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Speech: Return To Work Corporation Of South Australia (Constitution Of Board) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:22): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I rise today to introduce a bill to amend the Return to Work Corporation of South Australia Act 1994. I think it is fair to say that some of the turmoil we have witnessed of late regarding the Return to Work scheme can, and in fact must, be attributed, at least in part, to the Return to Work board. We have seen the board, as I have outlined in a previous speech, seriously mismanage the scheme by holding up workers' claims through lengthy and failed legal battles over a series of years.

We have seen the board and the corporation fail to account for the outcomes of these cases, which as we are all aware, I believe, has led to the threat of raising premiums above 2 per cent and has triggered the recent changes to the Return to Work Act. The bill I put forward today is quite simple. It provides for better representation on the board by modifying its make-up. That make-up will consist of:

three members nominated by the minister;

three members nominated by the minister after consulting with associations representing the interests of employees; and

three members nominated by the minister after consulting with associations representing the interests of employers.

This will provide us with a new board of nine members, with a more representative board that reflects the interests of both business and workers in the operation of the Return to Work scheme.

Importantly, what this bill would do, as part of its transitional provisions, is vacate the current board on commencement of the transitional provisions. Through this step, the Greens hope to provide the Return to Work corporation, board and scheme with a fresh start following the significant changes, questions and concerns that we have seen over the past months of debate, let alone the past few years of questionable management. I certainly draw this bill to this place at this time.

We saw the board nudge the government to essentially make injured workers pick up the bill for a liability of their own making, and they did this by dangling the threat of high premiums for business over the heads of the current government. We in the Greens do not think this is an appropriate way for any board to act, and certainly not a board that is supposed to be looking out for injured workers in our state.

I remind the chamber again that even though the South Australian Employment Tribunal has slammed the corporation's conduct in regard to workers, and how it handles litigation under the scheme, there has so far been no appropriate response—certainly not from the parliament yet. Over the past few weeks, the failings of the current board have been a frequent factor in the feedback that we have received on the Return to Work matters in this state that the parliament debated just before the winter break, and will be continuing to debate in the near future.

We were told that the board and the corporation operate to turn a profit to keep premiums lower than they otherwise would, and that has come at the expense of outcomes for injured workers. I do not think it is acceptable for us to continue to have a board in this state operating such a vital scheme for injured workers, that affects the lives of vulnerable and injured workers, if this is the feedback that their actions are creating. Something has to change, and changing the board seems like the logical place to start. I commend the bill.

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