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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2644


Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I intervene largely at the instigation of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). There was certain controversy in the Sydney Press in the lead-up discussions to this important Bill about the responsibility of the Australian Government, particularly by the AttorneyGeneral's Department, to its own employees. There was also correspondence from a Mr Lawrence. I took the matter up with the AttorneyGeneral. I have a communication from him explaining the facts of the Commonwealth compensation case involving Mr John Laurence Allenby. I ask leave of the Senate to have the letter incorporated in Hansard.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

Attorney-General,

Canberra, 5 December 1973.

My Dear Senator,

My attention has been invited to the attached letter from Mr J. Lawrence of Armidale, N.S.W. who refers to a letter which you apparently wrote concerning delays by insurance companies in dealing with compensation claims.

I understand that you would like some background information on the case which Mr Lawrence mentions.

Mr Lawrencewould, I think, be referring to the case of John Laurence Allenby, until recently a temporary employee in my Department in Sydney.

Mr Allenbywas injured while travelling from his employment on 14 March, 1967. His injuries were diagnosed as a sprained right thumb, and bruising and abrasions to his right knee.

Mr Allenbylodged a claim for compensation. While this was being considered Mr Allenby was hospitalised with a leg condition. As a consequence Mr Allenby was examined by a Medical Referee, at the direction of the Commissioner for Employees' Compensation, to establish the relationship, if any, between' the injuries sustained in March 1967, and the condition which resulted in Mr Allenby 's hospitalisation.

After considering the Medical Referee's report, the Commissioner admitted Mr Allenby 's claim to the extent of the following conditions- bruising of right leg, pre-patella bursitis and cellulitis of right leg, aggravation of a pre-existing condition of varicose veins both legs, and a sprained right thumb. The Commissioner's decision was given in June 1968.

Since that time Mr Allenby has been paid compensation at the appropriate rate for all periods of incapacity. All medical expenses have been paid.

It was in June, 1968, after the Commissioner had admitted Mr Allenby 's claim, that Mr Allenby first raised the question of the payment of an appropriate lump sum for the partial loss of the efficient use of his legs. It is this matter which is still outstanding and to which Mr Lawrence no doubt refers.

The payment which Mr Allenby seeks would be made under Section 39 of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-73. Payment may not however be made unless the condition in question is permanent and static The matter has been under regular review by the Commissioner for Employees' Compensation since 1968, and Mr Allenby has been examined on a number of occasions by Medical Referees and Medical Boards.

The findings to date have been that the condition of Mr Allenby 's legs is not static No payment has therefore yet been possible under the Act.

Mr Allenbywas last examined by Medical Referees- a physican and an orthopaedic specialist- in July and September 1973 respectively. Those reports are at present with the Commissioner for Employees ' Compensation.

Mr Lawrencerefers to the termination of Mr Allenby 's services. This followed complaints by Mr Allenby concerning his inability to carry out his duties because of the state of his health. He produced a medical certificate which indicated that he was suffering from mitral stenesis and hypertension. He was referred to a Government Medical Officer who certified that he was unfit for further service because of the above conditions, and because of his varicose veins condition. Mr Allenby was granted all sick leave at credit before his services were formally terminated in September 1973.

Yours sincerely,

LIONEL MURPHY

Senator J. A. Mulvihill, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600


Senator MULVIHILL - The only other comment I wish to make, conscious of the passage of time, is in regard to the processing of compensation claims. I speak on behalf of the employees at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard. As laudable or as good as compensation legislation is there seems to be a sort of no-man's land in regard to the capacity to rapidly process claims.

I say to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) that he would appreciate, being a longtime trade unionist, that for many years there has been dissatisfaction with the slowness of compensation claims from persons employed in the Naval Dockyard when the claim goes from the Department of the Navy to the Treasury and back again. I cite the classic example of Mr Prendergast, a member of The Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association of Australasia, some years ago. I thought the matter had been resolved. But I have had correspondence from the vigilance committee at Garden Island which suggests that action has not been taken as quickly as it should be. I think that in this day and age when somebody has to wait into his second pay period for compensation payments it could well mean, in the average family, that things can be pretty tight.

In welcoming this Bill I say to the Minister that I am still awaiting information from the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I have raised this matter at the instigation of the vigilance committee and with the authority of Mr John Garland, the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union. We feel this is an area in which there are over-bureaucratic tendencies. I think they should be corrected. Finally, I pay a tribute to the Attorney-General. Due to certain instigations by him with respect to the Phoenix Life Assurance Co. of Australia Ltd, in a broader field we have been able to alleviate quite a number of cases that were pending. I think that there was some unfair criticism of the AttorneyGeneral in Sydney in this particular area. Speaking for myself and for Mr Laurie Brereton, the State member for Heffernan, I think the strictures which he mentioned were very timely. I believe that the enactment of this legislation will lead, in this age of the computer, to a far speedier way to process compensation claims. This will reduce a lot of the hardship that is generally experienced by the average trade unionist when he has the misfortune to have to seek compensation.







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