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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . .

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MADAM SPEAKER: Mr Coe has closed the debate, so I cannot call Mr Gentleman, who is seeking the call. However, I need some clarification. Do you propose to amend your motion, Mr Coe, to put in a reporting date? I know we are doing this without leave and we do not have anything in front of us.

MR COE: Madam Speaker, I would be happy to amend the motion, or just give an undertaking that the committee would be well placed—

MADAM SPEAKER: I suggest that somebody might like to adjourn this to a later hour this day so we actually have a piece of paper in front of us.

Debate (on motion by Mr Corbell) adjourned to a later hour this day.

Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2016

Debate resumed from 3 May 2016, on motion by Mr Gentleman:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (10.34): Madam Speaker, the Opposition will be supporting this bill. I think we all understand the historical consequences of the use of asbestos in this country and around the world. Given the long gestation period and latency of the illnesses, often it is many years after people have left employment, or indeed have retired, before asbestos-related diseases become apparent. They can often have a quick onset and are terminal very quickly.

What this bill seeks to do is—where an individual is believed to have an illness that will cause the end of life within two years—to provide that the claim will be handled by the default insurance fund. It includes an up-front payment to assist in that very difficult period for these workers as well as allowing the fast-tracking of asbestos claims.

The government has done some work with New South Wales to see how they handle this. There is difficulty in that most workers comp policies only cover the period when the person is employed and the disease or the illness becomes apparent in that period. Of course, where these sorts of diseases become apparent many years later, the worker is not eligible for coverage by the policy.

What will happen is that the default insurance fund will take on this responsibility. The up-front payment will be $100,000, indexed by CPI. What we will see then is an increase to the DIF levy, which will go up from 1.5 to three per cent. I think we all appreciate that that will be passed on through the policies, but I think in this case we can all agree that, given the severity of these diseases and the high mortality rate, this is an appropriate stance. We will be supporting the bill.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.37): The Greens support the change proposed in this bill. The bill will correct a problem in the Workers Compensation Act in that it does not allow workers suffering from asbestos-caused diseases to receive lump sum compensation for permanent impairment.


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