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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2230

Senator SHORT —My question is to Senator Walsh as Minister for Finance and in his capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer the Minister to the official document published by the Victorian Labor Government on 1 August, entitled `WorkCare', which describes that Government's approach to workers compensation. Is the Minister aware that on page 49 of that document the Victorian Government has stated that unless offsetting action is taken, one of the side effects of WorkCare would be a windfall to the Commonwealth Government of about $180m in 1986-87 and some $420m in 1990-91? Is he aware also that the document states on the same page that unless there is this offsetting action, Victorian accident compensation premiums will be funding a significant improvement in the Commonwealth budgetary position? I ask the Minister whether the Cain Government has yet approached the Federal Government, as it said it would, for discussions on particular measures which the Commonwealth can take to facilitate the reforms; whether these discussions have taken place; and, what has been the Federal Government's attitude to the issues involved?

Senator WALSH —As far as I know-I found out just before Question Time that a question like this was going to be asked, but I have not had a chance to check it out-no official approach has been made from the Victorian Government to the Commonwealth Government on this matter. I will, however, check it out. In a more general sense, in the third question Senator Short asked was, I thought anyway, an implication of disapproval in that a more efficient and cheaper accident compensation scheme in Victoria would improve the Commonwealth Government's budgetary position because of increased company taxation receipts. That is quite possible, but I do not see why anybody should disapprove of actions by any State government which had that outcome. If, at no cost to the States any State government can implement a policy which improves the Commonwealth Government's budgetary position, I see no reason why anybody should disapprove. Apart from a sense of national benefit or identity, an individual State would be, to some extent, a beneficiary of an improved Commonwealth Budget outcome.

On the more general question, New South Wales as well as Victoria and some other States have been looking at the possibility of no fault compensation schemes of the type which the Victorian Government either has introduced or intends to introduce very shortly, although workers compensation is a State matter and the Commonwealth is sympathetic to no fault insurance. I understand that the attitude of Senator Short's Party in Victoria is quite the reverse. The attitude of the Victorian Liberal Party has been to frustrate and oppose at every possible opportunity the Victorian Government's attempt to introduce a more efficient workers compensation scheme which would be of financial benefit to industry in Victoria, to the Victorian Government's finances and, conceivably, to the Commonwealth Government's finances. That is to be deplored.

Senator SHORT —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. The implication Senator Walsh read into my third question was not correct. I was simply asking in that third question whether the Federal Government agrees with the Cain Government's proposition that offsetting action should be taken, otherwise the Federal Government will have an unexpected windfall.

Senator WALSH —That is something the Government would have to consider. I can certainly see a prima facie case for rewarding State governments which adopt progressive policies which have public benefits and, conversely, for penalising State governments which refuse to do so. I imagine that any State government which has any sympathies with Senator Short's Party would be in the latter category.