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Wednesday, 11 November 1964


Senator HENTY (Tasmania) (Minister for Civil Aviation) . - I move -

That the Bil] be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to increase the monetary benefits provided by the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act 1930-1.962 and introduce a new form of benefit in respect of the dependent children under 16 years of age of a Commonwealth employee whose death is due to a com.pensatable injury or disease, thereby further increasing the total compensation that is paid in the tragic circumstances of a widow being left with young children. In determining the new rates of compensation for Commonwealth employees set out in the Bill, the Government has had regard to the changes that have occurred since the existing rates were fixed in 1959.

The increased benefits provided by the Bill include benefits payable upon death. The Act at present provides a basic lump sum benefit for the dependants of a deceased Commonwealth employee of £3,000. Under the Bill that amount is increased to £4,300, a figure which compares favorably with the various State provisions.

The Act also provides for an addition of £100 to the lump sum benefit in respect of each dependent child under the age of 16 years. Because the Act has imposed an obligation on the Commissioner for Employees' Compensation to determine the manner of payment of the lump sum for the benefit of the persons entitled, portion of it has been invested, in these circumstances, to enable trustees to make weekly payments for each child until the age of 16. Although a weekly payment of £1 2s. 6d. is provided for each child of an incapacitated employee, an amount much greater than £100 would have to be set aside out of the total lump sum payable on death to provide a weekly payment of £1 2s. 6d. Obviously, this capital sum will vary with the age of the child and, for several young children, it would represent a very substantial part of the total lump sum benefit. The Government therefore decided that, in future, the lump sum of £4,300 should be supplemented by the same weekly payments that are made for the children of an incapacitated employee in substitution for the existing additional lump sums of £100. This will provide a considerable increase in the cash benefits for the widow who is left with a young family of children. At the same time, in order that no one will be disadvantaged by the change, for example with a child who is approaching the age of 16, the Bill also provides that the weekly payment shall be subject to a minimum total payment of £100 Ibr each child.

I come now to the proposals in respect of lump sum benefits for specified injuries. The present maximum lump sum benefit is increased by the Bill from £3,000 to £4,300, consistently with the movement in the death benefit, with proportionate increases for other specified injuries.

The Act prescribes a maximum amount of compensation which may be paid in respect of any one accident to an employee who is not totally and permanently incapacitated. In accordance with past practice, the Bill also increases the existing maximum from £3,000 to £4,300.

In reviewing the rates of weekly payment, on this occasion the Government has decided that the rate of total weekly payment for a married employee with one child should be £15 8s. per week which is equivalent to the current six capitals Federal basic wage. The amount payable to a single employee is fixed by the Bill at £11 lis. per week, or 75 per cent, of the basic wage figure of £15 8s. per week and represents an increase of £1 lis. on the existing rate of £10 per week. The balance of £3 17s. per week payable to a married employee with one child will represent £2 14s. 6d. per week for the wife and the existing rate of £1 2s. 6d. per week for a dependent child under 16 years of age. The new rate of weekly payment for a minor will be £8 13s. 3d., representing 75 per cent, of the rate applicable to an unmarried adult employee.

I come now to the minimum payment in respect of death where certain payments have been made to the employee before death. The Act provides that, subject to a specified minimum payment, currently £400, the lump sum payable upon the death of an employee shall be reduced by the amount by which any lump sum paid to him before his death exceeds the total of all weekly payments which would have been payable had he continued to receive weekly payments until his death. The minimum payment figure is seldom applied but, as it has not been varied since 1954, it is increased by the Bill to £700.

The Bill increases from £350 to £500 the aggregate of medical expenses and associated ambulance and travelling expenses which may be paid on their own responsibility by delegates in departments throughout the Commonwealth and without the need for review by the Commissioner for Employees' Compensation. The discretionary power provided in the Act for additional payments over and above the £500 limit will be maintained.

In conclusion, I wish to say that, arising out of various suggestions that have been made from time to time both in the Senate and in another place, in representations to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and from experience in the administration of the Act, the Treasurer has under consideration a number of administrative amendments to the legislation. Unfortunately it has not been possible, as was hoped, to complete - consideration of these matters in sufficient time for their inclusion in this Bill. These further amendments cannot now be introduced in this sessional period but the Government did not wish to delay for that reason the introduction of these new monetary rates of compensation which were announced in the Budget Speech. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.







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