Dramatic CLP changes to workers’ compensation in the Northern Territory will favour insurance company profits over the injured worker, Shadow Minister for Business Gerry McCarthy said.
The changes, first flagged on the day TIO was sold to Allianz last November, are being debated in the legislative assembly today.
“The changes will see many Territory workers no longer under the workers’ compensation scheme because the definition of an employee has changed.” Mr McCarthy said.
“The CLP government’s new scheme will abandon Territory workers and won’t help promote safe workplace practices. It will promote more litigation with injured workers pitted against their employer in a true definition of a worker.
“The current scheme is a ‘no-fault’ scheme providing for the rehabilitation and compensation of injured workers and funded on this basis since 1987.
“The amendments now introduce a 5 year limit for payments and a 6 year limit for medical or other costs for injured workers.
“Only a handful of workers will meet the very high bar – over 15% of what’s termed ‘whole person impairment’ - to be able to continue receiving payments and support,” Mr McCarthy said.
“A childcare worker or nurse who’s severely injured their back and needs spinal fusion requiring multiple surgeries over many years, only gets to 14%.
“Under these amendments, their compensation payments end after five years, with no future medical costs paid a year later.
“A crane operator who suffers knee injuries and can’t climb a ladder or walk up any kind of mild gradient, still injured after 5 years, will be cut off.
“The CLP’s government’s new amendments ignore ongoing psychological or psychiatric effects of being injured, completely denying justice for the worker.
“We applaud the firefighters in their long campaign to have occupational cancers covered by workers’ compensation.
“Well done, you’ve finally got what you deserve.
“Territory Labor has given a commitment that, if elected, we will amend the Act that limits claims to firefighters contracting cancer within 10 years’ of their last shift.
Shadow Minister for Government Accountability, Natasha Fyles, today condemned the CLP for moving to introduce legislation that will allow for the sale of our Port the day after it sold TIO amid community outrage.
“Arrogant Adam Giles is showing utter contempt for Territorians who are fighting his public assets sales agenda – first he sells our TIO and now he moves to sell our Port,” Ms Fyles said.
“The sale of TIO will hurt many Territorians living in flood, storm surge and cyclone zones now left to the whim of a private insurer Allianz instead of the safety net of our public insurer.
“The sale was a con. Adam Giles promised TIO would stay Territorian – it’s now German. Adam Giles promised TIO guarantees – yet no legal guarantees on insurance premium prices or coverage exist. Adam Giles promised it would reap a 15 per cent recycling payment from the Commonwealth yet that doesn’t exist. Adam Giles failed to listen to Territorians who overwhelmingly wanted to save our TIO and crashed through with the sale.”
Ms Fyles said that serious questions on the sale still remain.
“We suspect it was no coincidence that on the same day Adam Giles is forcing through the sale of TIO he distributes a Ministerial Statement outlining cuts to the Workers Compensation Scheme which would see injured workers’ benefits reduced that make the insurer more profitable,” Ms Fyles said.
“Adam Giles refused to answer my question today: Did Allianz know about the proposed Workers Compensation changes prior to the TIO sale?”
Ms Fyles said that the CLP are showing utter contempt to Territorians by now pushing ahead with plans to sell our Port.
“Labor worked hard to make the port profitable. The oil and gas boom is just now delivering results and is beginning to deliver a great income stream for our kids’ future, if we can keep it in public ownership,” Ms Fyles said.
“Our Port is worth much, much more to us over the long-term rather than a one-off sale.
“Selling the Port – whether it’s a sale or a sneaky 99 year lease which is a sale by another name – will bring commercial rates for freight that will drive up the cost of living for consumers and businesses.
“What’s next? Do Territorians have to nail down everything we own to stop him selling off our Territory?
“Territorians will have to keep up the fight to keep our valuable public assets ours.”
Media contact: Cathryn Tilmouth 0427 500 667
The Shadow Attorney General, Natasha Fyles, today called on the CLP Government to come clean and explain whether it has discussed moves to cut workers compensation entitlements with its new MAC administrator Allianz.
Ms Fyles said that the CLP circulated a Statement on Workers Compensation today - on the same day it moved to rush through the sale of TIO.
“Is it a coincidence that the changes - which will benefit Allianz who are already a major worker’s compensation player in the Territory - are being tabled today?” Ms Fyles asked.
“Will the government come clean about what discussions were held with Allianz about these changes in the negotiations to sell TIO?
“Once Allianz acquired TIO, it will dominate the worker’s compensation insurance business in the Territory.
“Actuaries valuing TIO for Allianz will no doubt have placed a value on the future liabilities of worker’s compensation as part of their due diligence.
“These legislative changes proposed by the Chief Minister today will greatly affect that liability. Were Allianz given a private briefing on these amendments?”
Ms Fyles said that the Chief Minister’s statement about the changes is very short on detail.
“Everybody knows the devil is always in the detail in these matters. But we are concerned that the changes will allow insurers to throw people off worker’s compensation with an inadequate lump-sum payment after only two years,” Ms Fyles said.
Ms Fyles said that she is concerned that the timeframe isn’t long enough for a proper medical assessment of how much longer treatment will need to continue to ensure that injured workers are able to return to work.
“The Government itself says that 66 percent of claims involve less than 1 week off work. Of the remaining claims 56 percent will be back at work in less than 6 weeks and less than 5 percent of claims extend beyond 52 weeks.
“We are looking at a very small number of claimants who require workers compensation beyond 2 years. But for them and their families, the weekly payments and medical and treatment costs are critical.”
Ms Fyles welcomed the Government’s response to repeated Labor calls for appropriate workers compensation for firefighters who contract cancer due to their work but reiterated a call for a fairer retrospectivity to cover existing firies affected and queried a cut-off date.
“We desperately need a fair workers compensation system for our firefighters and the CLP are still dragging their heels and failing to adequately cover our firies’ needs.”