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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1690 ..

MR DE DOMENICO (continuing):

workers compensation cover at a more cost-effective price for the taxpayer, it is the responsibility of any government to make sure that we do that as well. The Government is delighted to take on board some of the recommendations. Without reading it thoroughly, and I will do that - obviously, the Government will look at it very closely - I welcome the committee's report and look forward to making further comment on it in due course.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (11.02): I would like to say a few words on this very important issue, particularly in view of the fairly unbelievable comments that Mr Berry made in his tabling speech. This area is an absolute disaster for the ACT. We have, I think, more than 420 people - I think it was closer to 450 at one stage - who have been out on Comcare for more than 45 weeks. This is a dramatic situation. Over the last few years the previous Government, due to their inactivity in this area, allowed certain people to end up on the scrap heap. Guess where the vast percentage of those people were. They were in Health. Guess who was the Minister when most of those people went out. It was the person who stood up here and tried to make some statement that it was somehow this Government's fault that we have ended up with this situation.

I do not think we have been in office for 45 weeks. On that basis none of these people we are talking about went onto Comcare while we have been in office. Of the 450, 295 are in Health. When we came to office 295 people in Health had been out on compo for more than 45 weeks. That is an enormous drain on both our personnel resources and our financial resources in the area of government that has been under most financial pressure since self-government. These are people who want to go back to work but who were given no assistance whatsoever to do so under the previous Government. What we have done is to ensure that, unlike the previous Government, we put in place a mechanism which will give these people some sort of a chance of a decent life; a mechanism that will either get them back to work or, alternatively, make sure that the Comcare situation comes to some sort of conclusion. They either get back to work or, alternatively, have some form of retraining or some form of change in lifestyle generally. Sitting around on Comcare is not a life for anybody, and nor should it be.

As well as getting a very good case manager from Comcare, we are also requiring every single department to put in place proper rehabilitation programs to ensure that from now on this sort of thing never happens again. It is simply unfair. In Health that has happened as a matter of urgency. We now have up and running a proper rehabilitation approach so that we get these people early, so that we can ensure that people who injure themselves at work are given help right from the beginning and do not end up with the 295 people that Mr Berry allowed to end up, supposedly, on the scrap heap. That will not happen again.

It is interesting to note that ACTEW was one of the earliest to decide that it needed to do something about Comcare. ACTEW, over three years ago now, put in place a proper rehabilitation program to manage their Comcare situation, their workplace accident situation. What has happened to the Comcare premium for ACTEW? It has gone down. It has gone down because they are managing the workplace. That is why, as a first step, unlike the previous Government, we are managing the workplace. We are making sure

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