Little: Change ACC illness 'injustice'

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 10:34 05/11/2012
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JONATHAN CAMERON
ANDREW LITTLE: 'It’s more than an inconsistency. It’s an injustice.'

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Labour ACC spokesman Andrew Little is urging his party to remove an "injustice" in the no-fault scheme by extending it to cover incapacity caused by illness or disease as well as accident.

He is also calling for it to dump the fully-funded model, which sets levies to cover the future cost of current injuries.

In a speech to a conference looking back on the 1972-75 Kirk Labour Government, Little said it was time to consider what to do about the inconsistent treatment of those incapacitated as a result of an accident and those incapacitated as a result of disease or illness.

''It's more than an inconsistency. It's an injustice.''

He said the debate in the late 1960s was closely linked to the question of social security and the responsibility of the community to ensure everyone was provided for.

''That would be a different debate today ... not just because the size and shape of our social security system is of a magnitude unlikely to have been contemplated at that time, but because we also have a popular discourse that increasingly demeans and devalues those who, because of life's misfortunes, find themselves dependant on a welfare payment.''

But the injustice should not be overlooked just because it was difficult or inconvenient.

''If it was unjust for the legal system to discriminate on the basis of where an injury was suffered, or whether fault could be established, then it is surely unjust to discriminate between incapacity caused by a physical injury and incapacity caused by sickness or disease. This was the injustice Norm Kirk came back to in the final stages of the first ACC Act.''

He said a full-funding model was appropriate if there were competing providers, where any one could drop out of the market by choice, acquisition or failure.  

So when private insurance companies were allowed into the market in 1998 it was right to legislate for full funding, but that was not the situation now.

The general argument in favour of full funding was that future levy payers should not be liable for injuries sustained today.

''It is an argument that says that tomorrow's community is somehow disconnected from, or unrelated to, the community today.  It implies that the idea of community is discontinuous or is divisible.  It is, in my view, totally contradictory to the notion of community responsibility articulated in the original Woodhouse Report,'' he said.

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''The next Labour-led government should review both issues.''

More prosaic changes should also be made to the scheme, such as ensuring ACC had genuine independent medical assessment, investigating how best to address the small number of longstanding but deep-seated grievances some claimants had against ACC, and whether there should be ''an ACC Truth and Reconciliation Commission''.

- Fairfax Media

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