From 27 April 2016 the Red Tape Reduction Legislation Amendment Act 2016 came into force and made broad changes to the use of statutory declarations across all ACT civil legislation. Generally the Act removed the requirement for statutory declarations, allowing unsworn and unwitnessed statements to be used instead. This amendment, as the title of the legislation suggests, was intended to make it easier for various statutory administrative functions to be carried out.
Prior to the amendment, section 129(5) of the Workers Compensation Act 1951 (Act) required insurers to provide a statutory declaration to claimants setting out the reasons for rejecting a claim if it occurred between 28 days and 1 year after the claim was made. The change means that insurers can now provide a statement to the same effect. Although the penalties for making a false statutory declaration are no longer relevant, making a false or misleading statement remains an offence under section 337 of the ACT Criminal Code 2002.
It is an offence under section 337 of the Criminal Code 2002, as it applies to the Act, to make a false or misleading statement where the person making the statement is either aware that, or reckless about whether, it is false or misleading, or omits “anything” without which the statement becomes false or misleading. The penalties under section 337 include payment of penalty units and/or imprisonment.
Accordingly, while the burden on insurers has been reduced, it is important that the same level of care and attention be paid to drafting rejection statements as previously for statutory declarations. As well as ensuring that an offence is not committed, it will continue to provide greater protection to an insurer in the event that a claimant alleges a rejection lacks merit.