Legislative Council: Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Explosives Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 4 May 2023.)

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (16:36): I rise to speak on the Explosives Bill 2023 and indicate that I am the lead speaker from the opposition on this matter. This is another one of those fix-up bills that sits in the non-controversial and non-contentious categories of bills that come through this place from time to time. The Explosives Act 1936 is clearly an old piece of legislation given the dating, covering the licensing, transportation and use of explosives. It is now very out of date, and whilst previously it had been updated and somewhat modernised through ad hoc amendments, this bill repeals the 1936 act and replaces it with a new, what might be considered more efficient, more modern piece of legislation.

Each jurisdiction in Australia has its own legislation to deal with explosives. However, in an effort to harmonise the laws across the country we have had a set of consistent national policy principles that each jurisdiction is tasked with reflecting in their legislation, as it appears here. This bill seeks to expand on previous work, including during the Marshall government, to modernise the regulation of explosives in South Australia in line with those principles whilst delivering efficiencies and safety standards and reducing regulatory and administrative tools.

This bill has undergone consultation with those industries which it would affect, as you might expect, including the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME). This bill outlines that the minister must appoint a regulator and sets out the functions of the regulator—consistent with current practice, the minister has indicated that this is intended to be the executive director of SafeWork SA.

Further on, the bill prescribes the process for the authorisation of explosives by the regulator. Once an explosive is authorised, a person with an appropriate licence can manufacture, store, transport, supply, use, import or export the explosive. In addition to being consistent with the national policy proposals, the authorisation process in the bill provides for the recognition of authorisations from other jurisdictions under corresponding laws—a good example of the harmonisation working to bring efficiencies to industry, which I am sure they would be supportive of.

Licensing is the key control that a regulator has over explosives, and under this bill a person must not 'carry on an activity'—they are the words used—unless authorised by license to do so. The new framework will contain licences to authorise activities (an activity licence) and licences to authorise a person to engage in an occupation involving explosives (an occupational licence). Activity licences include licences to manufacture, import, export, supply, store, transport or even use explosives. Occupational licences include those for fireworks contractors and operators and for driving and blasting.

Consequent to licensing is enforcement, in part 7, which of course is most important. It sets out the mechanisms for appointing a person with powers to enter and inspect a place or vehicle, give a direction to stop the movement of a vehicle or require that vehicle to be presented for inspection and examine, test or take extracts to do their duty under this act and prevent the unauthorised movement or use of explosives.

In 2022, the mining sector accounted for more than 15 per cent of the national GDP across all sectors, according to the Australia Institute. These changes in this bill will only serve to improve the safety of those who work in mining and also improve the efficiencies for the gamut of companies in the mining industry, which of course are significant users of explosives and will be impacted by this bill.

This bill will serve two functions as I outlined earlier: ensure safety in the industries that require the use of explosives and also, when working in concert with those industries, deliver efficiencies for the betterment of all and the state. We support the bill.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:40): I rise to speak briefly on the Explosives Bill 2023. It is not the first time we have seen fireworks in this chamber today.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I have. I love a good pun. We often see explosions in this place from time to time—not from the Greens, of course, and certainly not from myself. As a meek and mild person I sit back in a shy and retiring way.

This is a reform that originated from recommendations from SafeWork and it aims to address aspects of handling and transporting explosives. I understand it enhances safety measures and streamlines regulations within the industry. The Australasian Explosives Industry Safety Group is a reputable industry body representing the interests of those involved in the manufacturing, usage and transportation of explosives, and it has been consulted in the shaping of this bill. Their input ensures that the concerns of a range of stakeholders are adequately considered.

One of the key objectives of this bill is to establish uniformity across state jurisdictions, particularly in relation to the transportation of explosives. There are currently significant challenges and inconsistencies when explosives are being transported across state borders. Such discrepancies could open up the opportunity for unreasonable risk: something, of course, that we as legislators need to turn our minds to. This bill will create a cohesive approach to explosives transportation, ultimately providing better safety measures.

Furthermore, the bill updates and refines existing definitions to ensure the bill is current and relevant to reflect the existing explosives industry. Notably, this bill focuses on creating a more equitable licensing system. I understand that, currently, large mining companies are subject to the same licensing requirements as small-scale gem or precious metal miners. This lack of differentiation fails to account for the varying complexities and risks that are associated with different types of explosives operations. Under the proposed legislation, classes of licences will be prescribed by regulation, allowing for a more tailored approach. This will ensure that licensing requirements are fair, appropriate and proportionate.

Finally, this bill is a consolidation of the relevant provisions into a single act. This will streamline the legal framework to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. As a result of the recommendations from SafeWork, this bill will ensure consistency and proportionality, and the Greens are supportive of its passage. With that, I conclude my remarks.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (16:43): I rise to also speak in support of the Explosives Bill 2023. This bill is the result of feedback from industry and cooperation by state and federal governments to ensure there is a national consistency in the regulation of explosives.

While we might think of explosives being used for mining and fireworks—as the Hon. Rob Simms has highlighted—they are used in a much wider range of industries, including construction, agriculture, transport and logistics, and the automotive and aircraft industries. Explosives have many everyday uses, including in industrial tools, medical instruments, fire extinguishers, railroad track signals, airbag inflators, medication, tunnelling, welding, and in sparklers and party poppers.

Technology has come a long way since 1936 when the Explosives Act was first enacted, and the act has been amended only in piecemeal fashion since then. The amendments in this bill will modernise the act to bring it into line with current industry practices and other jurisdictions around Australia.

A nationally consistent approach to the regulation of explosives was agreed by the commonwealth, state and territory work health and safety ministers in 2018. This followed a Council of Australian Governments agreement in 2012 that this work should commence. This bill sees South Australia following through with the agreement to make the explosives industry safer, while reducing red tape.

Feedback from industry operating across different jurisdictions was that the inconsistency in regulations imposed significant administrative burdens, increasing staff time and cost and making it harder to compete for jobs in other states. This bill implements consistent and nationally agreed principles on the definition of explosives, licensing and notification and authorisation regimes. The definition of explosives will be made clear and consistent with other jurisdictions, making it easier for businesses to comply with regulatory requirements.

A new licensing regime will be established that can be adapted for the significant requirements of applicants, reducing the need for licence holders to seek exemptions from regulations. An improved notification process will be implemented for information to be provided to regulators about events and incidents. Licence holders are required to notify regulators about how and when they intend to use explosives at their events, including serious injuries and deaths, theft or loss of explosives, and import or exporting of explosives.

This bill also implements the nationally agreed authorisation process. This is a process which a regulator uses to determine whether an explosive is safe and fit for purpose. The amendments will remove the requirement for the duplication of process across jurisdictions and reduce inconsistencies. Extensive consultation has been undertaken with stakeholders, including South Australia Police and other industries, including SafeWork SA.

Informing policy is just one aspect of the important work that SafeWork SA does. It also provides invaluable advice and education to workers and employers. I want to acknowledge the vital role that SafeWork SA plays in worker safety. Workers and businesses using explosives will be safer and more effective and efficient with the passing of this bill, and I commend it to the chamber.

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (16:47): I note that this bill has cross-party support, so I will be very brief. Explosives are used in a wide range of different industries, including mining, agriculture, construction and entertainment. Unfortunately, our current Explosives Act 1936 is widely considered out of date and out of line with other jurisdictions.

The bill seeks to modernise the regulation of explosives in South Australia to align with other states and territories. This is a product of significant consultation with stakeholders, including the South Australia Police and the Australasian Explosive Industry Safety Group. The bill implements consistent nationally agreed principles regarding the definition of explosives, the licensing framework, notification processes and authorisation processes. The bill provides for a new licensing regime, which is better tailored to the needs of different users and will reduce the need for licence holders to seek exemption from regulations.

Other key changes include more clarity about the definition of explosives, an improved notification process, which provides information to regulators about events and incidents, authorisation processes, which reduce inconsistencies with other states and territories and remove duplicate processes. Overall, the bill will reduce red tape for industry while ensuring that our legislation maintains the highest safety standards. I support the bill.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (16:48): I thank honourable members for their contributions on this bill and, as honourable members have indicated, this is an updating of a bill that has not been updated for quite some time. I look forward to the committee stage.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: Just a couple of questions, Attorney, to clarify the reasoning behind the bill. The first one is with respect to consultation. Attorney, I recall in your second reading speech, if I recall correctly, you mentioned that the police and the Australasian Explosives Industry Safety Group were consulted with for this bill. I am wondering who else. Was SAFECOM consulted? Were primary producers, large mining companies, chemical companies such as Incitec Pivot, consulted, for example, or any of those groups?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for the question. I can inform that information on the draft bill during the consultation period was made widely available through a variety of means.

I am informed that emails and letters were sent—and I do not have the exact details to whom—by SafeWork SA to 343 targeted stakeholders during the consultation period. I am informed that the YourSAy engagement campaign achieved a combined reach of 32,819 engagements and generated 1,887 visits to a website to access further information, which seems quite an impressive set of statistics for this bill.

The new Explosives Bill consultation process was promoted through articles in SafeWork SA's e-news, achieving 3,557 opens and 215 clicked links. So, although I do not have the names of each stakeholder group that was consulted, with 343 targeted stakeholders receiving letters it was obviously quite extensive.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: I thank the Attorney for his answer. That sounds like very solid consultation. I will move off that topic then and onto the next one with respect to the progress of other jurisdictions for the harmonisation of their bill. Is the Attorney able to update the chamber on where they are at and where we are relative to them?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I am advised that most other states are already to where this bill seeks to take us, so we are essentially catching up to where other states have already got to in terms of these laws.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: This is quite a specific one; I am not sure if you are in a position to be able to answer this, Attorney, but we will give it a go. I am interested in how this bill aligns with the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods as contained in the UN Model Regulations. It would be helpful information for us.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for his question and his regular and ongoing interest in the UNꞌs views about the handling of explosives. I know the honourable member was just talking to me in the cafeteria previously, and I am sure he will bring it up later this week.

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: It is a daily topic.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: It is a daily topic for the honourable member. I am advised that our code draws on the 2009 Australian explosives code. The latest we have to draw on is the Australian explosives code. That code is now 14 years old, but when that is updated we can revisit further updating ours, but it draws on the Australian code.

Clause passed.

Clauses 2 to 14 passed.

Clause 15.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: Is there already an executive director responsible for the regulations of the explosives industry in South Australia? If so, who is that and will that person simply continue in that role, following this bill being passed?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for his question. It is the head of SafeWork SA, before and after this bill.

Clause passed

Clause 16 passed.

Clause 17.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: This should be my last question for the entire bill, if it is answered satisfactorily!

The Hon. K.J. Maher: Are you threatening me?

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: Gently. Is there intended, Attorney, to be a public register of authorised persons under this bill, should it pass?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I am informed that it is not a requirement, but it is something that we are looking into.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: That is partially satisfactory, so I will ask one more, if I might. It is a supplementary of sorts, though. The bill mentions an extract from the register, identifying that authorised explosives must be published on the department's website. My question is: what is intended to be accessible in the extract, as such? Were there any concerns raised with this information being publicly available and, indeed, is it publicly available?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: My advice is that that information is currently publicly available, it will continue to be publicly available, and I am advised that no-one has raised concerns with it being publicly available. That is a very thorough answer and should put an end to the questions.

Clause passed.

Remaining clauses (18 to 104), schedule and title passed.

Bill reported without amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (17:00): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.