Under the vehicle of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, the Commonwealth Government plans to widen access to the Comcare system for companies doing business interstate.
Until the freeze on access to Comcare by the Rudd government in 2007, a number of national corporations had considered participation in the Comcare scheme to be financially and administratively advantageous.
The Commonwealth Government’s current initiative into this area is subject to the progress of the current bill and has been met with strong opposition by unions, the Opposition and the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
The scheme could have limited impact, in that it applies to companies operating across State borders who may choose to leave State workers’ compensation schemes and join the Federal scheme. In reality, the range and demographic of companies that may be eligible to enter into the current scheme or a modified version of the scheme is large and inevitably growing.
Many questions arise, but given that companies other than Commonwealth departments already participate in the scheme, it seems difficult now to re-energise arguments based on equity for workers.
For the Government, the question is – what is the state of equilibrium it wishes to achieve? On the one hand, it could be to allow a handful of large corporate entities the ability to operate under a centralised system. On the other, it may be to reduce the scope of State-based workers’ compensation schemes coveriing the local fish and chip shop and the panel beater.
The commercial implications for private insurers are significant. Based upon the profitability of their current portfolios and any opportunities that may arise by reason of the proposal, a view will be expressed in the appropriate forums.
As usual, when confronted with controversial potential legislative change, it is interesting to examine statements and explanations from both sides of the debate for any relevant content amongst the rhetoric and hyperbole.
For more information on this update or any other insurance matters please contact Vidal Hockless on (08) 9321 3755.
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