Mr SOURIS: My question is directed to the Premier. Would the Premier explain whether his Churchillian victory fingers from the parliamentary verandah yesterday signified a crushing defeat of the unions, his Australian Labor Party caucus colleagues and the people of New South Wales or was it, as the honourable member for Coogee said this morning, just a brazen display of arrogance?
Mr CARR: Where do they stand on workers compensation? As far back as February 1994 the files yield up a letter—how poignant are the names, how touching this pre-echo of Liberal conflict—from the honourable member for Willoughby, the then Treasurer of New South Wales, to the person who replaced him as Leader of the Opposition, the then Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment. How poignant is the association of these two names, redolent as they are today of the great history of the great Liberal Party of New South Wales.
Mr Amery: Once great.
Mr CARR: A once great party. Should we deny the adjective "great"? How sad! What was the subject of the little letter? I will tell you. Fasten your seat belts, prepare to arrest your tears.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order.
Mr CARR: The letter is about the blow-out in the WorkCover deficit. The honourable member for Willoughby said:
That it is a pre-echo of their leadership tussle and the pressures on the scheme. The deficit is blowing out—it is currently $2.18 billion—and it is borne by the community of New South Wales. If that continues to blow out because government reforms are blocked in the upper House the day will come when that deficit has to be divided up among all employers—large, medium and small—in New South Wales, each of whom will have to pay a share of it. If this reform legislation is blocked by the Coalition in the upper House, every time the deficit goes up by another $50 or $100 million I will write to the employers of this State and tell them to take their case to the Coalition and to the upper House because that will be their responsibility. As the honourable member for Willoughby was astute enough in 1994 to warn, that deficit cannot be overlooked; the consequences are too great.
The original concern is now being reinforced by an emergence of costs in excess of original estimates. My concern now is that these benefits have brought about changes in culture and climate, that is, in the WorkCover scheme, that will not only have a direct impact on the budget by higher workers compensation costs but may have a flow-on effect to the tail of workers compensation and transport accident claims which currently have outstanding claims in excess of $1 billion.
I welcome any opportunity in this House to talk at greater length about that deficit, but if these reforms do not proceed then the day will come when a government has to impose a levy on every employer in New South Wales to pay for the deficit. The day will come when some government in New South Wales takes away common law rights—as Kennett did in Victoria—because of the crisis the scheme will be in. These reforms are designed to prevent that coming about.