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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Mr CLAREY (Bendigo) (1:16 AM) .- I am rather interested in the Minister's statement that the commissioner's delegate has a discretion in regard to increasing the amount allowed for medical expenses. If that is so, the proposed amendment should be accepted. This should not be a matter of the commissioner's delegate having a discretionary power to pay an amount in excess of the maximum amount stated in the act in respect of medical fees. There ought to be in the act a provision that the injured worker has a right to recover whatever medical expenses are incurred in his recovery to health. If it is the intention of the Government that the commissioner's delegate shall exercise that discretion, and that in all cases the full amount of medical expenses - whatever it is - will be met, there is no need for the limitation of the payment to the amount specified in the bill. If there is a discretion, some injured employees may get full medical expenses, whilst others may not. Should the employer's representative have the right to say, " I will not give A his full medical expenses, but I will give B his ". Either the right is there, or it is not. If it is there, it should be exercised to the fullest extent in respect of every employee. The Minister's argument is wrong.

The other point I want to make is that this is one of the provisions that indicates the manner in which the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act is falling behind the corresponding State acts. It has been my contention that the Commonwealth act is falling behind. Generally speaking, instead of being superior to all the State acts, the Commonwealth act is now becoming inferior to some of the State acts, both in respect of benefits and in respect of its ambit. It is desirable that we put into the Commonwealth legislation a provision that will make it at least as good, in relation to medical expenses, as the best act in the States. When there is a limit and a discretionary power to exceed it, somebody may not receive his full medical expenses, whilst another person may receive them. I submit that an employee is entitled to all his medical expenses.

Mr McMahon - Before you sit down, I should like to put to you that there has never been a case of rejection, and so there has never been a case of injustice.

Mr CLAREY - Why not provide a rate?

Mr McMahon - There are administratively very good reasons. Secondly, the honorable member directs attention to the New South Wales legislation and points to that as being a model, but in New South Wales medical expenses are £300 and hospital expenses are £300, with power to admit the excess in both cases.

Mr CLAREY - The fact that the Minister cites New South Wales does not destroy the principle. Medical expenses are paid in Victoria also. If, as the Minister says, the Commonwealth has never refused to pay up, why not let the injured worker know that he has a right to full medical, hospital and other expenses connected with his injury or illness? As it is, he does not know where he stands because some day some delegate may tell him that he will not be paid.

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