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For Mr HERBERT (Minister for Training and Skills), Mr Jennings tabled following statement in accordance with Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006:
In accordance with section 28 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (the 'charter'), I make this statement of compatibility with respect to the Wrongs Amendment (Asbestos Related Claims) Bill 2014.
In my opinion, the Wrongs Amendment (Asbestos Related Claims) Bill 2014, as introduced to the Legislative Council, is compatible with human rights as set out in the charter. I base my opinion on the reasons outlined in this statement.
The bill operates retrospectively to exempt sufferers of asbestos-related conditions from the requirement to demonstrate that they have suffered a 'significant injury' under part VBA of the Wrongs Act 1958 (the act) in order to make a claim for damages for non-economic loss. In doing so, the bill makes it easier for claimants who suffer from asbestos-related conditions to seek compensation for their injuries.
Human rights issues
The bill does not limit any rights under the charter.
I note that under section 6(1) of the charter, only natural persons have human rights. The vast majority of defendants in asbestosis claims are corporations. To the extent that the bill could apply to a defendant who is an individual person rather than a corporation, it is possible that the right to fair hearing (contained in s24 of the charter) might be relevant. The exemption of plaintiffs from the requirement to demonstrate that they have suffered a 'significant injury' will apply retrospectively in respect of proceedings that commenced prior to the commencement of the bill. However, the right to a fair hearing is concerned with procedural fairness in the hearing of a proceeding rather than the fairness of the substantive law applied in a proceeding. The bill alters the substantive law and nothing in the bill will prevent any claim from being determined by a competent, independent and impartial court after a fair and public hearing.
Steve Herbert, MP
Minister for Training and Skills