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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2839..


MR BERRY (continuing):

Nova Scotia. It talks about the history of workers compensation as it developed in the 19th century.

Workers compensation started in Germany, Great Britain and the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In Germany it was not an outgrowth of the common law of employers' liability legislation. It was, according to Mr Elgie, the expression of an entirely new social principle that was traceable to early German guilds which provided disability, sickness and death benefits, with both contributions and administration shared equally by employers and employees.

Philosophically, involvement of the state in these issues was based on the views of the Lassalle Socialist Movement, along with Frederick the Great, who said, "It is the duty of the state to provide sustenance and support for those of its citizens who cannot provide sustenance for themselves." That was a noble social justice aim in those early days. It goes on to say:

It was that arch-conservative, Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck who, in response to the rising Socialist movement, proposed and passed a number of pieces of social legislation between 1884 and 1886-among them was a compulsory state run accident compensation system financed by both employers and workers.

So this has origins that go well back to a period when the Industrial Revolution was building, and it flowed on to other places throughout the world.

According to Dr Elgie, in Great Britain it was quite different. There were common law principles in Great Britain. I quote again:

Early jurisprudence in the 1800s made it almost impossible for workers to succeed in law suits against their employers in contract or in negligence. A series of very potent defences which became known as the "unholy trinity" arose-the voluntary acceptance of risk;

That seems to speak for itself. If you go some place to work you voluntarily accept the risk of it. This is without any access to any decisions in relation to the matter which I can rely on; I am just taking it as read:

the fellow worker rule;

I am not quite sure what that means-

and the contributory negligence rule ...

Which is one that we still hear about today in other cases of negligence. According to commentators then it meant that only about 17 per cent of accidents were due to employer fault. This was sorted out in Great Britain later on and the first true Workman's Compensation Act in Great Britain was passed in 1897. It placed full responsibility on an individual employer to compensate their own workers for their work related injuries. Mr Speaker, those are the early origins of workers compensation.


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