Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission

Findings required to justify exercise of discretion

The Industrial Magistrate's Court partially upheld a claim made by a police officer regarding reimbursement claims made to the Police Commissioner. Under clause 36 of the Western Australian Police Industrial Agreement 2014 (the Agreement), the Commissioner of Police may reimburse reasonable non-work related medical expenses where those expenses fall under the categories prescribed. The applicant made 3 such applications for expenses and the Police Commissioner refused the reimbursement claims.

The Police Commissioner contended that the 3 applications do not fall within the description of Non-Work Third Party Expenses Benefit because the expenses do not follow a 'referral' by a doctor for a 'service'. Industrial Magistrate Flynn found that the ordinary meaning of 'referral' in a medical context is the introduction of a patient by one medical practitioner to another medical practitioner for treatment. The fact that the claimant had such a letter that did not directly state it was a referral was insignificant as the purpose was to act as a referral. Flynn IM disagreed with the Police Commissioners assumption that 'service' has a technical meaning where the term appears in the context of 'x-ray or other service'. Flynn IM found that medical machine purchase, machine hire and hospital expense could all be 'services' under the agreement.

The claimant argued that the Police Commissioner was required to grant reimbursement. Flynn IM considered the meaning of 'may' within the agreement and found that the ordinary meaning of the word denotes a possible outcome and that the ordinary meaning of a word is to be preferred.

Flynn IM considered whether the Police Commissioner had exercised the discretion conferred by the agreement. The responses by the Police Commissioner to the claimant suggested that the Police Commissioner may have incorrectly interpreted the agreement.

Flynn IM ordered the Police Commissioner to re-consider reimbursement claims for non-work related medical expenses made by the claimant.

The decision can be read here.

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