Jun 17

More outrage:Green slip change link to Finance Minister Greg Pearce’s Liberal mate Michael Photios

ipad-art-wide-ofarrell-420x0Green slip change link to Finance Minister Greg Pearce’s Liberal mate Michael Photios

EMBATTLED Finance Minister Greg Pearce introduced green slip reforms, expected to make insurance companies tens of millions of dollars, after meetings with the industry set up by controversial Liberal lobbyist Michael Photios’ firm, a trail of emails reveals.

Mr Pearce also received hospitality from Suncorp – which publicly praised the reforms and is a client of Mr Photios – at the last Melbourne Cup.

Insurance companies are also set to benefit from Mr Pearce approving a 10 per cent green slip hike in January, just before pledging to cut green slip prices via his reforms.

It flies in the face of Premier Barry O’Farrell’s claims that anyone who employs lobbyists to lobby his government are “wasting their money”.

It comes as Mr Pearce enjoyed his first weekend of a month-long stress leave, sharing dumplings with his wife and friends at World Square.

Angry Coalition MPs yesterday questioned why Mr Pearce was given paid stress leave after it was found he misused travel entitlements for a function Mr Photios had organised in Canberra a fortnight ago.

“It’s a bit rich to send the Finance Minister on leave on budget week,” one MP said.

The emails obtained under freedom of information reveal Mr Photios’s firm PremierState organised meetings between the minister’s office and insurance giant Allianz, so Allianz could put forward proposals to restructure green slips, in December 2011 and May last year. Subsequent reforms – which cut accident victims’ entitlements – will be voted on in the upper house this week.

One of those meetings between Allianz, PremierState and the minister’s office featured Mr Photios’s business partner David Begg, who is married to Mr Pearce’s deputy chief of staff Natalie Ward.

An email from PremierState managing director of public policy Natalie Christiansen to Pearce staff member Kellie Blake, dated April 2012, says: “I write to request a meeting between our client, Allianz, and (Mr Pearce’s chief of staff) Ms Joanne McCafferty and (policy adviser) Mr Stephen Marriott … to discuss recommendations around reform under the CTP scheme.”

A series of emails followed, with Ms Blake saying “Joanne and Stephen would be happy to meet with Allianz representatives” but advising that the minister would be out of town, before a May 15 meeting was settled upon.

Pearce gave private secretary’s husband to WorkCover role

The December 2011 meeting with PremierState and Allianz occurred a month after Mr Pearce knocked back insurance companies’ requests to increase green slip prices.

“My company has assisted Suncorp, Allianz, Employers Mutual and the Australian Rehabilitation Providers’ Association with their relations with government … primarily with Mr Pearce’s office,” Mr Photios yesterday said.

Asked if his firm had helped get the insurance industry a great deal from Mr Pearce, Mr Photios said: “We represent our clients to the best of our ability.”

Under the controversial green slip reforms, children who are involved in car accidents will only be covered for five years of medical expenses and not for life.

The government claims its reforms will cut the cost of green slips by 15 per cent.

Mr Pearce’s spokesman yesterday confirmed Suncorp had hosted the minister at the Melbourne Cup, saying: “Members of parliament are routinely invited to numerous events on a regular basis.”


Jun 17

Jobs for friends: NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce appointed private secretary’s husband to WorkCover role


There were hints last week that Greg Pearce was in the business of doing favours for friends.

In today’s Daily Telegraph:

NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce appointed private secretary’s husband to WorkCover role

GREG Pearce appointed his private secretary’s husband, former Law Society president Kim Garling, to a $300,000-a-year position as WorkCover Independent Review Officer last year.

Mr Garling is married to Mr Pearce’s secretary Pamela Williams.

It is the latest in a series of appointments by Mr Pearce which led to accusations of “jobs for the boys”, including his appointment of the former vice-president of the Wentworth Liberal conference Ray Whitten to three government boards.

Mr Pearce also appointed the CEO of his former law firm Freehills to the Return to Work Safely Board, and former Freehills partner Geoffrey Levy to head up the government’s property assets taskforce.

A firm Mr Levy chairs, Cromwell Property, then won the right to buy government property which the taskforce recommended selling for $405 million. The company insists it went through a strict tender and probity process and having Mr Levy as chair made winning the tender more difficult.

A spokesman for Mr Pearce yesterday said of Mr Garling’s appointment: “This is a cabinet appointment based on merit.”

Mr Garling said: “I have no comment to make as you would appreciate.” There is no suggestion any of the appointees was lacking in merit.

Shadow treasurer Michael Daley said it was the “latest board appointment by Mr Pearce the public deserves answers on”.

“Each day there is a new revelation regarding the Minister for Finance,” Mr Daley said. “The only right and proper thing for the Premier to do is dump Mr Pearce from the ministry.”

It has also emerged that Mr Pearce’s decision to go on a month stress leave is at odds with his previous statements on stress-related illnesses in parliament in relation to his workers compensation reforms.

In May 2012 he told the upper house that stress-related illnesses could actually get worse if people did not work and the longer people were off work, the more chance they would not return.

“The chance of a person ever returning to work after a workplace injury is 70 per cent if off for 20 days, 50 per cent if off for 45 days … the risk of suicide, liver damage from drinking and other stress-related illnesses is enhanced while not working,” Mr Pearce said.


Jun 15

Workplace bullying: Employment lawyer Josh Bornstein leading the charge for change to the system

BornsteinMelbourne employment lawyer Josh Bornstein has been leading the charge for change to the system. Photo: Jesse Marlow

The engineer for a multinational company endured a torrent of abuse from a foul-mouthed boss who was no stranger to complaints about inappropriate office conduct. ”He had experiences like coming into a meeting and the boss literally yelling, screaming, swearing and finger-pointing at him, picking up a bag and throwing it across the room,” recounts employment lawyer Ian Heathwood.

But immediately after the tirade, when the pair had to travel together to a meeting across town, the boss tried to ”play the ‘I’m your mate’ game”.

”The boss says, ‘Come on, mate, I really want to look after you and want to take you high places in the company’,” Heathwood recalls.

It’s precisely the type of case that a Gillard government overhaul of anti-bullying structures aims to tackle. To the displeasure of the business community, the government plans to give the Fair Work Commission new powers to address workplace bullying. The federal body will be able to make an order to prevent bullying from continuing. The aim is to stop the victimisation before it escalates to a scale that harms health and wellbeing. The Productivity Commission estimates workplace bullying costs the nation between $6 billion and $36 billion a year.

But the soon-to-be-legislated changes have triggered business warnings over a duplication of existing state regulatory bodies and interference with internal company investigations. The opposition fears Fair Work will be swamped with cases and the laws have been rushed. And experts have highlighted how views differ on the nature of workplace bullying, with one person’s perception of performance management being another’s victimisation.

Heathwood says the swearing, abusive boss was cleared by the company’s chief executive, who was taped saying: ”I would have done the same thing myself.”

”That employer had a completely false perception of acceptable behaviour and what constitutes bullying. The employee had a nervous breakdown and he never brought a claim. In this matter this new legislation would have been very helpful.”

A parliamentary committee last year described workplace bullying as a form of psychological violence that in extreme cases could lead victims to suicide.

But it found a regulatory ”minefield” confronted individual workers and employers dealing with bullying at work, confusing people about what action could be taken. Apart from the complication of what constitutes workplace bullying, some matters fall under other laws – such as anti-discrimination legislation and criminal codes.

WorkSafe Victoria health and safety general manager Lisa Sturzenegger says the highly personal and emotional nature of the issue makes it a challenge to respond to allegations.

WorkSafe Victoria received 6018 calls about workplace bullying in the 10 months to the end of April, about 5 per cent of which were passed on to the investigative unit. It has made 731 visits to workplaces and issued 84 improvement notices.

People may feel their work life is unpleasant or management practices are poor, but feeling upset or undervalued at work does not mean an individual is being bullied at work, Sturzenegger says.

Occupational health and safety laws ”turn on whether an employer or another person at work has failed in their duty to maintain a safe environment for others”.

Sturzenegger says there have been 31 WorkSafe prosecutions relating to bullying behaviour since 1999, and this is higher than in other states.

”Only a small proportion of complaints received by WorkSafe each year involve allegations of conduct that WorkSafe can pursue through the courts,” she says.

Under the Gillard government’s planned changes, a worker ”who reasonably believes that they have been bullied at work” will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the behaviour. The law, currently before the House of Representatives, defines workplace bullying as repeated unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety.

The government argues this will provide a mechanism to help an individual worker resolve a bullying matter quickly and inexpensively, saying people currently face problems trying to promptly end the victimisation so they do not suffer further harm or injury.

”It’s just an additional fast-track mechanism. In the workplace game of snakes and ladders, this is a ladder,” Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says.

Fair Work must start to deal with the matter within 14 days. But in a bid to ensure it is focused on prevention, orders cannot include the payment of money. Shorten says this means the new scheme won’t turn into a ”lawyers’ picnic”. Prevention is better than cure, he reasons, and this will give people a speedy way to stop bullying from continuing. But Fair Work may still choose to send cases back to state regulators.

”The status quo’s not working. State regulators are underfunded and overworked,” he says.

”There is a problem. The problem’s not been dealt with properly. The only people who oppose this are people who haven’t been bullied.”

Melbourne-based employment lawyer Josh Bornstein of Maurice Blackburn says the ”tiny” number of prosecutions under existing occupational health and safety bodies typically involve the most serious cases in which the bullying has led to major physical injuries.

”Employer groups know that, but because they’re programmed to argue against any form of regulation they’ll use that argument. I think that’s nonsense,” he says.

Nonetheless, Master Builders chief executive officer Wilhelm Harnisch says the bill was rushed without consultation with industry and warns of added compliance costs for small business.

”Because of that rushing through, proper consideration hasn’t been given to how it may conflict with state-based bullying legislation and that needs to be properly tested. There’d be nothing worse than if there were inconsistencies,” he says.

”Under the legislation, many forms of behaviour would be considered as bullying; the problem is getting some sort of clarity around that.”

The federal budget allocates an extra $21 million over four years to fund Fair Work’s extra activities. But Harnisch argues this may not be enough to deal with the likely volume of complaints ”because the bill does not have a proper screening process to validate claims”. And he is worried that subcontractors will be able to bring claims under the legislation.

Mining companies also are wary, with employers insisting they already act quickly to deal with complaints – a process that could be slowed down by a pending Fair Work intervention.

Industry figures say alleged bullies are usually suspended on full pay within 24 hours of a complaint being made. They point to a case alleged to have occurred on an offshore oil and gas industry vessel that was resolved with the help of a consultant within a week and a half.

Australian Mines and Metals Association executive director Scott Barklamb says bullying is a highly sensitive issue best handled by employers and independent investigators under the existing laws.

”Not only will the proposed new bullying jurisdiction likely duplicate existing measures, it will allow multiple actions to be brought in a variety of jurisdictions at the same time over the same course of conduct. This will not just overlap our existing, efficient processes, but complicate them and make matters less likely to be resolved in workplaces.”

Barklamb says it is important employers are not exposed to ”increasing numbers of frivolous and unmeritorious claims by setting the bar too low for accessing the proposed new jurisdiction”.

The government counters that the Fair Work Act already gives the Fair Work Commission the power to dismiss applications and order costs on the grounds they are frivolous or vexatious or without reasonable prospect of success.

”They can’t say it’s not a problem and on the other hand say it will be swamped,” Shorten says.

”You never solve a problem by not dealing with it. The Catholic Church has learnt that.”

Bornstein, an industrial relations lawyer for 15 years, has been leading the charge for change to the existing system. He says occupational health and safety bureaucrats don’t have the time or resources to deal properly with the issue.

”There’s been a gaping hole in the protection of people who experience workplace bullying; the law has only tended to help them once they have become very sick and lost their jobs,” he says.

”Companies investigating themselves can be like any other organisation investigating themselves – police, priests – there are limitations or deficiencies which become all too apparent in workplace bullying cases.”

The Coalition has indicated it will support the plans, but will try to amend the law to ensure workers have first tried to get help from an existing regulator or sought a resolution internally before coming to Fair Work.

The opposition also wants union officials’ conduct towards managers, employers and workers to be subject to scrutiny under the Fair Work bullying regime.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz says the Coalition wants to put in place a filter to avoid the situation where ”somebody feels aggrieved during the morning and then storms into the Fair Work Commission and files an application at lunchtime”.

”That is not conductive to good workplace relations; it allows the Fair Work Commission to be clogged up in a manner that will bring the whole system into disrepute,” he says.

The Coalition, if elected on September 14, would take advice on what form its filter would take.

Senator Abetz says someone could talk to the person, see what the situation is and if it can be resolved without the need to file proceedings. Formal applications could be expensive to the taxpayer and ”potentially make the workplace even more poisonous than it was before”.

Shorten says people should try to deal with the matter within their own workplaces first, but this is not always possible – especially if the bully is the one to whom the victim must complain.

Australian Council of Trade Unions assistant secretary Michael Borowick says in the vast majority of cases people are reluctant to come forward with bullying complaints.

”I don’t think the sky will fall in,” he says.

”You won’t need a lawyer. You notify, you get a listing and up you go. It’ll be timely.”

Damian Panlock, whose 19-year-old daughter Brodie took her own life after suffering bullying at a Melbourne cafe in 2006, wants employers to admit the current system is not working.

”Tell them to have a look out there and see if anyone’s being bullied. Is their system working now? That’s why young people are taking their lives”

Panlock backs the new federal effort but cautions that Fair Work must ensure it is equipped with people with the expertise to deal with bullying.

”Everyone’s different and Brodie was a really nice person and she tried to help other people and she wasn’t weak but four males got together and thought, ‘This is the youngest one here, let’s destroy her’, and they did. That’s what’s going on out there. People are destroying others’ lives. It’s not just the person they destroy but the families connected to it. Until you’ve been through it, you don’t know what grief is. It doesn’t stop. We don’t want any other family to go through what we’re going through.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/workplace-bullies-and-how-to-beat-them-20130531-2nh7o.html#ixzz2WGwtcENe

Jun 14

Fair Go for Workers Compensation Day 19 June 2013

UNIONS NSWFair Go for Workers Compensation Day 19 June 2013

The only thing more Aussie than a lamington is a fair go and a fair go was stripped from NSW workers on 19 June 2012 when the NSW O’Farrell Government cut back the Workers Compensation system.Unions NSW is declaring 19 June 2013 ‘Fair Go for Workers Compensation Day’.On this day, invite your neighbours over for a cup of tea and a lamington or hold a morning tea at your work. Take some photos, post them on our page or email them to wc@unionsnsw.org.au .If you’re in Sydney, join us at 1pm on 19 June 2013 in the Jubilee Room at the Parliament of NSW, Macquarie Street, Sydney. RSVP to wc@unionsnsw.org.au.

Jun 14

Adverse action: Visy shamed for unfairly targeting AMWU safety rep

A VisyThe AMWU has won a major victory for workers’ health and safety in a case where packaging giant Visy was condemned by a Federal Court judge for persecuting an AMWU delegate for honestly doing his duty as an OH&S representative.

Visy threatened Jon Zwart with dismissal after he put OHS “tag” notices on two unsafe forklifts at its Coburg can factory in 2011 because their beepers were not loud enough, consistent with the company’s own “zero tolerance” safety campaign.

The court agreed with the AMWU position that the company’s attitude to Mr Zwart was totally unjustified.

Justice Bernard Murphy found the result of an “independent” inquiry the company instigated into the worker’s conduct was neither impartial or truly independent of Visy mangement.

Justice Murphy criticised evidence by Visy’s plant operations manager Robin Street as “unreliable,” finding he should have never suspended Jon Zwart from work, investigated his actions or later issued him with a final warning notice.

The judge found Mr Street’s “prevarication and the contortion his evidence involved, has led me to conclude he was not frank with the court.”

Mr Street had suspended Mr Zwart and ordered the “independent” investigation because he claimed the AMWU member was “uncooperative” by insisting safety regulations be followed.

When Mr Zwart rejected a company proposal that forklift drivers honk their horn and turn their head when reversing as unsafe, Mr Street accused him of trying to disrupt production. Mr Zwart’s stance was later endorsed by two outside safety experts.

Disruption to work turned out be minimal with the forklifts adjusted with louder beepers later on the day of the incident, August 8, 2011.

AMWU Victorian Secretary Steve Dargavel hailed the decision as a victory for all workers.

He said it proved that unions were able to take legal action under the Fair Work Act to remedy a health and safety matter, reducing reliance in Victoria on WorkSafe which has the lowest prosecution rate in the nation.

Mr Zwart said the case had proven the rights of workplace health and safety representatives to disagree with employers without suffering discrimination.

“I think it’s a big lesson for standing your ground when you believe you’re right and standing up to bullying,” he said.

“I’m forever grateful to the union for backing me up.”

The AMWU’s lawyer in the case, Slater and Gordon’s Brad Annson, said Justice Murphy’s decision confirms OH&S care as a workplace right. It means:

*employers should not regard an OH&S rep as un-cooperative just because his or her opinion does not agree with theirs. Bosses should accept that an independent OH&S rep has a duty of care to fellow workers under OH&S law.

*employers cannot evade their possible liability for wrongly imposing disciplinary actions by engaging an external consultant to investigate an employee.

*OH&S reps have protections under the Fair Work Act, provided they act with a genuine concern for safety. This applies whether or not those concerns are ultimately proved to be justified.

*wrongly suspending an employee was adverse action because it deprived a person of the satisfaction and dignity of work, with the final written warning jeopardising the security of Mr Zwart’s future employment.

The court found that Visy had engaged in adverse action against Mr Zwart, leaving it open to a maximum $33,000 fine on each of three breaches of the Fair Work Act.

Mr Street also faces two potential $6600 fines for his conduct.

The penalties will be determined by the judge in an upcoming hearing.


Jun 14

Workplace Bullying Draft Code of Practice – complete our short survey



Safe Work Australia recently released a revised draft Model Code of practice on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying (May 2013 version). The Draft Code replaces the previous draft Model Code of Practice on bullying that was released in late 2011 and withdrawn for further consideration following significant public backlash and critical comment.

The Draft Code is open for public comment until 15 July 2013.

What is a Code of Practice and why is it important?

Codes of Practice apply in States and Territories that have implemented harmonised work health and safety legislation (at this stage, harmonised laws apply throughout Australia except in Victoria and Western Australia). They provide practical guidance for people who owe duties under the legislation to achieve standards of health, safety and welfare.

They are also admissible in court proceedings. For example, a court may regard a Code of Practice as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk or control and may also rely on it when determining whether the duty holder has met the required standard of care.

A Model Code of Practice is prepared by Safe Work Australia and applies when formally adopted that Code.

The Injured Workers Support Network along with other interested groups will be making public comment on the Draft Code and we need your feedback
This survey will only take a few minutes to complete and we thank you for taking the time to assist us

Click here to complete survey: surveymonkey.com/s/LFL9BYW

Jun 14

NSW Minister Greg Pearce takes stress leave


NSW Minister Greg Pearce takes leave

Should the Minister for Finance & Services have to undergo a work capacity test while on stress leave? Although Greg Pearce may not be fit to perform his Ministerial duties – under his own legislation he would still have some capacity for work.

THE NSW finance minister has requested a month’s stress leave after a report found he breached ministerial travel expense guidelines on a trip to Canberra.

Greg Pearce has also apologised for his behaviour in parliament almost two weeks ago, when he was ejected for being drunk.

“My behaviour on that evening was wrong, I am not proud of it and I have rightly been admonished by the premier,” he said.

He’s asked the premier for a month’s leave for stress and exhaustion.

Department of Premier and Cabinet boss Chris Eccles found Mr Pearce breached ministerial travel guidelines during his private trip to Canberra almost two weeks ago.

Premier Barry O’Farrell ordered an investigation after his minister took a taxpayer-funded trip to the capital on the same day as reports emerged that he was ejected from parliament on suspicion of being drunk.

As a media frenzy erupted, Mr Pearce travelled to Canberra to attend a function hosted by Liberal party powerbroker Michael Photios.

While his office said the minister was off sick, Mr Pearce reportedly said he was visiting a housing development and his office must have been confused.

He later said he had travelled for a private function and then pulled out, even though his flights and accommodation were booked by the state government.

Mr O’Farrell said there had been a minor breach of ministerial guidelines that amounted to less than $200.

“I think what he has gone through over the last two weeks is punishment enough,” he said.

“We are all human… mistakes will from time to time be made.”

Mr O’Farrell said the report had also identified confusion regarding the ministerial travel guidelines.

However, it found Mr Pearce had booked his flight and accommodation on his private trip to the capital in two breaches of the guidelines.

Jun 14

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Mental Health

We know very well about the effects that negative stereotyping can have when it comes to the disclosure of an injury or illness to any potential employer.

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.

That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”

However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else.

“Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”

If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?

Says Mitchell: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.


Meanwhile, small business owners remain divided on the issue. Some are empathetic. But others, like Jenkins, say it’s not a wise decision. “I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. But I have enough on my plate as it is. It’s already a challenge to manage my existing staff. And I know there are enough people in the world without a mental illness who can fill the roles I need. Why would I hire someone who has one?”

Would you hire someone with a mental illness? Has this had a positive or negative impact on your business?

Jun 14

Newcastle audiologist concerned by workers compensation changes


Concerns for hearing compo loss

A Newcastle audiologist says close to 40 per cent of his clients will be affected by changes to the workers compensation scheme.

The amendments mean many of the Hunter’s former steelworkers suffering hearing loss from workplace noise will no longer be entitled to free hearing aid upgrades, repairs and batteries.

Coal miners and emergency service workers are not included in the changes.

Audiologist Nick Blackwell says it will be extremely difficult for those affected

“What we know happens when you have an untreated hearing loss is people don’t communicate with others,” he said.

“And they retreat and they – all sorts of other side effects can happen you know, you know, you can develop mental health issues like depression and anxiety because you’re having difficulty communicating with others.”


Jun 13

We need an international approach to decrease the costs of mental health


Why mental health matters

The Herald-Lateral Economics Index of Australia’s Wellbeing estimates the cost of mental illness to Australia has reached $190 billion a year, or about 12 per cent of economic output.

Globally, the social and economic costs of mental illness are enormous, with international health bodies estimating that 13 per cent of the total global disease burden is due to mental disorders. Although they are closely linked to physical disorders and can affect the prognosis of heart disease, diabetes, and cancers, mental disorders rarely receive equal attention.

Recent milestones have provided an unfamiliar wave of optimism. The World Health Assembly agreed in Geneva last month on new public health measures, including a comprehensive mental health action plan for the next seven years. A week earlier, Commonwealth health ministers endorsed the secretariat’s report ‘Mental Health: Towards Economic and Social Inclusion’ – the first time Commonwealth countries have supported a plan to improve mental health.

Perhaps the biggest advance, however, has been closer to home, with no fanfare and little recognition. China’s first national mental health law was approved early last month by the National People’s Congress. Whether this new law achieves its goal of minimising abuse and ending unjustified compulsory hospitalisation remains to be seen. Nevertheless China has covered a fifth of the world’s population by legislation that aims – for the first time in its history – to protect the human rights of people with mental illness.

This remarkable step is part of a scientific and public health sea change in Asia that is underappreciated in Australia and the West. As part of the ‘Asian Century’, China and other countries in Asia are increasingly creating and developing corridors of innovation and networks of research and development where Australia is not prominent and in some cases is absent.

Disappointingly, our health and science leadership still largely has its gaze fixed on the United States and Europe. This is despite the countries of Asia last year surpassing the Americas in research and development investments ($518 billion vs $512 billion).

As potential opportunities in research and development rapidly slip away, the questions needing to be answered are: where are there windows still open, where can Australia build on its strengths and be valued as a collaborator and partner in Asia, and what models of working that may guide further development in health?

One area where we share common objectives and mutual interest is in mental health promotion, research and treatment. National governments are increasingly recognising that mental ill health carries not just a burden on individuals but also on their nations’ economies and security. The need for further investment in mental health to build resilience in the face of increasing prevalence of natural and man-made disasters, including the effects of climate change, has become a pressing global concern.

Asia Australia Mental Health – a consortium of St Vincent’s Mental Health, The University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry, and Asialink – has been building partnerships with mental health leaders and their governments in the Asia Pacific for more than 10 years. AAMH has worked with China as it attempts to provide mental health solutions for its vast population. It is also working with mental health leaders from the Sub-Mekong to establish a Sub-Mekong Region Mental Health Research Training Program. And it has worked with China, Cambodia and the Solomon Islands to protect the mental health of their people following natural disasters, including the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Recognising that the global mental health crisis is too big for one country or sector to deal with alone, we are building cohesion through a multilateral project that includes mental health leaders from 19 Asia Pacific countries. This project acknowledges the enormous treatment gaps and lack of appropriate services available in most of our partner countries but focuses on sharing strengths and best practices. In both high-resourced to deprived settings, the network encourages hybrid solutions and new ways of thinking.

For Australia, such a regional network helps us to extend our understanding of mental health. We are learning through our collaboration and engagement with Asian counterparts new and perhaps more effective ways to meaningfully contribute to the mental health of all Australians, including indigenous people and the growing numbers of our population who are of Asian backgrounds. These include not only culturally appropriate treatments but also empowering and strengthening the role of people with mental ill health in developing and implementing laws, policy and services.

Being part of a multi-lateral partnership gives Australia a much stronger voice as we advocate for greater recognition of mental health across regional groupings and global health architecture. Early next month we will share a platform with our Chinese colleagues at an APEC health meeting in Medan, Indonesia, as part of a coordinated effort to deal with the growing regional crisis of mental ill health. Our Australia-China partnership will be presented as a model in discussing what could guide an APEC roadmap to reduce the regional burden of mental health challenges.

Associate Professor Chee Ng, co-director of AAMH at The University of Melbourne, prepared the Commonwealth Secretariat’s mental health report presented last month.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/time-to-put-our-heads-together-on-mental-health-20130613-2o67u.html#ixzz2W63HLCOb

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