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From the CEO: Compensation review supported


Every Issue

Cite as: (2008) 82(4) LIJ, p. 6

A current review offers an important chance to improve the state’s accident compensation regime.

Victorian WorkCover Minister Tim Holding recently announced an independent review of Victoria’s Accident Compensation Act 1985 (the Act) and associated legislation – the WorkCover Insurance Act 1993 and the Accident Compensation Regulations 2001.

The review is being undertaken by Peter Hanks QC who is due to report to government in the second half of this year.

The Act was established more than 20 years ago to achieve a number of objectives, including the reduction of workplace accidents and the provision of adequate and just compensation to injured workers through a fully-funded scheme.

It affects the thousands of Victorians who are injured in the workplace each year.

However, while the Act’s underlying principles and objectives remain relevant and important, the Act has been subject to continual amendments since its creation, leading to criticisms that it is unwieldy and overly complex.

The LIV welcomes the review as a timely initiative to evaluate and renew Victoria’s accident compensation regime.

The LIV fully supports the review’s objectives which will focus on:

  • providing fair and effective benefit and premium regimes, having regard to workers’ compensation schemes in other jurisdictions;
  • protecting the operational and financial viability of the scheme;
  • identifying and resolving anomalies in the Act and in the operation of the scheme;
  • improving employer and employee understanding of the Act;
  • reducing the regulatory and administrative burden on employers, including through improved alignment, where appropriate, with related administrative arrangements within Victoria and with other jurisdictions; and
  • improving the usability of the legislation through the removal of inoperative, irrelevant or superfluous provisions.

The LIV is actively involved in the review and I am a member of the Stakeholder Reference Group appointed by the Minister. As a group, we will meet and consult with Mr Hanks throughout the review process.

The LIV recently made a submission to the review, calling for reform to the Act in a number of areas. These include:

  • amending the Act to provide for workers to receive weekly payments past 130 weeks in circumstances where these workers require further time off for surgery;
  • abolishing the 40 per cent test for loss of earning capacity in relation to serious injury or, at the minimum, removing the three-year period on either side of the date of injury window;
  • abolishing or lowering the 30 per cent threshold for deemed serious injuries;
  • reviewing the operation of s134AB of the Act following the outcome of Raeburn v Tenix Defence Systems Pty Ltd;
  • improving the accountability of WorkCover as a regulator;
  • amending the Act to allow for some ongoing weekly payments for loss of earning benefits to be made between the date of settlement of a claim and the date of receipt of funds by the claimant;
  • reviewing the 20 per cent reduction for the recovery of scale legal costs in common law claims; and
  • reducing the threshold for psychiatric permanent impairment and serious injury to Transport Accident Commission levels.

A copy of the submission is available at http://www.liv.asn.au/members/sections/submissions.

The LIV will make further submissions as the review progresses.

At the time of printing, a discussion paper for public comment was to be released. Copies of the discussion paper and further information can be found at http://www.compensationreview.vic.gov.au.

The review represents an important opportunity to improve Victoria’s accident compensation regime.

I encourage all practitioners to become involved and to consider ways to streamline the operation of the Act and, ultimately, provide fairer long-term outcomes for injured workers.

It is with great sorrow the LIV acknowledges the passing of County Court Judge Michael Higgins on 1 March.

A former partner at Slater & Gordon, he was appointed to the County Court in June 1988. He was only the second solicitor to be appointed to the County Court and has served his profession with distinction.

He was always an advocate for justice and was a gentleman in the true sense of the word.

The LIV extends its sympathy to his Honour’s family.

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