Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002
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
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 community. The issue is governed by the concept o f reasonableness. The work must be reasonably available to the particular applicant rather than being reasonably available to anybody. The judge found on the facts that Mr Collman had no entitlement to section 13 benefits because TIO called evidence that there was work available to suit the claimant and that he had not made any effort to find suitable work. The point is, TIO won this case - because this guy was making no attempt to find work and the judge saw through that. But what the judge has drawn attention to is this issue of having to be able to find work, reasonable work, and it must be available within the relevant community, it must be suited for that particular individual. Never, ever happened, was never interpreted like that for 23 years. MACA is not a replacement income forever and a day once you are assessed fit. Six monthly medical intervention assessments - here is your medical certificate, still cannot work, you stay on MACA. At some point in the rehabilitation, the retraining, or whatever, that the doctor was able to assess the person as being medically fit for work, that was the end of MACA. You did not and could not stay on MACA benefits. It is not a form of unemployment benefit for the rest of your life. It is there until you are assessed as able and fit to go back to work. Now, that is the way it worked. Daryl Manzie, the minister responsible for this legislation for many years, when I spoke to him this morning was honestly aghast at the attitude that you guys were taking to this. He understood very clearly what it meant, what the implications for the MACA scheme would be if we were not to address the ruling from Collman. This ruling from Collman has put a completely different spin on section 13. It is aligning it, and the confusion that Dr Lim had, much more to the work health style of scheme where there is a responsibility to get the person back into work. It never existed under MACA. MACA had no responsibility to get the person back to work. It had a responsibility to pay benefits and see the person through until such time as the person was assessed as fit for employment. Once that medical certificate was in the hands of the board, assessed as fit for employment or if the person went back to work, once they were earning 85% of average weekly earnings, benefits ceased. Now, unless something happened to that person that was related to the original accident or injury, they never went back onto MACA; they did not go back onto MACA unless it was a related injury. So, the MACA scheme was always administered on the basis that it provided this low cost, equitable scheme because it was designed to support those injured in motor vehicle accidents or in Territory registered motor vehicles. As a key feature, as well as picking up all the legitimate medical rehabilitation and retraining costs, it also has that compensation component for those unable to work, or who have their capacity to work restricted, as a result of injury in a motor vehicle accident either temporarily or permanently. That compensation has always been linked to loss of earning capacity; it is not linked to actual loss of income. It is a distinction often misunderstood. If the scheme was to take into account past income prior to the accident, it would mean a huge financial impost on the scheme. Compensating for the loss of earning capacity rather than income is one of those key features that has kept the scheme affordable for Territorians. It has a further related benefit in that compensation provided under this scheme is treated by the Taxation Office as a capital payment rather than a substitute for income. The big difference, of course, is payments are not subject to income tax because if payments under MACA were subject to income tax, two things flow: either the cash in hand of injured people would be reduced by the amount of income tax; or the payments that MACA make would have to be increased to offset the impact of income tax. Again, you would have to force up the cost of the scheme. That is a very clear difference. It means that the taxation benefit is realised. Under current administrative practice, the entitlement to the benefit ceases once there is evidence that the person involved has the capacity to resume work. Once the person has the capacity to resume work, medically assessed every six months ... Mr Maley: What if a job is not available here, though, in the Territory? Mr STIRLING: Nothing to do with the labour market; nothing to do with whether a job is available or not. They are okay to work, okay? You become an unemployed person, no longer on compensation from a motor accident. You are now assessed as fit to work, you are an unemployed person. You either travel to where you can find work, or you do go - and I am not suggesting this - I am accused or the government is accused of making this a substitution, it is the way it always worked. It is the way it always worked. TIO never had a responsibility to find a job to get a person back into work. The responsibility to pay the benefits, the retraining, the rehabilitation was TIOs until such time as they were medically assessed fit for work. If one was never 3081
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