Workers comp plan under fire

A bold plan to harmonise Australia’s disparate workers compensation schemes has met fierce opposition from workers’ rights group and lawyers.

Last week, the Insurance Council of Australia released a blueprint for a national workers comp scheme, drawing on what it sees as best practice in the various current systems, including privatising the remaining state-run schemes.

However, Australian Lawyers Alliance Queensland Director Rod Hodgson has hit out at proposals to privatise the state-run schemes.

“There is no evidence that workers’ compensation schemes function best when run by private insurers, as asserted by the ICA,” he says. “In fact, examples of the two of the best run schemes – Queensland and Victoria – have a long history of delivering low premiums for employers, high solvency and providing fair benefits for injured workers.

“The ICA are proposing cut-offs in weekly compensation payments, on a work capacity test controlled by insurers that is not subject to any sort of court or legal review. That will see thousands of people stripped of their legal safety net, with few options for review.”

However, a PricewaterhouseCooper report commissioned by Suncorp last year found privatising NSW’s WorkCover scheme could deliver a $3 billion boost to that state over 10 years, through extra tax revenue, new jobs and productivity gains from getting workers back into their jobs more quickly.

NIBA has long heralded the WA system as worth emulating across the country.

More than two-thirds of workers compensation policies in WA are written by brokers, and the state enjoys the lowest claim dispute rate in the country, as well as some of the lowest premiums.

In fact, a 2012 survey found that 97% of WA employers were pleased with the performance of their broker during claims, with 60% rating their performance as excellent.