Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1683 ..
Mrs Carnell: How?
MR BERRY: Mrs Carnell says, "How?". If you just finger through the pages of the report it will become clear to you. Targeting Comcare was something that a whole range of people were sceptical about.
With that commitment to ensure that there was adequate protection for workers, I moved the motion to set up the Select Committee on Workers Compensation Provisions. At this point I would like to say thank you to those members in this place who supported that motion to ensure that this issue was properly examined; not examined behind closed doors, not examined in such a way that the Minister would make a decision about who was going to be the new insurer, but properly examined in an open and consultative fashion - a way, incidentally, which was promised by Mrs Carnell before the last election. Of course, that was a promise which was soon discarded, Mr Speaker.
The committee set to work, looking at just what the ACT Government workers compensation arrangements were, what they cost, what made up those costs, where they delivered and where they did not. The committee consulted widely with unions, with workers, with the public sector managers, with insurers and, of course, with Comcare. We soon discovered that the high cost of workers compensation was blamed on the provider, Comcare. Labor, in government, was aware that there were difficulties in the area of occupational health and safety and work was under way. With the change to a conservative government, I was concerned that those philosophies of the Liberal Party would start to impact on workers compensation and they would cut conditions. That is their way of cutting costs for workers compensation insurance. There were suggestions coming from the Liberal Party that we ought to have the same sort of workers compensation provisions for the public sector as for the private sector. Of course, that would mean a reduction in the benefits available to public sector employees because they are far in advance of those which apply for the private sector.
Mr De Domenico: That is not true.
MR BERRY: If you wait until I am finished - - -
Mr De Domenico: No; you have not done your homework.
MR BERRY: Just wait until I finish and it will become clear to you. Those suggestions were put to rest during the course of the inquiry. The Government, or agents of the Government, said that they expected to continue with the mirror arrangements which were promised by Labor when the separate ACT public service was set up.
Mr De Domenico: That is true.
MR BERRY: That is true. We needed to settle down those issues, and I think we have done that. There is a great risk if the problem of workers compensation is approached in a simplistic way. I think we have seen this week an example of where the Government has aimed its sights at the messenger. Mrs Carnell attacked the ABS for the ACT's high youth unemployment rate. All they do is count them, and there are plenty to count under the Carnell Government. There is no question about that.