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Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 5502

Senator BELL (4.16 a.m.) —I think I would be somewhat misguided if I sought leave to incorporate my remarks in Hansard because in fact I would like to begin by reminding the Senate of what was said in the second reading debate by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Anderson) in the other place. The important thing to note about this is that the honourable member—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I think Senator Bell would do better without the cheer squad.

Senator BELL —I seek to remind the Senate that the honourable member led his contribution by saying that he rose to lead the debate on the Commonwealth Employees' Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill—

  Senator Schacht interjecting—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It might be worthwhile if Senator Schacht found another seat for a little while. I am not sure how that is going to be translated into Hansard.

Senator BELL —Let us regain composure. The honourable member reminded us that he was leading on behalf of the National and Liberal parties and in part of his speech he said:

The main purpose of this Bill is to allow the Commonwealth Employees' Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to cover certain corporations outside the Commonwealth public sector for what are, it must be said, very practical and supportable reasons. It would cause unnecessary complications if privatised Government organisations were unable to compete under current Commonwealth arrangements. By the same token, it could be seen as unfair if private corporations competing against recently privatised government agencies were not able to avail themselves of the same compensation regime if they so chose. In any event, I think the outcome is rather unlikely.

The honourable member then continued to tell us of the benefits of the scheme and how wonderful it was. I think there can be no greater authority than that which is given by the honourable member for Gwydir, who then told us that the coalition would not be opposing the Bill. In light of that, I think the advice that we were given at that stage should lead us to recognise the virtues of this legislation.

  The Australian Democrats, however, have been particularly concerned. We thought that the advice that was given by the National and Liberal parties in the lower House was advice which was not particularly well founded, nor was it particularly applicable to this Bill. We were concerned that in fact the Bill could achieve several problems for those who had been attempting to get proper workers compensation cover.

  The Democrats had drawn the attention of the Senate previously to problems with licensed Workcare coverage—workers compensation coverage which was provided by Telecom. That licensed coverage was supposed to be supervised by Comcare and we have in the past illustrated the inadequacies that had existed. I am pleased to say that many of those inadequacies have been addressed subsequent to our raising that in the Senate. Nevertheless, it seems that this Bill could have been introduced with undue haste, without being assured that potential licensees had the capacity to deliver a full and comprehensive coverage.

  There was another problem that we saw with this legislation. We suspected that the motivation of the administering body may not reside in delivering an effective and equitable scheme of coverage to potential clients but, rather, may be motivated more by seeking to make a commercial profit or operating a commercially viable operation. Those fears made us examine the legislation very carefully, and we have since been assured that our fears are misplaced. We hope that that assurance is so. I do not think that I need to labour the point any longer. The point is made. We will be supporting the legislation.