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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1268

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - in reply - I thank the Opposition for the co-operation it has shown in this matter. Further, I thank members of the Opposition for the thoughtful contributions they have made to the debate. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), touched upon a terribly important point when he said that our aim should be to prevent industrial accidents and disease rather than to ignore these matters and to go on increasing the amount of compensation paid to injured employees. In other words, we have to think in terms of human suffering rather than trying to compensate for it. We have to try to eliminate accidents and disease. The honourable gentleman was absolutely correct when he drew attention to this aspect of the Bill. I am sure that he is right when he says that anything the Government does to try to eliminate industrial accidents and disease will have the wholehearted support of the Australian people. I know that this aim has the support of every Party and every member of the Parliament.

I will be introducing shortly, perhaps towards the end of this year, a Bill to provide for a uniform code for the prevention of industrial accidents and disease. The dearest wish of all of us is to prevent industrial accidents and disease. It is no help for employers, insurance companies, union secretaries or anyone else saying it is not possible to reduce the incidence of industrial accidents and disease. It can be reduced. Whatever anyone might say about the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and whatever criticism may be levelled at the economic and perhaps industrial power that company exerts, no-one can deny that BHP has set a magnificent example in Australia in showing just how much can be done to prevent industrial accidents. Over the last IS years in the Australian iron and steel industry, which is one of the most dangerous industries in Australia, BHP, through diligence and through applying itself to the task, has been able to reduce the incidence of industrial accidents in its iron and steel plant by no less than 93 per cent. This is a magnificent record. The Wiltshire File Company, which is now owned by BHP, has reduced the incidence of industrial accident in its plant by about the same degree.

Mr Chipp - What sort of files do they make?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Ordinary steel files - nail files, wood files, steel files and all that kind of thing. They do not make Australian Security Intelligence Organisation files. One has to go to Senator Murphy or to Senator Greenwood to get those sorts of files. But this firm makes all the other kinds of files.

I was recently at the Kwinana steel works and I was tremendously impressed by what I saw when I chanced to drop in upon a meeting of the safety officers of that company. I was absolutely astounded when I learnt that the company had now completed three million man-hours without losing one single day through industrial accidents. This can be done. We are losing $ 1,000m worth of production each year because of industrial accidents. As the honourable members for

Maranoa has correctly pointed out, the proper thing to do is to see that industrial accidents are reduced and, if possible, eliminated. The Commonwealth ought to be setting the example. At the moment the Commonwealth does not have even a uniform code of industrial safety within its own departments and it does very little, I am ashamed to admit, to enforce a code of industrial safety. The Commonwealth makes not one-tenth of the effort that BHP makes to prevent industrial accidents. This situation will be rectified within the next year at the very latest.

Mr Graham - What about the Australian Workers' Union? That union has played a more effective part than most people.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Australian Workers Union is a union about which I do not know very much.

The honourable member for Maranoa raised a proper point when he asked what the proposed benefits would cost, and I compliment him for turning his attention to this matter. I admit that I was remiss in not mentioning what the cost would be. But Senator Greenwood, whose mind seemed to be running along the' same lines as that of the honourable gentleman on this matter, asked Senator Douglas McClelland, who represents the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in the Senate, on 28th March of this year what would be an estimate of the additional cost of benefits provided for in the current amendments now before the House. The reply was that the additional cost should amount to about $2,700,000 per year for all of the Commonwealth's employees and for employees working for Commonwealth agencies and instrumentalities. The amount is really not as much as that because once employees become entitled to the benefits of this Bill they would not be entitled to social service benefits. So that amount would be subtracted. In addition, employees would have to continue to pay ordinary income tax. Therefore the cost would not be as great as that. At its worst the cost would be $2,700,000.

I think the strong point of the case presented by the honourable member for Maranoa was that we ought to be aiming at the elimination of industrial accidents. He is absolutely right because this is what we ought to be doing. If we can do this - and we must do it - the cost will be nowhere near the figure of $2,700,000. I conclude my remarks by thanking the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) for the co-operation that he has given in this matter. This is an urgent and important Bill and it represents a great step forward. The passing of this legislation will mean that Australia will have moved to the front in the field of compensation. No longer will we be able to point to Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union and say that these are the countries that are leading the world in workers compensation. We have now taken the lead. No other country in the world has a system of workers compensation to compare with ours. This is a very proud position for us to take.

Before concluding my remarks I want to pay proper attention to what the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) did when last year as Minister for Social Services he introduced legislation which for the first time gave Commonwealth employees full pay for a period of 26 weeks. The legislation we are now considering extends the length of time beyond 26 weeks. The great majority of people who are affected by injuries at work usually recover by 26 weeks after which they are back at work again. However, I think it would be remiss of me not to express my appreciation of what the honourable member for Mackellar did last year when he was Minister for Social Services. As I said, this legislation will take the benefits a bit further. At any rate, Australia is now in the forefront. We are leading the world and it is a proud position for Australia to be able to claim. I am very proud that this Bill - this great advance - is to go through with the full co-operation of all parties in the Parliament, and for that I am grateful.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 7.

Section 25 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (11) the following subsection: - (11a) If an employee causes to be furnished to the Commissioner a statutory declaration by him stating that a specified amount was. or specified amounts were, earned by him from employment during a specified period, that declaration is prima facie evidence that that amount was, or those amounts were, so earned by him.'.

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