Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 5 August 2008) . . Page.. 2887 ..
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.00): The opposition would like this bill to be debated to the in-principle stage and I will present reasons for that. I thought this was going to be done later in the week. Perhaps Mr Barr can address the issue that I raise. In terms of the bill itself, it aims to clarify that should an injured worker have to modify their home as a result of their injury—for example, providing better accessibility—they would be compensated for the cost. That is perfectly reasonable.
The bill sets out the matters that should be taken into account when a worker seeks compensation for home modifications, including how long the injury is likely to last, the home environment that the worker currently faces and what modifications should be reasonably required. Where the worker sells their modified home and then buys a new home, makes modifications and seeks compensation, the amount to be paid is to be reduced by the amount which the modifications in the first home improved its value. Again, that sounds quite reasonable.
The bill also provides for a regulation-making power to prescribe the kinds of alterations that are compensatable and the situations in which the worker would reasonably require the alterations. There are some concerns about this bill. Basically, they relate to the circumstances under which the compensation would be paid. At this stage they are vague and may require subjective judgement.
The effectiveness of the bill will very much depend on the strength of the regulations that are written to prescribe the kinds of modification that are compensatable and the circumstances under which the injured worker would reasonably require the alterations. I know that the regulations provided for in the bill have not yet been written. That is perhaps understandable but it is not always the case.
Quite often with new bills, and especially where the regulations are going to be as important as these are, there are some indications of what the regulations will say, even perhaps draft regulations. Comcare provides home alteration benefits to injured workers, both commonwealth and ACT public servants. I will come to that in a minute because that gives some guide.
That is the trouble with this; it is all very vague at this stage. The Workers Compensation Act 1987 in New South Wales also provides for compensation to be available for modifications to an injured worker’s home. I have a definition of medical related treatment extracted from that act. In New South Wales the definition requires that modifications are directed by a medical practitioner, which provides more objectivity to the policy.
Mr Deputy Speaker, might I read from the Comcare document first. It deals with alterations, modifications, aids and appliances. It states:
Comcare will consider claims for financial help with essential home, workplace and car modifications. These modifications must be required as a result of your work-related injury or illness.
Comcare may also approve provision, repair or replacement of any aid or appliance that you reasonably require as a result of your work-related injury or illness. Aids and appliances can include items such as backrests, telephones for