Safework SA (Question Time)

In Parliament, Questions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:55): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Industrial Relations on the topic of SafeWork SA’s response to FOI requests.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Lawyer Greg Griffin is representing a number of players, including Josh Jenkins, who were involved with the infamous Adelaide Crows camp. In that process he has sought and put a freedom of information request for SafeWork SA’s report into the controversial preseason camp that was held in 2018. In the media he has noted that the response to that freedom of information request has been what he calls ‘North Korea like’, with him receiving a bill for $6,000 for many reams of blank pages. In the words of Mr Griffin:

They basically sent me 58 blank pages and an extract from the Work, Health and Safety Act, which I could have printed off my computer for free.

The returned FOI identified 284 documents relevant to the request, but full access was denied to all but eight. Among those documents that Mr Griffin did receive access to was a parliamentary debate recorded in Hansard, which I believe was a question from myself to the previous minister; a press release, publicly issued by SafeWork SA, which was partially redacted; and, indeed, reams of the Work Health and Safety Act. My questions to the minister are—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: These are public documents.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: They are public documents, exactly right. My questions to the minister are:

1. Is this good enough in terms of the practice of SafeWork SA with complying with freedom of information requests?

2. How has SafeWork SA gone about facilitating support for injured workers, potentially psychologically harmed workers, through this process, and why are they not cooperating with the legal representatives of workers seeking redress?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:58): I thank the honourable member for her question. In relation to freedom of information applications, the determination of freedom of information applications is dealt with by relevant public sector agencies in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

I do not know in this case, but I suspect there are some further limitations in relation to what SafeWork is able to release because of legislative provisions. Under section 12 of the FOI Act a document is exempt from production if its disclosure would constitute an offence against an act. I have spoken in this chamber previously about section 271 of the Work Health and Safety Act, which imposes extraordinarily strict confidentiality requirements on information obtained through investigations by SafeWork SA and makes it an offence to disclose that information.

The John Mansfield review into SafeWork’s investigation into the death of Gayle Woodford made some recommendations in relation to section 271 being reviewed, to look to see if more information can be provided to injured workers and their families. That is work we are undertaking. I suspect that part of the freedom of information process in relation to the functions that SafeWork carries out, particularly in relation to investigations, are likely impeded in terms of FOI disclosures by the operation of section 271 of the safe work act.

I think the second part of the question that the honourable member asked about is what support or assistance is provided to people who are involved in investigations under SafeWork SA. I have spoken in this place previously, particularly in relation to a matter to do with the Adelaide Crows, and I think there is a gap in relation to the cultural understanding and sensitivities, not just of the South Australian SafeWork SA.

I have asked to put that on the national agenda, of how SafeWork in this state and other similar organisations both conduct inquiries and treat those involved in investigations in a culturally safe manner. I expect that work will produce some recommendations that could lead to change in this state.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:00): Supplementary: will the minister undertake to get a briefing on why, if it is section 281 prohibiting the release of the investigation, part of the investigation, including an interview, was in fact released?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:01): I am happy to ask the agency in relation to that but, as I have said, the relevant public sector agency determines FOI applications. However, I am happy to ask that agency if there is further information that I can provide.