We refer to your department’s correspondence of 3 March 2021 and thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation (Specified Diseases and Employment) Instrument 2021.   The comments below are made collectively on behalf of our affiliates who have participated in the consultation process, being the Maritime Union of Australia Division – Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, the Australian Institute of Marine Power Engineers and the Australian Maritime Officers Union and subject to any additional specific comments they may wish to make separately.

We acknowledge that the revisions you have made to your initial proposal to adopt the terms of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Specified Diseases and Employment) Instrument 2017.  Whilst those revisions are responsive to some of the concerns we have collectively raised, the instrument you now propose continues to retain minimum employment periods.  As per our previous correspondence, we have concerns that such an approach is inappropriate having regard to the nature of the work, the environment in which its performed, our understanding of asbestos disease epidemiology and the relevant statutory standard.  

We are encouraged by your advice during our meeting on 18 February that the department intends to bring forward legislation – hopefully this year – to facilitate a departure from the use of minimum employment periods as a discriminator.   We look forward to consultation on those initiatives.  In light of the foreshadowed reforms, we firmly believe that any replacement instrument issued at this time should have a short sunset period, perhaps up to 12 months.

Whilst we appreciate that the effect of the Legislation Act 2003 is that the mechanism for extending the sunset date of the current instrument by certificate has been exhausted, this does not preclude the making of a new instrument in identical terms to the existing one, with a brief period of operation as suggested above.   In our view this is the preferrable option to adopting a significantly different approach for what is intended to be a relatively short period.