Page 2619 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 11 August 2015

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of part 1.6—Chief Minister, Territory and Economic Development Directorate—in regard to my portfolios involving workplace relations. This year the ACT government has announced its decision to cease purchasing workers compensation insurance from the commonwealth workers compensation scheme, Comcare. Instead the government will develop a new scheme for the ACT public sector within the territory’s own legislative jurisdiction. Taking this step will allow the government and stakeholders to create a scheme which appropriately reflects the diversity of our workforce and ensures a focus on improving outcomes for the benefit of the ACT public sector workforce and the wider ACT community.

To achieve this, the government has committed to ensuring that five principles underpin the design of a new scheme, namely: enhancing work safety by encouraging all parties to take responsibility for injury prevention and management; promoting recovery and return to work by raising awareness about the health benefits of work; focusing compensation payments and rehabilitation services on improved recovery times and return to work and supporting employers and workers in their mutual obligations of returning to work more quickly after injury; guaranteeing quality long-term compensation, care and support for those workers who are most seriously injured; and promoting accessibility and transparency in the scheme to make the claims process easier and less stressful for ACT public sector workers and service providers.

As soon as the announcement to leave Comcare was made we immediately sought the public and stakeholders’ views on the possible design of the new scheme, in line with these key principles. To assist with the consultation process, the government circulated a draft scheme design of the key elements to stakeholders. These stakeholders included the ACT public sector workforce, public sector representative unions, the legal community and insurers. The consultation period ran from 26 February to 8 May this year.

On this point, I would like to thank all the individuals and interested groups who took the time to comment on this important reform initiative. The feedback received has since been used to inform the government and will assist us in the final design of a new workers compensation scheme design.

In saying this, the key theme coming out of the consultation process was the need to improve rehabilitation and return to work outcomes for our injured workers—better outcomes for our workforce overall. As such, this will be the focus of the new scheme. We will make this the focus by expending a larger proportion of available scheme funds in the first two years following an injury. We will also ensure we provide significant benefit to workers through early intervention initiatives and support.

As I have previously noted in the Assembly, there is extensive evidence that work is good for health and that extended absences from work have a negative impact on health and wellbeing. By focusing the scheme’s resources on recovery and return to work, and emphasising mutual employer and worker obligations in the return to work process, our scheme will be able to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for our workers.

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