Posted on 12. Apr, 2010 in Speeches

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of the Accident Compensation Amendment Bill 2009. It is very pleasing to hear that the opposition does not oppose the bill.

This bill implements the Victorian ALP’s 2006 election commitment; we promised to do this. I am very proud to quote from our 2006 election platform. At page 13 of the policy document entitled Protecting work rights, family time and workplace safety, it states:

13. Labor will update accident compensation legislation.

A stable and competitive WorkCover scheme is one that recognises and delivers positive outcomes for both employees and employers.

Labor is committed to improved workers compensation arrangements for Victorians.

Labor will review accident compensation legislation to ensure workers receive the assistance, support and benefits they deserve.

As I said a couple of months ago in the debate on the Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Bill, members on this side of the house believe in fairness and decency. That should be the basis of any approach concerning industrial relations and support for working families in this state, and it is critical when it comes to accident compensation. Consigning injured workers to the scrap heap and leaving their families destitute is Dickensian and unacceptable.

Industrial relations need not be confrontational as promoted during the Kennett, Gude, Howard and Reith era. There do not have to be winners and losers. It is possible to have a fair and balanced outcome which benefits both employers and employees and therefore the overall economic and social interests of the state and the nation. That is what this bill is all about.

The first priority in considering workplace injuries must be prevention through proper health and safety regimes. Secondly, there must be an emphasis on returning injured workers to a meaningful employment environment. Where this is not possible, decent compensation should be provided so that injured workers are not consigned to social security for the rest of their lives.

The provision for superannuation contributions to be provided for long‑term injured workers is particularly welcome. In those cases where tragically the worker dies as a result of a workplace injury or illness, their family must not be left destitute. It is an understatement for me, as a member who represents the most multicultural electorate in this state, to say I have too often seen the consequences of uncompromising employers bullying workers, especially those from migrant backgrounds who may not have the ability or skills to negotiate the system and are at the mercy of exploitative employers.

This bill provides a balanced approach. It also provides substantially increased benefits, which is a reflection of the Bracks and Brumby governments’ financial management of the accident compensation system.

In particular this bill provides for: a 10 per cent increase in no‑fault lump sum benefits for workers with spinal impairments; a 25 per cent increase in the maximum impairment benefit, increasing no‑fault lump sum benefits for the most profoundly injured workers; a fivefold increase in benefits awarded to workers who suffer a serious psychiatric impairment; an increase in the rate of compensation from 75 per cent to 80 per cent of income after workers have received compensation for 13 weeks; a superannuation contribution for long‑term injured workers; the extension, from 26 weeks to 52 weeks, of the period during which pre‑injury overtime and shift allowances are included in the calculation of a worker’s weekly benefits; an increase in the statutory maximum for weekly benefits to twice average weekly earnings; and payment of limited further weekly benefits for workers who have returned to work but who require surgery for their work‑related injury. At the same time the bill provides for stronger rehabilitation and return‑to‑work outcomes and less red tape for employers.

When it comes to accident compensation we on this side of the house support Victorian working families. That support started early in the life of this Labor government, with the restoration of common‑law damages. This bill continues our work. It is a great bill, and I support it enthusiastically and take the opportunity to congratulate the minister for introducing it.

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