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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The first part of proposed new clause 2a seeks to alter the definition of the word " disease " to make it clear that when we talk of pre-existing diseases we are speaking of diseases that are specified in the first part of the definition. We then seek to alter the definition of the word " injury " in order to include the word " disease ", so that when we talk of injury we talk also of a disease as defined in the previous definition of that word.

Proposed new clause 2b seeks to omit from Section 9 of the principal act the words " by accident ". I will say no more about that.

Proposed new clause 2c is long. It seeks to make it clear that an employee travelling to and from work shall be covered by workers' compensation, and also that an employee shall be covered during a recess or during his lunch hour. If he goes out to buy his lunch and is knocked over in the street, he will then be entitled to compensation. This is not a new provision. It is already included in other acts. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said quite correctly, the Commonwealth for many years led the field in workers' compensation, and now it is far behind some of the States. I think it is a shame that this should happen, and we feel that if these amendments are accepted they will once again place the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act in the vanguard of reform in this field.

Proposed new clause 3a deals, among other things, with the way in which the maximum amount, upon which the percentages fixed in the third schedule to the act are calculated, shall be applied. That is to say, instead of having £3,000 as the maximum of which the prescribed percentages shall represent the compensation payable, the amount will be the figure arrived at by multiplying the average weekly earnings by 260. Then we go on to make it quite clear that for the purposes of the third schedule the permanent loss of the efficient use of a joint or limb or member shall be deemed to be the loss of that joint, limb or member. We repeat the provisions about a left-handed man having the right to claim the same amount for the loss of his left hand as a right-handed man can claim for the loss of his right hand. We then go on to deal with the position of a worker who suffers the loss of, or the loss of the use of, any part of his body as a consequence of accident. We deal with the right of that worker to claim compensation in respect of that loss, whether it be the loss of a faculty, a limb or an organ or of any part of the body.

We go on then to a matter that has not yet been discussed during the committee debate. 1 refer to the proviso that where an employee suffers serious facial disfigurement, or partial or total loss of any part of the body, he shall get compensation for it. I want to dwell for a moment on the question of facial disfigurement. Here, surely, is a case that the Government should not resist. When a man is injured in an explosion or by the spilling of acid and suffers serious facial disfigurement, with unkind people perhaps making a laugh ins stock of him for the rest of his life, surely it is not enough for him to be told that he will get no compensation at all because his facial disfigurement does not affect his earning capacity. That is an inhuman approach to the problem confronting such a person. I do not expect that anything will be done about it to-night, but I hope that in the future our suggestion will be adopted by the Government.

Mr Ward - Why not to-night?

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It would be difficult to-night because the Government, in depriving us of proper opportunity to consider its proposals, has deprived itself of proper opportunity to consider our proposals.

Mr Calwell - We are mutually dissatisfied.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - As my deputy leader says, we are mutually dissatisfied, and in that regard we are in agreement.

Sub-clause (5.) of proposed new clause 3a is similar to the amendment that we have so frequently referred to already. We omit the words " by accident " so that the injury stands alone as the basis for compensation. I hope the committee will adopt the new clauses that I have proposed.

I therefore move -

That the proposed new clauses be inserted in the bill.

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