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Pansy Speak: The real deal on ACC

The real deal on ACC

I was expecting more from Labour’s ACC policy, given their attacks on National’s policy and our aim to reduce work-related injuries and improve rehabilitation.

Labour’s claims that ACC is a world leader with no need for improvement have fallen flat after their own belated admission that the ever-increasing levies are becoming unsustainable.

Their solution to cap charges without tackling the underlying reasons behind the increase is typical of the way Labour deals with problems – they hope they can pull the wool over people’s eyes in the hope it will go away. Remember the Finance Minister’s declaration four weeks ago that world economic crisis was over?!

The truth is that under Labour’s watch ACC levies have soared. I have been contacted by numerous business owners and car owners upset at their large and increasing bills, with some facing increases this financial year of upwards of 47%.

Last year, just days before Christmas, Labour slipped through even more hefty levy increases while everyone was busy getting ready for the holidays. Next week’s election is the only reason Labour is now prepared to admit that levies are out of control. No doubt they will scrap the cuts given the chance to present their so-called in their mini-budget in December, but I’m confident savvy New Zealanders won’t allow that to happen.

All previous complaints about levy costs have fallen on deaf ears. We should all be sceptical about Labour’s sudden change of heart. For starters, Labour was planning to increase car registration costs next year, so their so-called $80 reduction is just a fancy way of saying they will put off increasing levies for the time being.

Their promise to put through legislation reducing levy costs is far too late. They’ve had plenty of chances in the past nine years to address levy costs but have chosen not to. Instead, they’ve chosen to pass bills that foist further unknown costs on to employers.

Earlier this year they passed a bill that introduced new cover for mental injury arising from traumatic events in the workplace. Estimates place the cost at between $7.6 million and $72.2 million. The changes mean that the son of the late Joanne Wang, who saw his mother killed in a hit-and-run, would not be covered by ACC because he is not at work, although witnesses working in nearby businesses would be. Labour excluded ‘non-earners’ because they thought it would be too expensive to cover them – yet they expect employers to cover workers.

Meanwhile, Labour continues to waste taxpayer’s money by funding their multimillion-dollar ‘Covered’ advertising campaign and giving their staff money for Botox and cosmetic surgery.

ACC Minister Maryan Street has defended this spending at every step. If Labour is really serious about reducing levies why haven’t they made ACC more accountable for its spending? Given their track record can you really trust them to reduce levies? I don’t think so.

Talking about trust, I would like to put right some of the misinformation being spread by Labour about the future of ACC under a National-led government.

As I have said before, ACC will remain in public ownership. National has promised to investigate opening up the Work Account section of the scheme to competition. The reasons for this are simple: our workplace accident rates are high by international standards and data shows that our work injury rate is trending upwards in relation to other comparable countries. Incentives for employers to improve safety practices are poor. Similar premiums are charged to employers regardless of their record for workplace accidents. Incentives for quick, high-quality rehabilitation are weak.

I have received calls from worried spouses of ACC employees who are concerned about whether or not they will have a job if National is elected to govern. They have been told that National will privatise ACC. I have also received comments from people in various sectors saying they are concerned about losing their livelihood due to National’s supposed plans.

None of this is true. National supports a comprehensive, 24/7, no-fault accident insurance scheme that delivers certainty of coverage for all New Zealanders.

Given the large number of complaints that my office receives from claimants, we will investigate the introduction of an independent disputes tribunal to end ACC’s dual role of judge and jury on disputed claims. Our policy to conduct a full stock-take of the various components of the ACC scheme is justified in light of Labour’s admission that the cost of ACC is out of control. The public deserves to know the true state of affairs.

Pansy Wong


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