The new Queensland Government is to wind back “harsh and unfair” changes to WorkCover QLD legislation made under former premier Campbell Newman.
Further to yesterday’s article “Ill worker seeks damages against sacked former NSW finance minister for breach of privacy” it has come to our attention that The Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s most interesting decision is formally on the record: AQO v Gregory Pearce MLC  NSWCATAD 210.
Workcover premiums in NSW are set to fall by an average of 5% for 200,000 employers; and workcover premiums in Victoria are also be reduced by 2% in July… but guess who will cover the costs of these savings? Injured workers, further stripped from medical benefits and weekly payments!
As we’ve recently seen, the embarrassing $1.36 billion surplus of WorkCover NSW Scheme, alleged to be mainly because of stronger investment returns, has been greeted with cynicism and saracasm by the state opposition. NSW Labor Opposition has accused treasurer Andrew Constance of “championing a workers’ compensation scheme that generates profits at the expense of injured workers”. “A surplus built on misery“.
The 20 May announcement of a drop in WorkCover QLD premiums for employers proves that the Newman Government’s changes to the QLD workers’ compensation scheme, which were rammed through Parliament last year, were unnecessary, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
Budget cuts to Medicare (reducing Medicare rebates by $5 and introducing a co-payment of $7 towards seeing a GP) will be borne by the injured, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
Injured workers are often receiving statutory compensation amounts yet are not eligible for concession cards. Instead, they will be shelling out the full $7 on each and every occasion they visit a GP throughout their recovery and beyond. Statutory compensation amounts are already usually below a person’s pre-injury wage rate.
The NSW government has stripped another 16,000 injured workers of NSW workers compensation benefits, worth a combined $350 million, with their successful appeal to the High Court against Mr Ronald Goudappel a worker who crushed his foot and ankle at work, wrote David Shoebridge MLC on his website.
“If you wanted a case study in a bureaucracy that ensures vulnerable people who need assistance can’t get it you would establish the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme: you would exclude legal representation, you would empower insurers and you would limit benefits. That’s exactly what we’ve got in NSW”, said MP david Shoebridge during the first day of the Parliamentary inquiry. We couldn’t agree more and are extremely grateful for David Shoebridge’s relentless battle for NSW injured workers. Likewise, we take our hats off to the Injured Workers Support Network!
Tony Abbott’s “biggest bonfire of regulation in our country’s history” will allow some organisations to opt out of state compensation schemes and instead operate under the Commonwealth’s scheme, Comcare.
According to The Conversation, This change is likely to be counterproductive in an already messy system and has the potential to further undermine the viability and fairness of workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia.
The Coalition has been accused of meddling in the affairs of the Victorian WorkCover Authority after two safety ads were pulled and a lucrative advertising contract was mysteriously thrown into limbo at the 11th hour.
Coalition accused of meddling in Victorian WorkCover safety campaign
The Sunday Age’s state political editor.
9 March 2014
Safety campaigns to protect workers have been scrapped in what some say is a politically motivated attempt to make the state government’s key workplace authority less hostile to employers.
The Coalition has been accused of meddling in the affairs of the Victorian WorkCover Authority after two ads were pulled and a lucrative advertising contract was mysteriously thrown into limbo at the 11th hour, despite two agencies being shortlisted months ago.
Several well-placed sources have told The Sunday Age that in at least one instance, an ad that came down heavily on employers for unsafe work practices was removed from television last year ”because the minister didn’t like it’‘. Several months later, a second advertisement warning businesses about injuries relating to manual labour was also canned before it went to air after government advisers saw the script, resulting in about $600,000 in wasted production costs.
WorkCover says the so-called ”Niggles” campaign was scrapped because ”the filmed results fell short of the standards set by the VWA for its awareness campaign”. However, an independent assessment by Sweeney Research found the campaign would have had a ”positive impact” on workers, and would encourage employers to adopt a safer approach.
The allegations come at a sensitive time for the WorkCover Authority, which in the past few months has restructured its operations, shed staff, and is now in the process of scrapping the WorkSafe logo – one of Australia’s most recognised brands – as part of a government overhaul of the workers compensation safety system.
While unions say the move is shortsighted and ideologically driven, WorkCover Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said the shift was appropriate given changes to WorkCover legislation, which comes into effect on July 1. From that point, WorkSafe will be known by its legal name, the Victorian WorkCover Authority.
Asked whether the government had a role in the campaigns’ scrapping, the minister’s spokesman, Andrew Drever, said the Coalition ”encourages discussion, so that the commitments made by the government on legislative or policy changes or initiatives are reflected in the overall strategy of the VWA. However, VWA ultimately makes its own decisions about what campaigns will run.”
”While the government will have views on the content of VWA’s advertising material, final decisions on what goes to air is a matter for VWA,” Mr Drever said.
Labor, meanwhile, has questioned why hundreds of thousands of dollars had been wasted cancelling ads at the same time as staff were losing their jobs.
”The government needs to explain the chaos in WorkCover advertising,” opposition spokesman Robin Scott said. ”It is the height of arrogance to waste money cancelling advertising while sacking staff at WorkSafe.”
Questions have also been raised about a lucrative contract that mysteriously stalled at the end of last year, despite two agencies being chosen to progress through to the final stages.
According to a probity audit obtained by The Sunday Age, five organisations were initially shortlisted for the tender. After evaluation, a recommendation was made to invite two agencies – Grey Melbourne and the Shannon Company – to take part in the negotiating stage of the tender process, which would determine who should win the contract. But months later, an agency is yet to be selected.
WorkCover did not answer questions about how much the contract was worth, why the process had stalled, or to what extent, if any, the government had been involved. Instead, a spokesman said: ”A shortlist of agencies are participating in the final stage of the tender and have been kept fully informed of the process. The VWA expects the result of the tender to be announced later this month.”