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Tuesday, 24 November 1959

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HigginsTreasurer) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The principal purpose of this bill is to increase the benefits provided by the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act 1930-1956 and to introduce a provision for the payment by the Commonwealth of certain ambulance and travelling expenses. The amendments result from a review of the legislation carried out by the Government and an examination of the comparable legislation of the States. In summary, the increased benefits are: -

Lump sum benefit upon death: Increased from £2,350 to £3,000.

Lump sum benefits for specified injuries: The present maximum is increased' from £2,350 to £3,000 with proportionate increases for other specified injuries.

Increased weekly payments in respect of incapacity for work: Employee, from £8' 15s. to £10; wife, from £2 5s. to £2 10s.; dependent child under sixteen, from £1 to £1 2s. 6d'.; and employee who is a minor, from £6 10s. to £7 5s.

Maximum compensation: Increased from £2,350 to £3,000.

Limit on medical expenses: Raised from £200 to £350. The maximum of £350 applies to the aggregate of medical expenses and the new benefits of ambulance and travelling expenses. The Commissioner for Employees' Compensation will retain the discretionary power already provided in the act to authorize payments in excess of the £350.

Provision is being made for the payment of certain ambulance and travelling expenses. The weekly payment in respect of incapacity is sufficient to include the normal fares that are incurred in consulting a physician, obtaining medicines at a chemist or attending at a hospital. On the other hand, there are occasions on which much heavier payments may be involved and the provision is designed to give some assistance towards these extra payments.

Those employees who are retired on superannuation pension as a result of their incapacity; are now required to accept a lump sum benefit in redemption for the liability to make weekly payments. The act will be amended to give to the employee a choice between a lump sum payment and continuing weekly payments. Another amendment will' extend the time within which an appeal may be made against a determination. The existing provision requires the notice of appeal to be given within 30 days from the date of the determination. This will be altered to 30 days from the date of receipt of the determination by the employee. There is specific provision in the act at the present time for the giving of notice of an injury by accident and the making of a consequential claim for compensation. The bill extends the same provisions to. disease.

The increased benefits will be paid not only in respect of future incidents; they will apply also to those who are now receiving weekly payments. They will also be payable to those who are incapacitated hereafter by injuries or disease occurring prior to the date of the legislation and for which liability is accepted. The remainder of the amendments are of a drafting and consequential nature. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on. motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.

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