Tuesday 17 November 2009
WORKERS REHABILITATION AND COMPENSATION
AMENDMENT BILL 2009 (No. 87)
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Like the member for Windermere, I will only make a small contribution.
Mr FINCH - Unlike his, mine will be a short contribution.
The workers, or at least the unions, are happy with this bill which they say represents a reasonable outcome, although it does not satisfy all of their objectives. They say that when taken with the Government's commitment to the return to work and the injury management model that makes proper treatment and return to work the absolute priority, the measures represent a big improvement for injured workers and their families. I believe that most workers would prefer not to be injured, not to be obtaining compensation and not to have time off work; they would rather continue to work safely and normally. Long ago, when I was engaged in the mining and construction industries, I would certainly have preferred at that time to continue working than be the beneficiary of workers compensation. I was all too aware of the greater risk of injury in those two industries and, although I was young and carefree, bullet-proof, I would have been badly disadvantaged by injury and the loss of work. In this much-improved era of workers compensation I find the main parts of this bill fair, especially with its emphasis on payments for seriously injured workers. I also agree with the commitment to return to work and injury management. Sometimes it is interesting that you overlook discussions close to home and I did overlook the fact that my daughter-in-law has been an injury management coordinator for the last couple of years and it did not dawn on me to consult with her. I have had a brief conversation with her and talked to her about aspects of the bill and she is in agreement with it. She gave me an insight into a lot of those issues that workers have when they are injured and trying to get back to work and be rehabilitated. It can be quite a process.
The increases in impairment and death benefit to $250 000 brought Tasmania into line with the median of all States at the time of the Clayton report, however, as the unions point out, Tasmania has now slipped behind again. The Commonwealth and South Australia are now on $400 000, and New South Wales is on $450 000. I think that at this stage we have the increase from somewhere around $223 000 up to $250 000, but that is probably an area that is going to need to be revisited, I would think, although at this stage the increase is there.
However committed employers are to workplace safety and however careful workers are, there are always going to be accidents in the workplace. The aim of any legislation like this is to compensate workers for medical and other costs and to help them get back to work as soon as possible. That is in the interests of everyone and I believe that this bill represents progress.