Review brings fear

WA SMALL businesses could be behind the eight ball if the WA Government takes up plans to remove insurance brokers from the workers’ compensation system.

The government is again reviewing the insurance arrangements within WA’s compulsory workers’ compensation system including the role of insurance brokers.

No official comment has been received from Labour Relations Minister Cheryl Edwardes. However, while it is understood the government has no preconceived plans to remove brokers from the system, there is nothing to suggest it has been ruled out.

WA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are the only Australian provinces that have retained insurance brokers within the workers’ compensation system.

Combined Small Business Associ-ations of WA president Oliver Moon said removing insurance brokers from the workers’ compensation system would be devastating for small businesses.

“Small businesses rely heavily on insurance brokers who have the capacity and wherewithall to ensure they get the best possible price for workers’ compensation insurance,” Mr Moon said.

“It is our view that removing the ability of insurance brokers to broker workers’ compensation insurance will further add to the burden of costs to the insurance, which small businesses can well do without.”

National Insurance Brokers of Australia immediate past president and current chairman of the organisation’s workers’ compensation national board Alan Bishop said taking brokers out of the WA workers’ compensation system would add a cost of $5 million.

Mr Bishop said insurance brokers did a lot more than just get the best insurance deals for their clients.

“We are the ones talking to the clients and getting across the need for occupational safety and health,” he said.

“The underwriters couldn’t afford to take those roles on. They couldn’t afford the staff.”

Mr Bishop said following the NSW workers’ compensation model in WA would be damaging for all concerned.

In NSW, the state government sets the rate for workers’ compensation premiums.

“It is also losing $2 million per day on workers’ compensation,” Mr Bishop said.

“That’s proved a big impediment to privatising the NSW system which is still on the government’s agenda.

“The government is also making that loss up in other ways which adds to the cost of doing business there.”

Mr Bishop said the WA’s workers’ compensation system had created a very competitive market.

“Even so, there are some insurance companies out there that don’t own themselves anymore thanks to WA workers’ compensation,” he said.

Mr Bishop said small businesses were often subject to the whim of underwriters.

“Furthermore, using an insurance broker means small business can benefit by buying as a collective.

“Many brokers package small businesses together and then sell those ‘packages’ to the insurance companies.”

Mr Bishop said insurance brokers were fast becoming the only insurance representation for business in regional areas.

“Insurance companies are leaving the regions in much the same way the banks have done. QBE has been the latest of several to leave the rural areas,” he said.

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