Workers Compensation Scheme

Mr CLAYTON BARR ( Cessnock ) ( 17:54 ): This is Rob’s workers compensation story:

After working hard for well over 40 years, struggling to pay bills and taxes , always abiding by the laws of the land and through no fault of my own, I am left without an income.

Th at was how Rob introduced himself to me. Rob is a constituent of mine and he is another injured worker who has experienced the ruthless wrath of the changes to the Workers Compensation Scheme implemented by the Liberal-Nationals Government in 2012. In one of the most heartless ways possible, Rob received his last workers compensation payment on Christmas Day 2017. T he Government’s legislation added to his trauma and instability on the day that we are supposed to celebrate cheer and goodwill. Christmas was not a time of cheer and goodwill for Rob. It was a period of high stress and the gradual, perhaps accelerated, decline in his psychological wellbeing. Who in their right mind would consider Christmas Day as the most appropriate time to cut off someone’s form of income?

If a business or private operator terminated 4,000 of their employees over the Christmas period, every member of this place would be demanding answers, calling for inquiries and condemning the private operator for their heartless and inconsiderate decision. Unluckily for Rob, it was not a private opera tor that terminated his income but the New South Wales Government . There were no calls for inquiries, no calls to demand answers, and no calls of condemnation. Therefore, t hanks to the 2012 changes to the Workers Compensation Act , he has no recourse to recover his income. According to the Government, Rob is no longer eligible for payments because he fails to meet the whole person impairment thr eshold of more than 20 per cent enshrined in legislation.

The simple fact is that Rob will never work again. It does not matter what penalties are imposed upon him. His injury prevents him from doing any manual work. Rob is unable to lift any object without experiencing excruciating pain through his abdomen. Imagine not being able to lift anything without suffering crippling pain. Clearly, there are questions that need to be asked about Rob’s whole person impairment assessment. Surely we cannot expect someone, who is unable to lift an object without pain, to return to work. If we cannot expect them to return to work, why do we choose to cut off their workers compensation benefits? That is what we are forcing under the current legislation. Weirdly , taking away Rob’s weekly entitlements is seen as an incentive to him to return to work. Rob canno t return to work and now he has no income because he has failed to meet the threshold of the Centrelink payments scheme . All we are doing is making his life miserable.

Rob summed it up clearly when he told me, “I feel like Ivan Milat lives a better life than I do right now .” This tends to be the sentiment of so many of the injured workers who have been th rown on the scrapheap over the p ast six m onths because they have met the five-year term imposed upon them and they no longer have access to workers compensation, even though they continue to be injured and even though it is impossible for them to return to work . Rob and those people have lost all hope . They feel isolated and worse than criminals. They are be ing punished by the Government a ll because they were injured at work , through no fault of their own. Rob had suffered enough before his income was taken away from him. Now he is made to feel as though he is a burden on his own community , relying on Centrelink and Medicare for his health and wellbeing . Clearly and simply, this is not how we should be treating our injured workers.