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 medically assessed fit for work, they stay on MACA. That is the difference. Workers compensation - and I think Dr Lim was confused here - has that ongoing responsibility to get people back into employment. MACA never had that and was not designed to run around and find people employment. A judicial interpretation of the relevant provisions has indicated that the payments have to be continued until the TIO can prove that there is a job available for the person. This is the Collman case: for the person in the area which they reside, even though the person has recovered from injury sufficiently to resume work. It never was the original intent; it never operated like that in 23 years until 16 January, Collman and this decision. If a person cannot find work, it is a labour market reality, it is a question for income support from social security if they are assessed as fit for work. It cannot be an ongoing responsibility of the MACA scheme. It is simply that the whole funding, the premiums that are paid, do not support that type of scheme. It is not the original intention. If TIO were to keep paying compensation in these cases where the person was fit for work but the person refused to relocate to an area where suitable employment was available, then of course up go the costs of the scheme enormously. These amendments to the MACA scheme are to ensure that the administrative practices, the way that it has run for 23 years, can continue against that Collman decision. TIO did, and I think that this is a question from the member for Goyder, TIO did an actuarial investigation of the scheme to work out what the impact would be if the government did nothing, and that is the interpretation in the Collman judgment of January, if we left that to stand and did nothing. First, to ensure the ongoing viability of the scheme, the existing claims reserve would need to be increased by about $14m. That is number 1. Number 2, an additional $9m would be required to cover the costs of new claims coming on each year. In order to collect this money through premiums, in the first year alone it would require an increase in the order of 50%, with further substantial, though lesser, increases in the following two years. To put this in yearly terms, a premium increase in the first year of around $190 for a standard family car. Of course, it would be more for taxis, hire cars and buses. The governments view is that this is simply unacceptable to the Territory taxpayer and to the Territory government. It is not the way the scheme was designed. It was never set up to do those sorts of things, and we believe that all Territory families would find this a burden. Of course, for those who register two or more vehicles, a much more substantial burden. Of course, if you get fee increases like that, one consequence is that some people just do not bother to renew their registration, so that the additional premiums collected fall short of that required to meet the ongoing costs of the scheme. So government took the view that the only sensible decision in view of the Collman case in January was to introduce the amendments which in effect do not change anything. The amendments do not change anything at all about the way the scheme has operated since 1979 to January 16 2002. But they do address the outcome of the Collman case. This is really the bottom line and it needs to be very strongly underlined. My staff spoke to some people who thought that these amendments went too far. That they pushed back beyond where MACA was. They do not. They simply put it back exactly as it was. There were a couple of points made along the lines of. You are stripping people of their rights. Not so. They have the same rights that have existed since 1979. We are simply ensuring, and legislating to ensure, that the scheme is able to operate as it has done in the past and continues to operate in a way that everyone understands it. The ultimate safeguard for all Territorians is that MACA is a government scheme administered by a government owned enterprise. The administration of the scheme is therefore subject to the scrutiny of government. Now, any government is going to be mindful of the publics perception of the administration of the scheme. It would be suicide for a government to ignore the concerns of the public in the administration of this scheme. As well as addressing future claims costs, these amendments also ensure that past payments from the scheme are protected, so no one loses from these amendments, but Territorians will, as a community, lose enormously if these amendments do not pass. They will be up for about $190 in their registration almost immediately, with further increases over the next two years. All Territorians would say, Why the hell are we having to pay this? We think that the amendments strike a balance. They put the scheme back to its original intent. I say again, I commend the government of the day back in 1979, because this was visionary legislation. No other state in Australia had such a no-fault scheme. But the government of the Northern Territory passed it back then and it has served the Territory exceedingly well, so much so that other jurisdictions have tossed out common law as the Territory did and adopted no-fault schemes of their own. 3082