Page 5717 - Week 15 - Thursday, 10 December 2009

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Order of business

Ordered that order of the day No 1, executive business, relating to the Crimes (Bill Posting) Amendment Bill 2008, be postponed until the next day of sitting.

Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2009

Debate resumed from 19 November 2009, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (3.52): The Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill. In addition, we will be proposing some relatively minor amendments. I further note that the Greens will be proposing some amendments which we will not be supporting. The essence of the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill is to do three things: to reduce red tape and administration costs and streamline business requirements; implement the national framework for approval of workplace rehabilitation providers by the national heads of workers compensation authorities; and strengthen the existing compliance framework by introducing a range of new offences for sustained non-compliance. Importantly, the scale of those penalties will be commensurate with the employer’s operational size.

In reducing red tape, the bill does three things: it requires that personal injury plans which are prepared by insurers must be agreed between employers and employees; it provides that an insurer is only required to appoint a rehabilitation provider as part of the personal injury plan if an injured worker has been unable to return to work on the pre-injury hours and workload after four weeks—I note that the option exists for an earlier appointment if the insurer so chooses—and it removes the requirement for employers to submit a statutory declaration or an auditor’s certificate in relation to a wages declaration. The employer will only need to provide a statement of relevant information.

In implementing the national framework, the bill enshrines a much welcomed system of mutual recognition in relation to approved rehabilitation service providers. In strengthening the compliance provisions, the bill introduces a number of measures. There will be civil penalties for non and underinsured employees called a recovery amount, which is double the avoided premium. The agency’s chief executive can apply this penalty retrospectively for up to five years. It also allows the chief executive some flexibility as to the actual amount, depending on a range of specified circumstances.

There will be a hierarchy of strict liability offences culminating in possible criminal prosecution and/or a cease business provision until the employer complies. There are provisions creating personal liability for executive officers for the debt of corporations associated with penalties for non or underinsurance, and there will a prohibition on injured directors of uninsured entities from claiming compensation from the default insurance fund. There are penalties for the provision of false or misleading information relating to wages statements.

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