BOB CARR will go down in history as the man who led one of the most serious erosions of fundamental rights ever seen in this country, a national lawyers’ organisation said last week.
People injured at work, in road accidents and through the negligence of others “won’t be shedding any tears” over Carr’s departure, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said.
“Carr took a lead role in winding back the compensation rights of workers and others injured through negligence,” ALA president Richard Faulks said.
“The only beneficiaries of this knee-jerk policy response to tabloid headlines are insurance companies, who are now reaping windfall profits,” said Faulks.
“There are too many seriously injured people in New South Wales who are not receiving adequate compensation.”
He also challenged the common accusation that lawyers are trying to line their pockets. “Lawyers have a duty to speak on behalf of the injured, as do health professionals who speak out on behalf of their patients about inadequate hospitals.”
Faulks said he expected the new government of Morris Iemma to return to responsible policy development by restoring the balance away from the “big end of town” back to people “who suffer injuries at the hands of wrongdoers”.
Earlier this year, the ALA spoke out against Carr’s proposed no-fault compensation scheme, which it said literally added insult to injury for accident victims.
ALA chief executive Eva Sheerlinck said that she had grave concerns about the potential impact of such a scheme on seriously injured people. It could see people with “catastrophic injuries” end up on pensions in nursing homes for the rest of their lives, she said.
The Law Council of Australia (LCA) said it would consider a no-fault compensation scheme for the catastrophically injured, but added that Carr’s proposal was no answer to the damage already done to the NSW compensation system through tort reform.
But there are problems in the proposed scheme, said LCA president John North. “The common law system provides proper compensation to people injured as a result of negligence by someone else. No-fault compensation schemes, whether workers’ compensation or social security, never provide full compensation for an injured person’s loss,” said North.
State governments have already wound back injured people’s rights by making it hard for them to take cases to court, according to the ALA. States have also capped payouts and limited compensation for care provided by families, Sheerlinck said.
The LCA last year launched a national campaign to try and wind back the controversial law reforms and increase the amount of personal injury litigation. It released a lobbying kit to every state law society and bar association in an effort to make the reportedly over restrictive tort reforms a primary issue facing Carr.