The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, called a “snap” election for the end of January 2015. On 11 January 2015, Newman tweeted:
“Queenslanders injured at work are covered by Australia’s strongest workers’ compensation scheme.”
This is a further example of political newspeak as what does a “strong” workers’ compensation scheme look like? Newman’s tweet included an image that provides some clarity to his claim.
The comparison to other Australian States is “lowest average rate per $100 in wages”. Whether this is an accurate and fair benchmark is beyond this writer but it is useful to note that prior to Victoria’s November 2014 election, in June 2014, that State’s Minister for Workcover, Gordon Rich-Phillips stated that:
“For the six months to December 2013 Victorian workplaces recorded a claims performance of 7.3 claims per million hours worked. This is a record low level of WorkCover claims in Victoria, and it is the lowest level of WorkCover claims of any state in Australia. This continues the very strong performance by Victorian workplaces of low WorkCover claims.” (emphasis added)
“The average WorkCover premium in Victoria will fall to 1.272 per cent of payroll, which represents a reduction in the average premium of 2 per cent, which will save Victorian businesses $40 million a year.”(emphasis added)
The payroll figure is close to that included in Premier Newman’s infographic.
Looking at the glossary that Safe Work Australia provides in its regular statistical compendiums (page 109), it is difficult to find a valid comparison to the measure of “per $100 wages” in the Newman infographic.
Premier Newman also claims that his actions on workers compensation will inject
“$1 billion into the Queensland economy over 4 years…”
This seems odd when Victoria’s Rich-Phillips stated that a 2% reduction in premiums equates to a saving in business costs of only $40 million for one year. Over 4 years, this figure would be $160 million, substantially less than Newman’s $1 billion. Is it any wonder that such statements receive little traction with the electorate? It seems that such statements are not intended to be accurate and factual, rather they are an indication of the ideological commitment to business profitability, a reassurance to its business stakeholders and a re-commitment to capitalism. There is no commitment to improving worker safety by reducing harm.
The quote above ends with
“…over 4 years securing jobs for Queenslanders.”
This echoes the dominant political message in Australia that everything must lead to the creation of jobs. But this quote also implies that workers compensation relation costs are less important than job creation. Workers’ compensation is part of the job cycle and the experience of many workers, and should be calculated as such.
There is great benefit in beginning a job and the most productivity and profitability of that job would result from keeping that worker safe throughout that worker’s occupational lifetime. Any work injury or illness that takes that worker away from the workplace reduces that worker’s productivity/profitability and, if a workers’ compensation claim is lodged, increases costs to the employer. If Premier Newman is serious about reducing business costs and red tape, sometime during this election campaign he should be making a statement about increasing the advisory and, perhaps, inspection, services of Work Health and Safety Queensland.
Let’s finish this article with a comparison graph in the same format of the bar graph in Premier Newman’s infographic which shows Queensland’s OHS performance in terms of workplace fatalities (source from Safe Work Australia’s statistics (page 27)):
This graph shows Queensland as the State with the second highest number of workplace deaths in 2013. How different the election campaign would be if Premier Newman developed business and job creation policies using this measure?