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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Mr CLAREY (Bendigo) (2:10 AM) .- 1 think that the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) call for a statement on the part of the Opposition. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has already addressed himself to the statement that was made by the Treasurer, but I want also to bring to the Treasurer's notice the fact that if measures of this description are brought on in the dying hours of the Parliament, the Parliament itself is not given an opportunity to discuss various things - in this instance, various provisions of the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act - that need amendment.

I stress also that the Australian Council of Trade Unions made representations some time ago for the amendment of this act on the lines of the amendments moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The Government has had an opportunity to consider the basic alterations in respect of policy that were then suggested.

I strongly support the suggestion that is contained in this amendment. If adopted, it will bring the Commonwealth act into line with the Victorian act and certain other State acts. Employees, in the course of their employment, meet with injury in other ways than by accident. In Victoria, we had a very long fight in days gone by to get a certain disease covered by the workers' compensation legislation of that State. People who were handling fruit contracted dermatitis, but because it was not defined as an industrial disease, they were not able to secure compensation. However, if, after they had contracted the disease - which was also known as fruit poisoning - they happened to cut a finger and the finger became infected, they became entitled to compensation, because they had met with an accident.

This indicates the necessity of having workers' compensation legislation so framed that any injury which the employee suffers shall be covered. This principle has been recognized in certain States. If a basic alteration of the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act is required, the Government should not hesitate to make that alteration in order to protect the economic interests of employees. There is an exceedingly strong case in favour of this amendment, and I hope that, on further consideration, the Government will accept it.

Mr. McMAHON(Lowe - Minister for Labour and National Service) 12.12 a.m.]. - The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has not said anything that has not already been dealt with by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). The very basis of this act is compensation for an injury caused by an accident. If there is an injury from some cause other than an accident, it is not covered by the act. Acceptance of the proposal made by the Opposition would involve a fundamental change in the legislation, and the Government is not prepared to accept it. I can add nothing to that. I regret to say that in the copy of the document which was given to me the words of the provision had not been changed to accord with the way in which they would read if we accepted the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. They have now been changed, and I have the purport of the amendment before me. Previously, the change had not been made, and I could not understand the purpose of the amendment.

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