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




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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 1993 was similar to that of the lawyer on the committee and that the abolition of the rules of evidence was fraught with certain perils. There is often a perception on the part of lay people that lawyers abuse these technical rules of evidence, dazzle people with science and confuse the whole process. I must say that that is often true. However, the rules of evidence do have a use. They are there fundamentally to ensure that only reasonable evidence goes before the court and that highly prejudicial material of a hearsay nature, an unsubstantiated, unqualified opinion or matters of that nature, do not go before the court and Cloud the issues. If we abolish the evidence rules holus-bolus, I fear that we might encourage people to put up that sort of evidence. Far from having the effect the government desires - that is, to shorten the proceedings - such a change might perhaps have the effect of lengthening them. However, I must say that, given a vigilant magistrate who interprets the powers intelligently, the abolition of the rules of evidence can work and is probably worth a trial at least. I would hope that, as a matter of course, the magistrate would almost always exclude opinion evidence and hearsay evidence because those tend to be quite prejudicial forms of evidence that I believe should almost never be allowed. One of the reasons why the medical advisory panels that existed previously under the act are being abolished is that it is intended that the court will be able to employ its own medical expert to give an independent medical testimony. That power is underpinned by subsection (3). If that ability is not there, there may be problems with the court being able to obtain its own independent medical evidence. I apologise for doing a partial backflip and that is all it is. I do not know whether my objection was picked up. My present view is that I am reasonably happy with proposed subsection (3) as it stands - namely, abolishing the rules of evidence - provided that it is recognised that the proposition is fraught with potential difficulties and, if it does not work, it will need to be reconsidered in some way. I want to comment also on proposed new section 126A which would introduce a laudable change. By proposed new section 126A, the situation of liability as between approved insurers is resolved quite neatly in favour of the worker. As far as the worker is concerned, it is the insurer at the time the claim is lodged who has to pay. If there is a dispute between the insurers as to which of them should have to pay, that is for them to work out. In the meantime, the insurer at the time of the claim must pay. That is a very sensible way of resolving what has been previously a situation of some complexity that has caused some disadvantage for workers. Mr Speaker, I commend all those involved with the preparation of this legislation. Mr COLLINS (Greatorex): Mr Speaker, at the last election campaign, a number of people in the Greatorex electorate raised with me their difficulties in obtaining justice in respect of their compensation cases. It was quite a big issue. It was raised also with the government because such matters tend to be highlighted when elections approach. It is some 3 years now since that election was held and it is good to see that an effort is being made to lessen the time it takes to resolve these disputes. In any dispute, some people will be happy about the outcome and some will be not so happy. There have certainly been serious complaints made against insurance companies and the TIO is high on the list of them, in particular in relation to the time taken to settle cases. Some people have been placed in some considerable financial difficulty. They have told me what they have 10 200