The Hon. TONY KELLY: Will the Special Minister of State outline to the House recent initiatives to improve occupational health and safety in the wool industry?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I most certainly will. I am very grateful to be able to answer this question from the Hon. Tony Kelly. A very important program is now under way that will have a positive impact on those who perform the arduous task of shearing. Earlier this year I announced WorkCover's ShearSafety scheme to upgrade shearing handpieces and shearing sheds in New South Wales. During a visit to Ag-Quip at Gunnedah last week I was able to meet one of the first shearers to receive a rebate under the scheme. Robert Sevil of Bunna Bunna Station, Rowena, near Moree, is one of the first to upgrade dangerous pin-drive handpieces to safer worm-drive handpieces. When an older pin-drive handpiece locks up the handpiece becomes a very dangerous device: the handpiece starts turning rapidly and can easily cause wrist, hand and arm injuries. The safer worm-drive mechanism has a clutch in it and simply unwinds. The handpiece comes off the drive unit and no-one is hurt. WorkCover's ShearSafety will help to replace thousands of these units in woolsheds around New South Wales. I also call for expressions of interest from woolgrowers who want to qualify for up to $20,000—you should listen to this, Duncan; it could be relevant to you.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: What do you think I am doing?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: You are talking. I also call for expressions of interest from woolgrowers who want to qualify for up to $20,000 for the design of a shearing shed reflecting better occupational health and safety practices. The shearing shed initiative is a major component of the program. As part of the ShearSafety initiative WorkCover is currently producing a comprehensive shearing guide to assist both shearers and woolgrowers to build a safer shearing industry. In 1999-2000, 173 shearers in New South Wales required treatment, rehabilitation and compensation for their work-related injuries. ShearSafety is one of WorkCover's innovative programs to help address that problem.