On the 11th December 2007 the Minister for Education, Employment, Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion declared a moratorium on new companies joining the Commonwealth’s workers compensation scheme, Comcare, as self insurers.
In late January 2008, the Minister announced a review of the Comcare scheme. More than twelve months later and the review is still not completed and if it has been, then the Minister appears to be in no hurry to release its findings.
The government certainly mouths the right platitudes about the need for a more ‘seamless’ national economy. During debate of the government’s Safe Work Australia Bill (2008), which abolishes the Coalition’s Australian Safety Compensation Council and replaces it with the equally useless Safe Wok Australia, government MPs spoke of the need for removing duplication in the areas of OHS and workers’ compensation.
Bill Shorten said (the Rudd government has) ‘set itself the task of creating a seamless national economy, unhampered by unnecessary duplication, overlap and indifference’.
Greg Combet observed that with ‘so many different jurisdictions the 39,000 companies operating across multiple jurisdictions face significant costs in complying with fundamentally different rules and regulations.’
Lindsay Tanner, in a speech to the parliament on the 9th February 2006, said that the various workers compensation schemes are a ‘hodgepodge of bits and pieces’ and that we are still in the ‘Dark Ages’ in spite of the efforts of the Whitlam government in 1975 to introduce a uniform national compensation scheme.’
To invoke a well known Whitlamism, ‘It’s time’ for Minister Gillard to end the moratorium on companies being able to join the Comcare scheme and to seriously examine the creation of a genuine national workers’ compensation and OHS scheme. Agitate has already demonstrated how this can be done.
Failure to act and provide regulatory relief for companies operating across multiple and disparate jurisdictions will continue to result in a dead weight economic loss to the Australian economy. Resources that are wasted on complying with unnecessary and duplicative regulatory requirements are those which are not available for investment in more productive endeavours. Even during prosperous economic times this is unacceptable. As we enter a severe economic downturn, it is not just unacceptable but diabolical for the government to stall on this much needed reform.