The Malcolm Turnbull government has continued his attack on workplace safety and injured workers through maintaining the government's Comcare Bills (Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission Amendment Acts) in the Senate.

The Bills offer such a broad destruction of workplace safety regulation and injured workers workers compensation rights that they must be opposed in full. Even the very few improvements come with strings attached.

By far the biggest threat to the national safety regime in Australia is the ability to open up the Comcare system to the majority of the majority of the state insured employers through the employer's ability to shift to a virtually unregulated federal Comcare self insurance system, thus prohibiting state SafeWork inspectors from entering the workplace.

This would mean that the over 1000 government inspectors across the country would be replaced with less than 40 Comcare inspectors. The government has argued that there may be an increase in inspectors to accommodate the increase of workplaces and employees covered by the federal scheme. This does not agree with the practice of the scheme to date who have allowed more large companies into the system so that the total number of private employees almost equals the federal public service, without a corresponding increase in the inspectorate. There is no money earmarked in the government's forward estimates to increase the inspectorate to accommodate the influx of workplaces and workers covered by the exclusive federal scheme.

This will be allowed to be done without employees concerns being taken into account.

The other changes that are of a real concern is that the government is trying to make the Comcare system more attractive to the private sector by amendment Bills that aim to cut injured workers support from workers thus reducing the cost of being an employer under this scheme. A number of the changes will allow the Minister without the review of Parliament to decide the type and degree of injury that will have accepted liability.

Rachael James General Manager Lawyer at Slater and Gordon has summarised the changes in her presentation to the 2015 Unions NSW Safety and Injured Workers Conference. 

 

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