Page 4574 - Week 14 - Thursday, 24 November 2005

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Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2)

Ms Gallagher, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (10.54): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2) builds on the reforms to the ACT’s private sector workers compensation scheme that commenced operation in 2002 and introduced a focus on injury management, sustainable return to work for injured workers and reducing the administrative costs under the scheme. Further amendments to improve the effectiveness of the workers compensation scheme are now proposed.

The bill has been developed in consultation with the ACT Occupational Health and Safety Council’s workers compensation advisory committee and other key stakeholders. The committee has worked in cooperation with the government since 2002, and has continually supported the government in identifying further improvements and refinements. The bill that I table today is the result of the continuing interest and commitment shown by members of the committee, and I thank them for their ongoing support and assistance.

In August this year, I released the bill as an exposure draft to provide all stakeholders with the opportunity to make submissions on the proposals contained in the bill. I extend appreciation to the Insurance Council of Australia and to the ACT and Region Chamber of Industry and Commerce for their interest and the contributions they have made to improve the operational effectiveness of this bill. The subsequent refinements and improvements to this bill demonstrate the value of working collaboratively with stakeholders.

The workers compensation scheme has two safety net arrangements to ensure that all injured workers have access to benefits on injury. These are: the Nominal Insurer, for injured workers who are employed by an uninsured employer; and the workers compensation supplementation fund, for situations where an insurer collapses or is otherwise unable to meet the costs of claims against the workers compensation policies issued by the insurer. Neither safety net arrangement provides injury management and return to work for injured workers, and this is inconsistent with the intent of the scheme.

In 2004, concerns about governance, reporting and accountability requirements for the supplementation fund led to an investigation of the operation of the supplementation fund by the ACT Auditor-General. While concluding that the administration of the supplementation fund was consistent with the legislation, the Auditor-General noted scope for improvements in efficiently and effectively managing the relationship between the fund manager and the supervising insurer. The management of the supplementation

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