I rise to speak on yet another motion of Mr Davis’s on a Wednesday. I tell you what, at the end of the year I am going to have some stories to tell—this time about Mr Davis’s motion on a referral to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee to inquire into WorkSafe and other matters.
Mr Davis in his contribution talked about what Victorians were entitled to. Well, what Victorians are entitled to in this place is a little bit more than sleight of hand—Mr Davis’s characterisation of this is a pretty simple straightforward motion. Of course we know from experience that nothing related to anything that Mr Davis brings on a Wednesday is straightforward. In fact quite often it is the opposite.
When we want to talk about WorkSafe—we are very happy in this place to have a debate. I cannot believe the topics that we are trying to traverse today, because I am more than happy to have a debate at any time about the matters that the opposition are bringing forward to this place today and to have that debate for as long as we possibly can. In fact let us extend the session today so we can talk about our record on health. Let us extend the session today so that we can talk about our record on WorkSafe. Let us have a real conversation about that. Let us have a real conversation about who is going to do everything they possibly can to protect workers in insecure work. We are more than happy to have those debates. The strategy adopted by those opposite in the matters that they are bringing before this place is rather curious I think, because it is not their long suit—not by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless they keep bowling it up so we will keep just putting it over the fence.
Whilst it might be a political point that Mr Davis is trying to make, a bit of scoring that he is trying to do, it is not much more than a stunt, because when you peel back and have a forensic look at the things that we are doing in relation to WorkSafe and the resources and the tools that we are providing WorkSafe to make Victorian workplaces safer, I am more than happy for us to go into great detail to examine those things. It is not too far into the distant past that we remember a fact that was pointed out by the Auditor-General over the four years of those opposite when they were in government and what they did to WorkSafe.
Ms Taylor interjected.
Mr GEPP: I am glad that you asked, Ms Taylor, ‘What did they do?’. What they did was they ripped $641 million from WorkSafe dividends. We never saw what it is for. We know it was not for very much because they did not do very much during that four-year period, but that was $641 million that did not go into WorkSafe inspectors, did not go into improving outcomes for injured workers and certainly did not go into measures that prevent workers from being injured in the first place. Many of us on this side of the chamber, including the minister, have had a long, proud record of doing everything that we can in the advocacy and representation of working people and ensuring to the best of our ability that workers go to work but, importantly, they go home at the end of the day and they go home safely. Whenever the end of their working day might be, regardless of their occupation, we are absolutely focused on ensuring that the one thing that a working person can do is go to work the next day and the day after that, and that they do so in the safest environment we can possibly make. That is why we have invested so much in WorkSafe and will continue to do so. We will continue to do so.
It is also a bit curious, I think, when we start looking in detail at what Mr Davis is really on about, and of course he does not want to really talk about some of the things that are apparent to the rest of the world but perhaps not apparent to some of those opposite. We understand that due to the impacts of COVID-19 the WorkSafe scheme has had some challenges. We have had significant increases in the number and complexity of claims et cetera, and we outlined those things back in June last year. We went into detail. The minister went into detail about those matters last year. We know that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on WorkSafe’s sources of revenue, premium payments, investments et cetera, and that is why the government has invested in the scheme, including measures to better support people returning to work, a focus on injury prevention and tailored claims handling.
I just want to concentrate on that middle one for a minute: a focus on injury prevention. It is one thing to provide a system where people can return to work and we can develop better claims handling, and we are very much focused on that, but first and foremost at front of mind is how we can ensure that people when they go to work are doing so in the safest manner possible. That is something that we are committed to doing not just today but as we go forward.
There is a raft of things that we have done over the journey in WorkSafe—things such as provisional payments, which passed through the Parliament I think last February, and that means that workers can start receiving the support that they need for mental injuries, for example, without waiting up to 38 days. At the core of that reform has been the pilot program for emergency workers and volunteers—again, those that have been kicked around this place again today like they were a fortnight ago and probably the fortnight before that and I am sure probably will be in a fortnight’s time. Yet again we are trying to use them as a political football for some sort of bounce in the polls. We see it again and again and again.
What you will always see from this government is a commitment to working people, and the scheme called WorkSafe is operating to its maximum effect to ensure that people get the support that they need and that they are able to go home safely.
I have talked a little bit about mental health in my contribution. I do not want to go back and reprosecute all of the things that we have committed to doing as part of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, but they are important reforms that are not standalone. This is a totality of reforms that we are putting in place to ensure the health and safety of Victorian workers. We are not going to use Victorian workers, particularly those that are injured, in some sort of political game where they are bounced around this place so that we can do a little bit of political pointscoring and come up with a new tweet and simply forget the core of what it is we are trying to achieve. What we are trying to achieve and what we will continue to focus on is their safety and their support.
There is a variety of things that we have done. The $50 million WorkWell program was extended to December this year to mitigate the impact of the COVID pandemic on funded projects. There have been over 10 000 registered users of the WorkWell toolkit. WorkSafe also has a dedicated psychosocial inspectorate team which focuses on compliance with OH&S legislation with respect to psychosocial hazards in workplaces. There is a myriad of reforms in this space, but you will not hear the opposition talk about them. Why? Because I don’t think at their core they really understand them. I really do not think they understand them, because if they had understood what this stuff was all about, they would not have taken $641 million out of the WorkSafe system when they were in power. I reject Mr Davis’s motion. It is nothing more than a political stunt, and stunts we see more and more from Mr Davis, including his backflip on the weekend— (Time expired)