Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:32): I am pleased to rise to speak on the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Provisional Payments) Bill 2020. Let me say from the outset that the Reason Party will support this legislation. I think it goes to the idea of early intervention on mental health issues. It goes, hopefully, to the notion that help is immediate, which I think actually goes a long way to helping prevent people from going down a more serious path of mental ill health or unwellness. As previous speakers have mentioned, this bill amends the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 as well as the Accident Compensation Act 1985, and the effect of this is to provide workers who claim a mental injury access to provisional payments to cover the costs of their medical bills. This is incredibly sensible, and as I say, this is actually about early intervention. It also ensures that the employer notifies the authority of the claim within three business days. I take the point that my colleague Dr Bach made about the fact that this is being delayed, so this hopefully will allow time for employers to prepare for any changes that they need to undertake in their systems.
We know that thousands of Victorians are injured at work every year and that the number of people claiming mental injury is on the rise. As previous speakers have said, we expect that to probably account for nearly 30 per cent, or one-third, of WorkSafe claims by 2030. So being a lot more cognisant of the reality of mental injuries is what we need to do, and I think this bill actually catches up to the reality that we all know—the impact that mental ill health and mental workplace injuries have on our constituents, the stories that we receive in our offices and via our emails on a weekly if not daily basis—because we know that physical and mental injuries are fundamentally different.
It is not that difficult to recognise a physical injury—that someone’s leg is broken or that they have cut themselves deeply. But sometimes it can take a lot of people to accurately diagnose a mental injury, and so the purpose of this bill is to take some of the pressure off when people do claim that mental injury.
I was recently given the example of an ICU emergency nurse who works part-time in order to look after her son. As with many of our workers in the care industry, in our health industry, she is working two jobs and looking after a young child. Unfortunately last year while working in the two jobs and looking after the child, a culmination of bullying in one of the hospitals that she was working in resulted in a stress and anxiety WorkCover claim—I mean, not surprisingly when we are putting a lot of our healthcare workers under such extraordinary stress at the moment. Now, her prognosis was really good. Her GP was really helpful. But the cost of that psychology treatment that she needed, or that was recommended to her, was too much for her to cover. She was not working. She had a young child to be looking after. Her case eventually was actually rejected, but had she been able to get that access to that help at that point, at that acute point when she could not cope with work, she would have been able to get back to work a lot quicker, and I think that is what this bill does. So when people talk about the costs of it, I think about the savings that this actually will result in.
We saw that the Police Association Victoria was part of the pilot on this. I think one of the most poignant statements that I saw was that it meant that people were believed. When you have got a mental health injury, to have someone say ‘I believe you’, and these provisional payments go towards that—that ‘I believe you’—will assist in providing treatment that is not delayed. Again, when someone actually is able to say that they have got a mental health injury and get immediate help, that will save us millions in the long run. That will save us having to deal with the acute aspects of mental health that would quite often be the end result when someone does not get help early. This will actually save lives, and it certainly will help people get back to work. I certainly think that the costs of this will be offset. I think it is in line with what the community expects with our growing understanding of mental ill health, of mental health injuries, in the workplace.
On those short comments, I will commend the bill to the house to the house.