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Policy transfer and statutory injury compensation in Australia

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posted on 01.03.2017, 00:30 authored by Brownbill, Conan Arthur
Explaining the origins of legislation that modifies compensation for personal injury or death from accident in Australia is important. Compensation legislation has existed for many years, is present in all jurisdictions, benefits thousands of Australians and has significant economic and social costs. Yet, detailed explanations of origins are few and there are multiple criticisms. It is important, given these criticisms and schemes’ significance, to understand why governments took the reform approaches that they did. In particular, further insights on why particular injuries were singled out for compensation and why disparities exist among Australian States are valuable. To this end, this thesis examines the contribution that policy transfer, as defined by Dolowitz and Marsh (1996, 2000), made to compensation legislation. The thesis asks: what was the contribution of policy transfer during the evolution of statutory injury compensation in Australia?. The thesis relies upon an analysis of four case studies to address its question as there are literally thousands of examples of compensation legislation in Australia. The studies have been designed specifically to address the research question. The first case examines the contribution that policy transfer made to colonial employers’ liability legislation and workers’ compensation legislation enacted from 1882 to 1926. The second case examines the contribution that policy transfer made to statutory criminal injuries compensation enacted from 1967 to 30 June 2014. The third case examines the contribution that policy transfer made to legislation designed to moderate damages for personal injury or death from motor accident enacted from 1935 to 30 June 2014. The fourth case examines government deliberations about no-fault motor accident compensation that took place between 1973 and 1989. This thesis reveals that policy transfer made a substantial contribution to the evolution of statutory injury compensation in Australia. Transfer from the United Kingdom (UK) and New Zealand (NZ) inspired the forms of statutory compensation that this thesis examined and interstate transfer became dominant subsequently. Initially, governments copied policy characteristics but as their experience grew and ties with the UK declined, governments drew inspiration from other jurisdictions’ legislation only or emulated compensation characteristics. Altruistic considerations were an important factor that facilitated policy transfer when governments first legislated but financial considerations and attempts to moderate compensation expenditure became more significant subsequently. The research revealed that governments frequently under estimated behavioural impacts of statutory injury compensation reform. Negative lessons were also prominent as governments learned what to avoid and drew from the poor experience of statutory injury compensation in other jurisdictions. The research demonstrated that future policy makers would be advised to adopt a wider lens towards the potential sources for policy transfer. Policy makers are also recommended to better interrogate the potential financial implications and behavioural impacts of statutory injury compensation.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Graeme Hodge

Additional supervisor 1

Alex Collie

Additional supervisor 2

Eric Windholz

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre


Additional Institution or Organisation

Centre for Commercial Law and Regulatory Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Law