'Keep state workers comp systems', argues employer body

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'Keep state workers comp systems', argues employer body

The nation’s OHS system should be harmonised, but the State workers compensation schemes should be maintained in the interests of competition, according to a leading employer's organisation.

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The nation’s OHS system should be harmonised, but the State workers compensation schemes should be maintained in the interests of competition, according to a leading employer's organisation.

Peter Anderson, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), told the Fixing the Federation symposium in Sydney organised by NSW Business Chamber on 8 July there is a role for ‘competitive federalism’ in the workers compensation field.

Anderson likened the situation to payroll tax, where the States competed with each other and this kept the costs to employers down.

‘Workers compensation is $7–8 billion tax per year on industry,’ Anderson said. ‘I am not sure we should have that as a federal tax with no competition.’

He suggested that perhaps the best system would be a national scheme for national employers, such as Comcare is, with the States competing with each other.

Variety of models

Anderson said one of the problems with having a national workers compensation system is that there is no generally accepted minimum standard among the States.

‘Some have lump sums, some have pension schemes,’ Anderson said. ‘There are different ways of resolving disputes - a variety of models which are quite different from each other.'

‘It is difficult to say: “this one is the model we will use in setting up a national scheme”.'

‘Workers comp systems are much more complex than IR or OHS standards.’

No pressure for efficiency

Anderson also argued that having one national workers comp system would limit the capacity for improvement.

‘If we had just one system there would be no pressure to improve efficiency and cut costs,’ he said.

‘We need to make sure we have systems which include pressure for efficiency.’

In a further argument for keeping the State systems, Anderson said it was well known that workers comp schemes can quite easily get into financial difficulties.

‘We have had some serious public debates about this in New South Wales,’ he said.

‘If there is only one system, the only way to bring back efficiencies is through administrative changes or through legal changes - and the legal changes would have to get through the Senate, which can be quite difficult.’


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