Only SOME cheats and frauds need apply

Posted: November 1, 2013 in Ranting
Tags: ,

I have previously blogged on some of the lunacy of the workers’ compensation system applying to the Australian public sector. An outstanding matter referred to in that post was a case going before the courts in which a claimant was attempting to obtain workers’ compensation for being injured while having a vigorous sex session during an overnight trip on workplace business.

I am pleased to report that the court has thrown that case out, finding quite strongly against the complainant. This is a success given the earlier case which actually rewarded an applicant for proven lies and attempted fraud, by giving them more than half-a-million spondulicks. Not all cheats and frauds need apply – only some of them. But that is not the end of things.

Today’s Canberra Times reported on this finding and also referred to Paul O’Connor, CEO of Comcare, the department responsible for administration of the system, stating that there was a need for an internal review of Comcare’s management practices. [update – the online version of this article does not include the same statement mentioned in the print version of the article – sorry about that.]

I have news for Mr O’Connor. His department is in need of a lot more than a review of management practices. It is in need of a major overhaul of its entire operations. This is even more pertinent given the clearly stated intention of reducing payout of claims. I have no problems whatsoever in seeing fraudulent claims thrown out and an end to things like paying for treatment by questionable medical practices. However as I learned to my cost in 2004 and onwards, in the quest to save a buck, genuine cases can get thrown out as well. And in order to keep such cases hidden, Comcare have no hesitation in refusing to do anything about dodgy and even unlawful behaviour of public service departments in respect of staff health. A case in point was my former employer, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, engaging in a protracted campaign of denying Comcare ever found my psychiatric injury to have been linked to the workplace. To the contrary, Comcare twice made such a finding, only denying actual compensation on a technicality. The realities of that technicality have never been properly reviewed, but that is another matter. However Comcare, via its solicitors acting as its agent, received a copy of an ABS letter, on an ABS letterhead, signed by the relevant member of the Senior Executive Service, endorsing the claim that Comcare had not found any workplace injury to be present. Both Comcare and its solicitor refused to take any action on what I am informed was an unlawful denial. They do not appear to give a damn.

I also refer to a case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in April 2006 (transcript available via its website) in which the Tribunal expressly found that the ABS had a management practice of treating psychiatric injuries as performance issues, which was injurious to health. Ample documentary evidence is available which clearly demonstrates that ABS continued with that practice. Was ABS interested in addressing the situation? No. Did Comcare give a damn? Apparently not.

As a direct result of a) trying to save a buck and b) protracted covering of corporate backsides, I have no doubt that I am not the only victim who lost pretty much everything and have spent years trying to cope with the problems caused by lack of required medical care.

Yes, Mr O’Connor, by all means review your corporate management, but this needs to be a damned sight more than deciding who should really be signing cab charge vouchers or other such matters of staggering inconsequence. Your Department actually doing its job might be a start.

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