Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1688 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
In fairness to Comcare, they now have the opportunity to show their ability to improve and to deliver services. Today, when you look at the cost per Commonwealth employee and the cost for the ACT Government Service, you will find a dramatic difference. In the ACT public service the cost today is in the order of $24,000, compared with just under $9,000 in the Commonwealth; so there is something wrong. We need to look at how we can improve it. Once again I commend the report. It is an apolitical report and the chairman should not use it as a political instrument with which to take the Government to task. The Government is conscious of its responsibilities in this area, and I think it was of little credit to the chairman to use the report in that way.
MR MOORE (10.54): Mr Speaker, I think the most significant thing about this report is that it is a unanimous report of the committee. It seems to me that when we have unanimous reports from committees we have much stronger reports and ones that ought to be much more acceptable to government. When I started on this process I believed that the committee's report would largely be about finances and economic considerations. There is no doubt that for a number of years we have been concerned about economic issues associated with Comcare. It takes only a reading of the Estimates Committee reports and Estimates Committee transcripts over the last few years to realise that that was the case. As I became more involved in the issues I modified where I was coming from, as I suppose do most people in respect of this issue, and realised that it is not about just money. It is really about protection of our workers and ensuring that workers who are injured have an appropriate quality of life, and that workers who have been injured are able to get back into the work force and to work in a meaningful way.
That having been said, Mr Speaker, I think that there still is room for improvement in two ways. The most significant is in the way we case manage our workers so that we can reduce our financial commitment to Comcare, but not just as a result of clever financial negotiation with one company as opposed to another. In a year or more, consistent with the recommendations of this report, the Government may decide that we can do better by having these services provided by a private organisation because Comcare is not delivering. It seems to me that when we get our act right our premiums will reduce. The reason they will reduce is that we will have people in meaningful work rather than be paying large sums of money for people who are incapacitated.
It is very important to understand that when we are talking about people who are incapacitated we are not talking of people who get into this system to bludge. No doubt there are odd cases, as there are in every organisation, of somebody using the system. In the vast majority of cases I believe that initial management in terms of prevention has not been good enough, and when an accident has happened follow-up management has not been good enough. Having had these issues presented to us, Mr Speaker, I think we will see the start of a new approach to how we deal with these issues.
The most important factor will be what happens in each unit within each part of the administration. It is at middle management level that preventative measures can be taken, and it is at middle management level that stress can be reduced. It is at middle management level that we can find ways to ensure that people can find meaningful work.