PRESIDENT OF the NSW Law Society, June McPhie, has called for $2 billion of WorkCover revenue to be shared with the state’s injured workers.
News of the windfall came as the NSW Government announced an additional $390 million in the final budget for 2005-06, raising the amount to $1.034 billion.
In a continuation of the ‘Fair Go For Injured People’ campaign, McPhie said that New South Wales’ harsh workers’ compensation laws had delivered a boon to the State Government, with a multi-billion dollar deficit turning into a healthy surplus in just one year.
“WorkCover is making profits well in excess of what its own actuaries estimated, just one year ago. These figures demonstrate that the Government’s cuts to workers’ entitlements in 2001 have gone too far”, McPhie said.
“The profits under the WorkCover scheme are an embarrassment, particularly in light of the low cost of workers’ compensation insurance in this State. These profits exist because injured workers have been left to suffer,” she said.
A WorkCover Authority of NSW report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that actuaries had estimated a $2 billion deficit in the NSW WorkCover scheme would take until 2012 to pay off. In reality, it took less than 12 months with an $85 million surplus in the coffers by the end of the last financial year, the Law Society said.
“There is clearly room to restore consistency and fairness to the WorkCover scheme, which is now making significant annual surpluses,” McPhie said in a petition to John Della Bosca, Minister for Commerce, to remove some of the severity out of workers’ compensation laws.
“WorkCover has financed its debts in a fraction of the time that was anticipated by its actuaries, due to a scheme that denies more than 9 out of 10 injured workers fair compensation,” McPhie said.
According to the Law Society, a NSW Upper House committee unanimously recommended in 2005 for deficiencies in the current scheme to be improved by aligning it with the public liability scheme and altering the methods of assessment under the legislation. Della Bosca ignored those recommendations in favour of NSW WorkCover’s actuarial advice, the Law Society said.
“The validity of [Della Bosca’s] projections is brought into serious doubt by these revelations. Injured NSW workers are suffering needlessly under one of Australia’s harshest workers’ compensation schemes,” McPhie said.
“Since the commencement of the campaign ‘A Fair Go For Injured People’, dozens of people have come forward with very serious injuries which have irreversibly changed their lives, for which they will never be properly compensated due to harsh laws in NSW,” she said.
“The campaign is aimed at building public awareness about the inconsistency and unfairness of laws protecting injured people in NSW.”
The campaign is a joint initiative of the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association, Law Council of Australia and the Australian Lawyers’ Alliance.
“For the first time four peak legal bodies in NSW have come together to campaign for changes to compensation laws,” Eva Scheerlinck, chief executive officer of the Australian Lawyers Alliance said.
“Politicians have let down those hurt in work place accidents and it’s up to lawyers to stand up for the rights of injured people. The work cover windfall shows the scam behind the current compensation laws, which must be changed,” she said.