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Thursday, 12 November 1964

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) . - I had not intended to participate in this debate, but I have been invited by Senator Wright to do so. We welcome the adjustments that have been made in the Bill. They tend to ensure a measure of long overdue justice. We regard the Bill as being merely a stop gap measure. I understand that the Act is to be looked at more closely in 1965. We trust that then many of the anomalies not only in relation to substantive rights to the payment of moneys but also in the machinery provisions will be dealt with.

Much criticism has been voiced from time to time in this place by honorable senators, including Senator Willesee, about the injustices which the Act perpetrates. Criticism has been voiced also in the House of Representatives. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) have analysed many of those injustices. Moreover, attention has been drawn to these anomalies and injustices by supporters of the Government including, if I remember correctly, the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden).

The provisions of the Commonweatlh Employees' Compensation Act constitute an unsatisfactory way of dealing with the rights of persons who are entitled to compensation. The method by which the determinations are made is found in practice to be unsatisfactory. Persons who are intimately acquainted with the Act and who appear for and handle the claims of injured persons and their dependants regard the Act as being most unsatisfactory. The whole concept of the method of determination adopted is bad in principle and works injustices in practice. I do not want to repeat what has been said already, because this is not the occasion for examining the structure of the Act. However, we hope that in the future there will be a departure from this kind of legislation, which really does not give a fair go to injured persons. The Workers' Compensation Act of New South Wales, for example, not only is better than the Commonwealth legislation in regard to the rights of injured persons and their dependants but is infinitely superior in its machinery provisions.

I suport what has been said by Senator Willesee. We are pleased to note that this Bill will achieve a measure of justice. Members of the Opposition, not only in the Senate but also in the House of Rep resentatives would welcome the appointment of a select committee, not on this Bill - nobody wants to delay its passage - but to investigate the operation of the Act and to suggest improvements in detail and in principle. Surely this is a matter in relation to which the parties are not divided. Surely the wealth of talent that is to be found in the Parliament ought to be employed in formulating legislation that would be adequate to meet the needs of the case. It is shameful that, when members of both the major political parties are dissatisfied with the Act, it should be allowed to remain in its present form. Many senators and members of the House of Representatives have had vast experience in the industrial field. In the Parliament there are former officers of the trade unions and members of the legal profession, all of whom have had experience which is much wider than that which may be gained by officers of the Public Service who administer the Act. The Government draws its advice mainly from a limited field. We are confident that, if all the talent which is available in the Parliament were brought to bear on this problem, a great deal of improvement could be effected.

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