TRANSPORT ACCIDENT AMENDMENT BILL 2013
I note that those opposite are calling ‘Wrong’, yet their understanding of the legislative framework in which compensation operates in this state is simply off the mark. It is true that the Accident Compensation Act 1985 will cover no-fault benefits, but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the right to claim lump sum damages at common law, which brings me to this government’s attack on these rights.
Those of us who are old enough will remember that in 1997 the Kennett government, many members of which are still in this place, abolished the common-law rights for injured workers to make claims, and hundreds of thousands of people came out onto the streets about it. We cannot ever underestimate the horror experienced by people who are injured and the effect on their families.
These physical injuries include acquired brain injuries, crippling pain, loss of limbs, disfigurement and the impact these have on relationships and on the children of the injured people. These accidents, incidents and horrors destroy people’s lives. For a government to take away the right of people to claim genuine compensation for those horrors is about as cruel as a government can be.
Serious psychological harm, nervous shock and serious trauma usually arise because people have experienced unfathomably horrific circumstances. We heard from the lead speaker for the opposition about parents whose children have died in their arms and about parents who have found out about the horrific road deaths of their children. We have heard time and again from emergency services workers, including at the rally, of the things they face day in, day out when they are just going about their core business. They are prone to developing traumatic psychological injuries because the work they do is traumatic and devastating. It can be just as debilitating, and even more so in some circumstances, to suffer a serious psychological trauma as it is to suffer a physical injury. In fact a serious psychological trauma can have a much greater impact on day-to-day living, on any enjoyment of life, on relationships in particular and on how the rest of your days unfold. That is particularly so in the cases of emergency services workers who do this day in, day out. It is not just that there is the first-responder role of emergency services workers in attending road traumas, because by their nature road traumas are horrific, but also that these workers are often on the road as part of their employment. Police officers, ambos and fireys often get into vehicles and travel at high speed going to those things and therefore have an increased risk of being injured in road accidents themselves, and these changes will impact upon their capacity to claim damages.
Opposition members note that this government again has tried to introduce this legislation in the dead of night. We also looked at what the Law Institute of Victoria had to say regarding the consultation process, which was absolutely non-existent, and compared it with the consultation process that had existed over many years. The consultation process had been very productive and there had been consultative relationships with key stakeholders about how these benefits are determined. I am glad the member for Gembrook touched upon those who suffer and die as a result of road trauma, because that is what these schemes are designed to do. They are designed to look after our most vulnerable people who have been impacted on by horrific injuries through no fault of their own. That is what those schemes are designed to do. Labor built up two terrific schemes — WorkCover and TAC — which have provided certainty, programs for prevention and just compensation for people who are injured.
Members of this government previously ripped away common-law rights for injured workers, and they are doing it again. Those opposite do not even seem to understand the legislative framework within which this legislation operates. Emergency services workers, like normal families who are impacted by this legislation, are on the streets and up in arms at what this legislation will mean for them. They are up in arms because injured, vulnerable, hurt people in our community — people who often put their lives on the line — will be impacted by this legislation in a cruel way. We will fight this legislation every step of the way. As the lead speaker said, when these cases come out, they will embarrass each and every member of the government.