employees and shops conducted in 1882. The
original act was actually designed to improve the conditions of a number of what
were then called ‘sweated trades’. However, over time the coverage and
importance of the act increased as it came to regulate a wider range of matters
and more workers.
We then had a series of reviews of the act, through the 1970s
and 1980s, and as I previously mentioned, certain aspects of them evolved into a
number of new acts. Four of these instantaneously come to mind: firstly, of
course, the Industrial Relations Act 1979 and also the Industrial Safety, Health
and Welfare Act 1981; the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985; and the
Accident Compensation Act 1985.
There were two further important reviews in the early 1980s,
mainly related to shop trading hours in Victoria. The Shop Trading Act 1987 was
subsequently enacted and the provisions of the Labour and Industry Act relating
to shop trading hours were repealed. That act had its heyday at the beginning of
last century, and then through the 1970s and 1980s it was written off into a
whole range of other acts.
The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission found that
all substantive provisions of the current act are redundant in the sense that
they are either no longer enforced or they are replicated by other legislation.
The government has accepted the recommendation of the VCEC, and that is why we
have the bill before us this evening.
This is a straightforward response to the VCEC’s inquiry, which
deserves our support.
It is another commitment to ensuring that we have reduced
burdens and regulatory overhangs through the way we administer our acts as well
as our businesses. I commend the Labour and Industry (Repeal) Bill to the house.