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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - There is no doubt that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) brought up a very important point when they said that it was high time that the Government streamlined workmen's compensation procedures in all the fields in which the Commonwealth has jurisdiction, so that one act would cover all workers in the Commonwealth and its Territories who can be brought under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. There are four main purposes of workers' compensation - compensation for temporary incapacity, compensation for permanent and partial incapacity, compensation for permanent and total incapacity, and compensation in respect of the death of a breadwinner.

I cannot see any justification for a Commonwealth Government fixing different rates of compensation for a person employed by the Commonwealth in South Australia, for a person employed by the Commonwealth in New Guinea, for a person employed by a private employer in New Guinea, for a person employed by a private employer in the Australian Capital Territory, for seamen, and for people under Commonwealth jurisdiction on Norfolk Island, Cocos Island, Nauru and various other Territories under the control of the Commonwealth. I should like the Government to codify the laws, including the common law, on workers' compensation and to provide one compensation scale which would be applicable to everybody, whether governmentemployed or privately employed, who could be brought under the jurisdiction of the laws passed by this Parliament. That is to say, every employee of the Commonwealth Government and its instrumentalities and every employee of every employer in any of the Commonwealth Territories should be governed by the same law. This would mean a uniform law which would apply equally to New Guinea natives and to Australian citizens living in Territories over which the Commonwealth has control.

I think such a code should provide that, in the event of temporary incapacity, a worker should get his full weekly wage as compensation. It is archaic and is quite wrong and unjustifiable for a government to expect a man who is temporarily incapacitated to meet his obligations and maintain his family for less than the weekly wage that he receives when he is well. In 99 cases out of a 100, the person concerned finds it hard enough to meet his obligations on the wage he receives when he is able to work. He should not have to try to meet those obligations with threequarters or two-thirds of his normal wage, according to the compensation law that applies to him. When a person loses a limb and is partially incapacitated for life he should have the right to choose between receiving a lump sum of money, fixed by the act, or a weekly payment for life, which has some regard to the extent to which his partial incapacity affects his earning capacity.

Mr Curtin - What about 100 per cent.?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In the case of 100 per cent, incapacity-

Mr Curtin - No, I mean 100 per cent, wages while the injured man is off at any time.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I covered that point before my friend came into the House, and I agreed that the worker should be paid the full rate. In the case of total incapacity the worker should have the right to elect to claim either a lump sum, to be an amount equal to not less than the amount he would receive in ordinary wages for five years, or a weekly payment for life equal to his full weekly earnings at the time of his being incapacitated. Should he predecease his dependants, they should be entitled to continue to receive such a weekly amount. If he dies leaving a wife with no dependent children, she should get no less than 75 per cent, of such weekly amount. If a worker is killed in the course of employment the same conditions should apply. His widow should receive, while she has dependent children, a weekly amount equal to the amount the breadwinner was earning at the time of his death. When she has no dependent children she should be given 75 per cent, of such weekly amount.

These are the principles that were agreed to by the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party following the receipt of a report and recommendations by the industrial committee of that party some three or four years ago. They are sound principles, and if they were adopted there would be no need for the Deparmtent of Social Services to be required to meet claims for widows' pensions by widows whose husbands ha

I therefore say, in conclusion, that the matter of workers' compensation should be seriously considered by this Government. The Government, in its present frame of mind, seems bent on bringing about uniformity. It has passed a law to achieve uniformity in divorce procedures. It has presented a uniform marriage bill. It has even foreshadowed uniform company law, although not very much progress seems to have been made in that direction. No doubt certain pressure close to the hip pocket nerve of the Liberal Party's campaign fund is preventing progress being made in the formulation of uniform company law. But at least the Government should enter the field of workers' compensation. It should follow up the fine example that has been set with uniform divorce and marriage laws and prepare uniform laws on workers' compensation. If that were done, and if the law finally prepared were a good one, it would be one thing for which the Government would get some credit.

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