Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong MP has slammed the Liberal Government for their extreme mismanagement of the state Workers Compensation Scheme - iCare.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (17:31:17): On behalf of The Greens, I speak in this public interest debate on the appalling mismanagement of the New South Wales workers compensation scheme. Listening to this debate, I wonder whether we all watched the same show. Considering what we all saw onFour Corners on Monday night, the response of Government members is beyond belief. I genuinely question whether they were watching a re-run ofMasterChef. That show may give us a bit of inspiration and some hope that we are doing good things in the world, butFour Corners on Monday night was a disgrace. It clearly showed that market-driven motives are trumping people's lives and wellbeing in this State. We need to stop that.
We need to recognise that this has been ongoing. I acknowledge Opposition speakers who have explained the history of this. I remember the late Dr John Kaye regularly speaking about this issue and I acknowledge David Shoebridge, my colleague in the other place, and his team for their longstanding work. I also acknowledge the union movement, the unions and Unions NSW for continually raising concerns and complaints. Considering that we watched the same show, it is beyond belief to hear Government members say that this is okay and that they are doing a good job. The revelations onFour Corners were nothing short of shocking—$80 million in wage theft from 52,000 injured workers while senior executives were paid on average $660,000 each. There is no justification or excuse for that. This is extreme mismanagement. Some of the highest paid people in the State have participated in the largest incident of wage theft by a government in this country. Government members are trying to justify that as an acceptable situation.
The Greens, along with the union movement and the Opposition, are calling for the icare board to be immediately sacked. It is absolutely clear that these failings have happened on the New South Wales Treasurer's watch. It is also clear that the current icare board members are not delivering on their duties. They need to be held accountable. This is impacting the lives of real people. Having watched the program on Monday night, Government members cannot seriously hold their heads high and claim that everything is okay. The best kind of leadership would recognise that this is not okay in our State—it is not okay in any State. The politics of this do not matter. There is something wrong here and we need to fix it.
That is why we are calling for, at the very least, the Treasurer to terminate the icare board and to demand that senior executives return their outrageous bonuses. People are struggling and we will literally see mean and cruel-hearted decisions made to cut minimum rates of JobSeeker and JobKeeper. The Treasurer pretends that he cares about everyday working people yet is not immediately saying, "Let's get some money back from these executives who are taking huge bonuses when they are not delivering on their duties". It is the largest wage theft scandal in Australia involving a government. But I think it is important that members recognise this is not the end; this is just the tip of the iceberg. If members read the petition on icare that is currently being circulated in New South Wales they will see it states:
Icare's executive inherited a $4 billion surplus, which has disappeared in just 4 years.
Icare secretly tried to cut off payments to thousands of injured workers to make up for their dire financial situation.
An independent review found that icare didn't follow the law in 46 percent of injured workers' cases.
Icare sought to introduce a 'gap fee' for injured workers needing to see a doctor and hike employer premiums by 4%.
Icare's board is chaired by long-time Liberal Party donor and former banker Michael Carapiet.
I could continue, but there are so many dot points that I am going to run out of time. In addition, the petition states:
Prior to icare being created, there were two people who had an average salary of $300,000. There are now 45 people with an average salary of $300,000 and the top seven executives average around $660,000. A confidential NSW Treasury briefing says "icare's executive team is likely the highest paid in the NSW government sector".
That is why this debate is important. It is an absolute disgrace that the Treasurer is not in this Chamber to respond to the debate and that members are attempting to justify this cruel act. [Time expired.]