The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a reform in the great Labor tradition of Medicare and superannuation which will deliver benefits to all Australians for the future.
However, we can do better to include Australians on the disability pension or with a permanent workplace injury who get an inferior deal in our society.
Too many people with an impairment, a mental illness or a permanent workplace injury are put in the too hard basket - Australians who simply want a second chance to participate more in our community.
This is not about punitive measures nor attacking benefits but a view that people should not be left behind and discarded.
The previous Labor government lifted the Disability Support Pension, but we should support disability pensioners to have more say in their lives through the satisfaction of meaningful participation.
This approach requires bipartisan work with state governments and all stakeholders including medical professionals and the business community.
We need to unlock the latent capacity in every Australian to participate meaningfully in work.
The Rudd and Gillard governments delivered meaningful reforms to the DSP. But we should not rest there.
I believe there are many people on the Disability Support Pension or with a permanent workplace injury who want to work and who have the ability to work if they are properly supported.
I believe a national rehabilitation strategy must be explored to ensure that every Australian, including those on the DSP, benefit from the dignity and satisfaction of work. Too often when someone acquires an impairment, develops an age related illness or suffers a workplace injury that interrupts their employment our focus is on the income support alone and not the support that is necessary to assist people to return back to the workplace.
I have seen first-hand the damage done to workers, their families, co-workers and businesses when a person is injured at work. That damage is magnified when an injured worker is not supported to return to work.
If elected Labor Leader I would develop a national rehabilitation strategy which focuses on getting injured workers and Australians on the DSP back into safe, meaningful work.
The Australian Labor Party has a long and proud tradition of fighting to improve workplace health and safety, protecting injured workers rights and supporting injured workers back to work.
Labor recognises supporting injured workers back to work, in a safe and meaningful job is part of a good society and part of our Labor tradition.
People with a permanent injury and their family experience significant financial challenges, often due to a reduction in wages, lower or no ongoing workers compensation, medical costs and a restricted opportunity for future work.
Being away from their workplace isolates injured workers, who are often caught in an adversarial system between insurance companies and government systems.
The national rehabilitation strategy could include working with the treating medical practitioners and their peak groups to, for instance, develop medical guidelines in consultation with the medical profession to emphasise rehabilitation and return to work for injured workers or people with an impairment or mental illness.
The strategy could also incorporate Return to Work Brokers to better manage return to work for injured workers, keep costs low for employers and to make sure insurance companies support an injured worker’s return to meaningful, paid employment.
Return to Work Brokers could work between doctors, insurers, employers and the injured employee and their representatives to:
· Identify existing or new training and employment opportunities for people with a long term workers compensation claims
· Identify what support is required to retrain, reskill and identify new employment opportunities if a worker cannot return to their previous job
· Improve standards required of insurers who manage workers compensation claims to support better outcomes for injured workers
Work related injury and illness were estimated to cost Australia $60.6 billion in 2008-2009 which represents 4.8 per cent of GDP. (Source: Safe Work Australia Key Work Health and Safety statistics, Australia 2012 and Safe Work Australia WA National Return to Work Survey 2012-2013)