Nationals Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland has joined her Coalition colleagues in calling out the broken WorkCover system in Victoria, speaking on a Bill aiming to address the flaws in the scheme.
After consistent underperformance since 2018, WorkCover has required a $1.3 billion taxpayer funded injection over the last three years by the government just to keep it going.
On top of that, the last budget saw premiums rise by an average of 42 per cent, and as much as 80 per cent for some industries.
A new bill has been introduced to Parliament, although Ms Cleeland said it was “rushed” and would “fail to address the feasibility of WorkCover in a meaningful way.”
Ms Cleeland said local industries such as horse racing had suffered from exorbitant rises in WorkCover premiums in recent times.
“The horse industry’s rate for WorkCover contributions has surged by an astounding 65 percent in the past year – with absolutely no warning,” Ms Cleeland said.
“These rises happened to occur right after stud service fees were already set for the season.”
In the 2021-2022 financial year the rate was 5.859 per cent, in 2022-2023 it was 5.75 per cent, and now for 2023-2024 it has jumped dramatically to 9.487 per cent.
“It is simply unacceptable that local breeders are being put at financial risk due to this government’s mishandling of the WorkCover system,” Ms Cleeland said.
“Having spoken with several thoroughbred stud breeders, farmers and equine services providers, the rising cost of WorkCover premiums is suffocating the growth of the industry.
“The fact nearly 10% of farm pay is allocated towards WorkCover is ridiculous.
“Many of these businesses I spoke with have yet to even file any WorkCover claims and these breeders are not facing the same risks as jockeys and track riders.
“It is completely unfair they are saddled with the same premium rates due to another example of this Government’s financial mismanagement.”
Training fees have been increased to cover costs, raising fears horse owners will be priced out of the sport and driven interstate unless they receive more support from Government.
Leading trainers have also announced significant hikes in fees to cover WorkCover premiums, including daily surcharges, which is a painful hit to owners, who are the lifeblood of racing.
Coupled with inflation, the overall costs for owners and trainers are soaring.
“The broken WorkCover system has meant less jobs, increased prices, and further stress towards the cost-of-living crisis we are in the middle of,” Ms Cleeland said.
“It has already been such a struggle for these businesses to find staff, now they must weigh up if it’s worth keeping them on at all.
“This is an industry that contributes almost $5 billion a year to the economy and helps sustain almost 35,000 jobs across Victoria.
“We need to foster that, not make things harder for industry participants.”