Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Defence Force) Bill 2017; In Committee
by leave—I move amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8100 revised together:
(1) Schedule 1, page 14 (before line 3), before item 46, insert:
45A Section 140
(b) of managing the provision of compensation and rehabilitation provided as a result of the making of claims of that kind.
(b) of managing the provision of compensation and rehabilitation provided as a result of the making of claims of that kind; and
(c) of minimising the duration and severity of injuries to employees by arranging quickly for rehabilitation.
(2) Schedule 1, items 47 and 48, page 14 (lines 6 to 9), omit the items, substitute:
47 Paragraphs 142(1)(c) and (d)
Repeal the paragraphs, substitute:
(c) minimising the duration and severity of injuries to employees by arranging quickly for the rehabilitation of those employees under this Act.
These amendments would minimise the duration and severity of injuries to veterans by arranging quickly for rehabilitation. This provision exists in the current Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, known as the SRCA, but was omitted in this bill, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation (Defence Force) Bill 2017, known as the DRCA. There has been much confusion about the provision for quickly arranging rehabilitation, as the government believed this was simply a function of Comcare and not of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, the MRCC. It therefore mistakenly concluded that the provision never applied to veterans. But the current SRCA requires the MRCC, the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, to function as if:
(d) doing anything the doing of which:
… … …
(ii) would be required of Comcare if Comcare had responsibility for the performance of that function.
That is found in the SRCA, section 142, subsection (1)(d)(ii). Thus, since 1998, having rehabilitation arranged quickly has been a benefit a veteran is able to receive under today's SRCA, as the MRCC has to function as if it were Comcare. DRCA omits arranging quickly for rehabilitation. Nowhere is this language found in the bill.
The Labor Party wrongly believes the quick rehabilitation provision has not been used since 2004, when the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 came into effect on 1 July 2004. That belief does not take into account injuries and diseases that are traced back to Defence Force service during the period of coverage of SRCA and prior to the enactment of MRCA. An example would be where symptoms of a disease or injury manifest at a much later date. In those instances, when a veteran's claim is made years later under SRCA—or DRCA, if passed—and they require rehabilitation, their rehab should be arranged quickly. The government, from day one of the introduction of DRCA, has stated repeatedly that this is just a replication of SRCA into DRCA. That is rubbish! That is not the case. My amendment keeps the government honest in arranging for quick rehabilitation within DRCA. Just like the Henry VIII clause, apparently, it's a safety net—how about that!
Recently, the government conceded that, on average, veterans have had an increase in waiting times for determinations in certain SRCA claims from 112 days to 148 days. With such a significant increase in determination times, it would be prudent for the Senate to keep in a provision for quickly arranging rehabilitation. The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Defence Force) Bill 2017 doesn't include provisions to arrange quick rehabilitation for veterans, so I'd like to know: what guarantees can the government give that veterans rehabilitation will be arranged quickly?