SafetyAtWorkBlog has been able to confirm the rumour that Barry Sherriff, a prominent Australian OHS Lawyer who recently joined Norton Rose, has been contracted to facilitate a series of exclusive forums on the reform of Australia’s workers’ compensation system.
Sherriff was one of the triumvirate who investigated a model OHS law for the Australian Government and should fulfill his contracted role for Safe Work Australia (SWA) admirably.
SWA undertook a request for quote (RFQ) for the delivery of the information sessions and according to the RFQ criteria that SafetyAtWorkBlog has received, but cannot verify, Sherriff will be an influential figure in these initial discussions.
“The role of the facilitator as outlined in the RFQ was to:
- Prior to the Forum, comment if required on the Agency plans regarding Forum venue, facilities, event management issues
- Prior to Forum, liaise with Agency and stakeholders on Forum content and procedures
- Prior to Forum, develop approved discussion guides and stimulus questions
- During the Forum, facilitate and manage discussions including clarifying stakeholder views, proposing positions with majority support and other actions designed to meet the Forum objectives
- Collate, analyse and prepare a report of discussions and outcomes including recommended priorities and actions associated within agreed period.
- If requested, comment on proposed draft Action Plan prior to its submission to Safe Work Australia.”
Clearly from this timetable, Sherriff is likely already to be hard at work in preparation. Curiously only a single forum is mentioned so concerns expressed elsewhere in the SafetyAtWorkBlog about the selection of invited participants may be valid.
There is unlikely to be any publicly available documents officially from this process because it is obviously aimed at providing Safe Work Australia with an impression of the “hot” workers’ compensation issues and concerns in the Australian community. However, leaked documents from such a large-scale consultative process are almost inevitable.
Some in the OHS and workers’ compensation sector believe that with so many new workers’ compensation laws in many Australian States that the Federal Government needed to begin this process as soon as possible to provide some form of pressure valve for the increasing outrage that many in the business sector are starting to feel. Dribs and drabs of dissatisfaction with the recent Victorian workers’ compensation changes are starting to get to SafetyAtWorkBlog.
The forum above is only the initial stage in a fairly long process and it is hoped that when broader consultation occurs that the Government follows the OHS Model law process of a committee of experts to determine the best reform options. Certainly insurers and worker representatives need to be included but it would be disappointing if a lawyer was allocated the Chair. Workers’ compensation reform is an emotionally charged area of worker welfare that requires someone with a great deal of diplomacy and broad stakeholder acceptance.