Joint Select Committee on the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme



About this Item
SpeakersHazzard Mr Brad; Daley Mr Michael; Acting-Speaker (Mr Lee Evans)
BusinessCommittee, Division, Message



JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE NSW WORKERS COMPENSATION SCHEME
Page: 10994
    Establishment
      Consideration of the Legislative Council's message of 2 May 2012.
        Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [4.06 p.m.]: The Legislative Council has passed a motion to establish a joint select committee to inquire into the New South Wales Workers Compensation Scheme. I understand there is some difference of opinion, so members might consider not leaving the Chamber. I move:

            (1) that this House agrees with the Legislative Council's resolution relating to the appointment of a Joint Select Committee on the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme;

            (2) that Mr Daley, Mr Speakman and Mr Stokes be appointed to serve on such committee as the members of the Legislative Assembly;

            (3) that Wednesday 2 May 2012 at 6.30 p.m. in the Waratah Room be fixed as the time and place for the first meeting; and

            (4) that a message be sent informing the Legislative Council of this resolution.
        I invite the member for Maroubra to give the House his views.
          Mr MICHAEL DALEY (Maroubra) [4.07 p.m.]: I move that the motion be amended as follows:
              (1) in paragraph (1) adding after the word "Scheme":

              ", with the following amendments to the terms of reference:
                  (a) in paragraph 1 add:

                  "(d) The extent to which the scheme provides just compensation for injured workers.";

                  (b) in paragraph 8 omit '13 June 2012' and insert instead '2 August 2012'; and

                  (c) after paragraph 8 insert the following new paragraph:
                    (9) that the committee be required to hold no fewer than five full days of public hearings in Sydney and regional New South Wales to enable those who rely on the scheme to give evidence."; and

              (2) in paragraph (4) adding ", and requests the Council's agreement to the proposed amendments" after "resolution".
            Earlier today in the other place several members moved amendments to the motion to establish this joint select committee in an attempt to ensure that it is fair dinkum, but those amendments were defeated. I ask the Government to reconsider those amendments so that we can be sure this committee is not what it appears to be and is; that is, a stacked committee with only two Opposition members out of a membership of eight. The committee will potentially meet behind closed doors, it will have the power to call for submissions in writing only and it will be able to decide not to invite people to appear. It will have the power to turn the whole process into a sham. As the member for Toongabbie said, it is a stitch up. One is encouraged to believe it is a stitch up if one relies solely on the words of a senior Minister, the Hon. Greg Pearce, who said on 3 February 2012:
                I have made it clear that the WorkCover scheme in its current form is untenable … the Government will now move to press ahead with reforms …
              That is the speed we have come to expect from this Government after waiting eight months for legislation dealing with bikies. We have waited for weeks to debate a bill dealing with the supply of ammunition that the Premier said was vital for the interests of law and order in this State. Where is that bill? The Graffiti Legislation Amendment Bill disappeared into the upper House after a request for a joint conference of managers and it has never been seen again. That is the speed at which this Government moves. The Hon. Greg Pearce said on 3 February that the Government would press ahead but it has not. It is now establishing a stacked committee to inquire into a scheme that is designed to look after the working people of New South Wales, who rely on this Government to keep them safe and, more importantly, to provide for them and their families in the event that they are injured at work.

              I see the Premier sitting over there with a huge smile on his face, laughing and cackling away. This is all a big joke to him and his cohorts. The Government must realise that it now presides over this large and vital scheme, a scheme that protects and underpins the lives and the quality of the lives of injured workers in New South Wales. We have heard plenty of scaremongering from the Premier and from the Minister, the Hon. Greg Pearce, about its potential effect on business. They are ignoring the fact that in the past two or three years the Labor Government instituted five or six cuts to premiums. Those cuts were welcomed by business and were all made. At the same time the Government maintained a triple-A-rated economy in New South Wales. Those opposite ignore their own advice that the low bond rate is contributing more than a billion dollars to the deficit.
                The Government ignores its own advice that, if premiums are not raised and if the Government does nothing, the scheme will eventually return to surplus. But this do-nothing Government with this do-nothing Premier—this Government that excels in reviews—will foist upon the people of New South Wales yet another review. The Opposition will be forced to agree to participate in the review, but what we will not agree to and will never agree to, is cutting and slashing benefits to injured workers. What we will not agree to, and will never agree to, is the cutting off of benefits to people who are injured at work through no fault of their own. The Opposition will not countenance having those people, after two, three or four years, shunted off to some Commonwealth pension scheme. The Opposition will not agree to injured people being forced to sell their homes and hock themselves to the eyeballs, just to maintain their quality of life and the quality of the lives of their families.
                  This morning in the other place there was an attempt to repair this dodgy review. Despite what the Minister says, the terms of reference for this select committee are not particularly wide. A member of the other place moved the amendment that I have just moved: that the committee look into the extent to which the scheme provides just compensation to injured workers. Who could take any offence at the committee looking at whether the scheme does what it is supposed to do: compensate injured workers? Certainly no-one on this side of the House but, in a minute, 69 members on the other side of the House will take offence. This morning in the other place an amendment was moved that showed that the media release of the Hon. Greg Pearce on 3 February 2012 was a lie. The media release said that the reforms are urgent and that the scheme must be reformed without haste.
                    This morning the Minister provided justification for lengthening the inquiry from 28 days to six weeks. These reforms are now required urgently before 1 July. Did the Minister move, on 4 February, a day after his press release pronouncing these reforms as urgent? No, he did not. The Minister has waited until today, three months after the fact. Many members on the other side of the House pay lip-service only to regional and rural New South Wales. Plenty of people in regional and rural New South Wales might want to appear before this committee to give evidence in person. But under the current terms of reference they will be precluded from doing so. My amendment is that the committee be required to hold no fewer than five full days listening to real human beings talk to them and not simply consider reports behind closed doors.
                      We have proved in 16 years that one can have a strong triple-A-rated economy with a budget surplus and still preside over a fair and just regime to care for and look after people who are injured in New South Wales. Those opposite have quickly turned that surplus into a deficit and perhaps do not think they have the skill to live up to Labor's economic record. That is fine. All the Opposition wants is for the people of New South Wales to be able to turn up to the committee in person and put their views. Let us see if those opposite want to vote against that.
                        Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst—Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Infrastructure NSW) [4.17 p.m.]: The Government opposes the amendment to the motion forwarded from the Legislative Council. It was fascinating to listen to the member for Maroubra—it is always amusing to listen to the intensity, but also the paucity, of his argument. If we were to agree to a delay of 50 days, the deficit would increase by another $450 million. That is $9 million a day—the deficit is growing at $9 million a day. It is fascinating to hear the member for Maroubra say that he would like the committee to spend "five full days of listening to real human beings". He had 16 years and he did not listen to real human beings. His Government failed miserably. It is not just the Government that is saying that. I quote from that journalist of record, Heath Aston. Greg McCarthy, the Chairman of WorkCover, recently resigned and as he left he gave the Sun-Herald the following words:
                            The "neglect" of former Labor finance ministers Joe Tripodi and Michael Daley had left the scheme's finances in a parlous state.
                          He went on to say that he was not going to miss Michael Daley.
                            ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans): Order! The member for Maroubra has had his opportunity to contribute to the debate.
                              Mr BRAD HAZZARD: Greg McCarthy continued, "They just weren't interested and didn't listen to my warnings." But the real embarrassment is that Mr McCarthy highlighted who did listen to the warnings. Obviously, the current Government is listening, and John Della Bosca listened to the warnings, but not the member for Maroubra. It is important that the committee get underway with its important work. The Coalition Government wants a fair workers compensation system. We also want a workers compensation system that will not drive the State into bankruptcy, which is what Labor has left us. This committee, which will inquire into how we can best ensure that workers are protected, will now do its work intently and without any trite directions from the member for Maroubra. We oppose the amendment. We support the motion that will establish the Joint Select Committee on the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme, and enable it to get on with its work and report to the Parliament in due course.
                                Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put.
                                  The House divided.
                                  Ayes, 22
                                  Mr Barr
                                  Ms Burney
                                  Ms Burton
                                  Mr Daley
                                  Mr Furolo
                                  Ms Hay
                                  Ms Hornery
                                  Ms Keneally
                                  Mr Lynch
                                  Dr McDonald
                                  Ms Mihailuk
                                  Ms Moore
                                  Mr Parker
                                  Mr Piper
                                  Mr Rees
                                  Mr Robertson
                                  Ms Tebbutt
                                  Mr Torbay
                                  Ms Watson
                                  Mr Zangari

                                  Tellers,
                                  Mr Amery
                                  Mr Lalich

                                  Noes, 64
                                      Mr Anderson
                                      Mr Annesley
                                      Mr Aplin
                                      Mr Ayres
                                      Mr Baird
                                      Mr Barilaro
                                      Mr Bassett
                                      Mr Baumann
                                      Ms Berejiklian
                                      Mr Bromhead
                                      Mr Brookes
                                      Mr Conolly
                                      Mr Constance
                                      Mr Cornwell
                                      Mr Coure
                                      Mrs Davies
                                      Mr Dominello
                                      Mr Doyle
                                      Mr Edwards
                                      Mr Elliott
                                      Mr Evans
                                      Mr Flowers
                                      Mr Fraser
                                      Mr Gee
                                      Ms Gibbons
                                      Ms Goward
                                      Mr Grant
                                      Mr Gulaptis
                                      Mr Hartcher
                                      Mr Hazzard
                                      Ms Hodgkinson
                                      Mr Holstein
                                      Mr Issa
                                      Mr Kean
                                      Dr Lee
                                      Mr Notley-Smith
                                      Mr O'Dea
                                      Mr O'Farrell
                                      Mr Owen
                                      Mr Page
                                      Ms Parker
                                      Mr Patterson
                                      Mr Perrottet
                                      Mr Piccoli
                                      Mr Provest
                                      Mr Roberts
                                      Mr Rohan
                                      Mr Rowell
                                      Mrs Sage
                                      Mr Sidoti
                                      Mrs Skinner
                                      Mr Smith
                                      Mr Souris
                                      Mr Speakman
                                      Mr Spence
                                      Mr Stokes
                                      Mr Stoner
                                      Mr Toole
                                      Ms Upton
                                      Mr Ward
                                      Mr Webber
                                      Mr R. C. Williams

                                      Tellers,
                                      Mr Maguire
                                      Mr J. D. Williams
                                  Pair

                                  Mr ParkMrs Williams
                                  Question resolved in the negative.

                                  Amendment negatived.

                                  Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.

                                  The House divided.
                                    Ayes, 64
                                        Mr Anderson
                                        Mr Annesley
                                        Mr Aplin
                                        Mr Ayres
                                        Mr Baird
                                        Mr Barilaro
                                        Mr Bassett
                                        Mr Baumann
                                        Ms Berejiklian
                                        Mr Bromhead
                                        Mr Brookes
                                        Mr Conolly
                                        Mr Constance
                                        Mr Cornwell
                                        Mr Coure
                                        Mrs Davies
                                        Mr Dominello
                                        Mr Doyle
                                        Mr Edwards
                                        Mr Elliott
                                        Mr Evans
                                        Mr Flowers
                                        Mr Fraser
                                        Mr Gee
                                        Ms Gibbons
                                        Ms Goward
                                        Mr Grant
                                        Mr Gulaptis
                                        Mr Hartcher
                                        Mr Hazzard
                                        Ms Hodgkinson
                                        Mr Holstein
                                        Mr Issa
                                        Mr Kean
                                        Dr Lee
                                        Mr Notley-Smith
                                        Mr O'Dea
                                        Mr O'Farrell
                                        Mr Owen
                                        Mr Page
                                        Ms Parker
                                        Mr Patterson
                                        Mr Perrottet
                                        Mr Piccoli
                                        Mr Provest
                                        Mr Roberts
                                        Mr Rohan
                                        Mr Rowell
                                        Mrs Sage
                                        Mr Sidoti
                                        Mrs Skinner
                                        Mr Smith
                                        Mr Souris
                                        Mr Speakman
                                        Mr Spence
                                        Mr Stokes
                                        Mr Stoner
                                        Mr Toole
                                        Ms Upton
                                        Mr Ward
                                        Mr Webber
                                        Mr R. C. Williams

                                        Tellers,
                                        Mr Maguire
                                        Mr J. D. Williams

                                    Noes, 22
                                    Mr Barr
                                    Ms Burney
                                    Ms Burton
                                    Mr Daley
                                    Mr Furolo
                                    Ms Hay
                                    Ms Hornery
                                    Ms Keneally
                                    Mr Lynch
                                    Dr McDonald
                                    Ms Mihailuk
                                    Ms Moore
                                    Mr Parker
                                    Mr Piper
                                    Mr Rees
                                    Mr Robertson
                                    Ms Tebbutt
                                    Mr Torbay
                                    Ms Watson
                                    Mr Zangari

                                    Tellers,
                                    Mr Amery
                                    Mr Lalich

                                    Pairs

                                    Mr CasuscelliMr Park
                                    Mr HumphriesMrs Perry
                                    Question resolved in the affirmative.

                                    Motion agreed to.

                                    Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolution.