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Some of the departments around the place are coming to this Government and saying, “Hold on a tick. We have been asked to pay this amount of money for our workers compensation coverage. Our claims have not gone up. Why are we paying more for workers compensation?”. That is a very interesting question and a very salient question.
Mr Berry: I will tell you why.
MR DE DOMENICO: Mr Berry says that he will tell me why. I will take intelligent interjections, but I will not respond to the ones that are not. The Auditor-General is a classic example. The Auditor-General has had no claims at all, yet his workers compensation premiums continue to increase. Rightly, the Auditor-General said, “Is it not my role to be an Auditor-General and to spend as much money as I can to do what I am responsible for doing and not to spend it on workers compensation?”.
This Government has said that we need to change the way we pay for our workers compensation. We cannot change the benefits to the workers; let us refute this public nonsense that this Government has intentions of changing coverage for workers. There is no intention to change the coverage that workers currently have in the ACT Government Service. The intention of this Government is to make sure that we are getting value for money. Let us look at what other governments do. Every other State and Territory government in this country self-insures or has a combination of self-insurance and part-insurance bought from the private sector.
Let us have a look at what instrumentalities of the Government did some two years ago, and I take ACTEW as the classic example. Three or four years ago ACTEW set aside an amount of money - $750,000, I think it was - which quite adequately covered their workers compensation responsibilities. It invested that money into a separate account for the specific purpose of covering its workers for workers compensation. Mr Berry said that the previous Government “supported the process and management of Comcare”. Heaven's above, why would any government support the process and management of Comcare when Comcare manages the cases - we have no say in the management of our cases - it sends us a bill, and we pay the bill and ask no questions? That is what Mr Berry supported. This Government is saying that that is not good enough. We have a responsibility to make sure that we are getting value for money. The best way to do that is to have a look at our existing arrangements with Comcare, which are, by the way, that we need to give them 12 months’ notice before we tell them that we do not want them any more.
In the meantime, though, I want to make sure that we are making the right decision. Notwithstanding my 15 years’ involvement with workers compensation, I said that the best way out of this was to get some experts to come in and tell us, first of all, whether the current system is the best way to go. Ironically, as soon as the first public comments were made, Comcare rushed in wanting to talk to the Government about potential $7m savings in workers compensation. One wonders why Comcare did not do that two, three or four years ago. But no; it waited until someone made a public utterance and then, suddenly, it can show us where we can save $7m. “Too late!”, she cried. We needed to know that information years ago.