Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991

Other title

Parliamentary Record 3


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




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





Publisher name

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

Place of publication


File type



Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

DEBATES - Wednesday 1 May 1991 When this government introduced the Work Health Act some years ago, I believe that all honourable members saw it as an attempt to take these matters out of the hands of the lawyers, who were in a position of benefiting from the injuries which people received at work. The act represented an attempt to remove argument about the question of fault in workplace injuries. There was to be no argument about whether an accident was the fault of the worker or the employer. People injured at work were to receive nothing but what they had been receiving if they had continued in employment. There was to be no compensation for negligence by anybody. People in this House would have argued that, rather than attempting to ascertain the rights and wrongs of these situations, people would be treated on a uniform basis with standardised benefits which many members of this House consider to be far too low. For example, a specific amount would be paid for the loss of an arm or a leg. However, it seems that the system has been unable to keep out the reach of the insurance company lawyers. They seem to have kept on searching for loopholes which will allow them to make some money and will allow insurance companies to avoid paying any. In fact, Mr John Neill, the lawyer from Ward Keller who is dealing with this case, said quite proudly that, when the decision in the Morrissey case was brought down, he actually sent letters to the insurance companies he represented in work health matters to tell them that, if they had any cases in which there was any medical evidence whatsoever suggesting that a person might be able to return to work, the work health benefit could be terminated on the basis of this court decision. I believe that there is a parallel between this situation and the matter which we debated in the last sittings relating to a decision by a Supreme Court judge who had interpreted a provision of the Criminal Code in relation to manslaughter. All members of this House agreed on the intention of that provision, but the legal system had produced an unexpected interpretation. I am sure that members of this Assembly would have believed that, under the Work Health Act, a person who was off work on an accepted work health claim, who was receiving medical treatment and who had medical certificates from a number of doctors, should be able at least to argue that they should not have to return to work or be allowed to obtain evidence from doctors to support that argument. However, in this case, the insurance company and its lawyer have given Mrs Gusmao no chance to argue her case. They obtained specialist reports which they had commissioned themselves. This woman had consulted other doctors and those doctors said she still had medical problems. The lawyer stated that he did not receive the medical report from a Dr Wheen, the doctor who was treating her following her accident and her being taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital until some time in February, after the Morrissey decision. It is interesting to note that the insurance company continued to pay for treatment and was quite happy for Mrs Gusmao to be referred to the rehabilitation service for her to be prepared for a return-to-work program. In February, the woman was even in a position to return to work. The insurance company stated that it did not receive the report until some time in February even though it had many other medical reports indicating that she was still not fit to return to work. In February, she went to work for 3 days, as part of a gradual return-to-work process under different duties. That was always considered as an attempt to get her back to work. At the end of 3 days, she was unable to continue work and went back to see her doctor who gave her another medical certificate in relation to her motor vehicle accident. This was a work health claim because it occurred on her 885

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain the names, voices and images of people who have died, as well as other culturally sensitive content. Please be aware that some collection items may use outdated phrases or words which reflect the attitude of the creator at the time, and are now considered offensive.

We use temporary cookies on this site to provide functionality.
By continuing to use this site without changing your settings, you consent to our use of cookies.