The New South Wales government has announced plans to legislate recommendations made following a review into the scandal-ridden state insurance agency icare.
Retired Supreme Court judge Robert McDougall was appointed to lead a ‘root and branch’ review into icare last August, after allegations of misconduct within the insurer were aired by the media and in parliament. He was also tasked with examining the agency’s workers’ compensation schemes, the Nominal Insurer and the Treasury Managed Fund.
McDougall handed down his review in April, highlighting a ‘disregard for establishing and following proper and prudent procurement practices’ in the agency.
While icare and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) have already implemented 35 of the 49 review recommendations, the state government has announced that it will introduce legislation to address a further eight recommendations.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who is the minister responsible for icare, said the additional recommendations would be adopted to strengthen governance and regulation, and clarify the roles of organisations in the NSW workers’ compensation system.
“We are taking the next steps to deliver a stronger and better workers’ compensation scheme with these changes, addressing scheme wide issues identified by the review,” he said on Tuesday.
“This legislation will build on the significant change already underway at icare to lift the performance of the organisation and improve the foundations of the workers’ compensation scheme to ensure its support for people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“icare has already adopted all the recommendations related to the organisation that do not require legislation and has programs of work addressing these. While the changes will take time we know they’re necessary to ensure injured workers and NSW employers get the care and support they need long term.”
The recommendations relate to the terms of directors; additional policy objectives in the State Insurance and Governance Care Act 2015; clarification of SIRA’s regulatory powers in relation to icare and the Nominal Insurer; and clarification of the objectives, roles, powers and functions of icare, SIRA and SafeWork.
Meanwhile, SIRA will undertake further public consultation on four review recommendations that relate to threshold tests for entitlements, entitlement to medical treatment and access to lump sum settlements, according to customer service minister Victor Dominello.
“SIRA is committed to working with icare to make sure we get the settings right to deliver the best health outcomes for injured workers, and it’s important we hear from the public and key stakeholders on these matters,” he said.
“Following this consultation, the NSW government will consider whether further legislative reform is required.”
The NSW government said it intended to introduce a single bill to address all legislative changes required as a result of the McDougall Review, including any that arise from consultation.
Perrottet and Dominello noted that the state government was undertaking a number of actions to improve icare prior to McDougall handing down his review, including restructuring the organisation and appointing a new leaders, chair John Robertson, and CEO Richard Harding.
McDougall was appointed to lead the review shortly after former icare chief executive John Nagle and former board member Mark Lennon resigned.