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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3344..


Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION (AMENDMENT) BILL (NO. 2) 1997

Debate resumed from 4 September 1997, on motion by Mr Kaine:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR BERRY (Leader of the Opposition) (5.08): Madam Deputy Speaker, Labor will be supporting the Workers' Compensation (Amendment) Bill, but there are a few things I want to say about it before doing so. The amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act have been discussed between me and the Trades and Labour Council and other affiliate unions and, in general, I understand that they are supportive of the moves set out in the amendments. I should go through some of those because I think it is worth while saying something in respect of them for the record.

The first issue that draws one's attention to the Bill is the change proposed for the interpretation clause so far as the definition of "injury" is concerned. New subsection (1A) states:

In the definition of `injury' in subsection (1), a reference to mental injury or stress shall not be taken to include a mental injury or stress wholly or predominantly caused by reasonable action taken or proposed to be taken by or on behalf of an employer with respect to the transfer, demotion, promotion, performance appraisal, discipline, retrenchment or dismissal of a worker or the provision of an employment benefit to a worker.

On the face of it, that sort of proposal would cause one concern. It suggests to employers, though I suspect the courts might find otherwise, that one can shove one's staff around in accordance with what one might think is reasonable, and what is reasonable to employers is quite often not reasonable to employees. Therein, I suppose, lies the argument that might occur in various court actions which come to deal with the issue of workers compensation.

The other issue that emerges relates to the various insurers who might be called upon to accept claims made in respect of stress. Some members will recall that some time ago there was a debate about certain provisions of this legislation related to a termination clause, about which I then expressed some reservations. I still have some reservations about that because there are some noises from within the work force suggesting that the


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