Page 211 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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complying with additional red tape and the high costs of workers compensation arrangements in the Australian Capital Territory—a matter on which I have previously made representations from time to time.

To refresh members’ minds, the purpose of this bill is to simplify and improve accountability of the safety net arrangements by replacing both the nominal insurer and the workers compensation supplementation fund with a new default insurance fund; to focus on injury management and return to work for all workers compensation claims; and to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the government, insurers, employers and injured workers.

The opposition regards the default insurance fund as an improvement in current arrangements. A major flaw with both the current nominal insurer and the workers compensation supplementation fund is that neither provides for injury management and return to work. I should have said at the outset that I appreciate the briefing that was extended by the minister and her advisers, which is something that is always provided and enables sensible discussion of legislation before the Assembly.

The nominal insurer is for injured workers who are employed by an uninsured employer, but there is no incentive to return to work. The workers compensation supplementation fund is for situations where the insurer collapses—and, of course, that has happened on a couple of occasions—but its effectiveness has been brought into question following the Auditor-General’s 2004 report which raised concerns about its governance, reporting and accountability.

Disclosure by insurers to employers of all costs is also an improvement. Employers will be able to see the premium that is attributable to government levies and will therefore be able to assess the impact of their own insurance costs when other employers fail to take out insurance policies. The minister hopes that this may create some peer pressure to insure. I hope she is right. Only experience will tell but it seems to be a step in the right direction.

There is, of course, a downside to the bill in that making the information contained in certificates of currency available to union officials further entrenches the problem of union right of entry—a matter to which employer and business organisations have objected previously. Regrettably, this government has once again caved in to its union paymasters on this issue. Its purpose is to give union officials carte blanche to get hold of details of who is employed, the basis of employment, how much they are paid and whether they are members of the union which the officials think they should belong to.

Unfortunately, employers in this territory have had to accept government-sanctioned union interference as a fact of doing business in the ACT. The opposition believes that it is not appropriate for a government to be so one-sided. The correct and balanced approach would be for the certificate of currency for a compulsory insurance policy to be made available to an authorised inspector, which it will be, and the employer who is covered by the policy. We are quite comfortable with the principle of this provision in the bill. But it is not appropriate for the certificate of currency to be inspected by a union because clearly such a provision in the bill has nothing to do with workplace safety and is not, in my view, relevant to core entitlements. It is all about giving information to the

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