This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the
Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Bill
Date Introduced: 11 December 1996
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Minister for Industrial Relations
Commencement: The day on which the Act receives
the Royal Assent, except for Item 38 of Schedule 1, which relates
to the power of regulations to incorporate any matter contained in
an instrument or other writing, which is taken to have commenced
immediately after the commencement of section 82 of the
Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act
The Bill proposes three significant changes to the operation of
the Commonwealth workers' compensation and occupational health and
safety (OH&S) regime.
- Amendment to the definition of disease in the Safety,
Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 so that it must be
established that employment contributed to a 'significant degree'
to an employee's disease. Currently the test refers to the wider
notion of 'material degree'.
- Amendment to the definition of 'injury' so that, in general,
work-related stress claims cannot be pursued if they arise
predominantly out of reasonable managerial or administrative action
undertaken in a reasonable manner, even if such action contributed
in a significant degree to the disease.
- Transferring responsibility from the Commission for the Safety,
Rehabilitation and Compensation of Commonwealth Employees ('the
Commission') to Comcare for determining contributions and premiums
payable by each Department and Commonwealth authority in relation
to the workers' compensation scheme.
In a press release issued on the night of the Budget, the
Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime
Minister for the Public Service, the Hon. Peter Reith MP, stated
that the Government intended to 'review options to ensure
management of stress claims is consistent with the intention of the
Commonwealth Workers' Compensation legislation'.(1) Specifically,
the Minister stated that the Government would be considering the
operation of stress claims and inferred that the legal test which
governs the relationship between injury and work would be
The current Bill embodies these proposals as well as proposing
administrative amendments to the operation of the Commission and
Comcare. In order to place these changes in their historical
context, the following is a brief overview of the current
Commonwealth workers' compensation scheme.
Commonwealth Legislative Scheme
The legislative basis for the Commonwealth workers' compensation
scheme is split between the Safety, Rehabilitation and
Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act), originally enacted as the
Commonwealth Employees Rehabilitation and Compensation Act
1988 (CERC Act), and the Occupational Health and Safety
(Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 (OH&S Act).
When the CERC Act initially came into operation, it repealed the
Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971
(the 1971 Act) and introduced a new approach to workers'
compensation focussed on rehabilitation and return to work
programs. The CERC Act also introduced a new test for establishing
work-related injuries. Under the 1971 Act, an employee was required
to establish only that her or his employment was a contributing
factor in the contraction of a disease. The Second Reading Speech
for the CERC Act notes that this formula 'does not adequately
reflect the rights and obligations of the Commonwealth and its
employees in relation to work-related disease ... this Bill seeks
to remedy that situation by requiring an employee to show that his
or her employment contributed in a material degree to the
contraction of the disease ... An employee will not be required to
show that his or her employment caused the disease, or even that it
was the most important factor in the contraction of the disease ...
[but that it] was more than a mere contributing factor'.(2)
In terms of administrative structure, the CERC Act established
the tripartite Commission, which consisted of a Chief Executive
Officer and two part-time Commissioners, one to represent the
interests of the Commonwealth and the other the interests of
employees. The functions of the Commission were, among other
things, to determine compensation claims, to implement policies and
conduct research aimed at reducing work-related injuries. The
Commission was also required to comply with ministerial
In accordance with recommendations of an independent,
comprehensive review of the above scheme (the Brown Review) the
Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Act (No. 3)
1991 introduced significant amendments to the CERC Act. In
particular, the Act divided the Commission into its regulatory and
service functions. The Commission became responsible for regulatory
functions associated with the CERC Act, including determining and
setting premiums, occupational health and safety and licensing of
compensation self-administrators. A new statutory body, Comcare,
was created and granted responsibility for relevant services
functions, including administration of the workers compensation
scheme under the CERC Act. In 1992, the CERC Act was also amended
to rename it the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act
The OH&S Act sets out the general duties of employers and
employees relating to occupational health and safety (OH&S),
provides for OH&S workplace arrangements, and establishes the
duty of the Commission to assist in relation to inquiries, advice
and investigations. The SRC Act divided these duties between the
Commission and Comcare.
The CERC Act also made provisions for statutory authorities to
be appointed as self-administrators of the scheme, a provision
strengthened by the Commonwealth Employees' Rehabilitation and
Compensation Amendment Act 1992 which permitted former
Commonwealth statutory authorities to retain SRA Act coverage once
partially or fully privatised. In 1996, self-insurers and
self-administrators under the licensing provisions included
Australia Post, Telstra Corporation, Reserve Bank and Australian
Defence Industries. Self-administering bodies are required to
comply with ministerial directions.
Heads of Workers' Compensation Authorities Report
In May 1996, the Heads of Workers' Compensation Authorities
released an Interim report entitled Promoting Excellence:
National Consistency in Australia's Workers' Compensation
('the HWCA Report').(4) The HWCA Report is the result of a two year
project undertaken in response to a direction from the Labour
Ministers' Council in May 1994 by the Chief Executives of
Australia's ten compensation authorities. Its aim is to stimulate
discussion and recommend strategies to promote excellence in
workers' compensation schemes by building on identified best
The HWCA Report urges a critical redefinition of the workers'
compensation system throughout Australia based on reinforcing 'the
primacy of the employer/employee relationship in preventing and
managing workplace injuries and ensuring that injured workers are
returned to meaningful work'.(5) In line with this focus, the HWCA
Report recommends a range of solutions based on the coverage of the
scheme, benefits and entitlements, premium setting and service
In terms of coverage, the HWCA Report states that the bounds and
limits of workers' compensation should revolve around the concept
of employer controllable risk and that employment must be a
'significant contributing factor' rather than a 'material factor'
in the injury.(6)
The HWCA Report also recommends that special conditions should
apply to both hearing claims and stress claims. However, at least
in relation to the need for special conditions for stress claims,
the rationale for this is not clearly spelt out, except insofar as
the report states that '[s]ome injury types present special
problems ... In the case of stress claims, some systems have
experienced a significant number of claims where the claimed work
stress resulted from disciplinary action taken in respect of the
person's work performance'.(7) The Report recommends that claims
not be compensable when they concern reasonable action taken in a
reasonable manner by an employer relating to discipline,
non-promotion, termination, matters relating to work and the
workplace, determining or managing a claim.(8)
The final Report is expected to be presented to a meeting of
Labour Ministers in May this year.
The Bill contains three primary groups of amendments in two
Schedules. For ease of reading, an overview of the significant
proposals is provided at the beginning of key provisions.
Schedule 1 Amendment of the Occupational Health and Safety
(Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 (OHS Act)
Part 1 Amendments Relating to Contributions
Items 1-25 propose a new structure for
calculating and reviewing the contribution payable by each
Department and Commonwealth authority towards the cost of the
administration of the OH&S Act.
Currently, the Commission prepares an estimate of contribution
for each Department and Commonwealth authority, which is forwarded
to the Departmental Secretary or principal officer of the
authority, who then have 14 days to object to the estimate. If an
objection is lodged, the Department or authority are not required
to submit any payment and the Commission must review the estimate.
If after the review, the Secretary or principal officer still
objects to the estimate, the Minister may be asked to review the
The Bill proposes to transfer the primary responsibility of
estimates from the Commission to Comcare. Comcare would then also
be responsible for the initial review if an objection is lodged and
the Commission would be the final avenue of review. The Minister
would no longer be involved in the review process. The rationale
behind this proposal is administrative: currently, the Commission
only sits four times a year and as it does not have the time to
initiate estimate proposals itself, it receives from Comcare
detailed proposals in relation to estimates. Therefore, it is
considered that the proposed amendments codify what is an existing
situation. The Commission retains final control over the review
process, and is empowered to issue directions to Comcare in
relation to determinations. Finally, the Bill proposes that the
current reference to 'estimate' be replaced by the word
Items 1-2 require that Comcare determine the
amount of contribution of each Department or Commonwealth authority
in a financial year in respect of the costs incurred by the
Commission and Comcare in the administration of the OH&S
Items 9, 11, 12, 13 15 are consequential
amendments in relation to Items 1 and 2.
Item 14 proposes that Comcare is to have regard
to guidelines issued by the Commission in relation to determination
of contributions. The Commission is empowered to issue such
guidelines by virtue of section 89C of the SRC Act.
Items 3, 4, 7, 8, 16, 20 variously propose
amendment of reference to 'estimate' to 'determination'.
Items 5-6 propose that determinations are to be
in such a form considered appropriate by Comcare or in accordance
with a direction from the Commission. Currently, estimates are in a
form considered appropriate by the Commission or in accordance with
a direction from the Minister.
Item 17 has two parts. Proposed section 67DA
reflects the OH&S Act and is necessary as the Bill collapses
two sections of that Act. Item 17 also implements a new requirement
that a Department of authority must pay its contribution within the
specified period. This is significantly different from the current
structure, in which payment is withheld pending a review. The
proposed amendment reflects the change in terminology from
'estimate' to 'determination'.
Item 18 repeals the current mechanism for the
review of an estimate of a contribution by the Commission and
replaces it with a review by Comcare. In general, this reflects the
current structure arequest for review of a determination must be
submitted to Comcare by the Commonwealth or authority within 14
days of receiving a determination, and Comcare must review as soon
as practicable, and provide the relevant body with a written notice
of its decision. However, the amendment differs in two respects
from the current procedure. Firstly, Comcare is empowered to not
conduct a review of a determination if it is satisfied that the
notice of objection is trivial, vexatious, misconceived or lacking
in substance. Secondly, as noted above, the proposal restates that
the Department or authority is required to pay the specified
determination regardless of the review process. (Proposed section
67H provides a structure for refunding contributions if
Items 21 and 23 propose to repeal the current
right to request the Minister to review a Commission estimate and
replace it with the right to request the Commission to review a
Comcare determination, after Comcare's initial review has taken
place in accordance with Item 18.
Item 24 repeals the sections which currently
relate to the confirmation of estimates (these have been collapsed
into proposed subsections 67E(3) and 67F(3)), payment of
contribution (as discussed in items 17 and 18) and penalty for late
payment. The item proposes to implement three new sections.
- A section which relates to a review by the Commission of
Comcare's decision not to review a determination. This is necessary
due to the proposed power for Comcare to not conduct a review as
discussed in Item 18.
- A section relating to the refund of part of the paid
contribution in light of a decision to reduce the contribution.
This is necessary due to the proposed change in the timing of
payment of a contribution as discussed in item 17 and 18.
- A section requiring interest to be paid on a late payment.
Currently, a penalty is paid on a late payment and the proposal
simplifies this procedure.
Part 2 Other Amendments
Items 26 Currently the Commission is required
to provide advice on OH&S matters either at its own initiative
or on request. This item proposes that the Commission no longer be
required to provide advice on request, but can initiate provision
Item 28 is the converse of Item 26 in that it
empowers Comcare to advise on OH&S matters either on request or
at its own initiative.
Items 29-35 are consequential amendments
following on from Items 26 and 28.
Item 37 significantly increases the penalties
for offences against regulations made under the Act. Currently,
penalties do not exceed $1,000. The proposed amendments increase
the penalties to maximum $5,000 for an individual and $25,000 for a
corporations. The Explanatory Memorandum notes that this increase
reflects the serious nature of some offences against the OH&S
Item 38 relates to the making of regulations
and states that, among other things, the regulations may
incorporate a matter contained in any instrument or other writing,
whether or not the instrument or other writing existed at the time
the regulations are made. Section 49A of the Acts
Interpretation Act 1901 states that unless the contrary
intention appears in an Act, any instrument or writing incorporated
in regulations must exist at the time the regulations are made.
Item 38 specifically ousts the applicability of section 49A of that
Act, which presumably is aimed at an explicit contrary
The rationale behind the rule in section 49A is to ensure
Parliamentary control over the effect of regulations. The
Explanatory Memorandum notes that 'the amendment would avoid the
need to amend the regulations whenever a standard or code of
practice which has been adopted is updated or amended. The
amendment would apply retrospectively to those regulations which
have already been made.'(10)
Schedule 2 Amendment of the Safety, Rehabilitation and
Compensation Act 1988 ('the SRC Act')
Part 1 Amendments Relating to Compensable Injury
This Part implements the proposed changes to the legal test
establishing the link between an injury or disease and employment
and the test for stress related claims.
Firstly, this Part proposes to amend the test of 'disease' so
that instead of employment contributing to the disease in a
'material degree' before compensation could be paid, employment
must have contributed to the disease in a 'significant degree',
where significant means substantially more than a material degree.
In the Second Reading Speech the Minister states that this
amendment is necessary due to judicial interpretation of the phrase
'material degree' as meaning pertinent or likely to influence, a
situation which has 'progressively extended the liability of
employees to cover a growing number of claims for conditions where
work is only a minor contributing factor. This distorts the
fundamental objective of workers' compensation which is to provide
for losses stemming from occupational injury.'(11) Therefore, the
Minister notes that the amendment merely reactivates the original
objective of the CERC Act is in accordance with the HWCA
Secondly, the Second Reading Speech notes that the Bill 'seeks
to prevent compensation claims being used to obstruct legitimate
management action.'(12) This amendment is primarily aimed a stress
related claims, which the Minister states are weighing so heavily
on the workers compensation scheme in general as to have 'grave
implications for the future sustainability of the scheme'.(13) The
Minister notes that the amendment incorporates a dual test of
reasonableness the action must not only be a reasonable type of
managerial or administrative action, it must also have been carried
out in a reasonable manner.
Items 1 and 2 repeal the definition of disease
and injuryin subsection 4(1) of the SRC Act. The current
(a) any ailment suffered by an employee; or
(b) the aggravation of any such ailment;
being an ailment or an aggravation that was contributed to in a
material degree by the employee's employment by the Commonwealth or
a licensed corporation.
(a) a disease suffered by an employee; or
(b) an injury (other than a disease) suffered by an employee,
being a physical or mental injury arising out of, or in the course
of, the employee's employment; or
(c) an aggravation of a physical or mental injury (other than a
disease) suffered by an employee (whether or not that injury arose
out of, or in the course of, the employee's employment), being an
aggravation that arose out of, or in the course of, that
but does not include any such disease, injury or aggravation
suffered by an employee as a result of reasonable disciplinary
action taken against the employee or failure by the employee to
obtain a promotion, transfer or benefit in connection with his or
Item 3 inserts a new definition of disease and
injury. These proposals are extremely complex, as there are layers
of different tests within proposed subsections and the definitions
of 'disease' and 'injury' occur in different places. The following
description only purports to set out the machinery of these
In relation to 'disease' the new definition amends the legal
test establishing the link between the disease and the employment
from a 'material degree' to a 'significant degree', which is
legislated to mean substantially more than a 'material degree'.
Further the new definition sets out a non-exhaustive list of
matters to be taken into account when determining whether
employment contributed to a significant degree, including the
duration and nature of the employment, an employee's medical
predisposition and non-work related activities of an employee.
In relation to 'injury', the primary definition set out above in
paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) is retained and references to
employment contributing to the injury in a 'significant degree' are
not proposed, subject to the comments below.
However, there are detailed amendments in relation to the
definition of 'disease' and 'injury' which arise due to managerial
or administrative action.
Proposed subsection 5B(2) provides that even if
employment contributed in a significant degree to a
'disease' (as defined under 'disease' but referred to under the
definition of 'injury') by reason solely or predominantly of
reasonable managerial or administrative action, taken in a
reasonable manner, or the expectation by the employee that
a particular reasonable managerial or administrative action will be
taken, the disease is not taken to be an injury for the
purposes of compensation.
Proposed subsection 5B(3) proposes a similar regime in relation
to an 'injury' which is not a disease. It states that even if an
injury or the aggravation of an injury arose out of or
in the course of employment, if that injury was by reason
solely or predominantly of reasonable managerial or administrative
action taken in a reasonable manner or the
expectation of such action the injury or aggravation is not
taken to be an injury for the purposes of compensation.
Proposed subsection 5B(4) elaborates on the meaning of
reasonable managerial or administrative action, which includes
reasonable action in relation to reclassification, transfer,
demotion, redeployment, termination and promotion.
Proposed subsection 5B(6) notes that the above proposals do not
affect an employee's right to compensation for a physical injury or
an injury which resulted from a physical factor in the course of
employment. This proposal indicates that distinction being made in
the Bill between mental and physical injury.
Item 6 proposes that the proposed amendments
have effect only in regard to a claim made after the commencement
of the part.
Part 2 Amendments Relating to Premiums
This Part proposes amendments to the structure for determining
premiums payable by each Department and Commonwealth authority
under the SRC Act. The proposals correspond to those changes
proposed in relation to determinations of payment set out in
Currently, the Commission prepares an estimate for each
Department or Commonwealth authority in relation to the relevant
premium to be paid. The estimate is given to the Departmental
Secretary or the principal officer of the authority, who has 14
days to object in writing to the estimate. If an objection is
lodged, the Commission reviews the estimate, and if the relevant
agency is not satisfied with the reviewed estimate a request can be
made to the Minister for a final review.
As with the scheme proposed for contributions, the Bill proposes
that primary responsibility for the determination of premiums be
transferred to Comcare. Comcare would also be responsible for the
initial review, and the Commission would be the final avenue of
review. The Minister would no longer be involved in the review
process. The rationale behind this proposal is administrative:
currently, the Commission only sits four times a year and as it
does not have the time to initiate estimate proposals itself, it
receives from Comcare detailed proposals in relation to premium
estimates. Therefore, it is considered that the proposed amendments
codify what is an existing situation. The Commission retains final
control over the review process, and is empowered to issue
directions to Comcare in relation methods of determination.
Finally, the Bill proposes that the all references to 'estimate' be
replaced by references to a 'determination'.
Item 7 deletes a reference to the Minister and
replaces it with the Commission so that the Commission who can
issue directions to Comcare in relation to determination of
Item 8 proposes to insert that it is the
function of Comcare to determine the amount of premiums of
Departments and Commonwealth authorities.
Items 9, 11, 24, 28 relate to the replacement
of the word 'determination' with the word 'estimate'.
Items 9, 12, 14, 17, 20, 22, 23 variously
repeal references to the Commission and replace them with Comcare
to reflect the proposed new function of Comcare as set out in Item
Item 13 proposes that in determining a premium,
Comcare must have regard to any guidelines issued by the
Commission. The Commission is empowered to issue such guidelines by
virtue of section 89C of the SRC Act.
Item 25 proposes the insertion of two new
sections. Proposed section 96CA sets out the obligations of Comcare
in regard to issuing a notice of determination to a Departmental
Secretary or the principal officer of a Commonwealth Authority.
Proposed section 96CB sets out the structure for the payment of a
premium. A Department or authority has 14 days on receipt of the
determination notice to pay the premium and, as in relation to the
payment of a determination of contribution, there is no provision
for payment to be withheld during a review.
Item 26 repeals the current mechanism for the
review of an estimate of a premium by the Commission and replaces
it with a review by Comcare. In general, this reflects the current
structure arequest for review of a determination must be submitted
to Comcare by the Commonwealth or authority within 14 days of
receiving a determination, and Comcare must review as soon as
practicable, and provide the relevant body with a written notice of
its decision. The two different features of this proposal are
firstly that Comcare has the power to not conduct a review if it
consider the request to be trivial, vexatious, misconceived or
lacking in substance and secondly that it is stated that a
determination must be paid regardless of a request for review. (A
mechanism to refund premiums following a review is provided for in
Item 32). This structure reflects that provided for in Item 18 in
relation to contributions.
Item 32 repeals the current sections which
relate to the confirmation of estimates (this has been collapsed by
the new subsection proposed in Item 31), the payment of premiums
(this has been covered in Item 25) and the variation of estimates
(which is reproduced in proposed section 96H.) Item 32 proposes
three new sections.
- The right of a Department or authority to request the
Commission to review Comcare's decision not to review a
determination. This is necessary due to Comcare's proposed power to
dismiss a request for review if it is considered trivial,
vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance, as set out in Item
- A new process relating to the refund of any part of a premium
paid in by a Department of authority following a review either by
Comcare of the Commission. This is necessary due to the timing of a
payment as discussed in Items 25 and 26.
- A new section relating to the circumstances in which Comcare
can vary a determination of a premium (these circumstances reflect
the current Act) and the process to be followed for refunding a
Department or authority following such a variation.
Part 3 Other Amendments
Item 36 relates to the delegation of powers and
- the Chief Executive Officer of Comcare may in writing delegate
to the Deputy Chief Executive Officer or a member of the staff of
Comcare any powers and functions that the Commission delegates to
the Chief Executive Officer; and
- a member of the Commission may in writing delegate to the Chief
Executive Officer, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of a member
of the staff of Comcare any functions or powers that the Commission
delegates to the member.
Both these provisions are contrary to paragraph 34AB(b) of the
Acts Interpretation Act 1901, which provides that where an
Act confers power on a person or body to delegate a function or
power, the powers that may be delegated do not include that power
to delegate (delegatus non potest delegare). The rationale
for this rule is to ensure that the legislature retains control in
determining the operation of decision making structures for
Commonwealth bodies. This rule, however, can be explicitly excluded
by legislation, which is done by Item 36.
Items 37 and 38 propose amendments which
reflect the new role of Comcare in relation to the licensing of
authorities for the purpose of transferring to them certain
functions relating to determining and settling compensation claims
in relation to their employees.
Item 40 relates to an existing administrative
arrangement between the Northern Territory Government and Comcare,
whereby for claims against the Northern Territory Government
between 1 July 1978 and 1 January 1987, it was agreed that Comcare
would administer and pay any accepted claims and the Northern
Territory Government would reimburse Comcare for any compensation
payment and administrative cost. This item formalises this
Item 42 relates to special transitional
provisions for former employees and proposes to ensure that the
amount in compensation received by a former employee in certain
circumstances does not fall below 70% of the employees normal
The issues raised in the Bill have attracted comment,
particularly in relation to the proposed amendments concerning
work-related stress leave. In addition to the comments already
noted from the HWCA Report, the following indicates different
aspects of the debate.
In the Second Reading Speech the Minister states the Bill will
ensure 'a fair, efficient and affordable workers' compensation
system which balances and supports the rights and responsibilities
of Commonwealth employers and their employees, and is sustainable
for the future without placing an unfair burden on
The Minister's Budget press release states that '[s]tress claims
represent 13% of all claims lodged, but 27% of total workers
compensation costs. The average cost of a stress claim is $32,000
compared with the average cost of other claims of $8,800. The
average length of absence from work associated with a stress claim
is approximately 11 weeks, compared with approximately 3.5 weeks
for all other claims. The cost to the Commonwealth of stress claims
in 1994-5 financial year was $37 million.' The press release states
that the proposals in relation to stress proposals should not be
seen 'an attempt to generate savings but rather to establish
management/employee relations on a sounder footing.'(15) For
example, extremely high workloads are given as an example of an
unreasonable management action. On the other hand, employer action
relating to the restructure and reorganisation of the Australian
Public Service would generally constitute reasonable managerial or
Comcare Australia's Annual Report for 1995-1996 indicates an
overall significant decrease for workbased stress claims both
submitted and accepted by Comcare between February 1995 and June
1996. For example, in the year 1994-1995, the percentage of stress
claims accepted as a percentage of all claims accepted by Comcare
was 9.6%. In the years 1995-1996, stress claims accepted by Comcare
as a percentage of all claims accepted by Comcare was only
6.9%.(16) As noted by the Minister, expenditure on stress claims
for 1995-1996 is approximately $37 million. By far the greatest
amount of accepted claims were those relating to strains excluding
back strains (around 29% in 1995-1996) and claims related to back
problems (around 17% in 1995-1996).(17) The Report suggests that
one factor for the decrease in lodged and accepted stress claims is
the integrated approach to workplace stress undertaken by the
Stress Claims Management Centre, established in January and
servicing the ACT and NSW areas. The Centre's approach is one of a
close liaison between claims managers, employers, employees and
Apropos of the Minister's Budget press release, the Shadow
Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon. Bob McMullan MP, issued
a press release stating that 'at a time when the Government is
slashing public service jobs and services, and placing public
servants under greater stress, it intends to legislate "stress"
claims out of existence.'(18) The Shadow Minister also noted that
such changes were in the context of Budget cuts of $6 million to
the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission and
Workcover and the imposition on Comcare of the three per cent
efficiency dividend $800,000.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has stated that the
proposed amendments to the test for compensation and stress related
claims pre-empts the final HWCA Report and that the amendments run
counter to the existing Australian Public Service enterprise
agreement in which it had been agreed that parties would work to
reduce the number of stress related claims without legislative
change. The CPSU has also indicated concern that restricting access
to work related claims would force people to use other forms of
paid leave to ameliorate stress, a move seen as costly and
detrimental to public sector efficiency.(19)
In a 1995 speech, the former Chief Executive Officer of Comcare
Australia, Dr Peter Shergold, outlined some of the issues related
to work based stress, an issue he named as complex and prone to
ill-informed prejudice and simplistic solutions.(20) Sherwood
states that research undertaken by Comcare reveals that in the vast
majority of instances workplace stress is a response to work
processes, workplace organisation and management practices in an
environment of considerable change. Similarly, Elizabeth McDowall
the Manager of Policy in the Victorian Workcover Authority, has
stated that occupational stress is associated with organisation
change, downsizing, redeployment, redundancy in an environment
where 'the workplace is continuously pushed to increase
productivity, reduce costs and produce more with less'.(21)
McDowall notes that workplace stress is also a major contributor to
other forms of ill health related to workplace absence, such as
migraine, back pain and insomnia, but which are often not
recognised as being a result of stress.
Both Shergold and McDowall note that stress claims are most
common in community service industries (education, hospitals,
counselling services, prison and police services) and Shergold
states that recent research by Comcare indicates that women are
over-represented as a proportion of those lodging claims for
occupational stress. Shergold emphasises the need for attitudinal
change to combat the incidence of workplace stress, including
promoting workplace health through staff involvement in decision
making, flexible work arrangements and addressing vocational
- Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon. Peter Reith MP,
'Federal Government Plan
- Changes to Compensation for Stress', Press Release, 20 August
- Second Reading Speech, Commonwealth Employees' Rehabilitation
and Compensation Bill
- 1988, House of Representatives, 27 April 1988: 2192-3.
- Commonwealth Employees' Rehabilitation and Compensation
Amendment Act 1992,
- sections 3-4.
- Heads of Workers' Compensation Authorities, Promoting
Excellence: National Consistenc
- in Australian Workers' Compensation - Interim Report, May
- ibid.: 1.
- ibid.: 57.
- ibid.: 58.
- Explanatory Memorandum, Industrial Relations Legislation
Amendment Bill 1996: 10.
- Second Reading Speech, Industrial Relations Legislation
Amendment Bill 1996, House o
- Representatives, 11 December 1996: 8186.
- ibid.: 8187.
- ibid.: 8188.
- Minister for Industrial Relations, Peter Reith MP, 'Federal
Government Plans Changes t
- Compensation for Stress', Press Release.
- Comcare Australia, Annual Report 1995-1996: 31-32.
- Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon. Bob McMullan
- Compromises Workers' Safety', Press Release, 21 August
- See Mike Taylor, 'Budget Cracks Down on PS Stress Claims',
Canberra Times, 27 Augus
- 1996: 1-2; Paul Molloy, 'Reith Cracks Down on PS Stress Leave',
Courier Mail, 1
- December 1996: 5.
- Dr Peter Shergold (CEO Comcare Australia), 'Managing Workplace
- Commonwealth Perspective on Occupational Stress', Paper
Presented at Workplace Healt
- Conference, 14-15 March 1995.
- Elizabeth McDowall, ' Stress', (1996) Australian Safety News,
6 February 1997
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