Queensland Election - A Win for Workers
1st Apr 2015
At the January 31 election, Queenslanders sent a strong message in standing up for the rights of injured workers. The ALP made its position on workers’ compensation very clear: that it would reverse the unnecessary changes made to the scheme in 2013 that unfairly disadvantaged injured workers.
The willingness of the profession, and other key groups, to continue to stand up on this issue was crucial in helping to ensure a commitment to the reversal of these changes. The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), through its membership of the Workers Protection Coalition (WPC) —an alliance of health groups, unions and law firms; campaigned tirelessly, both in the recent State Election but also in the Stafford and Redcliffe by-elections before this. These campaigns played a key role in helping to educate the wider community on what the changes to workers’ compensation meant for working Queenslanders.
Queensland once boasted the best workers’ compensation scheme in the country, a scheme that was fair for both employers and employees. It was a financially sound scheme, with amongst the lowest premiums in the country.
It was also a scheme that the LNP’s own Parliamentary Committee, after an exhaustive review, found did not require any fundamental changes.
Yet despite all of this, the LNP, at the urging of the former Premier and Attorney-General, pushed through changes regardless, ignoring the advice of its own Committee and introducing arbitrary thresholds that meant at least 60 per cent of injured workers could no longer access damages.
The changes were pushed through as an 'urgent' bill, delivering the implementation of a 6% common law threshold. The 6% threshold is not considered subjectively, in that it did not take into consideration the impacts of a person’s injury on their ability to work. Already, the amendments have seen negative effects, with the return-to-work percentage dropping from 98 per cent to 96 per cent.
The supposed justification for the changes revolved around the fiction of Queensland’s 'skyrocketing premiums'. However, Queensland’s premiums were the second lowest in the nation and even the former State Attorney-General admitted that the scheme was in perfect financial health. WPC spokesman Rod Hodgson contended at the time that “Sadly, all the Government’s changes have achieved is the removal of rights for half of Queensland’s workers to obtain damages they’re entitled to when they are injured in unsafe workplaces”.
The changes to the State’s workers’ compensation scheme in 2013 resulted in a fundamental stripping of rights for injured workers in Queensland. The ALA looks forward to a full reversal of these changes as soon as possible to again ensure Queensland can regain its position as leading the nation when it comes to workers’ compensation. The ALA and the WPC will continue to campaign for the rights of injured Queensland workers.
Rosemary Kirby was the Queensland Liaison Officer at the Australian Lawyers Alliance until September 2015.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).