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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3449 ..

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Business, Tourism and the Arts and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (10.24): Mr Speaker, quite clearly, if you are never to return to work then you should have immediate access to the table of maims. That is the government's intent in the entire act. What we are saying, though, in this particular section is that where a rehabilitation plan is put in place, that rehabilitation plan should be used; and that where you can sustain a durable return to work, a three months return to work, we think that is the path to go down.

This goes to the heart of what were are attempting to do here. Those who are injured and will not return to work should, of course, receive what they are entitled to. But where, through proper management, through proper rehabilitation, through a proper return-to-work plan, people can return to work, then they should do so.

The proposed section provides that a claim cannot be made until after a period of two years has elapsed since the date of injury. The focus here is on injured workers returning to work rather than on the amount of money they may receive. They still should receive compensation if it is duly entitled to them, as per the table of maims, but the number one priority is to get people rehabilitated and back to work where possible. That is the entire intent of this bill; that is the entire purpose of this proposed section. We will oppose Mr Berry's amendment.

MR BERRY (10.26): This is not about rehabilitation; it is about claims. Of course you would have rehabilitation programs. How do you say to a bus driver who has lost the sight of one eye that he is not entitled to make a claim for compensation until the Magistrates Court allows the claim to be made or the injury is stabilised-that is, "the worker has returned to work for the worker's pre-incapacity weekly hours" and "the worker has been working at least the previous work hours for at least 3 months"?

The entitlement does not change. What do you gain by restricting the entitlement? How does it benefit the employer? Who does it benefit? The only person who loses out is the injured worker. What incentive would there be for an injured worker to come back to work if they have got a part missing from their body that prevents them from doing their work? It is just extraordinary that you would deny them that. They are going to get it anyway.

You seem to be suggesting that a person who is entitled to $100,000 or something for the loss of a leg should return to work and struggle for at least three months to maintain their previous work hours just so they can get the benefit which they are entitled to anyway. That is just extraordinary. You do not access the table of maims for the fun of it. Something serious must have happened.

A whole range of injuries-foot injuries, bowel injury and so on-are covered under the table. Permanent brain damage is a classic example of such injuries. Under the heading "Brain damage" in schedule 1, "permanent brain damage if not, or not completely an injury otherwise compensable under this schedule" attracts a maximum amount payable of 100 per cent. So you cannot get access to compensation for permanent brain damage until you have "returned to work for the worker's pre-incapacity weekly hours" and "the worker has been working at least the previous work hours for at least 3 months". You have got to be kidding. The proposed section talks about the injury being stabilised. Come on. I do not believe that you would go down this path if a person had lost a leg.

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