Vero Insurance Ltd Workers Compensation Scheme Underwriting
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for industrial Relations. In light of the Minister's answer yesterday will he confirm that insurer Vero has contacted several of its major policyholders to inform them of its decision to leave the New South Wales workers compensation scheme? Will the Minister also confirm that Vero has told these policyholders that upon leaving the New South Wales scheme their policies will be transferred to another insurer, allocated by WorkCover? Will the Minister confirm that the tender process which forced Vero's decision to leave the New South Wales workers compensation scheme was designed to increase competition, not limit choice for employers by forcing them to take up the services of one insurer at the behest of the WorkCover Authority?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I have to admit to being somewhat confused; not confused about his question but confused about the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has asked the question. I am a bit concerned that the Opposition is a bit confused about who in the shadow ministry has responsibility for WorkCover.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Point of order: The Minister is debating the question. I would ask him to return to the question without debating who should be asking it or being intrigued by the nature of it.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind the Minister that he must not debate the question.
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I would have thought that I was perfectly entitled to be intrigued but, nonetheless, honourable members in the House will be aware that the WorkCover scheme is being opened to greater competition between insurers. A request for proposals to deliver workers compensation claims and policy services is currently in the marketplace and WorkCover has received a very positive response. The honourable member refers to that tender process in his question. As I advised the House on 3 May, one of the six existing insurers has indicated it will not be tendering. I made adequate comment on that yesterday and also about Vero Workers Compensation Ltd withdrawing its business in South Australia.
The company has indicated, as I said yesterday, that it has embarked on a collaborative process to transfer its current policies and the premiums attached to other insurers. The honourable member has referred at the end of his question to the process by which WorkCover is completing the shift in emphasis from insurers acting as agents in the scheme or insurers participating in the scheme on licence from WorkCover to the active agency that is required by the reform program. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition and to the member who asked the question yesterday—and to any other members who want to engage in this debate—that, in fairness to Vero, it has not publicly nominated the changes in workers compensation in any way, shape or form as the reason for the decision. It has simply not elected to go on with the tender process and therefore will be withdrawing from the New South Wales WorkCover scheme.
I reminded members yesterday that Vero has only 1.3 per cent of New South Wales policies, making it by any standards a relatively small player, although it has a relatively sizeable premium, which means that it is handling what we would regard as medium to large employers within the scheme. It is useful that it is possible now for the scheme to reallocate that work potentially to some of the new agents and operators who will come into the scheme with a new mandate to more effectively manage the needs of injured workers; to more effectively satisfy the scheme's requirements for proper injury management and therefore to make sure that workers are treated and healed more promptly; and also to make sure that employers are getting good value for their premium dollar, that is, that there is, at the appropriate time, an adequate and early return to work.
If I could just reflect on the state of confusion I referred to earlier in my answer, it seems to me a little bit strange that the honourable member asked this question. Most of the comments about WorkCover made by Chris Hartcher, a good friend of the Leader of the Opposition, are wrong.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: He is a resident of the Central Coast.
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Yes, he is a resident of the Central Coast as well. Almost all of his comments are wrong, but also, interestingly, he is not actually the shadow Minister for WorkCover. [Time expired.]