Five years on. Speech to Unions NSW trades council 22 June 2017

Last night Unions NSW invited injured workers and myself to speak to their weekly council meeting. The following is the speech I gave.

I’d like to thank unions NSW for inviting me to speak tonight on a topic that has been encompassing my life for the last three years.

As I was introduced, I am the current coordinator of the Injured Workers Support Network.

Monday this week marked the fourth injured workers day. A day chosen as it is the anniversary of the O’Farrell governments passing of their worst attempt at assisting our friends and family if they are injured at work.

The cornerstone of this legislation is their aim to reduce the numbers of people who receive assistance. The statutory cut-off date, which we are focusing on tonight, is a prime example of this regression. A regression that six thousand and more members of our suburbs and towns will feel before next financial year ends.

For them their problems have just started. For this government, their plans, passed in the middle of the night in 2012, will come to fruition.

The impact will not only be felt by the injured workers and their families. Our suburban and rural economies are going to lose one hundred million dollars by the end of April 2018 as the government strips $400 from the weekly pay packets of those injured workers affected. The vast majority will not be eligible for the disability support pension. Because of this they will not be able to access other forms of assistance from disability employment services or the NDIS.

As I am preparing the IWSN for a new phase I have returned to a question I had in the two weeks prior to taking up this role three years ago and consistently since then. Why. Why has a government pursued this policy despite the social, economic and medical evidence that their system would falter and harm injured workers? A reality they have tried to alleviate three times over the past four years through changes in their laws, regulations, departmental splits and cultural change programs. Why are we here?

The current election cycle dictates that policy regeneration is the main task of politicians and political parties as March 2019 edges closer. As they do formulate new and revise old policies I think this is the best time to share my conclusions to that answer. This may be the last time I am able to give advice to our ruling class so here we go.

This government believes that they can divide people into the deserving and undeserving. This belief is a fallacy.

There is no equation, no research model, and no great thinking that can differentiate the deserving from the undeserving.

Since the 18th century researchers, academics, philosophers, lawyers, doctors, politicians and more have found it to be a false equation. The outcomes of their campaigns can be seen in our health policies, our education policies, judiciary and security; our very human rights are formulated on the understanding that this equation is a fallacy. My own profession of welfare work is founded on this reality.

Unfortunately the equation is having a resurgence in our 21st century world. Its entrenchment is evident in all areas of the workers compensation legislation and throughout this year, injured workers are being put through that equation.

If their total body impairment is greater than 20%, they are classified as deserving. Below this figure they are undeserving. The legislative equation between these three pen strokes on paper does not consider anything other than a medical test which, for some injuries are nearly impossible to apply with accuracy and does not include issues that are legislated as peripheral, if in your struggle to recover you develop a psychological illness you are undeserving, pain from injuries also considered undeserving, your personal suffering or that of your family? This government has applied the equation and found that this is undeserving.

The very fact that speaking of the one hundred million dollar loss to our suburban economies may not pass the pub test because it is “compensation” rather than money earned through the immediacy of a days work speaks of our individual acceptance at this blatantly false equation should be made.

We are here because of this false equation. People whose working lives have come to an abrupt end as they live with the consequences of an acquired disability, acquired while working to make this state great and enhance the pay packets of their executive and shareholders know too well that this equation is false and as you the politicians and you the unions and you the injured worker and all of you as voters work go home and make decisions about your own personal policies I want you to remember this the equation between deserving and undeserving is a false equation and we need to push back against anyone who wishes to impose it through legislation.