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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 15357


Senator Mark Bishop asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 August 2003:

(1) Did the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) in a letter to the review of Military Compensation in 1999 express `a strong view that the ADF must take a more integrated and holistic approach to occupational health and safety, compensation and rehabilitation that best needs its needs. The current arrangements are less than satisfactory because the shared functions across a number of organisations limit the visibility, sense of ownership and commitment to the whole function within Defence'; if so, what has changed in the attitude of the CDF whereby in the proposed new military compensation scheme, policy responsibility for compensation is further divorced from Defence by transfer to what is effectively the existing Repatriation Commission.

(2) Under the proposed new military compensation scheme, what responsibility does Defence assume for occupational health and safety (OH&S) policy within the Australian Defence Force, as opposed to the current arrangements whereby that authority is vested in the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.

(3) Did the CDF express a preference to the Tanzer Review that the creation of a separate OH&S regulatory authority within Defence had the potential to give more direct and substantial impetus to that function than was currently possible; if so, is this still the view held.

(4) Under the proposed new scheme, will funding be allocated to the Department of Defence, or to the new commission based on the Repatriation Commission, or to the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

(5) Under the proposed new model, how will medical costs be attributed between the Defence Health Services and the scheme with respect to compensable injuries.


Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Yes. However, a number of factors led to the decision that the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) be responsible for policy relating to the new Military Compensation Scheme.

First, a decision was taken by the Government shortly after the Review of the Military Compensation Scheme (the Tanzer Review) reported that the ADF would continue to be covered by the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991. Consequently, occupational health and safety and compensation will continue to be prescribed by separate legislation with separate regulatory arrangements.

Second, the nature of military service, and particularly operational service (warlike and non-warlike), is such that there are extensive time lags before veterans may seek compensation, in some cases many years. As a result, the vast majority of compensation administration concerns personnel who are veterans or former members of the ADF.

Finally, if Defence were to be responsible for policy relating to the new scheme, it would be required to take on additional responsibilities such as health studies, veterans' health and provision of veterans' medical services. Such responsibilities are DVA's core business, not Defence's.

(2) Given the Government's decision that the ADF will remain covered by the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991, the existing arrangements relating to occupational health and safety will continue to apply once the new Military Compensation Scheme becomes operative.

(3) Yes. However, the Government decision that the ADF will continue to be covered by the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 removed the need for any further consideration of a separate OH&S regulatory authority.

(4) Under the proposed new scheme funding will be allocated to the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

(5) The health care of serving ADF members is the responsibility of the Defence Health Services irrespective of whether their condition is compensable or not. Unlike present arrangements, serving members will not be able to access medical treatment under the new military compensation scheme unless the Service Chief agrees it is appropriate. Under the new scheme all treatment costs for serving members will be attributable to the Defence Health Services and post-discharge treatment costs for compensable conditions will be attributable to the Military Compensation Scheme.