ACCIDENT COMPENSATION AMENDMENT (REPAYMENTS AND DIVIDENDS) BILL 2012 – Thursday, 29 Mar 2012

Posted on 05. Apr, 2012 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I rise to speak on the Accident Compensation Amendment (Repayments and Dividends) Bill 2012. I have been listening to the contributions to the debate from both sides but particularly from the government side of the house, and I have been here long enough to notice the difference. It is quite evident from the contributions of government members that their hearts are not in it; they are half‑hearted about this bill. That is because this is an outrageous bill. It is a very bad bill, and they know deep down in their hearts they should not do this to injured and sick workers in the state. Their consciences are on the line, and it is reflected in their contributions to the debate that they are not fully supportive of their own bill.

I am a Buddhist, and in Buddhist parlance this is bad karma for the bill. It will come back to the government, and the government will pay. This legislation reflects another aspect of this government and that is its born‑to‑rule attitude: ‘We were born with silver spoons in our mouths, and we do what we want, so we raid the workers compensation fund’. I am very proud that Labor members are opposing this bill. We oppose it because it is wrong. It is a very unfortunate bill, and as Victorians we should all be ashamed of it. It reflects what a poor economic manager of the state this government has become. It is desperate. It has become a job destroyer. Not only is it not producing jobs and work in this state but now it is destroying jobs that already exist. Who would want to work in conditions like this?

Last night I had the opportunity of hosting a dinner for some top Asian business community leaders who came to share their concerns with members of the opposition. It transpired that since this government has come to power something like 50 000 jobs have been lost from the state. This means that every day in this state we lose 100 jobs. Every day we are sitting in this chamber we lose 100 jobs. For the first time in quite a while New South Wales is waving the flag saying it is again the premier state. We are now falling behind and trailing New South Wales. Members of this government should be ashamed. They should have a serious look at themselves for allowing Victoria to fall into this parlous state. On top of destroying jobs and not creating jobs they are punishing people who are in a job, especially if they are injured or sick. What kind of government is that? People at the function I attended last night were astounded that the state has fallen into such a state of affairs.

This bill allows the state government to raid the Victorian WorkCover Authority’s fund. On page 7 of the 2011–12 budget update the Treasurer calls it a ‘modest revenue initiative’. However, the figures on page 114 of the update show they are anything but modest: $147 million this financial year, $126 million in 2012–13, $87.5 million in 2013–14 and $110.5 million in 2014–15. That is a whopping total of $471.5 million over four years. But, and this is a big ‘but’, there is no guarantee the amount will be limited to close to half a billion dollars. The figures for future financial years are just projections; they are not locked in by this bill. This is borne out by the bill. One need only look at clause 4, which inserts into the principal act, the Accident Compensation Act 1985, new section 33A, which reads in part:

The capital of the Authority is repayable to the State at the times and in the amounts determined by the Treasurer after consultation with the Authority and the Minister.

Clause 4 also inserts into the principal act new section 33B, which reads in part:

The Authority must pay to the State a dividend at the time and in the manner determined by the Treasurer after consultation with the Authority and the Minister.

The sky is the limit. How dare the government do this! The bill allows the government to raid the WorkCover fund for as much as it likes in coming years. It will be very tempting for the government to do this as receipts drop in an economy the government itself has sent into recession. There is certainly no guarantee in the Treasurer’s second‑reading speech about limiting the amount he will take from the WorkCover fund.

I repeat what I said earlier: this is a disastrous and sickening bill. The government should be ashamed of itself and withdraw it accordingly. We will oppose it vigorously.

 

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