AUSTRALIAN GREENS SENATORS' DISSENTING REPORT
The Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Improving the
Comcare Scheme) Bill 2015 (the bill) introduced by the government on the 26
March 2015 purports to introduced positive and needed reform to workers'
compensation arrangements administered by the Comcare scheme.
In fact the bill, along with additional legislation currently before the
Parliament such as the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation
Amendment Bill 2014, represents a significant attack on workers' rights and
The bill, as shown by evidence to the committee, swings the balance too
far towards employers at the expense of employees making it even harder for
workers with genuine claims to access benefits and legitimate support.
As such the bill represents a failure to implement genuine reform, which
should seek to improve the safety and health of workplaces.
It is clear the government is not interested in genuine reform as it has
failed to implement most of the recommendations of the Hanks-Hawkes review,
instead choosing to act only on those recommendations that employers wanted and
ignoring those that would improve the situation for injured workers.
The bill if passed, along with companion legislation, would remove many
important rights workers currently have under state based workers' compensation
and allow employers to switch schemes and therefore cut costs at the expense of
their employees' right to adequate compensation and rehabilitation. Workers in
blue-collar industries such as construction are particularly at risk.
Evidence to the committee also highlighted that there is a danger that
employers in the shipping industry might attempt to shift from the Seacare
scheme to a weakened Comcare scheme in an attempt to avoid their
responsibilities to their workers.
The Australian Greens also share the concerns of many submitters that
there is also a serious risk of a 'race to the bottom' in workers' compensation
and health and safety law.
There is also a very real prospect that the actual operation of the bill
could be far worse than the bill would suggest as many key aspects of the bill envisage
changes to rules or will only to come into effect via legislative instruments
which are currently not available.
Given the scope and importance of such changes, including the removal or
alteration of rights and the exclusion of workers from compensation, such
changes should be in primary legislation, not delegated legislation.
At the very least, it is not acceptable that Parliament should be
expected to vote on legislation when the extent of such changes is unclear.
What is clear from evidence to the committee is that the government
intends to again attack the rights of injured workers to adequate compensation
As such the bill represents a continuation of the government's crusade
against people's rights at work and should be opposed by the Senate.
For these reasons, and the clear dangers of the bill highlighted by
evidence to the committee, the Australian Greens recommend the bill not be
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