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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 410

MrWHITLAM (Werriwa - Prime Minis terand Minister for Foreign Affairs) - by leave - Honourable members will already be aware of some of the preliminary steps that have been taken by the Government to fulfil our undertaking to establish a national compensation scheme for Australia. I now wish to inform the House that the national rehabilitation and compensation scheme inquiry has been set up to advise the Government on an appropriate scheme for Australia. The terms of reference for the inquiry are:

To inquire into and report on the scope and form of, and the manner of instituting and administering, a national rehabilitation and compensation scheme appropriate to Australia, and which in principle the Australian Government has decided to establish, for the purpose of rehabilitating and compensating every person who at any time or in any place suffers a personal injury (including pre-natal injury) and whether the injury be sustained on the road, at work, in the home, In the school or elsewhere or is an industrial disease with particular reference to:

(a)   the circumstances in which an injury should be covered;

(b)   the application of the scheme where death results from the injury;

(c)   the nature and extent of the benefits that should be provided;

(d)   how the scheme should be financed;

(e)   the relationship between benefits under the scheme and other social service benefits; (0 whether rights under the scheme should be in substitution for all or any rights now existing;

(g)   the encouragement of precautions against accident;

(h)   the provision of rehabilitation facilities; and

(i)   the manner of administering the scheme.

The committee of inquiry is under the chairmanship of the Hon. Mr Justice Woodhouse, D.S.C., a distinguished judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court who was Chairman of the epoch-making New Zealand Royal Commission on Personal Injury in 1967. The other members of the committee are the Hon. Mr Justice Meares and Professor Patrick Atiyah. Mr Justice Meares, Chairman of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, has been Chairman of the Expert Group on Road Safety which reported to the former Minister for Shipping and Transport last September and a member of the New South Wales Consultative Committee on Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation. Professor Atiyah, Dean of the Faculty of Law within the Australian National University, is a distinguished author of works in this field of law. I refer, in particular, to his authoritative book Accidents, Compensation and the Law' published in 1970. Many honourable members will remember him as a witness before the Select Committee on Road Safety in the last Parliament.

I have informed the members of the inquiry that the. Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and I shall be happy to arrange for officers of Australian Government departments to be made available to serve and assist the Committee. We shall do all we can to secure the services or advice of other persons whom the Committee wishes to engage. I take this opportunity of publicly thanking, on behalf of my Government, the New Zealand Government and the State Government of New South Wales for their gracious acts in releasing the 2 eminent judges from their other duties in order that they might undertake this most important inquiry. I have already spoken to the New Zealand Prime Minister and Attorney-General and the New South Wales Premier and Attorney General in appreciation of their co-operation. I am also grateful to Sir John Crawford, C.B.E., ViceChancellor of the Australian National University, for agreeing to the participation by Professor Atiyah.

These moves towards the eventual introduction of a national rehabilitation and compensation scheme for personal injuries in Australia mark a significant step forward in a field where hardship and waste have been and still are being experienced in this country. Apart from this fact it gives me great personal satisfaction to see the first steps being taken towards the type of scheme which I first advocated in this Parliament during the debate on the estimates for the AttorneyGeneral's Department as far back as September 1959. 1 present the following paper:

National Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme Inquiry - Ministerial Statement, 8th March 1973

Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

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