Page 5275 - Week 14 - Thursday, 19 November 2009

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The measures outlined in these amendments are designed to improve administrative efficiency and equity for ratepayers. I commend the Rates and Land Tax Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.

Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2009

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—Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Health and Minister for Industrial Relations) (10.28): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2009 is intended to improve the performance of the ACT’s private sector workers compensation scheme, a scheme which obliges employers to compensate workers who suffer an injury arising out of, or in the course of, their employment.

The bill will amend the Workers Compensation Act 1951 to reduce red tape for ACT employers, it will improve the compliance framework and it will implement a new national framework for the approval of workplace rehabilitation providers.

By way of background, in 2002 the Workers Compensation Act was significantly amended to create an environment that would facilitate the return of injured workers to safe and sustainable work. The 2002 amendments introduced a number of new elements to ensure that employers, insurers, treatment providers and injured workers were equally obliged to participate in personal injury plans. Claims were dealt with expediently and statutory benefits were aligned with the scheme’s return to work goals.

Further changes were introduced in 2006 to establish the default insurance fund, of which this Assembly has heard much this year from my colleague and the former Minister for Industrial Relations, John Hargreaves. Then in 2006 the ACT government initiated an independent review of the ACT workers compensation scheme. The review was to evaluate the success of the 2002 reforms and identify the scheme’s ongoing cost drivers and it made a substantial number of recommendations. Against a number of important criteria, the ACT scheme is not performing well and, indeed, is one of the most expensive schemes in Australia.

Critically, the ACT has one of the highest average premium rates and lowest lump sum and death benefits in the country; average claim costs that are 25 per cent higher than New South Wales and 80 per cent higher than Tasmania; 10 per cent of claims accounting for approximately 80 per cent of total scheme expenses; and exposure to more than $4 million in annual employer costs associated with regulatory compliance.

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