Improving Compensation for Injured Cyclists

04 Sep 2018

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) — It is a pleasure to rise to make what I anticipate will be some relatively brief comments on the Treasury and Finance Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.

I was going to say the bill is one of those rare creatures, an omnibus bill, but that is probably not reasonable because they are now not all that rare. While in fact it is not seeking to achieve great reform, it is very much a relatively minor fine-tuning bill. It does affect some seven pieces of legislation — the Transport Accident Act 1986, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, the Dangerous Goods Act 1985, the Equipment (Public Safety) Act 1994, the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013, the Accident Compensation Act 1985 and the Emergency Services Superannuation Act 1986.

There are 11 matters picked up by the bill. Some of them — like the benefits to cyclists, which I will refer to in a moment or two — essentially are contained in the one act. Others relate to the definition of 'family' and apply to three acts, and others are across a range of those seven acts that I have identified.

Essentially the proposed changes fall into two categories. One is the changes to the insurance-related operations of the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and the Victorian WorkCover Authority. The other relates essentially to the occupational health and safety regime. But again, as I say, they are really minor fine-tuning and nothing to get too excited about.

All of the changes I am relatively relaxed about. Some, had I been sitting on the other side of the house, I probably would have been happy to bring in as legislative proposals. Others I probably would not have bothered to do so, but from this side I am not going to get too upset about it. The opposition will not be getting too upset about it, and we will not be opposing the bill.

I guess the centrepiece of the legislation is the changes to the Transport Accident Act 1986 in part 2 of the bill — not so much all of the changes but particularly the changes that relate to the treatment of cyclists.

Cyclists are currently eligible for some compensation if they are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, but essentially that motor vehicle has to be mobile or it has to have the car door open. The act as it stands indicates that a cyclist is entitled to compensation as a result of an incident that is directly caused by the driving of a motor vehicle, involving a motor vehicle which is out of control, a collision between a bike and an open or opening car door — which I think we have become all too familiar with, unfortunately, in the last few years as the number of bikes has increased significantly — or a collision between a bike and a motor vehicle while the cyclist is travelling to or from their place of employment, which is considered to be a journey incident.

What of course has not been covered is a situation where a cyclist riding a bike collides with a stationary vehicle but not the door of the stationary vehicle, which really is an anomaly.

I know there has been one well publicised case — that of Mr Rory Wilson, who on 9 July 2014 was involved in a collision and sustained severe injuries but has not been able to have his medical costs covered by the TAC. In fact this bill has been nicknamed Rory's Law in the press. I do not think that term has been used in the house, although the minister may have used it in the second-reading speech. Certainly Mr Wilson and similarly affected people will benefit greatly from this relatively minor change.

I am pleased to see it has come through. Of course this bill was introduced and second read before the midwinter break, and it appeared for a while that in fact it might not find its way on to the government business program and pass, so I am pleased to see that it has made a reappearance this week and that it looks like it will get through before the Parliament rises ahead of the November election.

This is clearly of great benefit to a very small number of cases. It is a change that eliminates an inconsistency in the act, so I think it is worthwhile from that point of view. I am advised that the impact on the scheme is negligible. That is obviously something that we need to consider, but I think the human aspect is the more important consideration in this case, so I think that is a worthwhile change.

A range of other changes are proposed to the TAC act, the WIRC Act and the Accident Compensation Act with regard to an expanded definition of 'immediate family'. That is probably a more 21st-century definition of 'immediate family', so that the act is contemporised.

There is also an increase in the cap for travel and accommodation benefits, and I think that recognises the reality of travel. Again those three acts are affected. There are some changes around entitlements and income support for parents over a fairly precise period. With regard to the elements regarding the occupational health and safety provisions, essentially they revolve around consultation, the electronic service of notices, summary and indictable offences, inspections, procedures and minor changes to the management of asbestos.

As I said at the outset, it is basically nuts and bolts stuff and nothing to get too excited about. It is something that the Parliament needs to determine, but it is something that we can determine and dispatch and then move on to other business.

There is nothing here that, as the shadow Minister for Finance, I am going to get too excited about or that I think the opposition is going to get too excited about.

I have consulted fairly widely with industry groups and others, and essentially they have indicated that they are entirely relaxed about the proposed changes. In fact hopefully the changes will streamline the operation of the various acts and both ease the burden on employers and, more importantly, make sure that the occupational health and safety legislation and the occupational health and safety arrangements are as effective as possible because, after all, the name of the game in any of this issue is to make sure that people can go to work and come home again safely in exactly the same condition as they were in when they walked out the door in the morning. That is the bottom line on this issue.

With those few words — I think I said I was going to go for less than 10 minutes and if I sit down now I will have achieved that — the opposition in this case will not be opposing the bill.

Legislative Assembly 4 September 2018