Harmonisation of Australia’s workers’ compensation system begins

SafetyAtWorkBlog has learnt that the national harmonisation process for workers’ compensation has formally begun with one of the first meetings being scheduled in Melbourne at the end of March 2010 and organised by Safe Work Australia.  The two-day meeting is invitation only and invitations have been sent to relevant stakeholders – insurers, rehabilitation, providers, unions…… The meeting is almost an introduction to the reform process but could provide a clear indication of the tensions and challenges for this program in the future.

Workers compensation issues in South Australia have been receiving considerable coverage in SafetyAtWorkBlog over the last few weeks.  The bigger picture in the complaints that the Australian Government has committed to a program of national harmonisation of workers’ compensation schemes, currently administered separate by each State.  This process is a bigger challenge than harmonising workplace safety laws and may be bigger than the reintroduction of a more worker-friendly industrial relations system.

The ABC News bulletin (video available) in Melbourne on 17 March 2010 ran a lead story about doctors’ reluctance to treat injured workers and people injured in traffic incidents because of the onerous paperwork.  Doctors, surgeons and, reportedly, neurosurgeons are reluctant to operate on cases funded through compensation.  Some doctors are now boycotting the compensation system.

The neurosurgeon mention is particularly ironic given that only several days ago SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on the positive role of workers’ compensation in the recovery of workers with traumatic brain injuries.

Harmony in the workers’ compensation sector will prove to be one of the most elusive aspirational targets of this Australian Government, particularly with the fluid political landscape that will only become a litle more solid after two State elections due for this weekend.

The role of unions in the workers’ compensation reform process will be interesting to watch as they come off the semi-victory they have achieved on OHS reforms.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

6 thoughts on “Harmonisation of Australia’s workers’ compensation system begins”

  1. Very much hoping the harmonisation process has a common mega database on injury claims as part of the agenda. Some agencies will give relatively detailed info, but for mine, I would prefer to be able to interrogate the complete database as closely as possible; State by State and a national one would be sweet.

    Cross tabulating occupational groups (and better still down to each specific occupation) is essential. It\’s pointless trying to convince a punter about risk levels if we can\’t get detailed stats for each occupation, the nature and agency of injury etc. Broad sweep industry group stuff on injuries might be interesting to the regulators and sometimes to me, but my small to medium industry punters doesn\’t give a \”rats\” about that; they and I need to know what are the important numbers for their people out on the shop floor.

    Crossing fingers for a much more sophisticated injury compensation database being made available to all of us.

    Col Finnie
    fini:OHS

  2. I had it confirmed to me yesterday that indeed there will be an industry leader speaking at this 2 day meeting. The speaker is from Adelaide and was not in the least surprised that I had not been invited to attend the meeting. The speaker was also of the opinion that even should this meeting have been held here in Adelaide I would not have been invited to attend or speak.

  3. Kevin as much as I truly would like to believe that WIRC would be invited, history indicates that WIRC falls off of the invitation list simply because the information put forward is not supportive of others who attend.

    I would like to be proven wrong, I admit I would be truly surprised if an invitation to attend a meeting here in Adelaide.

  4. Rosemary

    My understanding is that the Melbourne meeting is the first of many that are planned for each States in Australia and the process has only just begun.

    The OHS harmonisation process did not, to my knowledge, have public consultation, only submissions, but that process had a much tighter timeframe than the workers\’ compensation reform process.

    I understand that invitations have not only been sent to organisations but also some individuals or, given current parlance, \”subject matter experts\”. In this context I can\’t see how, at least in Adelaide, they could exclude WIRC.

  5. \”The two-day meeting is invitation only and invitations have been sent to relevant stakeholders – insurers, rehabilitation, providers, unions……\”

    And not an injured worker in sight, nor anyone representing only injured workers -please understand that whilst unions do represent injured workers, but they also represent non-injured workers.-

    Work Injured Resource Connection represents 100% injured workers, we deal with every aspect of a workplace injury – workplace fatal- suicide due to the workplace/WorkCover- but once more as per normal, no invitation.

    To me this speaks to just how far any National workers’ compensation system has to go.

    Until the State workers compensation systems understand that the only reason they are in place is because people go to work and become injured and the workers compensation system is in place for the betterment of the injured worker not for the publicity of the State workers compensation system.

    Sour grapes maybe, a good understanding of the complex nature of injured workers and their support systems definitely.

    I also know that not one of the people going to the scheduled in Melbourne will consider that Work Injured Resource Connection has anything to say so they will not bother to pick up the phone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.