Political consensus needed on ACC

22:16, Aug 23 2012
Bronwyn Pullar
BRONWYN PULLAR: Was leaked the personal details of thousands of ACC claimants.

The ACC Futures Coalition is calling for political consensus over the role of the no-faults injury scheme, saying conflicting views of different governments has contributed to the corporation failing to respect claimants and protect their private details.

An inquiry into ACC released yesterday found "genuine human error" was to blame for a massive privacy breach by the corporation but it had been enabled by "systemic weaknesses" and "an almost cavalier" attitude towards claimants and their personal details.

Claimant Bronwyn Pullar was inadvertently emailed the private information of more than 6700 fellow claimants in August 2011, including 250 sexual abuse victims.

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff says culture change starting at the top of ACC is vital to prevent any further breaches.

In a second inquiry released yesterday, the Auditor-General Lyn Provost also called for a culture change after finding the board could have better managed a conflict of interest over Pullar, who was a former high-flying business woman and moved in National Party circles.

ACC Futures Coalition - a lobby group of ACC lawyers, health providers, community groups and academics - says the reports highlight the damage to the corporation caused by conflicting political views on the role of ACC which led to fluctuations in the scheme's performance.

Coalition spokeswoman Hazel Armstrong said it had resulted in ambiguity for staff over their approach to customers and the management of entitlements.

"There is a need for multi-party agreement on the future of the scheme."

The Green Party has repeatedly raised concerns about ACC's "culture of disentiltement" which saw it targeting what the corporation called "low hanging fruit". The number of long-term claimants has been slashed from about 13,500 to 10,935 since 2009.

Greens ACC spokesman Kevin Hague said today much of the culture could be attributed to former ACC minister Nick Smith's directive to the corporation in 2009 to focus on its bottom line.

However, he said that change begun in the late 1990s when the former National government moved from a "pay as you go" funding model to an insurance industry-type funding model. It was not reversed by the former Labour government.

"That has led to the culture at ACC. It's pretty clear what happens when there is focus on the bottom line to the virtual exclusion of everything else."

ACC Minister Judith Collins was currently looking at ACC's funding and Labour's ACC spokesman Andrew Little had advocated a return to a pay-as-you-go scheme.

Since Fairfax Media revealed the privacy breach in March, the fallout has included the resignations of Smith and chief executive Ralph Stewart, and the departure from ACC's board of chairman John Judge and directors John McCliskie and Rob Campbell.

The scandal could yet claim further victims as the hunt continues for the person who leaked an email from Pullar's support person, former National Party president Michelle Boag, to Collins.

Police tossed out a complaint by ACC that Pullar tried to blackmail the corporation over the breach for two year's compensation because of a lack of evidence.

ACC interim chair Paula Rebstock yesterday promised change would occur after the privacy breach raised "profound questions about our management of private information".

Collins said yesterday a new agreement between the Government and ACC would lead to a "more balanced and comprehensive approach" to the governance and operation of the corporation.


Ralph Stewart
RALPH STEWART: Resigned as ACC chief executive.
Nick Smith
NICK SMITH: Former ACC minister.