• Murray McCully
Accident Insurance

"Labour is desperately back tracking on its ACC policy," Accident Insurance Minister Murray McCully said today.

"I put it down to one of two reasons," Mr McCully said. "Either they've finally worked out that it would cost the country and New Zealanders a fortune in jobs, health and safety or they've realised that the ACC reforms are a winner and turning back the tide of good news is impossible. Either way they're back peddling hard.

"Helen Clark told the Employers Federation conference on 25 July that "Labour's single public fund scheme will be financed on the cheaper pay as you go model".

"In The Independent on 13 October, Ruth Dyson said "There is not going to be a return to pay as you go funding".

"I'm not surprised they've changed their minds," Mr McCully said. "Pay as you go funding was what created an $8 billion tail of unfunded liabilities that this Government is dealing with in a fiscally responsible and transparent way, avoiding the debt of today's accidents being passed on to future generations."

"Labour Party ACC policy released on 1 July says "It was originally intended that the scheme would be extended to cover all impairment regardless of the cause. However, it has only ever covered impairment caused by injury or occupational disease caused by activities or the environment within the workplace. This anomaly will be gradually addressed as the scheme is rebuilt bringing into line the entitlements of those injured by accident and those incapacitated by illness."

"Back on 7 July in the Independent Ms Dyson said Labour would "adjust the sickness or invalid's benefit system over time to match ACC entitlements". But in speeches on 23 July and on 6 September Ms Dyson said "I do not propose extending the ACC scheme to cover illness" and then talked about rehabilitation - no mention of entitlements.

"Again, I'm not surprised she changed her mind," Mr McCully said. "Official estimates I am releasing today show that the original policy could cost $11 million extra a week.

"The latest from the loony left is that employers who have stated publicly that the reforms are bringing them savings are in fact saving them nothing. Ruth Dyson in The Independent of 13 October says that employers paying half of last year's ACC levy are breaking even. That defies both logic and common sense. No employer I've spoken to believes that, and they're the ones who are writing the cheques.

"Unfortunately they are not back peddling on the very part of their policy they should be abandoning - their commitment to abolishing experience rating.

"Labour continues to slam experience rating, while at the same time saying they will expand the successful Accredited Employer Programme, which is based on experience rating. In fact the reforms themselves already expand the Programme and are based on it. (The Programme allowed certain employers to manage workplace health and safety themselves, rewarding those with low accident rates and swift rehabilitation with rebates, and penalising those with poor records with higher rates.)

"Already we are seeing signs that employers are putting money on the line with risk sharing in the new environment and examination of health and safety in their workplaces in response to the incentives created with the new accident insurance market," Mr McCully said.

"To return to a system where there are weak or non-existent incentives for employers to take care is insane.

"Labour would risk workers' health and safety as well as their jobs with its headlong rush back to the dark ages of monopoly provision of accident insurance," Murray McCully said.

"There is one thing that Ms Dyson and I agree on - the conclusion of her press statement of 14 September where it states that employers "want some clear direction, leadership and consistency in ACC policy". However, she and her party provide none of it."