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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1265

Mr BONNETT (Herbert) - My remarks will be brief. I do not intend to oppose the amendment which will be moved in Committee or the Bill because I think that the provisions of the Bill are very generous. I am sure that they will be acceptable to the Commonwealth employees. The only matter about which I express some concern is that, in my opinion, the Government's proposals may have a chain reaction throughout all industries and throughout all States. 1 realise that the bringing down of this Bill will probably be looked at as being a lead by the Government to industries and to the States for employees compensation. This brings to my mind the flow over that must occur in all areas in which people are employed. For instance, in industry if these generous provisions are adopted there must be an added cost of operations. I am not suggesting for one moment that it would be a bad thing if industry did adopt the provisions of this legislation. I think it would be a darn good thing. But the point is that we must consider the additional costs which could mean an increase in prices with a consequent addition to the inflationary trend. There were anomalies in the previous legislation. That is not news. I remind the present Government that the previous Government had also recognised that there were anomalies in the legislation and that it was committed to the removal of those anomalies had it been re-elected to office.

I am very pleased to see incorporated in the Bill provision for compensation for employees who are incapacitated as a result of disease contracted in the course of their employment. A number of people in the Commonwealth sphere would benefit from this provision. This is a grand idea and a move in the right direction, especially for those people - I know some of them - who have contracted dermatitis in the course of their employment and have no resort to compensation. I am sure that the automatic adjustments to weekly compensation payments will be extremely acceptable because it will remove a great worry from the recipient of compensation payments. I notice that the principle involved in awarding compensation for partial incapacity is to be retained but the limitation is to be removed. I also notice that the Commonwealth is to provide suitable employment wherever it can for partially incapacitated employees. This is an excellent idea and I hope it will be carried through. There are many people in receipt of compensation who are not completely incapacitated and who feel that they are redundant. If employment could be found for these people they would then become productive, and remain so, in a field of work which suits their ability. This would give them a purpose in life. When one thinks that a 35-hour working week could be introduced into this country, one feels that we will need as many members of the Australian work force as we can possibly get in order to produce. Every person who is productive will help the Commonwealth and will help himself. In this respect I feel that vocational training for the severely handicapped is to be recommended. 1 would like vo see an extension of the training of handicapped people to the provincial cities and provincial towns. It should not be confined to the capital cities.

I mentioned earlier the additional costs that this legislation possibly could create for industry. I presume that it is the view of the Minister that by stepping up the program for the prevention of accidents in industry this could ease out any additional cost to industry which would be needed to cover compensation claims. I commend this idea. This is an area which needs to be probed very deeply. Any program which may reduce industrial accidents as far as the Commonwealth is concerned is to be commended. I trust that if this program can be stepped up industry generally will cooperate. I mentioned that I would be brief. I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill unnecessarily. I support the amending legislation.

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