Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002

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Parliamentary Record 9


Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005




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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 - Wednesday 27 November 2002 to suggest, a brickie who has a car accident; suddenly there is a job as a hairdresser available to him that he suddenly has to run off and become a hairdresser? That is what your legislation is going to allow you to do. The moment he cannot become a brain surgeon, or a hairdresser, or an astronaut, you are going to shift the cost away from MACA and onto the federal government. How could we support this? M r Stirling: For 23 years you did, you goose!. It was not a problem for 23 years. M r ELFERINK: Negative! It was clear. It was always clear. Dr LIM (Greatorex): Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I was not planning to speak on this, but having worked in this area as a medical practitioner for many years, I would like to say that the MACA system or the workers compensation system, whatever you like to call it, is about rehabilitation. It is not about giving people money just to survive. It is about providing a financial package and appropriate assistance to ensure that a person who is injured through a motor vehicle accident, in this instance, has the means to buy sustenance for himself, or herself, and the family if that happens to be the case, and also to be rehabilitated so that the person is able to return to work. A person with a job of whatever description when unable to work will at least have part of the wages compensated through the MACA system. At the same time, while that person is being nursed through their injuries, hopefully you are able to provide rehabilitation in the physical as well as the mental sense to enable the person to eventually return to work. The work has to be meaningful. When the minister agreed that it is a means of getting people off the TIO or the MACA system onto unemployment benefits, you are really signalling that you guys are no good anymore, you are going to be on the scrap heap. That is not the intention. The intention of any sort of insurance scheme for injury purposes is to ensure that a person gets proper rehabilitation and is returned to meaningful employment. I recall when I was working on a semi-permanent basis for the mines, we had instances where people, on their way to work, encountered motor vehicle accidents and there was the argy-bargy about whether it was covered by MACA or by workers compensation. Put that aside. Irrespective of that, the insurance scheme was there to protect the person who was, until the accident, gainfully employed. If the minister says that this is about getting them off MACA so they can be on the dole, then I believe it is really an immoral act - an immoral act by this government to disenfranchise people who legitimately have the right to claim on their insurance. That is what it is about and anything else that this government is going to do, in my mind, can be labelled as immoral. This government will be heading down the wrong path because it will cause people who have suffered motor vehicle accidents real anguish. They will not know where to turn to. If a doctor is not prepared to sign off a certificate saying that person is fit to work, then obviously they have to stay on MACA. They have no choice. The member for Nelson asked earlier can they go on to the dole? Obviously, they cannot; it will be illegal for them to receive it because if they receive unemployment benefits while they are still under MACA compensation they will be committing a criminal offence. I hope no person would even dare attempt to do that. But once a person is declared fit to return to work, you would expect that there is work available. Otherwise, what is the person to do? The work does not necessarily have to be identical work to what that person was doing before - physical injuries might have produced a limitation on that person - but appropriate work to the level of fitness that the accident victim has. If work is not in that area, obviously alternative work needs to be found. But to say to the person: Okay, you are fit for work now. Off you go; you are on your own, is really wrong. I used the word immoral earlier because I believe it is the responsibility of MACA to assist this person to find appropriate work, and until such time as the person finds appropriate work I believe MACA still has a responsibility for that accident victim. Anything else would really then be giving away the responsibilities that this government owes to the accident victim. That is all I have to add. I say to the government: lets not go down this immoral path. Ms SCRYMGOUR (Arafura): Finally, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I get to talk. The issues raised in the ministers second reading speech will illustrate well the difficulties frequently experienced by modem Australian governments in adapting the principles and values imported with British common law to our life in a young and progressive independent nation. The touchstone of the common law was the recognition and protection of conventional property rights and the practices and institutions that supported and maintained those rights. Wealthy and well remunerated people in Victorian Britain tended to be better protected by the law than people lower down in the social pecking 3078