Lawyers furious about changes to the Queensland workers compensation scheme


Lawyers are furious about proposed changes to the Queensland state’s workers compensation scheme have vowed to cruel the re-election chances of Government MPs. Shine Lawyers, of the state’s highest profile personal injury law firms has predicted losing millions of dollars in profit of changes to Queensland workers’ compensation laws, due to be passed in Parliament on Thursday (= Yesterday 17 Oct).

Lawyers furious about proposed changes to the Queensland workers compensation scheme

Lawyers threaten Queensland Government over WorkCover crackdown

October 17, 2013

Lawyers are furious about proposed changes to the Queensland state’s workers compensation scheme have vowed to cruel the re-election chances of Government MPs.

Several MPs say they have received letters from lawyer constituents warning they would actively campaign to ensure they were not re-elected if they did not take a stand against the WorkCover amendments.

The changes include a cap on common-law claims and tougher penalties for those who lodge fraudulent compensation claims.

The rules will likely cost the legal fraternity millions, according to one prominent firm. The laws are set to be passed by State Parliament today.

The Courier- Mail has obtained a letter sent to one MP by a lawyer and constituent which stated: “If these anticipated changes are brought in, I will do my very best to ensure that your career … is a short one.

“If your government shows that it does not have the strength to stand up to this pressure, or for some ideological or other reason, introduces changes to restrict the entitlements of Queensland workers to pursue claims for damages because of the negligence of their employers, I will do everything I can to ensure you are not elected at the next election.”

Another MP said they received a letter which stated: “This has been a disgraceful, underhand course of conduct. I will do my very best to ensure that at the next election you are not re-elected.”

Businesses have welcomed the WorkCover changes, which include a 5 per cent injury threshold for common law claims and tougher penalties for those caught out lodging fraudulent claims, predicting they will lead to smaller premiums.

Unions and lawyers, however, say imposing the threshold will disadvantage thousands of Queensland workers who will no longer be able to pursue negligent employers through the courts.

High-profile law firm Shine told the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday the changes could cost it up to $2.5 million in lost profit.

Shine managing director Simon Morrison said the changes would be felt in the 2014-15 financial year. But he said the company would adapt.


Law firms predict big WorkCover losses

17 October 2013

Shine Lawyers managing director Simon Morrison.Shine Lawyers managing director Simon Morrison. Photo: Glenn Hunt

One of the state’s highest profile personal injury law firms has predicted losing millions of dollars in profit of changes to workers’ compensation laws, due to be passed in Parliament on Thursday.

Shine Corporate Limited announced to the ASX on Wednesday that the government’s proposed 5 per cent injury threshold, predicted to halve the number of cases eligible for a common law remedy, could reduce its 2014/15 net profit by between $2 million and $2.5 million.

The government introduced its amended WorkCover legislation earlier this week. Once passed, it will be harder to sue a negligent employer, penalties will increase for fraudulent claims and employers will have access to worker’s injury and claim history.
Qld Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie speaking to media about the Qld government's proposed changes to bail in relation to  motorcycle gang members.(Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie. Photo: Glenn Hunt – on right side)

All workers will still be entitled to statutory compensation and journey claims.

But the change to common law claims will impact the bottom line of personal liability law firms, which had lobbied hard against changing the scheme.

Shine’s managing director, Simon Morrison, said the predicted change in profit was limited to the Queensland arm of the company.

“Shine has adjusted successfully to these types of reforms in other states and is well placed to adapt to the Queensland reforms which should begin to flow through from next financial year,” he said in a statement to the ASX.

Shine Lawyers was established by former Labor Attorney-General and Toowoomba MP Kerry Shine.

Slater & Gordon also released a statement to the stock exchange but announced but the impact of the legislation would be lessened because Queensland worker’s compensation represented just 5 per cent of its total group revenue for the 2014-15 financial year.

“We are fortunate that we have an agile business that is able to adapt to legislative change; it is an unfortunate situation for Queensland workers who are facing a reduction in their rights and access to compensation as a result of these foreshadowed laws.”

The Australian Lawyer’s Alliance said a ReachTel poll conducted on Ashgrove voters, where the Premier holds his seat, on Tuesday night found 58.5 per cent of voters would be “less likely” to vote for the LNP at the next election because of the WorkCover changes.

The changes have been subjected to fierce opposition by both lawyers and unions, but business lobby groups have welcomed them as an avenue for possibly reducing premiums.

Currently the Queensland scheme costs employers $1.45 for every $100 in wages and is the second lowest premium of all the states.

While lawyers have launched a media attack to counter the changes, the unions plan to protest outside parliament house on Thursday afternoon.

Queensland Councils of Unions president John Battams said New South Wales workers would share their stories at the rally, detailing their “struggles under an inferior workers’ compensation scheme”.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the legislation changes was about making the scheme “fairer for all”, including employers (WTF)

The amendments to the WorkCover act will be passed before the end of the day (17 Oct)

Qld workers comp laws will be envy of all, says Bleijie – WTF!

APN Newsdesk
15th Oct 2013 1:37 PM

QUEENSLAND Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie will introduce changes to State Parliament this week that he claims will restore the workers compensation scheme as the envy of every other state.

Mr Bleijie said the scheme will be the fairest in the nation, with the most coverage for workers and the lowest premiums for employers.

“Our scheme will put the focus back on injury management, rehabilitation and return to work outcomes for injured workers and a competitive premium for employers,” he said.

“Queensland workers will continue to be protected under changes to strengthen the existing system.

“We want workers to be covered, even when they are travelling to and from work, so journey claims will be retained.

“Queensland will be the only State to provide this type of coverage,” he said.

Mr Bleijie said the State Government was also taking measures to protect businesses from outlandish claims and skyrocketing premiums.

“Access to common law claims will remain in Queensland, except for those with a medically assessed injury of 5% or less,” Mr Bleijie said.

“Every injured worker will continue to be covered under the statutory no fault compensation system which includes payment for lost wages, medical treatment and access to lump sum compensation.

“We want to help injured workers get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said the plan to change the access to common law claims was a blow for Queensland workers.

“Removing this for injured workers will undoubtedly sentence some Queensland families to poverty,” he said.

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5 Responses to “Lawyers furious about changes to the Queensland workers compensation scheme”

  1. Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie may have won the battle to water down Queensland’s workers’ compensation rights, but unions say the war is far from over.

    Parliament was asked to pass controversial laws on Thursday, just two days after they were introduced.

    Under the laws workers won’t be able to seek compensation if they’re injured on the job and their impairment is less than five per cent.

    Bosses will also have access to a job applicant’s injury history and workers who lodge fraudulent compensation claims face tougher penalties.

    The government says the changes are designed to crackdown on “ambulance chasing lawyers” and protect businesses from outlandish claims and skyrocketing premiums.

    But the Queensland Council of Unions says the government is pandering to big businesses, which could see their insurance premiums drop by 15 per cent.

    “It’s a few extra dollars out of the pockets of employers, but it will be at the expense of workers who will lose tens of thousands of dollars,” QCU president John Battams says.

    About 500 workers protested loudly outside parliament waving banners and calling the attorney-general a liar: “Bleiar, Bleiar, Bleiar.”

    Unions say they’ll campaign in Mr Bleijie’s Sunshine Coast electorate to unseat him at the next state election.

    A new poll commissioned by the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) shows the government’s plans are out of step with community expectations and Premier Campbell Newman risks losing his seat.

    Lawyers vowed to campaign against the changes at the next election.

    The amendments could see Shine Lawyers’ profits slip $2.5 million next financial year as the number of common law claims dramatically drop.

    ALA spokesman Rod Hodgson said WorkCover is profitable and there’s no reason for change.

    “Lawyers who are members of the LNP themselves and have been lifelong LNP voters are deeply concerned,” he said.

    “I expect that lawyers individually and collectively will be expressing concerns on an ongoing basis including though to the next election campaign.”

    The Australian Industry Group, Master Builders, Queensland Trucking Association, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) say the current system is too costly, and is open to double dipping and rorts.

    About 81 per cent of the state’s businesses support the new injury threshold, the CCIQ says.

    Spokesman Nick Behrens says employer premiums would be reduced on average by 15 per cent, which would save businesses $290 million.

    “Queensland will restore its status as having the lowest compensation premiums in Australia,” he said.

    Queensland Trucking Association CEO Peter Garske said his industry was crippled by premiums, which have increased by 34 per cent in the last three years.

    “An impairment to continued and future employment is employees who are prepared to shop and see, with the help of their lawyers, to see how much they can screw out of the system,” he said.

  2. Being cynical sounds like lawyers are more upset about losing income than out of any real concern for employees having their rights cut.

  3. Will employers now be able to gain access to my claims history my injuries? As it stands now, they have no access to it

  4. Controversial laws to change Queensland’s workers compensation scheme have been passed after passionate debate in Parliament overnight.

    The legislation limits the injuries for which workers can sue employers, angering unions and lawyers.

    Labor and the minor parties opposed the laws.

    The Government drew more criticism when it guillotined parliamentary debate on the laws at midnight (AEST).

    Independent MP Liz Cunningham says details escaped scrutiny.

    “It’s a very emotive Bill and one that we haven’t had a lot of time to either digest or to properly debate,” she said.

    She became emotional after recounting her family’s experience when her father was hurt on the job, telling the House the scheme should not have been changed.

    “It will disadvantage families at a time when they are most vulnerable because of injuries and most vulnerable to family disconnect and most vulnerable to financial hardship,” she said.

    “I think it is unnecessary and reprehensible.”

    The Opposition says some Government MPs will lose their seats because of changes to workers compensation laws.

    Labor MP Bill Byrne says the laws will change votes.

    “LNP members will lose their seats over this issue,” he said.

    However, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says public consensus was impossible.

    “We haven’t pleased the business community – they wanted more,” he said.

    “We haven’t pleased lawyers – they wanted less.”

    He moved an amendment to give injured workers an extra option to appeal medical assessments.
    Changes will ‘benefit the rural sector’

    Meanwhile, the Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF) has welcomed the State Government’s changes to the workers compensation scheme.

    QFF chief executive officer Dan Galligan says farmers have faced rising premiums for the past decade.

    He says some of the changes to Queensland’s WorkCover compensation scheme will benefit the rural sector.

    Mr Galligan says the Government is on the right track in reducing to reduce premiums for employers.

    “One of the reasons why premiums in workers compensation continue to rise, is because of the ongoing struggling in trying to manage safety in rural businesses,” he said.

    “They are inheritably a risky place to work, so we want to see a balance between profitable workers compensation scheme.

    “But we would like to see some of that money go back into rural businesses, particularly to assist us in working with them to reduce the risks in the workplace.”

    Mr Galligan says one of the proposed changes would give farmers access to the claim history of job applicants.

    “That should be a benefit to employers, particularly in rural business, as many employees travel the country working in agriculture businesses and sometimes we do get caught with people with pre-existing conditions that they don’t make clear when they’re employed,” he said.

    “That change will be a positive step for an employer as well.”

    workcovervictim3 October 18, 2013 at 11:10 am
  5. Unionists vent WorkCover anger outside Qld Parliament

    Hundreds rally outside Parliament House in Brisbane over changes to workers compensation laws on October 17, 2013. Photo: Hundreds of unionists rally outside Parliament House in Brisbane today. (ABC News: Maria Hatzakis)
    Video: Workers march on Qld Parliament over workcover laws (7pm TV News QLD)
    Related Story: Qld Opposition demands Premier sack Attorney-General Bleijie
    Map: Brisbane 4000

    About 400 angry workers have rallied outside Parliament House in Brisbane, calling on the Queensland Government to reconsider changes to WorkCover laws.

    Members of the Queensland Nurses Union, Electrical Trades Union, United Voice, Australian Workers Union and the CFMEU attended the joint rally.

    They chanted for Premier Campbell Newman to address the crowd.

    Union members say the changes to workers compensation unfairly remove the rights of some injured workers to sue their employers.

    They are worried it will impact vulnerable families and children of injured workers.

    The Nurses Union also presented a petition to the Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, calling on the Government to halt its plan to privatise health services.

    Members of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, who have been attending a national conference nearby, marched through the CBD to join the rally.
    ‘Ambulance chasers’

    Parliament has been debating the proposed changes to WorkCover this afternoon.

    Premier Campbell Newman says workers will still be eligible for other payouts.

    “People have been encouraged by ambulance-chasing legal firms to sue their employers over small matters,” he said.

    The amendments are set to almost halve the profit of legal firm Shine Lawyers.

    The Australian Stock Exchange has been informed Shine Corporate Limited is likely to see net profit after tax reduce by $2 million to $2.5 million.

    Shine managing director Simon Morrison says the company has adjusted to similar reforms in other states and is well placed to deal with the changes in Queensland by reducing its reliance on personal injury compensation.

    Of the company’s 40 offices, 27 are in Queensland.

    But Rob Hodgson from the Australian Lawyers Alliance says his colleagues are more concerned about workers rights, and will campaign against the changes up until the next election.

    “A lot of lawyers who are members of the LNP themselves are deeply concerned,” he said.

    Mr Hodgson says most claims are legitimate.

    “Unworthy claims are weeded out early in the piece,” he said.
    Employers ‘will save millions’

    Business groups insist workers compensation changes are needed because some employees are taking advantage of the current system.

    Nick Behrens from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland says the changes will cut premiums for employers, and workers will still be eligible for lump sum payments.

    “What this bill does does not deny an employee the right to compensation,” he said.

    “At the moment, employees are trying their luck to see what sort of settlement they can receive from WorkCover and Queensland believes this is grossly unfair.

    “It will save the Queensland business community $293 million.”

    The Queensland Trucking Association says some workers are shopping around to see how much they can “screw” out of the system.

    workcovervictim3 October 18, 2013 at 9:38 am