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Labour will keep ACC in Kiwi hands

28 October 2008

Labour will keep ACC in Kiwi hands

Labour is firmly committed to retaining ACC in public ownership, Prime Minister Helen Clark and ACC Minister Maryan Street said when releasing the party’s ACC policy today.

"The Labour-led Government has made a number of improvements to the ACC scheme over the past nine years, including to its structure, its accessibility and the cover it offers New Zealanders," Helen Clark said.

"Labour will promote an immediate law change after the election to reduce the pressure on ACC levy rates. This will see significant decreases in the motor vehicle and average employer’s levy next year.

"This year Labour's improvements to the ACC scheme included increasing the cover it offered to older people, to over 400,000 seasonal and part-time workers, and to people suffering mental injury after witnessing a traumatic event at work.

"National voted against these improvements. There can be no doubt that its plans to privatise ACC would result in private insurance companies lobbying to reduce the coverage the scheme gives to injured people.

"Our ACC scheme exists as a public service with the sole focus on supporting people who have been injured. That is very different from the mandate of private insurers, who exist primarily to be profitable," Helen Clark said.

ACC Minister Maryan Street said Labour's 2008 ACC policy signals further improvements to the scheme, through:

 a review of work-related pain disorders to ensure more comprehensive coverage,
 a reduction in the amount of time ACC takes to review marginal cases,
 and changes to the Accredited Employers’ Scheme to make it fairer for injured workers.

"Doctors, physiotherapists, and other health practitioners have spoken out about the 'nightmare' situation which resulted from National’s brief and disastrous attempt to privatise the provision of worker's compensation in 1998. It created a new army of paper-pushers and lawyers, while employers pressured workers not to make claims," Maryan Street said.

"The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report found ACC to be a world-leading scheme which offers broader coverage, faster return to work rates, lower costs and fewer legal disputes than alternative schemes such as those in Australia.

"The report, completed earlier this year, also found that employer levies in Australia were 250 per cent higher than in New Zealand.

"Despite this record, National is preparing to allow private Australian insurance companies to move in on our vitally important ACC scheme, and they are being encouraged to do so by none other than Merrill Lynch.

"Labour believes that proper investment in the rehabilitation of injured New Zealanders is not only the decent thing to do, but also the smartest way to ensure a productive workforce.

"If you have an accident, you need to know you will be looked after. Kiwis take it for granted that they will be, but that cannot be taken for granted under privatised systems overseas. National simply can't be trusted with the ACC scheme," Maryan Street said.

ENDS

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