Gerard Malouf: NSW workers compensation reforms are a tragedy

Date: Aug 13, 2012

Legal expert and principal solicitor of GMP Gerard Malouf says that the new workers compensation laws in New South Wales are a "real tragedy".

Mr Malouf expressed sincere concern for workers across the state.

"I think it's a tragedy for the whole of personal injury clients that they have now been denied any form of real compensation," said Mr Malouf.

The solicitor has seen many changes in the industry since he founded GMP – which stands for Gerard Malouf and Partners – in November 1995.

Yet these reforms come as particularly unwelcome news, and Mr Malouf is concerned about how they will affect workers across New South Wales.

"My worry is that insurers are benefiting at the expense of workers," he said, labelling the new legislation as "very unfair".

According to WorkCover, one of the main reasons the reforms were introduced was because compensation was allegedly costing the state billions of dollars.

In a statement issued on June 19, NSW minister for finances and services Greg Pearce said that the current scheme was "costing the state up to $9 million a day" and that there was a $4 billion deficit as a result.

However, Mr Malouf questions how WorkCover allowed the system to fall into such a high deficit in the first place.

"It's bizarre," he said. "It's mismanagement [by WorkCover], essentially."

He finds it hard to comprehend how the state can afford to pay significant compensation amounts to people in motor vehicle accidents, public liability and all other areas of injury, yet for workers compensation they report such a huge loss in the system.

"It really is unbelievable that New South Wales now has the worst compensation benefits and by far of any state," Mr Malouf said.

"It is remarkable that they [WorkCover] have allowed this system and this loss – apparent loss – to occur."

So how does this affect claimants moving forward? According to Mr Malouf, the new schemes have "knocked out" 80 per cent of lump sum payment claims because the threshold now requires people to have over ten per cent of 'whole body impairment' in order to be eligible.

He called this legislation "preposterous" and said that it does not provide workers with adequate cover.

"You might as well say that it is very little or no benefit to a worker now unless you are very seriously injured," he said.

"It doesn't uphold the values of giving people in Australia a fair go."

Many individuals and organisations are outraged by the changes, according to recent media reports.

Firefighters across the state walked off the job in one of the biggest strikes in local history until they were awarded exemption from the reforms, alongside policemen.

Yet most people have not been so lucky, and Mr Malouf said that the changes will hit lower socioeconomic groups hard.

"To say that the poor people now have no place to go as a worker, it's understating it tremendously," he said.

"The only thing that they can do is try and take some personal disability insurance, which I suspect if they were clever enough or had enough money they might do, but not everyone's in that position."

The reforms come into effect from October 1 2012 for those who are injured after that date. People injured before October will be affected from January 1 2013.

Gerard Malouf is an accredited specialist with offices across New South Wales. His lawyers handle cases from claimants in all states of Australia.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.