Return To Work Corporation of South Australia (Crown Claims Management) Amendment Bill


Return to Work Corporation of South Australia (Crown Claims Management) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 18 May 2017.)

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS ( 11:34 :50 ): I rise on behalf of Liberal members to speak to the second reading of the legislation. Can I say at the outset that, when this issue was first raised, I—and I suspect all of my colleagues—had an open mind in relation to whether we should support the bill or not. However, in looking at the second reading that was originally moved to the bill in the House of Assembly, I have to say that there was absolutely no evidence produced by the minister and the government to justify why this legislation should be supported, in particular in terms of what the costs to individual agencies might be, and, ultimately, overall to the taxpayers of South Australia, and, more importantly, whether or not there would actually be improved outcomes for injured workers as a result of the legislation.

So, there is a significant opportunity during this particular debate. Our position will be that we will support the second reading and we will seek further information during the committee stage, but we will be opposing the third reading of the legislation, again on the basis that there has not been sufficient evidence produced to support the bill, and in fact what evidence has come out is actually justification for opposing it.

So, that will be our position. What I will say is that should a Labor government be re-elected after the election, which is ultimately a decision for the electors, then if the government was to come back with this particular proposition, we would be prepared to consider the proposition on the condition that the government can produce evidence to the parliament and publicly to justify the reasons for moving down this particular path; that is, that there are equal or better outcomes for injured workers as a result of the proposal and that at the very least there is no increased cost to the taxpayers and to government as a result of the proposal.

As I said, we commenced consideration of the bill with an open mind. We have decided to oppose the third reading of this particular bill because we have not been provided with the evidence, but should a Labor government be re-elected and should they want the parliament to consider it we would again approach the issue with an open mind and look at a fact-based or evidence-based response to the proposition.

The minister and the government, in looking for evidence to support this particular decision, went to a couple of their favoured researchers credentialled in this particular area and commissioned a report called the Bentley-Latham report. In terms of the Bentley-Latham report, the intention was to find the evidence to support the proposition that was going to be put to the parliament. The Bentley-Latham report was taken to cabinet in October of last year. The decision for the government to proceed was taken on 31 October—that the management of all new workers compensation claims from 1 July would be transferred from self-insured government agencies across to Return To Work SA. That particular report, from Philip Bentley and Chris Latham, which was produced, was finally provided to the government and dated 21 June 2016.

Now, that particular report is a damning report. It is a damning indictment of the government's proposal. For those reasons the government firstly took it to cabinet to try to protect it and, secondly, has steadfastly refused freedom of information requests and requests from stakeholders for release of the report. The reason they have done so is because it does not justify the government's decision, in essence, to have Return ToWork SA take over the management of new claims, and all claims, ultimately, for workers compensation from government departments and agencies.

A copy of that confidential report that was presented to cabinet was leaked to the opposition. We have had the opportunity to read that particular report, and I want to share some of that information and put it on the public record as to why the government, and the minister in particular, has refused to release the report.

There has been a degree of paranoia associated with the constant leaks from cabinet over the last six to nine months—I think there have been four separate leaks of cabinet reports to the opposition. This particular document has copied across every page the name of the person who originally downloaded the copy and the time of the particular download of that particular copy, which therefore made it impossible to share more widely.

Indeed, some parliamentary colleagues have asked for copies of the leaked report and, unlike some others, it has been unable to be more widely disseminated for reasons of protecting the whistleblower who wanted this information to be made public. I quote the conclusions contained in the report:

The point remains that there is no evidence in the comparisons that suggests the South Australian Crown workers compensation —

that is the current arrangement—

taken in its entirety, has been poorly managed in a financial sense.

Quite clearly, it is saying that there is not a problem in terms of the current management. It goes on to say:

Our general conclusion is that the Crown, as a whole, has performed well in terms of maintaining control of claims costs. There are no obvious signs of major mismanagement.

In other sections of the report, it actually uses the colloquial expression, 'If it ain't broke don't fix it'. The overwhelming nature of the conclusions, that the government's go to experts in this particular area, Bentley-Latham, is that there is not a problem in terms of the way things are being managed at the moment. To that end, I quote from minister John Rau's own assessment of self-insurers, where he said back in June 2013:

…it is clear…that the overall performance of the self-insureds in respect of exactly the same statutory framework…is more impressive…the single most significant difference I have been able to ascertain from my looking at the problem is the effective personal attention they give to individual claimants …

What the minister is saying on behalf of the government is that the current arrangements of self‑insureds in government agencies, from the viewpoint of the injured workers, the individual claimants, is significantly better—it is much more impressive. From my looking at the problem, it is the effective personal attention they give to individual claimants.

The minister may well say, 'Well, I did believe that in 2013 and things have improved in the three or four years since then.' That may well be his argument, and good luck to him in terms of prosecuting that argument. But it is quite clear that he is on the record, and many others have been on the record; and those who have sat on the Occupational Health and Safety committee of the parliament will know that the record of the self-insured industry, right across the board, has generally been much more impressive in terms of both reducing the costs and also managing the welfare of individual injured workers much better than the WorkCover scheme and then the return-to-work scheme.

If you look at the Bentley-Latham report it also states that Return To Work SA's costs of managing workers compensation claims are actually 39 per cent of claimed costs and are much higher than the existing arrangements in agencies, which are only 28 per cent of claims costs. What Bentley-Latham is saying is that Return To Work SA's performance now is much more expensive in terms of what it costs to manage claims than the existing arrangements of individual agencies.

In fact, that has been the evidence of individual agencies, both privately to me but also in a more guarded fashion (with some of them) in terms of public evidence to the Budget and Finance Committee, where we have been pursuing this particular issue. I will return to some comments from the Budget and Finance Committee in a moment. It is pretty clear why minister Rau has been desperate to hide this particular report because not only does it not support his argument it actually blows out of the water the reasons for supporting this particular legislation.

It was clear that when this decision was taken there had been no comprehensive business case taken to justify the decision. It is also clear that Treasury was not in a position to know at the time, back in October when the decision was taken, what the individual costs of this decision would be on government departments and agencies and on the budget overall, because there was no way of knowing at that stage—and it is still not the case, as I understand it—what individual premiums will be charged post 1 July from Return To Work SA to each individual department and agency. Tied up with all of that, of course, are the issues of the almost 200 individuals who are working within agencies at the moment and who have no idea, or very little idea, of what the future holds for them in terms of their future employment.

In the second reading speech in the Legislative Council, there was, I think as a result of the criticism of the government, a little more of an endeavour to try to justify the government's position and to seek to answer some of the questions that had been raised in briefing sessions, and others. What the second reading explanation now says is that the 2017-18 premium that will be charged to agencies will be set at approximately $26 million, in total, for the government. So, we now know that the government is saying that it will be charging agencies an additional $26 million in premiums.

When you go to the Bentley-Latham report, buried in the detail, where does this $26 million come from? I will tell you where it comes from: Bentley-Latham reported the management cost of the crown—that is the self-insurers at the moment—and they put together a table. The estimated cost in, I think, 2015-16, was $25.3 million in terms of the cost of managing within the crown. That included 164 full-time equivalents, at that time, at a cost of $14.35 million. The on-cost for that was another $3.4 million. There was a $5.26 million charge to Return To Work SA and then various other charges and costs, including overheads of $2.8 million, which was the Bentley-Latham estimate of the current cost of managing claims within the public sector under the self-insured arrangement, which was $25.3 million.

That is where Bentley-Latham reported that the crown, under the self‑insured arrangements, was spending 28 per cent of claim costs in 2015-16 on management; whereas Return To Work SA's claim management costs were actually 39 per cent, so much more inefficient and wasteful in terms of the money going on management costs in terms of providing workers compensation in the Return To Work SA scheme.

The $26 million that is now in the second reading, it is clear that what is going to happen is that there will be this additional $26 million charge to agencies for premiums, but the government has also—because there has been this opposition for up to 200 individuals who are currently working—given a commitment that the existing 200 individuals (approximately 150 to 160 full-time equivalents) will continue to be employed within government departments and agencies, at least for the very first 12 months. The cost of those, estimated by Bentley-Latham, is $14.3 million plus $3.4 million, so ballpark about $18 million. The issue we will explore in the committee stage is that the existing cost, at the very least of $18 million together with some of the other costs, will continue to be incurred, plus the agencies will be charged $24 million.

What it means, for example, and the reason why minister Malinauskas in this chamber has refused to provide any answers to the advice he has received from SAPOL and the emergency services agencies, is that, whatever their existing costs are, they will continue to have to pay, plus they will have to pay part of the $26 million premium to Return To Work SA. So, the agencies will actually be paying an increased cost for this period of 2017-18 and potentially for longer depending on what the government's arrangements, if they are re-elected, would be.

The minister is saying, and the government is claiming, that there will be no increased costs as a result of this. There is nobody, other than the minister and those in the caucus, I assume, or some of them, who actually believe that. The evidence from Bentley-Latham is categorically that that is wrong. There is no basis for the claim that is being made that that would be the case. Now that we have revealed in the second reading in the Legislative Council that the extra premium that will be charged will be $26 million that is further evidence of the claims that have been made by individual agencies.

What has been the response? There is much more in the Bentley-Latham report which we will pursue, potentially, in the committee stage and at other opportunities in the chamber, but the evidence the Budget and Finance Committee has been receiving, and also that I have been receiving from discussions with individual agencies, is quite clearly that agencies have made the same decision themselves.

The best example of that was the CEO of SA Water, Roch Cheroux, who made it quite clear when the question was put to him, 'Was your analysis that there would be a significant increase in your workers compensation costs?' He said, 'Yes. I will need to get back to you with an exact figure, but I think the analysis was that it was more than $1 million of cost difference.' He later clarified that the $1 million figure might not be just for one year and he would need to check the time period, but he also confirmed that the SA Water board had considered the issue and had opposed the proposition from the government that ReturnToWorkSA take it over because (a) it would increase their costs and (b) it would actually be of no benefit for injured workers.

We now see in the second reading, and Mr Cheroux confirmed to the Budget and Finance Committee, that they had been given an exemption. We are not sure whether this is the permanent one. The second reading seems to now indicate that it is for a time period, but they have actually said, 'Hey, this makes no sense. It's actually going to increase costs, which means increased water and sewerage costs for South Australian consumers, potentially, if we hand it over to ReturnToWorkSA.'

They are a semi-independent or independent authority, as minister Hunter points out. They have done their analysis. They do not have to tow the government line absolutely on this issue and they have given evidence and said, 'This doesn't make sense. It's going to increase costs and potentially significantly increase costs.' That is the same claim that a number of officers within government departments and agencies have made to me privately as well—that it will significantly increase costs.

The other sort of independent agency was the Courts Administration Authority and Julie‑Anne Burgess also gave similar evidence to the Budget and Finance Committee. She said, 'I think there is a general sense that there may be increased costs under the new arrangements.' She went on to highlight that previously, when there was a similar issue about potential increased costs with Shared Services, the Courts Administration Authority took a decision to not participate in the scheme. She indicated that the position of the Courts Administration Authority, or the governing council there, was that they wanted to see further evidence to justify why they should participate and they had left open the option, as they had with Shared Services, of not participating in the scheme.

It is clear that agencies that have a degree of independence, like SA Water and the Courts Administration Authority, have done the numbers and done the work and said, 'This doesn't make any sense. It's going to increase our costs and if we have a chance, we won't be participating in the scheme.' That is the same evidence that we are getting privately, but it is also the damning evidence from Bentley-Latham, which says that there is no evidence to justify that there is any financial mismanagement or increased costs under the current arrangements.

If you put all of that together, it is a pretty damning indictment of minister Rau's ideological pursuit of this particular issue and it is clear that there is little or no evidence to justify either (a) improved benefits to injured workers or (b) preventing increased costs as a result of the government's foolhardy pursuit of this particular option.

If I can conclude by quoting from an analysis done by the Self Insurers of South Australia. It is unsurprising that, clearly, they have taken the position of opposition to the legislation, but nevertheless, their experience in this particular area—given they were much lauded by minister Rau only three years or so ago—should be placed on the public record. Their position paper, which they released late last year, states:

Compared to RTWSA/WorkCover, the public sector has consistently delivered—

that is the public sector with the self-insured status—

Proportionally far lower claim liabilities (around 10% of total SA liabilities, despite it being about 18% scheme)

Proportionally lower total claim costs

Lower administrative costs

Better return to work rates

That is the claim in the position paper from the Self Insurers of South Australia. They also raise a number of significant questions, which I think the minister should respond to during the committee stage of the debate. They do have some issues in relation to this premium. At that stage they did not know the premium was going to be $26 million, but they do raise some specific issues, and that is that if this is to be done on a experience-related basis:

The experience-rated cost to many agencies will inevitably be much greater than current SI costs for any agency with complex time-lost claims. Furthermore, those agencies with relatively fewer time-lost claims will be cross-subsidising those that have more (assuming that the experience rating is less than 100% of their claim costs). To this extent, the higher-risk agencies will have de-sensitised premiums and arguably a lesser drive to improve health and safety performance than if they were covering 100% of their own costs.

In most cases, for agencies with higher levels of complex time-lost claims, the experience is due to the high-risk nature of the roles they carry out. To a large extent, these agencies will be very limited in their ability to rein in these risks, which will perpetuate these significant experience premium costs and cross-subsidies, which are, after all, paid by the taxpayer.

Finally, they raise some further specific questions, as follows:

We are also pressed to wonder how well-equipped generally RTWSA is to manage the complex Crown arrangements. For example:

Understanding the many Acts; for example Police, Health, Education, Public Service, Courts that all set conditions that influence entitlements outside the RTW Act

Again, the Minister for Police should be well aware of that, given the recent discussions in the EB as it related to SAPOL officers, and that is flowing on now to other emergency service workers as well, as I understand it. SISA goes on to say:

Keeping track of the wide range of EBAs, most of which affect entitlements in different ways; for example, who will pay ex gratia entitlements beyond the RTW Act caps that are being added to the Police EBA, and how, and when?

I think that is a question that we need answered in the committee stage. It continues:

Managing the many very complex claims—police, emergency services, corrections, secondary teaching and the like. We note in passing that RTWSA took back from the claims agents all of the serious and complex claims some years ago. One has to ask what that says about the capabilities of the current claims management model overseen by the Corporation.

In wrapping up, the Liberal Party acknowledges that all is not perfect in any workers compensation arrangement and all is not perfect in terms of the self-insured's management of workers compensation claims within the public sector. Nothing that we say in relation to this bill should be interpreted as saying that we support everything that is going on, or that there is no room for improvement. Clearly, the Bentley-Latham report raises some significant issues in terms of the management of psychological claims within the public sector, as opposed to the management within the broader community. It does raise a number of other issues as well which merit further consideration—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Can we have less discussion while the Hon. Mr Lucas is giving his address.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —and certainly we are prepared to be engaged in those discussions. Should we be elected in 2018, we would certainly look at various room for improvement in terms of the current management arrangements for self-insured. Nothing that we say in relation to our attitude to this bill should be interpreted as locking a future Liberal government or a future Liberal opposition considering a Labor government proposition in relation to the management of workers compensation claims in the public sector.

We started the debate with an open mind and have formed a view on this bill. We will continue to have an open mind in relation to the future, particularly if after a period of another couple of years of experience with the Return to Work Act and its impact on both the self-insured sector and the scheme, that with further evidence perhaps to justify potential future moves, we would be in a much stronger position to either support or not support a particular proposition. I conclude by saying what I said at the outset, that we will support the second reading of the bill, we will seek information at the committee stages, but we will be opposing the third reading of the legislation.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 12:01 :02 ): I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak to the Return to Work Corporation of South Australia (Crown Claims Management) Amendment Bill 2017. The Minister for Industrial Relations introduced this bill in the House of Assembly, the other place, on 12 April. After spending just four parliamentary sitting days, the bill then passed the House of Assembly on 11 May. This bill amends the Return to Work Corporation of South Australia Act 1994 and there is no doubt that it seeks to privatise the provision of workers compensation insurance in our state, in the eyes of the Greens.

This bill seeks to transfer management of Crown injuries, that is, all return-to-work claims of public sector employees to ReturnToWorkSA and its claims agents, Employers Mutual Limited and Gallagher Bassett. This will effectively end the registration of the Crown as a self-insured employer and have the Return to Work Corporation of South Australia take over public sector claims management. My office has been advised that there are 12 injury management units across state government that provide claims administration services to injured employees within the public sector and these include: DCSI, SAFECOM, DECD, SAPOL, SA Health, Return to Work Services, Courts Administration Authority, Correctional Services, PIRSA and DTF/DPC.

I note that just yesterday I met with representatives of the South Australian/Australian Education Union who are most concerned about the impact that this particular bill will have on their industry. Some of the examples that they gave me are that the costs for those in areas such as special education, where the claims are higher and where the risk is greater, would become greater in those areas. They did not see that as a progressive move; they saw that as quite detrimental especially when we are talking about access to education for all children in this state, and particularly addressing those who have special needs, to see such a move attack quite deleteriously that sector of special education would be quite a retrograde move.

So, I take on board the concerns raised by the AEU South Australia in their briefing to me and I understand that shortly there will be some correspondence to that effect. The other point that stuck in my mind from the AEU's briefing yesterday was that as a result of this move, principals would spend more time in the tribunal than they do currently. I think that is a backward step on any way you want to measure it in terms of the support for public education we should be providing from this council. Principals belong in the schoolyard and in leadership roles not in a tribunal disputing workers compensation cases.

There have been a number of questions raised with the minister as to the motivation for introducing this bill. I understand that he has gone to great lengths to say that this is not fattening up the scheme for privatisation. Well, the Greens are yet to be convinced of that, but even on its merits, even regardless of whether this is privatisation by stealth, the impacts of the changes of teachers being dragged into tribunals, rather than being in the school grounds or in leadership roles where they are needed in the educational sphere rather than the workers compensation sphere, alone is enough for us to have grave reservations about this bill.

In introducing this bill in the other place, the minister has stated that the bill seeks to achieve 'greater consistency and transparency'. I understand that the minister believes that public sector employees deserve the same access to effective hands-on early intervention and claims management to get them back to work as private sector employees. That was reported in The Advertiser on 19 April. To that, I say that this minister does not understand that this is currently the case. There is no need for the bill because the system, as it is, is not broken. There is not a clamour for this bill from those it affects.

The Crown self-insurance arrangements have outperformed the insurance scheme, and minister Rau acknowledged this during the estimates committee hearing of 27 July 2013, when questioned by the member for MacKillop. The Crown self-insurance is managed by the most skilled experienced claims managers in this state, and this expertise will actually be lost if the claims are referred to ReturntoWorkSA. The current system within the public sector provides tailored and effective claims management. There is no need for this legislation. The minister has failed to provide evidence of a system that indicates that the public sector is underperforming.

The Greens have a number of questions to raise before we progress on this bill today. I will briefly outline some of them but I will not expect answers as we undertake the second reading vote. I will raise these at clause 1 because I take on board the words of the Hon. Rob Lucas that the Liberal opposition will be supporting the second reading of the bill, so we will move through a committee stage and explore each and every facet of the bill.

The Greens indicate that we are not convinced that we should support the bill. We will be voting no at the second reading, but we look forward to fully participating in the committee stage. We will ask: will the minister clarify whether or not the return-to-work performance of the public sector is underperforming? If so in what way is it underperforming, and where does the bill seek to improve those return-to-work performances? We will be looking for specific examples.

What role will be undertaken by public sector workers currently undertaking claims management functions under the new arrangements? Quite specifically, how many claims managers are currently employed in the public sector? We will ask for that detail to be provided to this council. Will public sector claims managers be expected to train EML's and Gallagher Bassett's claims managers on managing public sector workers compensation claims, should this bill pass the parliament? What is the cost associated with transferring claims from the public sector to Return To Work SA?

We will also seek a list of not just the external stakeholders consulted on the bill but the internal stakeholders and government agencies and entities consulted on the bill. Like, no doubt, the Hon. Rob Lucas, we will be pursuing more information about the Phillip Bentley and Chris Latham commissioned work. Certainly, we would like to see a copy of this report. We would like the government to indicate how much money was expended on the Bentley-Latham review.

We will also ask: can the minister confirm whether public sector employees have been informed of the intended changes and whether injured workers have been informed of these pending changes, with the changes supposedly only four weeks away? How has that been done? Have they have received phone calls or letters or correspondence? In what way have those stakeholders who are potentially most directly affected by this been engaged? We will also ask the government to provide information about the associated costs of transferring Crown claims to Return To Work SA.

As I say, we are not convinced that there is a clamour for, and a need for, this piece of legislation. We will not be supporting this legislation but we will certainly be looking forward to the committee stage for these answers and more. We are also looking forward to being provided with a copy of the Bentley-Latham report or hearing some justification why this law is before us for debate in the first place.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT ( 12:09 :30 ): I speak today at the second reading, frankly unsure at this point whether the Dignity Party is able to support this bill. While I appreciate the briefing that has been provided to me by the Deputy Premier's office on this bill, some of the specific follow up that has been done with some stakeholders has raised concerns, and we maintain significant concerns about the motives and reasons behind this bill.

While I am aware that organisations such as Minda, the Royal Society for the Blind and the Royal District Nursing Society will now be exempted crown instrumentalities at the commencement date, a long-term solution is yet to be found to this question. On current calculations, South Australia's largest disability service provider could face a $100 million hike in their WorkCover costs each year if forced to move to this regime.

I also acknowledge that the Deputy Premier wrote to me the night before last requesting that the Legislative Council support the passing of this bill and contesting some of the concerns raised, but like other members I remain unconvinced. While I cannot be sure of the motives of this bill at this point (I have questions about that), to be frank, there is one way to make me suspicious of one's motives and that is to write to me saying that there is no secret plan. That is one way to make me think that there might be a secret plan: I was not born yesterday.

I say this because a number of law groups and also the Self Insurers of South Australia have posed a number of questions to me which at this point remain unanswered. So at this point all I intend to do is put those questions on the record for the government to, hopefully, provide an answer, after which I am more than happy to reconsider our position. The questions are:

1.Why is the minister amending the Return to Work Corporation of South Australia Act 1984 rather than the Return to Work Act 2014?

2.What is the purpose of management of workers injuries to Return To Work SA with crown self-insurers when claims for 19 per cent of these workers equalled only 9.6 per cent of claims in the year 2012-13?

3.What will happen to the highly skilled and experienced workers who currently work in SA government effectively managing injured workers?

4.Is the government fattening up the Return To Work SA cow for sale, as was done with the Motor Accident Commission?

5.Could the minister please table the figures which demonstrate that this move is both economically sensible, sustainable and necessary?

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE ( 12:12 :20 ): I rise briefly at this stage to advise the house of the Australian Conservatives' position on this bill. Whilst in the past, and rightly so, we have been critical of the way the government has gone about so-called management of workers injuries, and the fact that there have been draconian and unusual decisions and legislation brought through by a government that purports to look after workers, this is separate to all of that history that we have gone through in this chamber over many years.

Whilst Australian Conservatives have and will continue to support self-insurance for the private sector, having deliberated very carefully on this, having spoken to the self-insurers and having spoken to some of the unions and associated agencies and the government, the government has two responsibilities with its own workforce: first and foremost, it needs to be very responsible when it comes to best practice from the point of view of occupational health and safety and prevention of injury; and, secondly and in concert with that, the government needs to ensure that, when a worker is injured, they are properly looked after, physically and mentally, and return to work as quickly as possible, subject to proper recovery and support.

On the other hand, the government also has an obligation to taxpayers to ensure that they manage their WorkCover costs prudently and taxpayers expect that, because if that does not happen it is just another cost, ultimately, through Treasury to the South Australian taxpayers. This will put more responsibility, I believe, back on the government. It will take away some responsibility from direct management by agencies, but on the other hand it will also put some pressure on CEOs of agencies to ensure that what I have just said about a safe workplace, about looking after injured workers, etc., is more prudent than it has been in some agencies.

Whilst we know the history of how the Liberals lost office in 2002, at that point in time I, with the police portfolio as one example, was concerned about the way injured police officers were being looked after by the department. There was a weakness, I believed, in the human resource management aspects of part of the department, including that of WorkCover, and I believe that that is still the case today. In fact, in all the years I have dealt with police officers and when I have talked and worked with the Police Association, there is clear evidence, in files that I have in my office, of appalling case management under a self-insurance model with South Australia Police.

While I am generally a strong supporter of South Australia Police, I am happy to put that on the public record because I believe that they have failed a lot of police officers over a long period of time. I have seen some of those police officers who had physical injuries end up with quite serious stress and post-traumatic stress disorder injuries because of the way they were not looked after properly in recovery. I have seen situations where even commissioned officers have ended up having to leave the police department as a result of, in my opinion, not being handled properly when it came to return-to-work processes.

That is just one agency, but I raise that one because, obviously, police are in a situation where they come closer more often to high-risk areas of occupational health and safety than a lot of other Public Service workers. Therefore, after careful deliberation and quite a lot of discussion with my colleague, Dennis Hood, Australian Conservatives—whilst we reserve the right to listen to amendments clearly during committee—can see the principles of this bill are of genuine intent. I have spoken to the Attorney-General about this and whilst I am as cynical as any MP in this chamber, partly for self-protection (you need to be a little bit, as a member of parliament), I do not buy the line that the government is setting this up for privatisation.

If the government wanted to actually get out of WorkCover—wanted to outsource it or privatise it in its entirety—they have had plenty of opportunities to do that. This is an ideology of the Labor government, going right back to when the late Hon. Jack Wright was the minister, so I cannot see that they are going to set it up for sale. However, I believe there is too much money being spent willy-nilly when it comes to getting injured workers back to the workplace. I believe there is an ad hoc approach—agency by agency—at the moment, with little benchmarking. This will allow benchmarking to occur and it will make CEOs have a very close look at what is going on. It will have even more of an impact, in a sense, in their budget.

It will also have an impact on how they actually go about exercising proper human kindness and obligations, under human resource management, towards those injured workers. For those reasons, we will be supporting the government on this bill.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins.


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