Queensland Law Society has appeared before a parliamentary committee inquiry to comment on the Disability Services and Other Legislation (Working Screening) Amendment Bill 2020.
If passed, this Bill will streamline and strengthen the legislative framework for disability worker screening in Australia, introducing an improved blue card system alongside a state disability work screening operation with strong safeguards for those working with children with disabilities.
QLS, which appeared before the committee via phone link, supported the importance of protecting the individual rights of workers and encouraging people to undertake these important and valued roles in the community.
In the QLS submission, President Luke Murphy agreed there should be appropriate risk assessments of people working in these roles, however he raised concerns that the kind of information required to be disclosed by workers was not sufficiently defined, which could cause problems for workers’ rights.
“The critical consideration is whether this Bill has struck the right balance between this and a worker’s privacy and other rights, such as the presumption of innocence,” Mr Murphy said.
The President also called for review on the ability for workers to provide a ‘reasonable excuse’ for a genuine misunderstanding of a person’s duty of disclosure. He said these offences essentially become a ‘strict liability’ and should only be introduced when necessary.
“Without the ability for a provider or a worker to offer a reasonable excuse such as mistake, delay or administrative error, a penalty could be imposed which both the provider or worker may be unable to afford, in circumstances when there was no intent to breach the provision,” he said.
“QLS does not object necessarily, to a breach attracting a penalty, but we are concerned about liability attaching to an unintentional act or omission.”
The parliamentary Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee is due to deliver its final report on the Bill on Monday 3 August 2020.