Page 4102 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013
According to our consultations with the sector, the cost of taking out a workers compensation insurance policy in the ACT is already comparatively higher than in other jurisdictions, and this will simply make it worse. An additional levy imposed on workers compensation insurers will undoubtedly be passed on to employers taking out an insurance policy. This is exactly the opposite of the desired outcome.
The Canberra Liberals’ position is that the government should be making it easier for employers to conduct their business in our city—as espoused by Minister Barr yesterday, but obviously not thought out by this government. Imposing additional costs on employers does not support that position. If this is such an important issue for the government perhaps he should use territory funds for this rather than support his government’s mismanagement of taxpayers’ funding to pay for light rail at all costs. As such, we will not be supporting this bill today.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (12.11): The ACT Greens will support the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill. Put simply, the changes in this bill will allow the government to collect funds for work health and safety regulation via a levy on workers compensation insurers. The likelihood is that the insurers will pass these costs through to employers. The system that is established, therefore, is one where employers pay a small levy for the work health and safety regime, administered primarily by WorkSafe, which is of great benefit to those employers and their employees. The benefits of course come through improved health and safety outcomes, which is also an important factor in reducing the insurance premiums of the employers.
It is not a new concept to have the beneficiaries of the work health and safety regime make a contribution to its funding. In all other Australian jurisdictions except the Northern Territory and the ACT, workers compensation insurers already either partly or wholly pay for the costs of work health and safety regulation in a similar manner. The arrangements that are being introduced to the ACT are most similar to New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria in that they aim to recover the whole cost. Some jurisdictions recover part of the cost only.
In addition to this, in the ACT, workers compensation insurers already pay a levy to cover regulatory costs of workers compensation. As I said, the bill today expands the scope of that levy so that it also applies to work health and safety.
I have given careful consideration to the levy, as we should do before we agree to any new cost on a sector of the community or on the broader community. I have decided it is an appropriate way to fund work health and safety improvements, and there are several convincing arguments for this. Firstly, as I said, it is not a remarkable method of funding work health and safety improvements. The system has operated in other jurisdictions for many years and has had the support of both Liberal and Labor governments.
I think it is appropriate that the ACT evolves to using this form of funding as well. Perhaps we should have done it earlier, as it is clear that our work health and safety regime has required improvements. We have discussed extensively in this place the