Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:25): I rise, too, to support the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) (Alcohol and Drug Offences) Amendment Bill. It is not very often that I am in agreement with the member for West Torrens.
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: That's not true. We have been on the same side for a while now.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Mr PEDERICK: Well, yes, we were side by side a couple of weeks ago in this place—
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: We were.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Mr PEDERICK: —at 1.30 in the morning and a couple of weeks before that as well. It is fascinating, sometimes, what happens in this place. This is important legislation, as outlined by the member for West Torrens and the member for Elizabeth. I actually acknowledge his commentary on medicinal cannabis because I am certainly a supporter of medicinal cannabis. I would like to see, as testing is rolled out, that we do not have any inadvertent outcomes.
There is talk of manufacturing plants around the state getting going under a very controlled framework, and, of course, it can be very beneficial to people. But you can have problems with testing, and I heard of one recently where there was false positive to methamphetamine, and that caused a young lad quite a bit of distress. It got sorted through—
Mr Odenwalder: It was human error.
Mr PEDERICK: Well, it can happen. Yes, humans are involved. But it can obviously be distressing for a range of reasons, and for a young person, a teenager or young adult, it can obviously have job-threatening circumstances, as drink-driving does. Certainly, in the role of safety at work, things have moved in leaps and bounds. Most of my life, I have been either self-employed or worked as a shearer, but I spent some of my time in the Cooper Basin for a couple of years in the early eighties, and let me just say that things were a little bit more cavalier than they are now.
We had some interesting times. I was earthmoving for 12 months. What I will say is that the actual oil rig companies took the lead, even back then and earlier than that. Obviously, working on the floor of a rig is very dangerous work. I was happy to see it live one day when I had to call in at an oil rig out near Tirrawarra out from Moomba—and you would not be able to do it now—because I was running out of fuel. The driller said, 'Just stand there in the corner.' I did not have any high-vis vest on and just watched them run pipe. It was pretty interesting, as they had the turntable running and throwing the chain, as they did in the day. They are all a bit different now: they are top-drive rigs.
It was interesting how things were controlled. Certainly, someone working on an actual rig crew was limited to how many beers they could have on a night. I think that now most of them are dry camps. Certainly, the restrictions at mining camps have tightened right up—and rightly so—on general workers in that sort of industry, and I fully understand it.
I note that many jobs, whether they be in construction, machine work, engineering or maintenance, or whether they be in the meatworks industries—in abattoirs, of course, drug and alcohol testing is mandatory, and, let's be frank, that can cause some issues with retaining staff.
However, people need to be aware of the requirements. You have to be fit for work. Certainly, in an engineering sense, you have to be very sharp of mind working with heavy equipment. If you were on the kill floor at an abattoir and plenty of people next to you were swinging sharp knives, you would like to know that they were in control of their actions.
This bill in relation to national law—and I acknowledge the concerns that the member for West Torrens had in regard to a legal case—will clarify that a rail safety worker will be taken to be carrying out rail safety work when they arrive at their place of work, have signed on and are available, or otherwise, for duty.
The proposed amendments to this legislation clarify that a worker who has arrived at their place of work and signed on for the purpose of undertaking rail safety work and is available to undertake rail safety work, or is otherwise available, is deemed to be carrying out or attempting to carry out rail safety work; and I note that the member for Elizabeth will have some questions around that in committee.
Our state is the lead legislator for this legislation, and this amendment bill has been drafted on behalf of the national Parliamentary Counsel's Committee. The main driver in this legislation is to remove any ambiguity in relation to establishing whether a rail safety worker is carrying out or attempting to carry out rail safety work. I think this is the nub of the point, as the member for West Torrens alluded to, because this can impact the regulator’s ability to take forward a prosecution for a drug and alcohol breach under the rail safety national legislation.
It would be remiss of me to talk about rail and not give a brief exposé of what I have always said were the darkest three months of my life when I worked as a contractor and I had to join the Australian Workers Union. There was compulsory union membership. I signed the form only because I needed the money. I worked on that Melbourne-Adelaide rail standardisation project just north of Coonalpyn down towards Keith. That was standardising the rail gauge from broad gauge to standard gauge.
I acknowledge my young shearing friend at the time, Mark Elliott, who was my crew member. We were on there for several weeks before the big push went on adjusting the gauge. We were using an unclipping machine and slowly unclipping the track. They were still running trains, obviously, but train speeds had to slow down. We left most of the clips on the corners until the final push over Easter, but it was managed quite well.
Then we had the big push over the four days of Easter to do the final job. Concrete sleepers had been put in. The rail was lifted up to about waist height. There was a lot of manual labour as the pads were turned and then, as the machine moved along, the rail slotted down in the new slots at the standard-gauge width instead of the broad-gauge width. That was a legacy of our forefathers across all the states building different gauges, whether it be narrow, standard or broad.
I would like to acknowledge that I met many interesting characters on that job. I must say that they worked incredibly well over long days, from about six in the morning until six at night, because the job had to be done. During one failure of the machine that we were unclipping with—it was really meant to be a maintenance machine, not doing tens of kilometres of unclipping rail clips—I sat in a supervisor's car.
It was great: when the machine breaks down, it is not like when you are working for yourself at home on the farm. You call out the mechanics van and they come up and fix it. You use the hand tools for a while, which you did until you got puffed out. I sat in the van, and the supervisor said, 'Have a look at this.' I said, 'This plan says we are only supposed to be able to do eight kilometres a day.' I said to the bloke, 'We are doing 16.' He said, 'That's alright. Just keep it up.'
It was an interesting time and interesting work. Apart from having to buy the ticket—I managed to get through my shearing career without buying one—it was valuable for my income at the time. Certainly, in the broader sense, I acknowledge the reasons why we are putting this rail safety national law through. We do have to make sure people are safe. That does concern me if, as has been indicated by the member for West Torrens, we are fixing up legislation because someone has managed to find a slight hole in what has been legislated previously. With those few words, I support the passage of the bill.