Today, my Bill to give more tools to the Privacy Commissioner to deal with privacy breaches was drawn from the members’ ballot.
The Bill gives the Privacy Commissioner the ability to undertake investigations into agencies and require them to become compliant with the Act.
Currently the Privacy Commissioner can only act on complaints from individuals – the Bill would allow her to instigate investigations and require information-handling audits.
It is timely, given the huge number of embarrasing privacy breaches happening under this Government.
From ACC to EQC, through to the deliberate privacy breaches committed by Minister Paula Bennett against two sole parents, the breaching of New Zealanders’ private information has been rife under National.
If they are serious are about addressing these issues, then they will support this Bill, as will other Parties across our Parliament.
Having had three bills drawn out of the ballot in the last 12 months, I’m keen to get to the races to see if I can pull off other trifectas!
Now, for my next bill….
Archive for the ‘ACC’ Category
Today, my Bill to give more tools to the Privacy Commissioner to deal with privacy breaches was drawn from the members’ ballot.
Nick Smith has called a press conference for 1.45pm today. He has no option but to announce his resignation.
The question now is why John Key didn’t take decisive action earlier. He promised to set high standards for his ministers, yet yesterday he was claiming Smith had done nothing wrong.
As late as this morning Keywas reported as saying if he sacked every Minister who made an error of judgement he wouldn’t have many left. Hardly a way to show his confidence in his own team…
There’s been a lot of baloney in the media recently about the role (or control) of unions in Labour and a view that by supporting fairness at work means Labour must be anti-employer or anti-business. Mind you, none of this is new, but it’s reached a new peak of hysterical comment from some on the right with the PoAL dispute.
There’s no mystery about Labour’s values when it comes to working people. Our founding values are about decent Kiwi jobs, the right to a fair day‘s pay for a fair day’s work, the right to join unions and bargain collectively, the right to have a voice at work and the right to be protected from unfair or unsafe treatment at work. We believe that there must be a balance between work demands and family/community responsibilities.
This doesn’t mean business is harder to do – in fact decent wages and effective employment relations should enable New Zealand business to lift productivity, to perform well and to grow.
Labour supports decent work (which is also supported by the National government at the ILO) and fair incomes for all New Zealand working people - whether in low or middle income jobs, dependent contractors or self employed. I know that constructive workplace relationships are important and good management is crucial. I don’t believe all employers are “bad” and all employees “good”. You may be surprised how much sympathy I have with sole operators and small business who can barely make ends meet.
Some of the workers who get the rawest deal are those who are not in formal employment relationships, or in unions, such as self-employed and dependent contractors. Labour has been active in trying to make improvements for these Kiwis, but there’s nothing on the government’s agenda that makes any difference to them and a whole lot that will impact on all working Kiwis.
Consider these comments from backbench National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross :
Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.
My question to Jami-Lee is whether the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, who likes to present her government’s approach to employment relations as “pragmatic” and “what works” agrees with Jami-Lee’s views. I want to know if she thinks unions are “privileged” and “relics”. If she does, she better tell Kiwi workers soon, and fess up to the ILO at her annual sojourn in Geneva this year that she doesn’t believe that unions are social partners anymore, leaving only employers and government – and that our government is opposed to international labour conventions and human rights conventions. That will be interesting.
National’s manifesto already boasts “reforms”, such as :
1. Minimum wage : consultation on the annual review has been completed and we can expect an announcement in February. $15 an hour? Don’t think so.
2. The government’s plan for a “starting out” rate for 16 and 17 year old workers and also for 18 and 19 year olds who have been on a benefit may be one of the early pieces of legislation in front of parliament.
3. National’s policy commitments to weaken collective bargaining – no requirement to conclude, no requirement for workers to be on the terms and conditions of a collective agreement for 30 days where one exists, and the effective abolishing of multi employer agreements, along with allowing pay reductions for “partial” strikes – such as go-slows, work to rule etc and a review of constructive dismissal.
Then there’s all of the rest :
Bills carried forward from the last parliament : Meals and rest breaks legislation (Kate Wilkinson said this was urgent a couple of years ago, but it’s been bumped) and Tau Henare’s Secret Ballot for Strikes members’ bill, which is neither needed nor wanted. The hardy annual of Easter Sunday Shop Trading will also be up again, via a National members’ bill.
The inquiry into the treatment of workers in Foreign Crewed Vessels in NZ waters and the Pike River Mine Commission of Inquiry will report back this year - both shameful NZ scandals that arose because of deregulation and declining standards for workers.
The ACC portfolio and the “opening up to competition” will be a big issue; Labour MP Andrew Little will take that on for Labour.
And I’m becoming more suspicious about another agenda – not spelled out in the National Party’s manifesto. The recent productivity commission report, for example, made some recommendations that, if taken up by this government, would have a huge impact on New Zealand working people.
Bottom line : none of this will help the wages of Kiwi workers catch up with Australia. None of it will stop the weekly exodus across the ditch.
I’m sorry, but unless we see some something other than the old hoary chestnuts of cutting workers’ rights and pay from National soon, you should get ready to say goodbye to more of your whanau.
Not just another candidates’ debate – this is your chance to debate the real issues facing our communities.
Five union/community election forums will be MC’d around New Zealand by some of New Zealand’s favourite funny people, including Michele A’Court, Jeremy Elwood, Darren Ludlow and Ian Harcourt. The forums have been organised by a group of unions and community organisations joining together to bring you a fun, fast and furious evening of political debate.
There’s a serious side to this as well. Candidates will be asked the hard questions on welfare, public services, inequality and more.
Please come along by going to the Facebook event and inviting your friends in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Invercargill to join in too.
The issues: Welfare, inequality and a living wage | public services, health and early childhood education | disabled people’s issues | caring work | ACC
The format: Party spokespeople will have 2 minutes each to answer questions on these topics.
West Auckland – Tues 8 November, 7pm. Kelston Community Centre, cnr Great North & Awaroa Rds. MC’d by Jeremy Elwood. Labour candidate – Carmel Sepuloni
Wellington – Wed 9 November, 5.30pm. St John’s on Willis St. MC’d by Ian Harcourt. Labour candidate – Grant Robertson
Invercargill – Wed 9 November, 7pm. Lindisfarne Community Centre. MC’d by Darren Ludlow. Labour candidate – Lesley Soper
Auckland Central – Tues 15 November, 7pm. Trades Hall, 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn. MC’d by Michele A’Court. Labour candidate – Jacinda Ardern
Hamilton – Wed 16 November, 5pm. YWCA, 28 Pembroke St. MC’d by Jeremy Elwood. Labour Candidate – Sue Moroney
Yesterday Nick Smith announced ACC levies were going to be cut. That’s good news. They never should have been hiked up massively in the first place, and Smith’s own press statement highlights just how cynically the National government have manipulated the situation.
There was never a crisis in ACC. It was hit by the global financial downturn and revaluation of existing claims liabilities, leading to deficits. But the problem was not a structural one, and ACC would have returned to surplus even without the levy hike. ACC was already back to a $2.5 billion surplus in 2009/10 before Smith’s levy hike had taken effect.
But don’t get too excited about the levies falling just yet. If National are re-elected, all Kiwis will end up paying more to get less from ACC. Smith has effectively announced the wholesale privatisation of ACC if National gets half a chance. That means money that should go into providing cover for injury victims will go into the profit lines of Aussie insurance companies.
Smith has confirmed that if a National-led government is re-elected, their ACC privatisation agenda will be expanded from only covering workplace injuries to also include injuries sustained in car accidents, around the home, or even on the sports field.
National’s privatisation plans will effectively bring an end to what has been our world-leading system of universal, no-fault, 24/7 cover for accidental injury. Under National, if someone sustains an injury, they can look forward to spending weeks or even months arguing with different insurance providers about who should cover it.
It’s still not clear what problem National are trying to fix here. Independent studies have clearly shown that ACC is among the cheapest providers of accidental injury cover in the world. New Zealand employers already pay on average half of what Australian employers pay, yet National wants to replicate the Australian model.
The choice for New Zealanders is now crystal clear. If they want to keep our system of universal, no-fault, 24/7 cover for accidental injury, then they will need to vote for a change of government.
Rarely would I agree with statements from Dr Don Brash, but he had me nodding my head in agreement for parts of his interview on Chinese Radio AM936 this morning.
Regarding Government spending, Dr Brash said the current National Government had spent much more than the previous Labour Government.
Dr Brash went on to say that both the previous National and Labour governments had managed government debt well, meaning the current John Key-led Government started from a good point. However under Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English’s watch, government debt has gone from bad to worse.
This reminded me of our debate with National MPs in 2009. National claimed that ACC was leaking millions of dollars under Labour, we argued that the figures do not back up the National Governments unjust cutting of services and upping of ACC levies and that National’s claims were nothing more than scaremongering.
But it has now proved that the ACC debacle of 2009 was just a pre-cursor that led to the National Government hiking ACC levies before they privatise the organisation should they get another term in office.
The world will be a much nicer place if politicians would say what the issues really are (as they are).
Bill English’s repeated lines such as “in the last long nine years” and “economic mismanagement by Labour” may give him an instant boost in his blame game, but the facts will be spelt out sooner or later – just as Dr Brash did this morning.
Earlier this week the National government was once again caught fudging figures about ACC. When they took office, they manufactured a financial crisis in ACC in order to justify hiking levies and carving it up for privatisation. The cynical nature of their crisis beat-up was highlighted when just a few months out from an election they suddenly decided ACC was in great shape and the levies should be cut again.
Now it’s been revealled that this year’s Budget, the one in which Nick Smith heralded ACC’s dramatic turnaround, over-stated the savings ACC is supposed to be making. Documents obtained by Radio NZ under the OIA show that the Government ignored warnings from the Labour Department before the Budget that Treasury figures on proposed savings from ACC were too optimistic. The Labour Department predicted savings of $400 million over the next three years, but Treasury said $580 million would be saved.
Nick Smith has been all over the place on ACC figures. One minute it’s having a financial crisis the next he is ignoring Labour Department advice in order to make the Government’s financial position look better than it otherwise might. Nick Smith and National simply cannot be believed when it comes to ACC. There was never a crisis. ACC is an excellent scheme and National should stop trying to sabotage it so that they can make bigger profits for the Aussie insurance industry.
Earlier this year Phil Goff and I accepted a petition signed by almost 6,000 Kiwis concerned about the government’s cuts to compensation to those suffering from work-related hearing loss. Thanks to National, people with hearing impairment are the only group of New Zealanders required by law to demonstrate a particular percentage of disability before rehabilitation will be offered under the ACC scheme.
At yesterday’s Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee meeting National members voted en-bloc to report back the petition of Louse Carroll and 5857 others to the House without hearing a single piece of evidence. That’s undemocratic and a slap in the face to all those who sought to have their concerns heard by their House of Representatives.
Having actively discriminated against those with hearing loss, the National government is now turning a deaf ear to their concerns. They aren’t even willing to allow them to come to Parliament and have their say. That’s frankly disgraceful. If almost 6,000 people were willing to take the time to sign a petition to Parliament, the least their elected representatives can do is allow them the courtesy of a hearing.
When National took office, they manufactured a financial crisis in ACC in order to cut entitlements and prepare it for privatisation. Nick Smith’s hysterical claims about the financial state of ACC have now been widely discredited, and even Smith himself is now trying to back away from them by claiming a miraculous financial turnaround in just 18 months.
Smith and the National government used the financial crisis to make a number of changes to ACC that undermine some of the central principles behind the scheme. The changes that they made to compensation for victims of work-related hearing loss illustrate it well.
Under National, the guidelines ACC works to when considering hearing loss claims have been changed and ACC now discounts a person’s hearing loss as they get older, regardless of whether or not that loss is age-related. They’ve also set up an arbitrary 6% hearing loss threshold before compensation is considered, regardless of where on the hearing spectrum the loss happened. It’s quite possible to have less than 6% hearing loss and still not be able to hear the person standing next to you in a crowded room.
One of the core principles of the ACC system is that it’s comprehensive, no-fault coverage. Hearing loss is now the only injury/accident where the victim has to meet an injury severity threshold before they’re covered. I’m pleased the Human Rights Commission has agreed to hear the case. The only fair way to deal with hearing loss cases is to deal with each one individually, based on its own merits. That’s how ACC should work.
How’s this for speaking a thousand words from the clever pen of Moreu, usually in the Nelson Mail, but sometimes distributed more widely through Fairfax.
Courtesy of the Nelson Mail.
I am going to the Field Days tomorrow at Mystery Creek. I have my helmut and guess I will be bombarded with views on the ETS and taxes that farmers pay. Labour has a stall in the rural lifestyle section so I look forward to meeting with a range of Kiwis who attend this great event. The hundreds of exhibitors display the range of activities that are proud to connect with rural NZ. The diversity of innovation and science based participants is always inspiring. What I do hope to discuss with as many as I can will be the proposals by the National Government to start selling our State Owned Enterprises and privatize ACC. Both these outrageous acts will result in greater costs and risks for people who live a long way from mainstream power and health facilities….. Farmers and their families. No doubt John smiling key will do his best to charm and distract attendees from these issues but I get the regular feedback that inspite of the good times for agricultural returns, farmers and business leaders are tiring of the lack of a vision, a plan or solid leadership for New Zealand. The best efforts of National Party spin doctors cannot hold back the growing unease over the weak and erratic actions of the National Government. I look forward to a couple of robust days in the heart of rural New Zealand
Over the weekend, I door-knocked in Ranui. Interesting feedback there. ECE teachers who are furious with National. Other houses where Maori voters told me they’ve come back to Labour.
And then there’s the other famiies, those struggling to make ends meet, doing their best to find work. I met a couple yesterday. The wife was made redundant in 2010 with no redundancy pay. She’s looked and looked but has been unable to find another job. Then her husband lost his job too. He finally found work at the other end of Auckland stacking used tyres. He is paid $14 an hour, and getting to work costs him $100 a week in petrol costs. Awful job and inevitably he was injured. ACC paid him 80% of $14 an hour, which meant a real struggle to pay the mortgage. So he’s gone back to work – before he should. ACC told him to do “light duties” – well there are none at this workplace. The wife told me that “some days we eat, some days we don’t.”
This is John Key and the National Government’s New Zealand.
Nick Smith’s argument in favour of privatising the ACC Work account has already been blown out of the water by the private insurance industry themselves, who openly admit that they can’t offer cover as cheaply as ACC can. This from the Dom Post story:
Vero’s executive general manager of new ventures Nigel Edmiston said his company – which is owned by the Australian SunCorp Group – had done some planning on entering the workplace insurance market but that the Government’s proposal “wasn’t particularly attractive”…
Edmiston said that private insurers would not be able to compete with ACC’s pricing and would prefer it was excised completely from the market.
“[ACC] have a huge market share, they have all the infrastructure and systems, they’ve got no set up costs, they don’t pay tax and they don’t pay dividends and they don’t need capital.”
He said at the outset private insurers would need to provide 80 cents in capital expenses for every dollar gained in premiums on such a product.
In other words, Edmiston is confirming what we’ve said all along. ACC is incredibly efficient and cheap, and it ensures that all of the money collected actually goes into helping those with injuries, rather than into the profit lines of the Aussie insurance industry.
The only way the private insurance industry could compete would be if ACC was excluded, in other words, the cheapest provider was arbitarily shut out of the market. How exactly would that be competition?
This all begs the question, however, of just how enduring Nick Smith’s commitment to his current proposal is. If National win the next election, don’t be surprised to see a more radical proposal for ACC reform suddenly emerge as National claims it has won a ‘mandate’ to do whatever it likes in dismantling our world-leading ACC scheme.
On Wednesday this week, Nick Smith is going to announce what amounts to the effective privatisation of a large part of ACC. You won’t hear the word privatisation uttered from his lips, he’ll use all sorts of other words like ‘competition’ and ‘market discipline’, but the effect will be the same. Accident cover for those injured at work will now be provided by the private, for-profit insurance industry. That’s privatisation.
What concerns me about this most is that the National government haven’t even attempted to produce a robust case to show that it’s a good idea. This is a purely ideological decision, based on National’s blinkered belief that the market will always deliver the most efficient outcome. But consider these facts:
- An independent review by Pricewaterhouse (Australia) found that our ACC scheme has the lowest administration costs of any comparable scheme anywhere in the world.
- Information provided to the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee showed that the cost per-worker of work-related accident cover in New Zealand is, on average, about half what it costs in Australia (is this what National meant by catching the Aussies?).
- Under the current system, if someone is injured at work and has to stay home, the first week of income compensation has to be provided by the employer. Following the Christchurch earthquake, the government waived that requirement and ACC covered the lot. They couldn’t have done that if work-related injury cover had been provided by private insurers.
- If a private insurer offering ACC cover collapses, it’s the taxpayer who will have to pick up the tab for any outstanding claims liabilities. So the private insurance companies have an effective fail-safe guarantee. We’ve already seen one ‘accredited employer’ collapse resulting in ACC having to pick up the bill, that will only get worse under Nick Smith’s privatisation plan.
- When HIH, a private Australian accident insurance company collapsed in the early 2000s, the Aussie govt had to pick up a $500 million tab. HIH had been offering accident cover under National’s previous attempt to privatise ACC, which was reversed by the incoming Labour government following the 1999 general election.
There are only two ways that private insurance companies will be able to turn a profit from offering work-related accident cover in New Zealand. Either they will have to reduce entitlements, or they will have to increase the cost of that cover. In other words, we’ll all end up paying more to get less.
Since National became the government, Nick Smith has gone to some lengths to manufacture a crisis in ACC in order to justify his privatisation plans. As I outline a last week, ACC is in pretty good shape and Smith’s scaremongering is pretty transparent. His moves to massively hike up levies in 2009 were designed to erode public support. If ever we needed proof of how cynical a move that was, we got it a few weeks ago when he started talking about levy cuts just six months out from a general election.
ACC isn’t perfect, but the comprehensive, no-fault, 24/7, universal cover it currently offers is the right approach for us to take. We should be focused on how we can improve what we have now, not how we can create more profit-making opportunities for National’s mates in the private insurance industry.
Over the weekend I blogged about Nick Smith’s manufactured crisis in ACC. National’s agenda is pretty transparent. They’re trying to soften up public support for our excellent accident prevention, compensation and rehabilitation scheme as they prepare to privatise it. Labour will strongly oppose National’s plan to carve up ACC and hand it over to the private insurance industry.
But we’ll also be looking at how we can improve the scheme that we have now, because although we think the system overall is a sound one, we agree that it could be even better. Over the past few months I’ve been meeting with a wide range of ACC stakeholders, from claimants and their advocates through to medical providers and medical assessors.
One of the issues that I’ve become increasingly concerned about is the lack of independence in the specialist medical assessor process. It’s pretty clear to me that ACC have some “tame” medical assessors who are giving them the result that ACC wants, rather than the one that is in the claimant’s best interests.
In some cases, these assessors are working almost exclusively for ACC, making them reluctant to bite the hand that feeds. I’ve also met with specialists who have been all but ‘black listed’ by ACC because they haven’t been willing to give them the assessment results that they want.
So the question I’ve been contemplating is whether we need a bit more independence in the ACC medical assessment process. Should specialist assessors be required to be ‘current practitioners’ in the field they are assessing? Should there be a limit on the proportion of a specialist’s work that can be ACC assessments? Should claimants be given more ‘choice’ over who they go to for specialist assessments?
I’m interested in your views and your stories. Like I said above, I think ACC is a very good system and I’d hate to see it carved up as National want to, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to debate how it can be constructively improved.
Just before the Budget Nick Smith announced what he claimed was a major turn-around in ACC’s financial fortunes. Having beaten up ACC’s supposed financial ‘crisis’ since he became the Minister, Smith is suddenly crowing about its financial performance and mooting the concept of levy reductions (could it be an election year…?)
ACC was never in crisis. In fact, ACC was in much better shape when Labour left office in 2008 than it was when National got booted out in 1999. Back then, only 36% of the work account was fully-funded, in other words ACC had an outstanding claims liability for work-related injuries of 64%. By the time Labour left office, that had fallen to 45%.
In 2008, the year the “crisis” was supposed to have happened, ACC collected $3.65 billion in levy revenue and paid out $2.73 billion on claims. The remainder went towards reducing some of that outstanding claims liability.
Looking at the big picture, when National left office in 1999, ACC had $2.5 billion of investments. By the time they came back in 2008, ACC had investments in excess of $12 billion. It’s yet another example of how the Labour Party focused on saving and building up assets for the future, while National’s only plan is to cut stuff.
Nick Smith manufactured a crisis in ACC to soften the public up for changes he knew wouldn’t be popular. He then hiked ACC levies and cut entitlements. Under National, Kiwis pay more for ACC and get less in return. That situation is only going to get worse if they decide to press ahead with their plans to introduce competition (read privatisation) into the ACC work account.
I think ACC is a fantastic system. Undoubtedly there are improvements that can be made, and I’ll talk more about some of those in coming months, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should be proud of our ACC system and National should keep their hands off it.
The Sunday Star Times has reported today that ACC expects the cost of compensation and treatment for those injured in the Christchurch Earthquake to be about $200 million. So far ACC has received 7666 claims, making the February quake the biggest single mass injury event in ACC’s 37-year history.
ACC’s head of injury prevention and insurance products, Peter Wood, said that although the long-term costs to the corporation would be high, they were manageable.
“Obviously additional claims from the Christchurch earthquake will increase costs and ACC funding requirements,” he said.
“However, the overall size of ACC allows for these increased costs to be absorbed with the current levies or funding structure without significant increases being required.”
The costs had to be seen in the context of ACC’s $16 billion in reserves and claims costs each year of more than $3b.
“It is therefore unlikely that the long-term cost of these claims will have an impact on ACC levy rates in the future.”
This highlights once again how crazy the National Party are to try and privatise parts of ACC. As a single, nationalised scheme, ACC is able to absorb the impact of a big event like the Christchurch earthquake without too many problems.
I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the impending collapse of AMI Insurance and how National’s ACC privatisation plans could lead to a similar outcome. I’m not at all surprised that Nick Smith is delaying announcing their preferred options. Carving off a big chunk of ACC and handing it to the private insurance industry right at the time you’re having to bail out one of the big players isn’t a good look in anyone’s book.
Then there is the issue of Nick Smith’s (sensible) move to ensure that victims of the earthquake received cover for the first week of injury if they weren’t able to work. Normally that cost would either have to be met by the employer for a work-related injury, or the individual themselves. Had the government already privatised the ACC work account, they wouldn’t have been able to do this as they would have effectively been instructing a private insurance company to provide cover over and above what the victim was entitled to.
ACC is a good scheme. Sure there are some areas that we’d all like to see improved, but National’s plan to farm it out to the private insurance industry is just nuts. They should go back to the drawing board and leave ACC alone.
Had a few requests for pictures. Above screws plates pins in femur and below scan of a well broken scapular.
Four weeks now. Recovery going pretty well though still need twice the sleep I normally did. Pain still there but taking fewer of the more serious killers.
And yes I want to get back on the bike.