Labour History

Inequality of Luck: Accident Compensation in New Zealand and Australia

Labour History (2013), 104, (1), 189–210.


The romance and liberating effects of the rise of the modern transport and industrial systems have attracted more attention than how accident victims, and their dependents, coped. Every modern society has a system of dealing with “blood on the bitumen” and “coming a gutser” at work or elsewhere but New Zealand is conspicuous in developing a no-fault comprehensive accident compensation system. About the same time, Australia had draft legislation before its legislature that included sickness too. Only New Zealand, however, in 1974, overturned common law and other remedies to institute a radical law reform over “accidents.” This paper considers the failure of policy transfer between New Zealand and Australia on this issue. More generally there has been relatively little historiographical interest in social experiments “down under,” or the expansion in the late twentieth century welfare states, despite the current public policy debate over an Australian disability scheme. It is argued that such expansions of the welfare state, such as no fault accident compensation, are awkward developments for the dominant neoliberal model of the state undermining welfare.

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*The author would like to thank the two anonymous referees ofLabour Historyfor their comments and suggestions. Google Scholar

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Author details

Nolan, Melanie