Over the Last two weeks I have been trying to lobby the Victorian government to change their “Transport Accident Amendment Bill 2013” in particular because of the definition of serious mental illness, the other sticking points are only paying for reports jointly agreed to by the Transport Accident Commission and victims (read lawyers) and concerns about common law claims. I have done two media interviews, spoken to government and opposition members and a consortium of solicitors mainly focusing on the definition of mental illness in particular. There have been street demonstrations by emergency service workers and dispiriting parliamentary debate. The thing I found particularly annoying was that the definition is just dumb, it refers to “registered mental health professionals with AHPRA (I’m paraphrasing). There is no such group. We psychiatrists are not “registered mental health professionals” we are registered medical practitioners, similarly with psychologists! There is no mention of mental health nurses or of social workers.
The issue is really about the usual terror that all governments have about people with long-term mental health problems overwhelming the system. This of course has led to people with mental illness being excluded from lump-sum payments for WorkCover claims in South Australia and the significant restrictions on claiming benefit for mental injury in New Zealand (see relevant legislation).
The opposition are vehemently opposed to the legislation but I thought their attack was all over the place and they certainly did not seem to grasp the particular issues we have been talking to them about. It seemed more an opportunity for pointscoring and in particular catering to their union base rather than dealing with the substantive issues. I guess that’s politics.
As secretary of the College for 6 years I found that dealing with government was much easier if you acknowledge their good intentions, whether or not there were any and suggested areas of difficulty, offering solutions. This seemed far more effective in bringing about change than just heated rhetoric.
I will keep you informed about what transpires. In the meantime South Australia is proceeding with a no fault scheme for motor accidents including AMA 5 and, surprise, surprise, the GEPIC. We have been told the GEPIC was the only system they had seen that seemed to make sense. Unfortunately they have adopted the Injury Scale Values used in Queensland. What this means effectively is that government can arbitrarily decide what level of impairment relates to what ISV value and only people with an ISV value above a certain level receive payment.