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ACC – where has the 'honest conversation' gone

CTU media release
20 November 2009

ACC – where has the ‘honest conversation’ gone as Minister cuts communication?

The CTU today asked how New Zealand was supposed to have the ‘honest conversation’ on ACC promised by the Prime Minister when Nick Smith was closing down important advisory groups and rushing the ACC Bill through Parliament with a totally inadequate timetable for proper consultation.

ACC Minister Smith sent out a letter last week informing members of the Ministerial Advisory Group on ACC that it was being disestablished to avoid ‘duplication of effort’ with the ACC Stocktake. The Group has operated for more than six years giving independent and specialist advice to the Minister on the operation, design and performance of ACC.

“Where is the ‘honest conversation’?” asked CTU President Helen Kelly. “Nick Smith has told those of us on the Ministerial Advisory Group that he doesn’t want to talk to us any more. Instead of listening to a group with extensive health and safety, medical and workplace legal compensation expertise he is choosing instead to listen to his own hand-picked group of accountants, insurance executives and Treasury mandarins.”

“He has already gutted the ACC board of its worker representation, tried to silence ACC chief executive Jan White at a select committee, and now he has closed the door on another group of independent experts with the interests of the scheme at heart. This is not how to hold an honest conversation – the Minister seems unwilling to listen to anyone who might disagree with him and point out the utter folly of his obvious desperation to privatise ACC.”

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The ACC Bill itself proposes to abolish two important panels which enable experts to advise on work-related gradual process disease and collection of injury statistics.

“On Tuesday a crowd of 6,000 bikers booed Nick Smith off the steps of Parliament after hearing how his claims on motorbike accidents were actually wrong. Today they will not be surprised to learn that he is abolishing the panel that sought to advise him on the gathering of accident statistics. Clearly he needs its assistance but is determined to massage his own figures as he has from the very beginning of his attack on ACC,” said Kelly.

“His abolition of the panel on work-related gradual process disease is even worse. The ACC Bill threatens to reintroduce an experience rating for employers which provides them with no incentive to protect workers against occupational disease. The Minister will need this panel more than ever, but it is just another group of experts who will tell him what he doesn’t want to hear.”


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