Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 21 October 1993



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 21 October 1993

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Parliamentary Record 21


Debates for 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 21 October 199^ there is a provision that places an obligation on the insurer to give reasons where he refuses benefits up-front. Section 69 covers the situation where the worker has been on benefits, but the insurer decides to cancel. This amending legislation imposes an obligation to give proper reasons for that decision such that the worker understands fully the reasons for the cancellation, reduction or refusal of compensation. I think that that is a very valuable and worthwhile reform. The amendments to section 72 of the act are designed to free it up in respect of medical practitioners providing certificates and other forms of documents under the legislation. Previously, it required an authorisation from the authority. Basically, any medical practitioner can do that now. Clearly, that will free up the system to a desirable degree, and it is reasonable to assume that any medical practitioner is competent to give such a certificate. If they are not, then they should not be medical practitioners. The amendments to section 82 are again part of the overall scheme to free up the system, to make it less adversarial and to ensure that each party is effectively aware of what the other party's case is. The main effect of this section is to oblige the worker to authorise the release to his employer of all information concerning his injury or disease if required to do so now. Clearly, that is a desirable and necessary provision if we are to have an open system of assessment rather than one where the parties try to ambush each other with information that they bring in at the hearing and which they have not disclosed previously. Proposed new section 85 provides for one of the major changes to the scheme. The employer can accept liability for compensation, defer liability or dispute liability. Obviously, if the employer accepts liability, it has to start paying. However, one of the major changes is that, if the employer decides to defer liability, it will now be obliged by proposed new section 85(4)(b) to begin paying compensation within 3 working days of making the decision to defer liability. Nor can the deferral be indefinite. It can be only for 28 days, although the court can extend that period. However, as I understand it, the intent of proposed new section 85(4)(b) is that, for as long as the worker is subject to a deferral of his claim by the insurer, the insurer is obliged to continue paying him weekly payments. I raised what seemed to me to be a slight ambiguity in this section with the authority when I had a briefing with its Chief Executive Officer - and I take the opportunity to thank the authority for what I believe was a very useful exercise. It seems to me that, whilst the provision requires the insurer to 'commence payments' within 3 working days of making the decision to defer, it does not actually say anything about continuing payments after they are commenced although that is clearly the intention. I have no doubt that the employer is supposed to make weekly payments as long as the deferral continues, but it does occur to me that that is the sort of ambiguity that some smart-alec lawyer might pick on one day and advise his insurer client to commence making payments one day, stop the next day, and have a big fight about whether he is entitled to do that. I did suggest to the authority that some amendments to clarify that might be useful. I gather there is an amendment schedule which I have not seen, possibly because it has become buried in the mulch on my desk. Hopefully, I will be able to obtain a copy before the committee stage. If that difficulty has been picked up, I apologise for wasting the time of the House. If not, it might be useful if the minister could at least clarify 10 196

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