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Speech Return to Work Board of Management Amendment Bill

 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:21): I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak briefly about this bill and indicate our support. I reiterate what I have previously said in this place: the turmoil we have all witnessed of late regarding the Return to Work scheme can and must be attributed, at least in part, to the ReturnToWork board. We have seen the board seriously mismanage the scheme by holding up workers' claims through lengthy and failed legal battles over many years.


The role of the board is significant and, as alluded to by the Minister for Industrial Relations, possibly more significant than any other statutory corporation in this state. The board has the power to fix the average premium levy that applies to employers covered by the Return to Work scheme, and has the power to significantly impact workers' entitlements in Return to Work claims.


This bill before us is similar to legislation that I have introduced in this very place, so it will come as no surprise to the minister that we will be supporting it. That bill and this bill allow for proper representation on the board by including the additional requirements for the minister to undertake consultation with peak stakeholders such as SA Unions and Business SA, and that will ensure that they identify suitable persons to represent their respective interests—representative democracy and consultation.


This will, of course, provide us with a more representative board that does reflect the interests of both business and workers in the operation of the Return to Work scheme. One would imagine that you would want all parties at the table. The Greens acknowledge that a skills-based appointment of this board is important, but it should not take away from the voice of stakeholder groups including those, of course, of the unions.


The failings of the current board have been a frequent factor in the feedback that we have received on Return to Work matters in this state. Certainly, my office has constantly been told that the board and the corporation operate to turn a profit to keep premiums lower than they otherwise would, at the expense of outcomes for injured workers. This is not acceptable, and I do not think it is acceptable for us to continue to have a board operating—for such a vital scheme that affects the lives of so many vulnerable and injured workers—without this sort of representation. We support the legislation before us to ensure that workers have a fair representation at the table.


I note that the Liberal opposition have an amendment, or a series of amendments, to exclude the CFMEU not only from being represented on the board but from even being consulted about who would be represented on the board. I find this extraordinary. I note that there are members of this parliament who are members of the CFMEU. I note that many good people are members of unions, and to try to run some sort of 'reds under the bed' scandal in this way is ludicrous. I urge the Liberal opposition to grow up. With that, I support the bill.

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