I lead for the Opposition in debate on the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2015 and the cognate State Insurance and Care Governance Bill 2015. I outline from the start that there is some bipartisan support for, and even some suggested further improvements to, the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2015. I further outline that the Opposition is opposed to the State Insurance and Care Governance Bill 2015 in its current form. I have sought advice from the Clerk about having the bills declared no longer cognate and putting the questions separately at the end of the second reading debate, and I hereby give notice that I will seek to do that at that time. I have informed the Leader of the House and the Minister with responsibility for the bills of my intentions in that regard.
Specifically with regard to the State Insurance and Care Governance Bill 2015, while we are not opposed to the restructure of the New South Wales WorkCover Authority or to the categories and alignment that the Minister has arrived at, we oppose the formation of the Insurance and Care NSW body inasmuch as it seeks to abolish the independence and autonomy of a number of bodies, in particular the board of the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board. In the State Insurance and Care Governance Bill 2015 we are also opposed to the perplexing prospect of some staff—not all staff, but some staff—being excluded from employment as public sector employees under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013.
To that end, I pay tribute to the Minister and his staffer Audrey for taking the time to discuss with me last week the confusion that many in our community, in this Parliament and in the media may have about who exactly constitutes the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board. The Minister issued a release on 5 August clarifying exactly that. He also provided a current organisation chart, which I recommend that members examine prior to contributing to the debate. Two bodies with almost identical names sit side by side. One is called the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board and the other is called the board of the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board. In those names we find much confusion.
There have been media announcements, advertisements and coverage trying to reassure those employed under the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board—those who largely administer, deal with and implement the decisions of the board of the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board—that the administrative arm of the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board will in future be called the Dust Diseases Authority and that they will continue to be employed and exercise their obligations as they do now. Our concern is not at all with those people and the assurances they have been given about the longevity of their future employment other than the fact that they will not be employed as public sector workers. Our deep concern is with the removal of the autonomy and independence of the second body, which is known as the board of the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board.
The current structure of that board is: an independent chair, who is currently the chief executive officer of WorkCover; three representatives from employer groups; and three representatives from employee groups. This group is often referred to as being tripartite and it currently makes decisions at the pointy end of a person’s claim for compensation for dust disease injury in the workplace. I hope I have clarified that for some people and, at the very least, helped people to understand that there are two bodies with almost identical names. We need to take care about what we say each time we refer to those groups. I hope also that I have clarified the Opposition’s position at the outset of my contribution.
What we have today is something of a road to Damascus moment for the Coalition Government. The New South Wales Coalition Government realised in the lead-up to the 2015 election that it had created a real electoral problem with its 2012 workers compensation reforms. The problem created by the 2012 reforms was not news to anyone who had been listening and watching this space for the 2½ years prior to the 2015 election. In fact, as a local member of Parliament I have had some of the most emotional and gut-wrenching conversations with grown men and women who have been impacted by these terrible and draconian 2012 measures.
I have spoken to injured workers from across the Cessnock electorate about their many and varied losses as a result of their workplace injury and the subsequent 2012 reforms. They spoke about the complete loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, about their loss of identity and their social network, about their loss of mental and physical health, about their financial losses and, in many instances, about the loss of their family home. They spoke about the loss of their husband or wife due to the stress and strain, and the subsequent loss of contact with their children. Finally, chillingly, they spoke to me about the loss of their will to live and about the idea that death is more appealing than living with their injury and the 2012 legislation. From this authentic and genuine reality—my reality—I declare the Government’s current proposition that it is interested in placing “the customer and their needs at the centre of decisions, not at the end” is complete and utter rubbish.
From the outset, let us be clear: An injured worker is not a customer. Whichever moron thought of that term, proposed that term, approved that term and implemented that term needs to find themselves a role as a fencing contractor way out in western New South Wales, because they have as much empathy and human compassion as a fencepost and should not be working in public policy. There could not be a more insulting term than to refer to an injured worker as a “customer”. These people do not choose to be injured; they do not choose to have their lives irreversibly altered for the worse. They do not choose to lose their husband, wife, children or life as they know it. I wonder who could have come up with the term “customer”. I wonder what that person would make of a worker killed at work. Would they be another “customer”—a “customer” of death?
I make no apology if the person responsible for the term “customer” finds my words insulting or demeaning. That person had a choice; injured workers did not have that choice. Injured workers did not have the choice that this individual had. The use of the term “customer” shows just how little this Government understands and cares about injured workers. The Government, from Premier Mike Baird and Minister Perrottet down, should be entirely ashamed that it ever used this term and it should cease and desist immediately. I ask those sitting on the Government benches preparing to contribute to this debate to refuse to refer to injured workers as “customers”. It is heartless and it is stupid.
I turn now to comments made by the Minister in his second reading speech. In particular, I refer to the imaginary $4.1 billion deficit. In 2012 it was put to the community that there was a projected $4.1 billion deficit in the workers compensation scheme. This figure, or projection, was subsequently debunked by all and sundry as extreme and irrational. Even the actuarial report that arrived at the $4.1 billion figure acknowledged that to arrive at that point investments would have to do a number of things: They would have to stay at the record low levels of the global financial crisis, every injury would have to be realised at the worst-case scenario, and every worker’s lifespan and draw down on the fund would have to be at or greater than average life expectancy. That is how the Government arrived at the figure of a $4.1 billion deficit. In other words, the actuarial report was asked to dig down to the lowest level—to the worst-case scenario—ignoring the global norms of recovery following the global financial crisis and disregarding any other realities of life expectancy and recovery from injury. That is how we got the $4.1 billion figure. It was the disastrous and frightening figure that the Government wanted.
The Government claims to be transparent, honest, open and up-front with people. But it sought, paid for and reported an actuarial assessment that was the complete opposite of those very same qualities. It is now time to be honest. Having done that in 2012, one might have thought the Government would subsequently move on and leave those types of $4.1 billion skeletons and misleading assumptions in the past. Surely the announcement about the changes and improvements to be made in the bill we are debating today—be it electorally convenient or otherwise—is the time to recognise the error of its ways and move on. Again, I am surprised at Premier Mike Baird: He could have sought to distance himself from the methodology and ethos of the O’Farrell period by not allowing this nonsense to continue.
Even as the legislation was being introduced back in 2012, investment returns on the workers compensation scheme were improving. There was never a need for such knee-jerk reactions. There was never any genuine need to increase premiums by 28 per cent, as put forward by the Government. Let us take a moment to be honest about the infamous and threatening claim of a 28 per cent increase, which “would also put at risk 12,000 jobs”. The 28 per cent increase would have been 28 per cent of an approximate 2 per cent premium at the time. It would have increased premiums from 2 per cent to 2.56 per cent. Had we been honest with people—the worst-case scenario was that premiums would change from 2 per cent to 2.56 per cent—then the alarm in the community, in the industry and across employer groups would have been nowhere near as bad as the alarm the Government sought to evoke. Hence we were dealt the hand that there would be a 28 per cent increase.
My point is not that a rise in premiums would have been a good thing; I do not stand here and make that claim. It is quite the opposite: My point is that the rise in premiums would have been either not needed at all or far more modest and very short term if required. In fact, some people argue that if nothing had been done in 2012 the scheme would have been back in balance and even in surplus by today. I will leave that argument to the actuaries. These were the alternatives the Government had back in 2012 that it never discussed or shared with the community. It could have done things so differently back them. It did not need to create fear and hysteria. It did not need to destroy people’s lives. It did not need to cruel businesses with massive increases in premiums. It did not need to be dishonest or manipulative with the community. It did not need to strip conditions from injured workers—conditions that we stand here today to in part repair.
I will clarify what I mean by the phrase “in part repair”. In 2012 in essence the workers compensation scheme took five steps backwards. The bill before the House today takes one step forwards—we might argue that it takes two steps forwards. But in no way are we going to recover the ground lost in 2012. I refer to all that history because it anchors the detail of the 2012 reforms, and this House and people in the public gallery need to be aware of it. It sheds some light on the commentary from the Minister in his second reading speech, and on the soon-to-come scripted contributions from Government members. In his speech the Minister referred again to the constructed and manipulated conditions that were used to develop the $4.1 billion figure that was then used as a prompt for the draconian 2012 workers compensation changes. I am not suggesting that the Minister called the figures constructed or manipulated; but he would have been correct if he had done so.
The Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2015 will make some positive changes to the plight of injured workers and their families. It will amend the limitation of payments and provision for medical and related treatments insomuch as they will no longer apply to crutches, artificial aids, home or vehicle modifications or secondary surgery. The limitations will no longer apply to a worker with a 21 per cent to 30 per cent permanent impairment. The limitations will be changed from 12 months to two years for workers with a less than 10 per cent impediment and from 12 months to five years for workers with an 11 per cent to 20 per cent impediment. Some other positive changes in the bill relate to the scheme for the payment of weekly compensation to injured workers during periods of incapacity. A worker who receives an injury in the lead-up to retirement will be eligible for payments for 12 months after reaching the retirement age of 65.
I want to talk for a moment about a worker I met on the Central Coast. He was 64½ years old when he suffered an injury at work. At 65 his compensation payments ceased. I was sitting in a room with him and a dozen other people who were all talking about their plights. No journey was worse than any other; they were just different. This man made a salient point about the value of a worker at the age of 64, 64½ or 64¾ and whether their work was any more or less important to the business or firm for which they worked. He also made the revelation, which was alarming to me, that had he chosen to work beyond retirement age—which for him was 65—he believed he would have been dealt with differently and would have been able to obtain workers compensation for a period of two years. As a 64½-year-old he received six months of workers compensation; if he had been 65 years and one day at the time of injury he would have received two years compensation. I appreciate that in some way this bill will address that issue.
I return to other positive changes in this bill with respect to weekly compensation. A worker with an injury assessed at more than 20 per cent impairment will no longer be required to complete 15 hours of paid work to meet the standard for weekly compensation payments. The minimum weekly amount a worker with more than 30 per cent impairment will be paid will now be $788.32, indexed twice per year. Regulations pertaining to the method of calculating a person’s pre-injury weekly earnings will be changed, and variations will be permissible. That is fantastic. Paid legal advice will be accessible to injured workers who seek to challenge a work capacity decision. A work capacity decision happens at the tail of this process. Labor would have liked that paid legal advice was made available earlier than that but we take on board that this is part of the improvements in the bill.
A reviewable work capacity decision will operate to stay the decision if an application for review is made within 30 days. At the moment, when a person seeks to review a work capacity decision their compensation is immediately stopped and they do not receive payments during the time they are objecting to or appealing the decision on work capacity. The change in this regard is another good improvement. Amendments will be made to clarify the effect of a review of work capacity.
The Labor Opposition stands with the Government in respect to elements of these cognate bills, particularly the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2015. We find common ground. The amendments do not go as far as we would want but they represent improvements for injured workers of New South Wales. I reiterate that we support and congratulate the Minister on these improvements. Dependent on whether or not the cognate bills can be split further down the track, it might be suggested that we do not support the changes made by the Minister. I indicate that we do support the changes, particularly around workers compensation.
Further improvements in this bill include: payments of up to $1,000 to assist an injured worker to gain employment with a new employer; payments of up to $8,000 for the cost of educating or retraining an injured worker for a new career path; lump sum compensation for permanent impairment, indexed annually; lump sum compensation for the death of a worker to be increased from $524,000 to $750,000, which is a significant improvement but a point I will come back to; and an increase in funeral expenses payable following the death of a worker from $9,000 to $15,000. It is important to realise that approximately 100 worker deaths occur each year in New South Wales. So when we talk about compensation relating to the death of a worker, we need to understand that the multiplier is about 100.
I readily acknowledge at this point, as I have previously in my contribution to this debate, that some of the changes in the legislation are very good and will be welcomed by injured workers in New South Wales. The Government is to be congratulated. Examples in this regard include the lump sum payment for deaths and funerals. However, I point out that with average house prices in Sydney at around $1 million, a lump sum payment of less than $1 million would not provide certainty for surviving family members—a spouse and children—of a roof over their heads.
The bill proposes a $226,000 increase in the lump sum compensation payable in respect of the death of a worker. Given that there is an average of 100 deaths of workers per year in New South Wales, this improvement will come at a cost to the scheme of $22.6 million. The scheme currently has surplus funds well in excess of $2.6 billion, so $22.6 million is quite modest. Increasing the death benefit lump sum payment to $1 million would cost the scheme, on average, just $25 million more per annum. Surely this is worthy of consideration given the enormous difference it would make to families who have suffered the ultimate workplace injury.
I also acknowledge that some of the changes in the legislation are akin to putting lipstick on a pig and would not be necessary if the Government had taken different policy positions. For example, the fact that the Workers Compensation Scheme will now provide $8,000 for retraining injured workers under the ridiculous Smart and Skilled—or dumb and dumber—TAFE approach offered by this Government must be incredibly frustrating to employers, the payers of workers compensation premiums. This cross-subsidisation would not have been required under previous governments or even under this Government prior to its efforts to destroy TAFE and vocational education.
The sad reality is that even this $8,000 contribution, funded by employer premiums, will not be enough for an injured worker to obtain alternative qualifications. Under Smart and Skilled, qualifications cost far more than that, and injured workers will have to fund the remaining cost. At worst, and in spite of the positive steps taken by the Government on the workers compensation front, workers who are forced to change career due to injury will have to put their hand in their own pocket to fund that change. That is a terrible shame.
Other changes that the Labor Opposition would like to see in the workers compensation bill will come as no surprise. We would like all time limits to be removed from medical expenses and treatments. We believe that injured workers are entitled to the necessary treatment required to restore their health and wellbeing as far as possible to a pre-injury standard. In some instances that takes time, sometimes longer than the time limits imposed by this bill and the 2012 bill. The Labor Opposition would like the Workers Compensation Commission to have full powers to determine who pays legal costs involved in workers compensation claims.
Labor also would like to see journey claims reinstated as a means of acknowledging that the employer has a responsibility for and impact on the safety of the worker based on the time of day and conditions in which staff are required to arrive or depart work. I will use this Parliament as an example. My understanding is that at times when this Parliament sits beyond 8 o’clock staff are given Cabcharge cards to travel home. This is to ensure the safety of staff who have been required to work late and will be travelling at a time when it may be considered unsafe to catch public transport, to ride a bike or to walk. I applaud that initiative.
I live in Cessnock. Many of my friends and associates are mineworkers who work rotating rosters. Until they open the blinds of their bedroom, they do not know if it is day or night. They could be travelling to and from work on a Saturday morning, a Sunday night or a Wednesday afternoon. A mass of medical evidence suggests that this type of disruption to our body clocks is unhealthy and causes undue fatigue. These men and women get in a car in a state of fatigue and drive to work and, more importantly, home from work. I would struggle to name a single friend of mine who, as a result of rotating rosters and shifts, has not fallen asleep at the wheel on their way home. Fortunately, they have escaped death. This is the responsibility of the employer. The employer who wants the coalmine to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year on a rotating roster has to take responsibility for that.
More importantly in relation to journey claims, I make a significant point about people with a disability. A Macquarie University study noted that a person with a disability is more likely to suffer an injury while travelling to or from work than in the workplace. For people with a disability, their mobility can pose a risk. Getting to and from public transport, getting on and off public transport, using stairs at train stations that do not have lifts and escalators can be the cause of injury for people with a disability. As a wealthy and prosperous society, it is our duty and responsibility to embrace people who live with a disability and to ensure that their role in society is valued, meaningful and safe. That includes people with a disability being active participants in the workforce. Their safety must be protected through legislation such as this workers compensation bill.
Labor would like to have seen more explicit instructions and conditions placed on work capacity decisions. At the moment, there is no need for a work capacity decision to have regard to the availability of a genuine position or to the geographical location of a position. To give an extreme example, an injured worker in Broken Hill might be deemed as having the capacity to work as a wharfie on the shores of Botany Bay. Following a work capacity assessment that the injured worker could be a wharfie at Botany Bay, compensation payments cease. It can be determined that a suitable job or workplace for a worker from Broken Hill is somewhere on the coast. Labor would like to have seen more explicit instructions and conditions placed on work capacity decisions in this amendment bill.
Labor would like to acknowledge one of the good things to come out of the 2012 amendments, that is, the WorkCover Independent Review Office [WIRO]. We would have liked this body to be further empowered through this amending bill by wresting its independence from WorkCover to become a stand-alone, separately funded body. Government members may think that this is a pie-in-the-sky wish list from Labor that cannot possibly be funded. But the truth is that until 2012 all this, with the exception of the WIRO, used to be funded, and it could still be funded today.
Since 2012 employers have been given three separate reductions in their premiums, totalling a 17 per cent decrease. In spite of those reductions, the scheme still funds itself and has a massive surplus well in excess of $2.6 billion. So it is affordable and it is able to be done. The cost of the scheme is much lower than most people would realise. I turn now to the cognate bill, the State Insurance and Care Governance Bill 2015. In essence, this bill is about breaking WorkCover into three separate units to increase efficiency and to ensure greater definition and distinction of its roles. The State Insurance and Care Governance Bill 2015 has as its object:
- … to reform the governance and regulatory arrangements for various insurance and compensation schemes established under legislation.
For that purpose, the proposed Act will constitute the body to be known as Insurance and Care NSW, which will act for the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer under the Workers Compensation Act 1987 and provide services in relation to various insurance and compensation schemes. This bill provides for the constitution of the State Insurance Regulatory Authority, which will take over the regulatory functions of WorkCover and the Motor Accidents Authority, both of which will be abolished by the proposed Act. It also provides that the work and safety functions of WorkCover will be assumed by the Secretary of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. The body will be referred to as SafeWork NSW.
I said at the outset and I repeat that Labor does not disagree with the restructuring of WorkCover. Labor is happy to support the Minister in this regard. I am sure that the Minister and his team have put a significant amount of time, energy and effort into formulating the structure of this body. Labor also has no problem with the State Insurance Regulatory Authority or SafeWork NSW. They are referred to in part 3 of this bill. The problem we have is with the Insurance and Care NSW body that is to be established. The purpose of Insurance and Care NSW is to bring under the one authority a number of smaller independent bodies that currently exist separately. The bodies to come under the authority of Insurance and Care NSW include: the Safety, Return to Work and Support Board; the Workers Compensation Dust Diseases Board; the Lifetime Care and Support Authority, for those injured in motor accidents; the Sporting Injuries Compensation Authority; and the NSW Self Insurance Corporation, which includes the Bush Fire Fighters Compensation Fund and the Emergency and Rescue Workers Compensation Fund.
It is important to note that a large number of public sector workers will transition to Insurance and Care NSW. Unfortunately, none of those workers will be deemed to be public sector employees. None of those workers will be covered by the New South Wales Government Sector Employment Act 2013. I am alarmed not so much by the reality of this body. However, I am alarmed by this. If WorkCover is broken into three different parts, why has the Government afforded the opportunity for employees in two of those parts to be public sector employees and not in the other part?
There seems to be a lacuna and the Minister needs to explain that gap. As the Minister made scant reference to this aspect in his second reading speech, I ask him to address it in his reply. The various bodies currently operate with independence and autonomy for varying lengths of time, the longest of which is probably the Dust Diseases Board for about 75 years. In regard to this board, there has been no scandal, no suggestion of misappropriation of funds and no suggestion that it has made poor investment choices or managed the money badly or that it should have or could have done better. Indeed, last year in the upper House the Standing Committee on Law and Justice gave a glowing recommendation of the work of these bodies, particularly the Dust Diseases Board.
For those reading Hansard or who are in the gallery, the Standing Committee on Law and Justice is a bipartisan committee, chaired by a member of the Liberal Party. Last year the committee, chaired by Mr David Clarke, gave a glowing report on the work of the Dust Diseases Board. Yet less than 12 months later we are talking about abolishing the Dust Diseases Board and abandoning its employees. To what end? Under the bill, all these independent and autonomous bodies, which have been doing such good work for such a long time, will be brought under a single umbrella called Insurance and Care NSW [ICNSW]. That in itself may not seem too bad. Structurally that might seem to be reasonable and sound if, and only if, each of those bodies maintains its independence and autonomy. But what we have in the bill is the opposite.
In the bill all these bodies lose their independence and autonomy. Instead, they will be answerable to a chief executive officer and a new board will be established. The Minister will appoint the board, which will oversee these previously independent and autonomous bodies. The board will then appoint the chief executive officer, which in essence will make the chief executive officer an extension of the Minister of the day. Here is the great concern. These independent bodies, which have been at arm’s length and immune to government interference, now will be directly controlled by the policies, agenda and ideology of the government of the day. That is not an improvement for the people of New South Wales.
I find it ironic in some regards that the Coalition Government—which claims to be a government with a small “g” and to let competition reign—is making these bodies an extension of government departments under the direct control of the Minister. I ask the Minister to address this in his reply. The explanatory notes for these bodies in schedules 1 to 12 state that the bill enables the fund to be applied to meet the costs of the State Insurance Regulatory Authority [SIRA]. Indeed, in relation to the Dust Diseases Board, the bill states:
- (d) to enable the Fund to be applied to meet the costs incurred by or on behalf of a NSW Government agency in providing services for or in connection with the compensation scheme established under the Act,
That is reasonable. That is what the board currently does and it should continue to do so in the future. Paragraph (e) states:
- (e) to enable the Fund to be applied to meet the costs incurred by SIRA in exercising functions in connection with that compensation scheme.
That means that money will be transferred from Insurance and Care NSW [ICNSW] to SIRA. Money will be transferred from a body that has been deemed not worthy of public sector employment to another body that is entirely worthy of public sector employment. There seems to be a logical inconsistency with how, where and why these funds will be transferred. While that does not seem to be as clear or apparent in the remainder of the bill, I ask the Minister to clarify that in his reply for the sake of members and those who are interested in the progress of the bill.
One point I make about the establishment of Insurance and Care NSW with regard to the Dust Diseases Board relates to part 2, section 9, under the heading “Committees of ICNSW board”. I refer specifically to the final sentence in that part. Before I go through this, members should remember that the Government has issued media releases providing assurances that the members of the expert board—the tripartite board that currently entertains all applications; the board that has expertise and decades of experience, knowledge and awareness— will not be lost. The board will simply sit alongside the decision-making process and will still be a point of reference going forward. In legislative terms, of all these independent bodies—this is true, and I give the Government credit for this—only one must establish an advisory committee, and that is the Dust Diseases Board. If that is provided in the legislation, one would think that that will be the base forever more. Part 2, section 9 (1) states in part:
- The expert committee is to operate for such period as the ICNSW Board considers appropriate.
Let us be clear on this. The board, which the Government is seeking to use as a cover from the criticism it is experiencing more broadly in the community at present, has absolutely no guarantees beyond next week, next month, next year, the next Minister or the next government. That is a little insincere. Although the Government intends to use this positive, proactive opportunity to retain its integrity and to keep the board within the decision-making process—it is no longer in the decision-making process—it has not provided the board with any certainty, future or guarantees in the bill.
I again ask the Minister to address that issue in his reply. When the motions for these bills are put I will be seeking to have these cognate bills separated. In my contribution today I have gone to some length to make clear the logic that sits behind doing that. To the Government’s credit, this is very clever wedge politics. It brings forward some things that might be deemed positive by way of improvements to workers compensation amendments. I reiterate that in 2012 we took five steps back and this legislation will take us only one or two steps forward, so we have not returned to where we were. It is certainly incontestable that there are improvements to the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2015 which the Labor Party will not oppose.
We agree with much but not all of the State Insurance and Care Governance Bill 2015. Here is the wedge: If we want improvements to workers compensation we have to vote to get rid of the Dust Diseases Board. We cannot do that. On the other side of the wedge, if we want to keep the Dust Diseases Board we have to vote against improvements to workers compensation. We cannot do that. I acknowledge that it is a great wedge by the Government. But this is the challenge to the Government: Let us deal with workers compensation on a bipartisan basis, find the things that we can agree on and get the legislation through this Chamber, through the upper House and enacted so that the lives of people who are injured in the workplace can improve and go forward.
When the motion is put at the conclusion of this debate the Government should support us by separating these bills so that members of the Labor Party can vote to support the workers compensation elements and vote against the State Insurance and Care Governance Bill in its current format. We are happy to work with the Government to improve the bill. We would be happy to see it back in the Parliament in a slightly different format but we will vote against it in its current format. The Government should work with us on this—it will still win the vote because it has the numbers in the House. The bills will go through even if the Government agrees to separate them.