Page 2327 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 2 August 2017
The definition of an ex gratia payment from Butterworths Australian legal dictionary is a payment of money made or given as a concession, without legal compulsion, and the international business directory dictionary defines it as a sum of money paid when there was no obligation or liability to pay it. The commonwealth government also has an ex gratia mechanism which, according to the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee is:
… the Finance Minister (or his delegate) may authorise a payment if he considers it appropriate to do so because of special circumstances, even though the payment would not otherwise be authorised by law or required to meet a legal liability … However, the Department of Finance and Deregulation has advised that an act of grace payment may be appropriate in relation to special circumstances that have occurred as a direct result of:
(a) the involvement of a government agency, where that involvement caused an unintended and inequitable outcome for the applicant; or
(b) the application of legislation or policy, which has resulted in an unintended, inequitable or anomalous effect on the applicant's particular circumstances.
When you read that and understand what ex gratia payments are for, this is a case that warrants such a payment. Ex gratia payments are not the scenario necessarily for dry legal arguments; this is a scenario, Chief Minister, where you need to act with compassion. We hear it regularly from that side of the chamber but in this case it is sadly lacking. We have here a young boy who has been viciously attacked and grabbed by dogs. I can only imagine the fear and terror that you faced. We sincerely feel for your pain and suffering.
This happened on property that had been on the ACT government’s radar for months; it was an ACT government property. It was on the radar as having dangerous animals. The property had been visited by ACT government officials because of those dogs, but the dogs stayed on the property. On one occasion when this young man visited he was left with injuries that required multiple surgeries, skin grafts and ongoing management issues. We know from the minister’s statements today that as a result of this attack the government has made a raft of changes.
The government knew there were problems with the dogs that were on a government property. There is no question that this young man was attacked by those dogs on that property. The government accepts that there were problems because they made a whole raft of changes. The legal and technical arguments have not resulted in a payment, and the government refuses now to make any payment to this boy for his pain and suffering and the medical expenses that have been incurred.
It is difficult to see where we go from here. The amendment from the Chief Minister does not seem to indicate any understanding or compassion. Let us look at the actions of this government in what it is prepared to make payments for, the amount of money spent by Mr Barr and other ministers of this place travelling overseas, going to the footy and all sorts of things, fertility treatment for kangaroos, big signs all over the