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Monday, 14 October 1985
Page: 1164


Senator HAINES(5.19) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

Criminal injuries compensation legislation, ordinances or things of that ilk are, as I think honourable senators would well know, of some concern to me. I have expressed an interest in this matter in the past. I would like to take the opportunity today to say some more on it. Less than a month ago I placed on the Notice Paper a motion that was designed to draw the Senate's attention to various inadequacies in criminal injuries compensation legislation throughout Australia. The lack of uniformity in this sort of legislation throughout the States and Territories is a fairly massive inadequacy and an inequity as far as the people who apply for compensation under the legislation are concerned.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Ordinance

I note in passing that it was not until the end of June 1983 in fact that such a scheme came into operation in the Australian Capital Territory-a scheme which was apparently aimed at ensuring that victims of crime in the Australian Capital Territory were in fact able to seek compensation for their injuries and the resultant pecuniary loss of expenses. The scheme has, therefore, been in operation for slightly over two years. It is pleasing to note that an increasing number of applications are being made under the ordinance-pleasing, not because there are obviously more people suffering from criminal injuries, but pleasing because obviously an increasing number of people are becoming aware of the fact that they do have some rights of redress in the Australian Capital Territory if they do sustain an injury through some criminal action. I am, however, sad to note that the brochure outlining the Australian Capital Territory scheme which was recommended in the last report is still only in the course of preparation. I hope that the brochure comes to fruition fairly quickly.

One important aspect of criminal injuries compensation-the aspect to which my notice of motion drew particular attention-is the inadequate maximum amounts payable to people who suffer from criminal injuries and, by corollory, the inequity that exists between people who suffer an injury because of a criminal assault or action and somebody else who suffers a similar injury through a car or work related accident. There is no doubt that the compensation that people get in those several instances is patently unequal indeed. The Australian Capital Territory has a maximum of $20,000. Several of the awards made during the past year, exemplify both the inadequacy of the amount and the ways in which those making the awards try to get around the fact that those maximum amounts are in fact too low. One case involved a woman having to have both legs amputated after her husband shot here in each leg. The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court considered that the applicant had sustained two prescribed injuries and made an interim award of $40,000. I think that speaks for itself. One wonders just how much that women would have received in compensation had she lost both legs as a result of a work accident or a car accident. In another case the court again found that two prescribed injuries had been sustained and that finding enabled the payment of a sum equal to the likely damage had it in that case been a civil claim.

In summary, I would have to say that the report is indeed welcome as the scheme, within its limitations, appears to be benefiting more victims of crime obviously than would benefit without the compensation legislation. As the years go by and the scheme operates, so more and more people get to learn about it and therefore more and more people are compensated. At the same time, I would have to say that the report points up some of the inadequacies and inequities in this area vis-a-vis motor vehicle or work accident compensation. I hope that when my motion is debated the problems expressed in this report will be taken into account by other senators.

Question resolved in the affirmative.