As if his proposed changes aren’t bad enough, it seems the Premier has no idea about the laws he’s attempting to pass. He’s also blaming everyone except WorkCover and insurance companies for the woeful state of the system. O’Farrell is currently denying the laws will be passed retrospectively, however, Pearce states they will be. Many people are outraged, as they should be. I would only ask, as an injured worker myself, that you not allow what you are hearing through the media distress you too much (easier said than done). There are many people from unions, the legal profession and media that are outraged and ready for a major fight. Current benefits are an outrage without them trying to make life much harder.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has flatly denied his WorkCover overhaul is retrospective.
“No they are not,” he said today, a day after the controversial reforms passed the lower house.
“The changes simply mean if the parliament passes the laws, the laws come into effect from the day the government signs off on them and from that moment on they take effect.”
Mr O’Farrell compared it to speeding fines.
“You find the week after we put them up the people who got fined two weeks earlier do it under the other regime,” he told ABC Radio.
The Legislative Assembly voted 65 to 24 to pass the coalition’s plan to rein in WorkCover’s deficit of more than $4 billion.
The changes are expected to go before the state’s upper house by the end of the week.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said Mr O’Farrell’s claim that the changes were not retrospective demonstrated that he didn’t understand the legislation.
“This is cruel, retrospective legislation that pulls the rug from under sick and injured workers,” Mr Lennon said in a statement.
“We know of specific cases where grieving widows who were set to seek compensation for nervous shock will now be denied the right to even make a claim.”
Mr Lennon pointed to schedule 12, clause three of the new laws, which he said clearly stated the changes could be applied retrospectively.
Sydney-based personal injury lawyer Ivan Simic agreed that the laws were retrospective and workers who’d made claims under the old regime would be immediately affected.
“It’s going to affect the vast majority,” he said.
“The starting point for the legislation is that it applies to all injuries and claims that were made before the date of the commencement of the Act.”
Mr Simic said the only people who would be exempt from the changes were police officers and coal miners.
“If you’re a police officer good on ya – you’ve got a gold pass,” he said.
On ABC Radio this morning, Mr O’Farrell said reports that medical benefits would be cut off after 12 months were also wrong.
“That, in the vernacular, is BS,” he said.
“The fact is that under the proposals put forward, medical benefits terminate a year after compensation payments cease.”
The premier said workers who broke their leg and were off work for four years would get compensation payments for that time.
“Then between four and five years you still get your medical expenses for that paid – that’s where the 12 months cuts off… it doesn’t cut off 12 months after the injuries occur.”
Mr O’Farrell rejected claims from Federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten that he was “going after” seriously injured workers.
“There are people who are severely injured and totally incapacitated and under our changes their benefits will actually go up,” he said.
“But for other people, whatever their injury, there will be WorkCover testing to assess whether or not they can go back to work.”
Mr O’Farrell said he had “real concerns” about how lawyers and doctors had used the scheme in the past, and it was time for it to be financially sustainable.