House of Representatives

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2000 (extracts only)

Explanatory Memorandum

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, the Honourable Peter Reith MP)

Outline

This Bill will amend the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the ICNA Act) and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (the SRC Act). The Bill will also make minor amendments to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 , the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 , the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission Act 1985 and the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 .

The amendments to the ICNA Act (Schedule 1) will:

Amend the definition of synthetic polymers of low concern, which will result in reduced fees for industry;
Improve the secondary notification procedures for existing chemicals, enabling industry to share fees and reducing the burden on industry to provide information; and
Make other amendments of a minor technical nature.

The amendments to the SRC Act (Schedule 2) will:

Clarify the circumstances in which compensation is payable under the Act (Schedule 2, Part 1);
Address a deficiency in the Act relating to compensation for employees no longer employed by the Commonwealth by enabling their normal weekly earnings to be increased by reference to a prescribed index (Schedule 2, Part 2);
Clarify provisions relating to the calculation of compensation (Schedule 2, Part 3) by:

standardising the calculation of the first 45 weeks entitlement to incapacity payments in a manner more beneficial for employees; and
enabling any earnings which an employee receives from any employment to be deducted from the amount of compensation payable under s.19;

Clarify that there is no entitlement under the SRC Act to a lump sum payment for economic loss under section 27 for a permanent impairment occurring prior to 1 December 1988 except where a claim has been lodged before the introduction of this amendment (Schedule 2, Part 4);
Enable all employees covered by the Act to receive weekly compensation payments beyond the age of 65 years for a maximum period of 104 weeks under standard provisions if they are injured after the age of 63 years, reflecting that barriers to employees working past 65 years have been removed (Schedule 2, Part 5);
Protect injured employees by ensuring that persons providing rehabilitation treatment and services meet acceptable standards by:

providing an improved process for approving rehabilitation program providers;
allowing Comcare to charge a fee for the process of approval;
allowing revocation of approval in certain circumstances; and
providing a statutory basis for existing guidelines and their review (Schedule 2, Part 6);

Ensure that dependants of deceased employees are not barred from taking action at common law (Schedule 2, Part 7);
Streamline the existing complex licensing arrangements by reducing five specific licences to one generic licence. Licences will continue to be granted by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission but this will be done in accordance with Ministerial directions to the Commission in relation to issues such as the criteria for granting licences and licence conditions. These directions will be disallowable instruments (Schedule 2, Part 8);
Improve access to compensation for permanent impairment for hearing loss by reducing the level of binaural hearing loss required before an employee is entitled to compensation (Schedule 2, Part 9);
Amend provisions relating to premiums and regulatory contributions (Schedule 2, Part 10) by:

enabling Comcare to collect premiums to fund common law claims which are permitted under the Act, and to manage such claims;
amending the procedures for determining premiums;
rationalising scheme funding under the SRC Act and the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991;
simplifying existing appropriation and revenue arrangements for Comcare to ensure consistency with the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 and enable Comcare to receive premiums, licence fees and occupational health and safety contributions into its own bank account;

Make consequential amendments to proposed s.34R of the SRC Act concerning changed administrative law arrangements proposed by the Administrative Review Tribunal Bill 2000 (Schedule 2, Part 11); and
Make the following miscellaneous amendments (Schedule 2, Part 12):

amend the definition of "medical treatment", enabling the definition to be updated by regulations to reflect the wider range of medical services being utilised by claimants;
provide that the Chief of the Defence Force is the rehabilitation authority for employees who are members of the Defence Force;
provide representation on the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission for the Australian Capital Territory;
enable the Chief Executive Officer of Comcare to sub-delegate functions delegated to him or her by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission;
enable a member of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission to sub-delegate functions delegated to him or her by the Commission;
reflect an existing administrative arrangement whereby the Northern Territory reimburses Comcare for payments of compensation to certain persons and the associated administrative costs;
provide that a declaration under subsection 5(12) (which provides for certain declarations to be made by the Minister at the request of the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory) is a disallowable instrument; and
ensure that compensation benefits for former employees are maintained at a minimum level of 70% of normal weekly earnings.

Schedule 3 introduces a range of consequential and technical amendments to other legislation. It will:

Amend the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 to correct a technical anomaly arising from an omission in the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Act 1999 ;
Amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 to authorise provision of taxation information to Comcare as well as to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission;
Amend the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission Act 1985 to take account of the change of name of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and
Amend the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 , consequential on the amendments to premium collection arrangements proposed by Part 10 of Schedule 2 to the Bill.

The opportunity is also being taken in all Schedules to convert any penalties expressed in monetary terms, in legislation in the Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business portfolio which is otherwise amended by the Bill, into penalty units, consistent with section 4AB of the Crimes Act 1914.


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