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Wednesday, 6 August 1930

Senator DALY (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) (1:12 AM) . - No. Paragraph a simply enacts a provision which appears in other compensation acts, reserving to the employee his common law rights. Paragraph d requires the employee to make an election; that is to say, if he elects to take advantage of his common law rights, he will be unable to claim compensation under this act. Clause 15 deals with determinations made by the

Public Service Arbitrator. I understand that Senator Bae wishes to have it deleted. If it is struck out of the bill an employee will be obliged to make an election. He will not be able to claim compensation under both acts.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - If the Public Service Arbitrator awards less than is provided in the schedule to this bill, naturally the employee will elect to take compensation under this measure.

Senator McLachlan - If this bill is passed the arbitrator will not be disposed to deal with this difficult branch of the law in future awards.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 10 (Compensation to employees affected by or dying from certain industrial diseases).

Senator SirGEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [1.15 a.m.]. - Paragraph 5 of this clause reads -

If the employee at the time of, or immediately before, the incapacity was employed in any process mentioned in the second column of the second schedule to this act, and produces a certificate from a duly qualified medical practitioner that the disease contracted is the disease or one of the diseases in the first column set opposite the description of the process, that disease shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be deemed to have been caused by the employment in which the employee was engaged.

I do not wish to say anything disrespectful concerning the medical profession; but I recall an experience during the war which clearly demonstrated the ease with which medical certificates can be obtained from a family practitioner. I suggest that some safeguard is needed in this clause to protect the interests of the public. The duly-qualified medical practitioner mentioned in the clause would probably be the family doctor, who has to say that an employee is suffering from a disease. If he were employed in a particular process at the time of incapacity, it would be assumed that the disease was caused by employment in that work. A reference to the schedule will show that the man may have had the disease before entering the employment of the Commonwealth. A person may, on entering the Postal Department and engaging in one of the processes mentioned, be suffering from a disease. He might then get the family doctor to certify that he is suffering from a particular complaint, and may be entitled to compensation to an amount up to £700.

SenatorRae. - Hashe not to undergo a medical examination before joining the Public Service?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.That is not so in the case of casual employees.

Senator Daly - It is only a prima facie case.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.It is the responsibility of the department to prove to the contrary. There is a danger of collusion between the medical practitioner and the employee. The clause should provide that the medical practitioner should be a health or quarantine officer, or such other medical officer as is prescribed. I do not wish to interfere with the payment of compensation to those suffering from occupational diseases, as I know that they are as much entitled to compensation as employees who have met with an accident. We have, however, to protect the public interest. In view of my experience during the war period, when medical certificates were " framed up " by family practitioners as a favour to the persons concerned, the Government should prescribe the medical practitioner who is to grant the certificate.

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