Vic Govt fails to consult over proposed new ‘inhumane’ TAC laws
17 October 2013
The Napthine Government wants to rush through two separate Bills which will strip away the legal rights of Victorian road trauma victims - in particular those who suffer psychological injury after a collision.
Leading road trauma specialist John Voyage, Maurice Blackburn principal said changes to TAC laws would reduce access to justice for all road trauma victims.
There has been no consultation with those who assist road trauma victims during the drafting of the Transport Accident Amendment Bill 2013 and the Transport Accident Amendment Further Amendment Bill 2013 which are still before State Parliament.
"These two new Bills are the biggest assault on road trauma victims for more than 20 years. Anyone with a mental illness caused by road trauma will be denied many legal rights if they want to appeal a TAC decision, and many will be disenfranchised from receiving compensation for accident-related injury. Further, one Bill proposes many reductions of rights, and reversing of decisions of the Victorian Supreme Court. This is inhumane. Plus it is, again, an attack on the Doctrine of Separation of Powers."
"As a community we are making significant in-roads towards recognising and getting early treatment for people with mental health problems. Road trauma can be a significant contributor to poor mental health and this move by the State Government makes no sense from an economic point of view. The TAC is running at a profit such as $973million for FY12/13* and is delivering hundreds of millions of dollars dividend to the government so the reasons for changes to the laws protecting road trauma victims are baffling and quite heartless," said Mr Voyage.
Many of the changes are administrative making it harder to challenge TAC decisions but some of the changes relate to limiting the rights of people who have suffered a severe psychological injury when involved in a collision or seeing a serious transport accident (that usually involves a loved one). Mr Voyage said the reforms have been triggered by some prominent, but one-off cases where the TAC has not liked the outcome of a case, for example when judgements have been made awarding damages to relatives who have experienced psychological injury when a loved one dies after a transport accident.
The proposed laws also limit the powers of the Supreme Court in TAC matters in order to make it harder for people to challenge the TAC.
Other parts of the proposed new laws are aimed a narrowing people's entitlements and invading their privacy with the TAC now demanding that injured people give the TAC authority to access their entire medical and other private records for the purposes of proving the severity of their injuries.
"The Government is saying that if people want to keep their lives private then they can withdraw from the scheme; but people have no choice, TAC is a compulsory government insurance scheme. And privacy is by its nature personal, it is the very reason that we all have curtains at home."
"We urge the State Government to rethink the consequences of these new laws so that road trauma victims are no worse off," said Mr Voyage.