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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2806

Senator DEVEREUX —My question is addressed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Can the Minister advise the Senate whether the review of the Commonwealth workers compensation scheme has been completed? If so, did the review indicate whether the Government's reform of Comcare had led to any significant improvements in Comcare's performance? Does the Government propose to take any additional initiatives to improve further Comcare's efficiency?

Senator COOK —The Government has conducted a review of Comcare; a review known as the Brown review. Mr Ron Brown, a former Secretary to the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, was the reporter. The review acknowledged the success of recent reforms to improve Comcare's performance, including a major reduction in the duration of claims lasting more than 28 days and a significant drop in the average premium rate charged by Comcare. The review also targeted additional areas where Comcare could further enhance its effectiveness.

  In receiving the review, the Government has agreed to some of its recommendations; one being a separation of the Commission's regulatory and service functions. We are proposing to restructure the Commission so that it will be a tripartite body responsible for regulatory functions associated with the Commonwealth Employees' Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, including occupational health and safety and licensing of self-administrators. As well, we are proposing a number of other changes which will include the Chief Executive Officer of Comcare also being the Executive Commissioner of the Commission I have referred to and responsible for Comcare's commercial and service operations.

  We are seeing the evolution of Comcare into a more effective agency to cover rehabilitation and compensation for Commonwealth employees. It has become a very efficient agency and, as I have said, premiums have dropped remarkably. We expect that that will continue. One of the recommendations of the review is to enable Comcare to diversify its services outside the public sector. That is a matter which, for the time being, we have put on hold but will revisit once the recommendations of the Brown review that I have referred to, and some of the other recommendations I have not referred to, are enacted.