The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: My contribution on this bill will be brief. I begin by commending the Hon. Angus Redford for bringing this matter to the parliament’s attention, and to state that I do heartily hope that this bill will pass.
The bill relates to loopholes within section 54 of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.
In my previous working life—working for the nursing home industry—it was my experience that this was causing a great deal of problems for workplaces in South Australia.
The brief history of it is that the minister in the previous government, the Hon. Michael Armitage, commissioned work to be done on closing this loophole. The state election intervened and, therefore, it was sent to be examined as part of what came to be known, broadly, as the Stanley review. I spoke on this issue as part of a broader discussion of issues relating to the WorkCover system fairly early in my tenure in this place (on 17 September 2003), so I do not propose going over those details again.
I think that, for the record, it is worth repeating some of the comments in the Stanley review which are in favour of
this bill. Stanley recognised that there was an increased requirement for what is called ‘hold harmless insurance’. The
The review understands that several bodies have made representation to the government that section 54 is inequitable and unjust. It
is asserted that WorkCover’s right of recovery under section 54 in its present form and WorkCover’s policy of pursuing third party
wrongdoers for full recovery jeopardises the way in which business is done, and further jeopardises the future existence of labour hire firms in this state. It is said that this is because host employers are insisting upon contractual terms to the effect that labour hire firms will indemnify them against any common law liability that they may incur as a third party wrongdoer. It is said that some insurers are no longer prepared to insure against this liability, and that insurance is difficult and expensive and, in some cases, impossible to obtain.
My practical experience has been in aged care. A number of people are employed from the on-hire industry in South
Australia for good reason; and, indeed, it is often a choice of employees. The example that is very well known to many people, including the South Australian government, is the use of nursing agencies to hire nursing staff. Many nurses choose that avenue because they like the flexibility. They also get a high rate of pay. They get to choose their different hours and work as it suits them. For this group it is a very attractive choice of employment.
Other industries are also affected, such as group training schemes, which include apprentices in the building, mechanics and engineering sectors. A number of other sectors are also affected. Effectively we have this loophole, which means that on-hire employees have another avenue by which to claim. WorkCover can then pursue claims back from those employers, and it has been doing so. It is an unsustainable situation. It has been a very long time in coming and, at some stage, the truck will hit the wall.
I urge all members seriously to consider this proposal because, in many ways, it is inequitable. This is not a case of employer versus employee. It is not such an ideological thing at all: it is merely a loophole which needs to be closed and closed quickly.