Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 2996 ..
Debate resumed from 23 November 1995, on motion by Mr De Domenico:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR BERRY (3.50): This matter has been raised in relation to professional sportspersons and the application of the Workers' Compensation Act in the Australian Capital Territory. My understanding is that this has arisen because a professional sportsperson has made an application for workers compensation for a sports-related injury. The fact that somebody has raised the issue makes one wonder whether or not the earlier intention behind this might have been to rule out access by other sportspeople who have been injured following the sporting pursuit of their choice. There would be, I expect, a wide range of sporting people who have been out with injuries. I suspect that anybody who has ever played rugby is carrying an injury somewhere, particularly if they have played professionally. The limits in earnings that were provided under the Act certainly relate to the sorts of money you would expect many professional sportspersons to earn throughout the ACT.
The other interesting aspect of this is how one provides for safety in the workplace, and that is something Labor is going to be taking a keen interest in. If one is a professional sportsperson one ought to be entitled to the protection of reasonable occupational health and safety standards in the workplace. Being a front row forward might cause some activity amongst occupational health and safety officers in relation to the style of work. For front rowers it is easy; they do not know when they are injured. The further back you get, the easier it becomes. There is an old story that you can always tell the backliners because they are the ones who take the mouthguard out before they eat the meat pie.
Football anecdotes aside, one thing we are very concerned about is that this does not represent a precedent. In some ways, this would worry people because some might see the removal of the travel injuries risk as creating a precedent. We do not see it in that way, and certainly we do not see this as creating a precedent for any changes ruling out other categories of worker from the coverage of the Workers' Compensation Act. What I am saying to members is that we are very reserved about this. We are not going to oppose the Government on this issue, but we are quite concerned that others might see this as something of a precedent.
I have received a letter from the Independent Schools Staff Association, who raise some concerns about the removal of a category of worker from protection afforded by the Workers' Compensation Act. They are reserved as a matter of principle, and I think that they are entitled to that concern. They describe it as the thin edge of the wedge, and I want the Government to understand that we do not see it as the thin edge of the wedge. This is the end of it, and if we find any future problems with it as a result of our consultation with the community we will be working quickly to reverse it or take such action as is required to remedy any problems that arise from this issue. Bear in mind that this matter has been raised and dealt with at fairly short notice and there has not really