Critics Dispute O’Farrell Compo Claims
Article courtesy of NineMSN
20 June 2012
Lawyers and unions have disputed NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s claims that his changes to WorkCover aren’t retrospective, saying workers with existing claims will be affected by the compensation overhaul.
Mr O’Farrell flatly denied the WorkCover reforms are retrospective, a day after the controversial changes passed the lower house.
“The changes simply mean if the parliament passes the laws, the laws come into effect from the day the government signs off on them and from that moment on they take effect,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
Mr O’Farrell compared it to speeding fines.
“You find the week after we put them up the people who got fined two weeks earlier do it under the other regime,” he told ABC radio.
However, Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the premier had demonstrated he didn’t understand the legislation by saying the changes weren’t retrospective.
Mr Lennon pointed to schedule 12, clause three of the new laws, which he said clearly stated the changes could be applied retrospectively.
That clause says the changes extend to an injury suffered before the “the commencement of the amendment”, and “a claim for compensation made before the commencement of the amendment”.
“This is cruel, retrospective legislation that pulls the rug from under sick and injured workers,” Mr Lennon said in a statement.
“We know of specific cases where grieving widows who were set to seek compensation for nervous shock will now be denied the right to even make a claim.”
Under the government’s long-awaited reforms, unveiled on Tuesday, medical expenses and benefits will be capped, benefits reduced after 13 weeks, and claims for injury on journeys to and from work will also be abolished.
The changes adopt many of the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry which last week called for major changes to rein in a deficit of more than $4 billion.
The changes are expected to pass through the state’s upper house later on Wednesday.
Sydney-based personal injury lawyer Ivan Simic said the laws were retrospective and workers who’d made claims under the old regime would be immediately affected.
“It’s going to affect the vast majority,” he told AAP.
“The starting point for the legislation is that it applies to all injuries and claims that were made before the date of the commencement of the Act.”
Mr Simic said the only people who would be exempt from the changes were police officers and coal miners.
“If you’re a police officer good on ya – you’ve got a gold pass,” he said.
Chair of Stacks Law Firm, Maurie Stack, said the retrospective changes would “hit the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community”.
“The retrospective aspects of the changes are completely unfair and against all legal principles,” Mr Stack said in a statement.
“Most of the changes take force immediately.”