State agency defends its compo cuts

SLICK: Two pages from icare’s 2016-17 annual report. LABOR’s Clayton Barr has stepped up his criticisms ofthe state workers’ compensation agency Insurance and Care NSW, saying its latest annual report was one of the most self-congratulatorydocuments he had ever read.

Mr Barr said iCare – as the agency calls itself – was supposedly looking after injured workers, but while thousands of them were having their benefits cut off, icare’s annual report revealed its executives enjoying 9.5 per cent average pay rises, overseas trips and self-development courses at Harvard.

“Sadly I sit with injured workers who are desperately and dangerously depressed and talking about suicide, yet here we have a government agency crowing about its financial largesse,” Mr Barr said.“As a local member, how do I explain with any satisfaction who gets the money and who misses out, when it comes to workers with serious injuries through no fault of their own.”

As the Newcastle Herald reportedon Saturday, Mr Barr is campaigning against a Coalition government change to workers’ compensation laws that have ended payments to more than 4000 permanently injured former workers whose “whole person impairment” was judged to be less than 20 per cent.

DETERMINED: Labor opposition finance spokesperson Clayton Barr.

The cuts were made in 2012 by then-premier Barry O’Farrrell and kicked in late last year.

Defending the decision, an iCare spokesperson said the fund had a $4.1-billion deficit in 2012, meaning “it did not have sufficient funding to pay the entitlements of injured workers on an ongoing basis”.

The spokesperson said the government increased entitlements “for the people who needed them most –those whose whole person impairment was higher than 20 per cent”.

Since 2012, the scheme had been brought to “a financially sustainable footing”, with a reserve of $1.9 billion, although its funding ratio of 119 per cent was still below the recommended level.

Restoring payments to injured workers with a WPI of less than 20 per cent would put the scheme back into deficit and “negatively impact [other] injured workers and taxpayers”.

Mr Barr disagreed, saying the scheme could afford it.

Call to reverse ‘dumb’ compo cuts