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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 994 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The proposed changes would not remove the cost associated with the injuries in this particular industry if it simply moved them somewhere else, for someone else to pay. Mr Berry has, I think, rightly made the point in this debate that we do not wipe out the costs associated with claims under workers compensation legislation by virtue of passing this motion and, indeed, by having the government regulate premiums in the way that the motion foreshadows. We do not wipe out those costs, but simply transfer them from the person who, as Mr Berry suggests, is actually incurring them-the employer-on to the employer's insurer.

Now, the employer's insurer does not have any mechanism to control the level of care and diligence that an employer exercises, except through the setting of a premium. If an insurance company sees somebody in the workplace who is incurring many claims because of frequent accidents in their workplace, then their recourse to that person is to say, "If you are going to make lots of claims, we are going to put up your premium so as to ensure that you have some incentive to do something about these claims."

The employer has to go off and improve safety in the workplace, or ensure that rehabilitation occurs more effectively for those workers who are injured in order to reduce the claims history and improve the performance of that workplace. The very important incident of that improved performance of the workplace is that workers in that workplace are not injured as often or as badly. At least, that is the expectation that you would have if that pressure is applied by an insurer.

I do not, for one instant, suggest that the group training companies concerned here, with some pressure taken off them about their performance in this respect, are likely to start forgetting about the need for hard hats, taking down necessary signs or not bothering about rehabilitation, knowing that there will be no cost implication for them in doing that. I am not suggesting that for a minute.

But it is important that we send a signal to employers in industry that they must be continually improving their performance in this area, and the employers here, the group training companies, are no exception to that. They need to be told that, if they do not do that, they will be expected to suffer some penalty. But, by passing this motion today and setting a maximum rate of 15 per cent, we are effectively telling those group training companies that there are no consequences of their failing to be diligent about these matters.

I am not overly concerned about that in this particular case. I do not have any reason to believe that the group training companies concerned would be inclined to go around reducing the level of care and attention they pay to matters of occupational health and safety. However, I wonder what signal it sends to others in the community.

In particular, I wonder what will happen in the event that other industries important to the ACT-and of course, in a sense, every industry is important to the ACT if it employs people-encounter significant increases in their premiums and come back to government or the Assembly and say, "You know how you helped the group training companies? Well, our industry is really important as well, and we have young people working in our industry, and if we do not get some relief from higher premiums we might go out of business." What do we do then, Mr Speaker?

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