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ASBESTOS-RELATED DISEASES (OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE) COMPENSATION BILL 2011

August 31, 2011

Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Madam President, I will not take a long. I think that most of it has been said. I do appreciate the briefing that we had yesterday. We have had a lot of representations that have come in, mentioning that perhaps the Workers Compensation Act should have been amended. But of course the briefings yesterday were very clear and certainly explained a lot to me that I really was not aware of.

 

I do have a concern with setting up another bureaucracy. I just think that sometimes in this place bureaucracies are set up and they get larger and larger. I am concerned that it remains contained and stays within the amount that we were told yesterday that it would cost.

 

I agree with the member for Western Tiers regarding the impost on small business. It is a community issue and personally I would like to see it more broad-based. Whether it be called an asbestos tax or whatever it is called, the fact was made yesterday that the community want to help and the community want to do something about this. As far as I am concerned, it should not be the one small group or limited to small business or any one business. It should be everyone and perhaps that is the way we should be looking at it - a small fee to everyone to pay this to look after those people that are in this situation through no fault of their own.

 

Ms Rattray - Through you, Madam President - perhaps it should have been an extra on the Medicare levy and been an Australian scheme.

 

Mrs ARMITAGE - Absolutely. Whichever way we go, everyone is going to pay at the end of the day by putting the impost on the businesses because their workers compensation will go up and they will then put up their goods and services and indirectly everyone will pay.

As was said by the member for Apsley, perhaps it could have been attributed to the Medicare levy or perhaps some other way could have been found of doing this because I am sure it is not just a Tasmanian problem, it is an Australia-wide problem. Perhaps it should have been addressed as such as opposed to the way it is going here. However, it is difficult for those people.

 

I know yesterday it was raised that there were a lot of people in workers compensation claims with many different injuries and issues but there are not too many who find out that they have something that they are going to die from in a short time. I do not think it matters how much money you get. We were talking yesterday about people who lose a leg or an arm or an eye and that is terrible and shocking for everyone who is injured but for these other people, usually when they get their diagnosis they are told they are going to die.

 

I heard them saying, 'and we will pay the funeral costs'. That is the most awful thing. I think that must be the most awful thing for a family to hear, knowing this person is going to die. I think that is something we cannot overlook, and we need to do it as soon as possible.

 

I am very pleased to see amendments made by the honourable member for Nelson. It is great to see we can make some changes because there were some ambiguities there and not being a lawyer I am very grateful to have someone there with that experience who is able to make those amendments.


I think we need to satisfy this as quickly as possible for those people, as the member for Windermere said, who are waiting for this. If it does not happen within a timely manner then they cannot claim but they only have 12 months to claim. I think that is something that we do need to remember when we are doing this.

 

I would like to see some changes. I am pleased to see that there are a lot of amendments here. Whatever we do there will be criticism because there are always people in the community who will not like what happens down here but at the end of the day I think we have to do what we consider is best for those people who are affected.

 

The honourable member for Rumney, the honourable member for Windermere and I were discussing last night that all of us have come in contact with asbestos whether we knew at the time or not. I can remember at the shack cutting a hole in a door. I had no idea that it was even asbestos, it was just some sort of sheeting that we were cutting. We probably have all come in contact with asbestos but none of us, I would say, to the same degree as these people that were there every day going to work.

 

Your workplace is supposed to be safe, OH&S, and we need now to do the very best we can for those people who really have put their lives on the line.

 

 

 

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