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Opposition claims Comcare report buried


Lisa Cox, Noel Towell

Opposition employment and workplace relations spokesman, Eric Abetz.

Opposition employment and workplace relations spokesman, Eric Abetz. Photo: Andrew Meares

The federal opposition says it would welcome a crackdown on dubious Comcare claims but doubts the system will see any changes before the federal election.

The opposition's employment and workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz said he had not read the recommendations in a federal government review of the $1.2 billion Comcare insurance scheme, but was tired of the burden of dubious claims being ''foisted'' upon taxpayers.

The review, ordered last year by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, has urged sweeping reform to cut down on workers compensation claims for psychological injuries, payouts for dodgy therapies, doctor shopping and outright fraud.

The review has made more than 147 recommendations to rewrite the legislation on federal public sector compensation claims with the aim of shifting the emphasis from a payout-oriented scheme to one that favours rehabilitation and returning to work.

The taxpayer-funded insurer lost more than half a billion dollars in the 2011-12 financial year as the number of claims for psychological injuries in the public sector - many related to accusations of bullying and harassment - increased.

Senator Abetz said the ''salacious'' case of a public servant compensated for injuries sustained during sex in a motel room on a work trip was an example of the sorts of claims that ''tarnished'' the ''tens of thousands of public servants who go about their work reputably without these sorts of claims''.

''Clearly, once they indicated a $500 million shortfall and a huge rise in claims something had to be reviewed, so the concept of the review that Bill Shorten announced, I think, was appropriate,'' Senator Abetz said.

''But it's time now for some strategic discussions.

''One has to ask the question why there has been a 30 per cent increase in bullying and stress claims over the last three years. It does seem somewhat coincidental that this huge surge in stress and bullying has come at a time that the government has been exceptionally dysfunctional.''

Senator Abetz said the proposal to tackle the ''long tail'' of the Comcare scheme, where an individual claim can exceed $2 million, and getting public servants back to work was the right track.

''Releasing [the report] on Easter Saturday does make me question how serious the minister is about addressing this issue,'' he said.

''We've only got five parliamentary weeks left before the election, so one assumes the government won't do anything about it before the election.''

3 comments so far

  • Regrettably, there's always been the odd rotten apple in just about every barrel. However, we've reached the stage where otherwise decent people see nothing wrong in ripping off their public or private sector employers. In a society where moral values are largely non-existent anymore thanks, among other things, to the discontinuation of compulsory religious education in State schools and the efforts of the social engineers, generally, it only stands to reason that workers (and management) will take whatever they can, whenever they can. For example, it's almost axiomatic that the average worker in the public or private sector considers it to be their right to take their 10 days sick leave each year whether they are sick or not. Unless the powers that be are prepared to initiate steps to improve society generally, essentially by re-introducing much of what has been torn down in the name of progress and personal freedom, we are wasting our time expecting things to get better.

    Date and time
    April 01, 2013, 3:40PM
    • Good to see a "Slick" Abbott squaddie commenting on a report he hasn't read.

      "Slick" Abbott will soon try to get Australia to vote on his policies that no one has read ..... because they don't exist.

      Time for "Slick" Abbott to claim compo for his lost homework.

      J. Fraser
      Date and time
      April 01, 2013, 4:54PM
      • The opposition is just showing again they don't care about anything other thanmaking cheap political points. Just look at Abbott's recent comments that the government shouldn't be doing anything because the election is coming and now we have them complaining that the government isn't doing anything about this. It just shows the hypocrisy the opposition shows while playing the Australian voters for mugs. I hope that someone is keeping track of these contradictions for when they do get back into government and can be made accountable for their short term politicing.

        Date and time
        April 01, 2013, 6:02PM

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