Workers Compensation Scheme

Mr CLAYTON BARR ( Cessnock ) ( 18:31 ): This is Cory’s story. Imagine being unable to sit or stand upright for more than an hour a day. The rest of your waking hours are spent laying on your bed, unable to get up to go to the toilet or even lift your head to answer a phone call. This existence robs you of any independence you once had. You become a shell of your former self. This is the life experience of a constituent of mine who spoke with me recently. His existence has been completely diminished because of his workplace injury. He lives in constant pain. This affects his quality of life.

Because of his injury and the severe pain and suffering that it has inflicted on him, most of the time Cory is confined to his bed. He is unable to socialise. He is unable to attend significant family events. He is unable to attend his grandchildren’s sporting matches and misses wonderful moments such as their first day of school and so on. He was even unable to attend the funeral of his mother-in-law because he simply could not get out of bed. This man is not putting it on or seeking to fox the system. A person does not make those kinds of life decisions if they are pretending to have a significant injury. Cory has a significant injury. In fact, on some days Cory is forced to urinate and defecate in his own bed because he cannot get out of bed to go to the toilet. He then has to remain in his own filth until the pain subsides and he gets feeling back in his legs.

Given the condition Cory is in, I would have thought he would be safe from the changes to the workers compensation scheme announced in 2012—but he is not. In December 2017 Cory’s weekly payments were cut off. Under the legislation, he did not meet the whole person impairment threshold because he had been assessed with a whole person impairment of 20 per cent. To stay on the scheme he needed to be assessed as having an impairment of more than 20 per cent. Despite the fact that his legs do not work on some days, despite the fact that he cannot stand or sit upright for more than an hour, and despite the fact that he has missed so much of his life and experiences the inhumane conditions of sometimes lying in his own filth, Cory did not meet the threshold.

He was sent to a doctor by the insurer. It turns out the doctor and the insurer were connected. As Cory entered the room for his appointment, the doctor threw a book at him to test whether he was faking his injuries. Of course, Cory was not faking and the book landed on his foot. He was walking with the aid of a walking stick. Cory asked for a second opinion, so the insurer sent him to another doctor, but one who practised in the same premises and in the same room as the initial doctor who had been consulted and who threw a book at him. The second doctor was hard of hearing and had failing vision. Interestingly, he wrote an opinion of Cory that was the mirror image of the first doctor’s opinion. This man is a wreck, and the Government has taken away his workers compensation payments. Cory has been forced to sell almost everything he owns, other than his house, to make ends meet—even his furniture. His house is almost bare, so he has had someone turn fence palings and milk crates into seats, on the off-chance that he gets a visitor.

Cory has done all this because he has been unable to get across the threshold of 20 per cent impairment by even an infinitesimal 0.000001 per cent. His workplace injury affects his back, abdomen and hand and the clinical depression now taunts him every day. He has admitted that on some days he has thought seriously about ending his life and collected the means to do so, until fortunately a friend or family member has phoned him and he has changed his mind. However, the legislation deems Cory fit to return to work, which is simply ridiculous. We need to have empathy for these injured workers. We are throwing them onto the scrapheap that is funded by Centrelink and Medicare, instead of keeping them on a scheme designed for their circumstances. This is Cory’s story and I hope not to be attending his funeral anytime soon.