Page 195 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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a woman born before 1948 who is injured more than two years before her pension age will have a shorter period of entitlement to workers compensation benefits than a man of the same age with a similar level of injury or incapacity. To address this inconsistency and to ensure that men and women have the same entitlements under the act, the bill will replace the words “pension age” with “65”.

There is currently an anomaly between sections 39 and 42, as amended by the Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2005 (No 2). Under section 39 of the act, for the first 26 weeks of partial incapacity the worker is entitled to receive compensation equal to the difference between the worker’s average pre-incapacity weekly earnings and the average weekly amount that the worker is being paid for working or could earn in reasonably available suitable employment. Section 42, which provides for payment of weekly compensation to a worker after 26 weeks of partial incapacity, does not take into account an amount that could be earned in reasonably available employment. To ensure consistency in entitlements during a worker’s period of incapacity, the bill will amend section 42 to allow amounts that a worker could earn in reasonably available suitable employment to be taken into consideration after 26 weeks of partial incapacity.

An ACT Supreme Court decision in 2004 questions the liability of an insurer to pay rehabilitation expenses under the act. The decision found that, as costs incurred for rehabilitation of a worker are not costs for which an employer is liable, it is not a recoverable cost from an insurer. This ruling has the potential to make insurers hesitant to commence meaningful rehabilitation treatment for injured workers. This could affect the integrity of the ACT workers compensation scheme and increase the duration of injury and costs to both employers and injured workers.

To ensure that rehabilitation continues to be available for injured workers, the bill will amend the act to include rehabilitation services as a cost that employers and insurers are liable for. Rehabilitation services include training and retraining. This amendment will ensure that injured workers have comprehensive assistance in recovering from illness or injury and assistance with their timely return to work. These amendments will commence with the Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2005 (No 2).

The government is committed to improving the operation of the workers compensation scheme in the territory. The incremental adjustments that are proposed in this bill play an important part in ensuring that the legislation serves its purpose—to provide compensation and rehabilitation for workers who are injured in the course of their employment. I commend the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2006 and the accompanying explanatory statement to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Mulcahy) adjourned to the next sitting.

Domestic Animals (Validation of Fees) Bill 2006

Mr Hargreaves, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

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