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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 763

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) (Minister for Social Security) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to make the changes necessary in what will become the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act - in lieu of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act - to complement the new provisions to be included in the repatriation legislation that will put into effect the Government's decision to extend repatriation benefits to members of the Defence Force in respect of disabilities related to defence service on and after 7 December 1972. The members of the defence force who will benefit from the extension of repatriation benefits to peace time service were described in general terms by my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, in the course of his second reading speech on the Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973. Technically speaking, they are members of the forces within the meaning of the proposed new division 10 to be inserted in part 111 of the Repatriation Act, and the dependants of such members. Honourable members will recall that complete details of the new benefits to be provided by this Government for members of the forces and the necessary requirements to be fulfilled for eligibility were given by my colleague when he was introducing the Defence (Re-Establishment) Bill on 22 May 1973.

The Deputy Prime Minister has explained that while there will be dual eligibility under the compensation and repatriation legislation, double compensation will not be payable. To provide for this dual eligibility it is necessary to amend sections 7 and 98 of the Compensation Act. The former provides that the Compensation Act does not apply in relation to service of a member of the defence force in respect of which provision for the payment of a pension is made by the repatriation legislation. Section 98 of the Compensation Act provides that where an employee, or a dependant in the case of his death, is entitled to repatriation benefits, other than a service pension or funeral benefit, compensation is not payable under the Compensation Act. The amendments provided for by clauses 3 and 5 of this Bill will remove the foregoing restriction in relation to members of the forces within the proposed division 10 in part 111 of the Repatriation Act. At the same time, because specific provision is to be made in the Repatriation Act, in relation to pensions payable under division 10 of part 111 of that Act, to take into account a payment under the Compensation Act, it is necessary to provide in the latter Act that such pensions be exempted from the operation of section 52 which allows other payments made by the employer to be taken into account in the determination of what weekly compensation is payable. The necessary amendment to section 52 for this purpose is provided for in clause 4 of the Bill.

Honourable members will appreciate that if a person wishes to rely solely on repatriation benefits for his disability, he may achieve this simply by claiming under the Repatriation Act and not under the Compensation Act. On the other hand, having submitted claims under both Acts and qualified for benefits under both Acts, a person may decide that it would be in his best interests to take a repatriation benefit rather than a compensation payment. The Bill will therefore allow a person who has qualified for a benefit under the Compensation Act and also for a similar benefit under the Repatriation Act to request that an amount of compensation not be paid so that he may receive the repatriation benefit in full. Clause 6 of the Bill provides for the necessary amendment to this effect.

The Compensation Act at present requires that the compensation paid or payable under that Act be recovered from, or offset against, damages recovered by an employee or the dependants of a deceased employee. The provisions of the proposed new Division 10 of Part III of the Repatriation Act will require an offset against repatriation pensions of damages recovered by a member, or his dependants, in the case of his death. So that damages recovered will not be taken into account twice, it is necessary to provide that damages taken into account in the assessment of a repatriation benefit will not be taken into account to reduce the compensation otherwise payable under the Compensation Act. Clauses 7, 8 and 9 of this Bill will provide the necessary safeguards in this respect.

I come now to the new recovery provision proposed to be inserted by clause 10 of the Bill. My colleague mentioned during his speech on the Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973 that claims may be made under both the Compensation Act and the Repatriation Act but any pension payable under the latter Act will be reduced by the extent of any payments under the former. He also explained that where payments under the Compensation Act exceed the entitlement under the Repatriation Act no pension will be payable under the latter Act. The retrospective grant of compensation after payment of a repatriation pension had been commenced could result in there being an overpayment of the repatriation pension and also the cessation of such a pension, thus preventing recovery of the pension overpayment by the Repatriation Commission. To meet this situation provision is being included in this Bill to enable recovery of an overpayment of a repatriation pension from compensation payable. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.

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