Driver 'injured' lugging MP's bags
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Driver 'injured' lugging MP's bags

Politics and chivalry don't always go together, according to one Canberra government chauffeur.

COMCAR driver Lynette Prater says she is still suffering from a shoulder injury she suffered carrying eight heavy bags for Defence Minister Stephen Smith while the senior cabinet member sat and waited in the car.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

Photo: Andrew Meares

The workers' compensation authority Comcare refused to pay out for the injuries Ms Prater says she sustained while lugging the heavy bags of the Labor minister 15 months ago.

Mr Smith's office says the minister has no memory of the event and that he or his staff would usually offer to help lift their bags and heavy document cases.

According to papers lodged in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), the then 49-year-old COMCAR driver picked up the minister at Canberra's RAAF Fairbairn airfield late on the night of November 20, 2011, as Mr Smith disembarked from a VIP flight.

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Ms Prater's official incident report recalls; ''Mr Smith came out and had two small silver cases with him, I then went to pick up the cases, they were extremely heavy and I could only manage to take one up to the car, he said he had a few more cases.

''Mr Smith put something else in the boot and then went and sat in the car, whilst I loaded the remaining cases in the boot.'' When they arrived at Parliament House, Ms Prater was left to unload the cases from the vehicle.

''Arriving at the basement Mr Smith went and got a trolley for him to take the cases inside and left me to take them out of the boot unassisted,'' the report reads.

''Left arm a bit tingly, I put this down to being a sore muscle.''

The driver said she hoped the severe pain that developed in her shoulder after the incident would go away, but when she was diagnosed with a muscle tendon sprain she claimed for workers' compensation. Her claim was denied by Comare, which cited the delay between sustaining the injury and lodging the claim.

Now Ms Prater, who has not returned to her job and says she cannot afford to have her injury treated privately, is fighting Comcare's decision in the AAT with the case listed for a conciliation conference.

She told Fairfax that she accepted the task when it became clear she was expected to lift the minister's bags on her own. ''I just shrugged my shoulders and thought 'oh well, I'm going to have to do it','' she said.

A spokesman for Mr Smith said he had not been aware of the issue until questioned by Fairfax.

''The minister and his staff regularly travel with secure briefcases and assist in the movement of them, without the need for a request for assistance.''