Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt is calling on the Attorney-General to rule-out selling Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme to private insurers.
Mr Pitt is warning workers that last week’s attack on their rights through changes to WorkCover could simply be a prelude to privatisation and further changes to the scheme.
“The Newman Government has made no secret of its desire to privatise as many government services as possible and I have no doubt that WorkCover could be a future target,” he said.
“It worries me that when I asked the Attorney-General if the Government intended to privatise WorkCover he first dodged the question and then gave an answer that is, at best, open to interpretation.
“He said ‘I currently have no plan to privatise Q-Comp’ (Hansard17 October 2013 Page 3518)
“That was an evasive answer and indicates it could be a future objective. He could have ruled it out but it is telling that he didn’t.
“Q-Comp was formerly the scheme’s independent regulator, but Mr Bleijie’s changes have shifted it to be part of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.
“The WorkCover annual report confirmed that it returned a profit of $517 million, which is up from $199 million. This is a financially secure scheme.
“When you look at the fact that there is a scheme with a half a billion dollar profit – now with a 5% threshold – it could be considered an attractive proposition if that is the way you think about the scheme.
“The Attorney-General is restructuring the scheme in a way that makes it easier to privatise and we know that private sector insurers are already sniffing around.
“Michael Crandon, the LNP Member for Coomera and past chair of the Parliamentary Finance and Administration Committee, informed Parliament last week that he was visited by ‘bigwigs from the head office of one particular insurance company’ to explain why the Newman Government should privatise the workers’ compensation scheme.”
Mr Pitt said the unnecessary tinkering with the best WorkCover scheme in the country would not only make it more at risk of privatisation, it would also potentially set it on a slippery slope to failure.
“The government in South Australia recently announced its compensation scheme had been so badly damaged by amendments and changes over the years it was beyond redemption,” he said.
“The decommissioning of S.A. WorkCover is a graphic warning of what could happen here in Queensland because of the Attorney-General’s unwarranted interference.”
Mr Pitt said Mr Bleijie has not ruled out job losses within Q-Comp. The regulator has 100 full-time employees whose jobs would be at risk if there’s a sell-off.