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Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation Bill - Jackson

Speech On The Injury Prevention And Rehabilitation Bill
Willie Jackson MP

The Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Bill, will allow us to honour our obligations, as a government and as a nation, to protect the workers. As an ex-union official I am pleased to be able to speak in support of this Bill.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right of all people to just and favourable conditions of work. Yet, it was estimated in 1999 that workers suffer 250 million accidents every year, with 330,000 fatalities. It was estimated that 160 million cases of occupational diseases and that an even higher number of threats to workers' physical well-being was cause of further suffering.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that the economic losses from accidents and diseases from working are equivalent to 4 per cent of the world's gross national product; in terms of shattered families and communities, the damage is incalculable.

The ILO's SafeWork programme is designed to respond to this. Its primary objectives are to create worldwide awareness of the dimensions and consequences of work-related accidents, injuries and diseases; to promote the goal of basic protection for all workers in conformity with international labour standards; and to build the capacity of member States and industry to design and implement effective preventive and protective policies and programmes.

I think it is important to point out that we received a number of emotional submissions through the process; nightmare stories, actually, from people who had suffered under Gerry Brownlee's Government, who felt humiliated by Gerry Brownlee and his mates, and who were disgusted over the previous 9 years.

What was the National Government strategy to prevent injury? I think that is a question in the House for Gerry Brownlee and his mates today. What is the answer to that? The answer is nothing. National had no strategy to deal with workers, and to help them through the process. Thousands of workers were humiliated under Gerry Brownlee's government.

At least there is a commitment from this government that we are going some of the way, and there was certainly some great work form Ruth Dyson in the select committee, which gave us some valuable advice that Mr Brownlee should take on board.

I think New Zealand can be proud of this bill as it addresses some of the key goals that the ILO talks about, which are to provide safe work places, and to compensate workers for work-related accident and diseases.

It is important also to the Alliance that the Government takes responsibility for the welfare of workers, which of course National has never done. It shirked its responsibility, and thought that it could privatise and essential part of our welfare system. We are not about to do this.

This bill will not only make sure compensation is provided, but will go further to actively prevent injury and make sure that those injured are rehabilitated quickly and effectively.

The bill makes sure that people are informed of their full entitlements. Under previous governments it seemed that welfare agencies had no obligation to let people know of their legal entitlements. In fact I wonder whether it was a deliberate strategy at the time, obviously initiated by the previous National Government.

This government however, recognises its responsibility to care for people and make sure they receive all the help they are legally entitled to.

People will no longer get piecemeal assistance for a substantial injury. The reintroduction of lump sum payments is well overdue. The reintroduction of lump sum payments is a fair and just recognition of the huge impact a major injury has on people's lives.

Lump sum payment is also part of honouring our previous commitment to the public. It was introduced in exchange for the removal of the right to sue so to remove it was to break our commitment to the public. It is right then, that lump sum payments are restored in this bill.

This bill is an essential step to restoring our responsibilities and obligations to workers in this country.

Ends

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